When most people grow up, they aspire to be a firefighter or an astronaut. If their dreams wander to the world of athletics, more often than not it is to play in the NBA or to make their way for T-Ball to the World Series. For Camille Herron as early as the 7th grade, she knew one day she wanted to be an Ultra Runner. Little did she know that this dream if not perhaps a goal that derived from reading her first running book would one day not just be a reality but that she would make a career breaking record after record.
It should be noted that Camille has found a way to race against the clock in a sport where so many are simply looking to complete a distance, to prove that they have “enough”. Various courses and terrain make it difficult to set outright records, but with an earlier running history in road races and marathons, the desire for fast times and records is engrained in Camille.
She was born and grew up in Oklahoma and had a successful high school running career, winning 3 state titles on the track and was all state-three times in cross-country (her first love). Her success led to running for the University of Tulsa, however her collegiate running career was cut short due to injuries. What many don’t know is that this is where her career could have taken a very different path. Camille was equally if not more talented in music than she was in running. She picked up the French horn during an injury in high school and was near instantly a prodigy. She earned first chair in her school band, in regional bands, and eventually made it to the all-state band. Her musical prowess even earned her scholarships to college, though as we know she would choose running over music.
After overcoming her collegiate injuries Camille started back as what she describes as a recreational runner. We should use this term with caution, as for Camille who now runs more than 120 miles per week, she then viewed her training load of 70 miles per week as recreational. She would eventually get back into running via her eventually husband and coach Conor who she met at a Jazz festival – connecting on their mutual love of running and music. Conor himself ran professionally and has a degree in musical education.
So with Conor’s guidance her running career was re-born, first at the marathon distance where she was quite successful. She earned the Olympic Trials qualifying mark at several races and would eventually run her personal best of 2:37 at the 2012 Trials in Houston, Texas. Given her injury history, it seemed almost unfathomable that she would look to push beyond 26.2 miles, but when asked, Camille said she felt like she grew into her body in her early 20’s. This combined with Conor teaching her to take her easy days easy and to slow down her pace made her confident that her body could withstand the pressures of longer distances.
As she looked to extend her distances, given her background, the road is where she felt most comfortable. 2015 was the breakout year, Camille would break the US soil 100k record, win the 100k national championship (breaking the championship record in the process) and eventually win the world championship in that distance. In the same year she would break her first world record – running 50 miles in 5:38 and would complete a crazy successful year by winning another world title, this time at the 50k distance.
The next year followed with a debut on the trails. She said that in the US especially, the ultra races are mostly on the trails, so if she was to race close to home, she would have to do more trail racing. She was excited for this challenge as we mentioned before she grew up running cross country in high school and it was through cross country that she fell in love with running. 2016 was a learning experience for Camille, she had to learn about having a crew, she had to learn more about fuel and hydration. She says she is still learning how to run on trails, especially with her unusual gait which she describes as a blessing and a curse. She runs like “Bambi on Ice” when she is on the trails, since she is so light on her feet. She is still learning to control her body especially on the more technical terrain.
This learning experience will hopefully prove useful in 2019 which she refers to as her “year of redemption” as she looks toward wins and course records at some of the most iconic trail ultra’s on US soil – Lake Sonoma, Western States and Leadville. Don’t get us wrong, Camille is not without success on the trails too, she won the 100k Ultra Race of Champions in 2016 and in 2017 she won the 102k Tarawera Ultra in New Zealandm both in course records.
So this brings us to the weekend of Saturday December 8, 2018 just outside of Phoenix, Arizona at the Desert Solstice Track Invitational. When you hear track invitational, you probably are thinking about the pole vault, the 100m dash and the 4x400m relay, but this is not your typical track invitational. Desert Solstice is a 24 hour run where an invited/approved 30-40 runners are placed on the track and run the oval as many times as they can in the one-day span. This was not Camille’s first rodeo (Oklahoma Pun), she ran Desert Solstice in 2017 breaking the 12 hour world record, covering more than 92 miles and breaking the American 50 mile record on route. Now we understand why 70 miles in a week was considered recreational…
Camille had made an attempt at the 24 hour record before, this past spring. Unfortunately, that time she was not successful as she was not diligent enough with her hydration early on which led to bladder issues that forced her to end her quest early. This time, she knew she needed to physically and mentally prepare for perfection in order to execute and break the 24-hour world record. To me running around a track for 1 hour seems a little like torture, but she was used to it from her 12-hour record and said that after about 30 minutes she was able to “veg out” and get into a bit of a Zen like focus. She also mentioned that her routine helped break the race into chunks, as she took a gel every 30 minutes, while also crediting the “change of scenery” from being forced to change directions every 4 hours.
