The Extreme Challenges of Ultramarathons

The Extreme Challenges of Ultramarathons


Nick Tiller has been competing in ultra marathons for about 10 years They aren’t easy. It’s going to be pain in the muscles pain in the joints. It’s going to be gastrointestinal distress, It’s going to be blisters on the feet. It’s going to be chafing. It’s going to be heat. It’s gonna be dehydration. Inside Science Ultramarathons force athletes to challenge their bodies and minds for at least several hours. 50 miles 100 miles even longer these races offer extreme challenges including the difficult task of sticking with a pre-race plan. That’s tough for anyone even scientists who followed the research the science Unfortunately goes a little bit out the window when you’re in the thick of it because when you’re a mile 60 of a 100 mile trail race or you’re at mile 26 of a 50 mile race and you’re very much in what we call no-man’s land. It’s very difficult to motivate yourself to stick to scientifically prescribed guidelines. It’s very much just survival during long races mental fatigue can become overwhelming the body begins rationing resources to keep the competitors muscles working during all types of exercise. There’s going to be a bit of a competition for blood flow. So your blood flow what we call your cardiac output is going to be redistributed to the exercising muscles because that’s where the blood is needed. The blood is going to deliver oxygen and nutrients to these muscles. A lack of blood flow to the gut causes digestion to slow and that can start a troubling cycle. It becomes harder the longer you go, especially once the gut starts to shut down. You start feeling nauseated. It’s very very difficult to get the calories in but to keep going you have to eat and drink. I know for example, I need to be eating between 200 and 400 calories per hour. I know that when the conditions become hotter or more humid, I know that I need to drink more and take in more electrolytes. Now all of these things help to form my race strategy, but the body can make it difficult to follow the strategy. If you don’t eat then you’ll get low blood sugar that will make you feel nauseated, which means you won’t eat, which means your blood sugar levels will plummet. And it’s a matter of time before it’s game over you need to find a way to get those calories in. Even if it’s taking a break and force-feeding yourself and not leaving a checkpoint or a feed station until you’ve taken in your calorie quota. If competitors can stay fed and hydrated while also replacing the important electrolytes lost in sweat, then all they have to do is move their bodies for hours for dozens of miles. In ultramarathons, it’s not necessarily about being the fastest or the fittest or the strongest. It’s more about how mentally tough you are, and physically tough. Although obviously you kind of need to have both. This is inside science

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