That’s the story of 2:12:34 marathoner Trent Briney. In this interview, you’ll hear how Trent persevered through 2 years of hard training and mediocre results to finally find the missing mental piece that allowed him to breakthrough and finish 4th place at the 2004 Olympic Trials with more than an 8-minute PR.
You’ll also learn how Trent overcame the disappointment of a severe Achilles injury that left him at home, on the couch, watching his teammates run in two of the biggest marathons in the world. Races that he should have been a part of: the Olympics and the World Championships.
Trent is going to tell you exactly how he flipped the mental switch and he unveils the secret to training!
Trent was a walk-on at a Division II school, but while his friends were out partying, Trent was learning the sport, running twice per day, and eventually finished just one second behind Olympian Michael Aish by his senior year.
Trent was determined to qualify for the US Championships on the track. He needed to drop his PR by a mere 15 seconds to do so. However, despite upping his mileage, running stellar workouts, and giving it everything he could for 2 whole years, he wasn’t able to do so. Then, he learned to relax, changed his mindset, and proceeded to run near his PR 10k pace for 26.2 miles. When people ask Trent what his secret was, he tells them it’s simple: the two years of hard work and mileage I put in when no one was watching.
One of the biggest turning points for Trent was when he learned that to train well, he had to be happy. Once he learned to stop thinking negative, dwelling on people and events that were not in his control, and focusing on himself he made the huge jump in fitness he was trying so hard to achieve.
After years of running high mileage and being in a perpetual state of tiredness, Trent has learned to listen to his body more and use the accumulation of mileage over the years so he can train more specifically and with more purpose.
This is an awesome interview, especially if you have doubts about how far you can take your own running. Get ready for some specific and actionable lessons you can apply to your training today!
Jeff: Welcome back to Runners Connect. I appreciate you coming back to
watch this episode. We’re really excited to have on our show today, Trent
Briney. For those of you who don’t know, Trent has a marathon PR of 2:12:34
which he ran at the 2004 Olympic trials in Birmingham, Alabama and where he
came in fourth place.Today, he’s going to share his story with us about how he went
from a 2:20 marathoner to 2:12 marathoner in basically one race,
and how he dealt with coming in fourth place at the Olympic
trials, which if you don’t know, is one spot away from making
the Olympic team. And then how he went on to overcome some
pretty difficult injuries and continue his running career and
continue to have success beyond that race in both shorter
distance and longer distances. And recently winning the Colfax
Marathon maybe about a month or two ago. So, he has a lot of
wisdom to share, he’s been running for a long time, and we’re
really excited to have him on. Let’s welcome Trent. Hi Trent!Trent: Hey Jeff. Thanks very much for having me.Jeff: No, we’re really excited. You’re obviously a famous athlete in
running circles, and I’m excited to share your story and a lot
of the lessons you’ve learned with our audience.
Trent: Yeah, hopefully we’ve got some more stories to come still.
Jeff: Great, I like it. So what we want to cover in this interview for
everybody is we want to understand how the lessons that Trent
has learned have helped you deal with the ups and downs of your
running career, coming back from bad races or coming back from
injuries. We want to talk to Trent about how he came back from a
difficult Achilles injury that he needed surgery on. Then, also,
how to overcome difficult mental hurdles when you’re trying to
make a big jump in training, for example dropping 8 minutes in
your marathon PR in one race.
So to get us started, Trent, I want to go back a few years and
talk about how you got started in the sport of running in terms
of making the progression to being the elite runner you are. If
I remember correctly, you weren’t a highly recruited high school
athlete; you weren’t a stud. Talk about how you transitioned
from going from high school to college, and you had a lot of
success in college, so talk about that transition mentally.
Trent: I think it’s really funny. I was talking about that this
morning with the guy I ran with, who’s high school coach here in
Bloomfield High School out in Colorado. He’s actually writing an
article for Running Times or Runner’s World this week, so . . .
Jeff: Oh, cool!
Trent: Pretty cool! Well, we were talking, and it’s interesting what
makes a successful athlete and how we judge these things. I
mean, when I ran in high school I did it, basically because my
parents were getting a divorce, and I happened to go into the
counseling office, because that’s what you do I guess sometimes
when your parents get a divorce. So the high school counselor or
the middle school counselor was letting me know that he was a
cross-country coach. I should come out to try it. And at this
point, we had just moved to Colorado, and that’s kind of what
got me into it. I started doing that and it was a great outlet
to have friends and it really could build some confidence, I
guess, in something I was involved in.
Each year through high school, it just kind of built upon
itself, and being surrounded by great coaches. I had two great
coaches in high school they would just drop the right words at
the right time to make a guy train harder or just challenge you
a little bit, you know?
Trent: To see if you could be more. So that was really a lot of high
school. I didn’t really excel until senior year. I think sixth
at state cross-country. I ran 10:20 at altitude. You have like
5,000 feet at altitude. And 4:48 for the mile. So not
outstanding times, not something that should turn into somebody
competing for 10 or 12 years after high school.
Jeff: Right. There’s a lot of kids with high school PRs that are faster
than who stopped running or didn’t take it to that next level.
Did you have the belief in yourself at that point that you knew
you could be a great runner, or how did you approach that
running in college?
Trent: I think I just had learned that the last year of high school,
and I had heard about guys from other teams training in the
summer, and they were running 70 mile weeks, and I was just
trying to run every day to stay in shape in the summer. I wasn’t
even doing that, so [getting fitter]. I didn’t really know that
I could go to college and run, and I figured, yeah I’d go to
college and study and get my degree, but I wasn’t planning on
Trent: That last year my coach knew somebody who he used to train for
Trent: Who was [inaudible 05:13] a brand new team. It was a brand new
team, and I jumped at the chance. I thought, what an
opportunity. I could be a NCAA athlete.
