Let’s talk food! Sadly I don’t mean pizza and beer, but rather the much less appetising notion of energy food, food on the go, sport food.  I hate it all. It has taken me years to be able to choke down a gel and even still I’m rubbish at it.  If I wouldn’t eat it while sitting at my desk at work (when I am always ravenous!), why would I want to eat it on the bike when food is the last thing on my mind?

Last year my good friend Karis (who incidentally thinks gels are scrumptious, damn her) gave me a copy of Feed Zone Portables when she came to visit us in London. She gave it to me right before we both did Ironman Lanzarote, and then I took some time off of mega long bike rides after that, so I didn’t get around to testing out any of the recipes.  And then suddenly we were moving to the US, and everything in our lives was upside down, and half our kitchen equipment was shipped around the world while we were in limbo.  Then the move happened, and everything was in boxes…. ok, enough excuses.  The point is, now that I am back doing long rides and gagging on jacked up pouches of gelatinous sugar, I finally remembered the book, dug it out and made something.

The authors of the book have cooked up food for riders for the Tour de France and pro Iroman athletes, so they know what they’re doing, and it gives a really detailed breakdown of the nutrition, carbs, protein, etc., so you know exactly what you are consuming on the bike.  The idea behind it is that unlike gels and bars, you actually can eat real food all day long, and even enjoy it rather than forcing it down.

I ended up adapting their recipe for Potato & Sweet Ginger Baked Rice Balls – it called for crystallised ginger, which I didn’t have, so I went with leek and potato instead (always a winning combo, right?).  In retrospect I should have gone for something a little less healthy in order to pack a bigger calorie punch, but going by the information they set out in the book, I would estimate that each ball I made had about 200 calories – not too bad.

Potato & Leek Baked Rice Balls

1 cup uncooked sticky rice (they recommend Calrose rice, which I used)

1 1/2 cups water

2 small potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed (~1 1/2 cups)

1 chopped leek

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C) and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Cook the rice in a rice cooker if you have one, or just in a pot if you don’t, adding a dash of salt.

Boil the potatoes until they are soft.

Sauté the chopped leek and minced garlic in the oil.

Combine the potatoes and the leek and garlic and mince in a food processor to get a uniform finish (or if you’ve chopped the leeks fine enough, then just mash it all together by hand), then thoroughly with the cooked rice.

imagePlace clingfilm into a small bowl and then pack the rice mixture into the bowl.  With a little tug of the clingfilm, your ball will pop out in a perfectly uniform shape, beautiful!  Repeat until you’ve used up all the rice mixture, then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.


Once you take them out of the oven, wrap them individually in cling film, tinfoil, or parchment paper, and they’re ready to go into your jersey pocket on the bike.



The rice is pretty dense, so there is no fear of them falling apart.  They were relatively easy to eat on the bike in terms of reaching into my pocket and grabbing one, and obviously with no packaging to tear open, they were easier to get into.  I would add more salt next time, as really, salt on a long sweaty bike ride is only a good thing, and the balls were slightly bland without it. Were they scrumptious? No, but they weren’t bad, and there are lots of other baked rice ball recipe choices in the book (date & almond; lemon ricotta; honey banana; peaches & coconut cream; BBQ chicken; sweet & sour chicken; curry pumpkin date; spicy black bean; sweet potato & bacon).  Let us not forget that I also messed with their original recipe of potato & ginger.

Baked rice balls are just one type of portable food suggested by the book – it has a gazillion others, from two-bite pies to baked cakes and cookies, baked eggs, waffles and pancakes, and many more.  So I will try again and see if I can find something that truly is delicious, both on and off the bike – but my initial reaction is generally positive.

Nutrition info: for the entire rice mixture, so divide between however many balls you make

Energy (calories): 940  Fat: 1  Sodium: 465  Carbs (g): 220  Fiber (g): 6  Protein (g): 17  Water (%): 57

On a side note, the good people behind Feed Zone Portables also make Skratch Labs electrolytes, which I only just discovered while out running the Leadville Marathon this summer. They are the tastiest electrolytes I have found to date (with about 40 calories per bottle) and I truly recommend them.  Yes, these I even would drink while sitting at my desk!


In the lead up to Ironman Florida (6 weeks away!), I’m now doing big brick sessions every Saturday, getting progressively longer each week.  Last weekend was a 50 min swim, a 4:45 bike ride, and a 50 minute run. Just to give you an idea of when I’m munching on the rice balls – all during the bike ride (sadly still doing the gels thing on the run). We get to the ocean at first light, and my favourite part of the whole brick is seeing the sunrise over the ocean in the morning.  Moments like that remind me why I’m in Florida.


