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Ready to Race in the Backyard With Cole Watson

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If you ask Cole Watson how many times he’s come up short on a golden ticket (we’re talking many many third places) he’ll likely be the first to chuckle in agreement with you. An athlete that is consistently in the mix, it really does feel like we are all waiting to celebrate when Cole does have the performance we all know he is capable of. In pursuit of that good day he will be lining up at the Canyons Endurance Runs 100-kilometer in his backyard in hopes of clinching one of the four golden tickets on the line. Just ten days out from toeing the start line our very own Ryan Thrower chased Cole around during his final hard workout – camera in tow.

Cole Watson during the 2023 Black Canyon 100-kilometer
Cole Watson during the 2023 Black Canyon 100-kilometer. PC: Ryan Thrower

FT: After a successful collegiate running career at the University of Oregon you seemed to pretty quickly dip your toes into the trail and ultra world – what made you take the leap? 

CW: Moving to Ashland, Oregon was the best decision I ever made! For those that don’t know it has a tremendous trail system. I started working at Roguve Valley Runners under Hal Koerner. I met my future wife Jocelyn there, and made lifelong friends in David Laney, Ryan Ghlefi, and Brett Hornig. We comically call ourselves the Rogue Valley Rancheros to this day, despite none of us living there anymore. All of those indivudals played a vital role in ushering me into the trail sector of our sport.

FT: This is not your first Golden Ticket race, in fact you’ve come up just short a handful of times all while putting down incredibly impressive performances in the the process. You’re lining back up for the Canyons 100-kilometer race this weekend after a near miss at the Black Canyon 100-kilometer in February – what would it mean to lock down one of the two golden tickets on Saturday? 

CW: It would mean a lot to say the least! I’ve worked really hard, and then failed several times. Unfortunately, desire alone doesn’t win you one of the coveted tickets. I’m running out of excuses at this point! I’ve raced a lot of different ways – aggressive, conservative, and it’s probably time for the appropriate balance of both those to occur. I have to know when to hold back, when to go, and for how long and how extreme to apply those two tactics. It’s time for me fulfill my racing potential.

FT: You got to race Western States last year, ultimately finishing 14th that day, does that feel like unfinished business and what personally draws you to want to be back on that start line? 

CW: Well, once you run States it casts a spell on you and that’s all you want to do.  At least that is what it’s done to me. There’s an atmosphere or auroa that surrounds that event. It feels about as magical as Hayward Field and ‘TrackTown USA’ if not more, to me. I do feel like my 16th overall was a few hours off what I was prepared to do. I ran a good race for a long time, was right were I wanted to be at the river crossing, but I just couldn’t keep my nutrition down anymore. My last 20 or so miles were pretty poor. So yes, I definitely have a strong desire to better that performance.

FT: You live in Sacramento, California just down the road from Auburn where you’ll be racing this weekend – what does it mean to be racing on “home” trails this weekend? 

CW: I have the pride and support from the community on my side. To me, racing near home is very advantagious. Factors are familiar and routines can stay the same. I’m very confident in what I can do on these trails as I’m fortunate enough to train on them weekly. 

FT: The course changes for Canyons came fairly late, but we know you’ve been out putting in long runs on the course, how are you feeling about the modified route you’ll be racing on this weekend and how do you think that may impact the field? 

CW: It’s exciting to run another version of the Canyons course! Every year I seemingly find myself back running, and every year it seems like it’s a different route for one reason or another. This years course has the most flat sections between climbs, which is where I thrive the most. I hope to lock in my rhythm on the flats, and be patient with myself on the climbs and descents. I know the unknown more than most here I would think.

Filmed and edited by Ryan Thrower

Freetrail Schedule for Canyons Race Weekend 

Thursday 4/27 4pm PST – Elite Athlete Panel with Heather Jackson, Annie Hughes, & Cole Watson Friday 

4/28 at 12pm PST- Freetrail Friday, live analysis and prognostication show with Sage Canaday and Corrine Malcolm 

Saturday 4/29 – Race Companion Livestream (timing TBD) 

Saturday 4/29 at 5pm PST – Post-race wrap up show 

Thanks to HOKA for supporting our coverage! Make your fantasy predictions for a chance to win the new HOKA TectonX2 Trail Shoe.

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