My training started in warm-up mode. There were stomach stretches. Double-chin-ups. Forklifts. Middle-body workouts. I honed my discipline at repeated trips to the breakfast buffets full of cheeses, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, yogurt, eggs, breads, jams and cakes. In the first 24 hours alone, I had eggplant three times. What a country! Eggplant stuffed with lentils. Eggplant stuffed with chicken and mashed potatoes. Eggplant stuffed with lamb. My inner carnivore didn’t know what hit her. And all those skewered meats? Sheesh. I kebapped till I dropped. But I got right back up. A triathleater goes the distance. There is no finished line.
Then there was that ubiquitous Turkish Delight candy made out of sugar, water, corn starch and any number of nuts, figs or flavorings. Who was I to deprive the Turks their delight? They made it to be eaten—am I wrong? And the baklava in all shapes and sizes? Who cares that some of it was odd tasting, unlike the honey-dripped Greek kind. Maybe the next one would be different. After all, they all looked so good. Joyner didn’t stop for a pebble in her shoe. Phelps didn’t waver from some water in his mouth. A triathleater goes the distance. There is no finished line.
There was canoe-shaped pide (Turkish pizza), all flavors of sweet helva (sesame seed halva), stuffed grape leaves, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms, borek (savory-filled pastries), su boregi (cheese-filled Turkish kugel), Turkish ravioli with tomatoes and yogurt, pilafs, kuru (white beans in tomato sauce), lentil soups, amazing mezes, roasted chestnuts and fresh pomegranate juice on every corner, as well as all things pistik (pistachio). And like a triathleater, the list goes on.
Oddly enough, what I began to crave was hunger itself. That gnawing, aching permission to say to my inner glutton, “Hey Tubby, it’s ok to come out now. You’re on!” This eating-for-sport, baklavian bacchanal was becoming too...normal. Shouldn’t I actually feel hungry between meals? Shouldn’t some of this over-sustenance be going to the Ethiopian children with flies?
Now that I’m back and have reacquainted myself with hunger pangs, I panic, as if I should receive famine relief. But then I quickly replenish myself with a piece of pistachio Turkish Delight that I brought back and then another made with fig, walnut and coconut. I remind myself that once you've tasted gold, you'll always want to go back for another. For a triathleater, there is no finished line.