Trent: To me, that meant the world. I mean, that was March Madness.
That was everything.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s pretty awesome. It seems like it kind of fell into your
lap in the sense that, just looking at your times, it wasn’t
like you were probably recruited by any schools, and so it kind
of worked out well. And then, looking at your college career,
you ended up being a Multi-Time All-American by the end of your
senior year? Did you win the 10K at Nationals your senior year?
Trent: I lost by a half a second to an Olympian, who was also in the
NCAA. His name was Michael Aish. It was a great race. I gave it
everything I had and that’s what we want to do is compete to our
best. Ideally, we want to win, but [inaudible 06:10] your best,
you’ll take second.
Jeff: Yeah, I mean and especially coming from where you were in high
school. I can’t imagine you ever thought when you were a
freshman that by your senior year you’d be running with Michael
Aish, who was, for people who don’t know, an Olympian for New
Zealand I think in 2000 and 2000 and 2004, I believe he was a
Trent: I think so.
Jeff: So yeah, I bet it was sort of a surprise for you in terms of making
that amount of progress in four years.
Trent: Yeah. I think it definitely goes to just show that, you know,
we’re all just athletes. It’s not your credentials necessarily.
It’s play hard, go hard, and just don’t stop believing in
Jeff: Yeah. So during that process during college, and even after college,
we can work with that process, did you ever have a doubt about
kind of making that next step in terms of, like, when you were
going through your college career? Did you have doubts that that
next step to compete with guys like Michael Aish? And then when
you graduated, you went on to run professionally. Did you have
hesitations about that step, thinking like maybe I can’t do it?
Trent: I guess, to state it the best, if I look back at college, and I
started out as this wimpy guy in college who . . . I didn’t even
sweat. Maturity hadn’t got in and my body wasn’t ready. I hadn’t
grown muscles too much my freshman year. I wasn’t running 70
miles a week. So each year I got connected with a really great
coach, Graeme Badger, during college at University of Colorado,
Colorado Springs. He comes from a swimming background, but a lot
of the principles are very similar in swimming and in running.
Trent: You need high volume work, you can do two a day workouts, and
you can get in the weight room. So he just taught me what can I
do to be better, and I kind of ate it up for a couple of years.
I was excited to get some scholarship money.
Trent: I got 500 bucks when I started, and by the time I ended I was
getting 2 or 3 grand.
Trent: It wasn’t a lot, but-
Jeff: It’s nice!
Trent: It was just, I so valued the opportunity when there were other
athletes not valuing the opportunity. They weren’t training
twice a day and they were living the more college life and going
to a party or two or three or more.
Trent: And I was being awakened to the ability that mentally and
physically, I could make myself better. Connecting to my coach
and learning about my sport. So that’s really what propelled me
from being an average high school runner to competing by my
senior year with somebody who’s an Olympian and giving him the
victory right away. Just because he’s got faster times.
Trent: I started thinking like Rocky, “Why not?”
Jeff: Right, right.
Trent: So that kind of led to senior year, and I had competed against
some great teams from Adams State and Western State college. I’m
an 8 Division 2 all the time, and I was starting to get into the
front two or three guys a lot of races, so I knew I was getting
better. And I was doing workouts that you’d finish, and you’d
say, “Yeah, I’m going to be pretty tough to beat, here.”
Trent: You just get stronger. And so by senior year, I had connected
to Kevin and Keith Hanson with the Hansons-Brooks Distance
Trent: At that time they weren’t connected to Brooks, but soon to
Trent: I had a friend who’s in [inaudible 09:55] thing that they were
having, he mentioned my name because I popped up on that
national scene. That race versus Michael.
Trent: They had noticed me, and they allowed me to come out for a
visit. I wasn’t sure. I was like my parents want me to get a
job. I had this one with Pepsi I could work there the rest of my
life. I thought about it, and I could see my next 20 or 30 years
happening, and for some odd reason at that point, being 20 or 21
years old, I didn’t want to go down a path when I knew where it
Trent: It took me a month or two to decide to go ahead and go out for
that visit. And after I had gone out, that urge to try to get
better to a higher-level competitive team where I had guys
pushing me daily in and out. And as you know from being on the
team, that can be cutthroat and that could be . . . And both of
those can be good for you. That’s what propelled me to look into
post-collegiate running. I was staying in Colorado Springs,
doing a lot of things myself, and at that point, I felt like I
didn’t have anyone to run with me when I was running my fastest.
Trent: Which [inaudible 11:27] when I was at my fastest. And that’s
something I thought I needed. How do I get better after I’d
already gotten so much better, you know? So I wanted to surround
myself with guys who, no matter what day it was, there was
always someone who would go as good or better, you know?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s definitely what you get when you’re in a program as
talented and deep as the Hansons. There’s always somebody ready
Trent: And I forget the second part of your question. It was kind of,
“As you transitioned into post-collegiate . . .”
Jeff: Yeah, so I kind of wanted, you actually did a great job transitioning
that, because that was a question I had. Kind of moving forward,
when you went to the Hansons, did you immediately move to the
marathon? How did that transition in training go?
Trent: I really like that part of the story. I had gone from running
34 minute 10Ks as a freshman in college to running 29:13 twice
in college and 29 flat was USAs where 24 the best American
runners got in the USAs. All the sudden I’d been addicted to
trying to be an All-American, trying to be a national champion,
and now this new goal was there of trying to make the USAs. My
intent going out there was let’s run the 10K, let’s get 15 more
seconds faster in the 10K, and I expected that to happen right
away. So, for two years I bought into the program, and I fought
really hard to try to be a 10K specialist and get that next 15
seconds. It just never happened, and I think there are a lot of
reasons for that. Sometimes when you make a big jump in
training, you don’t always get it in the races.
