Kate Wilson grew up in Basalt, Colo., but moved to St. Louis in 2006 to attend Washington University. She was the first woman across the finish line at last year’s inaugural Ozark Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race during a “year of firsts” that also included a 150-mile gravel grind, eight-hour adventure race and “lots of single-speeds.” She currently rides for Team OMGX.
What do you love about the outdoors?
There are a lot of ways I could try to go about answering that. I really like fresh air and sunshine, is the short version. I like doing just about anything outside. It makes me happy. These days it’s mostly mountain biking and running, with some adventure racing thrown in. I also play a lot of ultimate Frisbee in the summer.
How did you get into racing?
It really started last year with the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon. A buddy and I signed up as our “gym membership” and set ambitious goals — for me, breaking 1:30, which I did! Having a training schedule helped me stay motivated and running outside, even during last year’s polar vortex winter. After the race, I wanted to keep that momentum going and figured long-distance biking/racing would be a good fit.
Are there any races that really stand out?
The Ozark Trail 100! It was my first 100-miler, and I was so nervous. I freaked out the first few segments and crashed a lot. When I pulled into the first checkpoint, my friend running crew looked at me and said, “You look like [crap].” So, I forced myself to calm down and enjoy the ride more. It worked!
Hitting my goal time at GO! was huge, and I think I really started to believe my navigation skills at the Smithville Adventure Race. Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska, was full of awesome people and my longest ride to date at 150 miles. I even managed some trail running at the Skippo 30k and Pere Marquette races.
Favorite local trails?
Chubb Trail by West Tyson Park in Eureka. I crashed really hard there once on “the steps,” and I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t tried them again. They’re on the list, though! The guys I was riding with had these horrified looks on their faces, like “Oh, we broke her!” I thought I broke my arm, but it survived. Nothing a post-ride beer can’t fix!
So when you’re not racing, what do you do?
When I get the chance, I like to learn new things. I brew beer, garden, and generally just tinker. A friend and I once made a cart for his three-legged dog.
I’d love to see more women — and men — riding bikes. Not just racing but riding around the city. Biking is my preferred mode of transportation. It gives you this really profound sense of independence while also keeping you connected to the city in a way you can’t experience in a car. Plus, there are a lot of awesome people you’ll meet if you keep your eyes up!
Author: Greg Echelmeier is a lifelong outdoorsman and owner Old Mountains Gear Exchange in Webster.
[Editor’s note: Keep scrolling down for additional excerpts from the interview.]
Did you know what you wanted to do when you first went to school as a freshman at Wash U?
No, I chose Wash U because they’re good at a lot of things, so I had options.
Were you an open major then?
No, I came in actually focusing on biomedical engineering. I figured it would be easier to switch out of than to switch into, and then it stuck.
Are you single?
No. I have an awesome boyfriend who lent me a single-speed bike and I fell in love with it, so he gets to stick around.
Are you more in love with the bike or him?
How public is this? [laughs]
Do you have brothers and sisters?
I have one younger brother who’s currently in school at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Do you have family support with your athletic endeavors? Does your mom always worry or bother you about getting hurt?
I’m sure they don’t like to hear when I crash. They don’t really get the scale of it, but they’re starting to. At first they didn’t really get it at all, just, “Oh you’re doing something this weekend, right?” And I’d say, “Yeah, Mom, I’m gonna go ride my bike for eight hours.” And she’d say, “Oh, that’s nice.”
If you said, I’m going camping alone and climbing, would she freak out?
Yeah, they’ve kind of hit that point. My mom asks for a return text to, you know, make sure that I’m alive…that I usually remember? Sometimes remember? I’m not really the best at that, unfortunately.
OK! You like to tinker!
What do you like to tinker with? Obviously you make beer.
I make beer.
And you didn’t bring me any.
I know. I’m sorry. I’ve been trying to drink it all.
Um, let’s see. I just kind of collect random stuff, like one of my friends had some old skis that were too old for Alpine Shop to take, so I’m turning them into a shotski. They’re going to be awesome.
So, explain what that is.
Oh, it’s a mountain town tradition! You drill holes and put shot glasses along the length of the ski, so you can make five or six people all do a shot at the same time by tipping over the ski. It’s gonna be great.
Would you consider making beer tinkering, too?
Yeah! I also just pick up random projects. Like I had a friend who had a three-legged dog that was getting older and kinda struggling to get around, so we took an afternoon and built her a little cart. Just random fun projects.
What do you love about the outdoors?
Can you define it even?
I think about the words — outdoors or indoors. Now we have to GO outside. Would you say you’re outside more than inside?
