Blog: La Marmotte – my heat preparation strategy

Written by Lee Ager (PhD student)

La Marmotte Granfondo Alpes (aka “the Marmotte”) is considered one of the most prestigious and challenging Granfondo events in Europe. Held annually in June in the French Alps, it is a bucket list event for many cyclists attracting close to 5000 riders from around the world. The route typically requires riders to traverse the legendary mountain passes of the Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe d’Huez, which frequently feature in the Tour de France. A late route change meant the 2023 edition was set to be even longer and tougher than usual, with the addition of the Col du Mollard. This resulted in a 186km route packed with over 5500m of elevation gain and topping out at a maximum altitude of 2650m (Col du Galibier).

Figure 6: Metrics of core temperature Tc* (°C) = green, ambient temperature (°C) recorded via my Garmin head unit = blue, heart rate (bpm) = red, and elevation (m) = grey, across the race duration. *Core temperature was estimated via a CORE wearable device.

Click the link below to read more about La Marmotte and how I prepared for the event with a tailored heat preparation strategy

Read more here….

Student projects: Effect of dehydration on cardiac function

MSc student Sophie Evans completed her research project (2023) in our environmental lab exploring the effect of dehydration on cardiac function. Sophie was trained to take a number of specific measures using echocardiography by Prof Chris Eggett a clinical echocardiographer. Participants endured an exercise test in hot environmental conditions to achieve the target dehydration. We hope to further expand our insights from this project in the near future.

Good luck to Sophie who starts a PhD at Bath University this October!

New study: Topical application of menthol and combined menthol-capsaicin creams during exercise in heat

Our latest study published in the European Journal of Sport Science on 10th May 2023. Furthers our work using menthol in hot environments by using topical creams to explore the effect on exercise tolerance, thermal perception, pain, attentional focus and thermoregulation. The study Led by Jenny Peel, a PhD student in Dr Mark Waldron’s team in Swansea, found that menthol cream demonstrated benefits in thermal perception and played an analgesic function during exercise in the heat despite no change in performance.

The article can be found here: 10.1080/17461391.2023.2211966

Student projects: Convective air flow in extreme temperatures.

Our undergraduate students (2023) explored the effect of convective airflow on body temperature in a range of extreme environmental temperatures. They also trialed wearable technology in these extreme environments that reported core body temperature.

Harriet, James & Jack (pictured below L to R) spent several months in the environmental facilities testing a number of participants in extreme temperatures between 37 and 45 degrees C. The project generated some very interesting insight into how we tolerate extreme fluctuations in temperature.

New study: Factors contributing to the change in thermoneutral maximal oxygen consumption after iso-intensity heat acclimation programmes

In this new study published in the European Journal of Sport Sciences we brought together a large dataset (71 participants) using historical data to explore the factors that contribute to changes in thermoneutral VO2max following heat acclimation protocols.

Eight variables were identified, however from a practical perspective reporting of thermal sensation and monitoring changes in body mass are easily accessible measures that can be used by practitioners.

The article can be found here: 10.1080/17461391.2022.2160278

Bio: PhD student Ollie Page

Ollie joined Newcastle University as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, starting a PhD in thermal physiology and diabetes at the beginning of 2022. He graduated from the University of Chichester with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science in 2019. While in Chichester Ollie worked for the Occupational Performance Research Group alongside the Institute of Naval Medicine and British Armed Forces to assess physical employment standards, while also investigating the influence of extreme heat on gut function during exercise. Ollie then completed an MSc in Exercise Physiology from Loughborough University in 2021 and continued investigating extreme environments in his dissertation entitled ‘Induction and decay of LHTH/LHTL mediated adaptations and the optimisation of sea-level endurance performance in athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis’.

With a childhood based around professional football, and simultaneously involving myself in multiple land and water sports, I have had many experiences of undertaking elite sport in challenging environments. Though no longer competing, my research in Exercise Physiology has led to trying to further improve athlete performance within challenging environments, whether heat or altitude.

Ollie’s PhD will focus on increasing our understanding of how thermal strain impacts the cardiovascular and metabolic responses in clinical patients with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes who typically present with increased vulnerability in hot climates. He will also explore mitigation strategies to alleviate the health risks posed by extreme heat.

Bio: PhD Student Lee Ager

Lee joined Newcastle University as a Graduate Teaching Assistant starting a PhD in thermal physiology at the beginning of 2022. He is a previous engineering graduate from Newcastle University and initially started his professional career working as a Structural Engineer for ten years before his passion for Exercise Physiology brought him back to Newcastle University once again. Lee graduated in 2021 with a BSc in Sport & Exercise Science (SES). Lee’s PhD will focus on how thermal impulse acutely impacts physiological strain, adaptation and exercise tolerance to extreme heat stress. The aim is to provide evidence-based guidance for exercising as well as optimising how we prepare individuals for extreme hot and humid conditions. 

As a keen cyclist, Lee’s interest in thermoregulation in the heat stemmed from having witnessed first-hand the impact severe environmental conditions can place on the human body while competing. Lee regularly takes part in cycling events with a typical season focusing on the National Hill Climb Championship. Lee also coaches a number of amateur cyclists, runners and triathletes and particularly enjoys applying the knowledge gained from his research to prepare his athletes for racing in challenging environmental conditions.

Blog: Why is the Kona IronMan World Champs so hard for the pros?

Hawaii is the birth place of the IronMan triathlon where in 1978 Judy and John Collins challenged individuals to swim bike and run 140.6 miles and joked they would call the winner an “Iron man”. The event now sees 1000s of athletes test themselves in IronMan races all over the globe, including myself. But Kona, home to the Ironman World Championships which begins today (6th October 2022), holds something special for all triathletes. The history of the race is full of epic tails of survival (see the story of Julie Moss or Sian Welsh & Wendy Ingraham) and infamous battles such as the Iron War (between Dave Scott and Mark Allen). The weather is generally consistent and therefore predictable in Kona in October: sunny, windy and humid. However, while the air temperatures are generally around 30 oC which are not necessarily remarkable, it is the humidity “swamp-like” conditions that really challenge athlete’s thermoregulatory capacity when competing in the Ironman World Championships.

So why is Kona so hard? Read more here ……..

Written by Owen Jeffries

Consultancy: Heat acclimation for Marathon Des Sables

We offer consultancy services to facilitate athletes to prepare for extreme climates including extremes in heat, cold and altitude. We recently worked with an athlete preparing for the Marathon Des Sables, called the toughest footrace on earth. MDS is an event that takes place each year in the Sahara Dessert where temperatures can reach up to 50 oC. Carried out over 6 days athletes must complete +250 kms, a massive challenge in some of the most extreme environmental conditions on earth, so much so that in 2021 during extreme heat less than half the 753 athletes that started the race finished and sadly one athlete died.

Athlete exercising in 40 oC 40% humidity, with internal core temperature hitting 39.5 oC in preparation for the MDS event.

If you are interested in consultancy in extreme environments contact: Dr Owen Jeffries []

You can find the full range of services we offer at this link: