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The Last (gluten) Hurrah

Author: Pen | Filed under: Uncategorized

As a little Greek girl, there is nothing better than delicious, buttery, flaky phyllo dough prepped to perfection.  I was fortunate enough to grow up with a phyllo-master father and my belly was often treated to scrummy baklava, spanakopita and tiropitas.  To this day, my comfort food is good spanakopita.

So, when I was informed by my doctor that my body was producing gluten antibodies and told that I needed start a gluten-free diet, I knew I had to have one last hurrah before saying goodbye forever, and that’s when I pulled out my pastry brushes and went on a search for decent phyllo in Augusta (btdubs, it doesn’t exist…there is only “ok phyllo” and “crappy phyllo”).

Yiayia’s Spanikopita


  • 3 packages of frozen spinach, chopped
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 c. feta cheese
  • 6 oz. cottage cheese
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • dill & mint (fresh if possible)
  • salt and pepper
  • phyllo dough (thawed)
  • butter.  lots.
  1. Thaw spinach and drain thoroughly. (You’ll want to squeeze out the spinach and handful by handful.  It helps if the spinach is not hot.  That burns your hands like a bitch.)
  2. In a large skillet, saute the onions in olive oil until soft.
  3. Add spinach and saute a few minutes longer, allowing any additional water to evaporate.
  4. Remove from heat, and mix in feta, cottage cheese, dill, mint, salt and pepper.
  5. Fold in egg yolks.
  6. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold whites into spinach mixture.
  7. In a 9X13in dish, line bottom with 10-15 sheets of phyllo, generously buttering each sheet.
  8. Top phyllo with spinach mixture.
  9. Top the spinach with the remaining phyllo, buttering each sheet.*

*The key to good phyllo cooking is LOTS of butter and moving quickly so the phyllo doesn’t dry out.

After filling my belly…and consuming the entire 9X13 dish (over a few days)…I have settled in to what will be some of the hardest few months of my life.  I embark on a journey of a lactose-free, fructose-reduced, gluten-free, vegetarian diet.  And then I get to add things back in, bit by bit, to see what it is that is making my belly swell up like a beach ball when I eat a meal.  Yay.

Goodbye gluten, I will always love you.  But, it’s me, not you.  I’m sorry.  We’ve had a good run.  And you’ve been a good friend.  Kinda.

Sixth Senses are Great.

Author: Pen | Filed under: Uncategorized

But, just for once, I’d like to have five normal senses.  I think that would be pretty special.   I’d just like to have a good one of these:

I wasn’t born nose deficient; I seem to have developed a horrible sense of smell over the 27 years of my life.  Not sure if it’s the numerous concussive blows to my head or that I work in a building set to be condemned for a severe toxic mold infestation, but my sense of smell has deteriorated over time.  And rapidly in the past couple years.  Now that I think about it, it may just be a coping strategy so that I can function in the jail instead of being overcome by the radiating stench of mold, bologna, and body odor.

So, when I can smell something in my everyday life, the stentch must be overwhelming.  It’s not usually the subtle smell of garlic on your hands from last night’s dinner preparation.  It’s usually because the air smells like something is dying.  Right. Under. Your. Feet. (Nope, it’s never the good smells that penetrate my concussed-nose).  Fortunately, usually something isn’t actually dying under your feet.

Last week, however, I got to experience the real (delicious?) thing.  I stumbled out of the court house, trying to rush to the library on my lunch hour to pick up my items on hold that came in (oh the excitement).  As soon as my pumps hit the concrete outside, I stopped cold in my tracks.  And turned to the investigator with me and queried in an utterly ladylike manner: “Oh. My. Fucking. Gosh.  What the fuck is that shit?  Did they bring a number of dogs down to shit on the front lawn?”

His response: “Ah, FPL* must be cranking up their grinders.”

“You mean…”


“That’s the smell of cows being ground into packagable meat?”


