Chasing World Records

Camille Herron is an American long distance runner that holds several world records at ultramarathon distances, along with the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon in a Superhero costume. After two attempts at the 100 mile distance, the third time turned out to be the charm as she not only completed the race but broke the world record by over an hour. With the one year anniversary approaching we reflected back on the experience and discussed her future goals.

I read that you attempted two 100 milers before the record but did not finish. Did you go into this race with the intention to break the record or just to do your best?

I had a few accidents/serious injuries early in the races during my first two 100 mile attempts. I felt like I never got a chance to persevere and show what I was capable of. I wanted to redeem myself. The fire burned very bright inside of me to prove myself at the Tunnel Hill 100! I definitely knew I could break the World Record and trusted myself that 75% of max heart rate effort was possible to sustain. You don't know what's possible until you try, so I went into the race with the courage to try! You'll never have a bad race if you focus on doing your best and getting the most out of yourself. I mainly focused on 75% effort all day and troubleshot any problems along the way. This helped me keep a level head and continue to push. Being a woman leading overall gave me a lot of adrenaline. It felt like I was being chased by a lion, fight-or-flight!

What went wrong with the first two 100 mile attempts?

My first 100 miler at Western States, around 5 1/2 miles I slid down a snow embankment into a tree and had a concussion. I was knocked out and then tried to keep going after that, it felt like an out-of-body experience. I felt like I had vertigo, kept falling over, and started to get pain in my head/neck and paralysis in my hands. I'm glad I had the sense to drop at 15 miles. It wasn't safe to continue going another 85 miles in that state! I felt awful trying to recover from the concussion and get the feeling back in my hands.

My legs started to come around by August, so I decided to try again at Leadville. I actually felt great and was even leading overall for a while and running controlled. We had to go across a rutted field after the aid station at 25. Once I got on the road it felt like my pelvis went "wonky". I suddenly had a lot of pain and paralysis down my right leg to my foot. It felt like I'd broken something in my hip! I tried to shake it out for another 16 miles, but it felt like my whole leg was painfully jarring the ground. I stopped at 41 miles and we were trying to shake out my leg, it still didn't feel right.

I worked with my medical team and rested thereafter. We thought it was a glut-hammy-sciatica issue. I got back running in the fall and worked with my therapists to get my pelvis in alignment. Crazy enough, I found out back in May when I got a CT scan for another issue that indeed I had broken my femoral neck last year! It was healed, I had basically trained through it in the fall.

What made you choose Tunnel Hill this time?

It kinda happened by chance! We were getting ready to board a plane home from Ireland. I knew it was coming up, so I Googled to see when it was. I saw that it was a USATF certified course and on trail. Lightbulb moment! It was a unique situation to go for both the World Record and the fastest known time on trail. Immediately I told Conor to contact the race director, Steve Durbin, to see if I could get registered. Steve got back to us quickly, and we were able to register and do everything necessary to ensure it counted for a World Record.

What was your hydration plan for the race and how did it go?

I try to keep it simple and stick with what we know works. I run with small 10 ounce Nathan bottles, including one with water and another with sports drink. I drink as needed and take a gel with water every 30 min.. The science says to try and take in 60-95 grams of carbohydrates per hour. I stick with this same simple routine and only deviate if I feel I need to. I started to feel like I needed more calories between 50-60 miles, so I switched my sports drink to a high calorie drink. That made a huge difference in stabilizing my blood sugar. I drank about 1 1/2 beers (Rogue Dead Guy Ale) the last 20 miles, which was a nice treat!

What shoe did you use for the race and how did it feel?

I wore a fresh new pair of Nike Vaporfly's with gaiters to keep out debris. The conditions were dry, so these worked great! I was prepared to wear Nike Kigers if it was wet. The Vaporfly's felt amazing the whole race! They're super comfortable, and I was amazed with how good and springy I still felt 80 miles into the race.

Did you have a crew and any pacers or did you run solo and rely on the race's aid stations?

My husband Conor crewed me. The aid stations were 5-7 miles apart. Coming from a road racing background we're pretty efficient and try to minimize losing any time. USATF competition rules prevent any pacing/assistance, so I definitely only paced myself.

