Palmer Ridge track and field coach Rob Collins is entrenched in two extremely different types of pain.
One of those pains is fulfilling, the kind he imposes as he pushes his young athletes to reach their full potential. The other is agonizing and can be found in his wife, Carmen, who has terminal cancer.
With the three-day state track and field meet starting Thursday, Collins has found some solace coaching the Bears this spring.
Encouraging athletes to push forward, whether in a race or over the course of a season, has also served as something of a reminder to himself.
“I love seeing kids, knowing when they finish a race they’re happy with it, to get that big (personal-best record) and have a big smile on their face,” Collins said. “The other thing is, too, when they know they’ve had a bad race, you have 30 seconds and then it’s over with. You have to move on.
"It's kind of like me, I have to do the same thing."
Collins and his wife were living in California when they learned that her cancer had returned in October 2015. For six years she was in remission from breast cancer, but then it spread to her bones, from her skull down to her pelvis.
The two moved to Colorado Springs last year to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Then last month they were dealt another blow when they were told the cancer had also spread into a new form of breast cancer.
Carmen, 49, was on a trial treatment but was forced to stop it with the new diagnosis.
“It’s been really tough,” said Collins, who learned of the news on his 51st birthday.
Collins left San Lorenzo Valley in California after building perennial state powers in track and cross country over 18 years. With the support of his wife, he accepted the same positions at Palmer Ridge in the winter.
This week, the Bears will be one of a few teams with a legitimate shot at winning the Class 4A boys’ state title. His personal endeavors outside the track aren’t lost on his athletes.
“He’s going through that while pouring so much time into our team,” distance runner Jeremy Meadows said. “We’d love to reward him with a state championship. I definitely think that would be a cool opportunity.”
Collins said he fell in love with his wife while he was serving in the Army as a weapons specialist and border guard in Aschaffenburg, Germany.
It was love at first sight, he said. The two have been married since 1987.
Now, Collins said they are pushing forward together.
“Me, people ask me how I do it,” Collins said. “I did so much breaking down last year – unfortunately you kind of have to accept it so you can move on.
"You hope for the best and see what happens. We're going to enjoy life and do as much as we possibly can.”