Heading into the ocean at sunrise

Last weekend, my friends Ben and Molly came along for part of the swim and bike portion – not because they needed the training, but mostly because they were worried about me swimming all alone in the semi-dark and being eaten by sharks.  I am pleased to report that not one of us was eaten or even tasted, but we did have a few brushes with jellyfish and sea lice.  All part of ocean swimming. But seriously, I’ve been living here for less than a year and I’ve already met people who are willing to be eaten by sharks with me.  How awesome is that?

A long day in the hot sun isn’t complete without a puncture either.  Did you know that frozen CO2 cartridges will stick to your clothing if you try to use them to cool off?  Try it, then you can get a really cool photo like this one:

imageIt was so hot out there that I drank 8 bottles of water and electrolytes. Apparently it was 100°F/ 38°C with the sun. Turns out there is a secret spot in West Palm Beach that has a cold water fountain rather than the molten lava that spurts from the other fountains all along the A1A beach road. Info like this from friends on a scorching day is worth its weight in ice.image

Happy cooking, happy eating, happy riding!  We are racing Ironman 70.3 Augusta this weekend in Georgia and praying for rain!

What do you eat on long rides and runs?

Fifteen years ago, I spent a summer teaching horse riding to girls at a camp in Maine. A lifetime ago.


Those few months were my only experience of living in the USA up until now, and although I was riding horses daily, I recall I didn’t own a single sports bra.  I remember this because the other riding instructors made fun of me.  In a good way, of course.

Anyone who looks into my closet now will know that is astounding.  Because now I have…maybe…(don’t tell Tom…)… 22? That’s after I gave away a bunch.

I wasn’t a runner back then, and I certainly wasn’t a triathlete. But part of the fun and the pain in this sport is the kit.  The fun part is wearing quality kit that feels good and looks good.  The pain is when you can’t manage to find anything that ticks that box.

Sports bras for me have been both a pleasure and a pain.  I love that they come in so many different colours and shapes.  I hate that nearly every bra chafes me when I run.  Hence my ongoing search.

One of the fabulous (and expensive) things about being a triathlete is that you need kit for 3 sports!  Oh, and we usually do at least 2 out of 3 sports every day.  That works out to needing a lot of clothes (and doing a LOT of washing).  When I used to cycle commute to work everyday in London and training for an Ironman, I worked out that I was wearing up to 4 sports bra a day.

From L-R: bras 1-3, 5 - Lululemon; bra 4 - Oiselle; bra 6 - Onzie; bra 7 - Sweaty Betty

From L-R: bras 1-3, 5 – Lululemon; bra 4 – Oiselle; bra 6 – Onzie; bra 7 – Sweaty Betty

At the risk of too much information:

  1. a bra for my early morning indoor bike trainer ride;
  2. dry bra for the brick run, because otherwise I’d freeze wearing the wet one outside in winter;
  3. same again, to cycle to and from work; and
  4. clean bra for yoga during my lunch break.

Now, within that, I classify bras as 3 different types:

  1. Running bra:  the most important.  This bra is the one that has to not chafe on a sweaty 4 hour run.  Or on a 13 hour ultra.  You get the idea. And it has to be supportive.  These are the ones that are so hard to find.  Especially because I still want them to be pretty.  I know, tough customer.
  2. Cycling bra:  I’ve never had any chafing issues from bras while cycling, thankfully, nor do they have to be as supportive.  But still, a bouncy road, a waterfall of sweat on a hard long ride – still have to choose wisely.
  3. Yoga bra:  the oh-so cool barely there strappy beautiful funky ones.  Most could double as bikinis, they’re so pretty.

The amazing thing about chafing is that sometimes you can find the dream bra that doesn’t chafe for 49 runs, and then on the 50th it chafes until you bleed.  I can’t figure it out.

At any rate, below are my top rated picks for the moment.  In the interest of full disclosure, I generally wear a 34B or a 32C.  If you know me in real life, please pretend you didn’t read that.

FIVE OF THE BEST BRAS OUT THERE… after much trying and testing!

1. For running: Sweaty Betty Stamina Bra – $55

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 15.50.59 Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 15.53.34

This is a bold comment for me to make, but…. so far this is the best running bra I have ever come across.  It is the only one that doesn’t chafe me.  The only one. Now, I am conscious that Sweaty Betty sells it as a medium-impact sports bra, not a running bra.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be good for larger cup sizes, but for the smaller chested ladies, I think of this one as the holy grail of running bras.  No bounce, no chafe, easy on and off.  Normally it comes in a range of fun colours. At the moment it seems to be just in black and white. I hope the colour returns.

