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“What a difference a year makes.”
That was the first thing Camille Herron had to say when she reflected on her latest record-breaking run at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival on February 19. Herron, a new addition to the master’s division (as of December 2021), opened her 2022 campaign with a commanding performance.
She was the outright winner of the 100-mile race and the USATF 100-mile national champion; she set a 50-mile age group world record (6:08:24), a 12-hour world record (94.5 miles), and a 100-mile world record (12:41:11, breaking her own previous record of 12:42:40 from the 2017 Tunnel Hill 100).
For Herron, this performance, coupled with dominant wins last fall at the Javelina Jundred and Desert Solstice, is just what the doctor ordered after a tough 2021.
“I ran the Jackpot 100 last year and I just didn’t feel good during that race,” Herron says. “It was the fourth race that I just didn’t feel right. I’d hit 40 miles and want to lie down and sleep. That followed me to Western States.”
That tired feeling turned out to be a result of high iron levels and low levels of magnesium and vitamin B12. The iron overload was the main culprit, which she learned from InsideTracker data. Most endurance athletes commonly have low iron levels. The result of Herron’s iron excess was anemia-like symptoms.
“I was feeling so bad. My breathing was heavy, I was extremely tired, and it wasn’t normal race fatigue,” Herron says. “It was pretty scary.”
To normalize her iron, Herron worked with her longtime friend and dietitian, Jackie Dikos. Together, they mapped out a plan starting in July. By mid-August, Herron “had [her] mojo back and was feeling energized.”
The jumpstart catapulted Herron back into training, hitting paces she hadn’t seen in years. That’s when she got the bug to go after her 2017 100-mile record.
The record was something she’d contemplated for 2020 before the pandemic hit. She nearly went for it after feeling better in 2021 at a race in Hungary, but food poisoning pulled her from the start. That was after a hip flexor injury cost her a six-day race in Germany.
Fast forward to Javelina Jundred and Desert Solstice, Herron was looking for redemption.
“Going into Javelina, I was fired up,” Herron says. “I was overdue for a good race. I broke the course record by like 49 minutes. I wanted to keep that fire going.”
Hitting the Jackpot
A week and a half after moving home to Oklahoma after three years in Arizona, Herron was on a plane with her husband and coach, Conor Holt, to Las Vegas for the Jackpot 100. Most of all, she wanted redemption from her 2021 outing there. Breaking 13 hours sounded good, but if her record was in reach, she wanted it.
That’s where she found herself at the 50-mile mark. Her 6:08:24 split was enough for the 40-44 age group world record, and that had her on pace for the 100-mile record. She kept her foot on the pedal.
“Between the elevation gain and the heat, it was much more fatigue than I felt in previous world records,” Herron says. “I was trying to assess how my body felt at 50, and I was feeling quite a bit of fatigue. I had to wrap my head around having to endure the second half of the race.”
Battling minor issues from the heat and a nosebleed, Herron troubleshot everything the race threw at her. Around mile 75, she caught race leader Arlen Glick.
Herron saved time by only stopping once during the entire race. That lone,15-second break came around mile 70, when she shotgunned a non-alcoholic beer: an Upside Dawn Golden from Athletic Brewing.
“You know when you do long runs and you have a craving for a beer? Because of the iron overload, I’ve had to cut out alcohol. So, I’ve been hooked on non-alcoholic beer,” Herron says. “I’ve never done a beer mile, but I guzzled it pretty fast.”
With three laps to go of the 85 total, Herron had already secured the 12-hour record. Doing the math, she realized she was 20 seconds under her 100-mile world-record pace. There was no margin for error. With three miles to go, Herron dropped the hammer.
“I went into beast mode,” she says. “I thought about Keira D’Amato chasing down Deena Kastor’s marathon record. [Keira] powered through those last miles. I channeled that and thought back to what my high school track coach would say, ‘Lift your knees. Drive your arms.’”
Holt cheered Herron on until she came across the line in 12:41:11 for the new world record and the outright win. In the final three miles, she went from a 20-second cushion to break the record by almost 90 seconds. Her final mile was 7:08, and her average pace over the full 100 was 7:37.
“As a woman, you can’t be afraid that you could win the race,” Herron says. “I’ve done it a few times now. It was added motivation as I was going after [eventual men’s winner] Arlen Glick. Everything worked out. Pretty much, every goal I had, I achieved. I was overjoyed.”
Eyes on the Prize
Herron is back to the top of the 100-mile ranks as she enters her Western States training block. At 40, she’s more fired up than ever to deliver the best performances of her career.
“I can remember hitting my 30s and thinking I’m on some downward slope,” Herron says. “We need to shift that mindset. When I look at my training logs from 10 years ago, it’s crazy. I used to do long runs every Sunday. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken better care of myself. If I do one or two long runs a month, that’s good enough for me. I’ve said, women ultrarunners age like fine wine. What I may not have in leg speed anymore, I make up in physical and mental strength to keep going.”
Herron credits changes in her diet and training, and the addition of a squat rack, for her continued strength as she enters into the master’s ranks. These are the tools she plans to use in preparation for Western States. If all goes to plan, she will be a force to be reckoned with come June.
“I just feel like I have to keep going back and try to have a magical day there,” Herron says. “Now that I’ve run the entire course, it’s gonna be fun to go back and push my human limits. I’m hoping to have that dream day.”