Mike Aish blew up at the 2012 Leadville 100. Before the 2013 race, he swore that he’d finish no matter the time. Well, while he suffered during the race’s final 40 miles, he did, indeed, finish and in third place, no less. In the following interview, Mike talks about how his race played out, why he was mixing seven-minute miles with walking on the roads, how he plans to put on a few pounds, and why he’d choose to run Leadville … if he races an ultra again.
For more on this year’s race, check out our 2013 Leadville 100 results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Mike Aish Post-2013 Leadville 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mike Aish after the 2013 Leadville 100. You finished.
Mike Aish: Finally. Got it done.
iRF: It didn’t take until Sunday; it didn’t take ‘til Monday. You got it done.
Aish: Yeah, it was a close call. I really… there was a part where I was about to pack it in and just be done.
iRF: Where was that?
Aish: It was about 70, I think.
iRF: Half Pipe?
Aish: Yeah, somewhere around there. I don’t know actually know what it was called. When Nick Clark went by, he looked like he was hurting. I figured well, I can hurt as tough as he is. Then my crew kind of kept on me. Scott Jurek was behind me, so I was like, You know, I don’t have that many miles. I’ll just keep pushing it. You know, I’m really glad I did because for as tough as it is, and the pain that you go through, and the tiredness, crossing the line was pretty special. I’m happy I did it.
iRF: You did kind of want to drop about half way back, but you really wanted to finish. Not only did you just continue to the finish, you kept pushing it.
Aish: I was doing the math and I figured I had 30 miles and I had 13 hours to walk and I could do it. But then that competitive… I got on the road and we started running really fast. It was only for short bouts like 10 minutes, but I was running close to seven minute-miles and I felt comfortable. Then I’d walk for a minute and then I’d run again. I could feel myself getting closer. Once you get close enough that you can smell the finish, then I was like, Scott’s right behind me; I’ve got to hold him off. He was trying to chase me down. It was good. It was really neat fun.
iRF: What was one of your biggest challenges out there—your body, your stomach, your mind?
Aish: Well, and these are not excuses, but I didn’t go out… everyone thinks I went out really hard, but I really didn’t. I was just really fast through the aid stations, so I was gaining time. I was running very controlled for the first half—to heart rate actually—I walked up Hope Pass on both sides because I was waiting for people to catch up. The plan was that I would run with the pack until we got out of Twin Lakes on the way home, and it’s a really runnable section, and I was hoping to really smash that section. As it turned out when I got there, I blew up, so I had no legs to do any running. It was one of those things where I fell down coming down Hope Pass really bad.
iRF: The first or second time?
Aish: The second time. We’d gone out of control and I had the arms up and a piece of tree stuck out and I clipped it and I’m just really… the sorest are my core muscles. I feel like I was in a car accident because I just really hit hard. That probably got me a little bit too excited. As we were running through the fields, the average pace at one point was 6:20 pace. I was like, “We’ve got to slow down.” He’s like, “We’re going great.” “This ain’t gonna work!”
iRF: It looked like you were way stronger than Sharman when you were coming across that flat section.
Aish: I felt so good. I switched out my shoes. They felt magic. I was all prepared. It’s so weird. Then like 15 minutes later I could barely lift my legs. It was just strange. There were just little things that probably got me sidetracked. They’re just little things.
iRF: No major muscle failures. You weren’t puking on the side of the trail.
Aish: No, but I had really hurt all my abdominal muscles, so I was really having trouble breathing.
iRF: Yeah, coming into mile 76 aid station you were like, “I can’t breathe—my diaphragm.”
Aish: Yeah, I couldn’t take any deep breaths. I think the other factor in that was that my heart rate was getting really high. That’s why we’d run for awhile and walk and run and walk.
iRF: Running was still comfortable leg-wise, but your heart rate would creep?
Aish: Yeah, because after while I’d be like… gasp… I felt like I was at 200. It was a great experience. I got to practice a lot of things and all of this advice that people had given me. I’m glad I kept going. I’m glad that people pushed me to keep going. Tough as heck. I’m glad I finished. I don’t know if I’m ever going to start another one.
iRF: Okay, last year you said you’re never going to do one again. About 12 hours ago, you were never going to do one of these again. Probably not?
Aish: I don’t know. We’ll see.
iRF: I saw you talking in there. Jurek was talking to you. You know, you had a good run out there, but clearly that’s not your potential.
