Author Archives: Matt Ruscigno

About Matt Ruscigno

I'm a vegan Registered Dietitian, endurance athlete and activist living car-free in California. I think fun, adventure, ethics and radical politics go hand in hand.

You went all the way to Idyllwild for only 28 miles?

I’m an endurance athlete through and through. I don’t know if it’s my bike touring background or just my mental state, but something keeps me in zone 3! I’ve tried recently to expand my racing, mostly through cyclocross, and this inevitably leads to shorter races in general, and the Idyllwild Spring Challenge this past Saturday, specifically.

Before this my only mountain bike races shorter than 100 miles were Vision Quest, which is ‘only’ 56 miles, but has something insane like 11,000 ft of climbing (there was snow in Orange County that year), 12 Hours of Temecula, where I rode 94 miles and the Boggs 8hr last year. Ha! I just love the long stuff…

I scheduled this race because Nicolas signed up, but then he couldn’t go. I emailed the race organizer and she was exceptionally cool about the registration stuff and before I knew it Marissa, Smokey the dog and I were in her car early Saturday morning heading to the mountain town of Idyllwild for my first ever cross-country mountain bike race.

 

The first climb was technical single track and I had to pick my way through…
Photo by Kathy Burcham

 

Endurance racers get a lot of credit. ‘You rode how far?’ But racers like Steevo turn themselves inside out weekend after weekend and that’s something I can’t wrap my mind around. I was thinking ‘this is a short race’ but I went out like it was a 2.8 mile race and not 28 miles. At the top of the first climb I was seeing stars and gasping for air! Was it the heat? Am I that out of shape? Oh yeah, we’re at 5000 feet! That helped calm me down. As soon I caught my breath I went balls out. Again. I don’t know if it’s because of where I started in the Open Class pack, but I just didn’t see many people. That makes ‘racing’ harder. Where am I? Where are the other single speeders?

The course was superbly marked, there were volunteers at every potentially confusing turn and after the third big climb, about half-way through, the rest was rolling, mostly downhill technical single track. This is why I’m here! SO fun. Dustier and looser than I thought Idyllwild would be, but still super fun. I started to finally catch people and for a long-ish downhill doubletrack section I used the single-speed skill of tucking behind a geared bike that was tearing it up! She pulled me along until we hit a flatter section and I could pedal again. Suddenly we were passing people left and right. In my blurry-visioned, dehydrated state I was using my last bit of focus beyond trying to stay upright to see if anyone we passed was on single speed.

We finished by returning down the climb pictured above. When I crossed the line I had no idea where I had placed. I just knew that every muscle in my body was sore. I even had crashed in a soft section and the sting of scrapes and bruises was now apparent.

I hydrated, washed off in a sink and then we hung out for the raffle. I love raffles! Legalized gambling. When results were posted I was surprised to see that I got 3rd out of 4 people in the Open Single Speed Class…..and I’m pretty sure the guy I beat was on a fat bike!  The results page hasn’t been updated yet to see where I placed against others in the Open Class. Overall though I’m stoked for the experience and Idyllwild Cycling put on a great race. They even had dog-sitting and proceeds went to the local Living Free Animal Sanctuary. Get out there if you get the chance!

We headed into town for eats, stopped at the health food store (somethings never change) and then got falafel at a super friendly Greek spot before heading out of the mountains and back toward the coast. My post-race fatigue is somehow different. More intense and less of a generalized tiredness? I guess that would make sense considering that is the difference between this race and what I usually do.  So for all of you endurance racers, get out there to do a shorter race and turn yourself inside out!

 

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‘Veganism is dangerous’ response on Discerning Brute, the Mt Laguna Bicycle Classic and not bike pack racing

Is veganism dangerous for kids? If you read the recent NY Times Op-ed you might think so. Fortunately there are experts who can point to the real science. In my first contribution for my friend Joshua Katcher’s site, The Discerning Brute, I wrote about the response from Registered Dietitians and the vegan community- and how her article isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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Me chillin at the start. One of 500 photos from the day available at http://www.adventurecorps.com/mlbc/2012/2012results.html.

