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I’ve always loved animals. My parents regale stories of me, three years old, my feet barely reaching the end of the couch cushions, sobbing over the uncertain fate of wolf puppies in a Lassie movie. I used to ask for prairie dogs for pets and couldn’t understand why it just couldn’t be. While other teens were reading books like Sweet Valley High, I was engrossed in the tales of a young English farm veterinarian in the series All Creatures Great and Small. I was always the child at school who offered to watch the classroom animals during school vacation. And when the opportunity presented itself, you could be sure that with the permission of my parents, I would bring home a new pet, from cats to dogs, to bunnies and birds.

Yet, it wasn’t until just a few short years ago that I truly fell in love with cats above all other animals. I blame it on my husband. He loves cats more than I’ve ever seen a man care for a feline. I got glimpses of this trait when we first started dating, but it became fully apparent just three weeks before we moved in together:  I was heading over to his place for a date when I got a text saying he brought home brother and sister kittens… to keep. I thought he was joking, but I quickly came to see that he wasn’t. For a multitude of reasons, and with much regret, we didn’t keep the little guys. But with that, he began to awaken the inner cat lady in me.

Months later, after much lamenting over the brother and sister kittens we were unable to keep, my husband and I adopted our first kitten together. The moment we stepped into Petsmart, we didn’t stand a chance. He was just a few measly pounds, was all ears and was the color of marmalade. We name him Gilligan. Despite the fact that Gilly is now almost 20 pounds and over two years old, he will forever be our baby.

Gus came along about a year later. He was our “oops” kitten. We had some time to kill before a movie one night and we just happened to stop into Petsmart while they were wrapping up an adoption fair. Gus was the runt of the litter, and after seeing how small and sick he was, there was no way we were leaving without him. Gus has a white face with a distinctive thin, black mustache, bearing resemblance to one of history’s most unsavory figures. But unlike his infamous human doppelganger, Gus is sweet and shy and completely lovable.

Since these two creatures have made an appearance in my life, it’s like a light switch has been flipped. Cat commercials which I once thought were mildly cute now bring a huge smile to my face. Lolcats has new meaning (and if you love cat’s you’ll know what I’m talking about). My husband and I talk about our little guys endlessly in the same fashion parents that talk endlessly about their human children. We’re completely smitten.

More significantly, having Gilligan and Gus have instilled a sense of responsibility I’ve never fully experienced before; the fact that I am responsible for their health and safety for the next fifteen or so years is a tremendous commitment and undertaking. This responsibility is also great training wheels for the day that another type of mewling creature comes into my life. Through raising these two cats, experiencing their little personalities, eccentricities and all, has brought a lot of pleasure to my life and has made me understand fully why so many people say that animals are so good for the soul.  

I used to say, and believe, I was an equal opportunity animal lover. Now I know differently and that without a doubt, I’m 100% crazy for cats.

This weekend, Ryan and I are in Rhode Island to spend some time with my family. We got into Providence last night and spent some quality time bonding with this little guy:

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Today, my mom and I ran the St. Pat’s 5k in downtown Providence.

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It was really cold this morning and there were a few times we almost backed out of the race. But after buying some new running shoes and a new hat before the race, we sucked it up and went through with it.

I don’t have too many comments about the race since it was so quick. My body felt okay despite some bruising and scrapes on my left knee from yet another fall earlier this week.

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Since I haven’t done too many long runs lately, I felt like some of my fitness was gone, which was a little discouraging. However, I made pretty good time, so I’m pleased. Here are the stats.

  • Time: 24:11
  • Average Pace: 7:47
  • Division Place: 75
  • Sex Place: 106

All in all, today got me excited to race this spring, while also handing me a solid reality check that I need to log some more miles to get some of my endurance back.

Low-Carb Lifestyle

I believe I’ve mentioned it before on the blog that before my wedding, I led a low-carb lifestyle for six to seven months. After my wedding, I slowly but surely reintroduced grains back into my life and gained about a pound a month in the process (I got married in November 2010, so you do the math). The weight gain was so slow that I hardly noticed a thing, until I stepped on the scale two months ago for the first time in ages and couldn’t believe what I saw.

