This is getting more into physiology and outside my areas that I know a lot about, but I still found it interesting! I will start with the abstract:
Alterations of Neuromuscular Function after the World’s Most Challenging Mountain Ultra-Marathon
Jonas Saugy, Nicolas Place, Guillaume Y. Millet, Francis Degache, Federico Schena, Grégoire P. Millet
PLoS ONE 8(6): e65596. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065596
We investigated the physiological consequences of the most challenging mountain ultra-marathon (MUM) in the world: a 330-km trail run with 24000 m of positive and negative elevation change. Neuromuscular fatigue (NMF) was assessed before (Pre-), during (Mid-) and after (Post-) the MUM in experienced ultra-marathon runners (n = 15; finish time = 122.43 hours ±17.21 hours) and in Pre- and Post- in a control group with a similar level of sleep deprivation (n = 8). Blood markers of muscle inflammation and damage were analyzed at Pre- and Post-. Mean ± SD maximal voluntary contraction force declined significantly at Mid- (−13±17% and −10±16%, P
The full text is available free online for those interested.
The is a real paradox. Ultramarathon’s are brutal on the body, but this research is showing less muscles damage than those in the reference group!
The author summarize the main findings as:
(i) the neuromuscular function was generally less altered and (ii) muscle damage and inflammation markers (e.g. CK, LDH, C-RP) were much lower. This suggests that the pacing strategy (i.e. slow pace from the beginning of the race) and sleep deprivation that result in very low-intensity concentric/eccentric contractions preserve the neuromuscular function despite the apparent extreme difficulty of this event.
They do suggest that the sleep deprivation in the later part of the race affected running speed, so may limit the muscle damage. As this is outside my area of expertise, I will refer you to the full paper for more rather than comment more.
Jonas Saugy (2013). Alterations of Neuromuscular Function after the World’s Most Challenging Mountain Ultra-Marathon PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065596