While he down plays it in the following interview, the fact remains that Mike Aish has twice run in the Olympics for New Zealand. That’s bound to draw attention to his attempt at running the Leadville 100, so’s the fact that he’s being featured in a television series about his pursuit of Leadville. (He made clear that his decision to run Leadville predated the TV series.) Add to that the fact that he’s only been training for 10 weeks… and won the Silver Rush 50 miler only a few weeks into that training. Yeah, there’s an intriguing story here. That’s why we highly suggest you watch the following interview in its entirety. You never know what pearls you’re going to get from Mike. He’s even frank in making some bold predictions about this year’s race in the bonus question that ends the interview.
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Mike Aish Pre-2012 Leadville 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar here with Mike Aish of New Zealand. Now you’re a U.S. citizen, right?
Mike Aish: Yeah, I’ve had my U.S. citizenship for two or three years now.
iRF: You’re probably the first person to run Leadville who has run in the Olympics—was that in 2004 and 2008?
Aish: No actually 2000 and 2004. A few things went on and I didn’t get selected for 2008.
iRF: Was it the 5K the first time around and the 10K the next time?
Aish: Actually, the other way—the 10K first and then the 5K.
iRF: That’s an interesting progression, nontraditional.
Aish: Well, I was kind of… I don’t know. The 10K came naturally, but I didn’t really enjoy it. The 5K was much more enjoyable, but I just didn’t have the talent. So it was a crazy mix there.
iRF: So maybe if there was an 8K in the Olympics…
Aish: Well, maybe, you never know. Yeah, probably.
iRF: But you have run Olympic level on the track and you’ve run 2:13 for the marathon?
Aish: Yeah, I did, but that was a long time ago, a long, long time ago. I think people are definitely… They’re probably missing the point if they’re bringing that stuff up because I retired too, and they’re forgetting that. I stopped running for a good amount of time. You know, you don’t hear them saying I’m going to do well because I was skateboarding really well. I’m a different runner than I was then. I’ve got a whole different perspective, and I’m doing it for totally different reasons.
iRF: So when you stopped running super competitively at the elite level, how long did you take off from running or from really training?
Aish: Well, that was probably 2009. Then I kind of, I ran World Champs, and I didn’t really run well at all, and I was like, “This is enough.” Then I basically toured around a bit but there was now structured training. If I had time I’d go for a run. I was trying to put things together. I ran a few local races and did stuff that I wanted to do that I never really had time to do. They were fun, but there was never any intent to go in there and tear it up. It was just go out, compete, have fun. Then at the end of last year and probably the first five or six months of this year I didn’t run at all. I was working a lot, and it was just getting too much to try to balance it out. I was doing a lot more skateboarding—much more fun. It was actually 10 weeks to tomorrow that I was actually like okay, Leadville’s on my bucket list. I was walking my dogs and I was up in the trees and I said, “You know, I want to see if I can get in.” I thought, “You know, I just have enough time if I can get some running in…” It worked out really well. I got into the race and got into the [Silver Rush] 50. I made a few mistakes but learned a lot from the 50. Who knows? Tomorrow’s going to be a whole new chapter. We’ll see.
iRF: Yeah, I mean, what did you learn in your first 50–your first ultra–your first run over marathon distance?
Aish: Yeah, it was. I basically went into it hoping to run with the leaders and just watch what they did—see how they took in their fuel, see the paces, things like that. After five or six miles, the guys told me basically that it was their first one as well. So I didn’t know what to do. So we just started running and we got some hills and I ended up being a little bit in front. It wasn’t because I was pushing; it was just because it felt real comfortable. Then this other guy caught up to me 15 or 20 miles later. He was a good downhill runner, and I’m probably terrible at that but I like running the ups. It didn’t seem like that was his favorite part of the race. So we kept kind of passing like this. So I’d catch up to talk to him, and then in the middle of the conversation he’d take off again. That’s just the way that he raced. I kind of got real ticked off about it. So I said, “To heck with this,” and I just pushed for about the next 10 miles. I was going along pretty well and then it kind of dawned on me about mile 35 and it kind of dawned on me that I’ve got to pick off. Everybody that’s kind of run 50 miles hard a month out of 100 tends to run like rubbish.
iRF: That’s wise to realize that having not been in the scene.
Aish: Well, you know, I looked at a lot of trends like that. So I backed right off, and I stopped at the next two aid stations for four or five minutes and just hung out and tried to relax. I was kind of running along the last seven miles and it was kind of getting warm. I had a certain type of backpack on that was really trapping the heat. I think it was over 80 degrees; it was really hot that day. I thought, “What the heck am I doing? I don’t care about winning. I don’t care about times. I just want to learn.” So I stopped, and I actually practiced a lot of that hiking in the last four miles. I had no watch. I had no idea how fast I was running or anything. I was expecting people to come whipping past and they just never did. So it’s mixed bags because I know that before I stopped and started that hiking, I was probably well under 8-minute pace. But it’s a whole different animal. I figure if I can hold anywhere between 9-10 minute miles for the first half I’ll be pretty happy.
iRF: What is going to be your approach on race day—tomorrow?
