Camille Herron is stoked to have cracked the top 10 at the 2022 Western States 100. In the following interview, Camille talks about why she keeps returning to this event despite her past challenges at it, how she stayed patient in the parts of the race that were hardest for her and worked the sections that played to her strengths, and what it felt like crossing the finish line.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2022 Western States 100 results article.
Camille Herron Post-2022 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Camille Herron, it’s the day after the 2022 Western States 100. Congratulations on your first top 10 at Western States. This was a long time coming for you.
Herron: Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s been a heck of a journey the past five years since the first one. I mean I’ve just, I’ve been so determined and stubborn to get this right. And I’m probably about 75% of the way there, to getting it right. But yeah, I mean this is a first time I came to the race healthy and prepared, like really, really well. Was ready to manage myself in the heat. Yeah, I just keep improving.
iRunFar: So, this wasn’t your first start of the event, two starts and not finishes and then a really tough finish last year. But immediately after last year’s race you said, “I’m going to do this again, I want to do this again.” What compels you to do Western States?
Herron: I think just being stubborn.
Herron: Being really stubborn. I mean, I want to get things right. I’m so tough on myself that I don’t want to just get it right, I want to win. And so, I mean, this is the first time I came into the race, I’ve had a lot of setbacks, I’ve had health issues, the past six years have been this roller coaster of health issues. And after I finished last year, I knew something was wrong with my health. I came into this race with a high iron issue. I didn’t know how long it was going to take to overcome that. So after having that really gritty finish last year, I said, “Okay, we’ve got a year to…”
iRunFar: Figure this out.
Herron: Yeah, yeah, I had to start working with a dietitian. Because having high iron is kind of a tricky thing. Like how do you work with that? It wasn’t like I could donate blood before the race, because that might really throw me off. But I had to work with a dietitian and figure out what I needed to do to get my inferno back. And so I started feeling it last August, like I started feeling like okay.
iRunFar: Like yourself again?
Herron: Yes, yeah. So I just went through a struggle there last year and I really think, I mean the whole high iron issue, I think it’s something that has kind of been building over time and then it finally really broke me down last year. And so I had to get professional help to figure out how to correct that. And I mean, I just turned 40 and I’m feeling the best I felt like, maybe ever.
iRunFar: Hot damn, that’s awesome.
Herron: I feel so good, like figuring out this health issue that I had, I mean it’s probably my whole running career that’s been impacted by this. You know, and approaching 40 and feeling the best of my running career.
iRunFar: So, let’s talk about yesterday’s race. It looked like, sort of from the outside looking in, there was some high highs and a few low lows. So maybe let’s talk about that roller coaster. You were ecstatic on the Escarpment, the literal high of the race.
Herron: Definitely I felt like coming here, I have to pull back my reins on my speed. So it may have been my slowest climb at the escarpment. Even the snow years, I mean like I felt like I was hiking. This is the first time I’ve hiked the escarpment. Normally I’m trying to run 99% of it. But I was hiking, I probably hiked like, it was probably run 60%, hike 40%. So I had to have that mindset to pull back the reins. And the high country part is definitely outside of my comfort zone but I’ve been practicing more on technical terrain and getting my bearings. So I came in with the mindset that I can hold back earlier in the race to save my legs for later in the race. So yeah, I was, I had to be comfortable with not being in the lead. Not being in the top three or whatever. Knowing that’s okay because I have to work with my strengths.
iRunFar: But I guess from my perspective, it seemed like you just stayed patient. Women moved in front of you during the technical terrain. We had a report that you went down somewhere out there?
Herron: I had a couple of little minor falls, but nothing like I was falling on my head or anything. In the past I’ve had some bad falls that just like really kind of messed with my head. They were just like minor falls. There was a lot of loose rock in the high country because they had had a lot of snow melt and it was really wet and there’s all this loose rock. So I mean there were times like I kind of slipped on the loose rock but it wasn’t like super bad.
iRunFar: Nothing big?
Herron: Yeah, nothing big. You know as long as I kept myself mostly upright and didn’t have any major falls, I was fine. Felt fine.
iRunFar: And then maybe it’s around mile 40-ish, something like that, the terrain sort of opens up and becomes a lot more runnable. Not the entire way, but a lot more miles of it. It seemed like you were using that to your favor and you started moving up, and I believe at Foresthill, mile 62, you were in podium position at that point?