I am a firm believer than diet is 95% of the battle when it comes to weight loss and maintenance. And I’ve also learned enough about myself to know that carbs simply cannot be a part of my every day diet if I want to be at my feel great weight. As a result, recently I started to make some changes that I’m pretty excited about and have left me with a feeling of greater control. 

I started learning more about the Paleo lifestyle, including reading Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution. I completely buy into the premise that our bodies are not made to eat many of the things we do in modern times, including grains. Although I will never strictly follow the Paleo lifestyle (truly abiding by Paleo means omitting dairy, which I could never do), I think it’s a really good framework on which to base your diet since the emphasis is on fruits, veggies, nuts, lean meats and fish.

Since reading The Paleo Solution, my interest in nutrition and exercise has been re-invigorated. I’ve started following a few new food blogs that emphasize a gluten free diet: Elana’s Pantry, Comfy Belly and The Wannabe Chef.  I also purchased a Paleo cookbook, called Paleo Comfort Foods and have made several delicious recipes from it. Additionally, I’ve been listening to Podcasts on weight loss and maintenance and found one that I particularly enjoy one called Cut the Fat. 

Of course, sweets are still present in my life, as well as the occasional bread. I just don’t ever think I could cut them out completely. However, now that the majority of my meals are clean, I don’t feel as bad indulging every once in a while.

After losing a bit of motivation and control over my lifestyle for the past year, I feel like I’ve started to get it back. I can’t tell you how good it feels.

For those of you interested in learning a bit more about what Ryan and I have been eating since trying to use the Paleo lifestyle as a framework, I’ll post some recipes soon.

Birthday Trip to Boston

For Ryan’s 29th birthday, I organized a trip to Boston. We talk a lot about moving to New England at some point down the road and I thought it might be fun for us to try out Boston for a weekend.

We took an easy one-hour flight from National to Logan and easily found our way to our hotel using the T. We stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, right on the Charles. That evening, we ate at Restaurant Dante, in the bottom of the hotel. The food was good, as well as the atmosphere. Our trip was off to a good start.

Saturday morning, we woke up and set out for breakfast. I had made reservations at Café Luna, which I found on Yelp. Café Luna did not disappoint. I had the best breakfast of my life (no joke): grilled homemade biscuits smothered in honey butter, homemade corned beef hash and two of most delicious buttermilk pancakes. If you are ever in Cambridge, go there. And if you do, make a reservation. Café Luna is small and had a wait only five minutes after opening.

After breakfast, we wandered through Cambridge (which we didn’t love as much as we had imagined) to a little coffee shop where we spent some time before our massage and private hot tub soak at Inman Oasis (which I also found on Yelp). Both the massage and the soak were super relaxing. If we lived in Cambridge, Ryan and I would both be regulars.

Saturday afternoon, my parents picked us up at our hotel and the four of us drove 20 minutes outside of Boston to visit their brand new puppy (who is still too young to be brought home). We had a blast playing with the four puppies. IMG_0381Me and Seb

Ryan, Pam, Seb and Bentley

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For dinner, the four of us met up with Ryan’s sister and brother-in-law for dinner. We ate right behind Fenway, at Eastern Standard. Everything was terrific, from the drinks, to the oysters, to the entrees and desserts. The company, of course, was also spectacular. We had an amazing time and it was an ideal way to spend a Saturday night.

Pam, Ryan and Nicole

Sunday morning came too soon. We packed our things and left the hotel to wander around downtown Boston a bit. We made our way over to the South End (which I quickly became obsessed with) and had brunch at South End Buttery (again, found on Yelp). Ryan had a burger with the most amazing french fries, and I had shaved ham & manchego eggs benedict on a homemade biscuit, followed by a salted caramel cupcake. Amazing and worth every calorie.

And with that, we headed back to the airport, remarking how much we loved the townhouses in the South End, that we could be happy in Boston, that we were impressed with the T, and damn, was it cold in Boston.

