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Year II, Entry VII



Hello everybody, welcome back to another edition of The Real Illinois. In this edition, Eric sums up his trip to Costa Rica and what he will be venturing into the rest of the summer in Champaign. Beth blogs about how her stay in Colorado is going and the coach of the Illinois Cross Country Club (Mark Hayes) writes about what he has been up to. Enjoy!



Eric De Guevara

Hey Guys!

Well I’m back in the States and back to a routined lifestyle; work, run, and soon school. I’ve been here for two weeks now and everyday I have missed CR, but now after this weekend in Michigan I am happy to be back. This weekend, some friends (XC Club) and I went to our friend’s (Andrew Gazdziak) cabin in the woods to just hang out; I personally had a great time seeing everyone again. I had the opportunity to listen more about the Clubs history, met graduates of ITC, and witnessed an experience I thought I would never see but just hear stories about. What am I talking about? A man I really admire, our host for the weekend, relived his early college years — that is not something to talk about, but know that he survived and contributed to ITCs story book. To conclude this past weekend, I’m excited to be back and I love my ITC friends.


The man

So I left you reading about how I slacked off on my running due to not being motivated, but since that post I have been running everyday and I am back on that “Get Fit” plan. Being back home, I have finally been running with some friends of mine and just talking about CR and catching up with some stories which makes the runs a lot better. What I also left you off with was the 8K race that I ran, I’m going to talk a bit about that. The race was at 7:00am so I had to wake up at 5:00 so I can go for a shake out. The sun was already out but wasn’t that hot as usual. Getting ready for the race, I stood with everyone else on the start line but I was not in the front. It was7 o’clock and the horn sounded; the leaders were off. I started with a jog and it took a while to pass the starting line so I can actually run. Once I passed the line, I was already a little frustrated because that was the first time ever that I had to walk at the start of a race. To cut things short, the course were on the roads of the volcano where my town is located, so it was up the volcano and back down. Spectacular views! The downhill did not help till the end, but I passed many runners after being around the 100th person and finished 6th place with a time of 27:56, this was out of 406 runners. As you read, I wasn’t training as I usually do for races, I only ran 3 days before this race. So with this time I was completely satisfied and I broke what I wanted, the 28 barrier. dawg

Other than that, I said goodbye to Costa Rica, stayed with my family for Independence Day and the week. I really enjoyed the time back home and back to the usual food I love. Now I am back in Champaign and working in my lab as a Research Assistant in the Microbiology Department at U of I. One week over with lab and it was basically a refresher with lab materials and techniques, because this is the third summer of research I have done. Starting this week, I will begin on my own project which will be working with Archea from a Volcano in Russia and a hot spring from Yellowstone National Park, understanding how they are similar in genomes by extracting their DNA. I’m excited! Also workouts begin for my club next week so I’m also excited for that, especially the part where I wake up at 6:15am to run (*sarcasm*). I can’t complaint thought because afterwards I have the rest of the day to work and relax which really pays off, so it’s okay. Overall, I’m excited to be back working and running with friends. I can’t wait for school to begin, live in my apartment with Kevin Jorg, Kevin Lapp, and Ryan Kelch (3 awesome guys from the Illinois XC+TF Club) and well for Cross to officially begin. Ready to break some PRs as well. Woo! Thank you for reading and I will be back to tell you more about how running is going and how I am doing on my project in the lab. Ciao!




Beth McGreal

Hi hi hiya! Well these past three weeks have probably been the quickest and happiest three weeks of summer so far. There has been such good news and many changes at camp that has made time fly. Some news that made my past three weeks was the news of my brothers engagement and being recognized as counselor of the week for the third week of camp. I was happy to know that my handiwork wasn’t going unnoticed and it was reassuring to know that I was doing a good job. So, I have been working for six weeks, which seems crazy because that means day camp is just over halfway done. But since working with the Scrabbit kids, who are the local kids of Estes Park, for a month, I have been rotated to work with the Leggett Kids, or the guest kids of the YMCA. These are two VERY different programs since we are able to do a few more activities with the guest kids, so I was very excited to be rotated to change things up. So   for the past two weeks I have been able to work with the same group of kids for a week long until the next week where new campers would come in. That means from week to week, I work with a new counselor and have the ability to jump around age groups. Since I haven’t had much experience with all ages, I was excited to be able to work with first graders one day and then seventh and eighth graders the next day. Working with the guest kids has been very enjoyable since we get to do things like mini golf, the climbing wall, and probably the most exciting for me are the all day hikes. I was definitely looking forward to all day hikes because this meant I was able to lead kids on hikes and go on new trails that I haven’t been on yet in the national park. However, the all day hikes are probably my most exhausting day since I have had to really motivate kids on the hike to keep going while staying positive.


            Now onto training… I have been able to keep up on my running goals, which means running consistently and making sure to do core and mobility. One exciting running adventure that I was able to go on during the last weekend of June was attending a race in Leadville, CO. I went with a group of nine from the YMCA because some had signed up to do the heavy half, which was 15.5 miles or the full marathon. However, I did not sign up to do the race because I knew I wasn’t ready to run that many miles up a mountain and back. But I knew I wanted to run part of the race so I decided to help my friend out and jump in the race for the last five miles to finish it off. So, I was able to run, for the most part, on pretty steep downhills, which you may think sounds easy… but I haven’t been that sore from running in awhile. This race was probably one of the coolest I have ever been too. I wish I had my camera to show you the trails that we ran through because it was easily one of the prettiest sights seen with mountains all around while being on a really smooth trail. I really enjoyed being in the racing atmosphere because it gave me an extra kick of motivation afterwards, which was much needed.



Our guest contributor this week is Mark Hayes. Mark is one of the guys on the team who after a lot of our senior leadership left, he stepped up and became the guy, meaning he became the new coach of the Illinois Cross Country Club, while still taking a full slate of classes for his Chemical Engineering degree. I have a lot of respect for the amount of work Mark puts in academically as well as athletically. The job he took over was not easy, but he did a pretty fine job with it. Anyways, I’ll let Mark talk now about what he has been up to.


Mark Hayes

Hi everyone! For those of you who may not know me I’m Mark Hayes. So for some quick background, I’ve been running competitively since the 8th grade and I’m currently the head coach of IXC and the distance coach for ITC. Throughout high school I had 3 different coaches for cross country and track and even an outdoor track season where there was no coach for the men’s team. My first two years on the club team were a very different experience from high school because for the first time in my running career I was surrounded by people who were just as devoted to running as I was and I had a stable coach in Jake Englander. In Jake’s last semester at Illinois I became his understudy where I learned as much as I could about coaching and training philosophy. Now I’m entering my final year at UIUC where I’m pursuing a degree in chemical engineering with a minor in food science.

This summer I’ve been working in Barrington, IL at the PepsiCo Research and Development facility which houses Quaker, Tropicana, and Gatorade (QTG as it is known). I’m working in the Quaker division and my official title is Process Engineer Intern. I’ll do my best to give you an idea of what I’ve been working on this summer, but my work is of a proprietary nature so I can’t give any details without getting into legal trouble. At the QTG R&D facility we develop all the new products that you see on the shelves for the three major brands and also for smaller ones that you may not know are owned by PepsiCo such as Aunt Jemima.


As a Process Engineer I work mainly on developing and improving the way products are made in the factories. We have a pilot plant in Barrington which is essentially a small scale production facility that contains the equipment needed to produce any of the QTG products. Using the equipment we can make small batches of the product and then test them for quality. The process I have been working on requires some parameters to be set so that I can facilitate a particular reaction. I can then vary the other parameters to see the impact they have on the product. Parameters that we can control in the pilot plant are feed rates for ingredients, temperature control through mechanical energy input and the temperature of incoming ingredients and also the control of various moving parts in the machinery itself. Again, I’m sorry if this is vague, but it has to be out of necessity. I’m pretty excited about the work I’m doing and I’ve been able to work with a lot of other engineers. As Quaker is focused on oats and other grains, the milling of these grains plays a pivotal role in the development of new products. A couple weeks ago I had the chance to travel to Manhattan, Kansas (not NY) to learn how to mill flours myself. Through the past 8 weeks of the internship I’ve learned a lot about my process and I’m excited to see the products on store shelves in the coming year or two.


As the coach of the club team I’ve been pretty busy this summer. The first few weeks before my internship started were spent tweaking and refining the training plan for the Fall 2013 season. I had a lot of emails going back and forth between the coaching staff including Jake Englander and Mike Brothers. A lot of the training schedule had to be tailored around the meet schedule which has stayed relatively the same in the past few years. As some of you may know already, the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational at Loyola has been cancelled and I am now in search of a new meet to replace it in our schedule. Hopefully we can secure a spot in one of several meets that look to be good substitutes. Along with finding new meets for the team I’ve also been talking to a lot of recruits this summer. I’ve had multiple incoming freshmen contact me about joining the club, and they’re split fairly evenly between men and women which is a great sign for the future of our club!


My summer training has been going pretty well so far too. After ending my track season prematurely I was eager to get fit quickly. I decided my goal for the summer months would be to run every single day and to run 1000 miles before classes start in August. I’ve had quite a bit of success so far. After my long run this morning I just completed a 70+ mile week for the first time this summer which puts me at 640 miles for the past 70 days (I have 42 days to complete the last 360). The “Goal Widget” on RunningAhead has allowed me to keep track of things pretty easily and at my current pace it is projecting 1023.5 miles for the summer. With such a high mileage load I have had to take some precautions to stay healthy, but without taking any days off this sets limits on what I can do. When I’m feeling really beat up I’ve been slowing my pace to around 7:45-8:00 min/mile for my runs instead of lowering my mileage. If any of you have been keeping up with my log you may be wondering why I’m not following my own training plan with the 3 week cycle for mileage build-up. The answer is really quite simple: I have no intentions of running at NIRCA Nationals. I found out last year that I can contribute much more to IXC/ITC by focusing my efforts on coaching than I can as a runner. Without my own races to worry about at the end of the season I can devote more time to focusing on my athletes and giving them the coach they deserve. With my academic career coming to a close I will soon be entering the workforce for good and I also wanted to see if I could handle the challenge of running high mileage and working a full time job. After college the plan was always to switch to running marathons, but I wanted to make sure I could make a serious attempt at fast times. This summer has shown me that I can at least run high mileage even while alone. Workouts will be something different but it’s a challenge I look forward to and I know that I won’t be just another weekend warrior; that running will be a big part of my life post-collegiately.