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Last weekend I had the privilege to ride the Mt Laguna Bicycle Classic, a fantastic AdventureCORPS century in East San Diego County. I rode the pre-ride in 2009 and the 2010 event- somehow finishing in just over 6 1/2 hours. How the heck did I do that? I guess the woman at the aid station who said, ‘I thought you were fast?’ when I leisurely rolled up on the far end of the bell curve knew something I didn’t. And this was before I broke a spoke on my rear ksryium wheel and borrowed a friend’s bike to finish…

As always Chris Kostman took a million photos, most of which are available on the results page. Now it’s no secret that AdventureCORPS helps out my bike club Swarm!, as does Swarm! help at most AdventureCORPS events so what I’m going to say may seem bias. There are a few things that separate a great event from a decent event and AdventureCORPS does them all. Here’s an incomplete list off of the top of my head:

-Clear communication before the event- what the course, aid and start/finish will look like and what participants need to know and have.
-Well-stocked aid stations with friendly, knowledgeable volunteers- not just partners of participants who don’t know anything about cycling, the course or the food/supplements being offered.
-Energetic volunteers! It makes such a difference to have people out there who are stoked. Most AdventureCORPS volunteers have done the events- it makes a huge difference.
-Food at the end that isn’t the same as the snacks at aid stations. Home-made Filipino food with vegan options? Hell yeah!
-Lots of high-quality photos, clearly organized and available for free!

It was a great way to spend my day and my first century since my bike tour last summer! Geez…

This morning the Stagecoach 400 Bike Packing Race kicked off in Idylwild, CA. I really wanted to do this race. I started the motions, was mountain biking more but then just didn’t get my stuff organized. What kind of organization? See my post before I attempted the Arizona Trail Race. My DNF there really has had a huge impact on me- a year later and I haven’t even finished writing about what happened. Even though this course is much more rideable, I still had my concerns and was only willing to show up at the start if I had pre-ridden all of it. But I didn’t get it together in time. Maybe next year? Meanwhile follow the brave souls who are riding this year including Jill Homer, who I link to often, on the Track Leaders Map.

Have a great weekend and I hope Spring has sprung wherever you are and that you’re enjoying these longer days. I know I am!

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Successful Day in the Life screening!

 

Thanks to everyone who came out for the first ever Day in the Life screening. Over 70 people joined us! Many thanks to The North Face for not only providing the space, but donating 2 $50 gift cards to the raffle. Just by showing up you had a 1 in 35 chance of walking away with $50 to spend at The North Face! We’d also like to thank Veggie Grill for giving us a great deal on the delicious food and Golden Saddle Cyclery, Moth Attack Bikes and Ergon Bike Ergonomics for donating to the raffle.

 

Chris Kostman/AdventureCORPS photo.

 

As I’ve said before, we are so fortunate to have been there to capture Donovan’s experience running 100 miles. Sasha’s short film is so damn motivating! Everyone had smiles on their faces when it ended and we had a number of great questions about veganism, ultra-running, filming and our project. The excitement in the room makes me think we need more events like this. Thank you again to everyone who came and participated in one way or another- we could not have done this without you. If you missed it and still haven’t seen it, you can always watch Day in the Life episode 5 online. Meanwhile keep your eyes out for our next episode!

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Guilt-Producing Food Choices That Aren’t as Bad as You Think

Guilt is a strong emotion that plays a role in our everyday lives. It’s an emotional function that shows us the difference between our life and the life we want to live. It can lead to action, but too often I see guilt as a negative.

For example my clients tend to be ahead of the curve. They are thinking about their own diet and its effect on their health. They are eating a plant-based diet of predominantly whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. And they are motivated to make any needed dietary changes, but yet some are plagued by guilt.

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Guilt-Producing Food Choices That Aren’t As Bad as You Think

Snacking. Eating snacks throughout the day increases your metabolism and keeps you from overeating at meal time. Don’t hesitate to snack on healthy foods.