Aish: All or nothing. I’ve got no middle ground. I just don’t care. You know, what do I have to prove? This is probably going to be my last race ever, so this could be my retirement party. I’m not like the other guys having a schedule, going to Europe—I don’t care. I want to see how tough I am. Like I said, this race is on my bucket list. So I’m going to go out with the leaders and hang on as long as I can. When they drop me, I’ll keep hanging on until I blow up… If they drop me. That’s the thing. You can be 100% sure I’m going to empty myself on the course, and I’ll do my best to get to the finish line.
iRF: But you’re not going to attack from the front necessarily early on?
Aish: No, I don’t think that’s smart. No, I’m a little smarter than that. If something opens up after Hope Pass and I feel I’ve got enough in me to push, you know, I’ll push. I’m not scared. I just want to be smart. I’ve read every blog story there is. I’ve read all about the wins. I’ve compared a lot of stuff because I’ve only had a short time. Hopefully I’ve got a little bit of knowledge stored away.
iRF: Is there anything that does, not scare you overall about the race, but is there anything you’re concerned about? What is the unknown that has you…
Aish: Well, the unknown is whether or not I can actually run for that long. That’s a bloody long way. I’m not really worried about the competition because I don’t know who they are. There’s a couple of guys that I’ve met along the way, and you know, everybody seems to be really good. They’re friendly, they’ve accepted me in. Once they kind of hear it from me and work out that I’m not trying to come in and make the sport look bad or do anything ridiculous… I want to compete, and when I can’t compete I’ll try and finish. I don’t have any lofty goals of breaking records or “Look at me. I’m so great.” I just want to run.
iRF: What do you think about the scene? You were at the Silver Rush 50. I think you’ve spent some other time up here training. You were at a BBQ last night. What’s it like for you coming from… literally being… doing the European track circuit, being at the Olympics, being at the big marathons?
Aish: It’s definitely different. It’s a lot more low-key. It’s a lot more inviting. It just shows that it’s every man against the course—every man against the distance. It’s not really so much about… Well, it is about competing against each other, but everybody wants everybody to do well. Maybe that’s where money is the factor. These guys don’t line up and they’re not getting paid $50,000 to start the race. Everyone’s paying their entry fee; everybody wants to get to the finish. It’s just one of those things that’s nice. It’s a step back; it’s relaxing; it’s enjoyable.
iRF: Is there anything you’re looking forward to most this weekend?
Aish: Finishing. Yeah, it’s been full-on. Work’s been a little bit crazy and trying to work and train, working and life… You know, I never really got to do as much training as I would have liked. I never actually got to run for seven days straight. There were some goals I wanted to do during that block that I never really got around to, but you know, I’m fresh. That’s how I look at it.
iRF: You’re the first non-sponsored runner I’ve talked to. You work at a running store, correct? Which store is it?
Aish: I do, I do. Boulder Running Company in the Denver Tech Center.
iRF: It’s sort of a mixed course. You’ve got a lot of double track, some road, some mountain running. What shoes are you wearing?
Aish: I don’t know. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been able to test out a lot of shoes that don’t come out until next year. Then I’ve been able to put in a little bit of input here and there for new shoes. I think in the morning I’ll just get up and grab a pair out of the bag and just go for it. You can get all wishy washy… I don’t know… I’ll wear what I grab and just go for it.
iRF: Well, Mike, I’m glad you’re up here for this year and enjoy the course!
Aish: Cheers! Thanks a lot! Hey, I don’t know if you get this one much, but have you ever seen Murray from Flight of the Conchords?
iRF: No, I haven’t heard that one before.
Aish: You have a striking resemblance. You should definitely watch that.
iRF: I’ll have to watch that. Or maybe I shouldn’t depending on…
Aish: No, you should. You look just like him.
* * * * *
iRF: Bonus question. Any bold predictions about this weekend?
Aish: Oh, yeah. From what I know, which is very little, I would say… I’d bet on Nick Clark. I think that he’s the most consistent runner, he’s strong as heck, and he’s just a low-key guy. I’d bet on him not because of any other reason. Tony [Krupicka]’s been injured. Tony hasn’t finished. Tony’s got a lot of mind games he’s got to get through. He’s one of the best trail runners coming in as his pacer which shows me maybe he’s a little desperate. I don’t know. He’s a great runner. He’s done a lot for the sport. I’m no way knocking him. But I think those two will have a good battle. Yeah, I’d give Nick it… Even in a lot of areas. They’ve both got good looking beards, both got long hair, blogs are pretty consistent… Yeah, it’s just going to come down to who’s got the strength at the end. Nick’s been consistent for the last some years.
iRF: So on that note, talking about consistency at the end, you did run well at Silver Rush, but you have about 50 miles and, if you have a good day, about nine hours that you haven’t run before.
Aish: To be honest with you, when I ran Silver Rush, what was it around 7.5 hours or something?
iRF: I think it was just under seven hours.
Aish: Under seven, okay, yeah that was four hours further than I’ve ever run. So that’s not too bad either. Ahh, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? End up in an ambulance? Yeah, ya see, I don’t care. Just go for it. I was saying, Tony’s got these great pace makers coming in—Scott Jurek? That’s some fancy stuff. I’ve got three guys that aren’t even here yet, which actually I’m a little bit worried because one of them doesn’t even know where Leadville is, so I’m a little worried myself. We’ll see what happens.
iRF: It will be fun one way or another.
Aish: Yeah, it’s definitely going to be fun.
iRF: Cheers, mate!