That’s all for this week! Stay tuned next week for another update from Henry and Monica and guest contributor TBD. Until then…

“In football, you might get your bell rung, but you go in with the expectation that you might get hurt, and you hope to win and come out unscathed.  As a distance runner, you know you’re going to get your bell rung.  Distance runners are experts at pain, discomfort, and fear.  You’re not coming away feeling good.  It’s a matter of how much pain you can deal with on those days.  It’s not a strategy.  It’s just a callusing of the mind and body to deal with discomfort.  Any serious runner bounces back.  That’s the nature of their game.  Taking pain.” – Mark Wetmore

Love that quote


Year II, Entry VI


Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Real Illinois. I apologize for missing last week’s entry. To make it up for everybody, we are double dipping on our post this week and having four of our correspondents write: Monica, Henry, Jackie, and I. Also, one of the most distinguished Lincoln-Way East running alums, who also just wrapped up a great collegiate career, Nate Troester stops by to write a guest post. There is a lot of material in this one, but it sure is good, so buckle up and enjoy.



Monica O’Connor

Hey all! Hope all of your summers are going fantastic!

The past three weeks have been absolutely insane, I do not think I will be able to fit it all in one post but I’ll do my best…

For one week I stayed in the West Village in Manhattan with my Aunt and younger sister. We wandered throughout the Village, saw Pippen, went to a taping of the Colbert Report and the NPR show Ask Me Another and visited the MET and MoMA. Basically it was an amazing trip.


I was lucky enough to be less than a block from the riverfront pathway where tons of tourists and New Yorkers run, rollerblade, bike and just hang out. The riverfront is a really cool place because many of the piers have been converted for other uses. On one run I came across a park filled with painted pianos. It was really easy to keep myself motivated because there were a lot of other runners out and my days were pretty laid back so I could always find time to fit a run in.

Following the amazing week in the city I headed out to Southampton to begin my summer work. To be honest I was insanely nervous, but also extremely excited. However after being at camp for only a couple of days it was clear that there was nothing to worry about. Surprisingly the majority of the counselors are from the UK, most from England but a smattering from Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. It was really fun hearing their accents and trying to imitate them, and have them imitate an American accent. The first week consisted of learning all about the camp I am working at, Southampton Fresh Air Home. Because the campers have physical disabilities there was a lot to learn. We had to practice showering, brushing teeth, feeding, diapering, and lifting the campers.


Although the days were really full I was lucky enough to find a couple of people to run with everyday. Another counselor, who just graduated, ran in college so we went on a bunch of runs together. We are conveniently located less than a mile from a bay and the Shinnecock and Nationals Links Golf courses. Basically the runs were gorgeous. The first week I was very optimistic about my training for the summer, it seemed as though having time to run would not be a problem. However I hit a road bump when the campers arrived…


I knew that it was going to be hard to get running in but I had no idea how tired I would be at the end of every day. To give you an idea of the schedule here at camp I wanted to give you a run through of the day but realized you would probably be bored.

Basically each day starts at 7:00 AM and ends around 9:00 PM when we put the girls down for bed. It is a really challenging day, and to be honest I think this has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. My back is sore from lifting girls and taking care of thirteen girls, although the other counselors are fabulous, it is quite mentally draining. But do not think I am not having a great time. I have learned so much about myself and various physical disabilities. This camp is seriously one of the most amazing places I have ever been. It is really cool to see kids, who at school may be ostracized or treated differently because of their disability, just get to be totally normal kids.


As much as I love being at camp it has really taken a toll on my summer training. I tried to run every morning but found that I was not able to put my 100% into my job here. I can already tell that this experience is one that I am going to learn a lot from and I want to do it to the best of my ability. I feel that in running everyday I would be acting selfishly, preventing the campers from having the absolutely amazing experience that they deserve here at camp.

more camp

After talking with Mark, the other counselors, and thinking about it for a long time I decided that for my health I would have to cut back on my running. This means that I will not be able to compete in the beginning of the season, as I wanted to, but will instead shoot for regionals and nationals. Although this is less than ideal, as I really wanted to be ready to race at the beginning of season, I know it is the right decision. I do not want to look back on this summer and think I gave any less than my best for the campers here. I am going to try to run whenever I can but I know I have to be realistic about my body’s capabilities.

I hope all of your summers are going amazing and that your running is going smoothly!




Henry Wolf

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve already been working for 6 weeks. I have 6 more to go

Since last time, I’ve been working more and running less.

I have had the misfortune of some pretty serious shin splints for the past 2.5 weeks. They’ve been pretty debilitating and I’ve only run about 46 miles in the last 14 days. I’ve been icing, but since I don’t have any of my rollers from home, I’ve been improvising with a can of Manwich, which is a pretty poor substitute. I really don’t know what to do, but I need to either commit to taking time off or pushing through, because these crappy 20 mile weeks are worthless.  That said, Nationals isn’t until November, so I’m not too worried about how this setback will affect my season yet.


This past week at work we’ve been trying to finish up our plans for a 95% submittal due on July 3rd. I’ve been in charge of all of the quantities for our Higgins Road bridge (the one with the big skew I talked about last time), so I’ve been very busy updating the quantities and finalizing them. Definitely the most consuming and challenging calc I had to do was Structure Excavation. This involved quantifying every cubic yard of earth that needed to be excavated in order to build the bridge. It was a real challenge trying to keep the different phases of construction and the varying elevations in order so that I didn’t overcount – or worse, undercount the excavation required. All in all, these quantities were pretty crazy and I wound up working 60 hours last week.

I’ve also been doing some work on a railroad bridge on the Illinois River. There is a structure (called a protective dolphin) that serves to protect the bridge from impacts with the barges passing under. This dolphin was hit by barge and damaged and I’ve been working with the structures section manager to design the replacement. It has been a lot of CAD work mostly, but I’ve been told that I can design the steel plates that will hold the structure onto the piles (the element that anchors the dolphin in place under the river floor). This is a long way from the billion dollar cable-stayed bridges that I hope to model and design in the future, but it’s a start. I will be using things I learned in my Design of Steel Structures course and this is the first bridge I’ve worked on that actually spans water. It also makes me think of this song.

That’s all I have for now. I’ve been enjoying city life too. Last night I participated in the Late Ride, a bike ride that goes all around the city in the dead of night. There were thousands of others and I got to see parts of the city that I’d never seen before. All I could think of on the ride was how beautiful infrastructure can be (even in the bad shape most of it is in). I hope I can make as lasting a contribution to a city as some of the ones I saw last night.




Jackie Newell

This summer has really gotten away from me. I feel like June was stolen from me! I think it’s because I really only think of it in terms of weekends. It’s not really what I expected, but I don’t mind. Before the summer started my friends and I had loads of plans to watch movies, go to happy hours, and other fun activities to do during the week. Waking up at 5:15am to run, working all day, and then working out again is not really conducive to fun weekday activities. This is a sad reality of being a real human with a job, but it’s all worth it on the weekends. I work so hard during the week to stay on schedule, so I can experience the pay off on the weekend.


Does anyone even remember what my job is? I am a chemistry researcher at my school in San Antonio. I am currently probing a gold on titania-oxide catalyst using the hydrogenation of nitroarenes. The topic is really interesting and there is a wealth of information being published every month on new gold catalysis mechanisms. My reaction can be really frustrating at times. I won’t get into the gory details, but basically I can’t get my products to remain stable over time. It is seriously driving me crazy. As if that is not bad enough, I also have to present my research at a symposium in 2 weeks! AHHH! I feel like I have little to show for the hard work I’ve put in this summer. The comforting thing, though, is I will continue this research into the school year. So I have time to keep working and developing my reaction. I also have a helper (minion) who helps to collect data. We’re a good pair because she reminds me a lot of myself. She’s anxious to learn about lab work and offers good ideas for the chemistry behind our reaction.


Some Quality Chem

In other news, running is going great. My teammates and I have been tearing it up. For starters, we excel in the workouts our coach gives us. I feel like this alone made staying here completely worth it. I would not have achieved the quality effort that comes from being pushed by other people on a solo-mission. Then there’s the long runs. Our long run’s usually have a 1-3 mile hard effort thrown in either the middle or the end. I think this will show at the end of races when we’re forced to push through being tired. Also, lately, we’ve been doing pancakes after our weekend long runs. They are a great incentive to get through 13 miles.. I love pancakes. Easy runs are still at5:45am and waking up never got easier. It’s ok though, only a few more weeks and I’ll be back home running on my own time and real people hours.


Speaking of back home, I went home for the fourth of July. It was great! I saw my friends, sewed a quilt, and won a 5k. Ask me later about how a 17 year old boy almost swiped my plaque! Surprisingly I won the race in 19:16. This time is faster than any 5k I ran during track season freshman and sophomore year of college; more proof of what a solid year of hard training can do to you. Leaving home was bittersweet because I love my friends and working at my school but I also really do enjoy being home.

So just to conclude, here are my goals for July: Collect some sort of reproducible data for my reaction, don’t die of my 21st birthday, hit 70 miles 3 weeks in a row, do core 5 days a week and restrict alcohol consumption to once a weekend.

Well everyone- enjoy your July and remember the new month offers new opportunities to be better!



Zach Boehmke

Hi all. Last time I wrote, I was amazed that we were a month into summer. Now, I am amazed that there is only one month left in my internship, which means July is here and Cross-country is coming.

julius meme

Training is going pretty well for me. My mileage is slowly inching its way up without any hitches. There are no aches and pains to speak of. Everything is going as I want it to… except for the heat being here now. I have a fairly tough time running well in the heat and that part of me reared its ugly head during a long run this past Sunday. I am happy though because the trails that I run on are very shaded and do a good job of keeping out the sun from beating down. Although that keeps me cool, I do have to find a way to train it direct sunlight without mentally breaking down. That always is my crutch at the beginning of the cross-country season and I would like to not repeat that this year. But, outside of that and the overbearing humidity and swarms of mosquitos (and possible future westnile in my future), running is everything I could ask for right now. It could only be better if I had a training parter like last year. Although this past weekend Jackie was in town and I was able to run with her a few days which was nice. We ran a 5k on the 4th. I did not do very well; she won as she mentioned above. It was pretty fun all around.

Work is going pretty well too. I am being kept very busy — not 60 hours a week busy like Henry, but my assigned tasks can pretty easily fill up a 10 hour day. I have several projects right now that I am working on right now that I am pretty excited about. I am being assigned fairly large portions of documents to have free range with putting together (from sources) (with review done my co-workers obviously), so it is exciting actually being able to do the position I was hired for since there is more trust. I do not want to write too much about it because it will probably come off as boring what I am doing, so I will spare everyone. This Thursday, all the interns get to meet with one of the VP’s over lattes, so it will be cool to pick his brain, although his area does not exactly pertain to what I want to do in the future. We also go to a Sox game in the sky boxes pretty soon, so I am very much looking forward to that.

