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

Breaking out of plateaus the positive way with Michael Fang

Are you the motivated runner who wants to do it all? Beat a personal best, qualify for Boston, win the local beer mile or finish a marathon in high-waisted jean shorts? These are all great goals (especially the last one), but what happens when you get stuck? What if you get an injury, experience burnout or get too busy? In this blog post, I will walk you through my running journey and some lessons I’ve picked up along the way for breaking through a running plateau.

Photo credit: Hans Meckler
Photo credit: Hans Meckler
  1. Find your reason why, then focus on the process.

I love running today, but as a kid the concept always held a special place in my heart— dread. I was last in class to finish my 5th grade mile test with a time of 13:45.

Fast forward to my first year in graduate school at Caltech. After weeks of spending 80 or more hours in the lab, I hit the gym to look for an outlet. When I saw the treadmills, I knew exactly what I wanted to do— go sub six in the mile. I had found my reason to run. For the next month, I kept coming back to the gym to chase that goal. Eventually I clocked in 5:58 mile on the track but was left with that feeling of “now what” yet again. I went for distance next.

When we are faced with this feeling of “now what,” it is because we are in a results driven mindset. But if we instead focus on the why and the process, then we start approaching things a little differently. For graduate school, my “why” is to learn more about the world and the process is developing good scientific habits. For running, think about what brought you to running in the first place and develop a process to reinforce that reason. I run because I want to see how fast and long my body can go. My process is working on habits that make me a better runner over the long term.

2. Prepare for the worst scenarios and celebrate the best outcomes.

As I began running longer distances and steeper terrain, the risk of injury increased rapidly. Eventually, a stress fracture in my metatarsal sprung up during a run. The sharp pain shot up my foot and with disappointment, I had to walk four miles back home. I was not prepared to handle a big injury just five months into training. With just six weeks to go before my first big race, navigating that injury remains my toughest plateau. So how did I get through it?

I took a deep dive into the world of aqua jogging and cycling. I practiced patience and knew that for every day I rested, my stress fracture would heal just a little bit more. I had the suspicion that I was healed up a month later, when I managed to run very slowly on grass without pain. I ran less than a mile that day, but I continues to ease into longer distances that week. By the end, I did a 18 mile “test run” to see if I was ready. I ended up finishing that race, my first 50k, well aware that I would have to drop if the pain came back. Fortunately, the pain never resurfaced and I celebrated with my first ultra marathon finish. I will never forget that a little twinge here or there should be treated with the utmost care. If you prepare yourself to handle these early signs of injury (the worst scenario), then more likely than not, you’ll find that you just needed an extra rest day or two (the best outcome).

Photo credit: Hans Meckler
Photo credit: Hans Meckler

3. Love the sport, draw inspiration from others and show your support.

During my injury, I was looking for other ways to be involved in the running community. I stumbled across this upcoming local race called the Angeles Crest 100. I reached out for volunteering to see what the hype was about. The aid station I worked was at mile 34, a distance that surpassed my own goals, yet was only a third of the way to the finish. From the first athlete to the last, I was greeted with smiles and thanks for helping. On that day, I was inspired by the positivity and learned what the sport was really about. The next day, I signed up to run in the following year. I was so inspired, that I had overlooked the fact that I was still injured when I signed up.

4. It’s all about the long term, so moderation is key.

A couple months after the injury and 50k I finished my first 50 miler, and my first 100k soon after. Angeles Crest was my “A” race, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready. Somehow I thought that doing a separate 100 mile course beforehand would prepare me well. I had also figured I would get that A race done one way or another, so why not sign up for the Tahoe 200, which was a month later? Before long, I was signed up for the San Diego 100 in June, Angeles Crest 100 in August, and the Tahoe 200 in September. Needless to say, I was a bit overbooked.

Thankfully, a voice of reason stepped in shortly after: my coach, HOKA Athlete David Roche. He fully supported my goals but warned me of burnout and impaired long term development. Per his advice, I opted out of the 200, but even then he was completely right. San Diego 100 took a lot out of me. It took me a month to recover and feel like myself again. At that point, I only had a month to properly train for the Angeles Crest 100. After finishing my second 100, I struggled to maintain a positive relationship with running for a few months. When I signed up for these races, I wasn’t thinking long term about what I would be doing afterwards. I was still thinking about results, not the process. Had I also practiced moderation, I would not have burnt out. I would have been a faster and healthier runner.

michael-fang-3
Photo credit: Hans Meckler

5.  Set yourself up for success.

Have a favorite coffee, stretch, pump up song or warm up routine? Do it everyday and you’ll be finishing runs effortlessly. It can be harder to maintain a routine when life throws a wrench in your plans, so let’s embrace the fact that we humans are lazy. Yes, I said it! We are all lazy, but some of us have figured out how to take advantage of that fact. Feeling too tired to get out of bed? Put your phone next to the coffee machine, which was preset to start brewing first thing in the morning. Don’t feel like getting out the door and running? Put your coffee in a thermos and take it outside for a nice walk. Either the weather will be really nice, and you’ll want to run, or the weather will be freezing cold, and you’ll want to start running to warm up! The point is, the magic doesn’t happen on its own, it’s up to you to make it happen.