Aish: Yeah, there’s definitely more potential, but I think things have to line up. You know, I had a whole different kind of career, and I could focus. It was running. It was kind of the same way as Matt Carpenter did it with—running every day with one goal. If I got in that position, I think I’ve still got… I’m fresh. Mentally, I could do that.
iRF: You took a long time off competitive running.
Aish: The thing is, it’s hard fitting in eight-hour runs around 40, 50, 60 hours of work. You don’t want to come to these things halfheartedly. Then you end up getting all negative and dropping out. If I was in a great position where I could do it properly, I’d like to have a shot and maybe have a shot at the record. Matt was a good runner and he did it perfectly. I can’t see why I couldn’t match what he did.
iRF: Your times suggest that, in the shorter distances, you could have a go.
Aish: Well, I felt relaxed. He ran a fantastic thirdquarter. I figured that if I can get to half way and feel as relaxed as I did, then I can work on getting stronger in that third quarter. And then running the fourthquarter, then I’d be close.
iRF: He was extremely methodical in his training, so you’d have to…
Aish: Oh yeah, I wouldn’t say you wouldn’t have to work for it, and I wouldn’t say that I would get it. It would be a really good challenge if you had the right…
iRF: So if you were to focus on another, would it be back here?
Aish: Honestly, I don’t think I like… Leadville is something special. My whole running career, everyone’s like, “Have you run Leadville?” “No.” Now this is the only thing… I love it up here. It’s kind of like home. But I don’t want to fly or drive or travel hours and hours and hours to different continents and then run bad. Darn, now I’ve got to think about this on the flight home.
iRF: You’ve had that experience before.
Aish: Too many times. Too many times.
iRF: I don’t mean that race, but you’ve traveled the world and you’ve run enough track races that you have good races and you have bad races.
Aish: Yeah, there’s nothing worse than sitting in a hotel room in Berlin thinking, “I just ran the worst race of my life, and now I’ve got three days before I can get home.” Those races—they suck.
iRF: You can’t really move on.
Aish: So yeah, here’s cool because if you have a bad day, you have a bad day. You just drive home and go to work the next day. Life’s normal again.
iRF: Seeing your crew at the finish and seeing how excited you were about the ginger nuts, do you have any big meals planned for today? I’ve heard you’re sort of a legend in the eating category. What’s your eating plan for the day?
Aish: Actually, I haven’t had much to eat. I had a burrito and some yogurt and stuff. I don’t know. The next week or two, I’ll just gain some weight and stuff whatever is around me in. What sucks is that my wife, we just found out she’s got celiac. So now I’ve got to sneak hamburgers and stuff when she’s not around. Oh, she gets all mad. I’ll be in the car driving to work going through McDonalds just getting stuff like I’m all being sneaky. Yeah, I’ll just gain some weight—recharge, refuel. I think that’s something people just forget.
iRF: I’m working on it right now.
Aish: Me, too. I lost three pounds yesterday, the whole race. I probably did a good amount of eating and drinking.
iRF: Three pounds is nothing. Congratulations.
Aish: Thanks. Thanks for your support.
iRF: I hope you come out again. It would be fun to have you.
Aish: You never know. You never know. Cheers!
iRF: Cheers! One quick bonus question for you—you were up here and you drank some Leadville wine before the race. What are you going to celebrate with when you get home—you’re a wine drinker?
Aish: Definitely something red. I’m not really into the white. We’ll crack open a bottle. Some pinot or something.
iRF: Well, enjoy it. You earned it.
Aish: Yeah, I don’t even think I slept the night before.
iRF: The race?
Aish: No. Well, we went to the bar. There was no reason… I was just rolling around… so we went to the bar.
iRF: I did see some carbo-loading pictures.
Aish: Which is kind of funny because anyone who knows me knows I don’t drink beer.
Aish: No, I just drink wine. I just don’t like beer. So I had these four bottles in front of me.
iRF: Did you get some wine?
Aish: Yeah, I got a couple.
iRF: Is there drinkable wine in Leadville?
Aish: Oh, it was nothing good. They just had a merlot. I was like, “That will probably do.” You know… I used to run with Lydiard, and he was like “Never, ever go to bed because you think you have to. You go to bed when you’re tired.” I wasn’t going to sit there and toss and turn. You never sleep. It’s worthless. It’s not even restful.
iRF: And you’re a head case.
Aish: He was just, “If you need to go and have a few beers and just relax and when you’re tired then go to sleep.” So they were like, “We’re going to go out on the town.” I was like, “Yeah… we’ll go back just after 10. That’s a couple hours. I’m good.”