I really do not have too much to write about this week. I am looking forward to the month ahead as there are many fun things planned. We have a guys weekend at Andrew’s lakehouse this weekend, so it will be good seeing everyone after I missed our old coach, Jake Englander’s wedding (congrats again, Jake!). The half marathon is in a couple weeks and the Big 10 10k is the week after that, so there will be some good opportunities to work on getting faster. Aaaand after that is Lollapalooza. So for the next few weeks, I am going to focus on being the best I can at work and having as much fun as possible on the weekends. Hopefully I will have some good stories for next time.



Our next contributor is Nate Troester.I have known Nate since I joined cross-country my sophomore year of high school. At that time, I was so out of touch (and slow) with the sport that I was unable to appreciate his performances throughout his senior year during cross-country and track and field. He was 7th in state in XC and 2nd in state in the 2 mile. To this day, he still holds the 2 mile record at our school of 9:07 and is part of our school record Indoor 4×8 squad that my crew of knuckleheads could not take down. After graduating, I was happy to see that I be happy to see more of Nate outside high school since I was accepted into the University of Illinois, where Nate just graduated and finished up his time on the varsity squad. I’ll let him tell his story, but I just wanted to say that Nate was one of the big reasons I got into this sport. Watching him and Ron Revord and Myles Scott-Stirn put in the miles (and being astounded that they could run for that long) was one of the things that motivated me and the rest of my graduating class to reach our goals of getting to state, ourselves. He is one of the nicest guys I know and always has time to have a conversation with anyone and I know that his character and work ethic are the primary reasons that he is going to have a very successful future. Anyways, without further ado, here is Nate:


Nate Troester

Hello everyone!  For those of you who do not know me, my name is Nathan Troester and first I want to say thanks to Zach Boehmke for inviting me to be a part of this awesome blog!  Alright, so a little about myself.  I graduated the University of Illinois with my Master’s degree in accountancy this past May and am now currently studying (and hopefully passing!) the CPA exam before I start work in September.  The studying has been consuming my life for the past 4-5 months so writing this post should be a nice break.  Anyways, I ran on the men’s varsity XC and Track & Field squad all 5 years at U of I, mainly focusing on the longer distances.  I had most of my collegiate success on the cross country course and put together a few solid 5Ks and 10Ks on the track.  My cross country 8K and 10K bests are 24:35 and 30:57, respectively, and 5K and 10K on the track are 14:35 and 30:41, respectively.


I started my running career in the Spring of 2004 when I went out for the track team in 8th grade.  I had never run competitively before, but always ran pretty well in those annoying gym class miles they make you do for fitness tests in grade school, so I figured I’d give it a try.  We only practiced a few times a week and I never ran more than a mile or two in practice, but I managed to run a 5:24 for 1600m the first time I tried the event.  So I knew I had some talent for the sport, but my first love was basketball so I knew I wanted to pursue that in high school.  Fortunately, my Dad convinced me to go out for XC in Fall (which I rationalized as getting into shape for basketball) where I ended up making the varsity squad and the state meet at the end of the season.  After XC, I squeaked onto the basketball team and spent most of the year on the bench / getting shit on in practice by all the guys that continued to grow taller and stronger, while I still stayed at 5′ 8′ and barely weighed a buck 20.  So to much of my surprise, I spent most of that season wishing I was still running with all the awesome dudes I met on the XC team last Fall.  As I’m sure all of you guys reading already know, what makes running awesome is the team comradery.  An XC/Track team is always made up of a group of stand up guys/gals that have level heads, stay out of trouble (for the most part), and are genuinely great people that are working toward a common goal.  And it is amazing to me that I have witnessed the same attributes in every XC team that I have been on or been around.  So anyway, I was very happy when basketball came to an end and I was able to run the outdoor track season with my teammates again.  Needless to say, I did not try out for basketball again the following season and then went on to have a pretty successful high school career which landed me a spot on the team at U of I.


My collegiate running career was a bit of a roller coaster in terms of my personal progression and success in the sport, but the one thing that was always a constant was the quality of young men and women that I was surrounded with in my teammates.  I came to Illinois because the guys on the team and Coach McRaven were committed to turning the program around and establishing a place on the national scene.  My five year experience may not have gone exactly how I had envisioned it, but from my freshman year until this past Spring, our XC program / distance squad has improved leaps and bounds.  We are still fighting for our first national appearance in over 25 years, but we have come oh so close the past three seasons, sending two individuals each of the past two years.  That is something that our program has not done since the 80s.  Additionally, the class of guys I came in with had to overcome a lot of adversity as we ran under three different coaches in five years.  Each coach had extremely different training philosophies and personalities and it took a decent amount of effort and time to adapt to each one.  Our current coach, Jake Stewart, has been unbelievable in both his training philosophy and his vision for our program.  He has helped me rejuvenate my career after coming off some overtraining issues in 2011/2012 that really got me down, and almost every guy on the team has improved significantly under his guidance.  I have 100% confidence in him and the group of guys on his team right now and know they will get over the hump this season and put Illinois back on the national scene in both XC and Track.

past and future

My biggest takeaway from my collegiate running experience is to take nothing for granted and to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.  Running is tough and it’s a mental battle as much as physical.  For example, one day you may be on top of the world, running new PR’s every meet and feeling great, but then all of a sudden you get injured, or your times aren’t getting faster anymore.  Then it becomes a mental battle that is fought on a daily basis and tests our perseverance and love for the sport.  That is why you can’t take anything for granted, and you have to enjoy the journey that leads to that opportunity to go run at a big meet, or set a new PR, or qualify for a national meet, or whatever the goal may be.

one more

So now to what I am doing now.  Like I said before, I am taking the Summer to study for the CPA exam before I begin working for the public accounting firm, Ernst & Young, in September.  But I still have some unfinished business I want to take care of in running as well.  I have signed up to compete in the Chicago Rock’n’Roll half marathon in July and also the full Chicago marathon in October, which will be my debuts in both events.  Since this is my last “work free” Summer I feel like this is my best opportunity to train hard, get good sleep, and run under 2:30 for a marathon before my competitive running days come to an end.  It has been a great Summer so far as my running has been going really well.  I’ve been increasing the mileage and intensity now for the past 6 weeks or so.  Additionally, I have passed 2 of the 4 CPA sections and am currently studying to take the third section at the end of July.  As I’m sure you all know, running has made us all pretty darn good at managing our time, so I’ve been able to balance the rigorous study schedule and get in 70-80 miles a week as well.


I am really excited to start this next chapter in my life, even though it will be weird not having a distinct XC and track season for the first time in a decade.  The good news is that running helps us build those great attributes that lead to becoming successful in life such as dedication, leadership, time management, working well with others, etc. so it will be interesting to see how my running lifestyle translates into my work lifestyle.  Lastly, I definitely will continue to run while I work.  I’m not sure how competitive/intense it will be, but I surely intend to at least get my butt out of bed every morning and get some mileage in before work.  Because once you become a runner and begin to live the lifestyle it’s an extremely hard habit to break!  Thanks for reading!



Well, that is another post in the books. I want to extend a big thanks to all the contributors, especially Nate for writing this week. I will try to get back on schedule and have next week’s post ready by Sunday. Stay tuned to see how Eric is doing back in America and how things are going for Beth. Until next time…

“Thus I urge you to go onto your greatness if you believe it is in you.  Think deeply and separate what you wish from what you are prepared to do.” – Percy Cerutty

Year II, Entry V


Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Real Illinois. In this edition, Eric updates everybody on his travels in Costa Rica and what else he is doing, Beth brings us up to date on everything she is doing, and a special guest appearance by the one and only Sean Berbert. Without further ado, here is Eric.


Eric DeGuevara


Hey again,

It is now 3 weeks later and since the last time, I have to honestly say I have been having a blast and enjoying life in CR, but at the same time upset for the reason of failing on running constantly. I don’t know where to start so let’s just go with the good things first. Sad to say that I only have just one more week left here at CR but I have enjoyed it as much as I can by going somewhere every weekend. There were more beaches, volcanoes, adrenaline adventures, and meeting cool ticos! I strongly recommend putting CR on your bucket list or something because it is a country that has a lot to offer! Other than that, school is great and sad to say, coming to end (weird to say, huh?). Going back home will be obviously different, specifically the food. No more fresh exotic and tropical fruit, gallopinto (rice & beans), and huevos a caballo. Ah! These 6 weeks flew.

Eric would approve this song

Now to the bad. One big reason for my mishap was motivation. I started good by running everyday here until one weekend where I was exhausted. Once I got back home I told myself “take a day off” which was not a good idea because it only led to more than one day off. After that I was just not able to get up and run. And a huge factor with that was that being “winter” in Central America it constantly rains in the afternoon which stops my run because they aren’t drizzles, they are downpours with lighting and thunder. Then I can’t do it in the evening because its not safe, only option is early morning but that is where I lack the motivation. It’s a moment in a runners life that I think one hits, where they don’t have that humph to go anymore. I hope I am not making this moment out of the blue, but I think runners do hit it. It’s only for a moment, until you realize and tell yourself why you are doing this and why you enjoy it.

After a tough break, I got out of it. What really helped me was thinking about my goals and the main one talking to my best friend who is my main competitor in every cross season. With that I signed up for an 8k here to keep my mind focused on running. This 8K will be one of the items in my bucket list, which is to run a race in a foreign country. So that can be checked off now! Woo woo! I will be running it this Sunday at 7:00 am and I’m hoping to break 28:00 barrier at least. I’m excited and ready to run with some Costaricans!
Well there was my story of my second half in CR. I have been enjoying it but not the way it should have unfolded. Now we are back on track. Can’t wait to be home actually running with friend (and not alone) and be with my family. Ciao amigos y allí regreso otra vez hablando de como me va corriendo.
Translation: Bye friends and I will be back again talking about how running is going.



Beth McGreal


Heyyo! Since my last blog entry, the campers have arrived and I have been working at day camp for the past three weeks. I can’t believe that I have already been working that long because it hasn’t felt long at all, but I’ll take this as a good sign. These past three weeks, I have been working with the local fourth, fifth, and sixth grade kids of the Estes Park area. Our day camp group is called “The Scrabbits” after an animal in the area. I thought the name scrabbits was a made up animal for the camp, but to my surprise it is a mix between a squirrel and a rabbit that is black and man are they weird to see around! It’s quite a change from the squirrels that I am used to seeing at U of I. Besides seeing some scrabbits around camp, we had an unexpected visitor my first week. The visitor was a BULL MOOSE that roamed right outside the day camp buildings. This was an unusual sighting since they are very rare on our side of the mountains. Although we are outside around the YMCA the whole day, my group didn’t see the moose since we were cautioned to stay away and I guess it was best for my sake since the kids were already frightened by hearing a moose was on the loose!


