Avery Collins, a 24 year-old rising star in the sport of ultramarathoning, trains every day to find the perfect balance between his “happy place” and the pain of climbing a 4,000-foot mountain incline. In the world of elite ultra-athletes, who compete in single-day contests ranging from 50 to 200 miles, the race is often as much a test of mind as of body.
What’s Collins’ secret? Cannabis.
A social consumer during his college days, Collins began utilizing cannabis regularly after moving to Breckenridge, Colorado to train professionally. Collins came to running almost by accident. He’d never run in high school, and only started doing it for fun four years ago while studying at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina. After that first run, it only took Collins eight months to break into the ultra scene. He competed in a double marathon and was hooked on the sport.
For Collins, his idea of ultra-marathon differs from the traditional definition. He doesn’t believe road races should be considered ultramarathons.
“Ultra-running for me is that 50- to 200-mile distance in mountain environments and mountain terrain,” Collins told Leafly. “Lots of vertical gain, and technical, rocky, really gnarly trails—it has to be the ultimate challenge. I don’t really see the point in running 50 miles across a flat road.”
Training with Cannabis
As the CannAthlete movement continues to emerge within legal states like Colorado, more athletes are incorporating cannabis into their workout routines. Collins began training with cannabis after his roommate in college asked if he had ever smoked before running.
“I’d really never thought about it,” Collins told Leafly. “It never really occurred to me as a good idea. But then I gave it a whirl. I smoked a bowl and then ran to one of my favorite parks and it was just amazing.”
“Everything was just so much more pretty,” he recalled. “I didn’t think about anything else besides the run itself and what was going on at that moment. At the end of the day it makes the greens greener and the blues bluer.”
Today, Collins incorporates cannabis mostly as a post-race or post-training wellness product, to help reduce pain and swelling.
His training regimen is no joke.
“I usually go through [training] blocks, so for this past training period I went through five weeks, and I am doing about 150 miles a week,” he said. “I’m averaging anywhere from 25-30 miles a day and 30k to 40k feet in elevation climbing in a week.”
With all that wear and tear on his legs, Collins uses cannabis as a way to help his body recover.
“To run 100 straight miles, like the race I’m doing this Friday, I could be out running for 28 straight hours. Once you stop, you sit down and it is crazy, your body has been so used to running for over a day it thinks it is still going, so your muscles just throb and throb and all of a sudden it all stops and everything swells up.”
“That’s where cannabis really plays a big part,” he said. “With its various medicinal compounds, you can really cut down not only on the fatigue but you can calm the muscles and shoot down a lot of that inflammation.”
Finding the right cannabis balance can be a challenge while training, Collins said. He advised starting off slowly rather than consuming too much at one time.
“I’ve always told people, it is totally a trial and error thing,” he said. “Better to start low than high, [because some people can have a bad experience] especially with edibles when they take too much.” He added, “You know what—sometimes that’s what it takes, so you know ‘I’ll never do that again.’ But it’s best to just keep adding on slowing as opposed to starting high and decreasing.”
Collins added that he never consumes during races, because he isn’t sure how his body will react to cannabis when he’s 70 miles into a race.
This weekend Collins will be competing in the Ouray 100-mile Endurance Run in the mountain town of Ouray, Colorado. The race begins at 8am (MT) on Friday, and will feature 47,164 ft. in elevation change—which is like running up and down the Empire State Building 16 times in the course of completing four marathons.