After a challenging year of trying to strike life balance, Camille Herron is looking toward a healthy 2017 and toward racing the Tarawera Ultramarathon. In this interview, Camille talks about her 2016 ups and downs in life and running, what she learned last year that she’s taking into her 2017 of racing, and how she thinks her return to fitness is progressing.
To see who else is running, read our Tarawera preview. You can also follow our live coverage of Tarawera starting at 6 a.m. local time this Saturday, February 11, which is 10 a.m. MST on Friday in the U.S.
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Camille Herron Pre-2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in Rotorua, New Zealand. It’s a couple days before the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon. I’m with the USA’s Camille Herron. Hi.
Camille Herron: Hi, Meghan.
iRunFar and Herron: Cheers.
iRunFar: We’re in the middle of a barbeque right now enjoying a little bit of this nature park here at the edge of New Zealand. I think you just fed a captive lion. We saw eels and trout and…
iRunFar: And alpacas and…
Herron: There’s a chameleon behind us.
iRunFar: A carved chameleon. It’s a couple days before Tarawera. It’s the beginning of 2017. 2016 was a bit of a rough year for you, wasn’t it?
Herron: Yeah, I definitely would not have expected it to go the way it did, but maybe I had to set out my professional life with my running life and personal life, and so I’m finally balanced better going into 2017. I feel like having gotten a Golden Ticket already for Western States, I feel like my year started off really positive. I’m just going to keep going with it and take one race at a time and keep building to June.
iRunFar: In this sport, we’re all learning. We make mistakes, and we do things right. I think probably some of your experiences will resonate with people who are watching. The last time I saw you, you had a pretty good day at Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Can you talk a little bit about how the rest of the year went for you?
Herron: I had a pretty good performance there, but I actually very badly injured myself. Going into the race, I’d already torn my hamstring, and I just didn’t know the severity of it. I had a bit of a rough race trying to limp my way to the finish with my torn hamstring. Then I got it checked out and found out it was a really, really bad tear. I’d torn about 90% of the tendon. So it was the type of injury where I thought my career was over just as it was beginning. It was pretty traumatic actually trying to come back from having a really bad injury.
iRunFar: What was that process like because you weren’t away from running all the year. You managed to fit in some efforts here and there?
Herron: Yeah, I took some time off. I had a professional opportunity… I accepted a job at the University of Michigan. Not knowing what my running future held, I thought I’d just try to focus on my profession. But I was away from my husband for a few months, so it was a bunch of struggles just trying to sort out where my life was going. Once I got back to running and started doing the trail running, I went to White River [50 Mile], and it was one of those turning points where I’m running up a mountain, and I’m realizing I really, really like this. It was funny going into that race, I told him going into that race, “I’ve only run up a mountain a couple minutes in my life, just a couple minutes, and I had to go up the mountain 10 miles up,” and then we had two climbs we had to do. I just remember getting to the top of Suntop Road and just firing down the hill. It kind of dawned on me that, I really, really like this. I think I’m going to do okay as a trail runner. It was pretty amazing. I got home from that race, and I was pretty emotional getting home from that race. I’d been living apart from my husband. I just had a turning point where I was like, I think I’m meant to do this. I ended up quitting my job. My husband ended up quitting his job, too, and then we came back to Oklahoma. Once we came back to Oklahoma, it was just a turning point for us. Okay, we’re meant to do this. We’ve just got to go full force with my running. So when I went into UROC, I’d gotten back to Oklahoma and gotten back to my environment, and I started feeling really, really good. Fortunately, my boss at my former job had offered me my job back, and, yeah, we were able to sort out my running with my professional life and got to feeling a lot better after that. Yeah, things started turning a leaf. Then… I tore one hamstring, and then I ended up tearing my other hamstring which was small.
iRunFar: Was that what kept you out of the [IAU] World 100k?
Herron: Yeah. My training was going really well up to that point, and then I ended up tweaking my other hamstring. It was finally like, Okay, I’ve just got to start over again going into 2017. I’ll start fresh. So I started running again at the end of November. I’d signed up for the Bandera 100k thinking, I hadn’t run very much for this race, but I might as well just do it and see what happens. It was a real blessing to be able to get that Golden Ticket even though I didn’t quite have the fitness for that race. So we’re just going to keep taking it a race at a time and keep building up to June for Western States.
iRunFar: Would you say your Bandera race was your longest training run in preparation for Tarawera?