Scrabbit, obvi

Moreover, I have about ten campers in my group each day that I take to do archery, sports, swim, make forts in the forest, hike, and play many games like capture the flag (I feel like I have gone pro in capture the flag… so watch out). These kids have so much energy and trying to keep up with them can be a bit exhausting, but I love being engaged by playing the games and giving them a challenge especially during the games that involve some running aspect. I like to think these games, as a kid, started my running career (the games got pretty intense). From these past few weeks, I have learned so much already and I am excited for what is to come.


The sign I see on most runs

Besides work, I have been able to consistently run. I am running in the mornings with my now smaller, but still dedicated running group. If I didn’t run in the morning, I don’t think I would have the energy after running around with the kiddos. In addition, it has been challenging to find trails that aren’t as hilly because who are we kidding… we are surrounded by mountains. Yet, we have done some exploring in and around the national park where we found some trails that aren’t so hilly because I’m not going to lie, I long for some flat ground. Also, one of my goals for the summer is to be able to stick with a regular routine of mobility and abs. Because of running in the morning I have been rushed to get ready for work and haven’t had as much time as I would have liked in the morning. So, I have been able to switch things around to where I can do my exercises on days I run in the afternoon or on weekends. I have been doing well with getting in timed runs, but I am worried that I am not meeting the mileage since I am so much slower due to the many hills. On a positive note, I have been able to gradually build from 30 minutes to running 40 minutes and I don’t feel like death afterwards so that’s always a good feeling. Lastly, there are so many activities that we can do here which includes hiking. I have gone hiking every weekend since being here and I have been able to plan ahead to use my hike day as my day off since I know I would be exhausted from an all day hike to come back and run. I am happy with how many new activities I have been able to do so far and I am excited to keep on exploring.



Our guest contributor today is Sean Berbert. I met Sean freshman year when he was a senior and one of the leaders on the Illinois Cross Country Club. The year he was there left me with a ton of memories and we were all sad to see him graduate, but happy to see him move on to the next stage of his life, grad school at Wheaton College. He is one of my favorite people to talk to and catch up with and I have nothing but respect for him (even with all the dorky dad jokes). Anyways, I’ll let him do the talking. Here’s Sean.


Sean Berbert

Hello all! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sean Berbert. I graduated U of I in May of 2011, and was a member of ITC from 2007-2011 (three seasons of cross country, three seasons of track). Predominately a sprinter in high school, much of my collegiate running career was defined by adjusting to higher mileage training and longer races. Under the guidance of Coach Jake I ran 4:14 in the 1500, 10:31 in the 3000m steeplechase, and 20:57 for 6K in cross country. Post collegiately I have run 28:42 for 8k and 16:42 for the 5000m run.

I knew early on in my undergraduate career that I wanted to pursue a career in the psychology field. At the time I had a somewhat naïve idea of what it meant to be a therapist, but I knew that my gifts and talents best suited me for that profession. It was easy for me to decide to continue straight into a master’s program after graduating from U of I. In the fall of 2011, I began a master’s program in clinical psychology at Wheaton College. Although it was not a particularly academically strenuous two years, it certainly was in an emotional sense. One of the mottos of Wheaton’s clinical psychology program is “You can’t take your clients any further than you’ve gone yourself”. As someone who had been spared of experiencing any serious trauma, I found it difficult to understand this philosophy of healing. How was I to sit with clients who experienced abuse, neglect, and other traumas if I had not experienced it myself? I had lent an empathic ear to friends and family who experienced much heartache before I began the program and believed that I would most likely be able to continue this trend after I obtained a master’s degree. However, I quickly realized that my understanding of the program motto was faulty. The faculty’s intentions was for us students to acknowledge, examine, and work-out some of our deepest (yet sometimes unconscious) biases, skewed beliefs, and vices so that we could see our client’s lives more clearly. For someone who is extremely introspective, this process essentially sent my mind into overdrive. I would go as far as to say I devoted too much time to this process instead of being with the people I love and doing the things I love (like running!). I should note that the full effects of this process didn’t come into effect until my second year in the program, leaving me with about a year to enjoy living in my hometown again with some of my closest friends, a light academic load, and a desire to run fast.


The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, where I have spent the majority of my days the past two years

That being said, I rode the motivation I had from my senior year into my first year of graduate school and put in some of my best training to date. Although it was difficult adjusting to running alone  95% of the time, I still found the will to get out the door and put in the miles. I even ran two of my PRs during the fall of 2011. Unfortunately I was not able to carry this momentum into the 2012 track season as I discovered that I had a partially torn Achilles, which my podiatrist thinks was the result of too many of these:


My podiatrist was able to treat the injury without surgery (he used something called Platelet rich plasma injections instead, which I highly recommend. Although this was my first significant running injury, I patiently stayed in my walking boot for about a month and then began rehab with a physical therapist. And wa-la! After four months of no running I was sloooowly getting back into training.

It was a good time to have a lull in training given how busy I was in school, work, and internship. In October of 2012, I accepted a job at Linden Oaks Hospital in Naperville. Linden Oaks is an acute-care psychiatric hospital. This essentially means that we offer both inpatient and outpatient services to folks who have moderate to severe psychiatric disorders with the ultimate goal of stabilizing them to enter back into healthy daily functioning. My role at Linden Oaks is somewhat diverse—my title is intake associate which basically means I am the first person a patient sees at the hospital when they come in for an assessment. I also verify their insurance benefits, legally sign them in as inpatients or outpatients, answer crisis calls from the community, collect payments from patients, coordinate the transfer of patients from other hospitals in the area, transport and observe patients who undergo electro-compulsive therapy for severe depression, and respond to behavioral emergencies that occur on the inpatient units. Up until a couple months ago I was pretty set on working in an academic setting–either as a mental health counselor at a college or as an academic advisor. However, a series of experiences and interactions with patients at Linden Oaks have led me to strongly consider working as a clinical therapist on one of the inpatient units there. I will need to have my professional counseling license in order for me to work as a therapist on the inpatient units and that won’t be happening for another 6 months. So in the meantime I will continue to work as an intake associate (which I am completely fine with as I am learning a lot from the counselors and really enjoy the people I work with!).


Linden Oaks Hospital, located just outside downtown Naperville. This building houses adult, adolescent, chemical detox, and eating disorder inpatient services. 

In addition to my work at Linden Oaks I am also an outpatient therapist at Warrenville Youth and Family Services (a community mental health clinic) and a volunteer assistant cross country coach at Wheaton Academy (the high school that I attended). I am mainly working with the varsity and junior varsity boys, and it has been great so far. I work closely with the two head coaches, one of which is Jim Spivey (former U.S. Olympian and American record holder). I don’t think it has fully hit me (or the athletes) that we have the privilege of learning and training under the guidance of a man with as much professional experience as Jim.

My new role as assistant coach has really given me a reality check in regards to my own training. I will be expected to push some of the fastest varsity guys in workouts, which means I need to be back to my Fall 2011 fitness level. It’s been great running my first legitimate interval workouts and long runs since my Achilles injury, and the more consistent running has done wonders for my mental well-being after dealing with the intrapersonal stress brought upon by completing the clinical psychology program at Wheaton. I am hoping to follow an 8K training regimen for the next 4 months, with the goal of hitting 50-60 miles per week. I want to hit 16:00 for 5k and 27:30 for 8k. The only thing that may get in the way of these goals is my new work schedule—I recently accepted a full-time position at Linden Oaks working 11pm-7:30am…so I hope that my body finds a way to reset its circadian rhythms and I find the energy to run after my shifts. I think the biggest thing that I’m going to have to change with these new hours is my diet. As some of you know, I am not the healthiest runner out there. I am a self-proclaimed fast food connoisseur and drink my fair share of pop.  These habits definitely need to be curbed as my body will be dealing with enough change with my new and unorthodox sleep schedule.

All in all the past two years have been difficult yet formative. To be completely honest I am very happy to no longer be a student. I’m sure I’ll miss it eventually (and that may be when I find a way to work at a college), but for now I am happy with living in “the real world”.

I want to take a moment here to recognize a dear friend of mine, Eren Batu. Eren lost his battle with leukemia this past January. I ran countless miles with him starting when we met each other in 2003. Although Eren was a great running partner, he was an even better friend. Eren was a fellow Illini (Class of 2011, Chemical Engineering) and also competed and trained briefly with the Illinois Track Club. As someone who has worn the same singlet as all of us I believe is right for us to acknowledge him and his life. 



That’s it for this week’s edition of The Real Illinois. I want to thank my contributors, Eric and Beth, and send a special thank you to Sean for his contribution. I really enjoyed reading on how he is doing and I hope all of the readers do as well. Next week, Monica writes an update from New York and Henry provides his newest update from HDR. Until then…

“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.” 
-Arthur Blank

Year II, Entry IV


Welcome back to The Real Illinois. This is the fourth post of this summer and I hope that everyone reading this has settled into their own summer routines whether it is holding down a steady job, traveling the world, or just bumming around at home. We can now actually say now that “el derecho” is over that summer is finally here. The heat has not been as bad as last year just yet, but there is still time. Anywho, in this edition, Jackie writes her first post about concerning how she has settled into her summer schedule. I fill you on what I have been up to. Also, a special appearance by someone who has such a passion for running that they have made a career as a coach out of it.

Now… Heeeeeeere’s Jackie



Jackie Newell

Hey everyone! So much has happened in 3 weeks! First of all I finally moved into my house. It is so big and spacious and I love having a room all to myself. The weekend after that a couple of my gals came into town and we explored San Antonio and all that it has to offer. It was awesome! We went to the pub run (more like pub walk) and then hosted a housewarming party at the new place. We had a blast BUT I think its safe to say we will never be on good terms with our neighbors again. Now, this weekend, one of my graduated teammates is getting married! She is marrying a guy that she met her freshman year on the cross-country team. See! Sometimes team-love really does workout!


Now, onto my job. I love doing research. My professor lets me take control of my own experiments and really cares about me developing as a chemist. I’ve learned so much about catalysis and experimental design from this. Currently I am working on a hydrogenation experiments at mild temperature and pressure (I will spare all of you the rest of the details). Also, the work environment is amazing. I get to work with people my own age and I still am getting such valuable experience. Working 5 days a week full-time is exhausting at times but I love how it keeps me busy. In summary, everything is going really well at work and I look forward to it everyday so much more than I did working at the food science lab last year.

