A 156 km ultra-trail to advance science

Ten thousand steps and more. They were thirteen women and forty-three men, from 24 to 66 years old, at the start of the ultra-trail on the Clécy viaduct (Calvados), Thursday November 11 at 2:30 p.m., under a bright sun. It is with a smile, and to applause, that Jean, armband n ° 4, 32 years old, arrived a little less than twenty hours later, after having covered these 156 km and 6,000 meters of elevation gain. Caroline, a 36-year-old schoolteacher, is the first woman to arrive, at 4:10 p.m. on Friday, in fourth place.

A challenge in more than one way. It is indeed a scientific ultra-trail, organized by the University of Caen-Normandy and funded, in particular, by the Normandy region. For each 26 km loop through the landscapes of Normandy Switzerland, a necessary step: to undergo a battery of tests. “Thanks to these measurements and their evolution before, during and after the race, we hope to better understand the kinetics of the human body subjected to intense efforts, and in sleep deprivation”, explains Benoît Mauvieux, project coordinator, researcher at the Comète laboratory (Inserm, University of Caen).

From the arrival of the first loop, each runner undergoes measurements of the kinematics of the foot, in a tent outside, he is filmed in slow motion to measure the stride, the rebound, by La Clinique du coureur, a Franco-Canadian training organization.

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Then in the Lionel-Terray leisure center in Clécy, the scientific race continues. The protocol is very standardized: no less than eighteen steps to follow, or forty tests, in fifty minutes. Tests of strength, ergonomics of the shoe, vigilance, motivation follow one another: “Did you doubt yourself? Did you vomit? Have you had any hallucinations? What is the pain level?… ” Théodore, a quadra accustomed to these races, takes part in this adventure to “To advance knowledge about the human body, to better understand”, he said with a smile.

“A challenge in terms of multidisciplinary research”

In another room, the hearts of athletes are examined using ultrasound scans. “We are monitoring how he will behave during this very intense exercise, in order to measure cardiac fatigue”, specifies Amir Hodzic, cardiologist at Caen University Hospital and research professor, accompanied by five of his colleagues. The day before, all the runners had a cardiac ultrasound and an electrocardiogram, in order to identify any abnormalities. Is the athlete’s heart different because he is so trained? In any case, at rest, the heart rate is between 45 and 55.

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