As Mike Aish (last year’s Blueprint for Athletes Leadville Trail Marathon and Blueprint for Athletes Silver Rush 50 Run champ and past Leadville Trail 100 Run competitor) gets ready to close out his run career, he’s seeking the “next level of suffering” — specifically, the Leadman challenge. But Aish isn’t just looking to finish this epic five-event challenge — his goal is to beat Travis Macy‘s Leadman record of 36 hours and 20 minutes.
In this interview, we chat with Aish about his training, getting comfortable on a mountain bike, and where to find the best Mexican food fix in Leadville.
How’s your training and racing going so far this season?
Training has been going well for the last few weeks. I fell on some ice in March and hurt my back real good, so it took me a while to get into things, but I think all is good now and I can’t wait to get the season started.
Why is this the year for you and Leadman? What’s most exciting to you about this challenge?
The truth is, I was at the point where I needed a new challenge. I just wasn’t motivated to get out the door and I was starting to look for a real job. Leadman has always been in the back of my mind and I like the idea of a stage-type race. Plus, finishing Leadman kind of takes you to that next level of suffering and separates the boys from the men, and who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Are you still focusing full time on your training/running? How has this affected your mental focus and what you feel you can accomplish?
Like I said before, I’ve been doing this a long time (I made my first World Championships team back in 1994) and I just wasn’t super excited about racing anymore. This year I decided that no matter what, it was going to be my last year competing, and when I started thinking about Leadman I started to get excited again.
I’m not the kind of person who just goes through the motions, or races for the sponsors, or the money. To do well in anything, I have to have my heart in it. Right now I’m all pumped up about this new challenge, and being able to test myself with something new.
Is there any element to the challenge that you’re concerned about getting dialed in?
As a runner, I think the bike is always going to be a weak point. I’m not so worried about the effort needed to get it done, more about my skills when riding alongside others in a pack. I tend to follow too closely and have found I have a small problem with picking bad lines and I crash a lot.
Tell us a bit about your MTB history. Are you newer to the sport, or have you been at it for a while?
I think I’m still new to the sport. I’ve had a bike for two years now, but I’ve really only been able to ride it for a few weeks each year while recovering after the Leadville Trail 100 Run.
Right now I have two bikes: one is more of an enduro/downhill bike, and the other is a dirt jumper, so none of my limited skillset will cross over to the Leadman race. I’m going to have to borrow a bike to use in the race, but apparently I have a reputation for being hard on them so no one in the neighborhood will lend me theirs.
I think that it all comes down to my MTB skills not being evenly matched with my enthusiasm so I tend to go over the handlebars a lot. It’s something I’ll have to work on.
How will you adjust your training as you head into summer?
It might not be the smartest move (and it might not last that long) but the only real change I’ve made to my normal training plan is replacing the days I would normally take off with a few laps around the neighborhood on the bike. The goal for the summer is to run five days a week and bike two. It hasn’t happened yet but that’s the goal.
What elements of your run are you focusing on as you approach the Blueprint for Athletes Leadville Trail Marathon? Will we see you with the win again?
Right now I’ve cut back the amount of mileage I’m running and have put a little more focus on getting stronger on the hills. The goal is to be able to come out of these races without feeling too beat up. Whether that’s good enough to win, I don’t know, but I think to do well in the series overall I need to run smart and even.
What’s the most helpful thing your crew does to keep you going?
I’ve found that the most important thing a crew can do for you is keep you moving forward, while at the same time ignoring all of the excuses you’re trying to give them so you can stop.
What’s your favorite spot along the Blueprint for Athletes Leadville Trail 100 Run course?
I love standing on the start line. There is some kind of magic about being up at 4 a.m. and being part of a group of idiots getting ready to run 100 miles.
What’s your favorite place for a recovery meal in Leadville?
After each race I like to go to this little Mexican place on Elm St. (The Grill Bar & Café). It hits the spot every time.
Anything we missed you’d like to share?
A special thanks to Mizuno running and the whole Leadville Race Series team up in Leadville for their support these last few years. For my final competitive endeavor, I can’t think of a better way to finish up a long career.