Every weekday morning I get up at the crack of dawn to go running. My gals and I take off at 5:45am from Trinity. It’s early but one of them has work at 8:00am; so ya do what ya gotta do for your friends. It hasn’t been too bad so far, I enjoy having a lot of the time in the morning to do core and then hang around with my teammates while drinking coffee. After work I walk over to the athletic center and ride the exercise bike for 30-45 minutes. I try to get this done every weekday but I usually end up getting busy and have to take 1 day off cross training. I really like the routine of it though; its very convenient that I work at the same place that I workout at both in the morning and the afternoon. Despite all of the social activities that have been going on, I’ve remained very motivated. I’ve been trying to stay on track with my diet and just be super consistent with my training. I know that is the best way to reach my goals.


So what’s next for me? Well for starters I’m returning to Illinois for the Fourth of July. I’m excited to see the old running gang again (Michael and Zach), as well as my gals and family. Also I plan on signing up for a race! So maybe I’ll celebrate America’s independence with a nice little 5k. After that its just more work and running for me. I’m loving every minute of this summer but I also look forward to competing in cross country this fall.. Bring it on TUXC 2013!


Zach Boehmke


Wow. It is hard to believe that we have already been on summer break for over a month. I have been staying very busy the last few weeks and am already a third of the way through my internship this year (where is the time going?!). I just got back from North Carolina a week ago, so things have been all over the place, but I will try to touch on everything.

Two Fridays ago I went on my first family vacation with my dad since I was 12. Well, that is not necessarily true. My dad and I went golfing in Arizona for a few days after I graduated from high school. Anyways, so we went to North Carolina and stayed in Cullowhee (close to Western Carolina) in the middle of the Smoky Mountains. The main theme of the trip was relaxation. While there, we did a lot of boating, jet-skiing, sitting by the pool, golfing and paddle boarding. We had a really nice house that we rented in a neighborhood up in one of the mountains. The one thing that I did not get to do was hike, which i was very surprised about. Unfortunately, where we were staying, there were no trails on our mountain. There were trails on the other mountain (where our club house was located) and at Western Carolina, but I just stuck to the treadmill and the dangerous, blind mountain roads.

Carolina 3

The Lake


View from our house

When I was in North Carolina, I got in a great routine for running and lifting. At the end of the road by my house, down a very steep hill was a fitness center where I spent a lot of my time. Core was my main emphasis while out there and will be for the rest of this training season as I try to strengthen my back to keep up with the training. I had a great hill for strength training and plyometrics, so I utilized that to my advantage a few times. I also realized that I don’t hating running on a treadmill as much as I thought I did out there. While it obviously did not compare to what could have been a great outdoor running experience in the Smokies, it served as an adequate substitute to keep me consistently running.

As a whole, my training is going very well right now. As I mentioned, I am not running as much mileage this summer. I actually just looked and last year at this time I did 52 this week and that is where I will be at the end of the summer. I am doing a lot of strength training at the gym that is conveniently located across the street from me in Vernon Hills (it is also complementary!). The only facet that is lacking where I live is hills. Where I live, there are no hills whatsoever, just flat, crushed limestone. Because of this, I have to start taking advantage of Swallow Cliff and Big Bertha.


I will begin my segue to work now. One thing I did want to mention because it relates to the previous paragraph is just a quick shout-out to how much my company cares about their employees. It has taken me a year to realize, but the opportunities provided are wonderful. There is a complementary fitness center on campus with fitness and wellbeing classes that take place during the work day. These facilitate their “Biggest Loser” competitions. The cafeteria is loaded with options and while the healthy ones are  not necessarily pushed, they are more than advertised. There are other things available that I am not going to go into , but it is really cool to see what is provided, so that employees have as much of a stress-free environment as possible to do their best work.


Home for the summer

Outside of a little hiccup this week when I woke up at 11 (3.5 hours after normal start time, stupid Blackhawks), my internship experience has been going great. Unlike last year, it is a rare occasion when I am not doing anything. I get a lot of encouragement and positive feedback every day and it is nice to see that I have earned some trust from the work I put in last year. There are a couple different projects that I am working on as well as a follow-up on our submission from last year.

I suppose I can describe a little better what I do now that I am more familiar with it. So, I am in the Medical Writing Department, which is one of the components of the super-ceding Clinical Sciences Department. Because of where I am located, I am able to see everything that is going on in the drug study process. Everything the other departments do feeds into us and all the information must be consolidated and broken down down into easily understandable components. This year, I have become part of the actual writing process, whether it is putting together many page appendices for the end of clinical study reports, or writing the actual shell that will be filled out and completed once more data comes in. I still do a lot of data entry, which is easy, but time-consuming. Where it comes in very handy is coming across new medical terminology that I am unfamiliar with. If there is something I do not know, I spend some brief time wikipedia-ing it and that has greatly broadened my understanding of  the human body and disease. I have noticed that this has been a better use of my time than other things I could be looking up online. There are other projects I will be starting and finishing throughout my time, so as they come up I can elaborate further.

One thing that was unfortunate because of my vacation was that I missed the intern meet-and-greet. This was more than meeting just the interns (which I have been able to do much more so this year since I am not locked in my cubicle studying organic chemistry during lunch); it was also an opportunity to meet a lot of the leadership in Takeda, a great chance for networking, one of my goals for the summer. While I missed that, I have gotten to get to know some of the interns pretty well since they live with me at the Extended Stay in Vernon Hills. I also had a luncheon on Thursday with the leadership team in Clinical Sciences along with the five other interns, so that was another good opportunity. I am looking forward to the next eight weeks and the opportunities that will become available.

That is all I have for now. I tried to touch on a little of everything, and hope that it was interesting. It’s been a great ride for me so far!



Next up is our guest contributor. Her name is Emily Daum and she is an assistant coach at Trinity University (where Jackie goes to school). Jackie recommended that she write for this blog and so she has. I hope the readers enjoy her story as much as I did.


Emily Daum

Well first of all, a little background on who I am – I’m the assistant cross country and track and field coach at Trinity University. I graduated from Trinity myself in 2009 after four wonderful years there. During that time, I slowly increased mileage from the mid 40’s to low 80’s, and went from being an 18:33 5000m runner my freshman year to a 17:09 by senior year. In my main event, the 3,000m steeplechase, I ran 10:59 at my best freshman year and worked my way down to 10:28. Needless to say, upon graduating I had a desire to keep improving.

I’ve been out of college for four years now and have definitely improved, in at least one event, every year. I’ve got my 5000m time down to 16:33 and knocked my open 3000m time down to 9:41. I’m moving more towards the longer races now and they’re starting to grow on me a little. I’ve never had a serious injury and I think that’s in large part due to taking easy days easy (~7:40-8:00 pace), getting consistent sleep (~7.5-8hrs night), and making sure I eat a lot! (I try to tell my athletes I’d rather have them be a little over than under, because the consequences far outweigh the benefits if you’re not giving your body the proper nutrients).


Running post-collegiately is definitely a bit more challenging compared to college, but I’ve cheated the system a little bit that respect. I married someone who is just as dedicated to running, if not more so, than me. His name is Jeremy and we met my freshman year, on the cross country team, at Trinity. He’s been such an amazing role model for me. He trains more for the longer races now, half marathon/marathon and has gotten his times down to 1:08:35 for the half and 2:27:38 for the marathon. He also has some speed in him too! He went sub 15:00 in the 5000m just earlier this year. I could go on and on about Jer, but I don’t want to take up too much space. He writes training plans for both of us and it’s been a wonderful last four years. We stay on somewhat of the same schedule as we did in college, as far as breaking up the year into different seasons. This allows us to train and peak for certain races each year as well as gives us the mental and physical breaks we need to sustain training at a high level. I didn’t ever think I’d be a professional runner after graduating, but I wanted to see how much I could improve and I’ve loved the journey thus far. We’ve gotten really connected with the local running community as well. We’ve got a little sponsorship from Asics and Soler’s Sports, a local running store here in San Antonio, so they definitely help to alleviate the cost of running as much as we do. Lots of miles equals lots of shoes!


As far as being in the grown up world and working, I just started finished up my first year as the assistant cross country and track and field coach at Trinity University. I’ve wanted to get into coaching since I started running in college and now that I’m here…I absolutely love my job! I really lucked out that I’m able to coach at my alma mater. My goal is to instill a love and respect for running to every athlete on the team. I left high school thinking I really enjoyed running, but it wasn’t until college that I really developed a passion for it. I

In a nutshell I’ve surrounded myself with running and I couldn’t be happier. Jeremy and I still find time to do non-running things and hold down a relatively normal life (as normal as you can get for running 90+ miles a week). We hang out with family and friends, love our dogs to pieces, love cooking and bowling, and go on vacations when we can. I’m definitely excited to see where the next four years will take me!

Emily Winning RnR Dallas2013


That is all for this week. I want to extend a thanks to our guest contributor, Emily Daum. I hope readers enjoyed this week’s version of The Real Illinois. Next week, we will check back in with Eric and Beth and see what they have been up to. Until next time…

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills

Year II, Entry III

theHello and welcome back to another edition of The Real Illinois. This week, Monica talks about her move to the Empire State, New York and what is to come, Henry elaborates on some of the new projects he has started to assist with, and a special guest, Michelle Turner, describes her past month in Europe and what her summer is all about. So, since Monica is going first it is only appropriate to listen to this song as you read:


Monica O’Connor

Hey all Monica again. Currently I am sitting in Manhattan on a rooftop looking at the empire state building… so I would say my summer is off to a pretty good start. Today my real summer plans finally began, this morning I left Chicago and arrived at La Guardia airport where I was greeted by my aunt and sister who I will be exploring New York City with for the next week. Tomorrow I will go on my first run in the city (most likely along the river front path) and within a week I leave the city for Southampton where I will begin working at Southampton Fresh Air Home.


The past few weeks have been extremely relaxing, almost too relaxing. Other than a high school and 8th grade graduation my days were empty. Often times running was the only thing on my agenda for the day. However this gave me the opportunity to be very active. I was lucky enough to enjoy a 35-mile bike ride around Chicago and day longs wanderings throughout the various neighborhoods of the city. Topped off with amazing food and good friends my last few weeks in Chicago were awesome.


I am really proud of my dedication to running in the summer thus far. Easy days are finally really becoming easy days and I can feel myself getting back into running shape. One of my biggest worries was that I would arrive in New York not yet in running shape, making it harder to continue my running routine. However, I know this will not be a problem as I have already put in a good amount of miles, building up my summer base. I am also really excited that my health overall is much better. I have been eating healthier and sleeping more and I think this is the result. No longer do my legs or knees ache after or during runs. Hopefully this trend will continue.

In the coming weeks I will meet the people I am spending the rest of the summer with and explore the city more. I am looking forward to hopefully finding new people and places to run and continuing putting in miles for the coming cross season.




Henry Wolf

Well hello. I’ve been working at HDR and living in Chicago for three weeks now. The time sure has gone fast.