Herron: Yeah, yeah, I think it really helps I did the training camp this time. So that kind of gave me the confidence to know that when I hit Robinson Flat aid station, it’s pretty runnable terrain. And so I had to use that to my advantage. And the thing was, I didn’t want to get crazy fast during that part because if you let the engine overheat, you can just really tank it in the canyons.
iRunFar: You have to sit on the side of the road and let things cool down for a long time, right?
Herron: Oh yeah, for sure. So I kept it really controlled but at the same time, I knew I could use that to my advantage and start working my way up on the women. I think the biggest thing for me though was I was managing the heat really well and that really helped me to get through things like the Devil’s [Thumb]… My phone’s going, sorry. Sorry about that. [laughs]
iRunFar: [laughs] I love it.
Herron: Yeah, I mean, at the bottom of Devil’s Thumb, there’s that little creek and I submerged my entire body.
iRunFar: You got all the way in?
iRunFar: How was that?
Herron: My head, I mean it was so good, that was a key point and so I was able to pass two women on the climb. And I felt like a million bucks. So that was really key. And then, I guess coming out of El Dorado Canyon, I almost ran the whole way like up that, and I think I passed Keely [Henninger] and Tim Tollefson. But yeah, I had my climbing legs, I felt like I was keeping controlled but also like, using the climbs to my advantage.
iRunFar: And then I think probably after that came your proverbial low point in the race? Our reporters on California Street and at the river reported that you are feeling unwell, is that the right way to put it?
Herron: Yeah, you know I don’t really know what happened, but I think part of what triggered me was I had a drink between Michigan Bluff and Foresthill that didn’t sit well with me. And it somehow triggered just, I mean you’re taking in so many different things during the race so you never know when you’re going to have that one thing that just doesn’t sit well. One of the drinks I had just didn’t sit well with me and I actually wanted TUMS [antacids] when I came into Forest Hill and they, my crew didn’t have them on me so I had to wait until I got to Cal-1 and got some TUMS. So, I took a couple TUMS and I kind of settled my gut, but then, I think when I got to Cal-2 they tried to give me something and I started puking. [laughs] I mean yeah, I mean this is ultrarunning for you, you know. Sometimes you really nail it and other times there could just be something that sets you off. I went into the 24-hour runner mindset that I’m used to working through challenges to keep going. And so that was just the mindset that I had that I just had to get over the nausea and the puking and just settle my gut and then just get back out there.
iRunFar: Yeah, how did all of that play out? I think it was at Rucky Chucky you were still not feeling super well, but things came back together enough that you are able to motor to the finish and maintain a top 10 position. Can you talk about the final 20 miles?
Herron: Yeah, I felt like, because I had puked, my energy was kind of low and I just needed to have one last, just settle everything down, get some food in me, just trying get my energy back up. I mean it’s only 22 miles. [laughs]
iRunFar: [laughs] It’s a jog!
Herron: In my mind it’s not that bad! Yeah, I do these really long distances so I feel like, for me, I’m actually stepping down in distance to do a hundred miles, and I can process that 22 miles is not that far. So once I got over the nausea and got my energy back up, I said, I’ve got this so.
iRunFar: What was it like to come across the finish? I mean you said, your mentality is to win, and you did not win but it was a huge progression. This, for me, looking at you, this marks a huge progression at this race. How did it feel?
Herron: Absolutely amazing. I mean you hit the track here, for me, I mean being top 10, I mean that’s the first time it’s happened. This is my personal journey here, that I’m stubborn enough, I’m going to keep showing up. Until I get it right. I want to keep improving, I mean coming away from the race I can already see things I could work on. Yeah, I’m an F8 so I get to come back here.
iRunFar: Well, you have already asked my final question, of will we see you here again and I guess the answer is, yes.
Herron: Oh yeah, oh yeah for sure. I mean I might get that 10 year belt buckle so.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well congratulations on your eighth-place finish at the 2022 Western States 100 and we’ll see you in 2023.
Herron: Thank you, yeah, keep showing up and work my way to the top.
iRunFar: I love it. Thanks Camille.