Were there any dark moments during the race? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

I'm really good about maintaining a level head in spite of any adversity. I've always got a cheerleader in my head and staying positive through any tough moments. I had some stomach issues the first 30 miles that required multiple bathroom breaks. The formula for my sport drink had been changed recently and wasn't agreeing with my gut. If you have to go you just go! I felt ok after I cleared my gut. As mentioned, my energy started to wain around 50-60 miles, so I finally changed my sports drink, I was good after that. Once it got dark and I had to put on my headlamp, there was a definite drop off in pace. I thought I was going faster than I was. There was no external lighting, so it was pitch dark with complete reliance on my headlamp. Everyone had forewarned me that the last 20-30 miles would be tough, that I might start hallucinating. I kept expecting a figurative bear to jump on my back! I had studied Yiannis Kouros, and he said you have to keep finding mental inspiration. I mentally envisioned how I felt when I do my workouts climbing at Mt Scott and that helped me dig deep! I focused on continuing to push at 75% effort and what that feels like. I did a couple of "pickups" to change my muscle usage. I thought of our friend's daughter, Sophia, who had had a medical emergency the week before. I called the race "wings for Sophia" and that I had to stay strong for her.

At what point did you know you were pretty much guaranteed to get the record?

When I hit halfway in 6 hours and 7 minutes and felt good I knew I could do it and needed to continue to run like a steady Freddy! I really felt good the last 10-20 miles. Even crossing the line I still felt like I could keep going and had more in the tank. I think 12:20-30 is possible on a faster surface with better lighting, a road or track race.

Did you have a goal time in mind? If so, what was it and how did you choose it?

I predicted I'd run between 12:20-13:00 hrs. I had raced with Zach Bitter at the Fall 50 and was 21 min behind him. He's run 11:40 for 100 miles on a track, so simple math suggested I could run 12:20-30. Since Tunnel Hill was on trail, I figured it would be slower. I thought breaking 13 hrs was a good goal.

What were the emotions like as you crossed the finish line and the record was yours?

It was extremely satisfying! I so badly wanted to prove myself, show what I felt inside, and knew was possible. I've known since my first 100K that I was born with a special gift and needed to chase the records. To finally be realizing it feels extremely rewarding. I'm grateful I could finally do it after the DNF's. If anything, the hardships gave me extra motivation and determination. I want to keep going further now and push the limits on what I can do and what women are capable of.

Will you run the race again?

I felt like I had more in the tank and could go faster, but I also have to appreciate how many things went right for the race. I may not get a moment like that again! I think I can improve my time to 12:20-30 on a road or track with better lighting. If I did Tunnel Hill again it would probably be the 50 miler to try and improve my 50 mile personal best (5:38:41) on a record-eligible course.

I know you were going to attempt Western States again but had to pull out because of an injury. I guess it's safe to assume you will attempt it next year?

Haha, most definitely! You can call me the Comeback Kid! I'm good at redemption races. I'll bring my A game next year to focus on winning both Comrades and Western States. Health is everything and especially trying to be safe the first 15 miles at Western States.

What about the Leadville Trail 100? Will you attempt that one again as well?

I really really like the Leadville course. Western States and Leadville are both really great courses for me at this point in my career. Both course records are stout and good goals. I would like to focus on both of these races the next few years before I take on more technically challenging courses like UTMB and if I'm lucky enough to get into Hard Rock. We just bought a house in Alamosa, CO, so I'm excited for the future and preparing for the mountain races.

You broke another record shortly after this one. What was the race and what made you choose that attempt?

I was originally going to go for the 100 Mile World Record at Desert Solstice in Dec. (along with several other records en route). When I learned about Tunnel Hill 100 being USATF certified I couldn't pass on the opportunity to go for both the World Record and the fastest known time on trail. It took me a good 3 weeks to get the spring back in my legs after Tunnel Hill, and then I committed to Desert Solstice. I couldn't pass on that opportunity and moment. You gotta strike while the iron is hot! I'm glad I did it, it was very satisfying to persevere and get the long-standing 12 hour world record.

What future records can we look forward to you attempting to break?

I'm coming back from a stress reaction in my femur right now. I'm going to aim for Javelina Jundred in late October and then the 24 hour world record at Desert Solstice in December. Health is everything, I've really tried to focus on making sure I'm feeling good and being more body aware. I'm still determined to win both Comrades and Western States in the same year, that's my ultimate goal. I believe I can run under 16 hours at Western States. I also want to go after Ann's Leadville CR next year. I still want to break 7 hours for a 100K too. Candice B is recruiting me for the Moab 240! I really think my future is in 24 hours and beyond. I want to do Badwater, Marathon des Sables, Spartathlon, and eventually the more technical courses like UTMB and Hard Rock. I'd like to go after Pete Kostelnick's Trans-America record. I'm blessed with a unique gift and want to keep going. It keeps it fun to have diverse goals and to cross surfaces and distances.

If you'd like to follow Camille and her future attempts, click here!

#Running #UltraMarathon #TrailRunning #CamilleHerron #Nike #100Miler #WorldRecord #TunnelHill #WesternStates #Leadville #NathanHydration #NikeVaporfly #USATF #JavelinaJundred #DesertSolstice #Comrades #Badwater #MarathonDesSadbles #Spartathlon #UTMB #Hardrock100

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