Unseasonably cool temps and playing to her strengths helped propel Kaci Lickteig to her fastest finish in six appearances at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, ultrarunning’s equivalent of the Boston Marathon.

The Omaha woman shaved two minutes off her best time and was the third female competitor across the finish line. She placed 20th overall at the June 29 race.

“The race went phenomenal for me,” said Lickteig, 32. “I had a great day. I ran faster than I expected.”

The last two years at the race were tough on Lickteig. In what she called “the toughest race” she’s ever had, she struggled in 2017 with the heat and a knee injury. The following year, her training schedule was limited as she recovered from a pelvic fracture.

This year, Lickteig said things went according to plan. She earned her spot at Western States after winning the Black Canyon 100K in February, and stayed injury-free during training.

Western States starts in Squaw Valley, California, and runners crossed the finish line in Auburn, California.

The remote and rugged route follows a 100-mile segment of the Western States Trail, which stretches in full from Salt Lake City to Sacramento, California.

This was Lickteig’s sixth appearance at the trail race. She won the race in 2016.

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This year, temperatures in the 80s were a welcome surprise, especially in the canyons, where temperatures can hit the 100s, she said.

Lickteig put a strong emphasis on staying hydrated early in the race, when it’s typically cooler outside. While running some of the canyons, Lickteig ran a little, then hiked a little to break it up and improve her time.

One mishap came at mile 47 when Lickteig fell in a hole. She knew her arm was scuffed up, but didn’t realize she’d injured her ankle for another 30-some miles. She pushed through the pain and reached the finish line in 17 hours, 55 minutes and 55 seconds, about two minutes faster than her first-place finish in 2016.

That same year, UltraRunning Magazine named her top female ultrarunner of the year.

After finishing this year, she noticed a large bruise and significant ankle swelling, to the point that she couldn’t put on a shoe again.

Lickteig has recovered from the injury, though she’s still battling a few aches and pains from the lengthy race.

“I finally feel like I’ve gotten my confidence back in my body and myself. I can race hard again,” Lickteig said.

This fall, she’ll compete in the UTMB, a 105-mile mountain race in France.

And she’ll be back at Western States. Four more finishes at the event will mark a total of 10 for Lickteig, which would land her a belt buckle for running 1,000 miles.

“At least four more,” Lickteig said. “It’s my favorite race, so if I could do a million of them, I would.”

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