Michael Aish post Leadville 2014 Interview

In 2012 we posted this interview with Michael Aish before he ran his first 100mile race at Leadville. It was a big step up for the former Olympic track runner, who represented New Zealand at the Sydney and Athens games. That race did not go to plan and it would probably be fair to say that the next 3 100mile races Michael entered didn’t go to plan neither. But last weekend at Leadville 2014 Michael ran the race that many felt he was capable of.  We caught up with Michael (our favorite New Zealander, turned American, Olympic Track star, turned marathoner, turned ultra runner) to see how Saturday played out and what he has changed over the last 2 years.

Michael leading race winner Rob Karr. Photo Matt Trappe

•    Leadville 2014- was this the best day you have had on the trails? It seems like you nailed it out there. Talk us through it if you can-

Things turned out well, but it was touch and go all day. I think I ran from mile 30 to 50 just a little to hard and I really paid for it on the way back down Hope Pass. My knees where finished and I was having trouble just trying to walk at that point. Rob Krarr came by me about then and put 30 minutes on me in the next 3 miles. I was finished and was just looking for a way out as people were passing me by. When I got to the next aid station I was still in a world of hurt, but for some reason I started to think that I could go on. I got a dry pair of shoes and headed back out. From then on I don’t really remember much. I remember getting in to a groove and getting myself back in to second place. Then I paid for that effort and got passed in to 3rd about 10 miles later. From mile 82 to 87 I got on a rolling again and was back into 2nd, and blew again and got pushed back in to 3rd, and by the time I got to the last aid station, I was more than 5 minutes back from 2nd and the race should have been over. At Mile 87 I picked up a new pacer and somehow pulled in 4 minutes on 2nd place with 4 miles to go. From there it was just a matter of taking my time and getting the job done. I made the final pass with about two miles to go and never looked back.

•    Your 3rd time lining up at Leadville- why do you keep returning?

Leadville is a magic place, and the race is very special. It has a very “local” feel and you really feel part of a family. If I had a choice to win any ultra in the world, I’d pick Leadville.

Michael climbing Hope Pass. Photo Matt Trappe

•    Last year you did around 18hr30 at LT100 and in June you were 6+hrs behind Rob Karr at Western States, but on Saturday you ran 16hr38 and were less that 30mins behind Rob! A 2hr PB and on Rob’s heals- what contributed to these improvements?

100% nutrition, this year has been about learning to keep the gas tank topped up as I go.

•     Following up on the nutrition- What are you using and how much?

Nutrition has been a hard learning curve for me, you don’t really eat that much in a 5,000m track race….. I found out that I go through a lot of salt when I’m racing and with the help of the guys at Skratch Labs I’ve really been able to load up and keep things topped up along the way.

I try my best to get as much real food down as I can along the way and between aid stations I use VFuel gels (they go down the best I’ve found). That kind of plan gets you most of the way, but when that point comes when nothing tastes good I start pounding the soda/soft drink. Between aid stations I try to stick to the plan with Skratch Labs sports drink and VFuel gels but this weekend when I got to the aid stations I would down a full can of what ever I could get my hands on. In the end I think it was the sugar that got me through those last few miles.

•    This was the 5th  100mile race you lined up in- do you feel like you are getting the hang of them now? What are some of the biggest things you learnt from lining up the previous 4 times that helped you succeed at LT100 2014?

I’ve realized that the training is only about 25% of this ultra game. 25% is mental and about 50% is nutrition. I’m still making mistakes, but this year has been all about trying to get my nutrition down.

•    How has your training developed since your first crack at Leadville- are you still doing big 250km weeks?

My training really hasn’t changed that much. I run 5 days a week, between 15-20 hours a week. When I was back home in March I got in a few 200 mile weeks (320km) weeks but I tend to keep things around 120-150 miles per week.

•    You said during your first Leadville the slow pace was uncomfortable for you- do you still find the pace “slow” in 100mile races?

No, I’ve become confortable with the slower pace and I’ve learned to fast hike as well.

A massive smile after a massive result. 2nd place and 6th fastest LT100 time ever. Photo Matt Trappe

•    How is it being a full time runner again? How has it changed since the first time?

It was nice at the start of the year, and I had all these plans to train harder than ever before but life is different now and I have a lot of “other” things going on in my life. Working with Mizuno was a real blessing and I’m really thankful that I got the opportunity to focus on running again.

•    We just posted a story on BCR about the multiple “world champs” in trail/ultra/mountain running. You have been to the Olympics and World Champs- which are actual world championships with the best. What is your take on races and series like UROC, Sky Running and the Ultra Trail World Tour?

The sport is growing fast and everyone is trying to make their race the “best”. I think that the faster these races hit the mainstream the better. Races offering prize money, travel and accommodation will be the next step and as the races grow and develop, the performances will only get better.

•    You helped out with Mizuno Kazan- which to me looks like a great, “middle of the road” and sensible shoe. Have you tried the 2 big trends in shoes- barefoot “shoes” and the “clown” shoes? 

I’m a real “shoe geek” at heart and this was a dream job. I was able to help mold the shoe in to what I wanted to run in; simple, with no crazy bells or whistles. This is a shoe that I would buy. It has everything I want out of a shoe and nothing more.

•    Will we see you back in New Zealand for the Tarwera Ultra in 2015?

Tarwera is an amazing event and I’d love to get back for a little redemption. Right now my bank manger would say no, but you’ll have to ask Paul…..

If this interview has left you wanting more Aish, then have a listen to this interview on Elevation Trail.

Big thanks to Michael Aish for his time and to Matt Trappe for letting us use the amazing photos. Matt’s photos of Leadville and the recent Hardrock 100 are the best around! Check them out-

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