In 2012, two-time Olympian Mike Aish made his 100-mile debut at the Leadville 100. He failed. Unable to shake the ultra habit, he’s back to
try and finish Leadville. In the following interview, he talks about his colossal blowup last year, what lessons he learned, and what his approach will be this year.
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Mike Aish Pre-2013 Leadville 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mike Aish before the 2013 Leadville 100. How are you doing, Mike?
Mike Aish: Good.
iRF: I didn’t catch you after last year’s race. Start off by telling us a few things about your colossal blow-up.
Aish: Last year was just “see how it goes.” I went out and everyone knew that I was just going to try to run with the leaders as long as I could and see what happened after that. I warned people there might be an explosion, and there was. It was horrific. It was good. I learned a lot. Honestly, I didn’t want to come back at all, but this thing is tricky. It’s like a disease. It just sits there. So, yeah, I’m back, and hopefully I’m a little bit more prepared. I’ve had a little bit more training.
iRF: So what went wrong last year?
Aish: Quite honestly, I had no training. I decided to run about 10 weeks out, so I probably had about eight weeks of running and a race and a taper. I just didn’t have the stamina; I didn’t have the experience. I had nothing basically; it was just a wing and a prayer.
iRF: So a total lack of fitness? Did your quads blow out? Did you have other leg problems?
Aish: It was more like a functional thing. I spent 20 years trying to run fast. I spent 10 weeks trying to slow down and change my form and learn to use my hip flexors and shuffle as opposed to the bounce you have on the track. My form pretty much let me down. My knees took a lot of the pounding. My quads took nothing. I think by the time I got to Hope Pass, my knees were the size of grapefruits. It was freaky. It was weird because I’m used to having really sore quads afterwards, and I didn’t. I just had really sore knees and really sore hip flexors. That’s one thing I’ve worked on.
iRF: How did you change your training for this year, aside from more of it?
Aish: Yeah, I did some more running. It’s been good. I just went out longer, and when you go longer you obviously slow down. I tried to pick burly stuff. I asked a lot more questions. I got a lot more advice. Heck, you helped me out a lot. It was just one of those things where the more I dug into it, the more I found out—oh, I should have done this; I should have done that. I’m a complete moron; I should have done this. I think fuel is a big thing that I’ve learned and slowing right down. It’s so weird because I’ll go running with my wife and she’ll kick my butt, and she’s just jogging around and I’m struggling to keep up. Maybe that’s a good sign.
iRF: So you’ve got some slow muscles built up this year?
Aish: Hopefully. Hopefully. Who knows?
iRF: You’ve run four sort of tune-up races—three 50 milers and a 50k. Your times suggest that perhaps you weren’t racing these efforts?
Aish: No, at the start of the year I decided that I had to practice. So rather than race, because I know how to race, let’s practice running. A lot of them I was practicing fuel, I was practicing how to take salt tablets (that’s so foreign to me), all these little things. Sometimes I’d push really hard up a big climb and just see how I reacted at the top. One time I stopped because I blew myself apart and just hung out until I recovered and then just carried on. I noticed that I could stop and then keep running and still feel okay. You know, really it’s the little dumb things that real trail runners probably already know.
iRF: But you didn’t have those lessons. You either learn from somebody else or you learn from experience.
Aish: Yeah, it came along well. That went really well. It’s always been fun. It’s always been fun, so if you can make a long training day—you know six hours, seven hours, eight hours—those suck, so if you can roll with people it always help.
iRF: You’re going to get that on Saturday. Are you going to try to go out with the leaders again? What’s your plan? Run your own race?
Aish: I don’t know. Yeah.
iRF: You were running with the leaders but you were kind of pushing the pace it seemed early.
Aish: No, they pushed the pace. I had nothing to do with it. No, I think I’m going to run my own race. I found that running the heart rate is pretty good. I think it might separate me from the field in certain areas and hold me back in other areas. I’m hoping that by half way I’m close to the pack. Honestly, my goal is to get over Hope Pass the second time.
iRF: What is that heart rate for you?
