Q&A with Simple Hydration Ultra Team Runner Mike Aish

Posted February 28th, 2014 by Brian Hock

Name: Michael Aish
Age: 37
Height: 5’8.5″
Location: Arvada, Colorado

Q. What was it like growing up in New Zealand and how did you get into running?

A. I grew up on the beach, under a mountain. There is not much better than that. We didn’t have much so we made do with what we could to have fun. We spent a lot of time swimming at the beach and in rivers, lots of time exploring the native forests and running over farmland. Back then kids were real active, we would all get kicked out of the house in the morning and be back for dinner. We would ride our bikes all over the place, go fishing, skateboarding, and climb trees. I loved everything about how I grew up. We were barefoot and brave.

I started running at around age 15. At my high school if you ran the school cross-country you got the day out of class (and I was all for that). I wasn’t great but I got better.

Q. How was running at the high school level in New Zealand? Were you racing near or at the top level of other high school runners?

A. Running in NZ is done at a Club level. High schools have a “Athletics” Day (Track and Field) and a school cross-country but that was about it at the school level. If you want to grow in the sport you join a club. I was okay. A guy at school took me along to a local running club one day and I loved it. I really enjoyed the long runs in the hills with all the marathon runners, they would tell me these long stories of how hard the marathon was and the funny things that would happen along the way. By the time I was 16 years old I was already running over 2hr long runs up in the hills. I wasn’t fast but I was getting stronger.

Q. What kind of impact did the great NZ running coach Arthur Lydiard have on your early and subsequent later running development?

A. Arthur was an amazing guy (I’ve only ever met one other person like him in my life). He had a simple way about him, but that’s what made you believe in what you were doing. He would say that you need to look at the best in the world, and then do the work to get there. I really had no idea who he was besides this old running coach. He would send me these schedules, that looking back was probably a little much, but I kept improving so I didn’t complain.

Q. How was your time running at Western State in Gunnison, Colorado? Was there anything about running in the US that was pretty different than New Zealand?

A. I was lucky. I really didn’t have much going for me in NZ at the time and being able to come over to the US for school kind of saved me. First thing I noticed was how cool it was to be part of a team, and how we all trained hard together and pushed each other. The main difference between the US and NZ was how fast everyone was running. I remember looking at the 5k times and thinking to myself “If they can run these times, why can’t I?” My time at western was very special. It was a special group of guys at a special time. We were fearless and every team in the country knew it. I was able to win 16 national titles over track and cross-country, but I know it would never have happened without the guys that were there with me. We were like a biker gang.

Q. You studied art at Western States. What artist or type of art do you connect with?

A. I like painting, but I think I just like being creative. At the moment I’m getting in to a little graffiti stencils and stuff. Guys like Banksy. If we ever can buy a house, I want a art studio in it.

Q. Your hard work earned you the right to run in the Athens and Sydney Olympics for New Zealand. What was that experience like and how did you perform at each?

A. I ran poorly. The thing with the Olympics is that only a few people go home happy. I was a kid in Sydney and pushed my body too far in training to be at my best. I basically did the same thing in Athens to try and make up for running so bad in Sydney. Looking back if I’d held back a little I could have run a lot better. Whatever happened, the Olympics are amazing, you see things and meet people that change you. I can tell you stories…

Q. You are a runner that is not afraid to work hard and have run upwards of 200 miles per week while working a job. I think many runners feel being a professional runner is glamorous and they get these nice contracts. What was your experience as a professional?

A. When I ran for Nike I was making less than if I would have worked in a fast food joint, but you do it because you love it. The last thing that you think about when you hear the bell for the last lap of a race is money. My wife and I always got by, I’d work odd jobs, race crazy races for a few dollars but when it all comes down to it, your not going to be able to push yourself to that different level if your only doing it for the money-those people don’t last.

I was blessed with a strong body, and I hate to lose. I believe that talent will only get you so far, 90% of everything is hard work and you do it or you don’t?

Q. What are your personal bests (PBs) at various distances?
- 3,000m: 7:50
- 5,000m: 13:22
- 10,000m: 27:46

Q. You just recently quite your job to pursue ultra running full time. What prompted the change?

A. I just wasn’t happy.

Q. One company that has stepped up to support your ultra running is Mizuno. What have you been up to with Mizuno over the last year?

A. Mizuno has been great. We first started talking when they wanted a little input in to their new trail line. Things grew from there and I ran the Leadville 100 in a pair of prototypes and loved them. It was only these past few weeks that we put together a real contract but I’ll be honest with you. If I were buying trail shoes, I’d buy these, sponsorship or not, I really love how they feel.

Note: Here’s a short video Mizuno put together about working with Mike to develop their new trail line of shoes.

Q. You tackled the Leadville 100 back in 2012 and dropped out. You then came back and placed 3rd last year without training full time. Is that race your main focus for this year or did it just become the Western States 100 when you recently qualified at the Sean O’Brien 50 Mile?

A. If I’m on the start line, I’m there to race. I want to win races, but first or last I love to compete.

Q. What person(s) in running inspire(s) you?

A. Lots of people inspire me, for lots of reasons. Most of the time it’s my wife.

Q. What race or adventure would you like to do one day?

A. The Baja 1000. It’s a car race in Mexico. Class 11, is original VW bug and it’s the only class that the locals respect.

