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.

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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

Running for freedom: How Samantha Chan discovered her wings

HOKA Athlete Samantha Chan is an up and coming star in the Chinese trail running scene. A former flight attendant, Samantha remains modest about her accomplishments and the enviable impression she has made after switching from the track to the trails. She dominates 100km races in China and has even placed 13th at UTMB’s TDS, a 145km race through the Alps starting in Chamonix.

Samantha says she loves relaxation time and that running has helped her enjoy more of her favorite indulgent foods like french fries and fried chicken. But, her relatable attitude is a stark contrast to her tenacious approach on race day, where Samantha often pushes her limits to the point of tears.

“Ultra races are very painful,” she says, “Every time I sign up, I ask myself why I do it. Why I’m suffering on a cold mountain in the middle of the night, but I keep signing up.”

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Ultrarunning hurts, but Samantha’s past reveals her reasons for racing.

“I grew up in a housing estate in Hong Kong,” she says, “We had six people living there, and it was only 300 square feet. I slept with my grandma on the sofa in the living room, and I didn’t have much space of my own.”

For Samantha, running was what made her feel free. As a high school track athlete, Samantha discovered open space, the ability to stretch her legs to carry her wherever she desired and the catharsis of a good sweat.

“When I use up all my energy and feel tired, I feel alive. It burns through all of my negative emotions,” she says. After finding that the confines of her cramped home could not limit her, Samantha embraced pushing other boundaries. As a child, Samantha would not let her family’s views keep her from doing what she loved.

“They think that girls should be quiet. That they shouldn’t do any sports. That they should stay home and do the housework. Ever since I started running, my parents yelled at me. But I just ignored them.”

Samantha continued running as she transitioned from school to work. Finally, a co-worker who noticed her commitment to running convinced her to participate in a group trail race called the Trailwalker 100km.

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Samantha rediscovered the thrill of exploration, this time covering new extremes of mileage and mountainous terrain. She was more hooked than ever.

“That’s why I’m so addicted to trail running,” she says,”When I train more and I race more, I can see more of the world by foot. When you get the ability to see the world through your fitness, you are just lucky.”

On top of that, her team won. This was the start of an impressive series of 100km race finishes for Samantha, including winning Kanas 100km in Xinjiang and placing ninth at The North Face 100 Hong Kong.

Since then, Samantha has found support as a female athlete through the trail running community. “They understand you, and you understand them,” she says. Samantha’s community motivates her to keep pushing forward and to inspire those around her to do the same. She empowers others to spread their wings, whether that’s going from 300 square feet of housing to 300km of trail or choosing to defy expectations.

Check out Samantha’s favorite shoe for the trails, the Speedgoat 3 Waterproof.

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Never say never: Flying at night in NYC

“I had always said I’d never do a marathon, and it really just taught me never to say never,” says Victoria Tomkinson.

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Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

Victoria Tomkinson always dreamed about living in a big city. Today, she is living out that dream in New York City, where she works as a social media editor curating digital platforms for trendsetting brands and media outlets.

Not only has Victoria proven herself as a bold career woman in a competitive city, she has also created initiatives to use her media platforms as a source of empowerment for women in sports.

Taking action is important to Victoria because she didn’t always see herself as a runner and she wants more women to know their own strength. We spoke with Victoria to find out how she finds balance in the city that never sleeps and how she has learned to embrace risk by “never saying never.”

“It was a time of massive change for me. I felt like I had really taken a leap of faith, but it was 100% worth it,” says Victoria Tomkinson. “I’ve never been a fast runner and because of that I thought I’d never be a runner.”

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Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

After she ran her first half marathon, Victoria changed her mind. Running was now part of her identity.

“I think not being able to stay away from the challenge and actually enjoying the training has made me secure that no matter how fast, I’m definitely a runner,” she says.

As a runner and triathlete, Victoria hopes to encourage more women to see themselves as athletes and find the enjoyment and pride she has found in her sports.

“That moment when you settle into a run and are really feeling your groove is like nothing else. I think both mentally and emotionally, running is such a space that I can take for myself. Every improvement or goal met makes me feel accomplished, proud and strong,” she says. “I hope to inspire women to consider sport as a part of their everyday lives.”

Victoria also does her part to make sure female athletes are equally represented in the media. “There are so many incredible female athletes out there, and yet we only hear about such a small portion of them.” she says. “The conversation is growing, and I hope that it continues to gain more and more momentum.”

Victoria candidly documents the highs and lows of training on her own social platforms to show the process of training while maintaining a demanding career. She believes that any woman can be a triathlete if they set goals and make it a priority.  She’s also no stranger to training during early mornings or late at night.

“It’s a massive balancing act. Obviously, things come up. Sometimes I oversleep or I slip out for a happy hour, but I definitely prioritize it. I try to make sure that I’m getting early mornings or long Sunday afternoons in. But, I’m definitely guilty of being at the gym at close when I’ve pushed back my workout,” she says.

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Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

One opportunity that committed Victoria’s training to the next level was an unexpected opportunity to run her first marathon.

“It was a bit spur of the moment, but I actually ended up running the New York City Marathon. I’d just finished my last triathlon of the season and was getting ready to take a step back in training. I got the opportunity to snag a spot in the race two months before it was taking place. I kind of did it on a whim and instantly had to kick running into full gear,” she says.

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Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

Victoria’s risk paid off. After just two months of training, she finished the New York City Marathon and learned an important lesson. “I learned that I’m stronger than I think I am. I learned that even when it feels impossible, putting in the time and the work will pay off,” she says.

She hopes can inspire more women to try something that feels out of reach, even if it’s not a spontaneous marathon.

Shop the HOKA Mach from our reflective Fly at Night collection.

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The common denominator is running

12803115_1110825822293238_3691197437690379204_n“I’m really inspired by how well-rounded all the women who I train with are — some have jobs as physical therapists, others are in law school, etc. They dream big with their life goals and running goals. Yet, despite how much they are doing outside of track, it’s “no nonsense” when we are training. They encourage me to bring my best to the track for every workout.”- HOKA Athlete Nicole Tully