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Ultra Changes: 5 Questions With Trent Briney

We caught up with the 2:12 marathoner-turned-ultrarunner.

Marathoner Trent Briney is branching out. Briney, who ran a personal best of 2:12:34 when he finished fourth at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, has recently decided to try his hand in the ultrarunning realm — a decision that appears to have been a good one. Last month, the 34-year-old Briney, who currently lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado, took second to Max King at the JFK 50-Mile Run. Briney’s time there, 5:37:56, was faster than the previous course record. We recently caught up with Briney as he was making plans for his next ultra.

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You are a 2:12 marathoner and pushing into new terrain with ultras. Many of your competitors have much slower marathon times. Does this give you confidence? Also, what kind of advantages/disadvantages do you feel you have coming into the sport having been really fast at shorter distances?

It does help my confidence, however with ultras there are so many different factors. I have leg speed, aerobic fitness and muscle tone from marathons and years of intensity. However, I am not the fastest current ultra guy when it comes to long climbs. I believe that you train specifically for an event. When looking at running Western States 100 next year I would do more long-mountain runs and downhill sessions. If I was to do an ultra with more aggressive climbing and descending I would input that into the pre-race training for 2-3 months. I’m still learning and asking for lots of veteran feedback about how to run the ultra races. Past training buddy Ian Torrence has been a big help. My body has performed really well with fueling using my Powerbar energy gel products. I had no stomach issues in my first 2 ultras. The 100-mile distance might be different.

How is your body responding to ultra training? What kind of training differences have you undertaken in terms of mileage, workouts and overall approach?

My body and mind are enjoying the ultra training. I’ve done well for years now on runs that I call exploration runs that end up longer than originally planned. It’s fun. I think the true test of ultra training will be with back to back long runs on two straight days when I prep for a future 100 miler. I am running 70 to 90 miles per week with two workout days a week, a 2 to 4 hour long run day, and sometimes a second weekly 2 to 3 hour run. Usually one of the days will be a hill day which helps my running economy and power regardless of racing distance or type of race. As I am now 20 years into being a runner, I try to be flexible with my training a bit using cross-training, weight lifting and other outdoor activities to keep things fun and my fitness high. With regards to the running, variation and consistency are necessary for me perform at a high level. If you bang your head against the wall trying to do a rigid training program perfectly you might find it like a fight the whole way and become injured or run out of gas before the big race. I have also been running some marathons and 50Ks for my  sponsor ( as training events for longer ultra races. Some of these are events that I can place well in while having a moderate effort. Or, I can go all out and get a great fitness boost out of it.

Where do you see yourself in the ultra scene in the next few years? What are some “bucket list” races or accomplishments?

After JFK 50 Miler in November I won an entry to Western States 100. It’s an epic race and I’d love to test myself against the course and competition there. Other than that, I’ve been researching the Comrades UltraMarathon in South Africa and the World 100K Championships. I should be able to have solid performances at these events with my background and it would be great to represent the U.S. There are lots of other races that look thrilling like the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc and hometown Leadville 100 with great scenery, but one thing at a time I guess.

What is some advice that you can impart on fellow marathoners who want to start taking on ultras? How can they best prepare themselves?

Run a marathon on the roads or trails and challenge yourself to recover fast for another event or 1-2 workouts the following week. That mental focus clues you into doing things right like wearing compression, eating enough, resting appropriately, getting health care like massage, ice bath and listening to your body as you test it the next week. Practice your food and drink routine so you are comfortable with it and know it won’t upset the body. Go explore the trails or some destination run without setting a time limit of 2 to 3 hours.Go big, pick an exciting route or challenging goal in training. And, lastly, don’t go hard all the time. Your cumulative fitness will take care of that.

What made you decide to stop competing at an elite level in marathons and try out ultras? Was there some “lightbulb moment” you experienced? Describe that thought process, please.

I guess if there was a lightbulb moment it would be looking at the depth in the marathon these last number of years. I chased marathon goals for years with hopes of a world championship team or Olympic berth and bettering my PR. I still want to qualify for the 2016 Marathon Trials and show people that even in my mid 30’s I can run a fast marathon. However, I also want to take on new challenges, enjoy the sport, and stay healthy while doing it. There is lots of excitement growing in the sport of ultra running over the last 5 to 10 years. Guys like [Scott] Jurek, [Mike] Wardian, Anton [Krupicka], Kilian [Jornet], Max King, Sage Canaday, Western State 100 records falling, great blogs, and videos are driving the sport. With the addition of ultra running to my racing schedule I can continue staying in shape the way I want, see some great scenery, and chase new goals.


About The Author:

Duncan Larkin is a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released in July.