Respecting the race: How 5 time finisher Kaci Lickteig approaches Western States

HOKA ONE ONE Athlete Kaci Lickteig is no stranger to The Western States ® 100-Mile Endurance Run. Having run the race every year since 2014 and won it in 2016, she now returns for her sixth race from Squaw Valley to Auburn. The course is everything she enjoys about trail running and the 2016 Western States Champion hasn’t lost any love for the race.

After a 10th place finish at UTMB last fall and a win at the 2019 Black Canyon 100K, she is looking forward to another opportunity to challenge herself. We sat down with Kaci to discover what drives her to compete year after year.

Photo credit: Chris Perlberg
Photo credit: Chris Perlberg

HOKA: What do you love about Western States?

Lickteig: That’s hard to answer because I love everything about it. I love the people whom I’ve come to know since my first experience in 2014. I love the community and atmosphere surrounding the race throughout the week leading up to the race. Everyone walking around seems so starry-eyed, excited, and grateful to be there. Seeing the veterans, the first-time runners, and all the legends that have made Western States what it is today. When you set foot on the Auburn track and hear your name being announced over the loudspeaker, that is the best feeling in the world, regardless of your placing. That is why I keep coming back.

HOKA: Your consistency in training volume and comeback after races on Strava is impressive; how do you do it?

Lickteig: The key is consistency. I’ve been running for about 16 years and the key to my health is being consistent and listening to my body. I know to keep 80% of my runs very easy and 20% at a higher effort, depending on my training cycle. I’ve also learned to take recovery days when needed and I never push myself out the door if I know I will not enjoy the run at all or if it risks injury. And I just love running! It is part of my life and I joke about being married to it!

HOKA: What motivates you the most to run through the harsh winter months?

Lickteig: I can’t see myself not running. It really is something I look forward to doing and when I miss a few days I feel like part of me is missing. I enjoy, as silly as that sounds, embracing the elements and getting out the door. I need fresh air, to feel my body move, and to get the rush of endorphins running through my body.

HOKA: What gives you confidence before big races?

Lickteig: What gives me confidence is feeling both physically and mentally fit. When my body feels strong and has no lingering niggles and I know I put in all the work possible I feel mentally ready to take on the race. I want to be at the start line knowing I did everything right in training to make me capable of being my best.

HOKA: 100 miles is a long way, what do you focus on while you’re out on the course?

Lickteig: What I focus on during a 100 miles is not focusing on 100 miles. I break the race up into aid station to aid station – that way, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I look forward to when I get to see my crew, the next section of trail that I will run, and then when I get to pick up my pacer. I like to focus on the scenery and embrace the moment that I am in. It makes the time fly by and soon enough the finish will be there.

HOKA: What lessons did you learn from your previous adventures at Western?

Lickteig: I’ve learned to respect the race, the distance, and the terrain. The quad punishment from the downhills made me suffer during my first experience. The next year I was more patient and had a better day. Then everything seemed to click in 2016 and I was able to have the best day ever. In 2017 I had too much emotion going into the race with my grandma fighting cancer, and when you have those kinds of feelings going into a big race it can lead to a massive blow up. Then in 2018, I had only 3-4 months worth of training for the race due to breaking my pelvis in October of 2017. So each year has given me a different experience and they have changed my life for the better.

HOKA: How will that knowledge affect the way you approach this year?

Lickteig: I will approach this year with the same respect and patience as I did in the past. I know how the course flows and what I need to do to make sure I run my own race. I am really looking forward to this year and what kind of day and story I will have from it.

Kaci

HOKA: You seem to have Western States dialed. What advice would you have for someone trying to complete their first Western States Endurance Run?

Lickteig: I would recommend staying patient early in the high country and not overloading your quads and legs too early. You want to be able to come into Foresthill able to run. Then once you get across the river and up to Green Gate you will want to keep moving forward because that section can feel very long if you have to walk. There are only a few big climbs left so this is where you can make up the time you saved back in the high country.

Once you hit No Hands Bridge, give it one last push up to Robie Point and know there is still a good climb up to the final mile sign…then it’s relatively all downhill from there! Follow those red footprints closely and make sure you don’t make a wrong turn as you head towards the Auburn Track, where your friends, fans, and buckle are waiting for your arrival!

HOKA: What model of HOKA will you be racing in?