“Oh. *wretch* My. *wretch* Fucking. *wretch* I *wretch* don’t think I’ll ever *wretch* be able to eat *wretch* again.”

I wish my blog had smell-o-vision so that you all could share in this smell.  But, please just believe me, it was the worst smell I’ve ever smelled in my life.  And I regularly go to jails during the Georgia summer where inmates get limited AC and even more limited showers.  So, let’s just say, despite my poorly working schnozz, I’ve smelled some pretty rank things. It was a mix of dog poo, dead body, swamp, compost, and brussel sprouts.  And some extra ingredient that I just can’t figure out.  Maybe dead, decaying cow.

I truly believe if anyone could go to that plant and smell it.  And see it.  And know what is going on, they would never eat meat again.

Now, please excuse me while I continue to wretch over the toilet just at the memory of that smell.

*FPL is the number 1 privately owned provider of beef in the southeast.  They are headquartered in Augusta.

A Tale of Two Jails.

Author: Pen | Filed under: Uncategorized

There are two jails I frequent in my judicial circuit.  When I first started my job, I preferred one over the other. One afforded a cleaner setting with far more private meeting spaces.  But, oh it was 15 minutes away (a helluva commute for my small town).  And the other, it was two blocks from our office (err…trailers…) and so easy to access.  So I liked that jail better.

And then, I realized I didn’t like that jail so much.  It smells.  And you sit in a room made of clear plexiglass.  In the middle of each jail floor.  So all the inmates that you aren’t meeting with can gawk and heckle and scream “miss attorney, miss attorney, you gonna see me?”

No.  I’m not.

First off, you aren’t my client.

And secondly, your hands are down your pants, enjoying yourself a little too much while I talk to my clients.

So, no.  No, I am not going to see you.

where to go from here.

Author: Pen | Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s pretty clear given the history of the blog, that my posting has been sparse this summer…and fall…oh and last spring.  And like I said previously, the post-ironman blues are fucking real, peeps.  You spend 6+ mos. training 15-20hrs per week.  And then, all of a sudden, you’re not doing that anymore.  You no longer have a strict training schedule hanging over your head.  You no longer spend every waking hour planning your next nap.  And you no are no longer constantly eating to keep up with a 6000 calorie a day diet.

So the question is, where do we go from here?

Well, we’re living.  That’s what we’re doing.

I’ve disappeared since my last post on post-Ironman Blues.  But not because I’m blue anymore.  Because I am happy.  I’ve been cooking.  And eating.  And occasionally running.  But I’ve been happy.  My life has been nice.  It took losing a multidimensional life to Ironman training to teach me how much I love a well balanced life.

To learn how much I love spending time with the important people (furry or otherwise) in my life.

And here’s the thing, I started this blog a while ago when I moved to the town where I now live (a vagueries.).  It was my first experiment in being an adult and I wanted to preserve the memories and have a memoir-style blog.  And that got lost in talking about running workouts and kvetching about races.  And eventually, I just stopped wanting to blog. So I’m not going to do that anymore.

I’m not sure what this blog is going to be.

But it’s going to be better.  And hopefully more regular.

Anyway, I’m back.  Hi.

ps. Because I was shut out last year…I did make sure to get in to Boston this year.  Which I did.  Who all will I see there in April?!

PIB: Post-Ironman Blues

Author: Pen | Filed under: ironperson, Uncategorized

Hey all, I am still alive… I spent last week stuck down in the middle of nowhere Southwest Georgia with no wireless (YES, I had to use a WIRED connection to check my internets.  Wtf.  Is this 1998?) at a job training thing, so I was kinda incomunicado (my phone didn’t even get service.  I’m not talking 1-bar.  I’m talking “No Service.”  No. Fucking. Service.).  But, since Sunday was my two-week Ironman anniversary, I’m ready move on with my blog, my life, and my adventures.

