E35 - High-climbin' Gaimon and The Worst Retirement Ever

Do you know any professional athletes using Cannabis? It is difficult finding one willing to talk about it on the record. Phil Gaimon, once within the top fifty world’s best professional road racing cyclists, graciously chats with Kirk on how he uses Cannabis. While cycling as a professional, Phil authored books and pleased his sponsors enough allowing him to start the Worst Retirement Ever in 2016. Listen to why he preferred cannabis over alcohol while racing pro and how, after crashing his bike challenging for the Olympic track team, cannabis helped him sleep better. This episode explores cannabis and sports through the experience of an elite cyclist. 

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This Episode is sponsored by Prairie Supply Co.

Sunday, 22 September 2019 21:38

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Episode Transcript

Phil:  Well I was a pro cyclist for 10 years. And when I was 30 I sort of threw in the towel on professional racing I kind of was I understood what level I was at and what that meant. I don't. I'm guessing. Well nobody knows much about pro cycling but it's kind of a fringe sport. I was I was at the highest level. My salary was sixty-five thousand dollars a year. It's a full-time job. It's very dangerous at times you're racing down mountains in the rain. If you're watching the Tour de France a lot of crashes stuff like that. So, I kind of did the math at that point I'm like okay I'm not going to be a guy that wins the Tour de France. So, do I want to be a guy who lives this existence for another few years and you know just to be a bike racer. The answer was No. So I stopped and. Through I was I was trying to get a job. I thought I had a job lined up. When I when I stopped and that didn't really happen. What I what I did have at the time when I was racing I had good relations on a sponsor so I wasn't I was I was good on the bike. I don't like I'm humble and I end my I was kicked in by guys dropping me. For many years but I was know top 50 in the world of riding a bike up the hill. For what that's worth which is sixty-five thousand dollars a year. But I. But I was what I was kind of better at was sort of telling the story and communicating with an audience and promoting sponsors and like a funny creative way. So that whole time I had. I had I had a blog. I wrote three books. My my following and I try to be funny at some point I'll be funny this Interviewing is like oh yeah he is funny but. But I sort of put my personality out in a way that I think resonate with people and I guess maybe I was a level of racer that people could sort of identify with like the best of the best. No one no one thinks they're there Chris Froome. You know the guy who won the Tour de France last few times like no one sort of looks at him and feels and feels like they have much in common with him. But I think people would see me you know racing with my heart and killing myself and getting caught with you know two minutes left and not winning and they would sort of feel that with me and I was kind of that level of rider. So, I had I had sort of a fan following out of proportion to my my racing results and a lot of sponsors sort of appreciated the work that I did. So when I stopped racing. A lot of the brands that I did it came to me from racing that worked through my team sort of approach me individually I said Hey what are you doing next and can we sponsor it. So, I didn't really know what that was. So there was that there's an app called Strava that's really big in the endurance sports community running and cycling. And what that kind of picture Instagram except with your workout. So, you have like when you go for a ride you have these little G.P.S. computers and the computer will upload to this Instagram sort of style feed where it'll have you know this is this is the map that I. This is a map of my day. These are the 80 miles I wrote this is how much I climbs. And you're sort of expressing yourself via fitness I'm one of the components of that app is this thing that tracks people's times on certain segments of road. So, it'll track you know every climb in the world so Mount Baldy is kind of the big one in Southern California. And they and there's 80000 people have attempted it and all of their times are there and you can sort of see how you stack up versus the pros that have done it. And the amateurs have done it. So with that. So once I stopped that there weren't any pros that were really a lot of pros use this app. But none of them really took it seriously. And I sort of with nothing else to do started going after a couple. There was a guy in L.A. got was a weird long story but there was a guy in L.A. where I happen to live who was caught doping and he had all these records on Strava. He had great times on Strava and that was like his big thing. But he was caught. To to have been using EPO. And he was selling EPO and everyone in the city was really annoyed that he had all these records on this app that nobody cares about but a lot of people are participating in. And I hear I am I'm done racing I've nothing to do. I had a few months for I was still under contract and I would say I just got on this app and started taking all his records and I was the only person who could do it. It was pretty funny. And I just thought it was hilarious is my whole thing when I was racing was I was like I was outspoken against doping. I was I kind of came up when Lance was. Was just falling down and I sort of saw the damage it did to the sport. And you know the when. When I came into the sport when I first started racing the guys winning the big races in the US were making six figures by the time Redlands is kind of the biggest race on the American circuit. I won that when I was 26 and at that point my salary is fifteen thousand dollars. That's how much things hurt and I sort of witnessed the sport sort of get crippled from that. And I was always loud against doping so when I started taking the doping records on this app people thought it was funny a hell of attention and I got a lot of followers on Strava and then and then all these brands sort of hit me up to hey can we sponsor this, and I was like I don't know what this is but what if I make a Youtube show about it. So that was sort of the joke was I made this YouTube show that's worse retirement ever. So the idea is I'm retired but I suck at retiring. I'm horrible at retirement and I'm going out there. I'm still training hard and I'm I'm suffering up mountains and I just can't help myself. And it's an ironic title. It's clearly I love it and I love riding my bike. And it's kind of evolving into a travel show where you know the context is I'm going for this whole fine record. But the reality is I'm showing you what it's like to ride bikes. I just did a video from Austin Texas. So here's the nature. Here's where we stop for tacos here we suffer beers here some people from Austin telling you why they love it here. Here's the community. So that's sort of what was turned into and I'm on year three of it and yeah it's been it's a silly amount of work but it's been a lot of fun.

