Avery Collins is well known in the UltraMarathon community for excellence in competing but also his consumption of cannabis. Listen in as Avery explores why and how he uses cannabis and how it impacts his training.
– Is Cannabis a Performance Enhancing Drug
– What training on cannabis feels like
– Difference between edibles and smoking/vaping
– How to encounter a moose while running and survive
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Today we're going to talk with an ultramarathon runner, Avery Collins, about why and how he integrates cannabis into his fitness regime and what it does for him. Avery, welcome to CannaInsider.
Avery: I appreciate it, man. Glad to be on.
Mathew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Avery: Today I'm in Buena Vista, Colorado which is just south, an hour south of Breckenridge. I guess for most people near Leadville would be a good way to describe it, just 30 minutes north of Leadville.
Mathew: Okay. There's a big race in Leadville. Is that right? Is that going on?
Avery: Exactly, [inaudible 00:00:59].
Mathew: Okay. It's pretty high altitude up there too, isn't it?
Avery: Yeah. Yeah. I think the town we're in right now is right around 8,000 feet and then Leadville itself is 10,000 feet.
Mathew: Ten thousand feet running, that's high. Okay. Well, give us a little background. How did you get into long-distance running or ultramarathoning?
Avery: You know, it's kind of a natural progression and really kind of just similar to most people. I got into college and didn't feel like paying for gym membership anymore, so I decided, well, running might be a good way to stay in shape. So my first six months of running kind of consisted of working my way up from 5K to half marathon and really running and laying down quite a few half marathons in a half-year period. And then after that, so my birthday war right around the corner. It was April and I was looking for my first marathon to do. I wanted to do it on my birthday.
So I was gonna do a marathon on April 26, which is my birthday, when I was turning 21. And I started doing some research and I found a race called the Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, Virginia, and I got registered for the race. And under the tab there's an option to sign up for what's called the Unofficial Official Double Marathon. And, you know, it seemed like this really big adventure in which I really had no idea at the time what I was getting myself into, which I think was good to some extent. And I reached out to a family friend and asked, you know, "Hey, what do you think about me doing this double marathon?" And he asked if I had done a single marathon before and I said, "No." And he said, "Well, there's no way you're gonna finish thing if you've never done a marathon." And that was kind of just like the fire that ignited everything inside of me. I went and did that and it kind of just grew from there because I wanted to become more involved in the mountain world and kinda engulf myself in everything that had do with mountain running.
Mathew: So this might be a case of like, you have like authority defiance disorder, or somebody just has to tell you can't do it, and you're like, "That's all I need. I'm doing it."
Avery: Yeah. I mean, at the time, yeah. That was a big motivating factor and then, you know, I don't know. It was kind of this I enjoy the fear of the unknown and I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I liked that.
Mathew: Yeah. That is crazy. And then how did that end up being for you doing that? Were you like, "Gosh, I really wish I hadn't given..." and taking this challenge?
Avery: No. No, no, no. I had never felt that kind of low before in my life. But as soon as I finished I knew right then and there this was something I wanna continue doing. Excuse me, sorry. I kinda wanted to figure out, you know, where do I go from here, what's the next step, and that's when I started really research ultramarathons. And when I did this 50, I had no idea there were 100-mile races. So immediately after doing this 50, I'd say within that week I was in search of a 100-mile race.
Mathew: Wow, you have some special kind of genes that are from another planet. Okay. So how far do you run per week would you say?
Avery: When I'm in a true training block, for instance, like this month I'll be running about 80 to 100 miles a week, which is for what I'll be doing this summer on a lower scale, June and July, 6 of those eight weeks I'll be doing about 120 to 150 miles a week.
Mathew: Wow. Okay. That's incredible. And when you run 100 miles, you know, we have a mutual friend that introduced us and he told me a little bit about what this does. He participates in these ultramarathons and like it's not uncommon to have like toenails fall off and just like crazy things happen to your body when you run this far. Is that accurate?
Avery: Oh, yeah, very much so. And it's kind of ever-changing. I could go race after race with, for instance, no tail nail problem, and then all it takes is one random circumstance in a race and I lose four or five of them. But every race presents its own difficulties throughout the race. But the beauty of this sport is as you do more and more of them, they become slightly more predictable. But what keeps bringing me back is the unpredictability of running 100 miles.
