Divide Spouse: the person who stays at home & watches his/her spouse race the Great Divide.
On top of that, I’m a blue-dot junkie. Might even need a shirt for that one…
What does it mean to be a Divide Spouse? I’ll try my best to give some insight. First of all, it’s way more involved than I’d expected. Mary & I have been married ten years (yep, 10- as in one less than eleven) and have spent a fair bit of that time apart from one another- with me doing most of the being-gone. Deployments when I was in the Air Force, and later, extended backpacking trips of 30 days or more with at-risk youth. It seemed all good & well on my end- I disappear, Mary takes care of everything on the home front, and I re-emerge to a welcoming home. To be candid, I found it pretty easy to be “gone” after about 4 days or so. Once you’re on the trail for a few days it’s very easy to forget about the bills, the chores, and the mundane.
So this is the first time I’ve been on the other end. I worry a lot. That said, I worry a lot anyhow, no matter what the situation is. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I obsess. I sweat the details, the little things that just might make a difference. Funny thing is I’ve also learned that they really don’t matter all that much in the long run- but still, if you sweat them now you don’t have to sweat them later… at least that’s how I tell the story
To the best of my knowledge, I’m the only male Divide Spouse this year- the first. What’s different from a male Divide Spouse and a female Divide Spouse? I can’t be sure- but I have been corresponding with Sherry Olson, Ardie’s wife. I find that in our correspondence, I’m more “worried” about Mary than she is about Ardie. But it’s hard to draw any causal relationship from that alone… Ardie’s experience, ranking in the race, etc all have an affect on this. He’s doing well, and has tons of adventure racing experience under his belt. For all I can tell, there’s no real difference between a male & female Divide Spouse. A lot of people ask me what’s it like to have my wife out there, all by herself… well, from what I can tell, it’s a lot like having your husband out there, all by himself. It’s a matter of trust, that he/she knows how to handle things when the going gets tough. And I know Mary’s got that going for her, fundamentally. That’s the cornerstone.
Lonelieness- yes, this is real. It’s lonely on this end. I’ve picked up some strange habits & superstitions since the race started. I’ve been thinking a lot, about a lot of things- overwhelmingly positive stuff. Got a lot of bike geekery done, too. On the downside, I just straight up feel lonely in the house. On top of that, the phone constantly rings with friends & family asking for updates- which is actually a lot of fun but it takes time away from work. A lot of Idyllwild folk don’t get what the race is about, so it’s hard to relate much to them. Then, you’ve got the bike geeks who know all about the race, but want to relate everything in terms of time splits & the like. I can’t help but think they’re missing the point. Yes, it’s a race. But it’s also a journey.
Then there’s the calls from the field. Full range of emotion here. Up & down & up & down. Just riding the roller coaster all day long. I try to remove myself from it (thanks to the at-risk youth training for that tip) but it’s very, very hard not to ride along. And who would want to miss out on that anyhow? I’d rather go through this time Mary’s out there with a taste of what she’s experiencing. Numb is dumb. But this is where it gets tricky- what to do, what to say when the going gets tough? How about when it gets really tough? Do I show my cards too? What’s the best move in the long run? It’s like being the pit boss at a 24 hr race, but for weeks on end. It’s all-consuming. Not 10 minutes goes by without thinking about the race, or the next town, or the chain she’s running, or the tires, or the wall thickness of her seat tube. It’s really, really easy to get caught up in the details.
Philosophy- It’s important to know who’s driving this Divide bus, and where it’s headed. Fortunately, I have a good handle on Mary’s expectations & philosophy for this race. That goes a long way, as the plan went out the window a long time ago. But I know that she wants to finish this race, despite being behind on schedule… Knowing that makes all the difference in the world, in terms of preparation for myself & the talks when were both lucky enough to be near a phone.
So, if you’re thinking of racing the Divide next year, bear these disjointed thoughts in mind. Your S/O will have a lot on his/her plate too. Be sensitive by planning ahead of time, and sharing your plan with him/her. Share information as much as you can. Most importantly- be on the same page, philosophically. Be prepared to throw all the expectations out the window- and be prepared to shake it up & roll with whatever comes out at the other end. I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be good.