Phil: Yeah. I am officially retired from professional racing. And I think. But I mean I think we all go through life ultimately racing against ourselves in some way right. There's all everything's competitive and everything's. I don't know I'm always going to try to be the best me and I've sort of found this way to do it on my own platform and not on the platform of professional cycling was sort of a thing that looking back you know that the sport had a lot of tradition and a lot of a lot of bad traditions a lot of a lot of kind of negative history that it has to overcome. And I sort of was, you know you're not supposed to have fun in a bike race at least when I was doing it. You're supposed to take it seriously and respect it. And you know and not sort of you're not supposed to do a wheelie in the race you know with when there's a big crowd you're supposed to do a wheelie and make the lap. You're supposed to be serious and athletes. And I was kind of always just have fun because we don't get paid enough to not have fun. And why are we all taking this so seriously. And I think I think being in that sports would have crippled or just held me back a little bit creatively and emotionally it wasn't a great fit. It was the best it was the thing I was best at but it wasn't. It didn't work for me. I've been able to sort of make my own platform in a way that does work.

Kirk: Sure. OK. So your background is obviously road racing now that's where you get retired from. But so how did you discover tracks like you. You started racing towards getting yourself qualified for the Olympics in the velodrome.

Phil:  Yeah. So tracking is actually it's something that I did when I first started when I when I first started racing. I was I was in Florida and I was I would have been good at mountains but I had no way of knowing because there's no mountains in Florida. So I started racing there and the coaches there good friends Dan and Rebecca Larson. I'm still in touch with them. They are they were big track racers. So that was kind of a thing we'd go up in the summers and we'd race in the track and then the track racing is just it's a it's a very small. You know if there's say there's 300 jobs in the world and professional road racing maybe there's 50 in track and at the time I wasn't that good at either. But I was able to get a job on the road and someone paid me a measly salary to go race but it was something and the track there were just would have been there was there was no way to make a living and I was pretty far from good enough. At that time. That's twenty-two years old. So I would race the road and sort of never look at track again. And over the next two years I got a lot better at road. I got stronger all around. And then a few months ago I thought I looked in to try and track again the U.S. The Olympics are coming up and the US team there's there is an event that's for guys and the U.S. team said that they might be looking for somebody else who'd be good for that event. And I kind of went and did a test and was really good. So I sort of like All right that's what this is. At the very least this is fun. YouTube content is the most I get to go to the Olympics and I'm still not sure which it is. I had a really bad crash kind of early on in my in my effort there. So I'm not quite sure where where I go with any of it.

I mean opioids are the thing in the US that's the opioid epidemic isn't it. I think pretty public and known at this point. And yes so that and that they didn't. I think. Now I'm not sure. I don't know whether the medical industry. It seems like now either they're correcting it or over correcting at least how much they prescribe. Because I got one I got one bottle of oxycodone and no refills and no one's no one's pushed me on. You know why don't you try double. But also I'm not complaining about more pain my pain has been reduced. So I have an experience that we have an epidemic. But I have I was handed some opioids and I know just from reading the news that scared me just I just I know I know a couple of people personally who've gone from painkillers to heroin and it's not gone well for them. And I didn't want to be in that pool. And then you see all these other war stories I just there's definitely a problem. It's definitely not handled or been handled correctly.

