It is one of the most ubiquitous hikes you can imagine for a Portlander, but exotic for those not from here. Starting at Germantown Road and heading out along the beauty that is The Wildwood Trail in the late summer. We are joined this day by professional cyclocross racer Katerina Nash and her two crazy Vizsla pups.
I don’t really remember, I guess it was August or September. My memories have been failing in those last summer months. But who cares? Time is just a line. We start to walk and talk. This was her vacation, her road trip during a small bit of off season with her pups on the West Coast. For us, it was just another good excuse for us to get out there.
For some reason we were both really excited to meet with Katarina Nash, we have crossed paths with her on the road so many times — and always thought she was awesome but never have the chance to sit, or just walk and talk. I guess that is also the deal with professional athletes — always on the move.
Katarina Nash has been part of Team LunaChix for a decade now. The same team that has been ripping up the World Cup Mountain Bike XCO for the last 10 years. I know because I was there 10 years ago, watching a video about Kat on the Oakley website. That short movie was a lot though, because I remember thinking — “this is what I want to do.” At the time it seemed like a big jump — from a mid sized town in the East of France to Foothill Ranch, California — but it was something to focus on. Eventually, I put a number on my back for the opening round of the World Cup, at the age of 18. Katerina was probably on the front row. I was number 125 of 128 women and I couldn’t even see the start line.
She even wore the right socks!
It is hard to describe Katarina’s career. I had an idea but I was missing pieces and I guess I still do, which make the character even more interesting.
She came from cross-country skiing. And it is from there that she made the leap into mountain biking. I’m glad to hear that despite being really good at racing world cup of cross-country skiing, it was still a struggle for her as a 20 year old. On a good day being close to the top 20. I’m glad because it’s how she made me feel when I was watching her on the podium and trying to be stoked with getting close to a top 20 finish.
Good to know.
Katerina racing at the Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, KY.
The other thing that is good to know is that Katarina LOVES cyclocross. This is evident because she continues to make the racing fun and she brightens and becomes animated when talking about it. It is clean, smooth and fast. And despite her desire to slow down and start to think more about the future, the future after racing, she will line up at the end of January at the Cyclocross World Championships in her homeland - the Czech Republic. So she went for a “let’s do that, just one more for fun” attitude. And why not?
But as we walk through the trees she speaks well of her career and her life and how the two continue to shape each other. Life is up and down, do what you love — keep doing what you love despite all the reasons not to — just keep having a blast. "Keep it fun. Best Day Ever" as our mutual friend Steve Blick would say. But don't take this to say she's slowing down - she talks and walks just as fast as she races - and with taking two of three wins at Jingle Cross this past weekend.
Anyway, that keep it fun attitude is what she prescribes to me, and after biting my nails over my own too early retirement and then this summer trying to recover from a massive crash, it feels closer to making sense. Or maybe it makes sense because we can see that with the advice she gives, she is actually applying it to herself at the same time. She looks timeless and happy in any circumstance and as we walk along Katerina makes it feel less like a war on a bike, with the bike, and more like trying to surf an endless California wave basking in sunshine.