Vegan cyclist Abdullah Zeinab set a new record and he did it on a diet of mostly hash browns.
Zeinab rode in the Trans Am Bike Race last month, an annual ultra-cycling event that takes the rider across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. It’s a true test of both physical and mental endurance. At 6,800 kilometers, it’s nearly twice as long as this year’s Tour de France. There are no set breaks, so it’s up to the cyclist to decide when and how long to rest.
Hash Browns: Plant-Powered Fuel
Another distinction that sets the grueling race apart from others is that the rider must be completely self-sufficient. In other words, no outside help is allowed. The 25-year-old endurance athlete had to source food and shelter on his own. Fries have long been a bastion of hope for vegans dining out. During the Trans Am, Zeinab relied their breakfast-y cousin: diner hash browns.
“I’d go in and say give me 10 or 12 serves of hash browns,” he told WAtoday. “You’re trying to get them quick, you don’t want to explain to them, ‘I’m riding across the country, give me these hash browns fast.’”
A Record-Breaking Finish
He completed the race in a record 16 days, 9 hours, and 56 minutes, finishing first out of 74 cyclists. The Australian slept an average of three hours today and estimates that he ate more than 100 hash browns. Zeinab, who only began cycling seriously four years ago, said that he knew the Trans Am would be the hardest thing he’s ever done, Australian heat notwithstanding. He has a unique approach to dealing with the mental toll the race takes.
“The best thing you can do is pretend you have one of those things in ‘Men In Black’ and wipe your memory for five minutes,” he said. “If you’re in an intense amount of pain you have to focus on literally just the next pedal stroke. You start counting, ‘one, one, one, one’. That’s the technique to stop you getting overwhelmed.”
This isn’t Zeinab’s first big victory. He finished the 5,500-kilometer Indian Pacific Wheel Race in 2018 in spite of the race being cancelled due to a rider’s death the previous year.
Vegan athletes are tearing down long-held stereotypes that eschewing animal protein makes you weak. Fifty-six-year-old vegan triathlete Engine 2 founder Rip Esselstyn recently broke a world record for the 200-meter backstroke at a Houston event. U.S. Women’s Soccer co-captain Alex Morgan helped her team secure their fourth World Cup victory this month. And James Cameron’s upcoming documentary “The Game Changers” will showcase multiple top athletes when it premieres later this year.
Speaking on what it felt like to win the Trans Am, Zeinab said: “The finish isn’t that big of a deal, it’s not like you fantasise about it. It’s a bittersweet moment that the journey has come to an end.”