Mathew: Wow, okay. And you're hanging around with some people that are also ultramarathoners. I mean, this is so much harder than just a typical marathon for it to go 100 miles. I mean, what do you see as a common characteristics among these group of people? How do you think they're different from your average everyday person? Is there anything you see?
Avery: Yeah. I mean, especially the people that I kind of surround myself with, I mean, typically it's really more the mountains or being in the mountains itself that is kind of the driving factor behind it all. And then it's just, you know, really enjoying being out and active in doing something all day long. To an extent, you have to be able to embrace the pain. So, I mean, a prime example, my girlfriend is also an ultramarathon runner. So we kind of share this commonality of really enjoy getting out and being outside all day long. And there's a great feeling of coming back home at the end of the day after being out for six hours and just feeling exhausted and mutually feeling exhausted. It's definitely hard to find, you know, a partner in life that can understand why you're doing this and why you're putting yourself through this much pain.
Mathew: Yeah. Well, I've run 5 and 8Ks and I was jubilant when I was done with that. There is that...I don't know, was that hormone that's released in your brain and you're around other people that have accomplished something, and it's just a tiny fraction of what you're doing. So I can't imagine what it feels like to, you know, get through that. So how did you first consider, you know, cannabis as something to do to help your performance or help recovery? What was the spark there?
Avery: I mean, there was no performance-related reasoning as to why. I mean, I was a cannabis user five years before I was a runner. So it was just kind of something that naturally came hand in hand. I mean, the day kinda came where I started using during runs when my buddy, my old roommate, we used...I mean, it was kind of a nighty thing. We would just have a social smoke on our bowl and he one night kinda presented the idea of, "Hey, why don't you do this before a run?" And I kinda had never thought about it. And so the very next day, that's exactly what I did and went for a run in one of my favorite parks and...
You know, it was like...and still to this day I like using inedible or hitting a vape pen before I run because of the simple fact that it... You know, it really allows me to become just locked in to the present moment. You know, I had an interview last night and I said, "It kind of makes everything much more vivid and you feel much more connected with everything around you." And I don't mean to sound like a hippie, but you feel very connected with the earth, with the rocks. For instance, when you're running or navigating very technical terrain down a mountain, it's as if I can feel just the finest grains of rock underneath my foot. I can feel the slightest movement of rock when it shifts. It's just this very connected feeling.
Mathew: Yeah. Now you're not doing like a six-foot bong rip. I mean, how much are you consuming before you run would you say on average?
Avery: Two to three vape pen rips I guess you'd say. I mean, I'm not gonna lie, I'll smoke a flower or two a few times a week. And then if it's an edible, typically, 20 to 30 milligrams before I run.
Mathew: Okay. And how would you contrast, you know, eating the cannabis versus a vape pen or smoking it, and then going on one of these super long runs?
Avery: I would say they're two different runs. I think for those that have used edibles before, I would call it a commitment. Once you take an edible you're in for a little bit more of a ride. I think it's just a much more intense body and head high, whereas I feel like when I smoke it's a little less body. I'm a little more in control and it's more head high. And, you know, it wears off a little bit faster too, whereas an edible 20 to 30 milligrams is I'm set for the next six hours of running, whereas a few rips off a vape pen or a bowl is gonna be, you know, a couple hours, maybe three at most.
Mathew: Yeah. Okay. And just so everybody knows, five milligrams is considered an introductory dose for people that have never used cannabis before, not to say that we're suggesting it or not suggesting, but that's just to give you an idea of where Avery's dosage come in. Okay. So, you know, I think before people would probably cannabis would make you not perform as well in the years past. There was no talk of it being a performance-enhancing drug. But do people...are they starting to say like, "Hey, perhaps this is a performance-enhancing drug." Where do you weigh in on that?