My first foray into the structures group has been very enjoyable, but I have not done anything radically new. This is sort of a good thing because it means that I was able to be a productive employee right off the bat. The retaining and noise walls that I was expecting to be working mainly on are being done by a sub-consultant so I’ve been working on a bridge! There are three bridges in our corridor, all of which are for cross roads that go over I-90.

The bridge that I’ve been working most on is Higgins Road (IL 72). Maybe you’ve driven over or under it before. It is a very unusual looking overpass bridge, with enormous steel support systems. While most overpasses run perpendicular to the road they are crossing, Higgins is at nearly a 70 degree skew. Long story short, the skew causes many challenges in the analysis and design of the structure because of the uncommonly high torsional and lateral loads that it creates.



Existing Bridge

My role in this bridge so far has been mainly to quantify the materials that will be used in our new construction. The purpose for doing this is to give the contractors an idea of how much money constructing this bridge will cost. It is very important that these calculations are correct because we could be charged to cover any miscalculations. Some of these calculations are very easy, like counting the number of name plates that will be on the bridge. Others are trickier, like calculating the volume of concrete that will make up the substructure. All in all, these quantities have taught me a lot about all the components that make up a bridge.

I’ve also done some work coming up with a preliminary cost estimate for aesthetic details on the Meacham Road bridge. This estimate will be used by the Village of Schaumburg and will eventually influence the final details of the bridge. This is one of the first times I really feel that my work is truly making an impact on future construction.

I have also done some work on updating drawings of details on a structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridge that our group has been inspecting the past few years. It is alarming to see the state of degradation of some of our nation’s infrastructure. I’m beginning to feel that structural health monitoring work would be too stressful for me.


Sturdy Structure

My co-workers are great! They are very trusting in my abilities and have been very supportive in my development as a structural engineer. Several of them run, and they ask me for advice in racing, shoes, and training. It feels good to be able to help them (even in a small way) back.

My running has been going well so far. At first I was worried about having trouble finding a time and place to do a good run. My first few city runs took a lot of research and planning. I owe a big thank you to my friends Max and Ben for guiding me in this. I had to consider things I’ve never had to consider before, like traffic and the neighborhood safety. I was given the rundown on which streets are notoriously busy or dangerous and told to avoid them.

Fortunately, I barely have to run in the city. There is an awesome trail system that is about a kilometer from the office and I’ve gotten into the habit of running there after work everyday. The trails are nicely shaded with either grass or dirt paths and it runs along the Des Plaines River. Also, my friend Mark just loaned me his bike, so now I can ride to the Lakefront course and get in a good run along Lake Michigan on the weekends.


Another really nice thing about my summer running is some of my co-workers have been joining me. Despite running infrequently due to crazy work schedules this winter and spring, Ben has run with me almost every day after work this summer. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of interest in running in the office and I always invite people to run with us after work. Some of them have joined Ben and I for runs and I keep pestering others to come. Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll have run at least once with many of my co-workers.

All in all, my mileage has been in the mid to low 40’s and I feel like I’m doing a good job staying patient in my summer training while also developing as a distance runner. I’ve been hitting core and mobility pretty hard too. I’ve been feeling pretty healthy lately and I think that my core and mobility routine is working.

Anyways, I think that’s all I have for now. I hope I didn’t bore you too much with the bridge info, I’m told people don’t care about it as much as I do…


The next person to write will be our first guest contributor of this session. The contributor is Michelle Turner and she is the Gender Minority Captain for the Illinois Cross Country Club next fall. The past month she has been in Europe for a class as well as some exploring. I thought it would be interesting reading about what she has been up to and she obliged. Anyways, I hope everyone enjoys reading what she has to say.


Michelle Turner

Hi all!! Happy to be a contributor on this great blog J

After two cross country seasons, a first track season and a second one nearing its end, I finally felt proud of the times I was racing.  I had been told when I started competitively running that you see your biggest improvement your second year of racing, and after not seeing it happen in cross, I was getting quite antsy.  Well, not only did I finally break 20 in the 5k, my ultimate goal, I got five seconds away from breaking 19.  To say the least, it was a great season.  My track PRs are now 19:05 5k, 5:49 mile and 11:10 3k.  Cross country PRs are 20:38 5k and 24:36 6k.


I started running my freshman year in college.  To be honest, I did it because I had gained the freshman 15 and I was not about to become a chubster.   Having been an athlete my whole life, coming to college without a sport was pretty hard for me.  I had been a competitive volleyball player year round for 8 years before college, and I had thought a lot about trying out for the U of I club team, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.  For some reason, my senior year of high school I befriended a lot of runners from my high schools cross country and track team.  I remember saying to them “I really don’t understand how you enjoy running.  I just don’t get it.  I absolutely hate running, and you’re crazy”.   My good friend John Burch, who runs at Augastana now, likes to remind me of that now. Anyways, I gained the freshman 15, needed a sport, had a lot of friends who were runners, and decided that I should give it a try.  I ran everyday on a treadmill for about 25 minutes, and that was it.  One very nice day I took my run outside and ran into a girl from my high schools cross team, Amanda Zamora.  That moment right there changed the path of my entire life; it’s crazy when you can pinpoint moments like that in your life.  Amanda had told me about this running club that races cross and track, is serious but not too serious, and that I should consider joining.  I’m not sure if she knew how serious I would take her, but the next week I emailed the head coach Jake for training plans, and the rest is history.


After telling that story, it just blows my mind being able to say that I am now the Women’s captain of this years cross season.  I am the only girl on the team, that I know of, who did not race competitively in high school.  But that just goes to show it takes more than knowledge or running to be a captain.  My first year on the team, Jess Mulcrone was girls captain, and Jake was head coach.  Jess showed me the ropes on training and racing.  Jake instilled pride in me for being on a team that meant so much.  He made me want to race fast not only for myself but for representing our team.  Whether or not I was in the top seven meant absolutely nothing, running for this team was about so much more than that.  My second season on this team, I feel as though all of that was lost.  We got a new captain, and a new coach, and adjusting to that was a bit difficult.  The way I thought about racing completely changed, and I was racing my team mates instead of racing for the team. Clearly, racing to be top seven is no way to see results.  I was disappointed in myself at the end of last season, as well as my team, and I wanted to do something about it.  That is why I ran for gender minority captain.  This team needs to get its heart back.  We need to remember what it is we’re running for.  What it is to be on this team.  Where we came from.  Who we are.  It’s so much more than a running club, I think everyone can agree with that.  Somewhere along the way we all just sort of stopped focusing on what the goal is.  I plan to instill that pride and want to succeed in the minds of every girl on my team, starting from day one.  That is why we won nationals my first year, because every single person on this team had a role, whether they were scoring or not, and everyone felt like they deserved to be on this team and say they were part of a national championship win.  That’s what it takes to win, and I can only hope I can instill that in everyone this season.


This summer, I started my training in a foreign country, Italy.  I lived there for just about a month, traveling in Rome, Florence, Sienna and Sorrento.  I was nervous about running in Italy, getting lost, losing motivation, wanting to enjoy my vacation and traveling without worrying about running.  As it turns out, my favorite parts of the entire trip came from my daily runs.  I got to explore so much more than all of my classmates.  I stumbled upon history, statues, paths and culture.  I ended up bringing my camera every time I ran a new path, which was quite often, just because I knew I would discover something.  The weather was absolutely perfect for running: high fifties and sunny every morning. I got to run up a few mountains, and my routes were definitely hillier than back at home, where I’ll be doing the rest of my summer training.  My absolute favorite run was in Sienna.  It was up a mountain, along the Amalfi Coast.  Every where you turned your head was a sight of beauty.  On one side you had the coast, the other you had the rolling hills of Italy.  Running there was truly a wonderful experience, and gave me an hour a day to myself to embrace being in the country and really appreciate where I was and what I was doing.





Now that I’m back at home, get fit plan starts.  It’s time to get serious about this years cross season.  It is my senior year, and I plan to do big things.  I’ll be back in Champaign tomorrow, and am hoping to have a few running buddies to train with for the rest of summer.  As great as running solo was in Italy, running solo in Champaign for anything more than a week sounds like misery.  Hopefully, I’ll get great summer training in and be ready to kill it at the Illini Challenge.  I have a really good feeling about this year, and it’s time to start making that happen.  I can’t wait to get all my girls pumped for this year. We’re going back to Hersey Pennsylvania for nats, and NIRCA better be ready for us. WOO!



Well, that’s it for this week. I hope readers enjoyed what they came across today and if you have any comments, please leave them at the bottom. Next week, Jackie will talk about how she is keeping busy in San Antonio, and I will mention how my stay in Deerfield and job at Takeda are going. Until next time…

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
–Booker T. Washington

The Real Illinois: Year II, Entry II

theHey everybody, welcome back to another edition of the Real Illinois: Year II Edition. In this weeks’ post, Beth will describe her transition to running in Colorado and Eric will illustrate for everybody how he is livin’ la vida loca out in Costa Rica. Unlike last year, where we only had one person who was living outside of the state of Illinois, it will be interesting to see how mostly everybody (4 out of 6) adjust to running outside the state as well as get used to the circumstances they have found themselves in. Anyway, hopefully everybody enjoys seeing what Eric and Beth are up to.



Beth McGreal

Now that I have arrived in Estes Park, I have finally been able to start working and running. I have been in Colorado for about two weeks and summer running has been very different compared to what I am used to in Illinois. As I had hoped, there is a consistent group of about six counselors that have been running at six in the morning before work. Knowing that I will be meeting other counselors to run with in the morning has given me that extra push out of bed. Some of the challenges while running in Estes Park have been the altitude and hills. It has been very difficult for all of the runners to acclimate to both the altitude and hills throughout our runs and I am happy to know that I am not the only one struggling. Since being here, our group has not been able to complete a run without needing to stop. However, as time progresses I have been able to notice that breathing during the runs has become easier since the first week and the hills are not becoming as exhausting. In addition, we have been able to stop less and run farther than our previous timed runs.


One other major difference that I have experienced while starting my “summer” running in Colorado has been the weather. Colorado has been very cold especially during the nights and early mornings which means running in below 40 degree weather with flurries during several of the morning runs. I knew that Colorado would be a bit chilly and it had been suggested to bring an extra pair of gloves for running which the movie “Dumb and Dumber” says best, duh “we’re in the Rockies.”


