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Selves and a Pair

By Evan Wachs

"Behind every great man there's a good woman." So the saying goes. And of course and why not "behind every great women there's a good man." But for some of us behind the scenes, players "left behind" is more on the mark. There are many famous examples of hugely supportive significant others and even the female cycling star-male partner arrangement has it's well known pairings. Jeanie Longo and Mari Holden both have mates whose raison d'etre is their partners racing career. Unfortunately, for me I have little to offer in the way of expertise and I lack the parent-like relationship with my wife that would urge the unrequited giving of time and energy to something so outside of myself or our marriage. Elizabeth's racing is important to me because it's so important to her. I help out when I see something that I can do or when she asks me to, but the direct involvement seldom exceeds that of what any very supportive spouse would do. There are a number of people in Elizabeth's life who are far more involved in her racing career than I and my not being a part of that circle, and of course, her frequent trips away from home add up to me being more left behind than behind her cycling career.

Certainly, I am proud of Elizabeth for all that she has accomplished. I'm overjoyed for her successes and I feel for her when things don't go well. I feel privileged to share so intimately in all the glee and glum of someone chasing true greatness. But this privilege comes dearly. Elizabeth and I are apart for more than six months out of each year. My lack of direct involvement in her racing only emphasizes these periods of separation. Being the one who handles almost all of our "regular life" responsibilities can often lead to resentment. It's sometimes very hard to fight thoughts that I'm doing so much and getting so little in return. What I most want out of marriage is a partner to share in life's experiences. For now, I must experience life largely solo.

What helps me purge the resentment from my head is realizing that Elizabeth makes much greater sacrifices than I in her striving to be one of the best cyclists in the world, that what she is doing is very important to me precisely because it's so important to her, that she would be doing what she is doing with or without me and, most importantly, I love Elizabeth tremendously and this is all a big part of who she is. What helps me deal with our time apart is looking forward to our life together after she retires from international racing.

When we enter the post-racing phase of our lives together I'm sure that whatever sacrifices I've made will have all been worth it. Our relationship has grown and strengthened from dealing with the stresses and strains. We've defined a relationship that respects and supports each of us as individuals and encourages development of self as well as pair. Elizabeth's accomplishments will continue to be a source of inspiration to us both and the changes that Elizabeth has undergone due to this journey have only amplified some of the traits that I found so attractive in the first place; independence, toughness, sense of adventure, sense of fair play and honor, hard working, humility, no-nonsense, resourcefulness.

As of this writing my spirits are good. I miss EE greatly but I feel no resentment whatsoever. I haven't seen Elizabeth in over 2 weeks and won't be seeing her again for another 3. She is currently away doing the Pan Am Games, an event second only to the Olympics, and the Altoona Stage race, an event where she always shines, so I'm very excited about her competitions. Writing this article has clarified my thoughts on EE's racing and how it effects our relationship. As I end my discussion I can only feel my heart growing fonder from this latest absence. Maybe in my case being the spouse of a bike racer is being left behind but I know that EE is waiting for me and that makes it all worthwhile.

 © 2000
 Elizabeth Emery
 John Tomlinson
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