Avery: You know, I've had quite a few discussions on this. As far as performance goes, it doesn't enhance performance, I mean, and what it comes down to, I'm not a scientist. However, I have talked to a buddy of mine who has his Ph.D. in biochemistry. He spent 12 years in school. And he has done quite a bit of research for me. And he found that at the end of the day for any pro, there is a con to it. Actually, it hinders performance. I think where it kind of, if it is a performance enhancer, I would say it's not a physical enhancer. It's more of a mental. You know, it does allow you to kind of forget about everything else that's going on in life and kind of lock into the present moment. And that's gonna vary person to person too because, you know, for every person that really enjoys getting high before a run, there's another person that absolutely hates it and has, you know, anxiety and a panic attack. It's like it's not something for everybody, but I think if you can kind of tune into your body and tap out of everything else that's going on, you know, it allows you to kind of mentally be in a really good place as opposed to not being high.
Mathew: Okay. And what do your fellow ultramarathoners think about cannabis, and running, and also the racing authorities? Has that changed at all, or they're starting to become more open to it? They used to look at you sideways maybe, or what's that like?
Avery: I mean, the rules have actually...they've progressively been changing towards a cannabis user. So as of 2018, WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, that kind of oversees endurance sports, they officially made it so that you can now use CBD in race, in competition. However, you cannot use THC in competition. You can use THC all the way up until 12 hours before the event. Suggestively speaking, I would say, you know, it's a little safer to quit a week before the event, but WADA, in theory, does allow up until 12 hours before the competition. It's really nothing new. I'm just the first outspoken advocate for it. There is a lot of very, very competitive ultra runners, elite ultra runners some of the bigger names in the sport that are cannabis users. I mean, majority of them are. You know, it's kind of sad, a lot of are pretty ignorantly blind to the fact that there are a ton, half if not more of the community uses or uses every once in a while, and especially among a lot of the elite runners, it is a common practice. It's just that most people, they're not outspoken because they're worried about losing sponsorships which is understandable. It's also unfortunate.
Mathew: Yeah. And what do you think about keeping food down? I mean, when you're running 100 miles you got to be feeding in the run or eating something and you need to be able to keep the food down so you can get the nutrition. Do you think cannabis can help with that, or CBD, or [crosstalk 00:15:05]?
Avery: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, CBD at the end of the day is an anti-nausea product per se. You know, I've actually personally never used CBD or THC in a race yet. I think moving forward now that CBD is allowed in competition, I may kind of dabble with that. But, you know, I've never had a problem, for the most part, keeping food down. But, I mean, for those people out there that do have that problem in a race, CBD is a great option, CBD oils, CBD capsules. And now that it's legal in competition, I think it's something people should use. It's a little more natural than taking something like Ibuprofen or Tylenol for inflammation. You know, most people don't realize or know that CBD is legal in just about every single state. So you can literally order right online and have it delivered to your doorstep.
Mathew: Yeah. Great point. And in Steamboat there, you've got the beautiful Strawberry Springs. I've been there once in the summertime to the springs. They're beautiful. Do you go up there and kind of immerse yourself in the springs to recover after a long run? Does that help?
Avery: You know, that's something I haven't used a whole lot. There's a single track trail that runs through there. So I run through there all the time but I don't actually stop there very often. I mean, it's more of just like... I don't know. Yeah, I've never really... I went maybe three or four times. I don't know. It's like a novelty to the town that I don't care for as much.
Mathew: Okay. And how about in terms of recovery? I mean, we touched on it just a little bit, but after a 100-mile run is consuming cannabis just something that gets you in a place where you can relax enough to just let your body recover, do you think it assists in that way?
Avery: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, once I'm back in Colorado or I guess in a legal state, well, I guess, as far as CBD use goes, the first thing I try to do after a race is just douse my legs in compound and salve because it really does help get that blood flowing again and really cut back down on inflammation which in turn is going to help speed up the recovery process. And then if I, and say after a race, you know, a race like a 100 miles, you'll find that after the race, your body is still going. You think you'd be able to fall right asleep, but oftentimes that's not the case. It's like restless leg syndrome I think would be the best way to describe it which I really think is just a syndrome that a farmer made up to sell drugs.
But, you know, after 100, that's real. Your legs are still rolling, your metabolism is still skyrocketing and it's all whacked out of place. And, you know, taking a few hits off a vape pen or especially taking an edible helps calm everything back down, puts you right back into like a normal state where you can finally relax and fall asleep. But falling asleep is something I know a lot of people really have a hard time with after, you know, even a 50-mile race, 100K or a 100-mile race.
