Day in the Life 2; Endurance Athlete Brian Davidson, Part Two: Death Valley Double Century

How fun was our first Day in the Life episode with Brian Davidson? Even as a vegan and an athlete myself, I learned a lot. Which is why we are doing this series- veganism works in different ways for different people and seeing this makes it more accessible. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback; there’s a desire out there to know more about vegans and how they do what they do!

Last week we caught a glimpse of how Brian eats and trains as he prepared for the Death Valley Double Century- a 200-mile time cycling event. Today’s show goes into Death Valley and follows the race. And have we got a treat for you!  When we approached Brian about this project he was worried that his training and competing was too unstructured. We assured him that his style is just one of many and we want people to see that. He expressed that he wanted to do well in the 200-mile event because veganism is so important to him. He didn’t want to let us down. I’ll let the video speak for him and just say that he definitely didn’t let us down!

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There you have it! Brian with his dates and liquid food was the first across the line after 200 miles, with the next racer more than 30 minutes behind! Check out the unbelievable results. So how does Brian do it? Here are his recommendations for riding or racing your first ultra-cycling, 100+ mile event.

Brian Davidson’s Tips for Your First 100+ Mile Bike Event

-Have a plan, but know it is okay to deviate from it. If we learned one thing from Brian it is this: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not going to make or break your success.

-Start slow and build a base! Not only with slower speeds, but less frequency. Brian thinks cyclists start too fast and get burned out before they build a good base.

-Build up to longer, unsupported rides. Brian suggests you be comfortable with 100 miles on your own before doing a supported 200-mile event.

-Make mistakes.  Brian has very little ego and was not scared to admit he had failed numerous times. More than once he was out on an all-day ride and hadn’t planned appropriately for the heat and needed to not only quit for the day, but find a ride home!

-Learn from your mistakes. Understanding yourself and what you need to do is a huge part of success in ultra-distance events.

-Aim for about 250 calories an hour. Many cyclists can go with very little food for the first few hours and may be unfamiliar with having to eat while riding. Aim for 250 calories an hour and adjust for heat and experience.

-Cross train. As we saw in part one with Brian, he does sit ups and push-ups and runs to cross train for cycling. With over 10 hours on the bike, non-cycling muscles get fatigued, so doing more than cycling in preparation makes you stronger and better suited for endurance.

-Do speed work only after spending many hours at a time on the bike. Brian said he only worked on getting faster after he was comfortable going for a long time. Then he does intervals and hill repeats to build strength and speed.

-Mentally prepare. In my own experience with ultra events, the brain wants to quit before the body needs to! Train your brain, while you train your body. Know that lows will come and be ready to work through them.

-Lastly, Brian uses some liquid foods in order to more easily process the thousands of calories he needs on a really long cycling day. There are commercially-available vegan options, but what Brian was using is a homemade version. More on that in an upcoming post.

And that concludes our time with Brian. Thank you Brian for being such a bad ass and letting us peek into your life. And for showing that you can be vegan and a damn fast cyclist! Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this please share it with others!

The Big Parade Staircase Walk

Hey everyone! First off, thank you for all of the awesome feedback from our Day in the Life episode with Brian Davidson.  We are so excited about episode two, which should be done for tomorrow. Yay! Wait to you see Brian in Death Valley, it is truly amazing.
Today’s post is from an event I did in 2009, called The Big Parade Stair Walk. I am posting it now because 2011’s Big Parade is this weekend. If you are in the Los Angeles area I highly recommend you come out to some or all of this. Did you know there over 100 stairways in the City of Los Angeles that are maintained as travelways? This walk explores them over two days and is full of historical and cultural events within the walk. If you think you know LA well, you need to come to this and see an LA you had no idea existed. I’ll be out there one or both days, come say hello! See the schedule and make your plans.
On the Big Parade
Making the city our own
One stair at a time.
(thanks to Lisa for the haikus)

Photo galleries, thanks to Steve Matsuda, Day 1 and Day 2.


The Big Parade is a 45-mile, 2-day walk that covers over 100 staircases in multiple Los Angeles neighborhoods. Over 250 people walked varying lengths, while a core group of us walked the entire route and camped in the Music Box Steps Park Saturday night. We started in downtown Saturday morning at 7am and finished after 10pm at the Hollywood sign.
When I do an event like this, almost no matter how I describe it, the automatic interpretation is that is a purely physical endeavor. While completing this walk is no easy physical task, that is only a small component. Walking is so humanizing and seeing the sections of this beautiful city that are only accessible by foot was much more of a social and emotional experience.
When we got to the Hollywood sign after 10pm (had been walking since 7am), and looked down on the city we had traversed, I looked at my tired, worn-out friends and felt closer to them than I ever have. I’ve always said that times in our lives where you are fatigued, hungry and just plain worn-out is when you see most clearly. I felt such a love for the people I shared this experience with and for the possibilities available to us when we slow down and see what our environment has to offer us.