Furthermore, being at the YMCA of the Rockies has provided many opportunities to run on several excellent trails. Our running group has been sticking to the horse trails that lead us right into the National Park which has been made our runs exciting since we have been able to explore some parts of the park. While running we have encountered a lot of wildlife such as several groups of elk and deer. The YMCA requires workers to go through wildlife orientation where they told us many stories about the animals in the area. One story that stood out was about a runner who was running alone that was attacked and killed by a mountain lion. This definitely caught my attention, but I am happy to inform you that I have not had any scary confrontations with animals. Running with a group has definitely helped me feel more comfortable running past the animals we do see and has eliminated my concerns because we will obviously be able to outrun the animals… am I right? Any who…


Altogether, these past two weeks of easy running with our group has, for the most part, gone smoothly and has definitely been a comfortable pace. However, I know that in the near future I will be starting to run workouts where I am lucky to have two other female counselors that are training for their Cross Country season this fall. They both will be going into their senior years at Northwestern College in Iowa and I know that they will be great running partners throughout the summer in which we will be able to push and prepare each other for our future season. In addition, this week brings the end to our week and a half long day camp training which consisted of many lectures as well as fun activities that included a low ropes course, hikes, games, and even being trained in archery. I am excited to work along with the other 50 wonderful counselors and cannot wait for the campers to come this Monday!!



Eric De Guevara

Hi Guys,

If you remembered, I am studying abroad in Costa Rica (CS) and, well visiting another country is just an amazing experience to take in. CRs culture, their food, the people, and the scenery are what make it perfect. I’ve been here for three weekends now and every weekend I have traveled to a different part. Of course being in between to oceans beach has been the number one choice. Since I had a 4 day long orientation that lasted until Saturday, we had the chance to go to one of CRs beaches and I have to say it was a good trip. Sun was hot, water was perfect, and I had a great group to hang out with. That was my first week!

Ever since the start of that weekend and my time here, it has been all about planning and traveling, and of course some school. I have overcome some of my fears here and feel accomplishment afterwards even if they are dangerous. Oops. With that, I have also done adventurous things I have never done like zip-lining and ATV driving! It’s just so amazing here. I am loving Costa Rica and everything that is available to do do. It’s a surreal feeling. Like what they say here, TUANIS (too nice).


Beyond my trips, summer school here is fun. Not because of what you can do in CR but because of my professors. I am taking three classes here, and all three of my professors are wonderful. Even though I know Spanish, I am still learning here. They make it so easy to learn and entertaining as well with games. For example, in my composition class we play this game called Alto (stop). In this game our professor gives us a letter and then we race, as a class, to see who can write something (a fruit or vegetable, a color, an animal, a country, an adjective or a verb) with the corresponding letter the fastest. It seems like an alright game, but it gets intense, and don’t forget we have to write them in Spanish. This is just one of many games,  but my overall class experience here beats back home.


Now I want to talk about my social life I guess and this includes my host family and the friendships I have made. My host mom, whose name is Rocio and well if I describe her in one word, it would be sweetheart. It took only one day to love her and feel at home. We have great conversations at dinner and in our evening walks. Plus her cooking is delicious. Because of her I have eaten so many different CRn dishes and crazy fruits and I am still not done. With my group of friends that I have made, they are all awesome. We have stayed together for our trips, Groups this big usually breakdown to smaller groups and well that tell you how much we have all bonded. Only three weeks and we’re like a family. I apologize for all this babbling about CR, but its just so awesome here!


Classic E

Now to talk about the real thing about this blog: running. Like I expected, the streets here are not flat or safe. They have no sidewalks, people drive as if they are late to somewhere everyday, and the roads just go up and down. My first week here it was tough adjusting to the weather and to the roads, but with a nice steady pace everyday these roads are easy. Hills will be nothing for me this cross season. Cmon Hershey! Anyway soaked in sweat I still do my ab workout and planks, which is tough cause all I want is to take a cold shower . When I get back WATCHOUT! Running everyday gets a little lonely, so I have tried getting a small group going, but it failed. They all say I’ll go too fast, but they don’t understand that I will go at their pace and that I am just building my base. Whatever though, I will continue doing what I am doing. Well that is that, I have four more weeks here in CR and I am going to enjoy the rest of my time here. Pura Vida my friends, and I will be back to tell you more about how my training and how CR is going. Ciao amigos!



Well, that is it for this week’s edition of The Real Illinois. I was glad to hear that Eric and Beth are each doing well in a new setting and hopefully everyone else enjoyed reading and looks forward to what they will write in the future. Next week, Monica and Henry will write, and hopefully our first guest contributor. I would write more, but I, myself am in North Carolina soaking up the view of the Smoky Mountains right now, so that is all for this week. Thanks for reading!

“My feeling is that any day I am too busy to run is a day that I am too busy.”
–John Bryant

The Real Illinois: Year II- Entry I



Welcome back to the Real Illinois. This is a project a couple friends and I started last summer. The purpose is to try to capture the essence of maintaining a full work schedule while also trying to get in a proper training season during the summer. Outside of one of us who is a DIII varsity athlete, the rest of us are club runners for the running club at the University of Illinois. Running will not be our career; it will not be the way we make money in the future. The passion that we all share is to try to maximize the talent that we do have to help our friends and teammates try to win a national championship, be it DIII or through club running. This summer marks most of our first forays into the real world. You will notice that we have three returning contributors and three new writers. All of us will be all over the country doing the things that will hopefully propel us to a better future. Hopefully, by the end of the cross-country season, you, the reader will be able to gain something through this. Maybe you have lost the itch to run recently because you have recently joined the workforce and find that you no longer have the time to lace up your shoes and hit the trails. We are here to show you that it can be done and that we all can excel in our training for the future season, but more importantly, the jobs we are doing that are launching us towards the future.



Eric DeGuevara

Hello folks, I first want to start off by thanking Zach Boehmke for letting me be part of The Real Illinois this summer.  My name is Eric De Guevara and I will be a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign majoring in MCB (Molecular Cell Biology). Here is my back-story. Running was never a sport I was interested in. I didn’t even know running was a sport. I was a baseball kid until I broke my ankle playing on my middle school’s softball team. My freshman year I ran cross-country because I really wanted to do a sport in the fall and my sister who ran cross told me to try it out. 15 minutes was my first practice and I was dead finishing in the last stretch. Like I said, I never ran before and I was not fit for this sport but it worked out alright for the rest of the season. Since the majority of cross-country runners go on to do track, I did the same but track season was different. I was a follower back then, typical freshman, but one day my coach gave my team a speech that inspired me to stick to running. I am from a very Hispanic neighborhood and his story was like any other who came in as an immigrant and worked hard in school and outside of it. He quoted in his speech “Hard work pays off” and that has stuck to me till this day. Ever since his speech, I have stuck to running and have broken the goals I had set for myself every running season. My goal setting has not ended as I continue to run in college and represent part of a well-know running club, Illinois Cross Country and Track Club.

track club

Now that you know a little about me now, let me go on saying what I have to talk about: this summer, which I am really excited about. The first half of my summer I will be studying abroad in Costa Rica taking Spanish courses, and the second half I will be an undergraduate research assistant in the microbiology department at U of I. So why am I taking Spanish courses? Well I am taking them because even though I know Spanish already, I want to practice it more and specialize in it. My career goal is to work at a hospital as a Doctor and being fluent in both Spanish and English will benefit me largely. I love my mother tongue and studying at Costa Rica will help me remember and learn new words. My research background is as follows: I started doing research as a junior in high school. I worked in the physiology department at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, IL. My time there was great. I worked under Dr. Seth Robia who had me doing a lot of hands on work with his Graduate students, who were awesome. My positive experience there for two summers made me want to continue doing research and now I will be doing research at U of I. I am excited to work there and I hope my experience at Loyola is the same as at U of I. Research is not only fun and interesting, but I also want to set myself apart from other applicants when applying to medical schools.


Being in Costa Rica will not be a reason for me to stop running. If Costa Rica is similar to Guatemala then the roads will not be flat or safe. Roads will be winding up and down and busy, but being aware of everything going on I will be fine. My goal for this summer is to stay healthy and be fit. Coming in as a freshman last year I was not confident with the running plan that was given to me, but having a year with it and seeing how it has helped others I’m ready to actually do it. To prevent injuries and help my knees, I will be stretching everyday. I need to be flexible and actually be able to touch my toes! Also I will do abs daily with planks afterwards to strengthen my upper body and torso. This is just talk, but I promise myself that this plan of mine will happen. I have set myself a goal for this upcoming cross season and I will go for it. As my old coach said “Hard work pays off”. Well that is it. I’ll be back to update you on how my summer is going. Adios amigos!



Beth McGreal

This summer I will be in Estes Park, CO working as a day camp counselor. This means I will be a camp counselor for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders planning activities while working along with other counselors. I am excited for this new experience not only because it will be in a new environment, but I know that this will help me in my future. For those of you that don’t know, I am working to become an elementary teacher. Some people may know exactly what grade they want to teach, but I am still deciding which grade I would be best in. That is why this experience will be a special opportunity to work with kids in three different grade levels where I will be able to learn not only about myself, but also about children.

estes park

 Being in Estes Park will provide me with many new running trails. This is a nice opportunity to escape the boring routes of the “great” Oak Lawn, IL. While in Colorado I will definitely be able to work on my hills or rather mountains. One of my goals is to avoid getting eaten by bears (oh my!), but actually I would like to become better at running hills which will hopefully prepare me for our upcoming season and specifically the Hershey, PA course. In addition, I want to be able to keep up on doing running drills along with abs to keep myself from becoming injured. This can be difficult with limited room space and really no access to equipment, but I know I can make the best of it as long as I stay on top of the drills. I will be in Colorado in less than a week and I know that starting off my summer running in a new elevation and coming off of a two week break may be challenging, but I hope to run along with my fellow counselors to keep me motivated.




Monica O’Connor

I will be spending this summer in New York. For the first week following her 8 grade graduation, my younger sister Marie and I are visiting my aunt in Manhattan. After that I will be working at Southampton Fresh Air Home, an overnight summer camp for children who are physically challenged. Although my parents are not really excited about me being gone all summer, I cannot wait for the opportunity to meet new people and gain experience working with individuals that are physically challenged.


I am currently a MCB major at the University of Illinois and hope to go to medical school upon graduation. At first glance my summer plans do not exactly fit with my professional goals but to me they are intricately linked. Without going into too much detail, as a doctor my dream is to work with various special populations this includes individuals with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, or Down syndrome.