Kirk:  So how are you then managing your pain now.

Phil:  Well for the most part it just is reduced. But I have I have a company sponsor called Halo blue CBD a friend started this company a year ago. And so CBD and then I live in California and marijuana is legal. I don't I don't smoke. I never smoked. I don't know whether the edible. I find that the different when it's most difficult for me to manage the pain is at night like. I could walk around during the day and it hurts and who cares. But at night like I literally couldn't sleep. From the pain. So I guess I should explain I had this crash I broke I broke eight bones I broke all my ribs on the right side and my collarbone and my shoulder the scapula the shoulder blades which is really complicated and painful break and a tough surgery you know kind of a long painful or difficult recovery. So that's sort of there's nowhere I can lay in my bed it's comfortable. You're right. I found that I found that five milligrams of edible Indica THC. Will help me sleep.

I live in California. Very normal it's very regulated. I've used it before. To be honest I think yeah I've been using THC on and off since I moved here. So I'm from Georgia and I know everyone ever smoked weed at some point growing up and my experience with that really wasn't great. I think that's because the because it's illegal you don't know what you're getting you can't control your dose you don't know. Yeah I know I'm like I'm smoking if I remember just like having a couple of my couple experiences with weed where we're negative and kind of anxiety filled and stressful and I was like this this drug isn't for me but then I'm in California and it's you know I was when I was a pro athlete. I can't afford to be hung over on my birthday I would rather have you know 20 milligrams of weed and be high than have a bunch of drinks like most people and be sick the next day or not feel well. I sort of found that it was a better way to the party and better for you and fewer repercussions. Either way I'm not driving.

Kirk:  So pro- athlete has cannabis come into a play is a restricted substance.

Phil:  So it's they they've changed it around. It's now it's illegal in competition is what that means so there's two there's two types of banned drugs is legal. There's out of competition and there's in which just means there's a threshold for how much can be in your system when you. So if they if I'm I don't I don't race anymore but if they come to my house to test me which they which they used to do or they still can do. And they come to my house and I'm not at a race then they don't test for THC there's no if I could be high and they wouldn't know or care if they if I do at a race they will test for THC and if it's in my system at a certain threshold then I'm in trouble.

Kirk: And how did they turn either as a blood test to hair test or urine test.

Phil:  Usually they do urine. Sometimes they also do blood OK and there's no reason they would come to my house four times a year. I mean randomly but probably average four times a year. And just knock on your door pee in a cup kind of thing. But but in those cases there's no problem with having THC in your system.

Kirk:  OK so you're no longer officially racing on the circuit so you've just you've just come off a horrific crash and you find yourself given some opiates from the doctor which is pretty much the first line for. For I mean as a nurse and as pharmacist we both know this in our practice. So you decide what you took a couple you took a couple of a doctor's prescriptions right took a stool softener. And did you find you. It helped with the pain or did you find it wasn't working. Why did you move into the cannabis routine like what was the straw that was it the fear of addiction.

Phil:  Yeah I think I guess I you know I had I had been I would use I would use weed between competition for sleep aid Anyway, so it used to be I would take Ambien. And like I said I found that that 5 milligrams of Indica to me like felt better for you. And for sure more effective purely at sleep then than Ambien or something else so. So I had it. And yeah. I think it's a combination of fear of addiction. Like I don't think I'm going to fall off the deep end and be shooting heroin because I got one prescription of oxy, I don't think that's a valid fear. But I also felt that this stuff isn't good for you. THC isn't that bad for you. And it just made more sense if I could handle one with that.

Kirk:  So cannabis for you has been both medicinal and recreational. (Correct.) And are you currently a card-carrying medicinal user of cannabis. Would you go and get or are you self-prescribing yourself.

Phil: You don't need a card here you just go into a store. You have to be 21 and.

Kirk: Its legal in Canada too. We have recreational but in some way we do separate the medicinal use of cannabis compared to though there you.

Phil:  There = might. I'm guessing there is a version of a medical specific that is probably the same shops. But no I kind of just experimented with. I mean this was when this was just one off season when I was in California. I wanted to see what was going on with weed. I just went. I got a chocolate bar and I had one square one night. And let's see what happens and I had two squares because what happens is that you know you try it you don't feel it. You take more and you don't know what you know. So I sort of experiment with here's what here's what 5 feels like here's what 10 feels like here's what you know all the way up to like oh that's too much. And that was that was a recreational perspective that was just you know because I I preferred it to alcohol. And so I was sort of comfortable enough to know like OK 5 milligrams Indica strain is sort of the amount that that helps me sleep. And that's what I'm looking for. So I sort of knew what to take to.