Is it political? Is there a campaign? Are we a group? These are some of the questions asked. But really, the whole idea stems from Dan Koeppel’s fascination with these stairs as public access ways. They are technically ‘streets’ and they are there to be used by people. The small budget came from Backpacker magazine, but almost all of the work and effort came from Dan and the people close to him. His love of staircases-and he has many reasons-drew other ambitious, interesting folks to him. No organization or group, board of directors, mission statement, official endorsements, etc, etc…just a love for what traveling by foot means to each of us. There are political, environmental, social and even historical ramifications from our walk, but none are ‘the’ reason we walked.  And that’s the beauty of this!  “Togetherness’ is so cliche and over-used, but this bringing people together- urbanites, explorers, athletes, artists, historians- is what this walk is about in my eyes.

Sunday night we reached the Hollywood sign about 40 hours after the main group had started- the 9 of us who camped out at the Laurel and Hardy park and walked the entire 45-mile route. Literally hundreds of people walked some part of the route, but this core group had been together for the entire 40 hours. But then, as the only person walking home from the Hollywood sign, I had a solitary hour and a half walk. It was nearing midnight, I had pain in my legs, feet and shoulders which made the other pain I was feeling all the more sharp. So many automobiles-closed off metal boxes-hiding people from the joys of feet on the ground exploring and feeling.  It made more angry about our dependence on automobiles not because of the danger they presented to me, but because of what the drivers were missing out on by being trapped in a car so often.

Celebrate, rejoice!
Our feet get us anywhere
Why bother driving?

Physical pain is a pathway to the pain one feels inside. Physical pain brings clarity. And this internal pain that you feel makes its way to the surface. Many of us have set up our lives to avoid both of these pains, but pulling it to the surface can be pure motivation and energy for changing what we see is wrong in the world. It is power!  So I encourage you to explore this pain and use your human-power to change the world. And when it is exposed and you feel vulnerable, know that you are not alone.

Thanks to everyone, Dan Koeppel especially, who helped plan and organize the walk and to those who came out and walked part of it. We are changing this city one step at a time.

 The tech numbers for the nerds!

Mileage: 44.90
Time: 26:48:06
Ascent: 24,188 ft
Descent: 23,340 ft
Ave Pace, Day 1/2: 1.6/1.7 mph

Day in the Life 1; Endurance Athlete Brian Davidson

I am so incredibly stoked about today’s post. This project is over a year in the making and today it finally goes live!  I’ve been working closely with friend and videographer Sasha Perry on a ‘Day in the Life’ video series: I spend the day with a vegan athlete training, cooking and learning the ins and outs of their veganism.  Athletes have the most demanding nutrition needs and if veganism can work for them, it can work for you. I’m in a unique position as a Registered Dietitian and an athlete to both professionally evaluate their meals and to attempt their workouts. And it’s fun!

The first athlete in our series is a good friend of mine, Brian Davidson. This guy is incredible.  He’s an airplane mechanic, who spends the day on his feet wrenching on airplanes, yet still finds time to bike commute and train.  He does everything from water polo to iron-distance triathlons and has finished the 500-mile Furnace Creek 508 bike race twice. His Stokedtivity Levels are not only off the charts, but contagious!  He was nice enough to share his training and eating with us while we figured out how to make this show work. Thanks Brian, you rule!

Without further ado, here’s the 10-minute glimpse into Brian’s vegan lifestyle.  The recipes we make are below, along with nutrition information.

Are you stoked to eat and train? Here’s how you can eat like Brian:

Brian’s Super Breakfast Smoothie
5 bananas
½ cup peanut butter
1 ½ cups frozen blueberries

Add all ingredients to blender. Blend! Add water as needed. Drink.
Make sure your teeth aren’t purple before you go out.

Calorie breakdown- Carbohydrate 50%, Protein 10%, Fat 40%
Carbohydrate- 94g
Fat- 34g
Fiber- 15g
Iron- 1.6g

Nutrition Analysis- The simplicity of this smoothie is gold. Easy, low-cost, nutrient and calorically dense ingredients. It is very high in fat at 40%, but for someone like Brian who requires 4,000-5,000 calories a day eating a higher fat diet makes sense. I also like the flexibility of the recipe- you can sub another nut butter- almond, sunflower seed, cashew, etc or any frozen or fresh berries or fruits. And it’s a great use of over-ripe bananas!

Vegan Cashew Chicken Salad
16 ounces romaine hearts and/or salad greens
¼ cup cashews
2 roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 avocado, sliced
1 cup sliced carrots (optional: saute)
4 ounces vegan chicken strips, sauteed in a small amount of oil
2 tablespoons ginger miso dressing (optional: homemade dressing, recipes below!)

