In truly dominant fashion, Camille Herron ran away with her course-record win of the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon. In the following interview, Camille talks about how she raced with sustainability in mind all day, how she thinks she’s improving on her ability to navigate technical trails, how drinking beer during ultramarathons seems to help her, and what else is on tap in her 2017 of training and racing.
Be sure to check out our results article to see how the rest of the race played out.
[Editor’s Note: We apologize for the sound quality of finish-line noise and very loud cicadas in the trees. Challenging conditions.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Camille Herron, 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here at the finish line of the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon. I’m with women’s champion Camille Herron. Congratulations!
Camille Herron: Thank you.
iRunFar: It was a double win by USA here on the North Island of New Zealand.
Herron: Yes, it was good. It was good for me and Jim… or Jim and I…
iRunFar: Grammar is coming back slowly.
iRunFar: In summary, with 360-degree viewpoint, how do you feel about today?
Herron: I’m very happy. I got the win, and I got the course record. Coming into the race, I’m still trying to get back in shape since I tore my hamstring. I know I’m in better shape than I was at Bandera, but I didn’t know what kind of shape I was in. I felt pretty confident with what I’d done with more training. I felt like I was going to run faster and feel better. Yeah, I can’t complain. I got the win.
iRunFar: A lot of times you know early on if you’re going to have a good day or not. Your body kind of sends you a couple messages. Did you have that feeling early on that it was going to be a good day?
Herron: Yeah, I definitely… at least compared to Bandera… well, Bandera was really cold, but I didn’t quite have the spring in my legs. I was just out of shape. I was winded at Bandera. Today, to start and not feel winded and to feel spring in my legs, I could tell I felt pretty good, and it was going to be okay.
iRunFar: Walk us through the race a little bit. We saw you several times throughout the course today. You were always running just inside, right at, or just outside the overall top 10. Your position relative to other people seemed overall even keel. Is that how it felt to you, too?
Herron: Yeah, I think so. I think everybody was expecting me to go out really hard, I guess, and I have a pretty good sense of effort. I feel like I started out pretty conservative. I felt like I paced it just right. I never felt like I really hit a point where I bonked really badly. I felt like I still had spring in my legs the entire time. The entire race I was trying to think about ‘spring’ and ‘feel light.’ I had that in my head just to keep my legs springy. Even going over the technical terrain, I was just like, Be really light and navigate it. Yeah, I feel like I persisted. A funny story was we went to go get a tuna sub yesterday, and we had to go to three Subways to finally find tuna. None of the Subways had tuna. Our running joke from that was that I needed to be persistent in my race.
iRunFar: You accomplished your mission of getting a tuna sub at Subway, therefore you shall persevere at Tarawera.
iRunFar: Fine logic. Fine logic. A lot of people would say the spring in that step eventually goes away at the end of an ultra; you kind of start plugging along. Did you feel springy all day?
Herron: I felt springy all day. I went through periods when I wasn’t as springy, but I felt like I was really in tune with how I was feeling and trying to fuel and hydrate. I felt like once we got past all the really technical stuff and we got to more runnable stuff…
iRunFar: The last 40k was pretty much made for someone like you, wasn’t it?
Herron: Yes, I was really surprised. I didn’t realize it was going to be that runnable. We had that gnarly little section, and it was way tougher than I expected. I knew eventually we would get past it and into more runnable stuff. It was flat. It was pretty flat. That last part was pretty flat. I finally could run and feel fluid. That was really nice.
iRunFar: One of the potential downsides of being the leader is that you don’t necessarily get immediate notes of how close people are behind you. If you’re second place, people always tell you, “You’re x minutes behind the lead.” You were gaining incrementally on the field the rest of the day little by little by little by little. Did you have any knowledge of where the other girls were?
Herron: Yeah, I wasn’t really getting any feedback on how far back they were. We had a 5k loop around that we had to do, and when I had already looped around…
iRunFar: The Loop of Despair. Did you feel any despair during it?
