Acclimation for Pain

So here I am at 7,200 feet above sea level in Laramie, Wyoming. This isn’t unusual for my family as we typically spend some time up here each summer with the in-laws. Not a bad escape from the Texas heat if you ask me. If you haven’t been this high up, well it’s a treat, especially since it’s much harder to breathe. I clearly remember years past up here getting winded walking upstairs at my in-laws house. This year it’s a little different however. Those of you close to me know I’ve been preparing for the Ride the Rockies tour. What’s this you may ask? Well this year it’s about 412 miles of cycling in 6 days over the scenic Colorado Rocky Mountains. Ouch. Yes.

Last summer my father-in-law started telling me about this event which some of his neighbors did. Being a glutton for punishment was very intrigued. He said I should look into doing the ride next year. When registration opened up I put my name in the hat for a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a lottery registration, so there was no guarantee of getting in, but I had a feeling I would. Sure enough I did, and began methodically adjusting my training schedule as much as I could to adapt for the mountain climbs at high elevation. This was particularly difficult during Q1 when I spent much of the time on the road for work. But as the weeks drew on, so did my climbing and long miles. I finished up some solid hours in the saddle before leaving Austin and making our trek north.

My wife and I decided it would be best to get to high elevation as soon as we could so that I could begin acclimating. Once we arrived in Laramie, I hopped on my bike and sought out a category 3 climb for a 2 hour training ride on Saturday. There’s not much to describe the feeling of high altitude where you’re unable to take a full, deep breath. I followed that ride up on Sunday afternoon with 3 hours out in the country. Knowing these were my last long rides before the tour, and adjusting to the altitude made for a long weekend. But it’s done, it’s in the books and now I wait. I begin… the taper.

The taper is a very interesting concept for me within endurance events. A lot of times I think it can be used by athletes as a crutch before events. However, the longer the event, the more applicable the taper becomes. Knowing this ride will most likely take me to places I’ve never been (both physical and mentally) I don’t want to leave anything for chance. So I had a quick lunch ride yesterday, and will tomorrow as well to keep my legs fresh. And that’s it. Then the real fun begins bright & early next Sunday in Crested Butte. It’s going to be an amazing experience and I’m full of anxiety heading into next week. I cannot change how much I trained or didn’t train, I cannot change the weather, but I can control my mental game even in a deprived oxygen state.

I wanted to leave this blog post with one final thought. I’m riding for those who can’t. Once again this year I will be participating in the LiveSTRONG Challenge Austin. I’m offering up to you a chance to donate to helping those with cancer and eradicate this enemy who knows no bounds. For any donation made, I will ride in honor or memory of who you choose. It can be any day on the tour or even one of the summit climbs we do. Just go here to donate then let me know who I’m riding for.

Ride the Rockies Map



So I’ve been really, really bad about updating my blog for eh, give or take 5 months. Truth be told I’ve had many blog posts rattling in my head but haven’t been able to quite get them out. Well it’s past due, and look for a slurry of posts. I’ve done some great events in the last couple of months that I want to recap as well as some very cool things on the horizon. Till they post…

Supporting liveSTRONG day

Dear Friends,

Today (10/2/2010) is LiveSTRONG day. I’m be joining thousands of people across the world wearing yellow in support of the 28 MILLION people living as a cancer survivor. Will you join us? Click the following link to find local events that you can take part in. It might be a bike ride, taking cookies to a pediatrics hospital or gathering with friends.

I also wanted to share with you a video that a friend from Alpheus Media produced for LiveSTRONG. Please take a moment to watch this-

Inspiring isn’t it? So how will you take action? As many of you know I will be riding 90 miles for the Austin LiveSTRONG Challenge on October, 24th 2010. I have set myself a fundraising goal of $1,000. To date many of you have helped me raise almost $300 already and I am extremely grateful. We’re entering the final month of fundraising and I need your help to meet my goal. Can you help by donating $28 in honor of the 28 million people living with cancer? Let’s do this, let’s make a world without cancer.



