Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Not the Twitchy Hamstring parkrun

During the week I had noticed that my right hamstring didn't especially enjoy going up hills when I did my tempo interval run (consisting of a warm-up, reps of ~5k pace with jogging recoveries, and a warm down). Last week my reps were 1 minute of pace and 2 minutes of recovery, this week I went for 2 minutes of pace and 3 minutes of recovery. I find it difficult to wind down the pace, so I tend to walk the first 30 seconds or so of the recovery until I no longer feel agitated and can jog.

I could feel that the hamstring was tight as soon as I stepped out the door, but while I didn't get enough of a warm up in (I only had an hour to fit this run into) it didn't feel like any length of warm up was going to help. I chose a slightly downhill path as my first rep and got through that without feeling any additional tightness and decided that I was probably going to survive the tempo intervals without incurring any additional damage. I got through the next 5 reps without any problems, regardless of whether I was going slightly uphill or not.

However, once fatigue set in I must have been working a little harder and I could feel the hamstring tightening. While the pace for my first 6 reps was fairly consistent (4:41, 4:55, 4:52, 4:43, 4:45 and 4:51 min/km), my last two reps were a bit slower (5:03, 5:05 min/km) but consistent between themselves so am not complaining at all. And my hamstring didn't feel any worse afterwards - although it was still tight when I walked/jogged a neighbour's dog the next day.

While I completed the Maribyrnong parkrun course last week with this twitchy hamstring, I knew Westerfolds parkrun was going to be a bit different. The first kilometre at Westerfolds is mostly downhill, and is followed by a flat second kilometre. But the third and fourth kilometres were going to work the hamstring as this is where the "warm-up hill", "pre-hill" and "actual-hill" sit on the course. The fifth kilometre is mostly downhill, although there is a short climb from the bridge to the toilet block that always feels hard as it's the last 400m of the course.

My enhanced version of the Westerfolds parkrun Strava segment, with the "warm-up hill" in pink, the "pre-hill" in blue and the "actual-hill" in green. Arrows on the map indicate the start of each climb.
The course topography means that I can't chase negative splits. I have tried even splits in the past, but it relies on pushing up the actual-hill, which wasn't something I was sure I could do with the twitchy hamstring.

In the end, it wasn't the hamstring that caused any issues. While I had had a late night tidying up some PhD data and didn't arrive at parkrun with sufficient time for a warm-up, my hamstring felt fine based on the walk between the car and the start line. It didn't stop me from having a strong start, and my first three kilometre-splits were somewhat consistent at 5:01, 4:54 and 5:10. But the last little kick of the pre-hill ended up causing a lot of damage - to my calves.

They were not happy as I pushed up the last section of the pre-hill. I had been so preoccupied with this hamstring niggle during the week, I'd neglected my calves and not given them any foam-rolling or release during the week. So at this point they tightened and I ended up having to walk up the actual-hill. I decided to have a relatively controlled run on the descent - my final kilometre was 4:56. But that fourth kilometre which includes the pre-hill and actual-hill blew out to 6:07.

So I ended up with a final official time of 26:26 (I forgot to hit lap at the end of my parkrun, and I went on to warm-down and try and loosen the calves before I returned to the car). My warm-down didn't really help, as the calves would loosen on the flats and descents but they'd seize up again on any of the short sharp hills in the area.

On a positive note, I did test the hamstring a few times during the run - consciously using my glutes on the hills and it felt fine. I'm hoping this means that the niggle has mostly passed... or it could be that the calf tightness is more obvious and masking any hamstring twitchiness!


  1. The Westerfolds course looks like a ghost! Shame about the dodgy hammy. I wrote a post including a video about fixing hammy problems - worth a look:
    BTW, Tuggers Parkrun course only has three warm-up hills - no actual hills :)

    1. Perfect - I've just gotten home after admitting defeat to this hamstring niggle!