Mike Aish is back in his New Zealand homeland to race this weekend’s Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon. In this interview, Mike talks about his couple weeks visiting home and what he’s been up to, how he thinks his race at the Sean O’Brien 50 Mile last month went, his high-mileage training, and how he thinks he stacks up against defending champion Sage Canaday.
For more on who else is racing this weekend, read our preview article.
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Mike Aish Pre-2014 Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mike Aish before the 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon. How are you doing, Mike?
Mike Aish: I’m doing well, thank you.
iRunFar: You are home, essentially.
iRunFar: How far away are we from your home town here in New Zealand?
Aish: It’s about three and a half hours on some really crappy roads. Yeah, no, this is a great part of the country. I’m glad the race is here.
iRunFar: When was the last time you raced here in New Zealand?
Aish: Well, technically I came here and ran the New Zealand Road Relays. It was only a few weeks after Leadville. Yeah, it didn’t go very well purely because my calves were shot. You can’t go from running 100 miles to a 10k and feel any good. The last time I was here with a real focus on racing was 2009 when I ran the Christchurch Marathon.
iRunFar: Here you are. You got to see your family for a little bit. You trained for three-plus weeks.
Aish: Yeah, I’ve been enjoying the sunshine. Where I live, there’s a large mountain, so I’ve been spending a lot of days getting around that and up and down it.
iRunFar: Which one is that?
Aish: Mount Taranaki. It’s been great. I’ve been loving it. I’m eating up a storm. I think I’m actually probably the only guy that, you know, I’m running a good amount and still gaining weight. It’s been great. It’s been fantastic.
iRunFar: Some fish and chips? What are your favorites?
Aish: Well, I’ve been sinking a pie and an L&P for lunch just about every day. Fish and chips for dinner most nights.
iRunFar: By ‘pie,’ probably some sort of meat pie, right?
Aish: Yeah, yeah, yeah, steak and cheese—oh… amazing. Actually, I’m probably in a bind where I have to keep running because otherwise I’ll explode. I love the food. I really do.
iRunFar: Gives you a reason to run.
Aish: Yeah, definitely. Definitely.
iRunFar: We talked back at Sean O’Brien. You had a great race there.
Aish: It went really, really well actually. I was really worried. In the interview I was a little bit more cautious because I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen. Like I said, I’d only run a 20-mile long run. I found the course very easy. It was very runnable. I even guarded myself a lot on the downhills. I felt I was in an easy position to challenge Dylan [Bowman] when he went off, but I wanted to kind of make sure I’d make the end well beforehand. It went really well. I was happy with that. I don’t even think I took any downtime after that—maybe travel day off.
iRunFar: Straight into training.
Aish: The body was in good shape. So then I really started focusing on this race, then stepping from this guy to Lake Sonoma to Western States.
iRunFar: So you’re feeling pretty good. You’re sounding like…
Aish: I’ve been running.
iRunFar: And you’re a high-volume guy.
Aish: Well, I wanted to test my limits, so I pushed it along. I got over that 200-mile mark per week for a couple of weeks. I felt quite comfortable, to tell you the truth, doing it.
iRunFar: Mostly trail stuff?
Aish: It was structured. It was a few days where maybe I was on some gravel, rolling roads, other days I was on the trails. Typically I like to run twice per day. There were a few days where I just ran once, and I still had plenty of time to get the numbers in. It was quality and I was happy with it. Now I can typically say, Yeah, I’ve run that. Big deal. Training has been going good. I’ve been feeling really good. You never know until race day if it’s all going to connect. I could have a bloody shocker, but let’s hope not—fingers crossed.
iRunFar: One thing I’ve seen happen personally with other people, you take that next step up in training volume—maybe you’ve done that in the past—but in this period your body is holding up, but your mind gets fatigued. You sound eager.
Aish: No, I’m ready to race. I’m at that point where I need to show people that I’m here, hello, because I feel that I’ve done the work but nobody’s seen it. I’ve only been doing this for three months. I’ve only got one result. It’s hard for me to come into a race and you see all the race favorites talking about how they’re worried about this guy and this guy and that guy might get 10th. Before Sean O’Brien some guy didn’t even put me in the top 12. That pissed me off and I was like, Let’s work this out.
iRunFar: Do you need a little debutant here at…
Aish: On one hand I like it because it motivates me. It gets me mad. I know that I’ve got to put in the work and I’ve got to get the results. People reflecting back to that first Leadville—you can’t judge me on a race I trained six or eight weeks for.
iRunFar: Even your second one, you were very aggressive and you held on, which was impressive that you did, but you went 60 miles hard.
Aish: Yeah, I learned a little bit more.
iRunFar: But then I really saw a different approach at Sean O’Brien.
Aish: Yeah, no, I’ve gotten smarter… a little bit. You’ve just got to learn. I’ve been trying to learn. I’ve been seeing a nutritionist to help me with my race-day fueling.
iRunFar: Oh, on race day—not the steak and cheese pie…
Aish: Well, I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying. I’ve gotten professional. Three months ago I got a contract, and they expect a lot for me to be marketable, for me to be worth their investments. I had to be professional about it. Training camps, attacking every little area, anything I was weak in—I have to have every tool in the tool bag otherwise I’m letting myself down.
iRunFar: Sage Canaday won last year. He’s back. He’s got to be the favorite. You know how fast he is in the marathon. He’s got some wheels. But tool for tool, do you think you can match up with him on Saturday?
Aish: Sage is, I think, a little bit predictable. Yeah, he’s been training for a marathon and he just ran one but it didn’t go very good. So it’s like, is he that fast? Then has he been training for 25 or 30 miles? This is a 60-mile race. I know last year, it didn’t go so good over the last little bit for him. But he’s a good runner, so you never know. I think all I can do is focus on me. I want to run 100 miles as fast and as strong as I can. If he’s around me, we’ll race the last 10k.
iRunFar: Turn it into a track meet?
Aish: If he’s miles ahead then, shoot, good luck to him. I’m not scared of anybody out there. I think I’ve got as many tools if not more than most of them. They know that I’m as fast as them. What they don’t know is how strong I am. I We’ll need to wait. We’ll find out if I can say that.
iRunFar: Well, best of luck out there, man.
Aish: Cheers, man. It’s good to see you! Welcome. Welcome.
iRunFar: Bonus question—where does one get… I watched a movie Once Were Warriors (that’s a dark movie about New Zealand), but they were carrying around crates of beer. Where does one get a crate of beer?
Aish: Let’s go get one now. You just have to go down to the pub.