DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness – is meant to kick in about 24 hours after a major effort. Thus, as I left the cinema last night with Cécile, it was no surprise to find that walking was a little uncomfortable and that my quads in particular were shot.

I’m no physical therapist but, as I understand it, DOMS is essentially the pain of tearing in your muscle fibers. The muscle tears, it hurts, it is repaired, and you are stronger than before. It sounds so simple but it hurts and acts as a reminder that, yes, I need to do more downhill running.

Fellrnr has a great page about DOMS and on the ‘walking down stairs’ scale I am at about a 1 or 2. It’s not terrible pain but neither will I be enjoying taking the stairs on the way out the door this morning or at work. Going up stairs? No problem, but going down makes those quadriceps burn.

I wasn’t planning on running today anyway and I’m probably going to take the next couple of days off, too. This was always the plan and experience has taught me that I won’t be back to normal form for about two weeks or so. The DOMS, though, provides another reason to focus on other exercise for a few days and so I’ll be trying to keep active (walking, cycling) without putting the stress on my quads that running would.

How to avoid the DOMS next time? I’m not sure that I can entirely but working on running downhills would probably help some. I’ve run a few in the last year or so, or at least a few extended downhills of more than a couple of minutes. The longest was probably the 20km descent of the Mount Revard near Aix les Bains, though I have also run descents off the Mont d’Or a few times from Saint Didier (here, here, here and here, for example). But in no case was I really working on running the descent specifically; instead, these were runs that included a descent as a bonus at the end of a longer session, a way to enjoy the second half of a run without working as hard as the first half with its climb to the top of the hill.

If I’m going to get better at running downhills then I will have to practice this in training, and the more I do this, the more likely I’ll be able to avoid the DOMS after the next ultra with significant downhill sections.

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