Training on Pot


“I’m locked in,” he says, squishing two headphone buds into his ears.

“This is going to be a great pace.”

The sun hasn’t yet risen over Colorado’s Front Range peaks,

but Cliff D (who asked not to be named), like many workingstiff

triathletes, juggles a career — he’s a full-time strength-andconditioning

coach — with his own training and racing, and that

means plenty of pre-dawn workouts. But unlike the other guys

circling Denver’s Washington Park in the early hours, Cliff has

just eaten an energy bar that contains enough marijuana to numb

a small elephant. To be precise, the homemade bar was packed

with about 30 milligrams of the plant’s psychoactive chemical,

tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). For a newbie pot smoker, the THC dose

would be a knockout punch. For Cli­ , it’s just breakfast.

Despite standing only 168cm, Cli­ , 39, a hardcore athlete and former

Division I soccer player who trains upward of 23 hours a week, has a

thick chest and lean, muscular arms and legs. A lattice of tattoos peeks

from below his sleeves, and his skin is tanned an even olive brown.

He regularly completes Olympic-distance triathlons — a

1.6km swim, 40km bike and 10km run — in a blazing two

hours and five minutes. He’s won his age group at the South Beach

Triathlon, and this year he ‑ finished third in his age group at the New

York City Triathlon.

This morning, Cli­ jogs o­ to run his warm-up, which consists of

two easy laps around the park’s 3km loop. Then he completes four

sets of 1.6km fartlek intervals, which blend fast-paced speed work

with recovery-paced jogging. The e­ orts are designed to ready his

heart, lungs and legs for the blistering 10km run that ‑ nishes o­


His style is distinct and disciplined: he runs out over his feet with

short, quick steps, emphasising turnover instead of stride length.

Each of his sets he completes with methodical precision; each foot

strike is a mirror image of the previous one. By the time he’s ‑ nished,

he’s drenched in sweat and panting, but grinning from ear to ear.

“That was epic,” he says, as he extends a high ‑ ve. His eyes are as big

as soup bowls. “I found a guy who was running a quick pace and just

sat on him. We were ying.”

Cliff is affable and even-tempered, and when you’re talking to

him it’s easy to forget that his bloodstream contains a controversial

chemical that’s fuelled billion-dollar criminal empires, been the

focus of law-enforcement raids, and repeatedly commandeered

national politics. But times appear to be changing.

Now legal as a recreational drug in Colorado and Washington State…

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