Have you ever NOT enjoyed watching an interview with Mike Aish? In the following pre-Western States 100 interview, Mike talks about what he’s learned as he continues to race ultras, how his training has gone even if life didn’t go quite to plan, and what his goals are… along with sharing what his best pre-race skateboard trick was.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Mike Aish Pre-2014 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Michael Aish before the 2014 Western States 100. How are you doing, Michael?
Michael Aish: I’m doing well. Thanks for asking. How are you?
iRunFar: I’m doing alright. You have given a serious go at two 100s so far. You jumped into Zion earlier this year.
Aish: Yeah, Zion was a training run/choice. It was odd. My head wasn’t in it. I wasn’t so serious about it. When I got kind of frustrated, it was easy to say, “You know, I’ve got seven or eight hours under my belt. I can just walk away and still be able to run and walk the next day. So it could have been looked at as a mistake. It could have been looked at as a great supported long run in preparation for a start. I just didn’t go in with the mindset that I was competing, so it was easy to pull the plug.
iRunFar: But you do have two serious 100s in your past with Leadville twice. What have you learned in those and since that to come into this race?
Aish: We don’t have time for that. What haven’t I learned? It’s about respect. It’s a long way. If you’re biking, you’re running, you’re driving, 100 miles is a long way. It’s been a big curve or me nutrition-wise. I think fitness has been the easy part. It’s not about fitness. A friend of mine always says, “Everybody is fit, but it’s who can eat, drink, fuel, and get from the start to the finish—those are the guys that win.” So it’s just those little extra bits—being able to carry enough fuel, being able to take it. I ran into a lot of trouble at Tarawera this year because I didn’t drink enough. I just looked at the weather and didn’t feel like I needed it. I blew apart terribly. So, I’ve learned lots. I’ve got lots more to learn. I’m still enjoying it. I don’t know if anybody knows everything.
iRunFar: No. At least your first time at Leadville and even a little bit in your second, you didn’t have a full long dedicated training program as you have for this. You’ve really been looking at this for…
Aish: Yeah, you know last year at Leadville I was very focused on one race whereas this year I thought, Well, I’ll get into the whole racing thing. I’d actually say I probably got in more quantity for Leadville than this, but here I’ve gotten in a lot more quality—a lot of back-to-backs. They weren’t long, but they were tough. I really focused. I was talking to a few people who have run it a few times and they were like, “Look, just focus on your downhills.” You gave me some great advice. I really have been focusing on that kind of stuff. I’m just going to take it step by step and see how far I get.
iRunFar: Have you worked more on either ascending or descending?
Aish: Loads. I’ve always been really good at going up. It was evident. I was out of shape at Sean O’Brien and with all that ascending, I could kind of fake it. But coming down has been really tough and I’ve worked really, really hard on that. I’ve done a lot of really slow uphill repeats then coming down fast. Hopefully it pays off.
iRunFar: It’s a downhill race.
Aish: Yeah, I know. Shoot!
iRunFar: You sort of got a little reputation. You went out fast at two Leadvilles, granted you were in a pack the second year. But you really have said you try to run within yourself and you try to run the best race you can on that day. What does that race look like on Saturday? If you have a great day, what are you shooting for?
Aish: If I have a great day, I think everybody is realistic. My great day is top 10. Obviously, if I can get within 10 miles of the finish and I’m moving and there are people close, it’s all on. I’ll let loose. I’m out for blood. But I think it’s just a matter of I just want to get to that finish line. I don’t really have anything to prove. No one has given me any props—look out for this guy. I’m in a great position where I can just run and enjoy the race. I was talking to Ian Sharman and he said his first year he ran with a camera and he ended up getting top 10. Maybe I’ll do that. He was just so relaxed about it that he said it went well. Nick Clark, we ran a little bit together. He gave me some great advice. He said to just get to the finish line and there’s a good chance you’ll be in the top 10.
iRunFar: Now how do you do that coming from having that track background where you are so focused for a short amount of time and it’s all in from the gun? How do you transition to, I’m just going to go jog for 50, 60, 70 miles?