Herron: Yeah, definitely. Five to 10 miles into the race, I was huffing and puffing and thinking, My gosh, I don’t even know if I can go another 50 miles. It was amazing because about 45 miles into the race, I started feeling good. I thought, Okay, I think I can make it to the finish. So I was very, very happy and just very blessed to get the Golden Ticket and to not have to stress anymore about trying to do that.
iRunFar: Let’s talk a little bit about New Zealand. Suddenly, a month later after Bandera, here we are in the middle of summer when it’s winter at home. What made you decide to put things into coming to New Zealand and doing this race?
Herron: Yeah, Paul [Charteris] tried to recruit me last year to come here, and everybody wanted me to make my domestic trail debut instead of going international, so I had to wait. I am very fortunate that Paul was willing to be patient and let me get some experience this past year and to be able to come here and finally have a little experience and be in a good place trying to build up to June. Plus, it’s beautiful here. It’s amazing! It’s amazing! It’s fun to go travel around the world and see people you know and to meet new people. We’ve met people from all over the world since we got here. It’s fun to talk about where we’re from. I like racing internationally. There’s just so much positive energy to it. It’s fun.
iRunFar: Let’s talk for a few minutes about this weekend. You’re very typically aggressive in your racing. Is that how we should be expecting to see you run on Saturday?
Herron: That’s really funny because as a marathoner, I’ve always been pretty even keel and an even pacer. Even road ultras, I just happen to be pretty darn fast. It comes across that way, but when I ran UROC back in September, I had the mentality that I know what 100k effort feels like, so it’s about a heart rate of about 160 for me. I know what that effort feels like. I just go into 50 mile-100k trail race knowing that effort, and that’s just what I concentrate on.
iRunFar: In all fairness, for example, we’ve seen you race a couple times, and at Lake Sonoma, maybe five miles into the race you were about 10th place overall in a pretty competitive men’s field.
Herron: I pretty much expect myself to be amongst the men. Coming from a road background, I had to realize that I’m having to race the men. I have that mentality going into the trails. Lake Sonoma, I was just injured and wasn’t able to sustain it. That was the hardest part was trying to limp for 30 miles. It was just a totally different experience from once I got healthy at UROC and was finally able to flow like myself. I think that when things come together for me as far as my health and my fitness, I’m going to be able to sustain it quite a bit better.
iRunFar: That’s fair enough then. New Zealand, you’ve been here a couple days. Is this your first time here? Have you been here before?
Herron: This is my first time. Yeah.
iRunFar: What have you seen? What have you done so far?
Herron: It’s really cool. Coming from winter time in the U.S., and coming here and it’s summer time, they have very strong sun, so I’m getting burnt quite badly.
iRunFar: Experiencing the sun rays.
Herron: Yeah, I’ve definitely got to put on the sunscreen, and I’ve got to protect my skin. Between having the mountains and the beaches, I’m most amazed at the trees. I really like how there’s such a variety of trees around.
iRunFar: What do you think about all the different colors of green that are here? There are so many greens here.
Herron: Yeah, I know. We went to Ireland back in November, so my husband is like, “This looks a lot like Ireland.” I’m like, “No, it’s a little bit more mountainous than Ireland.”
iRunFar: And these tropical plants growing everywhere are a little bit different than Ireland.
Herron: It’s a bit more tropical. I’ve never seen anything like this as far as within the U.S. Yeah, being a new trail runner, I’m just absorbing it. It’s crazy. When you’re on the road, you don’t really have anything around. Here, I’m just taking it all in. That’s the coolest part for me being a new trail runner is just having a change in environment and really being able to enjoy the experience of that.
iRunFar: You’ve got so much in your face all the time as a trail runner compared to being on the road, don’t you?
Herron: Absolutely. You’re brushing up against things. It makes you really appreciate Mother Earth and the environment. For me, coming from an urban environment, out here it’s quiet. I really, really can enjoy and appreciate that.
iRunFar: I think it’s something that once in awhile we can start to take for granted, but coming to a new environment totally re-enlivens that.
Herron: Absolutely. Because I work in research, I work with animals, and to be out here and have just fed a lion, I’m just like, “Holy cow! I feel like a five year old again!”
iRunFar: Maybe you’ve always been a five year old?
Herron: I have! Definitely!
iRunFar: Good luck to you on Saturday. We look forward to seeing you cross the forests of Tarawera.
Herron: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you.