Despite anticipating them, the post-IM blues have hit me suprisingly hard.  I’m lost and wallowing in my lost-ness.  I know I need to write a race report, but I can’t.  Especially when there is no reason I didn’t race like I should have.  I met with my coach today to go over the race, and all I could say was that from the moment I got on my bike, my legs just didn’t have it.  There was no umph.  There was no kick.  They were just dead.

I don’t know why.  He says he doesn’t know why.  And, well, I’m not sure there could be anything more frustrating. To have spent half of my year devoted to a race that blew up in my face for no apparent reason, well, it’s fucking frustrating.  It fucking sucks.  And as someone who has spent much of her life resting on her laurels (Yes, it’s true.  No, I’m not proud of it), this is a new feeling for me.  If I fail miserably, it’s usually because I didn’t try hard enough.  But this year, I’ve put in the time.

I put in the time to run a sub-3:30 marathon at ING GA.  I put in the time to smash sub-5:20 at Eagleman.  I put in the time to go under 12:30 at IM Wisconsin.

And none of it happened.  It’s like my hard work this year was for naught.

Things happen.  They do.  I had a shitty mental race at ING GA.  I melted at Eagleman.

But this race?  There is no reason why what happened happened.  I ate right.  I slept well.  I trained my little tushy off.  And I tapered like I was supposed to.  This race should have been great.

And now, with a year of crappy performances and failure to reap any of the benefits of 9 mos. of hard training, I question whether I ever want to do this again.

Not Ironmen.  I mean racing.  Ever.  Again.

Because why should you train hard for a race when you are just going to get out there and blow up?  I’m tired, frustrated, and very lost.

My race report goes like this: The swim was good, I had nothing on the bike, and I walked the entire marathon.  That is not like it was supposed to be.  But it was what it was.

Now, I’m on a mission to enjoy running again.  To enjoy my bike.  To do yoga and bake more cupcakes.

Ironman training made me a one-dimensional person and I want my other dimensions back.  Ironman training made me a slow but fiercely aerobic athlete and I want my speed back.  Ironman training took my relationship with my fabulous pup and I want my puppy time back.

I don’t think you all are going to get much more out of me than this about the race.  The post-Ironman blues are real, people.  They’re really real when you worked your butt off for a race that didn’t go like you planned.  But, it’s a new beginning.  I have a chance to enjoy the fall in my garden and in my kitchen and on the trails and with my pup.  And it’s going to be a good fall.  And a good winter.

And when I return to racing in 2011, it will be a good year.

I am Ironman.

Author: Pen | Filed under: Uncategorized

Ok, guys.  I finished Ironman Wisconsin.  I was more than 2.5 hours off my goal time.  But, the race didn’t really go as planned.  At all.  I knew that when I started to get blurry vision mid-bike ride that the race was going to be a race of survival not of speed.  It seems that this year all of my big races have been spectacular fails.  So, I spent much of the marathon telling myself that I was going to take time off after the Ironman.  And that I was NEVER going to to an Ironman again.  That I needed a break from racing and that I needed to figure out why I was having such a bad racing season.

Some of the frustration and negativity has faded with the muscle soreness.  But some has not.

I’m still going to take some time off from racing and have decided to back out of the Philly Marathon in November.  I’ll return to racing at Boston in April.  As to another Ironman, I’m not sure.  The competitive girl in me who is really disappointed with my time wants to race another IM next year.  The girl who misses sleeping in on weekends is not so sure.

Right now, I’m still in Wisco, staying with one of my besties before she gets married on Saturday!  Then, it will be back to the heat and humidity of Georgia.  I’m regrouping.  Refocusing.

And most importantly, redescovering what life is like and who I am sans ironman training.

Be on the lookout for some big blog changes (BIG!) and a BIG race report coming your way in the next week or so!

