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

Salt

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.

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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.

 

Verdict?

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!

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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.

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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?

4 Comments

  1. Hey, I’ll be in Augusta this weekend to prepping for Ironman Florida as well. I too have tried the Feed Zone portables but now with as much success as you. I tried one with chocolate and it was very squishy and messy after being in my jersey pocket in the Florida sun. Maybe I’ll try another batch of them but the baked ones.

    • I’m thinking of trying the two-bite pies next and also the potato cakes. Will let you know how I get on! Good luck at Augusta and Florida! Maybe I’ll see you out there!

  2. That sounds like a great recipe book, Julia. Rice balls of all flavors! I may have to put it on my list if you try and like any more of the recipes. Race well!