Aish: It’s been hard. I think this race is cool because I can just focus on aid station to aid station. At Leadville I did the same thing. I think I’ve really practiced the nutrition a lot, so hopefully that works out. Yeah, aid station to aid station. This time I’m ready for that bad patch where I never knew it existed at Leadville. I’m ready for it to hit. It might take two, three, or four hours, and then hopefully you get through it. Hopefully I can run again after it.
iRunFar: That’s an important lesson.
Aish: It’s hard. These young guys coming in, no offense, but if you haven’t done a 100, good luck, because that hole that you get into, that you do get into, it hurts. At Leadville, I quit. I was done. It was only after sitting down for an hour that my pacemaker was like, “Look, we’re leaving. Let’s go.” I was like, “You’re serious?” Yeah, you think you’re dead, but you can come back and you can keep coming back.
iRunFar: Are we going to see you in the front group for as long as you can or are there people who you might try to hang back with who might have more experience?
Aish: I’ve got a select few that I want to kind of keep close to. I’ve got a plan. I’ve got a plan. For everybody that thinks I’m going to go off the front and give it hell, keep thinking that. I want to make it to the finish. Like I said, I’ve got a little, little bit of experience, but I’m not a fool to think I can run at the top. These are good runners and there are like 50 of them. They’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have and they’re a lot smarter and they’ve learned a lot more lessons. All I can do is hope that I’m still running when I cross the river. Then the tables turn a little bit, hopefully. So we’ll see.
iRunFar: It’s interesting because the way you position yourself mentally for where you’re going to finish. If you’re aiming for the win here, it’s not going to be super hot, there are so many talented runners, you have to be aggressive and just get lucky in a way. It has to be your day.
Aish: I look at these guys that win the race and you see that they have a different perspective to the guys that go out and want to win the race. Someone was telling me that once they cross the river, most people walk up to the first aid station and drop out. Sounds great. So I’ve just got to make it past there and I’m doing alright.
iRunFar: So what is that different perspective between the…
Aish: I think it’s a matter of surviving the day and competing and trying to beat everyone on the day until you get to the part where it’s time you start competing. You know, maybe they should just run the 80 miles and line everyone up and we just have a flat out 10k race or something.
iRunFar: A couple years ago there was a mile on the track the day afterwards.
Aish: See, that could sort it out.
iRunFar: You feel your chances are a little better there?
Aish: Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve just got to get to that finish first. It’s tough.
iRunFar: During the lead up to this year’s race, you may have had a little bit more opportunity in part to live the lifestyle I guess a little bit more?
Aish: Yeah, it’s been challenging because it got set up that way that I was like, Yeah, now I can be back to being a professional athlete and be focused, and then personally, me and my wife went through some difficult things in our life that made it a lot harder. So there’s been a lot of different outside stresses that have come into with it and kind of ate up that time that I thought I’d just be sitting on the couch eating chips. I’m not complaining. I wasn’t having to clock in, but there were other things on my mind for bits and pieces of the build-up. It’s been weird. I’ve been camping. I’ve got nothing to do now, and I’m kind of bored. I can’t wait for the bloody thing to start.
iRunFar: Bored enough that you were out skateboarding this week?
Aish: I went down to the park. Yeah, Truckee has a really neat little skate park actually. Yeah, we went down and had a roll-around. It was fun. It was a nice way just to blow off some steam. People have way too much nervous energy, so it was nice just to relax and stuff.
iRunFar: You’re still in that—you seem pretty relaxed.
Aish: Yeah, it was good. I’m hanging out, so it’s been good.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there.
Aish: Before we go, thanks so much for all the support. Thanks for everything that iRunFar and you, yourself, have done for the sport because the way it’s growing, it’s neat to see coming from the outside in. Just what you’re doing, it’s fantastic, and I don’t know if anybody has ever said that to you.
iRunFar: Thank you, Mike.
iRunFar: You were at the skate park this week. What was the best trick you threw?
Aish: Small disaster.
iRunFar: What’s that look like?
Aish: It’s just a lot of spinning and moving and… maybe a board slide. Honestly, it wasn’t many tricks. I was just rolling around. I was stretching. Some people like yoga, I like skateboarding.
iRunFar: What shoes do you board in?
Aish: That day I was boarding in the Mizuno Wave Kazan. It’s a trail/skateboard hybrid.
iRunFar: Nice. For all you skateboarding/ultra hybrids—the Kazans.