Q. What is a typical week of training in your life right now?

A. Things tend to change a little but as a guideline this is the plan I try and follow:
Mon: Rest
Tue: Two easy runs. Total time between 2-3hrs
Wed: Some kind of workout. I will focus on hills or maybe pick up the pace a little for speed but nothing crazy. Total time between 2-3hrs
Thurs: Two easy runs. Total time between 2-3hrs
Fri: Rest
Sat: Longer. 3hrs+
Sun: Longer. 3hrs+

Q. At what distance do you take water/hydration with you on a run?

A. I’ve never been that good about keeping hydrated. I think that it’s just a bad habit form running on the track. Because you never out there very long you can just drink after. The more running I’ve started to do I’m finding that if I keep a bottle on me and keep myself topped up, I tend to feel better not only in training but also after as well. If I’m running over 1hr now I have a bottle on me.

Q. What was your reaction to the Simple Hydration Bottle after using it?

I really like them. I kind of hate running with anything in my hands. I feel it messes with my form and just makes it harder to run fast. I love the fact that with the Simple Hydration Bottles, I can tuck it away for when I need it, I can still run fast or race without it getting in the way and the it’s real easy to refill fast at aid stations.

Q. What races do you have planned for 2014 and do you have a focus race?
- Feb 1 – Sean O’Brain 50m, California (Placed 2nd)
- March 15 – Tarawera 100km, Aotearoa – New Zealand
- April 12 – Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, California
- June 27- Western States 100, California
- August 16 – Leadville 100 Run, Colorado
- September 27 – UROC, Colorado (* Pending Race Entry)

Q. Who are your sponsors for 2014?

- Mizuno
- Simple Hydration
- Skratch Hydration
- Performance Therapy

You can follow Mike’s running on his blog Mountain Mischief.

Q&A with Simple Hydration Ultra Team Runner Silke Koester

Posted February 22nd, 2014 by Brian Hock

Silke Koester - Simple Hydration Ultra Team Runner

Name: Silke Koester
Age: 31
Height: 5’2”
Location: Boulder, Colorado

Q. Where did you grow up and how did you get into running?

A. I dabbled in cross country and track in middle school but promptly ditched that in favor of the swimming pool – a much more bearable way of surviving the Houston heat and humidity! I started running again recreationally in college. I ran my first half-marathon in 2003 with a friend and without the slightest clue what we were doing – we wore cotton socks in the pouring rain! It wasn’t until I moved to New York City and joined the road running scene in Central Park that I toed the line of my first road marathon in 2006 with my sister.

Q. Did you run in high school and college?

A. I don’t think you could have convinced me to put on a pair of running shoes in high school. In college, I was on the rowing team and skillfully avoided afternoon workouts in the erg room by escaping onto the running paths of St. Louis’ beautiful Forest Park instead.

Q. What are your personal bests (PBs) at various distances and also please list top race performances with place?

A. Last fall I ran a road marathon in Scotland along the banks of Loch Ness in 3:19. One of these days I’ll take some time to focus on polishing my road speed – I’d love to see how close I can inch to the 3 hour mark. But honestly, I can’t pull myself away from the trails long enough to really work on that.

These are my top trail race performances:
- Aspen/Snowmass Power of Four 50K 2013, 1st place (5:52:56)
- Quad Rock 25M 2013, 1st place (4:20:54)
- Aspen Backcountry Marathon 2012, 1st place (4:33:24)
- San Juan Solstice 50M 2013, 2nd place (10:36:26)
- Run Rabbit Run 50M 2012, 3rd place (9:09:28)
- Bandera 100K 2014, 4th place (11:01:44)
- Speedgoat 50K 2013, 7th place (6:52:16)
- Pikes Peak Ascent 2013, 7th place (3:13:04)

Q. Your 4th place at this January’s USATF 100K Trail Championship earned you a spot at Western States this year. This would be your first attempt at the 100-mile distance? How do you feel about running that distance?

A. I’m beyond excited about Western States. Mentally, I’m finally ready to face 100 miles, especially now that I’ve done my first 100K. I’m surrounded by so many amazing ultra-runners with so much experience and advice to offer. I know that with their help I’ll be able to make it to the starting line well-prepared for the race.

Q. What do you do for a living and how to you manage to balance it with your running?

A. I’ve always worked in the field of education. Currently, I work for a non-profit that focuses on improving college readiness and completion in the United States through innovations in education.

Boulder is quite possibly the easiest place to balance running and work. The mountain trails are on my doorstep and, with over 300 days a year of pure sunshine, the weather is pretty much always beautiful. My absolute favorite is running up to the top of an 8000’ peak in time to catch the sunrise before work.