Today’s the last day of August, wow that’s hard to believe! It’s been a super eventful year and I’ve personally seen lots of growth while exploring the Triathlon world. The past week or so I’ve been sitting down looking at race calendars for the rest of the year. While there are still several triathlons in the Austin area, my funds aren’t and I’m not sponsored yet. It’s quite the challenge trying to budget for everything when both myself and my wife are active, being frugal and having two small children to care for. (We constantly fast forward a couple of years to ‘free school’ and smile). Nonetheless I am already signed up for a couple of long-distance cycling events. Thus the title of my post, focus. I will continue to maintain my fitness levels in swimming and running, but am shifting my needed focus to cycling miles in order to be ready for these long rides. Now that the weather should begin to taper off any week now will also help. My wife is training for the San Antonio Half Marathon in November so I’ve been getting creative with my riding. Earlier morning rides, and thanks to bicycle magazine for an awesome article on interval rides are ensuring that my training isn’t for naught. So what am I riding you ask?

First I hope to be randomly selected (or otherwise if I can figure out how) for the first ever Bike to the Bash. It’s the coolest free ride EVER. And put on by my team, Austin Cycle Camp. It’s a ride from Austin to San Antonio, and lots of fun to ensue.

The city of Round Rock hosts a ride called the Outlaw 100. And as the name implies it’s a century ride. Being as it’s in my backyard I’m excited for this to be my first bonafied century. It routes along a lot of the roads I ride normally anyhow. It usually coinsides with the timing for the LiveSTRONG challenge, but I lucked out this year.

Then finally, I’ll be riding in the LiveSTRONG Challenge Austin again. Rather than the 65 miles of hill country I rode last year, I’ll be pedaling out the full 90 mile route. I’m really excited as this is an awesome ride for such a great cause. Speaking of which, if you haven’t donated to support my ride, please click here. Every bit counts. And it all helps fight the war on cancer. I’ll be riding for all of those friends and family members who are fighting or have lost their fight with cancer. I would love your support by sharing your stories with me to help finish out the miles I ride.

Keeping 2 wheels down…

Product Review: VitalSox Compression Socks

After doing some extensive reading and talking to other athletes for a while, I’ve been in search of a good pair of compression socks. The problem? Most run for $50-60. As good as the technology sounds, I just couldn’t bring myself to shell out that much cash for a pair of socks. So I had been content (not really) with my lack of recovery apparel until I was in Rogue Running a couple of months ago. I wasn’t very hopeful and was just meandering around the store when I went to the sock area. I noticed the VitalSox compression socks. The price tag lured me in, and I asked one of the associates if this brand had been very popular. He affirmed, and I was quickly on my way having an affordable pair of compression socks. I have run a ‘battery’ of my own tests mostly involving me slipping them on post race, or post big run/ride. I’ve even worn them overnight after a couple of major events. My thoughts? Awesome. No really, they’re awesome. Now just how to figure out how to get the wife & kids to not make funny faces when I wear ‘old man’ socks around!

Going back to Cali

My company hosts an Annual User Conference for customers at our corporate office in Bakersfield California every year. So two weeks ago I headed out and I spent the week there. The unfortunate part was the week was right before the Lake Pflugerville Tri. The fortunate part is I have lots of co-workers who like to ride & run. So I made the best of it and was out at 6am most mornings continuing my workouts. The first day really freaked me out because it was 6 in the morning and it was broad daylight outside! I blogged back in January about the cool bike trail that runs from end to end in Bakersfield and our hotel was pretty close to it, so this was my choice to ride. My buddy Jim loaned me his classic Richey which was fully loaded with Dura-Ace and a carbon steerer. A boy sure can get spoiled with equipment like that! Monday morning’s ride was a nice easy pace for an hour on the trail. Amazing.

Tuesday was different. Jim told me they do a Tuesday morning group ride at 6am. I said ok, I’m in. Then I heard some of my other co-workers start to talk about that ride. “Oh yeah, those guys are hammerheads.” “You’re going to do Round Mountain? That’s a good climb.” Meh, in my opinion pain is temporary and that’s the only way to get stronger. So we meet up with the group and rolled 30+ strong. It began on the trail for about 6 miles then into some great rollers. The pace was anything but slow. I had finally gotten Jim to tell me the route the night before, so I knew I was in for a challenge once the actual climb started. I felt I did a pretty good job of grabbing a wheel and hanging with the group.