Trent: Some people would say that’s overtraining, but eventually your
body will adapt, or if you give it rest. So it adapted, but
after those two years. So in those two years, the pressure was
kind of mounting to show performance at a better level than I’d
already done. I’d run some cross-country races, and I just
wasn’t getting any better. I was getting solid, but not better,
Jeff: Yeah. Let me ask you a question. How was the amenability during that
process? I know I’ve worked with a lot of athletes going through
that process where they’re putting in a lot of work, and
especially when they start working with a new coach, they get
serious about it, and then the work their butts off for six
months, and they don’t get better. And you’re kind of like, “I’m
training harder, I’m doing everything better!” Did you struggle
with that, or were you pretty good about understanding that
philosophy, or . . . ?
Trent: I think being in a team environment, I had some guys like Jeff
Campbell who we used to call him Grandpa on the team, and some
guys who had been there, done that, that were around. That’s a
huge benefit of that team environment is, you’re dead tired,
you’re coming home, and all you can do is basically sit on the
couch and barely get to your bed. And to just sit on that couch
with somebody who’s been there and done that and can tell you
it’s okay and that you’re doing the right thing, or can tell you
to just take it easy tomorrow. Even though you’re being pushed
by your coaches and being pushed by your teammates, sometimes
holding back for a day is a risk that you might want to take.
Trent: They might not agree with that at the time, but sometimes
you’ve got to get your legs back, and I like to call it juju
back, you know? You’ve got to have some vibe, you’ve got to feel
it a little bit. So maybe not hitting that 140 mark in mileage
that week and saying you know what, I hit 127 and that’s enough.
Trent: And knowing that you held back that one day, setting high
goals, and knowing you’re getting close to those things anyway.
Jeff: Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you there. So keep going with
your story in terms of you had those two years of really not
breaking through like you wanted to or thought you could, and
how did your training transition after that?
Trent: By the end of those two years, Kevin and Keith Hanson (I
believe it was two years), so it was the fall of 2003, and I’d
joined in the fall of 2001. And at the end of those two years, I
hadn’t progressed, and the Olympic trials were coming up in
2004. The whole idea with programs is to give young kids and
athletes the opportunity to try to be Olympians and to really
compete at the best level out there, whether it be the U.S.
Championships or Olympic or World Championships. So they thought
my best shot was to move up to the marathon. 10K wasn’t
progressing. And being an athlete, I didn’t want to quit on that
goal. So I kind of [inaudible 16:30], but I was pretty much
like, yeah I don’t agree with you guys, but I don’t want to
leave the team either. They basically said if you want to stay
on the team, we’re going to train for the marathon.
Jeff: Okay. So you were forced into it a little bit?
Trent: Yeah. They were right, and my grumpiness, and I think they did
that in May 2003, and so pretty much all that summer I was just
pissed off, and I’d train 2 or 3 times a day [inaudible 17:05]
plus weight-lifting twice a week or three times a week. I was
just pissed. I was like, if I’m not going to get any better at
the 10K, then I’m just going to train until I can train no more.
That worked for about a month. I was doing stuff, and I was
like, oh, somebody’s going for a run, I’m going.
Trent: And, it really worked, and it was exciting, and it was probably
what allowed the next part to come. Because after a month of
doing that, I was kind of tired of running three times a day.
Jeff: I can imagine.
Trent: A new challenge, and we had started to get into race season in
August. August and September, we were getting ready for Twin, or
not Twin Cities but the Chicago Marathon, and there was like, I
don’t remember if there was 4 or 6 of us running.
Trent: And the goal was just to make the Olympic trials and at that
time the standard was 2 hours, 22 minutes. And so we just went
out to Chicago that year, and we had a great training group for
a couple months, and we were doing our long run together, doing
two workouts a week at Stony Creek or on the [inaudible 18:16]
Trail, and the workouts were going good, but I was still tired.
[inaudible 18:26] I ran 2:21:10, and at, I guess, 20 or 22 miles
I was running with 2 other teammates, and I looked down at my
watch and I said, “Well, we’re slowing. We either got to go, or
we won’t make this.” I think two of us made it and two of us
didn’t. And all four of us lived in the same house, so it’s a
Trent: They’re happy for you, and you’re sad for them and this
lifetime goal of making the Olympic trials, which is awesome
because that’s this week.
Jeff: Right, yes.
Trent: I don’t know, so that will be fun to watch. But that is how I
got into Chicago Marathon and marathoning, and I finished, and I
was really excited, and I pumped my fist because I was like
yeah, see I can do this. Fighting back to tell those guys from
middle school that they should have picked me first.
Jeff: I like that. I like that.
Trent: [Competitive] even if I didn’t have the skills of throwing the
ball the best or catching or passing the football-
Trent: That I can use my competitiveness as well.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s an awesome attitude to have about it. So I guess kind of
moving, next, I guess kind of the big part of your story that
everyone asked about, or asks about, so you ran 2:21 at Chicago?
Somewhere in that range?
Jeff: And then so I already said it, so maybe a few months later, or maybe
a half a year later came the Olympic trial and you ended up
running 2:12:34, which I think a lot of our audience would be
interested in that approach, to how you approached that training
segment, to how you approached that race, especially coming off
from not really having success for the 10K in the last couple of
years. I work with a lot of runners who are maybe trying to
qualify for Boston, and they’ve got to take that last 10 minutes
off. How did you make that jump in training? Did you training
look different? And then, I think more importantly, mentally how
did you have the confidence to say, “I know I can run 2:12,”
even though your best marathon was 2:21, your best 10K was 29:14
at the time, which I think 29:14 is almost 2:12 marathon pace,
or just slightly under.