Eating any form of sweetener. Yes, on average Americans eat too many added sugars and this has deleterious health affects. But are you adding a small amount of agave or maple syrup to an otherwise plant-based whole-food meal? If so, don’t sweat it.

Eating late at night. For many people, eating at night means eating additional, unneeded calories, mindlessly snacking and just making poor nutrition choices in general. But those are different than if you have to eat late because you worked late or took extra time in preparing a great meal. Evaluate what you are eating at night and if you need it, eat and don’t feel guilty!

Eating fat. General nutrition recommendations are to eat low-fat or at least less fat. But the general population is not eating a predominantly plant-based diet. If you are, then the rules are different. Plant fats behave very differently from animal fats; they can be beneficial where animal fats are problematic. Read this fantastic interview with Dr. Walter Willett for an overview of this idea. [Note that trans-fats are technically plant-based, but I'm talking about naturally occurring plant fats. Trans-fat replicate animal fats in foods and in humans]

Eating any refined grain. Yes, we should all eat predominantly whole grains. But that pizza topped with veggies and tomato sauce? Dig in. And there’s some evidence [here's a random abstract] that compounds in whole grains interfere with nutrient absorption. This isn’t a go-ahead to get most of your calories from Chicosticks and Peanut Chews, but, as I’m saying over and over in this post, what are you eating most often? If it’s whole grains then don’t stress the occasional refined grain.

Eating processed foods. ‘Processed’ is one of those terms like ‘toxins’ or ‘cleanse’ that are so broad they have lost any real meaning- yet I hear them all of the time. So much of the food today has little resemblance to its origination and the negative health effects are well-documented. But at what point is something too processed? Fruitarians say that eating anything that kills the plant is detrimental. And I think that some textured vegetable protein products are so far from soybeans that they have lost most beneficial properties. But recently at a dinner someone tried telling me that tofu is too processed. Too processed? Check out these step-by-step instructions (with photos!) on how to make tofu at home and see that tofu maintains much of the integrity of the original bean.

Eating soy. Soy is nutritious, cheap, versatile and safe! See this exhaustive paper by superstar RD Jack Norris that cites over 130 studies.

Eating fake meats. Most of us grew up eating meat and we enjoyed the taste. Some vegetarians now abhor even the idea of meat and that’s fine; I’m not about to talk someone into eating fake meats. But for the rest of us: the occasional meat analog is quite satisfying. Should you rely on them for most meals? No, definitely not. Should you focus on whole foods like beans? Yes. Just don’t feel guilty about the times you want to dig into a nice vegan pizza topped with veggie sausage.

Some of you will read this and think about how you never do any of these and why would anyone? Congrats to you because you are definitely an exceptional person. I wouldn’t advise you to do otherwise. But for most of us the above are real-life examples of how we balance good nutrition and our desire for certain foods. My point is that the evidence in the nutrition field isn’t precise enough to say there are benefits to never doing the above. What you eat most often is what really matters. With the assumption that you are already eating a plant-based diet of predominantly whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. The guilt that we feel and the stress of trying to be perfect are worse for us than doing any of the above!

Can you work on feeling less guilt? I hope so! Thanks for reading and I hope this is helpful. Have a great weekend and maybe I’ll see you Sunday night at our Day in the Life screening?

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Filed under eat, Uncategorized, vegan

Day in the Life Screening April 15th

I am so stoked to announce our first ever Day in the Life screening! On Sunday April 15th at 630pm at The North Face in Beverly Hills [map] we’re showing a special edition of Donovan’s episode where he runs his first 100-mile race. A Q&A with Filmmaker and co-creator Sasha Perry, ultra-runner Donovan Jenkins and myself will follow.

 

Details

-Free food samples from The Veggie Grill! Both The North Face and Veggie Grill have been super helpful in making this event not only great, but free. These will be samples, not a meal. Looking at you Jack Lindquist.