Then we hit Round Mountain Road. In Austin we have lots of climbs. However they’re short, steep and painful. Nothing beyond a half mile in length (this is not a technical assessment, just my personal opinion. I’m sure some of my ATX riders will correct me!) The route we were doing would take us on about a 4 mile section of climbing up the road. I was nervous, but excited because I haven’t done a sustained climb before. It was epic, painful, fun, and a learning experience. All of the reasons why I love cycling. About 1/4 mile into the climb the group kept pushing up the pace, and all I could do was keep pedaling. Jim was kind enough to stay back with me. I stopped twice to regain composure. Jim said, “we can turn back anytime you want, or keep going.” I sat there with my head on the handlebars and said to myself, you know what self, you’re here, you’re on a bike, do the freakin’ climb. So we did, slowly. But I made it to the top. It was beautiful from up there. My GPS data showed about 1,400 feet of climbing. Not too shabby. The way down was interesting. Anyone that rides with me knows I’m chicken. And I’m ok with that. Jim however spent half of the descent with his hands in the air! Ended up being a great morning ride with a total of 35 miles.

The next day our co-worker Karen from Wisconsin wanted to ride as well. Seeing as she’s a short stack, she was able to ride Jim’s daughter’s bike. Karen has recently gotten into road cycling so she was excited to ride with us. We headed out southwest on the trail and Jim spent the first several miles giving Karen lots of good cycling tips. We kept a good easy pace and enjoyed the morning. About 6 miles in, Jim got a flat. So he was able to use that for more instructional time with Karen as well. We carried on and turned around the 10 mile mark. Jim had to turn off as his flat repair had gone awry and his house wasn’t too far away, so he was going to air up at home. Karen and I pedaled on. It was a smooth ride as we exited the bike path near Beach Park and headed for the streets to cut over to the hotel. I gave Karen instructions about the street & how we would make our way back over to avoid a lot of traffic. We turned the corner after a stop light and Karen found the black hole that exists between pavement and concrete curbs. She went down fast, and I being right behind her landed on top. There was literally no reaction time, but on my way down I remember yelling “I’m sorry Karen!” We got up, dusted off, pulled the bikes on the sidewalk and assessed the damage. Karen picked up a fair amount of road rash on her knee, elbow and hand. Her jersey looked like she had been through a street fight! I ended up with a couple of cuts on my shins. Karen’s bike seemed ok, minus the chain being off. I had a nice flat front tire. So I changed it, but in the process didn’t find the gaping hole in the sidewall and blew the new tube. So we begin the walk of shame. It was fortunately less than a mile to the hotel. We were running pretty late by that point, so it was a quick shower, Jim got Karen’s wounds dressed and off to training we were.

On Friday Jim & I talked about how it would be fun to ride part of the Amgen Tour of California when they came into Bakersfield the month before. It’s a pretty cool finish climbing up China Grade Loop and the around Panorama Drive. During the tour, this was the finish of stage 5, after over 100 miles then doing the loop 3 times! One of the conference attendees from Sacramento mentioned he had his bike (rockin’ a fixie) & would like to ride with us, as well as another co-worker said he wanted to ride. So 6am sharp the 4 of us rolled out NE on the trail up towards China Grade Loop. It was a good roll and the climb was very nice, reminded me of a lot of the climbs we have in Austin. Short(ish), steep and to the point! We carried on to the decent which was super fast and back to the trail to return home. It was another great ride to cap off a week of riding out in California. Minus 3 flats that day. Oh Yeah did I mention the flats? I’ve had 2 in a year at home and had 4 this week. Goat heads is what I think they call them…

Going Rogue

Yeah that’s right. I’ve gone Rogue. Rogue Running that is. An opportunity presented itself to me a couple of months back. Rogue Running was looking for a few good people to become program ambassadors. So why not I thought? To become a better athlete I’ve learned you should surround yourself with better athletes. I first became familiar with the quaint east 5th street running store during some local races this past year. I began to notice an awful lot of black shirts with a spiffy little crown logo. The more I learned about Rogue the more I liked. It’s an all in one package with these folks. The store itself is great, and fully staffed with knowledgable runners. They host awesome partys…errr I mean running events. And the training programs are second to none.

Some of the programs that have just started or are about to start include Basic Marathon/Half Marathon Training as well as an Online Training Program. These starting now are geared towards the fall marathon season. For my tri geek friends, there is also a Triathlon Training Program. Rogues go from just ‘finishing’ races to a season full of PR’s. Rogue can move you from the couch to pavement in ways you never imagined. You can leave behind the thoughts of “I’ll never be able to be a runner” because with Rogue everyone IS a runner. So if you’re looking to get started running; kick-start your running; learn from some masters; run with some great people; get some additional motivation… these programs are for you. As an added bonus by mentioning me (Andrew Collins) and using the special code ‘Amb0610’ you can receive $50 off. But hurry as this will expire soon and the programs are starting. So what are you waiting for? Get running, with Rogue.

Seeya on the pavement or trails.