I hope this is the right sub-forum for this question. Also, let me preface this by saying I am going to a doctor this week to have this checked out but I'm curious if anyone here has experienced something similar. My background: 27 y/o male, 6'3" 170lbs, played sports through all my childhood, teens and early twenties, have always been naturally athletic and a quick healer, diet is not uber healthy but not terrible either, don't drink any alcohol, drink one cup of coffee almost daily and drink water throughout the day (probably still not as much as I should but more than any of my coworkers), and last had a physical this summer that I passed with flyer colors.
I returned to exercise this summer after basically inactivity since college. I was riding a couple days a week no more than an hour or two at a time and was fine (pushing myself hard but not to the point of collapse) for about a month. Then about a month ago I started getting what I perceive as cramps in my quads (mainly the left, but both cramp simultaneously 75% of the time). The strange thing is I only cramp days to a week after riding. I can feel no soreness or fatigue in my legs immediately after a ride or the following day and then about 5 days later I'll be walking down the street and one or both legs will have sudden excruciating pain (I have a high tolerance for pain and this pain takes my breath away sometimes) that feels like a cramp. It usually begins in a single point either on the inside or outside of the quad about eight inches above the knee and radiates from there taking 15-30 min to subside and when it does I'm left with my legs feeling very sore and very weak for the remainder of the day and usually still sore the next (I'm left more or less limping around for an hour or so immediately after this happens). It also seems to be the case that once I've had the initial "cramping" episode I will sporadically continue getting them for a few more days. After the first episode I tried to ride the bike again within a few days, still sore, and ended up having both my legs cramp, quad and hamstring, to the point of not being able to walk and practically in tears from pain about ten minutes into the ride. I took almost a month off the bike, stretching, eating lots of food with potassium and magnesium, stopped drinking coffee and the cramping did not happen again. Took two shorter rides last weekend saturday and sunday stretching before, during, and after the ride and felt great, not a hint of pain during those days or after. Thursday I started cramping again and have been on and off since then.
So, this seems bike related to me. The only change in my habit is I tried a non-covered carbon fiber seat for 3 rides before deciding I just wasn't going to get comfortable on it right before this started happening. I thought maybe it irritated the sciatic nerve (I have a fairly bony butt so maybe the nerve doesn't have much protection)? I switched back to a more plush seat before last week's rides but I've ended up back in the same scenario.
Furthermore, I'm not sure these are cramps because the whole muscle does not stiffen up when this happens and the pain seems to be fairly localized. I perceive it more like my legs are on fire in certain points then just being tight (though they do feel tight after the episode if I try to stretch). I even tried the pickle juice cure during one of the cramping episodes and it did not help. I'm worried enough to go to the doctor and bummed because I've really enjoyed cycling so far and would like to continue without this chronic pain. Anyone experience anything like this?