Italy, Val d’Aosta
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – Men who run one of the world’s longest races, the Tor des Geants, may be benefiting from protective pacing strategies and sleep deprivation to prevent muscle fatigue, damage and inflammation, a research team from the University of Lausanne suggests, in an article published 26 June in the journal PLos One.
Jonas Saugy’s team compared 25 racers who took part in the Val d’Aosta, Italy race in 2011, 335 km mountain ultramarathon (MUM) with 24,000 metres of elevation changes, to runners in a shorter Alpine ultra-marathon of about half the length.
The Tor des Geants runners had fewer alterations in neuromuscular functions and lower levels of muscle damage and inflammation, despite running nearly double the distance.
The authors describe the races:
“This race is considered as the world’s most challenging single-stage MUM. The maximum and minimum altitudes are 3300 m and 322 m, respectively. There are 20 passes over 2000 m. The maximum time allowed for completion of the race is 150 h and the current record is 76 h. The distance is divided into seven parts interspersed by six aid-stations where sleeping is allowed. However, the participants do not have any compulsory stops and therefore can pace themselves and manage their stops as they wish. Since the recovery time (e.g. nutrition, hydration, sleep) is not subtracted from the race time, the influence of pacing and sleep deprivation is paramount.
“This race is therefore different to other mountainous ultra-trails of shorter distances (e.g. Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc, UTMB, 166 km ) or road ultra-marathons over longer distance but with several stages (e.g. Trans Europe Foot Race, 4,487 km in 64 stages from South Italy to North Cape, Norway in 2009, ) where sleep management is of less importance.”
They conclude that “Such extreme exercise seems to induce a relative muscle preservation process due likely to a protective anticipatory pacing strategy during the first half of MUM and sleep deprivation in the second half.”