Kirk:  I guess here's a question for a you we know intuitively that the pro you know the NHL has come out The National Hockey League has come out and said that they don't recognize cannabis performance enhancing. Can you give me a summary of how does cannabis help you with rehabilitation of your of your of your basically your shoulder joint was shattered wasn't it right.

Phil: Yeah. I think that people say that the CBD and I assume THC also would aid inflammation which I think would be the recovery process. I can't speak to it from a medical perspective but I can speak to being an athlete and being sidelined is. Sleep is the main thing. I think that the people talk about a lot of stuff with recovery but really when your body heals as when you're asleep and when you're not sleeping it slows everything down and that's from a fitness perspective. You know if you do a big workout and you don't sleep enough that that that's going to cost you the next day. So that was something that's definitely the biggest component is just it helps me rest. All right when there's an anxiety component also that that when you're when you're when your job is your body and you can't use it it's mentally very difficult. And the THC has helped for that as well.

Kirk:  OK so you're outspoken about this you've put this on your YouTube channel for it's public domain now. People know you're using cannabis for medicinal reasons and recreational reasons are you. Do you have any fear about travelling between borders.

Phil:  Yeah. That's a that's a that's kind of a scary thing. I wouldn't recommend you know crossing state lines with with a bunch of illegal stuff. Yeah I  on't want to be a felon. Luckily like I'm in California where it's OK.

Kirk:  But you travel all over the world right. So the I mean this is I think this is one of the reasons why we can't find pro athletes to talk to us because I mean those borders involved with your profession or you're in your retirement.

Phil:  Yeah I think. I think when I mean when I was in when I was in Pennsylvania I had some I can't I drove out in a van. I mean I think in most places you're not you're not search. I don't think weed is considered a very super serious crime these days. It's brutal how many people are in prison for it but I think these days it's legal in a lot of states. And I think it's sort of almost effectively legal in other states if you're not a moron about it. But but I also I work for myself. I have my own stuff. I don't have any sponsors or teams to worry about there's no upside for a team to say. Our guys use used drugs or use anything. So I think a lot of it with sponsors I think they're thinking about you know how it would be perceived by the public. And there's a lot of people who still don't know you just in the YouTube comments on the comments on Instagram when I talk about CBD. People are asking is this legal. Are you high. And it's like no you don't get high from CBD. How does not everybody know that by now. But they don't. And I think that the optics of it are something that a lot of teams and sponsors and athletes are concerned about.

Kirk:  But you haven't lost any sponsors over this.

Phil:  No I mean I make my own sponsors and they kind of sponsor me for what I am. No one's going to. No one's going to fire everybody knows me right. No one's going to axe me for four using CBD and a perfectly legal substance. You know if. Yeah it's not. I don't. That's not my identity isn't weed. You know I don't. I don't walk around like like Willie Nelson or something right. I'm able to. I'm able to do everything I need to do and that's it. You know that was an issue that would be an issue.

Kirk:  Right. Fantastic. I sure appreciate it. You know what. I need to allow you to speak to your charities you you have a couple of charities you working on please speak to those.

Phil:  I appreciate that. Yeah. So my whole my whole idea was when I when I raised it. It felt very selfish. The whole point is you know I you train really hard and then you get to win and put your arms up and that feels good. Sort of in my eye now that I don't race anymore but I'm still competitive ish. I might my sort of thought was I race or I compete and I use my platform to kind of talk about look get Hungry which is this really great charity they kind of they're their ideas sort of tackle privilege by by helping out you know kids who aren't fed before school for example. So they show you get dropped off at school and you know your parents are broke and they're they're offered their job and they just drop the kid off 20 minutes late. There's no breakfast. Well that kid is going to also not do well that kid is going to have bad grade. That kid is going to act out whereas you know the studies have shown if you if you give them an apple if you give them some peanut butter there their grades go from C's to B's and they kind of have a shot. So. So no kid hungry does great work with that. And that's something that I've been trying to. My goal is to raise a hundred -thousand dollars this summer for them and I think we're gonna get there. But I have I have links in my in my thing if anybody wants to check that out just Google me and you'll find links to Hungry pretty quick.

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