Even though the road is his first love, Rob Watson ventured to the trails on Saturday, February 23 for Coast Mountain Trail Series’ Run Ridge Run 25K. The 2:13 marathoner, 11th at Boston, 20th at World Marathon Championships, four-time national champion, and coach at Mile to Marathon had a tough first day. “I spent the first half of the race fighting the terrain and being pissed off, but after, like, my fifteenth fall, I finally told myself to chill out, get my ego in check, and enjoy the experience.”
Chilling out was figuratively easy in the snowy and slippery conditions. After 3K, Watson quickly removed his microspikes, realizing they were a bad choice. “The only advantage I have over these trail guys is that I am pretty quick over dry or runnable terrain. I am not strong on the technical parts, and I still don’t quite have the guts to bomb downhills like a maniac. I knew the course decently well and figured that I would be able to do some damage on some of the earlier and later sections. But then those sections were covered in snow and that kinda screwed my plans.”
Learning first, results second
Results aren’t everything, but Watson admitted he wasn’t stoked on his performance ranking third overall. He says the biggest difference between road racing and trail racing “is definitely the race itself. I know what to expect in a 10K or a marathon. But I have no clue about how to race on the trails. I know how to run on them just fine, but racing is a whole other story, and I just gotta race a bunch and figure it out as I go, I suppose.”
Watson tells the athletes he coaches not to stress about things they can’t control. He was forced to put this mantra into practice at his first trail race. As an experienced endurance athlete, Watson is not making excuses, and continues to set an example for his athletes and the running community overall.
Watson isn’t stopping at 25K. In three weeks he’s racing the competitive Chuckanut 50K as his first ultra trail race. Humbly sharing, “I am so nervous about Chuckanut, I am training pretty hard, and I reckon I’ll be decently prepared, but there are so many unknowns I have going in. I am quite comfortable with the marathon, I know exactly what to expect and what it is gonna feel like. But for this one, there will definitely be some new experiences and sensations both mentally and physically. I am also really excited. I promised myself to not be too serious with the trail stuff this year, right now it is all about learning the sport and trying to figure it out a bit.
As trail runners would expect, the trail running community has embraced Watson wholeheartedly. “The trail folks have welcomed me with open arms and I have had so many people generously offer advice and support. I’ve been digging it.”