Lickteig: My favorite HOKA for the trails is the Torrent. I love the fit and feel of this shoe. The Torrent is lightweight and has adequate traction for the trails. I have used these shoes in snow, mud, dirt, and rocks and they make me feel confident in their ability to grip the trail when I am running.

HOKA: What do you look forward to when it’s all over?

Lickteig: I look forward to sitting down, going back to the hotel for a nice shower and sleeping. Then waking up to go out and cheer on the people coming in at the Golden Hour, the last hour of the race. For me, knowing people are giving it their absolute all to get under 30 hours and seeing how hard they are still pushing is so inspiring to me. I love to help bring them in with encouraging words and if possible to trot beside them as they make their way to the track. That is probably one of my most favorite moments of the race.

After a solid block of training, Kaci is ready to toe the line. Follow the HOKA Instagram Story and Twitter for updates on Kaci’s 100-mile race this Saturday, June 29th.

Want to hit the trails like Kaci? Check out the HOKA Torrent.

Torrent

Worst race, best memory

Screen-Shot-2017-10-02-at-10.47.00-AM“I came into the final aid station, and I sat down. My body had lost the ability to move — on the climb up to the aid station, I couldn’t even step up a few inches without full-body cramps. It was a bit of sadness tinged with a lot of comedy, laughing in bemusement as I waited out yet another cramp in the bushes as the race passed me by. So when I sat down, I was not planning on getting back up. For an hour, I did not move a muscle. Then my wife and fellow teammate, Megan Roche, came around the corner. She was having her own version of a full-body shutdown, but she looked determined. When she got to the aid station, she made it simple: ‘You’re coming with me.’ I got up, cramped, then waddled off behind Megan a few seconds later. Every minute, she’d wait for me when she heard a yelp of pain. She never stopped believing in me, even when my muscles clearly did not agree with her assessment. I planned on those last five miles taking just over 30 minutes — they took closer to 90. But, with a bunch of “I love you” and “You got this” statements, she got me to the finish line. We crossed hand-in-hand, smiling and laughing, hours behind when we were expected to finish. But, I don’t think I have ever been happier. And that is how love turned my worst race into my best memory.” – HOKA Athlete David Roche

David’s favorite shoe is the Clayton.

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Respect for the race

Photo: Peignée Verticale
Photo: Peignée Verticale

“This stuff happens, but it has never happened like this to me before. I ran for about 40km of the race, and I felt really good and comfortable on the first section of the course. But, at about this point, I had a huge dip in energy and started puking, feeling dizzy and feeling like I was going to bonk. I threw in some stuff to get out of it, and it didn’t help. Then, the wheels completely went off at about 55km. I puked more, got even more dizzy and then started to cramp like crazy. I had to walk the last 15 or so miles, but decided to finish the race out of respect of the race and because I felt like I needed too. This was bound to happen someday, and it helps me respect this sport even more. I will learn to be more prepared. It might have been not being fully recovered from the Zion FKT three weeks ago or maybe other things like the course being really tough. I hope to come back and get redemption. I am still learning a lot about ultra marathons.” – HOKA Athlete Hayden Hawks on the Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Flat Stanley, meet Flat Bruce

Screen-Shot-2017-02-07-at-1.02.50-PM“I started the #flatbruce in March of 2015. I was running a race in Phoenix (Mountain to Fountain) and thought ‘Why not put a pic of myself all ready to race?’ There are so many pictures of people laying out their uniform, with the bib pinned to it — gels, shoes, gloves, etc. Honestly, I always found that a bit boring. A shirt and a bib is just that, where is the person behind that? The person who is going to race? So I thought I’d just do that in person and make it fun. I have tried to do a #flatbruce at every race I have run since. Sometimes I have people join in on the fun. Just a few days ago I had comment on my Instagram from a lady that noticed me on the canal in Phoenix. She said she noticed me from Instagram and almost yelled flatbruce. Unfortunately, she didn’t say it. It was fun to read the comment, but I was bummed she didn’t actually yell flatbruce. It would have made my day. “- HOKA Athlete Ben Bruce

Bruce’s favorite shoe is the Tracer.

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A race is a test

Screen-Shot-2017-01-17-at-4.55.19-PM“For some women, competition might not be other people in the race, but the finish line itself. As for me, I train hard so I can reward myself with an opportunity to race. A race for me is my opportunity to test my strength, resilience and confidence. An opportunity to inspire other women to pursue their goals and do their very best.”- HOKA athlete Magda Boulet