Trent: [Something] near there. Yeah.
Jeff: So just talk a little about that process training for the race and
then on race day, making that big jump.
Trent: I always get that question. What happened? Where did this come
from? All of a sudden you’re in fourth, and you came out of
nowhere. It was those years, those two years of building volume
at Hansons and building intensity and doing two a days, which I
called density of workouts. Volume, intensity, density. It’s
kind of a principle [Jobie Hill] uses. So I’d been doing that
through my college career, increasing those factors, and the
once I got to Hanson’s I was brought into how it works.
Kevin and Keith are great about setting you up competitively for
races, they’re studying the field, and it was exciting. Those
were things I was doing with my teammate in college, and now
coaches sitting there were saying, “Hey, look at this guy. This
is what he ran.” So a little sidetrack there, but everybody asks
what caused it to come out. I think it was a couple factors. It
was years of training, it was that summer doing 140 miles a week
and three times a day, and going a little overboard and being
tired at Chicago, and running just under the standard, maybe a
little tired and then resting after that race. I took a week or
10 days down, and did some cross-country training.
So we’d been doing marathon training all summer, so we had three
months of base, so back in the speed phase for a little bit,
working on powering through mud and dirt, as it got into the
wintertime. I think it was good because it helped our rhythm
stay around. Most people think, oh, you just got to be stronger
to run a good marathon, but I think fast is also important. You
got to be [patient].
Trent: And so, I think that was really good. We did that through
November through the fall cross-country championships and we did
that off of 6 or 8 weeks of training, and then we had about 6
weeks of marathon training. So we stepped up our speed, and then
we went through 6 weeks of marathon training we had done in the
fall. But then, all of a sudden I could run faster. It was
easier. It was just coming more naturally. I wasn’t dead tired
all the time.
Trent: I wasn’t pushing mileage. I was just trying to [find the right
zone]. [To hit] 130, I didn’t have to hit a 140.
Trent: It was more important to feel good and to be hitting the paces.
The goal is to run 2:15 to 2:18 going into the race.
Trent: And the fast guys were going to run, I think 2:11 to 2:14. I
was training with the slower group of the two.
Trent: It was good because I wasn’t every single workout on my
deathbed after the workout. I was 92% instead of 98%. And it
allowed me to recover overnight and get stronger from workout to
workout. I think by the end of December, I was running well
enough that . . . actually it was the first or second week of
January, I ran a marathon, and I ran 1:05 and I felt really
relaxed, and I was talking to Kevin and Keith the whole time.
Trent: “Do you want me to speed up yet? Do you want me to speed up
yet?” So, and that was like oh, crap, what’s going on, like I
should not feel this good running this pace. So that was the
thing that kind of said hey, take off some of the barriers in
your mind and just allow yourself to run and you’ve got some
things going here; don’t set that high-end limit. So I changed
the [pace] off of that race, and I ran 2:12 to 2:15 knowing that
2:12 probably wasn’t reasonable, and I should be in that range,
2:12 to 2:15, if I have a good day. You always want to plan for
a good day.
Trent: You know? Especially for an Olympic trials. I guess my mindset
going into the race is kind of the next question, but that’s
kind of how I transitioned out of Chicago, out of two and a half
years out of training, into a performance that was better. I was
dating somebody that was making me their life, so I was very
happy, and most runners, maybe they won’t talk about that in the
interview, but you have to be happy to really be . . . I’m not
too much into “runner-chi”. The energy that flows out of you is
better. So I would just say to people, make sure you’re not sad
with how hard you’re training and the things you’re giving up.
Like, you still have to be happy. Otherwise, that really
spectacular thing isn’t going to come out of you. I was dating
this young lady, and she was a psychologist. And I actually had
started working with a sports psychologist. That part of the
process really helped me, I think. And she, the sports
psychologist, challenged me in some ways mentally, that it was
like, I do my two runs a day, I’d go lift, and then I had this
mental training as well.
Trent: So it was another workout, and basically she helped me take the
bars off of my mind. Not set limits as much and she really got
me focused. A lot of coaches necessarily, they forget about it
after high school. Your high school coach might trick you into
thinking positive at a state meet, but the Olympians out there,
they’re doing some mental training as well, and you can get some
real strength from it.
Trent: The thing she helped me with was anytime a negative’s in your
head, flip it. I mean it sounds so simple, but when you’re
actually out on a 70 minute run, you have a lot of negative
thoughts and [inaudible 27:14]. And so every day in practice, I
was working on this. And I’d go see her the next week, and so
just being happy, working with the psychologist focused my
mentality on allowing great to happen and getting above
Jeff: Yeah, I think those are two awesome nuggets of information and
wisdom. Being happy with training and okay with the sacrifices
you’re making, because it doesn’t matter if you’re at the elite
level or you’re trying to run a 4 hour marathon there are
sacrifices that you have to make. For our audience, maybe you’re
a mother and you have to give up a little bit of your alone
time, or maybe seeing your kids off in the morning to be able to
get in your run, and you have to be happy with those sacrifices,
or otherwise you’re right. It kind of gets you down and you’re
always negative. Can you give us an example of some of the
mental training exercises that the sports guy psychologist was
asking you to do? How did you? Because I think you’re 100%
right; you always have to turn those negatives into positives. I
mean, even in races, you’re always going to have a bad spot
where you’re just like, “I’m hurting way more than I should”,
and what were the mental exercises that she gave you to help get
Trent: So, a couple things. One is some of our mentalities as runners
especially, is we get very stuck mentally and we can’t let go of
a thought. In the psychological world, I don’t know the actual
term for it, but it’s the opposite of, I don’t know if it’s
ADHD. I’m not sure. But you get stuck on thoughts. And she
showed me the science behind getting stuck on it, and so we
tried like some medicine. We tried that [inaudible 29:06] like
if you could connect the synapses, connecting without
disengaging. So that was supposed to help make it, like, instead
of keep firing, it was supposed to make it stick so that it
doesn’t have to keep firing.