So, over the last few months, I’ve learned a lot of lessons about Ironman training.  It’s like that first marathon.  You aren’t quite sure what to expect with training.  Or what to expect with racing.  Or how to fuel your body.  Or how to fit it in with a social life.  And there are things that people tell  you to expect (i.e. being tired all that time, having no time for social activities…etc.).  And then.  Then there are things that people will not tell you because then no one would ever sign up for an Ironman.
But folks, today I share you the five secrets that no one tells you about training for an ironman.
  1. If you are a girl, you will lose your boobs. No seriously.  I didn’t have a lot to work with before the training.  And now I have negative.  I don’t know how I’m losing weight (ok, I do, I mean, I’m training 80-bagillion hours a week).  But I’m constantly eating.  And I tried on a strapless dress the other day and it literally slid off over my chest.  I was seriously ok with losing my social life (it wasn’t much to begin with).  But losing my boobs (which weren’t much to begin with either) is just going to far.  Dear Ironman: give. them. back.
  2. You will start using elevators.  Even if for just one floor.  I used to laugh at some of my coworkers who take the elevator in the court house to get from the first floor to the second floor.  Now, I think about doing it myself.   Because do you know how hard it is to climb a set of stairs?  When you legs are biking/running/swimming 15+hrs per week?  Yea.
  3. All of your free time will be spent sleeping or eating. My day: Wake up, eat, train, work (eat every 1.5 hours), eat, nap, train, eat, sleep.  I am always eating.  There is a person on my court team that is always smoking.  We always joke that when you can’t find that person that they are outside smoking.  Now, I’m that guy.  With my eating.  I’m in the attorney’s room eating in between every court break.  In fact, during my trial on Monday, midway through the first witness, I was already starving.  And I may or may not have passed a note to a coworker inquiring about lunch.
  4. Your friends will stop even asking you to come out. Because they know the answer.  Because if it’s a Friday or a Saturday you have to wake up at the crack of dawn to do long runs and rides the next day.  And if it’s a weekday, you inevitably have a second workout for the day.  And then you have to wake up pre-6am for training in the morning.
  5. Every three sentences out of your mouth will include the word “Ironman.” I used to constantly start sentences with “So, I just heard on NPR…”  Now, half of my sentences are about NPR.  About 40% are Ironman related.  And the other 10%?  Those sentences are unintelligible because I’m either half asleep or stuffing food in my face.  I’ve never felt so f-ing one dimensional in my life.

So I’ve gotten pretty used to consuming anywhere between 4000-6000 calories per day.  And my weight has stayed stable (though my body comp has shifted some with fat loss and muscle gain).  But, oh heavens, it’s going to be a rude awakening when I stop training…and have to go back to eating like a normal person.  I’ll miss my GINORMOUS piles of pasta and pints of ice cream.

I might miss them enough to sign up for another Ironman next year.

At least then, I’ll know what I’m in for.

The Ironman is just around the corner!  Eek!  Just 8 weeks to go (ok, 7.6 wks to go).  Which means two things. One: that I need  get serious.  And  Two: that my life (and thus blog) will be Ironman consumed (my apologies will follow).

The getting serious part has meant adopting new life rules for the next 8 weeks.  Some I hope to keep around, some I’m itching to break (like no. 3).

  1. In bed by 9. That is the ONLY way that I will be able to stick with #2.
  2. Up by 5:30 (and 4:30 on long run days). I have to start getting in to a rhythm with morning workouts so that I’m not spending 3 hours after work working out.  Because when that happens, I end up eating Dairy Queen for dinner.  Over and over again.
  3. No alcohol. Because you can’t have just one.  And then I can’t get up early.  And I’m already perpetually dehydrated.
  4. Drink 3-4 Sigg bottles of water each day. I’ve been feeling sick, headachey and sluggish.  I usually blame those symptoms on one of two things: lack of caffeine and dehydration.  And there is no dearth of caffeine in my body.
  5. 30 min of stretching or yoga every day. I don’t stretch.  And I’m always tight and sore.  Fortunately there is a solution.
  6. Dog > Blog. Sorry guys.  Poor little guy is neglected.  Just like you guys.  Unfortunately, I have a little more responsibility to take care of him.  So, I need to make sure he’s getting the exercise and attention he needs.
  7. Eat healthy, real, good foods. Dinner last night?  French fries and ice cream.  Unfortunately for my fuel tank, that’s all too common lately (fortunately for my belly, though.)  I have A LOT of work to do in the next 8 weeks, so I need the correct stuff for both fueling for and recovering from my workouts.
  8. Massages at least once every two weeks. This is gonna be a rough one, guys.  I mean, who wants to be forced to get massages?  :)  I’m so looking forward to this…