What I love: this bra has never chafed me.  Fun bright colours (normally).

The cons:  really, this is my best bra for sport.  But I’m concerned they might be phasing it out.  Sweaty Betty, if you’re reading this, don’t!

Sizing:  I take a size S.

*Want to try Sweaty Betty? At checkout, click on “been referred by a friend” on the right side of the page, and enter “Julia Kelk” for a $20 gift certificate.  Alternatively, you can enter your email here to receive a $20 coupon.

2.  For running or cycling:  Oiselle Verrazano Bra – $48 or $42

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 16.11.20 Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 16.10.00Oiselle is a running clothes company first and foremost, and is fronted by some fantastic and fierce female runners.  I really like their kit and have a fair bit of it, but over time I have realised I keep turning to my 2 Verrazano bras for cycling rather than running.  The double strap system feels nice and secure when I’m lying low on the aerobars and the bras are a bit easier to get on than the average super tight running bra.  I do run in them too, but sadly chafing has been an issue for me on longer runs.  For cycling – 5 stars.

What I love: Very comfortable, easy to get on and off, some cool colours and patterns now.

The cons:  the removable pads come out in the washing machine (not a big deal). Have had mild chafing when running.

Sizing:  I take a size 4.

3.  For running or cycling: Lululemon Stuff Your Bra – $52

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 15.12.12 Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 15.11.29

Lululemon’s specialty is coming up with a huge range of colours and patterns.  It’s fun, it’s playful, and every year they reincarnate many of their standard models with new patterns, craftily ensuring that we will all lust after the same bra in that new shade of dusty rose or speckled hen. Lululemon was my first sports bra brand and I’ve tried a lot of their bras.  The Stuff Your Bra is my pick of the lot for any sort of real sport, although I’ve yet to actually try carrying something in it like they suggest in the middle “pocket”.  I have had mild chafing from this bra on the run, but it’s generally decent, and it’s good for cycling too.

What I love: Easy to get on and off, frequent introduction of new fun colours, criss-cross straps aren’t sewn together so you can adjust for the most comfortable fit.

The cons:  Lululemon seems to phase this bra in and out.  It’s in right now.  Have had mild chafing issues when running.

Sizing:  I take a size 4 in this bra (in other Lululemon bras, I’m a 6).

4.  For yoga:  Onzie Sun Ray Bra – $65

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 15.50.48 Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 15.50.12

Yoga is about the meditation, the asana, the breath, the removal of thought from material things and the consumer world. So why is there such a huge explosion in the yoga clothes market for the funkiest, most fun, most colourful, strappiest, and most expensive bras out there? I don’t know, but it’s not easy to resist the allure of incredible yogis on Instagram upside-down on one finger in a wisp of a bra held on by 27 straps. I know I can do yoga in just about any type of bra, but do I want to? When there are so many beautiful options out there? While my moral compass grapples with this, I can tell you that I have the crazy flowered Onzie Sun Ray bra pictured above and I do feel pretty damned cool doing yoga on the beach in it. Yeah! Now let me just photoshop out the guy holding me upside down so I too can have that crazy photo on Instagram…..

What I love:  it’s just so fun.  And it’s comfortable.

The cons:  wear it topless and you’re heading for a crazy suntan/sunburn (delete as appropriate).  And it’s expensive.

Sizing:  I take a size S/M

5.  For yoga:  Sweaty Betty Brahma Bamboo Padded Yoga Bra – $65

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 16.13.04

I have a couple of the older models of the Sweaty Betty bamboo bras and they are all just gorgeous to wear. When we go trail running in the swamps here in Florida and I’m a disgusting pulsing mass of sweat at the end, when I peel off my sodden running bra, these bamboo bras are the only thing I can bear to put back on. They’re light but supportive (for casual wear, I mean, or yoga) and seamless. I never have enough of them because I end up wearing them day to day…by the time I’m heading to the yoga studio, they’re usually all in the laundry bin.

What I love:  super soft, super light material

The cons:  these bras aren’t made to sweat in.  Bamboo does not dry quickly. And again, price.  The less support there is, the more you pay in the world of yoga bras!

Sizing:  I take a size XS

*see above for a $20 gift certificate if you want to buy this bra or any other Sweaty Betty gear.

Any others your recommend?  Let me know in the comments below or contact me!