Trent: You just get stuck, and you have to go on to the next thought.
Jeff: I kind of see what you’re saying.
Trent: It was half personal stuff? Just getting stronger as a person
and half athletic person. So, it was working both angles and it
was challenging my mind. I’d already been challenged in the
other pieces. Sometimes I guess when you’re in a training group,
you struggle with just different mentalities clash. Maybe, I
mean we were training together, we were pretty good, but you
know, sometimes maybe I didn’t jive with maybe a certain
teammate or this or that. That can bring you down if you’re
focused on that, and if that thought pattern is just firing,
firing, and not disconnecting. You need it to stick and you move
on to something else. Sticking, replacing it with a positive,
and moving forward, rather than let this thing just keep eating
away at your mentality, you know?
Trent: And [inaudible 30:24] not everybody has an example of that.
Trent: Not all of us, but a lot of us have had struggles that make it
challenging during training [inaudible 30:39]. I had to forget
about that. I had to push that out and focus on let’s move
forward, let’s be positive. So it was, forget Jeff. [inaudible
30:55] what can I do better?
Trent: So she was retraining my thoughts to really take the power over
my thoughts, back. Don’t give it to all these outside forces;
give it to me.
Trent: And on race day, it paid off!
Trent: That and all the training, and all of it was flowing together
at the right time. People say the stars were aligned.
Jeff: Right. I think it’s not. There was no secret. If you have two and a
half years of amazing quality training, you were putting in the
work, and you let your body rest and adapt, and then you
attacked it mentally. You didn’t just sit back and say, “Well I
hope I run well at this race.” You went in, and you saw a
weakness in yourself from the mental side of things, how can I
break down these barriers, and you went out and attacked it. So
I think it’s just a great example of the running quote from,
kind of about a runner, “There are no secrets in training.” And
there’s no secret behind how you improved that much and how you
did it at that race. So I think, just an awesome story. That was
great that you shared.
Trent: Yeah, well, thank you very much.
Jeff: So, moving on, so you ran 2:12:34 obviously, great performance, you
got 4th place. Like I said, for those who don’t know, that’s
just one spot out of making the Olympic team. And that kind of
after that, things went downhill a little bit from what I
remember. Because that’s actually when we kind of met each other
a little bit. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but obviously you
were an alternate, but all three of the team members decided to
go, and then you were selected to run the World Championships in
Helsinki in 2005, but you had an Achilles injury that prevented
you from running that race. Talk about, that must have been a
pretty tough year. To go from almost making it to not, and then
get your hopes up again to make your first World Team and to run
for the U.S. and then you get an injury at the most inopportune
time. I know for our audience that kind of happens for a lot of
people. Kind of talk about how you managed that mentally and
physically. What were your emotions during that?
Trent: So, let’s see. Yeah, over time, we all get injured, right? I
have a nagging Achilles for me, or a nagging hamstring. And all
we can do is our best. And you don’t always see the right
doctors and such. Thankfully, I had some great chiropractors up
there with the [Ormsbees]. Connections with doctors thanks to
the team, basically. But, sometimes you just train so hard and
you push so much that your body gives. And you body says, hey
you’ve got to slow down for a little while. You’re going to
really break me if I don’t slow you down. So, I mean coming off
the Olympic trials, obviously I was at the high point of my
running, everything was flowing right. I was going to workouts;
you know I’d wake up late accidentally, I’d show up to the
workout and I’d knock it out of the part. Best sessions ever.
And the I’d sit down at the side of Stony Creek High School
track, and I’d basically be in tears, saying I don’t know why
I’m running this well. Like, how is this happening, and I was
just kind of gracious. The body was allowing it; everything was
just allowing it.
And so then next spring and I started doing some track races,
and usually whenever I run on the track, I put on spikes. I
don’t like to cooperate with my Achilles tendon [inaudible
34:52]. I don’t know why, I still don’t have an exact answer.
So, the Achilles kind of started giving out part way through
that spring, but I’d had all these great workouts, I was still
in great shape. So I was pushing it, and when you push it
through an injury, if it doesn’t break that piece of the body,
sometimes something else will break.
Trent: So, for me that was my back going out because I was putting
more pressure on one leg than the other, and so I had to pull
out of the champions. The best thing about that was I knew the
next guy in line for the World Championships was my [me]. So the
last thing I wanted to do was go and take this awesome trip
overseas, which I had never, ever done, and still haven’t; it’s
still the goal that kind of eludes me and probably why I’m still
training. Maybe they’ll give away two spots and maybe I’ll take
one? So, I mean it was hard, definitely. I had a whole great
vacation planned after the race to go to Helsinki. And pretty
much three weeks before the race, I had to say, look, somebody
else has a better chance. Looking back I say, well jeez, I was
so fit coming off of 2:12; I mean you could do a lot. I mean I
probably could have ran pretty decent injured.
Trent: But I mean, I was limping through every run, so it was really
tough. It was kind of the start of some unraveling I guess. And,
so I had to take a bunch of downtime, and I had to watch the
Olympic marathon the previous year on TV, and then I watched my
three teammates run on a webcast in the championships, which was
Clint and Brian and Chad. So it was a lot of watching where I
almost could have been.
