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Purpose:

To quantify changes in skeletal-muscle oxygenation and pulmonary O2 uptake (V̇O2) after an extreme ultratrail running bout.

Methods:

Before (PRE) and after (POST) the race (330-km, 24000 D±), profiles of vastus lateralis muscle oxygenation (ie, oxyhemoglobin [O2Hb], deoxyhemoglobin [HHb], and tissue oxygenation index [TOI]) and V̇O2 were determined in 14 athletes (EXP) and 12 control adults (CON) during two 4-min constant-load cycling bouts at power outputs of 1 (p1) and 1.5 (p1.5) W/kg performed in randomized order.

Results:

At POST, normalized [HHb] values increased (p1, +38.0%; p1.5, +27.9%; P < .05), while normalized [O2Hb] (p1, –20.4%; p1.5, –14.4%; P < .05) and TOI (p1, –17.0%; p1.5, –17.7%; P < .05) decreased in EXP. V̇O2 values were similar (P > 0.05). An “overshoot“ in normalized [HHb]:V̇O2 was observed, although the increase was significant only during p1.5 (+58.7%, P = .003). No difference in the aforementioned variables was noted in CON (P > .05).

Conclusions:

The concentric and, particularly, the eccentric loads characterizing this extreme ultratrail-running bout may have led to variations in muscle structure and function, increasing the local muscle deoxygenation profile and the imbalance between O2 delivery to working muscles and muscle O2 consumption. This highlights the importance of incorporating graded training, particularly downhill bouts, to reduce the negative influence of concentric and severe eccentric loads to the microcirculatory function and to enhance the ability of runners to sustain such loading.

Vernillo and Limonta are with the Dept of Biomedical Sciences for Health, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy. Brighenti, Trabucchi, and Schena are with the Dept of Neurological and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, Italy. Malatesta and Millet are with ISSUL, Inst of Sport Sciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Address author correspondence to Gianluca Vernillo at gianluca.vernillo@unimi.it.