Kaci Lickteig says that the Western States 100 is in her blood, and that’s why she’s back for her sixth run from Olympic Valley to Auburn, California this weekend. In the following interview, Kaci talks about what drives her as an athlete and community member at Western States, how she feels about the consistent and injury-free training block she’s had leading up to this race, and how she dreams of finishing on the podium again.
Kaci Lickteig Pre-2019 Western States 100 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Kaci Lickteig. It’s a couple days before the 2019 Western States 100. You are back again.
Kaci Lickteig: Yay!
iRunFar: This is your sixth time at Western States. What keeps bringing you back?
Lickteig: The community. Everything about this race is something I love. Ever since the first time I got to be here, it just became a part of me, so I really just enjoy everything about it.
iRunFar: You have had all kinds of races over the years. You’ve been the 2016 champion. You finished in a 24-hour run one year, and everywhere in between. It’s not just your performance that brings you to Western States I guess.
Lickteig: Right. Like I’ve said before, this race, every day is a new story and every race is a new set of memories that you’re going to have, and I remember all of them and they’re all unique and so I just look forward every year to see what new memories I’m going to have.
iRunFar: Well we’re standing in quite new and unusual circumstances for Western States. There’s a huge wind. It’s a cold wind blowing off the mountains. What do you think of this story?
Lickteig: Definitely nothing that I’ve expected or experienced yet, so it’ll be something fun and new already. I’m excited to see how it’s going to feel being cold.
iRunFar: It’s kind of funny to think of the idea of being more than just a teensy bit cold when you’re waiting to start in the morning. Like you might be legit cold on the Escarpment on Saturday.
Lickteig: Yeah, definitely. The higher you go the colder it’ll get, so it’ll be interesting.
iRunFar: You’ve seen snow. You’ve seen fire and ice. You’ve seen a couple really hot years. Does it matter to you the conditions out there or do you have certain circumstances that you enjoy or do better in?
Lickteig: Really I like to embrace it all, all the elements, so you know you can’t control it so you just embrace it and have fun with it.
iRunFar: You have had such a long stretch of injury-free, consistent, great running. How are you feeling about just that high level of consistency you have kept?
Lickteig: Really feel blessed and just grateful for being healthy. Being smart, patient with my body. Coming back from injury, smart, and now just to be at the start line feeling excited about it and not worried.
iRunFar: And not worried if your body is going to hold together or?
Lickteig: Right. Like last year was my first big race after my fracture and so I was really scared and this year it’s like okay, now I just get to go enjoy and have fun on Saturday.
iRunFar: Is there a new confidence that comes back after all of these months of putting in miles and consistent training and having done some really tough things in training and training races?
Lickteig: It just brings back that I can just you know, know that my body’s going to hold up. And just anything can happen on the trail. You can fall, you can trip, anything like that.
[A strong wind gust blows.]
iRunFar: Wow. Hold on to your hats, kids!
Lickteig: You’d better!
iRunFar: I know. Amazing. Anything can happen, but you have to feel at least a bit of confidence in what you’ve been able to put together training wise leading up to this.
Lickteig: Yeah, I do. I just am really happy with how things have went.
iRunFar: You’ve been on the podium at this race before. You’ve been a champion before. Do you dream about returning to that high level here at Western States?
Lickteig: Absolutely. I mean I think anybody that’s competitive wants to be at the top level and if that’s, whatever it is, whatever the day gives you, so just being, just the opportunity.
iRunFar: I think one of the coolest things that the iRunFar team has gotten to see from you at this race over the years, is how you celebrate sunrise on the Escarpment with your friends. Have you been thinking about that moment yet this year?
Lickteig: I have and I think we’re all going to give each other bear hugs and stay warm because it’s going to be cold.
Lickteig: But that is the most beautiful breathtaking view that started and I think it should continue for all the years, just to stop and take a moment to enjoy that sunrise together and know that you’re together in spirit with everyone.
iRunFar: Can you describe like what that actually looks and feels like for people who haven’t been up there?
Lickteig: When you get to the top of the Escarpment, you will turn around and face Lake Tahoe and you will see the most magnificent sunrise come up, and the lighting up there is something that you’ve just, it’s phenomenal. It’s something you cannot make up. It’s picturesque.
iRunFar: And then there’s this long string of 369 runners making their way up to have the very same experience.
Lickteig: It’s impressive and you know that everybody’s going to be able to see it. That’s one thing you can always count on. Whoever starts and gets to the top, they get to see that beautiful sunrise.
iRunFar: And this year you’ll be climbing that last little bit on a carpet of white, or maybe a frozen carpet of white.
Lickteig: [laughs] That could be, and that’ll make it even more special.
iRunFar: Your sixth Western States, and hopefully your sixth finish. What are you doing at this race? Are you going for 10 finishes? Are you going for as many as your body will let you do? What are your sort of longer-term visions here?
Lickteig: I absolutely am going for 10, and then I want to be here as long as I can.
Lickteig: Like I said, I can’t imagine not being at this race. It’s part of who I am and if it’s just volunteering, if it’s being part of the team here, the community, however I can I want to be here every year.
iRunFar: Okay my last question for you. On your social media you talk a lot about your family. Your mom’s a runner and your grandma is a walker. Yeah, like the running, the outdoor experience is inherent in your family. Are you going to be bringing them with you this weekend? Like, you know, intangibly or tangibly?
Lickteig: I do. I…
[Another strong wind blows.]
Lickteig: They’re here! The wind! Wow!
[The camera starts to blow over.]
iRunFar: Oh, no!
Lickteig: You saved it. And, cut.
iRunFar: Okay we’re back. Apparently I asked about your mom and grandma and a giant wind blew off the mountain, blew the tripod over. Apparently they’re speaking to us.
Lickteig: Oh, I’m okay. It’s okay. Yes they will be with me in spirit for sure, and my mom is going to be running the Black Hills 50 the same time I’m running, so we will be channeling each other in spirit.
iRunFar: Fantastic. Well I think this wind might be a signal for us all to go inside, and we wish you the best of luck in your sixth journey down the Western States Trail.
Lickteig: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: That was hilarious.
Lickteig: Oh my gosh.
iRunFar: I might actually leave the whole thing in there because it’s funny.