Jeff: Yeah. That must have been tough.
Trent: So, yeah. It was like oh, I could be experiencing this. That
would be cool. That’s like the highest thing in the sport is go
around all of these superstars of our sport and so that would
have been cool, but life has a path I guess. And so then I went
through a year or two there where I was battling my Achilles. I
would start to get in shape, and then the Achilles would flare
up, and so we just kind of got to the frustration point where
Kevin and Keith and I decided, okay, let’s get the Olympic
trials qualifying time in 2007 in Boston so that I could run in
the 2008 trials.
So, hopefully that would get me back to . . . because I just
couldn’t train at the same level as I was when I was running
2:12. So, I had to do something, I figured, because I could
either train so-so, half-assed as they say, and run 2:20 for a
number of years, or I could take a risk, get the surgery, and
hopefully fix my Achilles to the point where I could train full-
But I just couldn’t do that. So I ran 2:19 and qualified for the
2008 trials in ’07. And it had pretty much been a rough couple
of years. You go from pretty much being on top of the sport to
not really showing this potential again. And so I guess it was
hard for myself mentally. It was probably also hard for my
coaches. They weren’t trying any less hard, and so some rough
goes in there, to say the least.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. I can imagine. Just kind of going back to the Achilles
and your thoughts now about this surgery. Because I know a lot
of athletes kind of have a serious injury, and they either need
to take care of it or train mediocre. And you kind of went the
training route. Do you wish you would have taken care of it
sooner and maybe started off being able to train healthy earlier
on in the process, or are you pretty comfortable with the way
you approached it?
Trent: I wish I probably would have gotten it done one year sooner.
Trent: So I could have given myself a better chance at the ’08 trials,
but I think I waited the right amount of time. Surgery is never
an easy thing to do.
Jeff: Right. I mean, hindsight’s always easy, but I’m just, like I said I
work with a lot of athletes who have that decision to make,
where maybe it’s not necessarily surgery, but it’s something, a
lot of times it’s Achilles stuff. A bad Achilles problem, it’s
like, we need to take 4 or 5 weeks here and really do nothing
but cross-training and getting this better. In the long run,
it’s going to make you better as opposed to training for a week
and having to take a week off, training for a week, you know?
And so I’m glad that at least you shared your experience as to
what you did, or at least how you approached it.
Trent: And I ended up, I could run full-bore after it. It took a
while. I didn’t do as much cross-training as I should have done
coming off the surgery, so I would say it took me two years to
get back to full speed after that surgery in 2007 to where I
could really throw down on my right leg and push down and not
have weakness or pain.
Trent: But it fully came back. And pretty much, I wasn’t successful at
the ’08 trials. I almost gave up and decided to not run anymore.
I watched the movie “Spirited: A Marathon”, and I was kind of
gaining weight and getting out of shape and taking some time
away from the sport, just backing off. I watched that movie, and
I was like, I can still run at the front of a marathon. And as
you know, I mean it’s really exciting to have a motorcycle
Trent: Or just to be out there and giving it your best. You can relate
it to someone running and trying to break four hours or trying
to break three hours. There’s nothing like that feeling of
giving it a go. And I walked out of that movie and I just said,
“Hey, we’ve got to give this another go.”
Trent: So, well, I was done with the team, because we had struggled
for three years on both sides. We were kind of like, okay, let’s
get a change going. And so I moved down to, I wanted to move
back out West, out in the mountains, which is where I had grown
Trent: I loved running on the mountains. I moved back out to join the
[inaudible 41:52] Elite. And it was good. Greg challenged me a
lot. He said if you’re going to come here, you have to be like
an athlete who has his head on fire and you’re trying to find
water. He said, you’re not going to come back from this and be
great unless you’re really, really motivated. Greg was great for
me, and he really challenged me to be an athlete. The things I
had learned in college again and the things I learned in
[inaudible 42:21] drills. Do better speed work. Let’s get
rounded. Let’s make sure your core is strong. And it brought the
athlete back in me.
Trent: [inaudible 42:38] I’d run about 2:16, which it isn’t about
2:12, but it’s in the same realm. It brought back a lot of my
confidence, and I’m happy I came back from surgery, I didn’t
quit, and got another good couple of races out of me. And I
said, hey, my body’s 100% still.
Trent: Yeah, I had the injury. Sometimes people think, oh you get
surgery and you’re never the same. Luckily my doctor did well
enough that it felt like I was the same.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s awesome. So how did your training change? Well, now
you’re living in Boulder, so how has your training changed over
the years, you know coming out of the Hanson’s role where you
were running a ton of mileage and putting in a lot of doubles,
sometimes even triples? How did that training change going into
working with Greg McMillan in Flagstaff and then now where you
are in Boulder?
Trent: Kind of the coaching changes and how my training would change?
Jeff: Yeah, or even just your approach to the training, in terms of whether
it be in the actual training change or how you approached the
changing? Did something change where you said I don’t need to
run 140 miles a week anymore? Are you still doing that type of
Trent: Got it. Do you mind if I just say one more thing about the
Jeff: Oh, yeah! No, absolutely, please do.
Trent: There’s some people who might question the Achilles. I’ve had a
lot of success where you can’t just sit on your butt with it.
For me, I can take people weeks off, and it will be the same. So
you really have to stay mobilized. And I’ve had a lot of success
with heat packs.
Trent: People say ice your Achilles. You got to find out, are you an
icer or a heater?
Trent: Both of those can work good depending on the person.
Jeff: I like the contrast, to go back and forth. I stick my foot in a hot
bucket of water and then cold water. That’s my favorite remedy.
