In her third attempt, Kaci Lickteig won the 2016 Western States 100. In following interviews, Kaci talks about how her race was almost flaw-free, what motivates her to be the best version of herself on the trail, where we’ll see her race next, and more.
For more on the race, read our 2016 Western States 100 results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Kaci Lickteig, 2016 Western States 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kaci Lickteig after her win at the 2016 Western States 100. How does that sound, Kaci? You won Western States!
Kaci Lickteig: Still surreal. I can’t believe it.
iRunFar: How much different does it feel? You were second last year, which was awesome. Does it feel a whole lot different to cross the line first, under 18 hours?
Lickteig: It’s a dream come true. I had no expectations. I just tried to stay running my race. The stars aligned yesterday.
iRunFar: Saying it looked effortless is wrong, but it looked like you were in control and having a good time through the whole race. Were there any spots that you weren’t feeling that way?
Lickteig: I honestly, I had a five-minute patch where I didn’t feel good on Cal 1. It was just an upset stomach. I just walked it off, and then I was back to myself again.
iRunFar: You just walked?
Lickteig: I did. I just walked, and then bent over. I felt fine after I stood back up.
iRunFar: Did you get sick?
iRunFar: You literally took a pause.
Lickteig: I just belched a couple times, and then I was like, Okay, that works.
iRunFar: You’re having this awesome race, and whether you’re looking at your watch or not, you know you’re going super fast. You’re leading. How do you have the mental presence where you can have a hiccup and just go on?
Lickteig: It’s going to happen. You just have to be calm with yourself and know that things will arise and just get through them and work your best through them and you’ll get back to feeling better at one point or another.
iRunFar: You did have one small physical issue. You had a rock stuck in your ankle collar. Did it chew up your ankle pretty good?
Lickteig: It did. I have a little bruise there, but it’s manageable. It will heal in a few days.
iRunFar: Was there any place in the second half of the race where you just felt amazing in terms of speed and performance? Was there any point where the light just shone brighter?
Lickteig: This is the first year where I ran it and had daylight until mile 90. I’ve never had that happen. I was like, I can actually see the trail. I can run. I don’t have to keep second guessing. How long is that climb? Should I walk it? Should I not? That was really helpful.
iRunFar: You had Miguel out there with you? Your faithful pacer?
Lickteig: I did. He’s so great. Yeah, he keeps me from getting any lows. We work like a team.
iRunFar: Is that the best aspect of having a pacer? It’s not the pacing or route finding, it’s just keeping you mentally…?
Lickteig: Yeah, just running with him—we run and train together all the time—it’s just like a training run. I always look forward. I count down the miles until I get to see him because I know we’re going to be chatting away for awhile and the miles will click.
iRunFar: Could you have imagined before the race to break 18 hours?
Lickteig: Oh, my gosh, no. I was just hoping to break 20 from last year. When I looked at my watch at No Hands, I was calculating and I asked Miguel, “Do you think I have a shot at sub-18?” He’s the math magician, and he’s like… “Yeah.” “Give it to me straight because I have no idea.” You just have to calculate this many minutes per mile. I said, “I’m on. I’m going for it.”
iRunFar: You did reaccelerate, but it wasn’t kind of up to the red line?
Lickteig: I did. No.
iRunFar: You weren’t risking blowing up?
Lickteig: No, not at that point. I was just going to see if I could do it and do it uncomfortably comfortable.
iRunFar: Ellie Greenwood and Ann Trason—the only two women to run this course faster. So now it’s Ellie, Ann, and Kaci. That’s weighty.
Lickteig: Those people are phenomenal.
iRunFar: So, you’ve won Western States. What else do you have coming up?
Lickteig: I am signed up for the Bear 100 at the end of September. I would like to see about getting a Hardrock qualifier ticket.
iRunFar: Would you?
Lickteig: Yeah. That’s my next goal.
iRunFar: That’s a temptation?
Lickteig: It is. Some day. Not necessarily in…
iRunFar: You’ve got to start the process. It will be interesting to see how many times at… is it Hitchcock? How many Hitchcock hill repeats do you have to do to get ready for that?
Lickteig: That will be interesting.
iRunFar: It is 364 days off plus or minus, but do you think you’ll come back to Western States next year?
Lickteig: This is my absolutely favorite race in the world, and I would not miss it if I can.
iRunFar: Yesterday, it wasn’t top-five hottest days at Western States, but it was a hot day out there. No one was pushing you at the end. Do you think you have another level that’s possible?
Lickteig: Honestly, at this point, I have no idea.
iRunFar: Would it be fun to explore?
Lickteig: Sure. I’m always ready to test myself and see what I can do. It’s part of why we do this.
iRunFar: Now, you come across the line and you’re just stoked. Then you thank God. What role does religion play in your running or in your racing?
Lickteig: It’s huge for me. I couldn’t do this without God. I’m just blessed to be able to use my gift to bring honor and glory to Him.
iRunFar: In the race, what perspective is it. Is it finding strength? Is it for the glory? What is the angle that gives you that push and that strength.
Lickteig: It is for the glory—being able to do these things and then finding the strength and praying and just having that inner peace.
iRunFar: Is Miguel part of that? Is he in your religious circle?
Lickteig: Oh, yes.
iRunFar: I don’t know.
Lickteig: Yes, we actually have this thing where we’re reading our Bible—it’s an app on our phone—where you read it in a year. We always read it and then talk about it sometimes on our run or whatever. That’s always fun.
iRunFar: But he’s not reading it out on No Hands Bridge?
Lickteig: No, there would be a fall involved and that would not be good.
iRunFar: You definitely had quite the race out there yesterday. Congratulations, Kaci.
Lickteig: Thank you. Thank you for being out there.
iRunFar: Enjoy that moment. Remember it forever.
Lickteig: Thank you. Thank you, everyone.
iRunFar: Now a bonus question for you, Kaci. You’re coming up Michigan Bluff. It really feels like someone is opening an oven door in your face because I was just standing there and it felt that way. Before I could get a word out, you were like, “How are you doing?” How do you stay in that cheerful outgoing personality at that point?
Lickteig: Really it’s… if you’re not happy and positive, it just brings everybody down. It’s just fun to be happy.
iRunFar: Do you feel it reflects back on you?
Lickteig: It helps. It just gives you energy. It’s way better to be smiley than frowny.
iRunFar: Did you have frowny moments out there?
Lickteig: Just that time when my stomach was not feeling good. Otherwise I just stay happy and positive.
iRunFar: Nice. Thank you, Kaci.
Lickteig: You missed it, too. Right before Michigan Bluff, Billy [Yang]’s crew was with me. They got it on tape. I was running beside him and we were running down into that service road area. I was running, and he was right there, and we were talking. All of the sudden, this three-foot snake comes right at me, and jumped, screamed like a little sissy, “EEEEEEEEEEE!” He got it on tape. “This is going to haunt you for the rest of your life.”
iRunFar: How does that go? “EEEEEEEEEEH?”
Lickteig: “EEEEEEEEEEE!” It’s recorded.
iRunFar: I look forward to watching that.
Lickteig: The snake was huge. It was like, ssssssssssssssss. Oh, my gosh.
iRunFar: Did it hit your ankle?
Lickteig: That’s what it was. It was crazy. I don’t like snakes.