-Raffle for all attendees! Prizes from Golden Saddle Cyclery, The Farmhouse Conf 2, The North Face and True Love Health.

-It’s the night of CicLAvia, which you should definitely also do that day.

-The Q&A should be super fun because we’ve planted people to ask all the pressing questions like, ‘where do you get your protein?’

How you can help

Share the above flier and the link to this page with running and vegan forums, meet-up groups, organizations, etc. Your own connections can really help to get people there!

Use this printable pdf of the flier for running stores, vegan restaurants and other places.

Join and share the facebook event page.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you there! If this is a success there’s talk of a mini-tour where the three of us travel to do screenings in other cities.

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Photos, Videos and Coverage of the 2012 Feel My Legs I’m a Racer

Photos by Donovan, Wolf Pack Hustle and Area45. Links to more photos below.

Backside of Amethyst in Montecito Heights. Photo by Errin Vasquez

It had started to rain and even though we were riding the usual 10 hills, we were riding up Amethyst St from the backside and it proved to be an entirely different experience.  The road is narrow, filled with potholes and blind corners with steep switchbacks that wind up a seemingly rural mountain. Our group had diminished in size and smiles were infrequent. But as I stood at a switchback filming riders go by I looked out from the hood of my rain jacket and for no reason in particular thought to myself, ‘This is why I put on this ride.’

Eldred St from the top. Some say it's steeper than Fargo...
Photo by @WolfPackHustle

It’s a Los Angeles that most people never see.
It’s a physically and mentally hard journey with little reward.
It’s camaraderie. The fastest cheer on the others from the top of the hill.
It’s simple. Pedal your bicycle up hill. No money exchanges hands, no permits or road closures, just simple bike riding on public streets.

The famed cobblestones of Baxter from Echo Park Ave. Photo by @Donorun

 Results
1. 50 points – Jon (Wolfpack)
2. 40 points – Evan
3. 16 points – Ivan
4. 15 points – Jacob (Swarm!)
4. 15 points – Michael (La Grange)
6. 10 points – Chris (Orange 20)
7. 4 point – Mark D.

[update 4-10-12: Points/results now correct]

Jon Budinoff on Thomas. Props to him for winning every hill. Photo by @Donorun

Uyen Nguyen was the only woman to attempt all 10 hills in 2012. And if there was an award for Most Stoked she would definitely get it. Photo by @Donorun

It didn’t rain until hill number 7, but since we did the route backwards [map] this when we were farthest from the start- probably reduced the drop rate.

Everyone who endured until the end, excluding one guy who hadn't made it up yet- sorry man! I felt bad for keeping people in the rain even a minute longer... Photo by me.

Sasha, my partner for the Day in the Life series, made this cool video using our GoPro.

Road Block from Wolf Pack Hustle stopped by to shoot this video of Eldred St.

Thanks so much to everyone who makes this ride possible, from the Swarm! volunteers like Jesse and Molly who rode up every hill and kept score to those who come out and ride. It really makes me happy that so many people find joy in such a unique event! Below are some of my favorite photos and there’s more 2012 coverage from Wolf Pack Hustle, TakeOver LA, Velo Club LaGrange, and photos by Errin Vasquez/Area45  and Donovan Jenkins.  And there’s the history of the previous 6 years.

The rain was really falling by the time we left Eldred St. Photo by @WolfPackHustle

White Knoll to Marview is a classic hill, has been on the FML route since the very first year. Photo by @Donorun.

A 29er and a Rando bike! All bikes are welcome! Photo by @Donorun.

Riding up Boylston from Stadium Way ensures that we get the maximum elevation out of each hill. Photo by @Donorun.

We arrived at Fargo with our crew to the confusion of the LA Wheelman folks. Fortunately they were very cool and cleared the hill for us to race up it. It helped that a Furnace Creek 508 veteran was the one deciding who goes up when! Thanks Picachu! Photo by @Donorun.

Welcome to Eldred Estates. Photo by me.