Trent: Yeah, and those things work good. And then recently, when I
first moved out here in Boulder, it worked really well for me, I
got some dry needling and I was really scared. It’s like for me
putting in my Achilles, which is my soft spot, is like putting
in my spine. But, I got relief instantly.
Trent: And it was probably a different Achilles level of injury at
that point, but I was racing the next weekend in cross-country
Trent: There’s definitely some things out there, and anyone can check
my website or contact me.
Jeff: What’s your website, Trent?
Jeff: We’ll spell it out for the transcribers. It’s T-R-E-N-T-B-R-I-N-E-
Y.com. I spelled that right, right?
Trent: I think so, yeah.
Jeff: Okay, cool. So that’s for the transcribers, there.
Trent: Sorry, I just wanted to add that. I think that’s something that
I’ve had a lot of experience with Achilles–bilateral now. It’s
shown up on my other leg which is probably shorter since the
surgery I had on the other leg. No shakes but I had a gastroc
Trent: A calcaneus shave.
Trent: And they took out the bursa sacs on my leg, the Achilles.
Trent: And it was done by a doctor in Detroit, and I was really happy.
He worked with some of the NBA Pistons, and that made me feel
Jeff: Yeah, good.
Trent: So back to your other question which was, training is
different. Between the different coaching things and how my view
of it was.
Trent: I think after the kind of downturn there at Hansons, I was just
looking to reconnect. I wanted to be back in the fight. But I
didn’t want to be in the same fight, you know? I beat my head
against that wall at Hansons for a while, and I needed some
newness to the training. So like I said, Greg was just great. He
allowed me to start into it, being out of shape, and the team
down there was very, very supportive. And they’re like, “No, and
you’re a champion. You can get this back.” And so piece by piece
I just kept getting back into athletic shape. And we’d do drills
a couple times a week. And at this point in my career, I was 28
or 30, and I had bills to pay, so I had to work. At Hansons, I
would work anywhere from 20 to 40 hours a week at one or two
jobs. Once I got to McMillan, I couldn’t stand to do the same
140 mile weeks, but I’d get up to 110 to 130.
Trent: It’s like my sweet spot. Where I feel good, everything works.
It challenges me, but it doesn’t fry me. Because you still have
to go to work and show up.
Trent: So I worked at a retail establishment down there, and that was
fine. I was on my feet, so I’d be tired sometimes and I’d have
to skip a second run, but I was still doing what I love, which
was running and getting back after it. I was getting my
athleticism back even though I was skipping second runs, because
I had so many years of training behind me.
Trent: And I was doing the drills no matter what, because those were
something that I felt was really adding to, I needed that range
of motion for my Achilles if I was ever going to be at the elite
level. And so I was really focused on that, like what components
did I need to get back to that level? So we worked on speed. I
did some awesome speed workouts with guys that are pretty good–
Trent: And [Aigan]. And Andrew Lemoncello. I remember doing a four by
a mile workout faster than I’d ever done out to McMillan, and it
was like wow. I can come back from surgery, I can make a change,
I can get out of shape, and I can get back into it just by
Trent: At that point I felt like becoming an athlete and trusting in
the science of the sport and the consistency of training. And
then I was there for a couple years. I think it’s just hard to
give yourself fully to a job and running. And eventually when
you’ve done it for 8 or 10 years, it’s hard to keep pushing at
that same level.
Trent: I don’t really know why we finished or why we ended. I think
Greg and I had talked about it, and Greg had felt like he had
given me everything he could possibly give. He’d done everything
he could and I was just missing a little piece, and that piece
was for me to make the connection. When I look back on it, it’s
probably that mental piece. Like, I really needed to get in the
battle again mentally, because I was scared.
Trent: Because I was scared. I didn’t really think I was there
anymore. But I was running workouts with those four guys and
with [Deabi Ramen] and I was running long runs, and they’d push
the pace, and then I’d take my turn and push the pace. And those
are good signs that you’re fit.
Trent: But I wasn’t connecting it to my racing. So I don’t know if I
just needed another year under Greg’s program to show fully that
I was all the way back. I mean the workouts were showing me. So
I don’t know. I kind of feel like another 6 months or a year and
I might have really popped one.
Trent: I ran 2:16:30 right at the end of being coached by Greg. I
worked with his assistant coach, Trina Painter down there, and
she was great for me mentally, just focusing and individually
working with me. So, I felt like I was all the way back.
Trent: Then not being part of the program, I kind of lost some of my
own consistency, and I wasn’t training quite as much.
Trent: It helps when you can show up to practice everyday.
Jeff: Right, right.
Trent: So, and I still trained with those guys after I left the team
and after that change, and they were still crazy supportive all
the time. It was really [inaudible 51:19]. Hansons was super
competitive, almost a little cut-throat, and sometimes
Jeff: Right, right.
Trent: McMillan, at first there were no other marathoners. There was
one other guy, Andrew Middleton, and he was my training partner.
We cheered for each other, and then the 10K guys, Brett and
Jordan, they didn’t care, so they were like, “Go for it, Dude!
Kick some butt!”
Trent: It was really what I needed.
Trent: It was awesome, and I was back out West, loving the trails,
loving the surroundings, the national parks, and [inaudible
Jeff: Yeah, it goes back to what you said earlier in the interview about to
run well, you have to be happy. And it sounds like you needed to
let go of the baggage of everything that happened in 2005, 2006,
and reconnect with yourself, be in a beautiful spot. Make
yourself happy again.
Trent: Yeah, well said.
Jeff: So now you’re in Boulder, and are you still training at the same
level? What does your training look like now?
