You could say that ultra-running is in Brendan Trimboli’s DNA. His mom ran the Leadville 100 back in 1989 and 1990, when Brendan was just one and two years old. Back in the late 80’s ultra-running was in its infancy with few participants – especially few women – so Brendan’s mom was one of the sport’s pioneers. Tragically, she died when Brendan was a just a teenager, but her influence had a deep impact on him.
It’s not surprising, then, that Brendan started running at a young age. While attending high school near Colorado Springs, he ran the Pikes Peak Marathon twice. Shortly afterward in college, Brendan was confined to the indoors much more than he would have liked while studying in Seattle. He escaped by participating in the Seattle Running Company’s weekly Saturday morning runs outside the city. Then in junior year he ran his first ultra-race, the 2008 Baker Lake 50K, and he hasn’t stopped since. He’s run in over 50 races and is preparing to run the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run in a few days.
Having a full-time job limits Brendan’s available training time. “You have to be flexible and willing to accept the fact that you will never be able to pull off the perfect training block,” he acknowledges. “But you do the best you can. I’m a morning person and I try and get runs in the morning.” He’s typically up around 5am and runs for 1 to 2 hours before work.
In order to train for the Hardrock, a 100 miler at high altitude, Brendan says the most important thing is simply spending time at elevation and ingesting nutrition up there. “Everything you’ve done at lower elevation doesn’t apply at high elevation since your stomach just shuts down.” In order to prepare, he goes up to high altitude every weekend and keeps moving. He makes sure to ingest nutrition while up there and “push through it until the body gets used to it.” It’s critical to “find the sweet spot where you’re moving at a good pace, but not too fast that you can’t sustain it for 24 hours.”
Working Through Injury
Earlier this year Brendan had a nagging achilles injury and he needed to accept the fact that his body needed rest. He admits that most ultra-runners can get obsessive with fitness and can’t let go enough to take a break. In contrast, Brendan took two entire months off to recover.
Gradually he increased his activity level. He went to the gym and focused on strength and flexibility, and also went to a physical therapist who helped him understand that there was an imbalance in his hip that was also contributing to his injury.
When Brendan started running he would use water and gels. It worked for several years until “it got to the point where I literally gagged when I ate a gel.” Later, he tried solid foods, but that gave him stomach issues.
He met Jeff, the founder of Tailwind, back when he was handing out Ziploc bags of white powder for endurance athletes to test his new nutrition product. “It’s great to see how the brand has grown and evolved. I even went down to New Zealand and saw a random runner out on a trail wearing a Tailwind hat.”
Brendan loves the taste of Tailwind and likes that it covers a lot of bases, especially salt replenishment. “It’s hard to tell if I need salt while running, but when I use Tailwind I can tell I need salt when I drink it and it tastes amazing.” Plus in a high altitude environment, “you need food that is easy on the gut. Tailwind is perfect for that.” Today he uses a mixture of nutrition including Tailwind, nuts, nut butters and water.
Crossing 13 major mountain passes in the 12,000’ to 13,000’ range, Brendan loves the amazing views during the race. He also appreciates its intimacy since the lottery restricts participation to 150 runners. This race is special to him because of the Hardrock family. “Over the past seven years I’ve been there once as a racer, but also as a pacer, a crew member and as a volunteer. It’s a special community and is like spending time with good friends – like a family reunion.”
This year, the Hardrock is also a literal family affair for Brendan. His dad, uncle and fiancé are going to be his crew. His good friend will be his pacer during the overnight stretch and his fiancé will pace him in the final stretch. “When you’re really far into a race, you can get negative or emotional. A good pacer gives you the perspective that you need and keeps you positive.” Plus, “in a long race, you can forget to eat and it’s important to have a someone nagging you to eat.”
Brendan also credits his crew with being a big source of motivation. “All these people are with you that want you to succeed. It makes ultra-running feel less selfish and it’s great to share the experience with them.”
With Brendan’s family and friends cheering him on and the memory of his mother in his heart, Brendan has powerful fuel to propel him to the finish line. All of us at the Tailwind family are rooting for him too!