Vegan waffles with strawberries and cream, potatoes, tofu scramble and coffee warmed us up nicely post-ride. Thanks to Sasha and Luz for organizing the foods! Bad photo by me.

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Final map and details for 2012 Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer

Racer I am, Legs My Feel?  We’re going backwards this year! Here’s the map of the 10 hills:

Hills- Red
Route between hills- Blue
Return from last hill- Green

Sunday March 25th, 745am at
Silver Lake Pedestrian Plaza

Sign in at 745, meeting at 815am, roll to hill #1 at 830. Please be on time!
Day-of announcements: @BikeSwarm
Yes- rain or shine, any bike, water, snacks, tube, tools, stokedness, riding for points, riding to finish, waiting at top of each hill
No- bad attitudes, cars, jock mentality, entry fee, prizes
See other FAQ on this earlier post, propaganda here, entire event history here and send any questions to BikeSwarm [at] gmail
I may need some more day-of volunteers, please come speak with me in the morning if you’d like to help out. Thank you!

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Food permeates our lives, or in otherwords, my friends do cool stuff

I love set-in shelves, especially when filled with food! Not to mention my book being there...

My good friend Lisa, whom I have mentioned regarding her Tract House project and Bike Night at the Hammer (2009, 2010, 2011) lives in a warehouse in downtown LA with a few other artists. I was heading over there the other day because Morgan and Mike Szerszunowicz‘s band was playing and Lisa asked if I wanted to come by earlier for dinner. Of course! She was making pasta with beans and kale, but I didn’t recognize the bean and when I asked she showed me this bag:

Tepary beans are pre-Columbian and native to southwest US/Mexico and traditionally are used in the Three Sisters farming method. They are highly drought-resistant and the flavor is almost nutty. They were delicious with pasta and kale. According to this article 24% of the calories are from protein which puts them above almost all other legumes! They are also high in fiber and iron.  The ones she uses are available here.

How many fruit shelves do you know with their own Youtube page

Now Morgan is no slouch in the kitchen either- like when he made curry after our mountain run- and even though his band was playing, he took the time to make relevant pesto. Yes, relevant pestos! Their band is Yersinia Pestis, named after the bacterium that caused the major plagues in early European times. So why not spicy pesto to accompany black metal?

3 types of pesto with varying degrees of spiciness.

Along with two types of homemade bread, for your tasting pleasure!

I asked him about the recipe and sure enough the base is the Classic Pesto from Vegan with a Vengeance which we made regularly when we lived together.  It’s super good! Here is a video of it being prepared (with recipe) and it is also very close to this Post Punk Kitchen version.  Like Isa says, pesto is delicious, versatile, easy to prepare and a crowd-pleaser. I highly recommend making this recipe. Level of death spice up to you!

Morgan, er Dr. Beeby, being the science nerd he is also set up a projection that played loops of bacteria under a microscope. How is that for DIY? (3 of the 4 members of Yersina Pestis pictured- sorry Jeff)

This post took a turn toward the macabre with all this talk of plague and bacteria, but don’t let that keep you from making great pesto or integrating fun food into your life!

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Deep Dish Vegan Pizza Baked in a Cast-iron Skillet

Photo from my bike club’s tumblr of an early round of pizza making

Oh, pizza how I love you. I won’t pretend that pizza is a health food, but I do know that it has been an integral, yummy part of my diet since I was old enough to think about food. In my Italian-American household growing up pizza was a ritual. My father painstakingly searched out all the local pizzerias to find one that made pizza closest to what he grew up with in Brooklyn. He practically interviewed the owner and the pizza maker (often the same person). I remember this place opened by a family who had moved from Brooklyn gave my father a special gold discount card because they loved how much he loved pizza!

What my pizzas look like today.

But then pizza became an issue when I first went vegetarian at age 13. I would pick the pepperoni off my slices and my father would yell at me that I was wasting money and we couldn’t afford to not eat toppings. When I went vegan a few years later my generally supportive mother was concerned that I was depriving myself unnecessarily by excluding cheese. “But, why cheese too? What will you eat, how will you survive?”