Herron: Yeah, yeah! Aptly named. No, I didn’t feel despair, but I had already done the full loop and was finished and coming back down when I saw Magda [Boulet] and Cecilia [Flori], so I was like, Wow, I didn’t realize how far back they were. I was just out there… I run by effort, and I was just out there pushing myself. I was trying to hit 75 to 80% effort. I was just concentrating on myself and how I felt and trying to push myself to the max.
iRunFar: So you drank some beer out there today. Probably the ultrarunning community will correct me when I’m wrong, but I don’t know that we have a lot of examples of people running at the immediate front of the pack and using beer as fuel. Talk about your beer drinking today.
Herron: Yeah, I guess I drank a total 24 ounces of beer, and it was eight ounces spaced out three times. I’m now sponsored by Rogue Ale, so I’ve got to put a plug in for my sponsor. We actually found Rogue Ale in New Zealand, so we’re really happy about that.
iRunFar: They made it all the way over here.
Herron: Yeah. I don’t know, I just feel like I have mental clarity after I drink beer.
iRunFar: That’s usually the opposite of what I have, but hey.
Herron: Yeah, I don’t know. I somehow have that response that it makes me mentally clear. I take it later in the race. As long as I don’t drink too much, I’m okay.
iRunFar: I’ve seen you race a couple times where you come collapsing into the finish. I think Lake Sonoma was because your hamstring was tying up on you. Today you crossed the finish line and it looked like you no longer had control of your body. You won the race, you set a course record, and suddenly your body just gave out. Do you know what happened?
Herron: I think it’s like orthostatic hypotension.
iRunFar: You just felt weak and just fell down?
Herron: Yeah, I think it’s like a blood-pressure thing or something. It happened in marathons a lot. I think about my road ultras, I was laying on the ground after those. I feel like I push myself to the max and then I stop after the race and your blood pressure goes haywire.
iRunFar: I don’t know exactly what the day is today, February 10 or 11… so it’s February 11, and you already have two 100ks under your belt for 2017. Are you going to take a little rest period now that you have your Golden Ticket and you’ve done this race?
Herron: Yeah, we kind of had some races tentatively planned for March, but they were going to be shorter, but yeah, I’m not going to do anything long until Lake Sonoma in April.
iRunFar: That will be part of your Western States build-up?
iRunFar: Lake Sonoma, that was kind of your trail debut and the great trail misadventure of Camille Herron in 2016. I mean that in a joking way. Are you going back to Lake Sonoma because you feel like…
iRunFar: Not redemption, but you feel like you can do better than you did?
Herron: Absolutely. Yeah. I just want to keep building on my fitness. Now going into it, hopefully I’ll be fit and be healthy and be able to run like myself to just push my limits and see if I can get the course record. Yeah, I feel like I do need redemption on that race. It was really ugly last year.
iRunFar: Trail running is something that you’re objectively still adapting to. You come from road marathoning; you don’t live in a place you have access to trails. How would you assess your adaptation process as of right now? Today had running dirt roads, it had some technical terrain, and it had tight singletrack that was weaving and winding. Where are you at, skills-wise?
Herron: I supposed I handled today pretty well with all the everything—the technicality and… I guess Bandera was pretty technical, and this had that technical section. That’s pretty much the weirdest thing for me. Oh, my gosh, I’ve got all these tree roots and rocks and stuff. My brother says I have a one-track mind of, Run as fast as I possibly can, so I don’t let it really phase me. I feel like I don’t let anything really phase me. I’m just out there just trying at least not to redline it and go into oxygen debt but try to keep my heart rate down that I’m okay and just run as fast as I can over whatever terrain—climbs, descents, technical.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your win and your course record here at Tarawera. I think probably the next time we’ll see you will be on the starting line at Lake Sonoma.
Herron: Thank you. Yeah!
iRunFar: Congrats again, Camille.
Herron: Thank you.