Mathew: What about the endurance athlete that's listening that's really kind of curious. They're hearing you talk about this and they're like, "How can I integrate this into my fitness regimen so I can perform at a different level or experience what you're talking about?" What do you suggest?
Avery: You know, I think one of the best starting points, if you're looking to use cannabis more on a cycle active level or in other words getting high, you know, I suggest using it at night before bed to start because that's kind of a safe place for everybody. It's a judgement-free zone. Give it a try right at home, you know, maybe an hour, two hours before bed. See if you like from there. And then, like we were saying, you know, the packaging on these products says 5-milligrams or 10-milligram doses. I would suggest taking whatever the package says or even cut it in half before a run. Typically a good time to take it before a run is about 45 minutes before a run because then it's going to kick in as you begin the run, say, a mile, two-mile, three, it should be starting to kick in. I think a good learning lesson that I could kind of help others with is taking too much and not getting out the door on time could be problematic.
You know, once you're actually moving and going, it's very easy to continue moving and going. But if you kind of stay in a stagnant position and sit around, once it kicks in, it can perhaps cause you to be a little bit more lackadaisical, especially for someone who is not an avid user. I think once you begin to use more the stigma of being a lazy stoner, that's something that's really easy to actually kind of stay away from once you're an avid user. And then, you know, you just kind of get a go from there. I would suggest, you know, a lot of people make the mistake of taking, say, five milligrams, nothing happens after an hour, So they say, "Screw it," and take 10 more. Nothing happens in 10 minutes and they take 10 more. That's a bad idea. I would not suggest taking that.
Mathew: That happens all the time. It's like a waterfall effect. Like, "Oh, this didn't happen. I still don't feel it. I still don't feel it." And then they're on a rocket ride to the moon.
Avery: Oh, yeah. And then two hours later, that's when the anxiety kicks in.
Mathew: Yeah. Now you're out there in the wilderness, up there in the Yampa Valley, and do you ever encounter wild animals and which kind?
Avery: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I would say on the average summer, I will run into about 5 to 10 bears on a bad summer. So, for instance, a bad summer would be a dry summer. When it's not raining much, there's not a lot of food in the mountains. Everything is kind of dying off. The bears tend to work their way towards the human population a little bit more because they start scavenging dumpsters and what not. And the first summer, I probably ran into about 25 to 30 bears. It was kind of like an every other day occurrence. You know, I've been lucky and I can say I haven't run into a mountain lion because personally, that's...I don't wanna run into a mountain lion. But, you know, moose and elk are pretty frequent depending on the season.
It's pretty normal, especially in the Yampa Valley, there's lots and lots of moose. Elk is a little more seasonal, but you see moose all of the time on just about any trail. But people kind of in that area know where to look out for moose, where to look out for a bear, where to at least be a little conscious of the fact that you're in mountain lion country especially depending on the time of day. If you're out before 8 a.m., you know, you should be making noise because mountain lions are more active through the night into the early hours. But, you know, once you kind of break out of 8, 9 a.m. into the afternoon, it's definitely a safer time of the day to be out in the wilderness.
Mathew: Okay. And what do you do if you encounter a moose? I mean, they're actually amongst the most dangerous. They're just very unpredictable. They're enormous. I don't know. What do you do?
Avery: You know, after running after into who knows how many moose, I actually was on a night run a few weeks ago and I was wearing instead of a headlamp I was wearing a waist lamp. And unfortunately couldn't see a moose and just about got clotheslined by one. It's probably one of the more scarier encounters.
Mathew: Oh, jeez. Hope you didn't have a 30 milligram edible going. "I just sped into a moose."
Avery: Yeah. We'll say it was pretty close to that. [Inaudible 00:23:37].
Mathew: So you're saying that moose are nothing really to worry about as long as you just keep a safe distance or what would you...? Any suggestion?