Q. How did you get into trail and ultra running and how long have you been doing it?

A. Between graduating college and moving to NYC, I spent a few months living in the Tetons where I fell head over heels in love with the mountain trails. Even though I lived in NYC for the next 6 years and absolutely loved running in Central Park every day, I craved more adventure. Every weekend I’d catch a train or ride my bike or rent a car and head up to the Hudson River Valley, the Appalachian trail, the Catskills, or the Adirondacks to spend hours running on the trails with a small group of friends. In 2008, Ryan and I ran our first trail ultra in the Pacific Northwest – I’ve run 25 ultras since!

In 2011, Ryan and I packed up our things, said our goodbye to our life in NYC and spent the next year running in the most amazing mountains around the world. By spring of 2012 we relocated to Boulder, Colorado and have been living our mountain running dream life ever since.

Q. What person(s) in running inspire(s) you?

A. My friend Amelia is my ultimate inspiration in life and running. She is a visually impaired runner and an incredible person. Her ambition, strength and positive attitude shines so brightly. She has brought to life so many beautiful details on our runs that I used to just blaze past without even noticing – like the sound of a hooting owl in a distant tree or the fragrance of blooming lavender bushes along the paths or the way to air changes when you hit the open plains. Most of all, she shows me that there are no limitations to what we can do, so long as we have the desire and courage to do it.

Q. What was/is your favorite race and why?

A. San Juan Solstice 50M is my favorite race. It’s a true Colorado mountain run with the most breathtaking views along the Continental Divide.

Q. What is a typical week of training in your life right now?

A. I don’t follow any particular training plan or schedule. Mostly I just run whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it – which ends up being pretty much every day, sometimes twice a day! I’m always up for a spur-of-the-moment adventure run in the mountains with friends – that’s what running is all about after all!

Q. At what distance do you take water/hydration with you on a run?

A. I used to not carry anything for runs less than 2 hours long mostly because I didn’t like to carry a handheld or hydration backpack. Ever since I discovered the Simple Hydration bottles I pretty much never run without it. It’s comfortable and convenient and it holds just the right amount of water – not too much, not too little.

Q. What was your reaction to the Simple Hydration Bottle after using it?

A. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the SH bottles, I was sure that it couldn’t possibly stay put tucked-in like that in the back of my running skirt. When I tried it out I was so impressed – it doesn’t even bounce when it’s completely full and you’re blazing down a fast technical descent! It is so comfortable to carry that sometimes I completely forget that I’m running with it! The bottle itself is easy to squeeze and narrow enough that, even with small hands, I don’t waste energy gripping it. I hate over complicating my running with loads of gadgets and gear – I don’t even wear a watch – so I love that this bottle keeps me running simple and free.

Q. How do you use the bottle in your training/races?

A. On hotter days or in races where the aid stations are spread further apart, I like to pair a SH bottle with a regular hand held. It allows me carry enough water while still keeping my body relaxed and light. It also means I can have 1 bottle with water and 1 with a sports drink. This is what I did at the Bandera 100K and it was perfect.

In cold weather, the water in the SH bottle won’t freeze like the straw of a hydration bladder might because the SH bottle stays up against my skin and under a jacket. Also, having my hands free means I can wear thicker mittens that don’t fit under a regular handheld bottle strap – warm fingers make for a much happier runner!

Q. What races do you have planned for 2014 and do you have a focus race?

A. I’ve signed up for a few races this year so far. They’re all focus races! But, of course, my eyes are set on the longest ones – Western States in June and then TransAlps in September.

- April 26 Zane Grey 50 Miler, AZ
- May 10 Quad Rock 25M, CO
- May 31 Dirty Thirty 50K, CO
- June 28 Western States 100, CA
- Aug 16 Pikes Peak Ascent, CO
- Aug 30 – Sept 6 TransAlpine Run, Germany-Austria-Italy

Q. Anything else you would like to add?

A. I’m very excited to join the Simple Hydration Ultra Racing Team!

Note that you can follow Silke’s running on her blog Dirtproof.

2014 Simple Hydration Ultra Racing Team

Posted February 21st, 2014 by Brian Hock

When we launched the Simple Hydration Ultra Racing Team last year we weren’t sure what to expect. We had 4 talented runners that used the Simple Hydration Bottle and were happy to help use promote it in the ultra running community. The team chalked up a few race wins and some incredible running efforts over the past year. It was fun to be connected to and help support and promote these runners. One certainly could say that this first team helped Simple Hydration become more visible in the ultra running community. Therefore, we would like to thank 2013 Simple Hydration Ultra Racing Team runners Catra Corbett, Damian Nathaniel, Sandi Nypaver and Mike Ambrose.

We enter 2014 with more team members and more excitement surrounding the team. We’ve got some podium contenders that will be at major races this year along with a variety of runners running hard and having fun. We are honored and excited to be supporting these runners. I am pleased to present our 2014 Simple Hydration Ultra Racing Team.

Simple Hydration Ultra Racing Team

Mike Aish
Arvada, Colorado

Mike Ambrose
Frisco, Colorado

Brian Donnelly
Portland, Oregon

Maggie Gesue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Silke Koester
Boulder, Colorado

Damian Nathaniel
Richmond, Indiana

Ryan Smith
Boulder, Colorado

Note that we will be posting interviews with our new team members over the next few weeks. Please watch for these interviews and be sure to support and cheer these runners at the races. Thanks!