Three weeks ago, Camille Herron won the 2017 Comrades Marathon. This weekend, she’s doubling down at the 2017 Western States 100. In the following interview, Camille talks about what it’s been like trying to recover and turn the mind and body over from Comrades to Western States, if she thinks she has recovered, how she plans to strategically approach her first 100-mile race, and how she thinks her trail skills have developed in her year-plus racing on trails.
Camille Herron Pre-2017 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here at the starting line of the 2017 Western States 100. I’m with the USA’s Camille Herron. Hi, Camille. Wow, you take that sip and get back to me. Congratulations on your win just under three weeks ago at the Comrades Marathon. How are you?
Camille Herron: I’m feeling pretty good especially with a beer in my hand.
iRunFar: We are drinking a high-alcohol content beer right now, and I’m a couple sips in. This is going to get good really quick. What are we drinking?
Herron: We’re drinking a Rogue Dead Guy Ale which is the beer I like to drink during races.
iRunFar: Cheers. You are just back a couple weeks ago from running and winning the Comrades Marathon. I want to start there. That’s fresh on your plate, and that’s fresh on the people who will be viewing this interview’s plate. Talk about the Comrades Marathon.
Herron: Wow, it’s one of those things you dream about your whole life… at least for me, I dreamed about it my whole life. I’ve known about Comrades since the beginning of my running career in 1995. Here I am reading about it in a book, and to actually go there and win it is very emotional. It’s like my whole running career just reached its pinnacle. It’s something that hadn’t happened in 20 years for an American to win it. To be one of only three that has won it, I’m very emotional about it and very humbled. It was very, very special and very meaningful to me. Now I’m here, and I’m at Western States, and I’m really pumped up for that, too.
iRunFar: You’re kind of hitting some of the big-hitter races back-to-back-to-back here… maybe not taking it easy sitting on the couch this summer, huh?
Herron: Yeah, definitely. I really had some goals I wanted to aim high for. I got through Comrades, and getting through Western States now, and after that, we’re just going to keep riding the fun parade.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about your actual physical transition from Comrades to here. In your race report which we published on iRunFar earlier this week, you talked about it being an imperfect day for you. You kind of had to manage your hamstrings. How has your physical recovery gone having to transition from that to now this?
Herron: I’ve felt really good. I’ve been eating a lot of burgers and tacos and drinking beer and sleeping 12 hours per day. I had to get over the jet lag from South Africa, so that took about a week. Coming from a marathoning background where I ran a lot of marathons back to back in a short time, I’m used to recovering fast. When I’ve done two races in a short time together, I always bounce back and feel better on the second race. It’s almost like the first race was the warmup for the second race. I end up feeling better. I’ve just kind of been a bouncy ball the past couple days. I’ve just kind of been bouncing off the walls. My husband says I look very springy when I run.
iRunFar: Sounds good. One hundred miles is a long way, and this is your first attempt at running 100 miles. I think the longest you’ve gone before is the 100k at UROC 100k? Longest distance and longest time out, right?
Herron: Yes, I’ve done a couple 100ks, and the next step up is 100 miles. It’s not like I’ve done anything further than that. I feel like I’ve done a couple 100ks now, and I’ve finished feeling like mentally I could wrap my head around going an extra 38 miles. I feel like I just have to maybe back off a little bit but still keep that smooth taking it all in and taking the whole day in and enjoying the moment. I felt like at Comrades, I really just enjoyed the moment. It’s so much energy for so long, you don’t get to experience that anywhere. Coming here, all the feedback I’ve gotten from everybody is that it’s like the ultimate trail running experience. Everybody is just so into it. I feel like I’m just going to take that energy and use it to keep me going.
iRunFar: You are known for your fast starts. This is 100 miles, so this is a little under 40 miles further than you’ve ever run before and and a number of hours longer than you’ve run. Is there going to be any tempering of your fast starts because you are running so far into unknown territory?
Herron: You know, I seemed to get the hint when I ran Tarawera that everybody thought I was going to go out hard, and I thought, Well, I’m just going to do the opposite of that and make sure I’m really chill at the beginning. So I’d mentally prepared myself to hit 40 or 50 miles when we opened up from the technical section, to just drop the hammer and start really running. I feel like coming in here, I’m going to have that same temperament whether I can get 60-something miles at Foresthill and hit that point and finally shoot it downhill for that last 30-something miles. I’ve got a really good pacer as well. Caroline Boller is going to pace me from Foresthill all the way to the finish.
iRunFar: Oh, wow! Quite a pacer!
Herron: I know! I was like, Whoa, I’m really impressed that she wants to go the whole distance. I talked to her about it a couple days ago, and she’s really fired up about it. I feel like her energy will be really good for me at that point. I think it’s going to be a really good match up for us to run together.
iRunFar: I want to ask you a little bit about nutrition. Nutrition is something you wrote about in your Comrades report that staying on top of your water and nutrition is what kept you feeling good all the way through the last digger climb going up Polly Shorts? What is your nutrition plan for Western States? Are you changing it, or are you just going to keep doing what’s working for you?