Unlike many of the other runners, Camille carried fluids and gels on her at all times, utilizing her crew for refills and special requests while being able to manager her own intake when she needed/wanted it rather than the next time passing through the aid area. This also allowed her to keep moving and keep her legs loose. Speaking of special requests, you don’t run for 24 hours without a few special needs. Her crew which included her husband/Coach Conor, her friend Kevin who drove down 1500 miles from Washington state (for the second year in a row) and her friend Gretchen from New York City helped make a taco bell run in the middle of the night and a quick trip back to the hotel for an extra pair of shoes, when Camille wanted something a little softer through the middle of the night.
The night she said was the toughest part. She had run plenty at night especially during Graduate School, but had never run all the way through the night before so sleep deprivation was something new for her. At 2am she said it finally hit as she started to feel a bit dizzy. She tried to take caffeine before but that simply did not do the trick. This is where the Taco Bell and a nice beer came in. She figured some more solid food would help boost her energy and focus and so she walked around the track for a few laps eating until she started to wake up a bit after 10-15 minutes. It was not all roses from here though, stopping to walk cause her legs to turn to rocks and she could not get her pace back down. From then on she was running around 10 minute miles, but based on Conor’s calculations, she could still break the record so long as she stayed under a 10:30-11 minute pace for the balance of the time.
Then she did it! She broke the 24-hour world record, running 162.919 miles and earning American records for 100miles and 200k on the track along the way. Not a bad day! Did she know that this was coming? Did she do much running on a track to prepare for the monotony? Nope! In fact she said she had not been on a track since last year! What?? She knew she was ready though, she knew she needed to run her easy run pace for 24 hours in order to break the record, so she did a log of training at 65-70% of her max HR. This is where COROS comes into play.
Camille started training with the COROS PACE a few months back running with it all through the fall in her lead up to her record setting effort. She said the watch has “been awesome” and that is great to work with. She was especially impressed by its battery life, while running 120 or more miles per week, she only needed to charge the watch once a week which makes her life much easier. If you think the battery life on PACE is impressive, you should see how the APEX 46mm performs. Camille received her new APEX just a day before the race, but said it was super easy to figure out, and at the end of her continuous 24 hours of running she still had over 30% of battery life remaining!
Along with battery life, COROS watches offered Camille a log of great data in her training. She utilized HR the most, connecting PACE to a chest strap via the ANT+ connection for her easy runs and threshold running. She commented that COROS uploads data to the app really quickly and that she would use the data to compare workouts to see how her fitness was progressing. She knew she was fit and ready for the record once she compared herself to last year when she set her 100 mile world record.
Now that she has a little more time to play with APEX she is excited for all of the new features. She loves the ability to customize her screens (offered on PACE too) so that she has all of the data she wants within one window. She knows she has a high cadence and quick turnover so she is excited and curious to pay more attention to her stride length especially when she gets tired.
What is special about the relationship between COROS and Camille is that it is authentic. Camille is not a paid endorser of the brand. Rather like with all COROS athlete relationships, the partnership is centered around great product and a belief that the equipment and technology will improve her training. That said we do hope to make Camille an official member of the COROS Athlete Team soon.
While the 24-record is her most recent in a long list of accomplishments in her relatively short Ultra-Running career, Camille does not consider it her biggest achievement or most memorable. That honor goes to her 2017 Comrades Marathon win in South Africa. She was only the 3rd American to ever win this race and the first in 20 years. What made it even more special? Remember that first running book back in 7th grade, the one that made her want to one day be an ultra-runner? It was the Comrades Marathon that was featured prominently in this book. She knew one day she would go and run Comrades but she had no idea that she would be the Champion.
It is clear that Camille is just getting started and the team at COROS is excited to partner with her as she continues to accumulate victories and records. Camille’s 24-hour performance qualified her for the World Championships in 2019, where she hopes to eclipse the 170 mile mark.