I hope to be outside more than inside. I think the reality of my life right now is that it’s a lot of computer time, which is kind of unfortunate.
Can you do that outside?
So far I haven’t found a good solution. The glare makes everything pretty rough.
Well, that’s something you need to tinker with.
Totally. I’m working on it.
So, do you have a short answer on maybe what brings you outside? What do you love about being outside? How does doing an activity fit in?
There are a lot of ways I could try to go about answering that. I really like fresh air and sunshine, is really the short version. It makes me happy. It makes me feel alive.
What is your favorite thing to do: bike, run, stuff you haven’t even tried yet?
Depends on the day and on where I’m going. I like biking on trails. I like running through the city. That’s the best way to get to know a new city, is to just put on your running shoes and go for half an hour and see where you wind up — and try to find your way back.
You’re a wanderer.
Yeah. But I mean, I love climbing, I’ve gone kayaking, all that stuff.
What haven’t you tried that you really want to?
I’d like to try real mountaineering. I’ve done some climbing. I’ve hiked some 14ers. But haven’t really done the combo of everything. I think I’m slowly building the skills I need to make that happen.
Have you ever heard of mixed climbing?
I remember you mentioned that. It sounds kind of terrifying.
Yeah, it’s more intense than like regular climbing. But do you want to do like 8,000-meter mountaineering?
Yeah, like expedition stuff.
So, do you want to do that like now, or later in life?
Um, it really just depends when I can. When I have the time, I guess.
How about paddling?
Yeah, if I lived somewhere near water, I’d love to get really good at something like standup paddleboarding or kayaking. I’ve done some kayaking on the rivers back home and got my roll a few times, but then never really had the chance to do it again.
OK, a few last questions…rugby, bowling, or roller derby?
For me to play?
I think rugby. I’d have to learn the rules, because I never have any idea what’s going on in that sport.
What about just extreme rugby, no rules.
Well, I think that’d be hilarious.
Do you eat meat?
Do you eat a lot of protein? Do you have specific nutrition or tips?
No, I always get these ideas and cycle through these theories that I’m going to go on a really strict diet and then, it never really lasts. I’m much better at working out than dieting, because I eat a LOT of food. Whenever I get nervous I eat a lot of food, so before a big race or presentation or something, I’ll just eat all the food in my house. But no, I eat everything. I really do try to focus on the animal proteins that I get being locally sourced and “happy,” for whatever that’s worth.
You grew up in Colorado, so you must have just been doing things outdoors like all your life?
Somewhat. I’ve actually gotten a lot more into climbing and mountain biking out here. I ran cross-country in high school, which is kind of where the running comes into play. I’m comfortable with that.
So, did you do much camping, backpacking, fishing?
I don’t fish.
Did you have an outdoor lifestyle?
We had an outdoor lifestyle, but it’s different. It’s everywhere. I mean, it’s five minutes away. I didn’t do a lot of backpacking because hiking didn’t require backpacking. You know, the trails were a 10-minute drive, or if you wanted to get really fancy you could drive an hour and go to a different trail. But it was always…there were a lot more day trips. My family did camping but, like, car camping for holidays and stuff.
Have you discovered much here, like, the Mark Twain National Forest for example? A lot of people say, “Oh, there are no mountains here. There’s nothing to do in St. Louis.”
Yeah, I’ve been really impressed with the trails here. All the trails here have constant up and down. They have really interesting features. I grew up in a glacial valley, so it’s weird for me to get up to a high point in Missouri and know that there’s nothing for like 500 miles in any direction, but at the same time, it’s really beautiful. I was down at CB lake in the fall, and the trees change color, and it’s just gorgeous. And it’s so nice for it to be actually really close, yet to still live in a big city and have all the amenities and diversity that comes with that.
Short-term memory loss!
I’m convinced that in order to be an endurance athlete of any sort, you need to have terrible short-term memory, so you have to remember how awesome it was but forget how much it hurt. Like, at the OT100 race, I remember how awesome it was and I can’t wait to do it again, even though at the start of it, I was having a great time but I really crashed a lot. In the first section, I really did do some damage. And, you know, by the end of the day, 10 hours later, I’d forgotten all about it. But I remember how awesome it was to do it. And I’m really happy that I did.
OK! This has been an informal interview with Kate Wilson in Forest Park!
We’re gonna go mountain boarding on this hill
Yeah! But we’re gonna wear helmets. I already filled my concussion quota for the year.
Any last words?
Be awesome, get outside, explore trails, do something cool.