I love a slightly warm salad. Toss all of the room temperature ingredients and then add the vegan chicken and carrots, if sauteed.

Servings-1 big ass salad
Calorie breakdown- Carbohydrate 33%, Protein 15%, Fat 52%
Carbohydrate- 63g
Fat- 45g
Fiber- 25g
Iron- 10.2g, 57%, Calcium- 343g, 34%, Vitamin C- 80mg, 148%, Vitamin A- 500+%

Nutrition Analysis: This is a giant salad that’s packed with good nutrition. Twenty grams of protein! Take that, stupid naturopaths that say you can’t get enough protein from plant foods. Like his smoothie, this is very high in fat, a whopping 45 grams, mostly from the avocado and cashews. These are great polyunsaturated fats- heart healthy! Brian’s theme is adjustability- even though we asked him to have recipes and ingredients ready for the show, he actually did just make it up when we got there. And so can you, if you keep healthy ingredients on hand.

Brian ate mostly raw vegan for many years and he was cool enough pass on a few of his favorite raw dressings. Like Brian, these recipes are creative and flexible.

Raw Tahini Dressing
1/3 cup seseme seeds
1 clove garlic
1-2 fresh squeeze oranges (add or reduce for consistency)
(Sometimes I just use water and add until I get the right consistency)
Blend & enjoy!

Calorie breakdown- Carbohydrate 38%, Protein 10%, Fat 52%
Carbohydrate-  41g
Protein- 11g
Fat- 24g
Fiber-  10g
Iron 7.2g, 40% Calcium 566g, 57%, Zinc 3.9g, 26%

This dressing is not playing around- look at those numbers for iron, calcium and zinc! Sesame seeds are also a great source of B-vitamins. One note about the calcium is that this is for unhulled sesame seeds- most of the calcium is in the hull of the seed (see this note from a colleague).  They are sometimes labeled as ‘natural’ and raw ones are more likely to be unhulled. A benefit to making your own tahini dressing? Most tahini is made with hulled sesame seeds.

Raw Herb Dressing
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1 bunch cilantro (or parsley, mint, thyme, oregano)
1-2 fresh squeezed oranges (add or reduce for consistency)
Blend & enjoy!

Calories- 210
Calorie breakdown- Carbohydrate 56%, Protein 10%, Fat 34%
Carbohydrate- 32g
Protein- 6g
Fat-  9g
Fiber-  8g
Iron 1.3g, Calcium- 119g, 12%

While this recipe is not the banger that the tahini one is, it’s still solid. Also a good source of B-vitamins, like Folate and B6 and vitamin K. Also has significantly fewer calories.

Next week comes part two, where we join Brian in Death Valley to see how he fares in his 200-mile race. Without giving too much away, let’s just say he made veganism look good. Like really, really good!  We’ll also include more details of his training, including a plan for you to ride your first 100+ mile event.

Thanks for watching and please pass this on to anyone who says, ‘You can’t be vegan and an athlete!’ We’re here to prove them wrong. Also, do you know a vegan athlete we should profile? Or other suggestions for our series? Please leave your comments below and thanks for watching!

2011 Feel My Legs I’m a Racer report

The leaders making their way up hill number two, Eldred St.

Photos from Omar’s Flickr page

This year’s Feel My Legs, I’m A Racer will be memorable for two reasons: I put the least amount of work into it I ever have because I was swamped with other stuff and the most people ever showed up!

The morning started off at Golden Saddle Cyclery where part-owner and previous year’s winner Ty invited us over for some pre-race coffee. Hell yeah! Ty passed up defending his title in order to be the first person to race on a single-speed, which he did. Dope.

At 745am I rolled over to the park to a huge pack of cyclists. I love it. It makes me so happy to bring all these cyclists together. Even though apparently I may slightly offended everyone there when in my pre-race talk I said, ‘Wow, so many people here this year. I guess the roadies are less scared to come into the city and the city kids are less scared to race.’  No harm meant! Ha. Back when this race and Swarm! were being conceptualized the idea for both, honestly, was to get more city kids to race and more racers to ride bikes outside of proper racing. This was before Wolfpack Hustle, TRFKAS, BicyKillers, or Cyclones! I guess it’s happening, eh? 82 people rolling out of Silver Lake to ride 10 super hard hills is proof of that.

E-Rock Colton, one of the few veterans of the race out in 2011

Riding to the first hill a roadie who knows famous vegan track racer Jack Lindquist (2006, 2007 2008, 2009 winner) asked, ‘How many people here have raced this before? I can’t seem to find anyone.’ At the first hill while we waited for the scorers to get to the top I asked everyone who had raced previously to race their hand. Only 8 people! 90% first-timers! What does that say?