So, yes, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, the only way you are going to hear from me on here for the next eight weeks, is if I talk about the Ironman.  Because, well, that’s all my life consists of lately.  Well, that and a little bit of work (um, I won my first jury trial Monday…holla!).

Hello Folks.  If you don’t enjoy whiney kvetching, feel free to pass over this.  If you want to commiserate, please read on.

Today marks 9 weeks until my Ironman.  Commence freaking out.  For the most part, I’ve been getting in all my shorter weekday runs, much of the swimming, and all of my biking (long and otherwise).  But oh, those long runs.  I CAN. NOT. for the life of me get them in.  It’s funny because I remember the same thing from last summer.  I would do 8 in the morning and 8 in the evening because I just couldn’t do 16.  And, with last summer’s half ironman training and just one piecemeal 18-miler (i.e. split into two runs in one day), one solid 16 miler, and a few shaky 12 milers, I rocked out the Chicago Marathon at BQ pace in the fall.  A big part of this was the weather differential.  The race: 32degrees and dry.  Perfection.  The training: 98 degrees and 99% humidity. Hell.

No really.  I live. in. HELL.  I know that the whole eastern seaboard has been hot lately.  But, folks, I lost count of the 100+ degree days that we’ve had here since April.  And when things go badly at work, a coworker and I joke that we’ve surely died and gone to hell.  And it explains everything.  The heat.  The life crap.  Then we morbidly try to figure out what we did to land ourselves in Hell.  (So many choices, really.  In my life.  Makes me want to straighten up and fly right.  Next week.)  I surely didn’t expect hell to be so humid.  But, what do I know.

But that’s an aside.  To say it’s flipping miserable here.  In the morning, there is, no joke always a humidity level of over 90-95%.  Which makes running in 80 degree weather feel like 95 degree weather.  And what’s worse is that your sweat doesn’t evaporate.  It just sits.  And you continue to sweat.  And after a 50 minute run, your fingers have pruned up.  Your clothing is sopping wet.  And you look like you just went running through a downpour.  Last summer, when I ran in the morning, I would have to go by my house every hour or so to change socks and my sopping wet clothing…because it chaffed and gave me blisters.


Sopping wet.

And yesterday, I had a 2:05 long run.  And, I’ve been slacking on all my long runs, so I think the longest run I’ve gotten in since beginning serious IM training is 8 miles.  Maybe 9.  Maybe 15.  But still.  I’m half-assing my long running.  Because it sucks.  And I’m slow now.

You know my long runs from ING GA Marathon training?  Those 20milers when I avged 8:10/mi?  Yea.  I can barely avg 9:00/mi for 5 miles now.

And then I come home and pass out from heat exhaustion.

Today, though, I only made it a measly 8 miles before I came home to change into drier clothes and get water.  And I sat down to stretch a second.  And I never got back up.  This has happened before.  Like a bagillion times.  I get half way through a long run and flake.  Part of it is the weather.  Part of it is that I suck.

The whole point of this post is to kvetch some.  And then be done kvetching about the weather.  And man up. The weather sucks.  But I knew the weather for training would suck when I registered for a fall Ironman.  And all this hard miserable training will make racing in the (hopefully) cool fall Wisconsin weather seem wonderfully easy.

From today on, I will man up.  All workouts finished.  Everything done well.  Time to HTFU.

