The Pain of a Strava Segment

I really shouldn’t have done it, I know I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help myself. It was my second run after a few weeks off due to a knee injury so I should have been taking it easy. My training schedule had me down to do the following:

  • Run: 60 min steady with 2x 6 min efforts at 90%
  • Swim: 2x 200m Pull

but, because of the knee injury I had changed the run in my mind to a steady 45 min run if (and only if) my knee felt OK.

Trouble is, before setting out I had a little look on Strava and noticed that some locals had been running along the prom in Aberystwyth and had yesterday set a new course record of 6:48 for the 1.1 mile segment. That was an average pace of 5:55 minutes per mile. Although, it has to be said that there was a pretty strong NW wind yesterday when the new course record was set which would have been quite a help. I’d run the segment before, but never at pace so my best was a pathetic 7:27 in comparison. I had to do something about that.

The seed was sown in my mind, I could definitely improve on my previous best and who knows, a new Course Record could be up for grabs. That was it, I should be taking it easy but I convinced myself that if I did what was on my plan then a run along the prom would constitute one of my 6 minute 90% efforts (or thereabouts) and then I could run back the other way for the second of the 6 minute efforts as well. I’d be back to following my training plan and I’d be attempting a Strava segment or two as well… The race was on!!

I started from the University Sports Centre and had a steady run to the prom. My calves felt really tight and I had second thoughts about picking up the pace as they weren’t easing up. In the end I thought I’d give it a go and see what happened.

I increased the pace along the prom (from North to South) until I was pretty much at my maximum. I was going a little harder than I should, but my knee felt fine and you can’t beat the feeling of running at full speed. My calves were still tight but this was the first of my 6 minutes efforts and I gave it all I had. I completed the 1.1 mile segment in a time of 6:15, a new Course Record by over 30 seconds and, at an average pace of 5:26 minutes per mile it was my fastest mile since starting running again as well.

I then eased up and ran out towards Parc y Llyn and did a 3 mile loop at a steady pace before heading back towards the prom for my second 6 minute effort, this time from South to North. Yes, this is another Strava Segment and the record on it was 7:04 (6:19 mins/mile). I was feeling a little tired by now, my calves hadn’t loosened off and I was going to be running into the wind. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick up the pace, but gave it a go anyway and it worked. I completed the 1.1 miles back along the prom in a new course record of 6:44 (6:01 mins/mile). I was happy with that.

Happier anyway than with the prospect of what lay ahead – a long steep climb up through the Golf Course to the top of the hill and then back down to the Sports Centre. I managed to complete it though, all 9 miles in just over an hour and my knee felt fine. A decent run, and two Course Records on Strava segments to boot, not a bad effort for my first proper run after a few weeks off due to injury.

Mind you, when I stopped my calves weren’t happy. Walking was pretty difficult, so it was lucky that I was getting straight into the pool where no walking would be necessary for the next hour! I did a nice easy warm followed by 10x 230m pull as prescribed.

All was fine until I finished the last set and then as I removed the pull buoy from between my legs they decided to protest. Cramp is never much fun (unless you’re watching someone else writhe in pain from it), but this was excruciating. I grabbed my legs and tried to stretch and massage them to ease the cramp but it wasn’t working. My legs were solid, the cramped muscles felt like steel and it wouldn’t ease up. I was standing in the shallow end grimacing with the pain. After a while I started to get concerned, if they tightened anymore surely something would give? I was half expecting my muscles to simply snap something in my leg and that would be it, but in the end it eased off enough for the pain to subside and I was able to move. Only briefly though because as soon as I relaxed a little the cramp returned just as bad as before. After a few rounds of this it did ease up enough for me to do one or two tentative cool down lengths and eventually went enough that I could push off the side again.

Eventually I hobbled off to get changed and have survived for another day. I’m going to have some severe soreness thanks to DOMS over the next few days though – I think walking may be difficult tomorrow. Lets just hope it has kick-started my running so that I can get back on track with my training.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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