6. Run with your friends/community.

About half of all runners choose to run alone, which is great for clearing your head and running at your own pace. But for those who have never run with a group or friends before, give it a shot to see how you like it! For me, being a part of communities such as BlacklistLA and Some Work All Play (Roche’s coaching group) have taught me that we’re all in this together, going through the same ups and the same downs. Sharing the running experience with others can help you stay motivated and focused. Running doesn’t have to be an individual sport!

7. Slow is good for the soul!

Never have too much ego to slow down on your runs when you need it. Sometimes, your body just needs a mental and physical reset. By taking your run slow (which is slower than you think), you can stick with your routine without accumulating too much stress. That’s a win-win if you ask me.

These lessons have been invaluable for me when going from 0 to 100 miles to in between. Now, I’ve come full circle and turned my focus to the sub six mile over the marathon distance.

As part of my routine, my frequent go-to shoe is the speedy Hupana EM. The shoe provides a comfy and responsive feel that gives me that extra pep in my step, for easy days and workouts alike.

M_HupanaEM_BWHT_2

Letting life happen

cole2

“Personally, I used to have a hard time with letting life happen to me. I was very impatient with everything, including my own running. Early on in my career, things came fairly easy, I won a lot and improved a lot. However, when I arrived at the University of Oregon in 2010, and was surrounded by so much more talent, I felt that my improvements were marginal in comparison to my teammates. It took me four years to finally get over that, and let go of comparing myself to others. Once I quit trying to force doors open and let them open naturally, I felt like my running really took off. Since then, I have applied that same patience and confidence to other aspects of my life and am a much stronger person because of it. I now understand why it’s important to not get everything you want or think you need immediately. Greater things come to those who wait.”- HOKA Athlete Cole Watson.

Better together

zipp

“I met Lauren in a local running group, ‘Moms Run This Town’. For me, learning to pace was a challenging thing. Finding a buddy with a similar pace and training schedule made a huge difference. Also, having a training plan and being realistic about what support I needed to achieve my goal was a big help. Running itself is challenging, then you add weather, proper fueling, clothing choices, and the mental-game.” – HOKA Fan Amy Zipp

Amy’s favorite shoe is the Clifton 3.Screen-Shot-2017-01-26-at-12.51.41-PM

 

Fast Food: Kona Island Breakfast Bowl

Summer has officially passed us by, which has us yearning for one last round of beach time or a tropical getaway. HOKA athletes such as Kevin Collington, Luke McKenzie, Heather Jackson, and Leanda Cave are lucky to have this chance, as they head to beautiful Kona, Hawaii to race in the IRONMAN World Championships. They are in for a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon through strong winds and lava fields. Sounds relaxing, right? Don’t worry, these guys are experts.

If you really want to get in the Hawaii mood, try this Kona inspired Breakfast Smoothie Bowl. It will have you thinking you are relaxing on a Hawaiian beach, even if the sound of the waves is coming from the race on TV. Add your favorite tropical fruits and a healthy handful of granola to take your usual smoothie experience up a notch. This breakfast bowl will give you the recovery fuel you need after a long run without leaving you hungry.

Feel like you need more island vibes in your life? Check out the limited edition Kona Clayton. Or, check out the HOKA Tracer, another lightweight tri favorite that you will likely spot in the race.

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Ingredients:

Smoothie base:

1/2 banana

1/4 c pineapple juice

1/4 c coconut milk

1/2 c frozen mango

1 package frozen acai

Don’t have pineapple juice? Substitute with orange juice.  Don’t have coconut milk? Substitute with any other milk product (almond, soy, skim, etc.).

Toppings:

Tropical fruit: banana, strawberry, kiwi, blueberries, get creative!

Granola

Shredded coconut

Honey

Use a blender to combine banana, pineapple juice, and coconut milk. Add frozen mango and acai packet. Blend again. Smoothie mixture should be thick enough to eat with a spoon. Pour mixture into a bowl. Top with sliced fruit, granola, and shredded coconut. Drizzle honey over the top. Enjoy!