Exclusive : Comrades Winner Camille Herron Q&A Interview – Part 1

Camille Herron Wins Comrades 2017
Camille winning comrades, 2017

In the first part of our exclusive Q&A interview Camille shares some early running memories, outlines her training sessions and extolls the virtues of heartrate training and Plenty of calories.

What is your earliest running memory ?
We lived out in the country when I was younger, surrounded by wheat fields and an abundance of wildlife. Dad likes to tell the story of how he came home one day, and I came running out of the field. He asked what I was doing, and I told him I was chasing a rabbit!

I lived outside and loved chasing animals and insects. My first time running with others was in PE around 2nd grade– I could run non-stop around the playground, while the others would start walking. I thought they were being wimps– I didn’t realize there was anything special about me!

When did you first realize that running was something you might be really good at ?
I grew up playing point guard on the basketball team, so I was the one who ran the most! In the 7th grade we had to go out for track for off-season conditioning. From the first day I could run and run and run! We had to try out for all the events, and I was better the longer the distance.

Did you get good grades at school ? What sort of a student were you ?
I was the Valedictorian of my high school graduating class and accepted Academic an Athletic Scholarships to The University of Tulsa. In college, I was named a Top 10 Senior of my graduating class and the top student for my major in Exercise and Sport Science. I went on to get my Master’s in Exercise and Sport Science.

Your greatest high-school sporting memory ?
My favorite memory was our 4x800m relay team winning the State title my freshman year and setting a State Meet Record that still stands!

What was the furthest distance you ran as a teenager ?
I competed up to 2 miles in High School and ran a few 5K cross country and road races. I didn’t have a watch until my sophomore year of high school. I would use the clock in the kitchen to know how far I ran, when I ran on my own. One time I went out to see how long I could run continuously before I felt tired/hungry– it was about 70 minutes (8-9 miles?!). I didn’t keep a training log in HS, but I estimate I ran about 20-30 miles per week.

Generally speaking, what does your training schedule look like ?
I’ve stuck with marathon-type of training since getting into ultras and thrive off of well-rounded fitness and a big aerobic base. I’ve averaged over 100 miles per week since Nov. 2006. During the bulk of my lead-up to a major race, I thrive at 120-130 miles per week, operating off a 2-wk cycle that includes short intervals, long intervals, a hard hill session, and a heartrate based progression run. In between these hard sessions are easy recovery runs (8-9 min per mile pace).

I run twice a day, every day, unless I’m tired. I rest after major races and when I’m tired or have injuries. My long runs are 18-30 miles, and on the weekends I try to get in 40-50+ miles (in doubles). I’ve never done "back to back long runs". Races are training too! I’m not a morning person, so most of my training is around lunchtime (get some sun for the heat and Vitamin D!) and in the evening. For 2 months leading up to a major race, I’ll do strength training with my upper body and let the mileage take care of the strength in my lower body.

While you are capable of winning Comrades on the road you are also competitive in trail races,what is the secret to training for,and being successful on, multiple surfaces ?
I train 90% on concrete, mostly flat terrain and high mileage, which helps me feel strong and maintain my leg speed. Training this way makes trail running feel easy! I do minimal specific preparation for trails– a hard hill session every 2 weeks (on road mostly) and 1-2 trail runs per week going steady over technical terrain.

I’m not of the opinion you need a lot of "vertical training", a lot trail training, exceptionally long training runs, or back-to-back long runs to be great at ultrarunning on any terrain. I feel like I lose the snap in my legs and feel tired with a lot of vertical training on trails or extremely high mileage, so I don’t do this! I believe it’s important to recover and have well-rounded fitness.

What sort of speed-work do you do in advance of major races?
As mentioned, I operate off a 2 week cycle that includes short intervals, long intervals, a hard hill session, and heartrate based progression run.

What do you see as the secret to good recovery between training sessions?
Jogging easy, 60-70% of heartrate max. Most people probably run their easy runs too hard, and then can’t go as hard on their hard days. The easier I go on easy runs, the harder I can go on hard days! Sleep, living simple and minimizing stressors, and eating A LOT of calories is important to maintaining and maximizing hormonal balance and super-compensating.

Alcohol in moderation is very good for musculoskeletal health. Strength training can help you recover too– work the upper body to create a surge in growth hormone release.

Could you describe briefly your diet philosophy – what you generally try to eat and to avoid.
I eat anything and everything except minimal dairy (cheese and ice cream are OK), limiting caffeine (1 cup of coffee/day), and I don’t like onions! I eat a lot of meat, ice cream, butter, peanut butter, bacon, beer, and soda. I’m not the best about eating fruits and vegetables– trying to be better about this. My favorite things to eat before races are Taco Bell (double decker tacos!) and Subway (tuna sandwich, chocolate chip cookies, and Root beer).

In the tomorrow’s installment of our Q&A Interview find out more, including the worst thing about running a marathon dressed as Spiderman, and how Camille deals with self-doubt.

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