by: Allie Spurgeon
Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | 3:25 PM
GNCC Mom's with Emily Raines
The Grand National Cross Country Racing Series presented by Specialized, an AMA National Championship, is full of amazing women, on the track and off. The racers sure don't do it all alone and for many there's a behind the scenes unsung hero, their mom.
We're excited to chat with them and get to know what it truly means to be a GNCC Racer's Mom. From the home to the track, they seem to always go above and beyond to make our racing world go 'round. To kick off this interview series, we're chatting with former racer herself, Emily Raines. Racing mom to WXC racer Prestin Raines, and racing wife to multi-time National Champion, Jason Raines.
A story full of inspirations, family values, and the love of racing, here's what Emily had to share about her world:
Some may know you as Prestin Raines mom, but many remember the racing career you had yourself! Give us a quick background of what your racing background looked like?
Man, it was an exciting time to be a young girl in the late 90’s and 2000’s. I was so used to growing up riding with my dad, brother and their friends that when Miki Keller came onto the scene and started the WML I was so appreciative. I could finally race against my own kind and felt like I was able to stand on an even playing field. I raced Washougal the first few years it was on the circuit only. I had local bike sponsors but nothing to cover a travel cost to follow the series. I mainly raced the local MX series from WA to CA with only a few girls to compete with. I did a few amateur nationals like Oak Hill and Lake Whitney but that was the extent of my travel.
What was the transition from racer to racer's mom like for you?
I remember the day it happened. I was still racing when Prestin was just a baby. I had actually torn my ACL the year I was able to try and make all the races for the WML Series and that sidelined me enough to become pregnant with Prestin. So, after she was born, I was ready to go! Well, so I thought. I quickly realized as I lined up at Lake Whitney that day, I felt different. My aggression wasn’t the same, it wasn’t going to put it all on the line like I was used to doing. Especially after I was sitting on the line that day and watched them pull a schoolboy rider off into an ambulance to give CPR, we all knew he had passed from the impact of hitting the chain link fence. I was a mess, I had a little munchkin to take care of and she needed a mommy whether I won or not at the end of the day. I think I got lapped that race and was totally fine with it. I held Prestin close and finally became a mother, putting her first with everything.
As a mom who truly puts her best foot forward when it comes to track side support and everything in between, what all goes into being a racer's mom at the track?
I must admit I do take this as my aggressive or competitive release. Most people that see me racing around the track know this about me. I essentially try to be everything I wanted when I started racing woods. A lot of parents don’t realize how important their role is in communication to their rider during the race. From the outside, us parents can see how far ahead or behind their competition is. They have no idea, so it's our main job to give them those times. Prestin doesn’t want to be reminded to breathe or stay strong; she gets mad at me when I give her those pit boards. What she really wants to know is those stats. She finds inspiration when those numbers and it fuels her to keep pushing. Not only pit boards are a big thing but family and friends out on the track. We all carry walkie talkies so that we can relay back and forth where she is and give times that the next person can give on the board. My dad and stepmom are major supporters of Prestin and come to almost every race. Terry will stay at scoring and relay times while my dad is at some bad spot Prestin wants him to be at after he bikes the track. I usually go on Saturdays during the quad am race and follow the flow of the track so I know where I can make it to give her, her times and drink bottles. I also carry around a backpack full of goggles, bottles and tools in case she has an issue trackside.
We all know it's hard work in the weeks between races, what else is piled on the mom plate getting everyone to the track on the weekends?
So, getting the camper filled with fuel, the fridge filled with food and meals prepped is my main goal. Jason and I have left everything else on Prestin to get ready. This is a big part of practicing how to be an adult, preparation is the key to anything successful in life.
Is it difficult to manage being a mom and watching your crazy kid out there racing dirt bikes?
It is definitely different; I struggle sometimes with compassion at the end of a bad day. I don’t look at it like "poor baby, I'm so sorry it was tough out there". I know why she had a bad day; it was because she didn’t prepare enough, or focus enough, eat right or set her bike up the right way. Both Jason and I feel that if there is not a bone sticking out there is no reason to cry. But she is more of an emotional racer than either of us or we’ve had to adapt a little to the emotions of a bad day.
Being a mom is an incredibly special experience on its own, do you think racing as a family adds a new dynamic?
Oh, so much! Racing has proven to me that it keeps a family working together for the same goal. It's so easy to get involved in your own things and soon a family can divide, they start to feel misunderstood or disrespected and families can easily fall apart. When you are a racing family, everyone has a role, there is no one person that is the sole reason for a successful racer, it takes a village. It truly takes teamwork, and that teamwork creates respect and a bond. I remember the time my dad made the decision to log all the trees on our property to pay for my first current year bike, a 1995 YZ 125. I knew how much those trees meant to my dad and when he had the property logged, I saw him look out across his desolate property in sadness. I also saw him standing proud alongside the track that year while I won a lot of races on my new bike that year.
What would you say is the hardest part of your role?
Right now, it would be helping Prestin understand that even though she is a racer, she is also a young woman. She is worthy, beautiful and strong just as much on the bike as off. This time frame is all about finding out who you are and building off of that. A professional athlete is very hard on themselves, especially a female. Body image, personal respect, relationships and internal solace is a daily struggle in any young woman entering their 20’s. I keep telling her that’s the one good thing about growing older, you seem to find all those answers and a marked sense of confidence with age.
What would you say is the best?
The best thing is those long, tired car rides home that she can't stop talking about how her race went. We laugh so hard sometimes, and the feeling of a win is like nothing else. When she wins, I win, and I feel like I’ve done my job. I have these same memories of my dad and I riding home after races.
What does being a GNCC Racer's mom mean to you?
It carries a sense of pride; your racer is racing amongst the best of the best and everyone is there for the same reason. I have so much respect for the moms that never raced and are supporting their daughter. They believe in their girls and are willing to step outside their comfort box, get muddy, get sweaty and miserable to support their daughters. It takes supermoms like them to make the future successful women racers of the future.
GNCC Racing isn't just about the racers, it's the whole experience! The racers, the families, the fans, the kids, and of course, the moms all together are what make our weekend adventures so meaningful. A big thank you to Emily Raines for sharing her insights on what it means to be a GNCC Racer's Mom. We look forward to hearing from more!