When she last ran the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in 2016, Camille Herron faded from a big lead to finish fourth. In the following interview on her brother’s farm, Camille talks about what happened in the 2016 race, what she’s worked on since then, and how she’s balanced training from trail and roads with Lake Sonoma and the Comrades Marathon on her schedule.
Camille Herron Pre-2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar and I’m here with Camille Herron before the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. How are you, Camille?
Camille Herron: I’m great, thank you.
iRunFar: We’re in your brother’s backyard. It’s kind of a nice treat to travel to a race and be able to stay with family.
Herron: Yeah. It’s relaxing here. We’ve been here since Saturday night. We’ve been having good meals and just enjoying the good scenery.
iRunFar: We’re in Healdsburg in northern California and it seems busy, but not out here [gesturing to the scenery in the background]. This is a farm. There are fava beans in the background. So, have you had time to just relax and decompress a little bit?
Herron: Oh yeah. Yeah, it’s been nice. We got to scope out the course a couple of times and, now, we’re just relaxing until race day.
iRunFar: This is not your first time at the Lake Sonoma 50. You were out here in 2016. In a typical style for you, you ran very aggressively, but that was one of the times when it didn’t pay off.
Herron: Yeah. I had an existing injury going into it. I hurt my hamstring a couple weeks before. But yeah, I was so excited to still race and see if I could put myself out there. It was my first trail race. I mean, how many times do you ride the bike on the first try? I mean, it was a bit of a… I finished covered in mud, limping with a hamstring injury, but yeah, it’s taken me a couple years to get some more experience and finally come back. I’m really excited to give it another go.
iRunFar: Do you think you’ll go out as aggressively this time? What are your goals this weekend?
Herron: Maybe to not finish with as much mud on me [laughs]. I would say that’s a pretty good goal. My last trail race was at Tarawera 100 Mile and I didn’t fall which is pretty good because of the technical parts.
iRunFar: There are some pretty technical parts there.
Herron: It’s got a lot of tree roots, so I was pretty proud of myself to stay upright and not fall. I feel like that’s a pretty good judge of improving as a trail runner and so I’m hoping, you know, I can have a pretty good race and run what I feel is possible for me.
iRunFar: What do you think that is?
Herron: I’ve checked out the course and it definitely has some mud because they’ve had a lot of rain out here, but it has also got some pretty good runnable parts. It just depends on how much the course dries up and how fast it is. Yeah, I’ll go out there and put myself out there and just see what’s possible.
iRunFar: Right on. So, since we’ve last chatted–because you chatted with Meghan Hicks about your world record in the 24-hour event–you ran the Tarawera 100 Mile, shortly after a car crash. How did that go?
Herron: Yeah, that was pretty crazy. It really brings you down to earth: “Oh my gosh, I almost just died in a car accident.” I’m still trying to emotionally process what I went through. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life, basically. I feel very blessed that I was able to come away from that. So many things could’ve gone differently and changed the outcome. After my car accident I had Tarawera and I had to keep on living, you know. I had some back pain and neck pain, but yeah, I was able to recover from all that. I bounced back here. What has it been? Eight weeks or so? About two months. I feel really good now.
iRunFar: Did you take some time off after that? Any downtime?
Herron: Yeah, we stayed a little bit in New Zealand afterward, but I had to get back here because I was the guest speaker at the Moab Red Hot 55k. I was able to have a little bit of chill time for a couple weeks and then get back training. I’ve felt really, really good for the past month or six weeks or so.
iRunFar: No pre-existing injuries coming into this one?
Herron: No, I feel really good. I did my last final workout here. The past couple weeks it’s like I’m starting to get my road legs back, even though I’m doing still doing a lot of trail running. I feel like I’m a very well-balanced athlete right now. I feel technically better at trail running, but I also am progressing toward Comrades and getting my road legs back. Yeah, I’ve got a really good, healthy fitness right now, and I feel good.
iRunFar: And this is the kind of course that suits that. It’s basically all trail, but it’s fast trail so you want to have that speed.
Herron: Yeah, I just feel good. I feel like I’m coming back with a fresher perspective. When I ran it three years ago, I was going into unknown territory, not knowing how my body’s going to feel and how to throttle my effort depending on the course and the conditions. So now, I mean, I was out there yesterday and a couple of days ago and I feel like I have a better sense of my body flowing with the terrain and how I feel. You know, being able to be careful where it’s a little slick and yeah, I just feel good overall.
iRunFar: Nice! It’s been three years since that first trail race. Do you have any lessons that you’ve learned over that time?
Herron: The biggest lessons: definitely, for me, my safety and health are the key things, but one of the biggest lessons I got from the 24-hour thing was you’re going to have so many roadblocks that you have to overcome in a race. For me, it’s all about maintaining my health, maintaining my body integrity, and being able to push through and troubleshoot and roadblocks. So I feel like I’ve really gotten a lot better at that. I’ve gotten to know my body and be able to maintain my body–be safe, be careful, and just work through any issues.
iRunFar: Is part of that just managing those issues when they come up but also acknowledging that they are going to come up?
Herron: Yes! Exactly. I went into the 24-hour race saying, “Okay, the perfect race isn’t possible. I’ve got to strive for excellence basically. I’m going to have many, many roadblocks that I just have to work through: being on top of my hydration, my nutrition, being on top of my feet.” There’s all of these things that you have to work through and that’s part of being an ultrarunner and having an ultrarunner’s mindset.
iRunFar: It’s a little different from being in a road marathon, where it’s a very discrete period of time. You’re either on, or you were on and then you’re not anymore. You’re not so much bouncing back.
Herron: Yeah, that’s a great point. When I made the transition from marathon to ultras, you don’t really have any room for error as a marathoner. If you have a bad day, it’s probably going to go really bad.
iRunFar: And it’s two minutes. In the marathon, you can have a good race or a bad race, and the difference can come down to two minutes. In a trail race, you can have bad spells.
Herron: That’s part of the ultrarunner experience. You’re going to go through many highs and many lows. It’s how you push through those moments. It’s about being able to keep your body together and keep your mind together and just keep going.
iRunFar: Is there any area of that where you feel like you can still work on more, like nutrition or hydration or form? Is there room for improvement still?
Herron: That’s a great question. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable being on trails and more technical terrain and mud. I’m so light on my feet that I’ve had to learn how to plant my feet a bit flatter and kind of sink in more when I’m on slippery terrain. I felt really good about Tarawera. I was like, “Oh my gosh, how did I not slip in that?” That was really good. I’ve really worked at it, just trying to improve technically. I’m going outside of my comfort zone. I was a road racer. I’ve had to learn how to go from being like Bambi to being a mountain goat [laughs].
iRunFar: And you’re still working on that.
Herron: I’m still working on it, but I’m starting to feel more comfortable with it. For me, it’s fun to be a versatile athlete and I definitely look up to other athletes who are able to transition back and forth. I hope I’m going to have longevity with my career because of that.
iRunFar: If I think of people in our sport who have transitioned back and forth, one person whose footsteps you’ve probably followed a little bit is Ann Trason. She never ran Lake Sonoma, but Comrades and the Western States 100.
Herron: Yeah, I’ve gotten to know more of Ann’s story and reading up on her career. At the start of her career, it was a little rough for her as a trail runner. Her first two Western States were DNFs. She was doing more of the road and track stuff. Over time, she got more experience, she got better at trail running. I kind of feel like I’m following in her footsteps a little bit. For me, it’s been fun to go after her records and, you know, try to put myself out there. I definitely see myself progressing to more trail running.
iRunFar: Nice! Well, congratulations on the journey and good luck this weekend.
Herron: Thank you.