My goals for this summer in terms of running really revolve around nationals. Once again we will be running at Hershey, Pennsylvania for nationals. This is a really hilly, but in my opinion super fun course. Knowing what to expect at nationals, I plan on adapting my summer training accordingly. Although it is a little less than six months away, I realize that this summer is the time I have to put in the work to get the results I want. Last crosscountry season our girl’s team didn’t end up where we wanted or should have. I’m not really sure why this was the case but I want to do my best to make sure we do not see a repeat of last season’s nationals. Individually I hope to do better than I did last season (which should not be too hard if I keep my shoes on).

shoeless mon

Shoes still on

My goals for this summer are to put in the best base work I have ever done. This may sound daunting but since I usually do a pretty poor job of running consistently over the summer I think I should be able to complete this goal just fine. My plan is to run 6 days a week and swim the seventh day. I also want to do be more consistent with core, mobility and strength training. I will be lifting campers all day long so I am not too worried about the strength training but following a disappointing track season I want to make sure to do all the little things in terms of mobility to prevent any potential injuries.


For the first week in Manhattan I know places to run from previous trips and I am really excited about getting to explore the city once again. For the rest of the summer I am in the dark. I have never been to Southampton before and know almost nothing about running trails. However the camp director assures me there are places to “jog,” so I am really looking forward to running in a totally new environment. Another challenge is that I have never met any of the counselors I am working with since most of them are from England, Ireland or Scotland. My hope right now is that I will find some willing running partners or perhaps convert some of my co-counselors to runners.

On a run the other day I was thinking about my motivation for this summer. My past track season was to say the least, disappointing. I had to end it early meaning I never got to peak and never really had a great outdoor race. This forced time off made me realize how much I loved running. It makes me angry when people say they “have to run” as if it is a chore. One of my goals this summer is to remember that I love to run and that is why I am training. I think this mind set is especially relevant to my plans this summer as I will be working with individuals that will never be able to run. I know this is super cheesy but thinking in this way makes me realize just how lucky I am to be able to run and makes me want to work just that much harder this coming summer.



Henry Wolf

Hi, my name is Henry. I study Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, with a primary focus in Structures and a secondary focus in Transportation. I have one more undergraduate semester left. You may remember me from the Real Illinois last year.

 I will be doing design work for HDR Engineering in Chicago again, but instead of being a part of the transportation group, I will be in the structures group. HDR is a global engineering firm. Last year they were ranked 11th on ENR’s (Engineering News-Record) Top 500 Design Firms and 7th in Transportation. The Chicago office I’ll be working at has been hard at work on the big project from last year, a 7.5 mile reconstruction of Interstate 90 and I’m sure I’ll hit the ground running (woo running blog) when I start on May 20th.


 Since I’ll be new to the structures group this summer, I’m a bit unsure of what exactly I’ll be doing. That being said, I’ve been told to expect a lot of work on retaining walls and noise barriers. I also am hopeful that I’ll be able to do some work on one of the several replacement bridges that we will be designing. I expect to spend most of my time in the office working on CAD drawings of structural elements. I also hope to get to use finite element software like LARSA to run calculations on models of the structures we are designing. I’m sorry if this sounds boring to you, but it gets me really excited! Really though, this is my first structures internship and although I’ve had a lot of structures coursework at school, I assume I am really very naïve on the actual structural design process. I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned and see how it is truly applied to build real structures.

golden gate

The real Project

 This internship relates directly with what I want do full-time after graduation: structural design. Specifically, I’d like to focus on design for signature bridges, namely cable-stayed and suspension bridges. There are a dozen or so firms that do this type of work, and fortunately for me, HDR is one of them. I would love to continue to work for them.

 On to running.

 I am coming off the best track season of my life. After an injured cross country season and slow start indoors, I dropped my 5k PR 43 seconds, going from 16:29 to 15:46 from last track season. Breaking 16 has always been a big (and terrifying) barrier, so surpassing that mark was a true blessing.


 I hope to be able to build off of this excellent season and have a great cross country season. My training plans for this summer are pretty conservative. I want to build a good a solid aerobic base, get stronger and stay healthy. For the base, I plan to gradually build into 50-60 miles a week. This is what I did in track with 6 day weeks, and I’m happy with how it worked out. Last year, I had a pretty good upper body plan going along with my normal core routine, but this year I really want to hit core harder. I also want to continue with the leg strength and quickness drills I did in track. I’m a pretty fragile runner, so staying healthy is always at the front of my mind. I think the 6 day weeks help a lot, but the leg strength and mobility drills are absolutely crucial. I plan to stay on top them and maybe add a few new ones I saw my buddies Mo and Galen doing.


 Setting time goals for a season is always a scary thing for me, but I hope to run low 27’s on normal courses and high 27’s on slow courses like the Nationals course.

 Thanks for reading.



Jackie Newell

I can’t believe it’s been a year since Zach started this! Here is a brief intro in case you didn’t read last summer. My name is Jackie and I am from Frankfort, IL. I am going to be a senior at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. Trinity is a D3 school in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. This year will be the second year that I am the captain of the cross-country team. I also run the steeplechase and the 5k during track season.

Running-wise, this has been the best year of my life. I decided to dedicate myself to my training last year in May and the pay offs were amazing. First of all, my team and I qualified for Nationals and placed 12th. We also perfect scored at Conference and won Regionals. It was a big year for us and I am so proud to be apart of such a strong team. As for my own personal achievements over the past year, the proof is in the times. I ran a 1:24 second PR in the 5K, 18:21; a 50 second PR in the steeple, 11:14; and a 2 second PR in the 1500m, 5:02. I know that these improvements wouldn’t have happened without all of the hard work I put in last summer. My training over the summer was motivated by the fact that my team was going to be better in 2012 and I desperately wanted to be apart of the top 7.


This summer, I have a different motivation, to win Nationals. We have no graduating seniors out of the top 7. Of the top 7 girls on my team, 6 of us are staying San Antonio to train. With the help of my teammates, I know I will start cross-country in the best shape of my life. To do this, I plan on doing core 5 days a week and doubling or cross training 6 days out of the week. During June I will be slowly building up my mileage Then, my mileage should consistently be between 70-80 miles for the majority of the July and August. I also plan on keeping up with my diet consisting of no dairy, no red meat, and just overall healthy eating habits. I’ve found that at times this is challenging to maintain, but the payoff makes it all worth it. Plus these goals will be easier to achieve with my girls motivating me every step of the way. We’re taking a sort of “The Real Maine” approach in that we will be waking up and working out together every day. The difference, though, is that we are also working in San Antonio. My teammates and I are taking summer classes, interning, or researching for professors in their majors, including biomathematics, biology, and computer science.

I will be doing chemistry research with one of my professors, Dr. Chandler. I will be working with him and a small group of students to develop kinetic studies on gold nanoparticle catalysis. Without boring you with the details I will just go ahead and stay I am pretty excited. Last summer working at the Food Science lab was really great. I learned so much about the field I eventually want to work in, but I was also very out of place. As an intern I was the youngest person there, and my jobs were often tedious and stressful. I am so excited about this summer because I am going to learn so much and it will be with my peers. No more awkward conversations in the lunchroom with a bunch of 30-somethings. I am hoping that the research I do this summer and during the fall will end up published in a journal. Also I hope that a job well done will be rewarded with a nice recommendation letter for grad school from my professor.


Dr. Chandler

…just kidding

I am so excited to get back to San Antonio, move into my house, and start working. My teammates and I are going to kill it this summer, and I will keep you updated every step of the way. Also, since all of my roommates will be living with me for the summer, expect lots of tales of drunken debauchery around the ever-exciting city of San Antonio! Cheers!


San Antonio debauchery



Zach Boehmke

Gang, it’s been awhile. As soon as I finished writing this last fall, I knew I wanted to bring it back for this summer, but hopefully this time I can end with a success story. That is why I started this last summer. I wanted to see four people writing about their goals at the beginning of the summer and then realize those goals by the end of the fall. For me, I did not come close. Jackie exceeded her goals. Henry and Andrew both had to wait a little while, but they both had tremendous track seasons as Henry mentioned. That is the way these things go. I was able to accomplish things professionally and that was the other goal I had going in for the summer.

Anyways, this summer I will be returning to Takeda Pharmaceuticals! However, the circumstances are different from last year. I have a different boss this year and I am hoping for an increased work load to stay busier. Also, I hope that I can really prove myself this year and work hard throughout the summer, in work and in running. This is the attitude I need to bring back to school in the fall. I let that attitude slip through the cracks this past year and it cost me. This year will be different though.

I am going about things differently this summer. Mileage is going to take a back seat to the smaller things: strength training, core, hills, etc. Last year I wanted to see how many miles I could run and this led to me breaking down. I also was trying to do too much in general. Commuting to work from home put a lot of unneeded stress on me and ultimately cost me around three hours of freedom a day (not to mention three hours of being jammed in my car- good for my back, eh?) I am staying in Deerfield at an Extended Stay America for the next 12 weeks and am very excited. While I will definitely miss waking up early with Mike every day and driving to Swallow Cliff, this is the more logical way to live this summer. Not only is there a 40 mile long limestone trail right outside my window, there is a group of runners at Takeda (conveniently located 10 minutes away). I also have free access to the Lifetime Fitness right across the street and on my days when I have no one to hang out with, I will be there doing all the necessary weight training.


Gotta get rid of this flubber

So here is what I want to accomplish with this summer running: I want to build up to running 40-50 miles a week and ultimately train between 50-55 once cross-country starts. Core is going to be a mainstay in my routine and I will manage to work that in as often as possible. Strengthening my back is the highest priority right now. I am going to work up to lifting 2-3 times a week, but not worry about lifting as much weight. I will focus on form and high repetition. Hills will be hard to find around here, but I am going home on the weekends, so I will have my dosage of Swallow Cliff 2-3 days a week.

At my job, my focus is to do the best I possibly can at whatever is assigned to me. Last year, I thought getting things done quickly would give a good impression. While it did for the most part, it also made my mistakes that much more noticeable. I am going to work efficiently and hopefully my work will speak for itself. In the future, medical school is still where I want to be in a few years, and from there, who knows what can happen. Unlike last year, I am going to use this opportunity I have at Takeda to meet people. Last year, I was pretty sheltered because I was the youngest person there and was surprised I even had the opportunity. This year, I know what to expect. I already have friendships that I am returning to, and I look to build new ones and hopefully make a name for myself.

There are a couple other fun things I am doing this summer. In two weeks, I am going to North Carolina with my dad, brother and stepmom. I am very excited because we will be in the Appalachians and I am looking forward to the great trails that will be available to traverse. I am also looking forward to Lollapalooza and hope to build on the great time last summer. More than anything, I want to work hard, but enjoy my last summer before graduating.



So that is it for this post. I hope readers are excited for a new batch of The Real Illinois. The rest of the summer there will be two contributors each week, with either a guest contributor following or just other interesting things going on. This will probably be the longest post, so if you made it this long, congratulations!

Anyways, look forward to next week’s post. But for now:

“The greatest pleasure in life, is doing the things people say we cannot do.”

-Walter Bagehot