Training on Pot

THE FIRST TINGLE OF THC HITS HIM AS HE’S STRETCHING HIS CALVES.

“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

thetriathlon.

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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