Shortly thereafter they were racing up Mt Washington, which is one of the most beautiful climbs on the route, if not in all of Los Angeles. It’s also misleading because it is the easiest. Every year a few fixed gear riders make it up….and then they see hill number two- Eldred St- and I never see them again! That’s not totally true, because a guy who I had just met at TRAFKAS, showed up on fixed and rode the first few hills competitively until he broke his cleat. A huge effort to do that. Mt Washington, as awesome as it is, seems to bring the drama! It was the site of the finish being in the wrong place in 2009 and this year someone crashed into Lacy, who was riding my brand-new Moth Attack bike, on the descent. Luckily she is alright, but the rear wheel was taco’d. She was able to ride the rest of the day, but the rim needs to be replaced. The worst part? The kid took off after that. Owell. At least she’s okay.

Jeff playing on the Moth Attack Adventure Bike before some dude collided into Lacy on the descent from the first hill

Eldred Street did it’s usual damage, with it’s 30+ percent grade and loose pavement.  Though the harder it is the more people cheer! There’s nothing like watching someone collapse at the top, get up and turn to cheer on the people behind them struggling to get up there. So good!

Thomas Street was it’s usual trickiness with that gate at the top and all the broken glass. Sorry! And by now it was clear that a young buck from Santa Barbara was owning it. He was unstoppable. There was some super fast people there this year (real roadies who do real races!) and he was proving to be the fastest of the fast. The top Swarm! rider, Jeff Lawler, was fighting to make top five and get points.

Group shot at the top of Thomas Street. It's a great view of DTLA

The halfway point, Echo Park Ave and Chango Coffee, comes so late in the day and it was getting hot. People were getting nervous cause they wanted to make Ciclavia.  We ended up with 42 finishing, better than half, which is a record, but I figure more would have finished if they didn’t skip out to ride CicLAvia with their families.

Micheltorena Street, with it’s wide berth is a crowd favorite. It’s also an ‘up and over hill’ which means spectators, if they want to keep going with us, have to go up the hill. It’s in the middle of Silver Lake, but on a clear day you can see the ocean….

It’s around this point in the day that the roads are getting busier, drivers less friendly and I’m getting hot and dehydrated. And I’m not even racing! At Fargo Street, considered by many to be the steepest paved hill west of the Mississippi, I thought I’d give it a go on foot. I went on the gun and even though I nearly popped about 20 feet from the top, was able to beat all the cyclists up! I also did not have 8 hills in my legs. And I did it barefoot, which I didn’t think anything of until I got a blister! Two minutes of running gave me a blister on each foot. Crazy.

I can't remember her name, but this woman gave it an unbelievable effort and rode a bunch of the hills on fixed...

Finally we rolled down to Riverside Ave, which we had taken to the first hill, to now hit the last: Stadium Way.  It’s after 130pm by now, I thought we’d be done by 12 or 1, and everyone just wants to get done. The kid from Santa Barbara had the win in the bag and everyone else is stoked to have Fargo behind them and an ‘easy’ hill the only thing between them and the coveted Feel My Legs I’m A Racer spoke card (courtesy of Creative Thing, for the second year in a row. Thank you!).

Wearing our new Swarm! jerseys, I speak with Mark and Jesse, the scorers for the day

Afterward we met under a tree in Elysian Park, I handed out the spoke cards and we talked plans to get to CicLAvia. I got SO much positive feedback this year. It leaves me smiling for days how people appreciate the work that goes into this. Not to mention the strangeness of being thanked for putting them through serious suffering. But putting this on is not a solo endeavor, it has been years of route finding with the help of numerous folks, not to mention day-of help from a number of Swarm! riders. Jesse and Mark for being such detailed scorers is crucial. Megan, Sasha, Stacy, Molly and other folks who did sweep and marked turns. The photographers, of course and Creative Thing for making the spoke card. You rule! Thank you so much.


1. Andrew Benson – 44 points
2. Jordan Haggard – 24 points
3. Eric Colton – 16 points
4. Adam Masters – 15 points
5. Jeff Lawler – 10 points
6. Nicholas Humphrey – 8 points
7. Fabian Vazquez – 6 points
8. Ty Hathaway – 5 points
9. Eugene Kim – 4 points
9. Jon Budinoff – 4 points
11. Allen Louie – 3 points

Kyle from ‘Tracko’ was awesome enough to mention the ride, which was then picked up by Prolly, which is probably (!) the first time we’ve gotten a mention outside of Los Angeles. More great  photos at Frank M Burton’s Flickr and Tong Sheng’s Picassa. And baby-maker and graphic designer extraordinaire Chris Cheung found the complete S&M Bikes video for which this ride is named after, on the internet, if you’ve got a bunch of time to spend seeing what BMX was like in 1989…

Thanks again to everyone who came out!