The Quest for New Running Buddies

Most normal (I don’t know if that is the right word… what is normal anyway?) people who stay rooted in one place all of their lives don’t realize how difficult it is for military families to move every 2-4 years.  They might assume we love it and that we get to enjoy endless adventures, but it isn’t always so much fun and definitely not so easy (especially in the beginning).  Besides all of the obvious packing and unpacking, there is the relocation to a new area where you most likely don’t have any friends or family to lean on.  It is easy to understand that kids might have difficulty adjusting, but the parents also have to learn a new place and find new friends.  Granted, some military folks are good at adapting and very extroverted so they instantly make friends with everyone on their block.  But, what about us introverts? We have to face more challenges in that aspect.

Of course, as a military family it is usually easy to get connected with other members who work with the military spouse.  Yet, we appear to be in a very unique situation here because my husband will not be working.  Instead he will be attending school.  A school where there is currently only two other military members assigned to our service.  I guess that doesn’t really matter to me much because I have always tended to befriend more of the “outsiders” (the people not affiliated with the military) so I am used to reaching out in different directions.

Now, here I am.  I have taken some initiative already since I have done years of research into finding my niche.  Anything that deals with running is always a good start.  Therefore, I opened up my laptop and started a search for local running clubs.  Hmm, I was surprised to see… hardly any in this area.  I didn’t type in “cycling club” but I have the feeling that over a hundred options would pop up if I did that.  But wait, I did find something that said “running and cycling” club.  I guess that is better than nothing.

I kind of thought about the club for a couple of weeks before actually getting up the nerve to attend a track workout.  You know, it is always hard to force your way into an already established group of people.  People naturally tend to stick with those that they know (unless they are extreme extroverts I suppose).  That’s not to say that people aren’t friendly, but you kind of just want to stick with what is most comfortable.  I know that I do.

So, I showed up at the track 15 minutes early (of course, because I am naturally punctual thanks to my VERY strict curfews as a teenager… I would get grounded if I was even 10 seconds late).  I watched the football coach on the field yelling at his little team of boys and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.  I was thankful that I wasn’t doing their workout.  But, then again, I had no idea what I was about to partake in.  Club members started staggering in and I tried to remember names, but it is almost not fair because they only have to remember one new name.  They all seemed really nice and the one thing that I noticed is that they actually asked me a lot of questions.  That always makes a new, introverted person feel more at ease (take some notes here!).  The coach arrived with his two stopwatches around his neck and I was starting to feel excited about this whole track thing.  I had never really trained on a track before and I suddenly felt like some kind of Olympian.  Then he started talking about 400’s and 800’s and 1200’s and I had to turn to the guy next to me and ask “400 is one loop around the track, right?”.  Fortunately, I didn’t feel like too much of an idiot for asking that question because I was already pretty comfortable with the group and I kind of played it off like this track might be different from other tracks (I mean, it was gravel and there were weeds growing on it).

So, we started off on a warm-up and I ran next to a girl that I enjoyed 2 laps of small talk with.  I remember thinking that it seemed like a great speed to me and that it should be easier than I had anticipated.  Well, then all hell broke loose when we started our intervals.  “Run this at your 5K pace” said the coach.  Okay, sure.  I am just going to run with these guys.  It appears that they run at my pace.  Yeah, they run my pace during the warm-up!  I was huffing and puffing and working so hard to keep up during that first lap.  I finally realized that there was no way that I was going to keep up during all of these intervals because my energy was waning.  I played off the altitude thing.  “Yeah, I just moved here from sea level.”

Needless to say, even though I thought I was about to keel over at the end of those 6 miles, I had a good time through all of the pain.  I love challenges and that was definitely a challenge.  I bid my farewell and promised to return to another training.  That night I received an email from one of the members asking me to run some extra miles during the week.  People asking me to go for a run?  Now that is a friendship in the making.

Funny thing before I close.  I just got a phone call today from a lady my husband and I met in the pool at the YMCA (we started talking about triathlons).  She called to ask me to go for a ride tomorrow.  Granted, I have never been on a group ride.  I am also very slow.  Not only that, but I have a fear of going up and down hills.  Yet, I responded with “sure.”  This will be another new challenge that scares the crap out of me!  I will let you know how it goes.

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Goodbye Jacksonville

It took me about a year to adjust to living in Jacksonville after spending 5 and a 1/2 years in San Francisco (and California is my home state).  When my husband found out he was being transferred to Jacksonville, I cried… and then cried some more.  Not only did I despise the idea of moving away from home, but I also really despised the idea of moving to Florida.  Really, could we move any further away from the west coast??  The heat and humidity scared me (and I already knew about it because my husband was a prior resident of the state).  The big bugs were also a bit frightening.  Oh, and snakes too!

It was not easy driving ALL the way across the country to a new world (yes, it was a bit of a culture shock). The one thing I was looking forward to was finally owning our own home!  And it just so happened to be double the size of the house we were currently renting.  However, it was not a short 10-minute walk from the beach.  And it was not a short 10-minute walk to the local coffee shop or brewhouse.  But it was a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood with a very nice community pool.  I tried to remain positive throughout the whole moving experience, but it doesn’t help when you are packing up your home while you are extremely sick with the flu.  At least the drive was nice… if you like 110 degree weather and Interstate 10.

So, we finally arrive in Jacksonville and I don’t find my niche right away.  All of the Coast Guard families are very friendly, but most of them were from the south or east coast.  Nothing wrong with that, but I kind of felt like the odd woman out.  I’m the type of person who likes to have a couple of really good friends instead of a hundred acquaintances.  I’m also very shy and find it hard to make small talk.  A year went by and I still didn’t find what I was searching for but I went through my third (and final) pregnancy with a happy little bundle of joy at the end.  That cute little bundle of joy kept me busy and so did my final year of my Master’s degree program.  Finally, though, enough was enough and I needed to find some friends.

I thought about Team in Training and how I had met some amazing people when I was a part of the program in San Francisco.  I knew that running a marathon was on my bucket list and I also knew that I needed to lose the baby weight and the only way I could was through running (the best weight loss program I know of).  6 weeks after giving birth I joined the local team.  Through the 4 month experience I made really good friends, lost all of the baby weight, gained confidence and finished my first marathon.  I was hooked.  I couldn’t stop there so I decided to stay involved as a coach and then eventually signed on as a participant once again.  Even though it sounds crazy, I loved getting up at 5:00 am on Saturdays to run with the team and meeting up on Tuesday evenings to push ourselves over the bridges.  I knew I had finally found my niche in Jacksonville.

Training and working out became my passion and a big part of my life.  I enjoyed getting a break from the kids by dropping them off at the gym daycare (and they loved the social aspect of it).  I looked forward to the classes offered by very personable instructors.  I began to set my sights even higher and ran a marathon and a half (in 2 days) at Disney World with one of my really good friends.  I even tried my first triathlon and loved it!  I overcame (well, not completely yet) an injury  that set me back from achieving my fitness goals.  Through that, I learned a lesson on determination.

I have learned and endured so much since moving to Jacksonville.  I just can’t believe that it is already time to move on to the next place.  I will truly miss all of my friends, my house, my neighbors (the most awesome cul-de-sac ever!), and the Jacksonville running community.  I will not miss the summer weather, but I must admit that it was kind of nice wearing shorts and t-shirts during most of the winter.  I will look forward to having all of the seasons, real mountains and being closer to the west coast.  I am sure that I will have many new adventures and that is what keeps me going through all of this.  I am definitely never bored.

So, goodbye Jacksonville!  Tomorrow I start my next journey across the states!