Aish: I honestly have no idea. I just threw a dart at the dart board and picked 150 or 140 around there somewhere.
iRF: You’ll maybe use that as a limit early on?
Aish: Yes, that will be where it comes in. I kind of just made it up and it seemed to work, so I’m just staying there. I can’t be too far off.
iRF: No, that’s what I use—150.
Aish: Yeah, so maybe that’s it if that’s what you use.
iRF: You’ve also picked up some trekking poles?
Aish: Yeah. I found a very good source for some trekking poles and got some real good ones.
iRF: Have you practiced with them a little?
Aish: Yeah, they gave me an awesome deal. Yeah, I’m hiking the sh** out of it. It’s weird as heck. It’s kind of fun. And if worse comes to worse, you can “fwap” people with them. Watch out, Scott, I’m going to sweep the leg. I’m getting good at them. I did a couple 14ers with them and it’s like having an extra leg walking along. I’m definitely going to use those. I’ve got about three or four places where I think it will be worth it. Worse comes to worse and they don’t work out, I can just throw it in the bush.
iRF: Are you bringing a “mule” (pacer)? You can also throw your sticks over to them.
Aish: Yeah, I don’t know if he’d like to be called that. I’ve got a couple of guys that have really good backgrounds in endurance sports. They’re really good friends of mine. They’re one of that small group of people that can tell me basically to pull my head out and keep going. I think they’ll be a big help. Then I’ve got another fellow that’s really good at crewing. He’ll be able to pull everything together and hopefully get him in the right place. I’ve got no worries. I’m just going to run and make the finish. Whether it’s Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, I’m finishing. That’s the goal.
iRF: So what have you learned on the nutrition front? You said you made some changes there.
Aish: Eating is a really big part of it. Last year I didn’t really eat much at all.
iRF: How about some “ginger nuts?”
Aish: YES! NO WAY! Oh, dang! This is pure training food! Man!
iRF: That’s a New Zealand classic right there.
Aish: I’m going to eat these tonight! OH, MAN, Thank you!
iRF: Straight from the islands.
Aish: I’m going to keep these close. This is amazing. I’ll probably have one of those at each aid station. I don’t know, I’m not really a big bean burrito kind of guy. A friend of mine works for “Scratch” and they have a really good cookbook. I’ve been using stuff out of that. We’re probably going to whip up some rice cakes.
iRF: So something besides just gel and sports drink?
Aish: Yeah. I kind of hate gel. I’ll have a bit of sports drink. We have in the back of that Scratch Cookbook some stuff I’ll gnaw on. Who knows? I’m probably not known as having the best diet, so if anything is out there, I’ll grab it and see what happens.
iRF: Best of luck out there and I can’t wait to see you at the finish at 6th and Harrison at some point.
Aish: Yeah, at some point. I’m finishing. There are no ifs or doubts. I’m don’t know what day.
iRF: Nice, man. See ya around.
Aish: Sh**! I can’t believe you got these!
iRF: Here’s a bonus question for Mike, here. What is your favorite food from back in New Zealand?
Aish: New Zealand fish and chips you can’t beat. That’s classic. Hokey Pokey ice cream—that’s the bomb.
iRF: Mmmm… I had a good dinner with that when I was at Tarawera—Hokey Pokey and the fish and chips.
Aish: Yeah, you sent me those photos. All of the sweets and the lollies… any kind of biscuits. Did you get a chance to try pavlova?
iRF: No, do I need to head back over there next year?
Aish: Oh, that’s the best. Yeah, it’s the only place you can get it. It’s so good.
iRF: What is it?
Aish: It’s basically this massive meringue sort-of cake thing with about this much cream on top.
iRF: Charteris, you’ve got to hook me up next March.
Aish: And then pies—meat pies—man, I’m getting fat just thinking about it. I love the food. The only reason I run is so I can eat so much. I can gain 20 pounds in two weeks, no problem.
iRF: You’ve got half the ultramarathon battle won if you can just keep eating.
Aish: Mmmm… I love it. This will be one sitting. I’ll make a cup of tea and get this down me.
iRF: A cup of tea and ginger nuts.
Aish: Yeahhhh, this is the bomb.