Spring Races

It’s been a while since I last posted! This has been mostly because I haven’t been training for any particular races and have just been taking my running and other workouts day by day.

Several of the last posts before my hiatus discussed training for a triathlon. After quite a bit of research and chatting with a few public health experts, I decided not to sign up for the Nation’s Triathlon. Although some may feel comfortable swimming in the Potomac, I personally don’t feel that this is right or safe for me. Instead, I’m considering a short race, a sprint triathlon, next September in Rhode Island. Not only is the race distance totally doable, the swim portion is in the ocean. Stay tuned more news about this in the future.

This weekend, I finally started planning my spring race schedule and I’m totally excited.

After a tiny bit of convincing from Brenna, I’ll be training for RunAmuck, which takes place on June 16th. According to the website, “the 4 mile challenge through the trails and hills of Quantico confronts runners with arduous obstacles, punishing PT stations, messy mud pits and smashing water blasts.” Although the race is only 4 miles, I’m definitely going to need to do some serious conditioning in order to successfully get through the walls and ropes. I think this race will be super fun, especially because Brenna will be doing it too!

I’m also considering signing up for Parkway Classic again. I had a great time running it last year and came away feeling incredibly proud of my performance. This year I’d like to see if I can do even better. My reservations signing up for this race stem for the cost (it’s $65) and honestly that I’ll come away feeling disappointed if I don’t beat my time from last year. So, we’ll see. While I decide if I want to register, I’m going to train like I’m already signed up just so I’ll be ready.

That’s it for now. I plan to post twice a week with updates on my progress, so stay tuned!

Since I lasted posted and shared my plans to compete in a triathlon, I’ve done some shopping for gear and some preliminary research about training plans. And what has my research taught me: I may have been a little hasty in my decision to attempt 70.3 for my first tri. I knew training would be extensive, but I didn’t realize that it quite literally takes over your life. You eat, sleep and train. For 20 or more weeks.

While I’m certainly not adverse to a challenge and hard work, I’m feeling quite intimidated at the moment. Ryan seems to have known I would get to this place. When I sheepishly just looked over at him and said, “I’m not so sure about this anymore,” he smiled sympathetically and suggested I start with a shorter race that might be a bit more manageable. There’s a sprint triathlon in RI around the same time as the 70.3, so perhaps I may try that instead…There’s also an olympic distance tri in DC next September. This race is appealing because I could train on the course and the biking distance seems more manageable, but I’m just not so sure about swimming in the Potomac. Bottom line: I need to do more research, get in the pool and get on my bike to start building my confidence.

No matter what race distance I decide on for 2012, I’m confident that I will be able to call myself triathlete; 70.3 may just be further in the distance than I originally thought.

 

What’s Next

After training for months for a race, it seems that most runners are left with a feeling of, “What’s next?” just moments after they cross the finish line. I am no exception. But for me, I began thinking about my next challenge weeks before Amy and I ran the Thunder Road Half Marathon.

It might seem that the next logical step for me is to run a full marathon. Many have asked about it and even suggested it. But after lots of reflection, 26.2 just isn’t right for me right now. Like lots of things, I don’t believe you should do something simply because it’s the logical next step. Your heart must be in it.

There are many reasons I don’t want to run a marathon just yet. However, these reasons do not include:

  • Training will be difficult, time-consuming, and at times, frustrating.
  • Running a marathon is a challenge.
  • Training and running the race will take incredible discipline and focus.

In fact, what I’m looking for in my next race is a true challenge. When I first started running with Amy several years ago, going three miles was a feat. I’ve now arrived at a place where running 13 miles is something I can not only do, but can do well. So, for me, it’s time to move onto something new.

That something new will be a triathlon during the summer of 2012. In particular, I have my sights set on the Amica Ironman 70.3 in Providence next July.  This race consists of a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and finishes with a 13.1 mile run. Training and participating in this event will surely take me out of my comfort zone and likely force me to push my body further than I ever have before. And that both excites and frightens me. So moving forward, expect more news about this next endeavor my experiences training.

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