Trent: I’m not quite training at the same level. I’m listening to my
body a lot more. After 15 years of pushing it, 10 or 15, the
body sometimes, is a little more grumpy. I’m respecting my body,
but also still using the same principles I’ve learned over time.
You can’t just be a one directional athlete. You have to have
speed. You have to also have endurance. So, for me, I’ve lost
some of my speed. And I know I really need that to stay at the
elite level, or stay close to elite. Right now I’m going to go
into speed segment, and then do a marathon.
Trent: I’ll just do a shorter marathon build-up because I have 10
years, or 12 years of strength behind me.
Jeff: Right, right.
Trent: I mean, I guess that’s my training now. I work at Boulder
Running Company out here.
Trent: And I have some people that I run with, and we have, you know,
a nice community here, where I can jump into Brad Hudson’s
Trent: He’s welcoming to me showing up and running with his guys and
gals. So it’s kind of a Tuesday, Friday, Sunday sort of thing.
Trent: The workouts and then the other runs are just filler runs. I’m
just trying to make sure my quality days are quality, and my
other days, you know, I’m getting in some work.
Trent: If I only run 45 minutes to 70 minutes, that’s okay for right
Trent: Give myself the opportunity to still be competitive. If I get
really excited, I’ll start pushing it for a month or two into
buildup, but just trying to stay healthy and stay in the sport
and keep enjoying it.
Jeff: Yeah. No, and I think it’s an interesting approach that I’ve heard
before, and I think this happens with a lot of runners as they
get older. You can stop capitalizing off those years and years
of training. And when you’re starting out, people always tell
you, you know you’re on the beginning side of things. So you’re
like, oh, try this. All the training you do now will benefit
you. And now you’re seeing those benefits where you don’t have
to run crazy mileage anymore, you can give your body some
recovery, you can use that strength and endurance you built up
over the years. And I think that’s a good lesson for older
runners who are kind of approaching masters or 50 years old who
have been running for a long time who, if they’re struggling,
probably one of the things they can do is start backing off some
of the mileage because it’s there. That aerobic strength is
there, and it’s time to capitalize in it, you know?
Jeff: So now, I want to talk a little bit about kind of, you’ve got two
things on there. I see Marathon Guide and PowerBar Elite?
Trent: Yeah. So, thankfully, since I’ve moved on from Flagstaff,
basically I was supported by Adidas and Team USA Arizona down
there. And after leaving there, I was kind of looking around,
and I had some friends who were connected to marathonguide.com,
Jeff: Sorry, for our audience who doesn’t know, what is Marathon Guide?
Trent: Marathonguide.com is a website, and they have news stories on
marathons around the world. They have an online calendar for
marathons all over the world, U.S. and various other places.
They have links to results and then another thing that they do
that’s really key is they do race registration online, results,
those sorts of things. It’s kind of a competitor to the big
Trent: They run registration for Twin Cities Marathon right now,
Houston Marathon. so John Elliot is a New Yorker. He’s
relocating maybe, or he has a second home in Boulder.
Trent: It’s just this guy who loves running and is in his 40s and used
to be in New York and had some other job and he just said, you
know what, I’ve been doing this Marathon Guide thing on the
side, and he loves it, and he travels to races, and he supports
Trent: Both American and some non-American runners, and he’s just here
to encourage people to run.
Jeff: It’s always great when you can have companies and websites and things
like that that are supportive in the running community as
opposed to just being this big behemoth that are kind of there.
To be able to give back to the sport and to do it for the love
of the sport is pretty cool.
Trent: I mean, I’m amazed that I connected to him. He’s genuine, and
Trent: And it’s wonderful. And then also with PowerBar Team Elite?
Trent: With them for two years, so they help supply me with stuff to
recover from my workout.
Trent: Recovery drink and then, you know, if I get up in the morning
and I’m kind of hungry before my workout, I’ll have a PowerBar
Pria Bar is my favorite.
Trent: I don’t know. They’re like 80 calories and it doesn’t disturb
my body, and it gives me something so I don’t feel empty when I
Trent: So, those have been good. And it’s fun going out with PowerBar
and working like expos for various different events and just
meeting different athletes. There’s some pretty cool tri-
Jeff: Yeah, I bet.
Trent: Here in the area. So both of those people have been great. And
there are so many people in life who aren’t necessarily
Trent: They may as well be, because they’ve thrown their support your
way. From racers who have helped you out to stuff like that. So
I still have a great connection down in Birmingham, Alabama–
Mercedes Benz Marathon. I’m building a connection here with the
Colfax Marathon, which I was lucky enough to win a couple of
Jeff: Right, congrats!
Trent: You know, it’s fun to win a local marathon, and I’m also doing
some coaching with Bold Running here in town.
Trent: Which is the official training program for Bolder Boulder.
Trent: And also the official training program for Bolder Running
Company. Oh, and so I coach on day a week or two days a week
with them, and it gives me a connection to athletes of all
abilities. And you know, it’s the same fight, same battle. It’s
challenging their mind a little bit. And over the last few weeks
it’s been fun to engage with a couple people, and they’re like,
“Oh, I can do that with my mind?”
Trent: It’s fun to share that. I think that camaraderie of the sport
is why I probably won’t be able to quit the sport.
Trent: Because it just feels awesome. No matter where you move, where
you are in the world, you have friends.
Trent: So, we’re lucky in that respect.
Jeff: Yeah, exactly. No, it’s awesome. Well, Trent, I appreciate you
sharing your story. Just a lot of amazing information you
shared, and I appreciate you opening up about kind of everything
you went through, both positive and negative. I know my audience
is really going to appreciate this, so thank you.
Trent: Thank you
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