Avery: I mean, you should be. I wouldn't say worry, you don't have to worry. You just need to be smart. Yeah, keeping a distance. Their vision isn't very good. So standing behind a tree is actually a lot safer than it sounds. I mean, you could stand behind a narrow tree and it'd be fine. They're not laterally fast animals. I mean, they can only really go forward backwards. So, you know, if you were charged by a moose, jumping basically laterally from tree to tree would be a very safe bet. But what it comes down to is, you know, if you see some baby moose in the area, you really need to either reroute your run or perhaps, like we said, keep a safe distance and maybe go up an embankment and around the moose. But keeping an eye on them is important. But if you're not posing a threat to them then, you know, oftentimes they're really not that bad. They don't charge frequently. But of all animals, they charge more than most.
Mathew: Okay. Wow, I really knew how serious it was there when I got there and all the good dumpsters and everything have bear locks. It's pretty serious stuff because they're just everywhere.
Avery: Probably, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Mathew: Well, let's transition to some personal development questions. Is there any training tool or equipment that you would recommend for I guess either aspiring ultramarathoner or someone that's maybe just getting started?
Avery: Yeah. I mean, some of the beginning, more essential equipment would be something like a pack. So I use an orange merge [SP] 12-liter and 20-liter pack depending on the run. Obviously, the shorter the run, a 12-liter pack. Really short runs, I'll use hand-held. And I think especially if you're a beginning ultra runner, you probably should be overpacking. Or if you're in the mountains, a rain jacket is always good. One tool I began using last summer especially on long runs that I can't perhaps carry enough water, I started bringing a filter, a water filter so I can drink out of rivers, drink out of ponds, even streams on the trail. And that could be a possible lifesaver. And then also just finding a good trail shoe.
I've been...one that I kind of lean towards... Well, so I run for Inov-8, but I personally run more in a lower drop shoe, something that's a little bit more natural, a little more minimal. And a headlamp is one investment you need to make as well which is also something you can always...it's smart to put in your pack if you're going on an afternoon run, even if you think you're gonna be back home within two hours. You know, accidents happen on the trail. You could trip. You could roll an ankle. And it's just good to be prepared for the worst. And with that being said, it's always, not that...you know, I'm definitely guilty of not doing this, but it's a good idea to bring extra calories in case you find yourself in a pretty tough situation where you're moving really slow and you could be taking a long time to get back to your car or the trailhead.
Mathew: Okay. And are you still sponsored by The Farm out of Boulder?
Avery: Yup. Sure, I am. Absolutely tremendous sponsor. You know, I don't know how I would afford my lifestyle without them.
Mathew: Yeah. They're a great group and also a great dispensary. When I'm in Boulder I drop by there. They're eating nice. They're kind enough to give me a tour, and show me around, and just a very professional group. I always say like if Martha Stewart wanted to go to a dispensary, it should be The Farm because it's just so clean and organized. It feels like a Pottery Barn or something like that.
Avery: Exactly. I describe it as a five-star restaurant.
Mathew: Yeah. Well, are you looking for any more sponsors?
Avery: Yeah, yeah. You know, I specifically I'm looking for a more CBD-oriented sponsor at the moment. I ran for Mary's Medicinals for a couple years and unfortunately, they're not going to be a sponsor moving forward this year, or at least not that I'm aware of. So, you know, something that kind of can supplement that would be great, more of a recovery-based product. And then I'm just always open ears to ideas or possible sponsorships, partnerships. Currently, The Farm and Incredible Edibles are essentially my two cannabis sponsorships.
Mathew: Okay. And how can people reach out to you if they want to connect with your or follow you?
Avery: So I'm on Instagram @runninhigh, and that's running with no "G" at the end. And then on Facebook, add a simple Avery Collins or at Google, Avery Collins. Facebook, I'm sure it would pop up. I don't know do Twitter or any of the other fun stuff. I try to keep it somewhat simple just enough to make the sponsors happy.
Mathew: Yeah. Now last one question. Do you think there's a cosmic balance and the reason that you're so active and endurance-oriented is because I'm so slothful and the universe brings everything into balance? You don't have to answer that question. I'm like joking. But anyway, Avery, thanks so much for coming on the show today and educating us. And good luck with all your marathons, and races, and everything. We'll be watching out for you.
Avery: Yes, sir. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
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