Dreams do come true!
Kaci Lickteig ran her first ultra in 2012 aged 25-years. A small lady, she does pack a punch. It’s all wonderfully echoed by her nickname ‘Pixie Ninja’ – that sums up Kaci in a nutshell.
Some may say, 3rd time is a charm. It certainly is the case with Western States 100. The rise of this lady has been gradual but logical – 6th in 2014, 2nd in 2015 and yes, you’ve guessed it, top spot in 2016. The ‘WSER’ is rolling course, which begins in Squaw Valley, California. It climbs more than 5500m and descends nearly 7000m before reaching the finish in Auburn some 100-miles later. It’s the ‘Grail of Trail!’
Lickteig was recently announced 2016 female ultra-runner of the year by voters in Ultrarunning Magazine, a huge honour but one that is deserved. Lickteig is on a roll of victories now, 7 consecutive at my last count. What impresses many, is the diversity of those wins. Western States is far removed from the tough and gnarly conditions that Kaci encountered at Bear 100. In and around these two top results, victory has come at 50k and 50-miles, the last result coming in Iowa at the Hitchcock Ultra which took place at night.
Some days, everything lines up and clicks the 2016 ‘Western’ was exactly one of those days, ‘Western States definitely was the race of my life. Everything came together so perfectly that day. I had a once in a lifetime race day experience. I had only dreamed of winning Western States and wanted some day for that to happen. All the stars aligned and I could win. To be among the winners list is surreal…I admire and respect all those women and men who have won. It’s such an honour to have my name listed as a winner of Western States 100.’
It’s not all been plain sailing though, severe anaemia and a calf injury way back in February may well have scuppered what has been an incredible year. It’s easy to drop your head and give in when this happens, especially when one wants something so much! believe me, Lickteig wanted victory at the 2016 Western States!
Accepting the injury, cross training became a way forward not only for the body but the mind. A strategic and planned approach, allowed iron stores to return and without losing too much fitness, Lickteig was on the start line of Lake Sonoma 50 where she placed 2nd.
The countdown was on and Western States loomed. Jason Koop, her coach since 2014, has gone on record in the past saying, ‘I tell her she can step on the starting line and expect to win!’ This is not arrogance or bold statement. It’s a fact. It’s all about work ethic and the ever-changing world of ultra-running. The introduction of faster and faster runners, a world-class runner these days can’t just churn out the miles. It’s all about peaks and troughs; Lickteig follows a plan of immense variety.
‘A typical training week varies throughout the cycle I am in. Farther away from an ‘A’ race I will do the least specific work for the race and as I get closer to the race it will be race specific work. So, for my 100 mile ‘A’ races I will start off early in the season with shorter intervals for workouts and less volume running. The closer my race comes I will progress to longer tempo runs and more volume on more course sp
ecific terrain. I am scheduled a day of rest either every week or every other week.’
Let’s not forget vertical too… no good being fast if you can’t climb and descend when it’s required (view Lickteig’s training on Strava here) This variety and dedication is what makes Lickteig’s victories at Western States, Bear 100 and all her other races so impressive.
Money or fame don’t motivate her, or so it seems. Lickteig holds down a full-time job as physical therapist, surely this goes hand-in-hand with her ultra-running? ‘I am able to distinguish normal muscle soreness versus soreness related to an injury. I can then be proactive at treating any injuries that may occur. Knowing your body well and knowing the physiology of the body are both key elements for me to stay injury free.’
Ultimately, no matter who you speak to, several words are repeated when talking about Lickteig: stubborn, trains hard and she’s tough.
At 5′ 3″ and weighing around 90-pounds, Lickteig personifies the term, ‘Pocket Rocket!’ Watch her run and she seems to float, no levitate over the trails. Diets don’t interest her but rock music does. She laughs and smiles a great deal and let’s face it, the end of 2016 and the arrival of 2017 has brought much to smile about! Lickteig’s 2016 results have been recognized and she has gained the title many covet – ‘ultra-runner of the year!’ But looking ahead to 2017, Western States is of course a primary goal but Pixie Ninja has been given a shot via IRUN4ULTRA to run the iconic UTMB in France.
“UTMB is a dream race for me and so many others. It’s the iconic race known around the world. It’s so big and pristine. To be able to run this race with the depth of worldwide competition is like no other. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and I am excited to go on the journey.”
It will be a whole new ball game for the lady from Omaha, Nebraska. It will be a first-time experience racing outside the USA and arguably on the biggest stage the ultra-world can offer. Is she intimidated? I very much doubt it! Nikki Kimball very much paved the way for US ladies’ in France, I have a feeling that Lickteig may well pick up the baton and push on, after all, Krissy Moehl, Rory Bosio, Stephanie Howe Violett and Magdalena Boulet amongst many others have taken Kimball’s inspiration and moved it on.
It’s good to dream big and aim for the stars, after all, if you fail, you may just land on the moon!
Black Hills 100 1st 2013
Rocky Raccoon 100 2nd 2014
Western States 100 6th 2014
Javelina Hundred 100 1st 2014
Western States 2nd 2015
lake Sonoma 50m 2nd 2016
Silver State 50m 1st 2016
Western States 100 1st 2016
Psycho Psummer Run Toto Run 50k 1st 2016
Bohemian Alps 50k 1st 2016
The Bear 100 1st 2016
Goatz Trail Runs 50k 1st 2016
Hitchcock Experience Endurance Runs 50m 1st 2016
Kaci Lickteig Ultrasignup HERE
Img Credit: Paul Nelson, Sweet M Images, Kaci Lickteig