Interview with Vegan Athlete: Nicholas Gjoka
Tofurky is very excited to announce our latest sponsored vegan athlete in the field of XC /Cross Country Mountain Bike racing, Nicholas Gjoka.
Talking Tofurky(TT): Tell us about your sport and how you got into it?
Nicholas: I compete in XC (cross country) mountain bike races. A typical race will be one to four laps of a course, working out to be about 15-25 miles long and usually no longer then two hours long. I grew up always riding bikes, I bought my first mountain bike before a car. I love bicycles! I would always ride my bmx on trails and dirt roads so when my older cousins started riding mtn bikes moving up to a mtn bike just made sense!
There is nothing that can compare to riding down some sweet single track in the middle of the woods, for me it’s very spiritual and of course a rush!
What does training look like for you? What is your competitive season involve?
Training starts months before the actual race season. For me I really don’t have an off season, I am always riding my bike but I step up the riding and training around Nov-Dec with base training and closer to the season I start to dial in specific things like technical riding, climbing, interval training etc.
My race season here in the south usually starts around March and goes into early Aug.
This current season I also did a three race pre-season series and I might do a race or two in FL in the fall.
Why a vegan diet/lifestyle? What was the impetus for you and your family to embrace this way of living?
I first went vegetarian for the animals, it didn’t make sense that I was eating those friendly, kind, innocent animals.
A few years later I learned about veganism through punk and hardcore music and other vegans distributing literature about it. I learned about the environment effects and the personal benefits of a vegan lifestyle. It all made sense!
I am vegan for the animals first and foremost then environmental, spiritual and health benefits.
My wife was vegan when we met, it is actually sort of how we met, at a mutual friends vegan spot (Dough Bakery) here in Atlanta. We are choosing to raise our son on a vegan, organic as possible diet. You are what you eat so why put garbage and decaying flesh in your body? We want our kids to be running on clean, pure, high octane food.
What are some of your challenges and how do you address them?
Being vegan now is way easier then it used to be growing up in the 1990’s.
I’ve toured the world with bands and following bands (Morrissey) and finding stuff to eat would sometimes be hard. Now you can stop at almost any grocery store, convenience store, bodega, etc and find something vegan not just fruit and veggies and a lot of places have a veg friendly option on the menu now. We like to travel a lot so just in case we don’t find anything we pack up some Raw Revolution bars, home made trail mix, fresh fruit and veggies that can travel easy.If you’re going out to eat then do a quick Internet search to see what they have on the menu, check ahead of time if it is vegan and if not, ask if they can make something for you.
Tell us about your rock star family, too.;-)
Currently I’m living in Atlanta GA with my wife and our seven month old son. My wife and I are both live a vegan and straight edge lifestyle. I work in the TV and film industry and Ashley takes care of our son which is also a full time job. On our days off when we are not cooking together we try to be outside as much as possible; hiking, riding bikes, museums, the beach.
We also love to travel, this summer we are renting an RV and taking a much needed holiday up to the north east (PA, NY) the beginning of the trip will be the most important race of this season, US Nationals! Ashley is starting up a vegan family traveling blog, keep an eye out on it!
Your favorite Tofurky product and preparation.
We love Tofurky in our house.
The Tofurky Chorizo is seasoned perfectly and is awesome in some tofu scramble!
I also always eat a big Tofurky slice sandwich the day before a race.
The pizza, kielbasa and all the different slices are great too!!
If you were stranded on a dessert island what three foods would you bring along?
That’s a tough one!
Pizza (with Tofurky pepperoni)
Fruit and my mums byrek me spinaq (Albanian spinach pie!) All vegan of course!
Do you feel hopeful and optimistic about a future for your son and the rest of the planet? How do you keep hopeful?
This is a loaded question, I could talk about this subject for hours so I will just keep it short.
I do not know how anything will turn out and from what it look like it does not look that good.
There are some amazing and brave people on all different levels doing some great things. I try to remain positive and hopeful and keep in mind that everything happens for a reason and all we can do is try to do our best and treat every living thing as equals. We are going to try our best to give our son the best life we can and help him become a smart, compassionate, loving, hard working, but tough human being.
Any parting words?
If you’re new to the vegan or vegetarian world/lifestyle don’t freak out if you don’t know every single little animal derivative or company that is related to someone that test on animals. Trust me, I know it can be very over whelming but all this stuff will come in time and you will learn what and what not to eat and support.
Thanks so much to everyone out there doing their part for those without a voice.
Thanks so much to Tofurky for the sponsorship, it is an honor and privilege to represent such an awesome company!
Thank you, Nicholas! We are honored to work with such a dedicated and committed athlete and human being and superb example of a Plant Powered Super Star.