Herron: I think it’s important to stick with what works for you but also to have mix of other things you might want during a race. We’ve kind of made a checklist of things. My husband is going to be really prepared. We figured out by accident the whole beer thing. We just happened to have a six-pack at a race.
iRunFar: “We just happen to have some beer here.”
Herron: Yeah, it’s just like, whatever your body is feeling, you hope you have it on hand if you want to diversify what you’re wanting. I’m a beer and bacon person.
iRunFar: Beer and bacon for Camille. We’ll see if you’re craving bacon when it’s 105 degrees in the canyons, right?
Herron: I’ve done some long runs in Oklahoma where I’m like, I can’t wait to get home and have some beer and bacon.
iRunFar: I want to ask you about trails. Some people say you are still new into running the mountain trail running aspects of things—big climbs, big descents, technical trails. At this point, you’ve now done some races on trails. You did Lake Sonoma, Chuckanut, Tarawera which has some good trail sections especially in it’s first half. Last year, you won the UROC 100k, which now UROC has moved back to Virginia, but last year it was held on some of the same trails that you’re going to be running on this weekend. Can you talk about where you feel you are with your adaptation to trail running?
Herron: Yeah, obviously I’ve had a lot of injuries the past year going back to my debut at Lake Sonoma. I feel like some of the races I’ve done haven’t been representative of what I’m capable of just because of injuries. But the races I have done well at like UROC and White River and Tarawera, I feel like I’ve gotten on a diverse amount of courses now that I think I can handle just about anything. Obviously I haven’t been to Europe.
iRunFar: We’ll see about that one.
Herron: For me, it’s just fun. It’s fun to go to different parts the country and the world and run on different terrain. I’ve really enjoyed it when I’ve had moments where I’ve had to jump over trees or go under trees or fall of the edge. I feel like I’ve just kind of taken it in stride with whatever challenge come at me. You’re talking about UROC. UROC was on some of these trails. I went to trail run two days ago and did the finish all the way to No Hands Bridge and came back. I was about to cry because it felt so good. It felt so good to get back on that hard-packed dirt. UROC was probably my best trail performance to date. I feel like… I don’t know. There’s just something about that terrain and the hard-packed dirt that’s kind of like probably more like road almost, at least that section where it’s the hard-packed dirt stuff. Now I haven’t obviously seen the whole course yet.
iRunFar: The muddy, snowy wet stuff in the first 10 miles… the deep canyons in the middle of the race…
Herron: Yeah, I feel like I’m someone who has a very level head. Whatever challenges I’m encountering, I almost have moments where I’m laughing because it can be kind of ridiculous sometimes.
iRunFar: I think you’re going to see a little bit of ridiculous on Saturday. Not going to lie.
Herron: Yeah, we lived in Indiana for four years, and I was used to running through a foot of snow. It’s not like I haven’t ever encountered snow before. It’s something I’ve seen and been through for four years—100 weeks going through snow. Yeah, this is my debut obviously. People probably think I’m a bit of a gamble being first-time 100 miler and first time on this course. At the same time, I just feel like I’ve got to give it a shot. I just have to go with the flow of my body and of the course and take all the energy and use it to propel me. Yeah, I feel good.
iRunFar: My last question for you—the women’s race is just something else this year. In my mind there are five women who can win the race, and there are probably 12 women who can be on the podium come Saturday evening. It’s a really cool set-up because not only are there fast women but diverse-skill-set women who you are about to race. What are you looking forward to in terms of the women’s race and the women you’ll be with on the weekend?
Herron: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I just try and get in my happy place. Every ultra I’ve done, I just try to find my groove and mesh with being in the moment and the surroundings. I know they interviewed me and and Charne Bosman from my team because we were contenders for the win, and we both had the same kind of strategy. We were both focused on ourselves and our own internal effort. That’s kind of been my mindset with every ultra that I’ve done. I’ve just really been focused on… I train by heart rate a lot, so I kind of have an idea of what effort and what heart rate that corresponds to. It was really cool because I actually have heart rate data from Comrades with… especially the climbs, it was really cool to see I had such a good sense of climbing and staying in the right heart rate. I feel like I really good sense of effort. I feel like I’ve just got to hone in on that and focus on myself and get the most out of myself. I feel if each of us does that, that it’s going to be a really cool race.
iRunFar: You’re all going to have your own best races.
Herron: Yeah, I feel like we have to focus on having our own best race and be in the moment. Heaven forbid anything tragic or the unforeseeable happens to any of us, but I feel like we’re all in this together, and we all have to enjoy the moment and take it all in, all that positive energy out there.
iRunFar: I feel that’s good advice not only for the female contenders but for the entire field this weekend. So cheers to that. Cheers to everybody racing this weekend. Good luck to you at the 2017 Western States.
Herron: Thank you.