Kvetch over.  Xoxo.

9 weeks left to gut it out.

How to Move on from a Race Fail

Author: Pen | Filed under: Uncategorized

Since I wrote my race report from my disastrous DNF last week, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect.  Time to talk to fellow tri friends, time to talk to non-tri friends, time to talk to doctor friends, time to talk to my coach.  Time to talk to myself (in the car…with just as much hand gesticulation as normally occurs in my dialogues).  Time to get back out on my bike and lace up my running shoes.

And, what a difference a day makes.  What  a difference a week makes. What a difference a YouTube video makes.

I have watched that video, maybe, 36 times.  And I’ve concluded that my whole house is great.  I can do anything good. (yea, yea, yea…)

So, I’m ok with it all.  I’d be lying if there wasn’t still a twinge of disappointment in my Eagleman memories.  And, I’ll be honest, I’m a little sad that I don’t have a finishers medal to add to my finishers and age group medal collection on my wall (that’s why I race, actually…just kidding.  kinda.).

But, it was a good life experience.  And, I’ve found that I’m not alone.  A lot of people have had experiences in their racing that left them upset and underwhelmed.  And the best thing that we can do is move on from it.  Learn something, first, though.  And then move on.

So, I’ve compiled my list of DNF lessons learned.  And then I’m officially moved on.

  1. I love my whole house. (or “How to Stay Positive”). Seriously, my life is pretty effing charmed.  If a single DNF is the main worry of mine, I should really shut my trap and keep on moving.
  2. Make many goals for a race.  I met with my coach last week and we started discussing my goals for the Ironman.  My main concern was my overall finish time.  He stopped me there.  Said the main goal should be “finishing.”  Touche.  First Ironman?  I should be worried about finishing.  But other than that, I need goals for each leg of the race.  So, say my goal for the bike isn’t met, so I won’t meet my overall goal…the race isn’t a wash.  I can still go into the run with a run-specific goal and try to hit that.  I think that would have helped last week, so that when my swim and bike melted down, and I wasn’t going to hit 5:20, I was awash of goals.  And completely out of any motivation.
  3. Don’t get cocky. I went into the race feeling like, I’m training for a full ironman, I can do a half ironman and it will be cake. Maybe not pleasant.  But it’s not that hard.  Bull.  Shit.  Ok, any race of any length is hard, self.  So, stop getting cocky in your body’s ability to handle almost anything.
  4. Avg is ok. Lam wrote this wonderful post yesterday about the plight of the ordinary athlete and it got me thinking.  Part of my push to do more faster is to better myself.  But, a big part of it is feeling that if I’m not winning my age group, there really is no point to  competing.  Which is ridiculous.  And so, when I started failing on the bike (even more than I failed on the swim), I got down on myself.  I started hating myself for not being faster.  For not being faster that day.  For not being faster in general.
  5. Puppies love you no matter what.  OMG, I have never been so happy to seem Mr. Justice B than I was when I came into T2 that day.  And that’s saying a lot.  Because I’m obsessed with that boy.  And he didn’t care that I didn’t finish.  He was happy to have me.  And he doesn’t care if I ever do a race again.  Or if I race a ton.  He loves me.  And that makes it ok to try another race, whether or not I fail.
  6. I’m both my best friend and worst enemy.  My brain can really make or break my race.  Good strong thoughts can help me push forward through a hard race.  Bad crappy thoughts can instantly derail me.  Not much to say about this, except that I need to work on it.  I need to get mentally stronger.  And I need to get better at nipping my crappy thinking in the bud.

What lessons have you all learned from your racing mishaps?

A public defender super heroine by day, I am a cupcake baker extraordinaire by night. And come weekend, I am an IronPerson. I deal with an NPR addiction daily and I dream of one day having Carl Kasell on my answering machine. I strive to be the best fur-mommy I can be, and when I have time, I'm learning to be a grownup.

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