This is Cait Chock’s third piece on amazing women runners, and the challenges that they have faced. We think that you will really love this one!
Camille Herron, photo courtesy of CamilleHerron.com
Introducing the World to Camille Herron 10.0
By: Cait Chock
Camille Herron jumped across the finish line of the Javelina Jundred 100-mile ultra-race wielding a neon light saber and a smile. It was a victory not only for the race but in getting her mojo back. “I feel like I’m becoming Camille 10.0…Return of the Jedi!”
The upgraded version of herself has come hard fought and with a relentless drive to keep seeking answers when things aren’t lining up. Last June, Herron felt her body bottoming out. Extreme fatigue, inability to sleep, mood swings, and then the sudden passing of her dog, culminated in the runner laying down for eight hours during the Western States Ultra Race.
At a loss as to what was going on, she knew what people were saying, “I’ve heard the chatter of people writing me off and thinking I’m on the downslope of my career.” The 50k, 100k, and 24-Hour World Champion with 5 World Records to her name even had moments of doubt herself, “There’s been so many times I’ve said I’m retiring – my body can’t handle doing this anymore.”
But…the magical ‘but’ of every endorphin addict fully unwilling to give up, Herron wouldn’t take laying down and giving up as her final answer. She kept looking deeper, until finally, a blood test revealed her iron was overloaded and her B12 and magnesium levels were far too low.
Much is known about the dangers of anemia, but far less is talked about iron overload, “It mimics the symptoms of anemia, so I’ve been extremely fatigued.” Herron finally had a lead, the first solid answer she’d had in months, and she immediately took action. Enlisting the expertise of registered dietitian, Jackie Dikos, “has been a huge life transformation!” Herron made sleep a top priority and moved to Arizona where her heart and mind truly started to thrive.
The turnaround was not overnight and she still has areas with room to grow, but to the ultra-running badass accustomed to being at the top, it solidified her resolve to never lay down and simply give up. “Every time I’ve [had a low] I’ve found the answers and picked myself up again. The human body is resilient.”
She is quick to point out she couldn’t have done it without an exceptional team behind her: Jackie, her friends at InsideTracker, and of course her husband and coach, Conor Holt.
Before she was the record setting endurance maven, Herron grew up playing a myriad of sports. She fell in love with running in eighth grade and quickly rose to the top. A three-time state champ on the track, she arrived to the University of Tulsa on both an athletic and academic scholarship. Her eyes were bright and goals lofty.
After a series of injuries, Herron’s hopes for the sport started to waver, eventually delegating herself to “a recreational runner.” Until she met Conor, who had finished 18th in the 2004 US Olympic Marathon Trials. “One day in 2004 while living in Boulder, Colorado, we started a run together…he inquired about my training and was shocked to find out I was running 70 miles per week for fun!”
So much for ‘recreational running.’ That day Conor officially became her coach and from there the rest is history. As their personal and professional relationships blossomed, Herron’s career exploded. She qualified for three US Olympic Marathon Trials, won 21 marathons along the way, and represented the US in the 2011 US Pan American Games for the Marathon event. Thanks to a meeting with the incredible David Monti at the 2011 NYC Marathon, who suggested she try ultras, Herron found her ultimate niche.
During this time, she was still working a full-time job in research around her training; but as her acclaim grew it became quite clear she had a choice to make. “Suddenly, I was the best in the world at ultras…Fortunately, things worked out, and I give credit to Conor for all of his support.”
Herron left her research and fully commit to running as a professional athlete, as well as coaching, in 2019 and she hasn’t looked back.
She has no plans on ever looking back, only forward. Most pressing at the moment is her steel-locked gaze at the 2022 Western States, “I know what I can do when I’m at full strength and it motivates me to keep showing up to Western States. I’m on my own unique journey.”
Four years ago, Conor had a dream he was watching Herron cross the finish line on that iconic Placer High School Track for Western States while the sun was still up. That would equate to roughly a 16-hour finishing time. When Conor told her of the dream, she had only one thought, “I have to commit myself to the race and making the dream a reality.”
Finally feeling stronger, Herron averages 100-130 miles per week, working off of a two-week schedule. She gets in a short interval session, long intervals, a hill session, and a progression run that is monitored by her heart rate. She takes the heart rate monitor on her easy runs to ensure she’s not pushing too hard and to cap it off, gets a long run of 18-22 miles in once or twice a month.
Another paramount pillar to Herron’s resilience is her newly acquired squat rack. Not six weeks after setting the 24-Hour World Record in 2019, she was in a horrific rollover car accident. The accident caused the entire right side of her body to break down, resulting in her DNF’ing in three ultras. While she later went on to re-break her own 24-Hour World Record, she was still dealing with on-going back and hip issues from the accident.
It wasn’t until she and Conor got the squat rack, and she focused on honing that hip and lower back strength, she finally worked out all the kinks from the accident.
“I think everything we do in training and life shapes the brain. I’ve had to overcome a lot of challenges in life and I think about this in races.” Relying on the same fortitude it takes to preserve through the ups and downs, Herron digs into that reserve during races. The beautiful thing about ultras, which is rarely found at the top echelon of any other distance, is the outward camaraderie and support for your fellow competitors during competition. “I use the energy around me, encourage other runners, high fives, and [enjoy] the aid station pick-me-ups.” Truly, the ‘we are all in this sufferfest together’ mentality.
This running support network stretches far and beyond that of the racecourse. “It means a lot when I connect with people virtually or in person and they tell me what an inspiration I am to them. I’m an introvert and quietly train alone most of the time.” But, when it comes to the running community and on race day, we are blessed to see this running introvert in her element and fully embracing the social element of the atmosphere.
Naturally curious, the quest for knowledge and utilizing every element science has to offer is nothing new for Herron. As a young runner, after a string of bone injuries, her inquisitive mind was spurred with the desire to study the field more. She went to Oregon State for graduate school in exercise and bone health, later venturing into a profession in bone imaging.
Through her studies, and Conor’s influence, Herron did an overhaul of her non-running habits and found that eating and drinking more throughout the day allowed her to run more and left her feeling better than ever. “It completely transformed my body by living a healthier lifestyle.”
She’s proud to point out she has never has missed a period and lives by the creed, “Fuel is power and strength to perform at your best!”
With Western States 2022 locked in her sights, Conor’s dream lingering in the air, and her running Jedi mojo back, a trifecta has been unlocked. The year of 2022 looks to be the year of Camille Heron 10.0.
Cait Chock (www.caitchock.com) set the then National High School record for 5k (15:52.88) in 2004, ran professionally for Nike, and is just as addicted to running today as it keeps her sane(r). She is a freelance writer and mental health advocate. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @caitchock.
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