Kaci Lickteig returned to run the Western States 100 for a sixth time and will head home with a third-place finish to show for it. In the following interview, Kaci talks about how she finally has her confidence back after a few difficult years, where she teamed up with a number of other women, what injury she dealt with during the race, and where she’ll next race.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kaci Lickteig after her third-place finish at the 2019 Western States 100, congratulations Kaci.
Kaci Lickteig: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: I know you’ve won this race before, but you ran your fastest time yesterday, how does that feel?
Lickteig: I’m really thrilled, I’m happy with the day and how it unfolded.
iRunFar: Did it feel all the better after a couple of tough years health wise?
Lickteig: Yes, getting my confidence back in myself again and just trusting myself and my body, it finally came together yesterday.
iRunFar: Yeah, did you have any particular challenges along the way or was it pretty smooth sailing?
Lickteig: I had a little bit of a challenge, I fell, I had my leg go through this wood and I guess brick or stone, that was down right before Swinging Bridge and then I felt my pain in my ankle for a long time and every downhill I was like, I wonder what’s wrong with that? Didn’t care, you know I had tall socks, I couldn’t see it so it was like out of sight out of mind. And then I had a really bad episode with that going down to Rucky Chucky from that steep downhill and I kind of had to walk it off up to Green Gate and after that Miguel [Ordorica] was there and he got me fired up again and he got me rolling.
iRunFar: And he tried to I heard. You maybe briefly dropped him?
Lickteig: I did he made me run so hard, I was like you’re running too fast and he’s like, nope you’re going to run this fast. He’s like, okay yeah it’s a little fast but keep going. So finally we got to ALT and I was like fine, if you’re going to make me run that fast I’m going to make you run fast again. So then I ended up dropping him and he was so great because he’s just the best. He rolls with it, so fun.
iRunFar: So does that give you a little, you obviously love running with Miguel but didn’t feel kind of good to be like, bye?
Lickteig: It was kind of sad I was like I want you to keep coming with me, but his stomach turned really bad so it wasn’t his fault it was just his stomach. And he ended up catching me back at No Hands [Bridge] so we got to run backup and I dropped him again on accident but he was like, it’s okay, it’s okay.
iRunFar: All right we can work on his training plan for next year. So was this the nicest day out there in terms of?
Lickteig: Oh man, I have never had the canyons that cool. Like when you can actually run up some of the canyons it’s like I’ve never done that in any of my races so it was definitely a lot cooler.
iRunFar: Uncharted territory?
Lickteig: And the cloud cover, amazing. It never happens.
iRunFar: That part was probably faster than usual, what parts were a little slower than usual?
Lickteig: Probably like, I don’t even know. Going up to Green Gate I was really slow up that because I walked most of that. The high country was a little slower with all that snow but that’s to be expected.
iRunFar: Did you get to spend some quality time with some of the other women out on the course?
Lickteig: Oh I did, it was the best, we have this lady train right at the beginning and it just kept rolling into mile 15 we were still a train and then we kind of broke off and I ran with Kaytlyn [Gerbin] for a long time and, then, I ran with Amanda [Basham] and then Brittany [Peterson] back and forth for quite a ways. It’s so great; the camaraderie out there is just amazing.
iRunFar: Was the snow set up where you are doing a bit of route finding so you guys were working together out there at all?
Lickteig: Yeah, we kind of changed leads a lot because one of us would be like leading for a while and then we would lose track of the flags and we would be like, okay next person. And then the next one would lead for a while, it was so fun though, it was a blast.
iRunFar: So you have six Western States finishes right?
Lickteig: I do.
iRunFar: You’re probably thinking about 10 aren’t you?
Lickteig: I am, I can’t wait.
iRunFar: That’s still a long journey, I just talked to Ian Sharman and he definitely, in those last years, had to concentrate on the journey as much in progressing up to the race as getting it on race day. Do you feel like that’s something you’re going to have to think about?
Lickteig: Absolutely. I mean you can’t take any day for granted or any training here. I mean you have to be healthy every year for 10 years so to do that it’s a blessing and you have to be patient.
iRunFar: Yeah. And aside from your bum ankle which isn’t too bad right?
Lickteig: It’s a Michelin Man ankle.
iRunFar: Doesn’t hurt a lot or is it just – it’s pretty puffy.
Lickteig: It’s really puffy. It hurts to walk but it’s okay, it will heal. It’s tissue.
iRunFar: And, hopefully, you will take a little down time in training?
Lickteig: Yeah, until that resolves and then back to UTMB.
iRunFar: So UTMB is next on the schedule?
iRunFar: Are you excited about that?
Lickteig: I love UTMB, too.
iRunFar: It’s so different.
Lickteig: It’s good though, because it changes your whole scheme of training so you’re hiking now so it’s kind of recovering.
iRunFar: You get to go walk around Hitchcock for a while?
iRunFar: Hours and hours.
iRunFar: Do you have any race between now and then?
Lickteig: I might do the Pike’s Peak 50 Mile late July.
iRunFar: As a very intentional training.
Lickteig: Just to get some mountains.
iRunFar: And are you the kind of person who can show up at a race and just be like, I’m doing this as a nice long training run.
Lickteig: Yeah, I can. I did it last year and I wore my pack and everything and I just keep it chill.
iRunFar: So when you have to battle you will.
Lickteig: Yeah, I like to have aid stations and I don’t know the courses around mountains so it’s perfect.
iRunFar: So you enjoy it, it’s a little vacation.
iRunFar: Mentally is not easy, just to?
Lickteig: It is actually because I like to do that, I like having fun and meeting new people during the experience.
iRunFar: So on the opposite side, how do you keep focus and not fight in you at mile 80, mile 90 of the Western States because you are pushing? How do you do that?
Lickteig: I just go deep within my soul and just think of why are you here? Why does this mean so much to you? And it’s because this is the race that I love and this is what I have been training for.
iRunFar: And as I’ve grown over the years?
Lickteig: Yes, tremendously, just all the people out here, they are like family.
iRunFar: Do you have a favorite moment from this year’s race?
Lickteig: Gosh, all of it. It’s just – all of it.
iRunFar: All right, well congratulations on a best time. I forgot to mention, you are now the second woman to break 18 hours twice on this course.
Lickteig: And I got to meet Ellie [Greenwood].
iRunFar: And it’s Ellie.
Lickteig: I love Ellie.
iRunFar: Did you meet her on the course?
Lickteig: I actually met her before and then I got to see her on the course, which is even better.
iRunFar: You both were pretty happy about that out there.
Lickteig: Yeah she’s so great.
iRunFar: Congratulations on a great run Kaci.
Lickteig: Thank you for being here, we really appreciate iRunFar and what you do.
iRunFar: And good luck in training for UTMB.
Lickteig: Thank you.
A video interview (with transcript) with Sébastien Spehler and Thibaut Garrivier after their first and third-place finishes, respectively, at the…