Shon Rae has a relationship with her two boys, 17 and 19, that other moms would give up grandma's secret gumbo recipe for. Last Saturday, Rae, an attractive and toned 41-year-old with shoulder-length blonde braided pigtails, explored the rolling, dusty trails west of Shevlin Park with her eldest, who was visiting home on a weekend away from Oregon State University. The multi-sport mom took to the trails again the following day with both sons, this time riding Whoops laps in the Phil's Trail area. Everyone had a grand time and Rae, who's training for this weekend's Cascade Chainbreaker mountain bike race (See pg. 45), logged important training hours.
But it wasn't always this easy.
Staying on top of work—Rae is a full-time marketing manager at Hayden Homes—and her sons' homework, all while attempting to make working out fun (read: trail run not treadmill), was hard. As a single mom, Rae admitted she struggled. A perfectionist, she tried to juggle it all and do it well (read: not half-assed). Along the way, she's learned a few things: get up early, find a reliable training partner and set goals.
When the boys were younger, Rae, who is also a triathlete and a Nordic skier and a downhill skier, had to get creative with her fitness regimen. The Central Oregon native would rise at 5 am to shoehorn in a short run, bike ride or swim. She also logged heaps of hours while on a stationary trainer at home with the boys.
The regimen became easier once the boys were older—or, at least she could do double-duty as athlete and mom, as she ran beside them while they rode bikes in the neighborhood and on the town trails.
"You have to make it [working out] a priority," Rae explained.
Rae, who was a high jumper at Redmond High and also a dedicated gymnast, has always been an athlete. But she didn't start racing mountain bikes or running trail marathons until after her second pregnancy. A casual jogger in college, she mostly did it to keep the "freshman 15" at bay rather than for competitive purposes.
But, after her second son was born, nearly 20 years ago, she got serious about staying fit. She needed a goal to stay motivated. So she signed up for a 10K run.
Setting goals made Rae more focused. "Often, as a mom, I was tired and strung out, Rae admitted. "But I'm a better mom [if I work out]. I have more energy—without it I feel tired."
And, as has happened to scores of moms throughout time, Rae came back from pregnancy stronger and more dedicated than ever. Take Jennie Finch, America's most popular softball player. In her first game back after giving birth she recorded 12 strikeouts in just over five innings. Tennis great Kim Clijsters came out of retirement to win the 2009 U.S. Open, one year after her she had her daughter. In 2006, Britain's Paula Radcliffe, one of the world's best women marathoners, stepped away from the sport due to an injury. In January of 2007 she gave birth to her daughter and that November won the New York City Marathon.
"I definitely think that you have an ability to focus a little more and endure a little more pain," Rae offered.
So, as a mother of two, not only does Rae get a much-needed energy boost from recreating, her own performance goals have become a little easier. But, most importantly, she's setting a healthy precedent for her progeny.
"Kids don't always want to go out for a run, but it's fun to see them—as a mom, as they've grown up to do their own thing—choosing those healthy options on their own."