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
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…