For years I ate cheeseless pizzas or made my own with pre-made dough and was generally happy with them. When vegan cheeses improved in the early aughts, I still wasn’t that impressed. I’d much rather have a tasty cheeseless pizza than have a mediocre cheese on there. But, and I hate to admit this, when Daiya came out it really was a game changer.  All this time and I had never made my own dough. The rising and the kneading, it always seemed more science than art, and that’s not my cooking style. But then one day I wanted to make pizza with a friend and there were no pre-made doughs at any walkable stores. We had to resort to buying pre-made crust. It was expensive and incredibly meh. That did it!

So with new found excitement I called my good friend Dave Vandermaas (photo) who I knew would have a kick-ass dough recipe. Then I decided I wanted to make deep dish pizza in cast-iron skillets. It’s on another level! And it’s so much easier than I ever thought it would be. I’ve played with the recipe and made some small changes- maybe pizza making is more art than science!

Perfect Pizza Dough

1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm (not hot!) water
2  1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 t salt
2 t sugar

1. Add dry yeast and 1 t sugar to warm water, let stand for 10 minutes.

What your yeast should look like after 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile combine flour, salt, remaining sugar and olive oil in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3. After 10 minutes and yeast has grown significantly, add to mixing bowl.

4. Stir ingredients until well-combined. Dough should be slightly wet- it’ll stick to your fingers.

Pre-rise dough mixture.

5. Cover with dish towel and let sit in a warm place for 30 minutes- I turn my oven on at 100 degrees and then turn off immediately. Racks should be warm to touch but not too hot.

Dough has just about doubled in size- in only 30 minutes

6. Dough should have risen to about double its size. Lightly flour a flat surface and your hands, pull dough out and kneed to shape. I flatten and double at least twice, but spend only about 2 minutes doing this. It’s way easier than I thought!

You don't have to do much kneading to get it to the right size.

7. Flatten dough into cast-iron, add toppings. Traditional deep dish has sauce on top of cheese, but I still prefer my cheese in between the sauce and toppings.

I flatten the dough on the skillet and press it against the sides, the way I imagine you do when making apple pie- though I've never made apple pie.

8. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Note- I always double the recipe and use 1.5 doughs for my  12-inch cast-iron and 0.5 doughs for the 9-inch one.

Toppings for two pizzas

1 small head of broccoli finely diced
1 zucchini finely diced
4 cloves of diced garlic
1 bag Daiya mozzerella
1/2 package  Field Roast sausage
15 ounce jar pizza sauce (slightly thicker than marinara)

Cost- These two pizzas cost me about $13- and I used organic flour, yeast, vegetables and pizza sauce. And half of that cost is the vegan cheese and sausage!! So you can make two organic cheeseless veggie pizzas for about $7 with pretty minimal effort.  How amazing is that? And if you are like me and more of a cook than a baker, don’t let pizza dough intimidate you. It’s not a perfect science and if you are comfortable in the kitchen you too can make these fantastic pizzas.

Let me know if you try them! And please do share any pizza making tips and recipes in the comments. Thanks and enjoy!

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2012 Feel My Legs I’m a Racer Propaganda

 

Here’s an 8.5 x 11 pdf with two half sheet fliers for printing.

I realize that this is the same day as the LA Wheelmen Fargo Hill Climb but I couldn’t avoid that conflict. It’ll be a little chaotic over there, as Fargo may be an earlier hill this year, but maybe we’ll pick up a few more riders for the rest of the hills? Every year I email them an invitation to come to this, but they never do- or even write back. But I’ll let them know that we’ll be there this year.

Also, if you read through the history of this event you can see that despite having the word ‘racer’ in the title the majority of people are there for an unbelievable tour of back roads and hills in Los Angeles- Shawn Bannon’s photos from 2010 really capture this. And any and all bikes are welcome! Just bring a good attitude- and patience.  See you bright and early on the 25th.

Thanks to Swrve and Golden Saddle Cyclery for being supporters of this event.

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