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The Real Illinois – Entry 4


It is that time again: Entry 4 of The Real Illinois. Just to provide a quick summary of what will be in this post, there will be a check-in with Andrew and Zach after two more weeks. After that, we have our first guest commentator: the man, the legend, Ben Zeman who will provide some excellent insight into some of his own experiences. The dog days of summer are upon us so, everyone, stay cool and enjoy some easy reading.

Andrew Gazdziak

(*To better understand Andrew’s life right now, here is some easy listening while you read his update)

The past two weeks have been pretty stable for me training wise – I’ve gotten into a routine that I like and I’m sticking with it. I usually run at 3:45 M-F and in the mornings on the weekends. I do core, mobility, and strides 2-3x a week along with some leg strength thrown in. I’ve been slowly increasing my mileage, I hit around 55mi this week and will probably hit peak somewhere around 65-70. I’m adjusting my running as I go – if I’m really tired or sore I’ll cut back on mileage a bit and if I feel good I’ll go a little farther. I’m finding that how I feel has a lot to do with how much sleep I’ve been getting (crazy, right?).

Last year I started logging how much I sleep each night. I define sleep time as from when I lay down in bed to when I wake up in the morning. Obviously it’s not the same for every night but it’s probably close enough.

Here is my monthly sleep data. Generally it looks consistent with only a few exceptions (Jan 2011 must have been glorious).

Figure 1 – Monthly Sleep Data

However when I dig into the weekly data it appears that I’ve been getting less sleep since I’ve started working full time, which might be why I’ve been feeling more tired on my runs than usual.

Figure 2 – Weekly Sleep

While playing around with RA, I decided to graph pace vs time.

Figure 3 – Pace per week

Interesting to note is track season – my weekly paces averaged out to be pretty consistent. Also, I had suspected that I have been running a little slower than in the past during my summer training. That is fine with me, and I wonder how different it would be if I was training at home with other people. Most runs are at a pace my body wants to go. I’m not pushing myself when I’m tired, and if I feel good I usually go a little faster. Good? Bad? Guess I’ll find out!

One thing I’ve really missed this summer is morning runs. In the summer I LOVE morning runs – it is really great to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. Some of my favorite days from the past few summer are when I would get up, run at swallow cliff with some friends, and eat before most other people have woken up.

While I love it out here in San Diego I am also really looking forward to getting home and seeing my family, my friends, and running at swallow cliff. I’m really excited for XC this fall. I also can’t wait to try the cookie monster flavor ice cream at the Plush Horse.

(For those who have not seen it)


Zach Boehmke

Life slowed down the last two weeks for me. There were no trips to Champaign or Iowa City or the like, just a little bit of hanging around the area, outside of a brief trip to the beach with the team.

(failed jump attempt)

Anyways, work slowed down a lot in the last couple weeks. My days at the office have mainly consisted of me sitting in my cubicle waiting around for someone to give me an assignment. What I do is pretty easy and I can take care of most things pretty quickly and efficiently. This includes such tasks as populating tables (oooohhh) with study results or writing brief little blurbs on other studies. The job description is Medical Writer Intern, but so far it may be more appropriate to call me a Medical Ink-Slinger.

There are a couple observations I have so far about working, though. Working is not bad when you are kept busy. Time flies by and when lunchtime strolls along, you feel like you have accomplished something. But, when there is nothing to do, there is nothing to do. One nice thing about Takeda is that there are people from all professions of the medical field. So, since I have recently learned I can talk to people outside of Medical Writing, I am going to try to reach out and get a little more insight to see what is out there. Hopefully I can arrange something to talk with a doctor or two.

Another opportunity that I have stumbled upon recently is to run with some of the people at work. I was able to get a few runs out in the Deerfield area and stumbled upon the Des Plaines River Trail. Those days when I do not want to make the commute I can stay out there and run with these guys. “These guys” are no slackers when it comes to running either. The group I run with consists of a handful of fellows with nice times attached to their names. There are a few running in the 2:35’s or 2:40’s for marathon and another co-worker who runs 2:19!! Talking to them has provided me with a big rush of confidence that you can do this (work full-time and run) and be pretty good and accomplish the goals you set for yourself.

Shifting gears, when it comes to running, things could not be better right now. I had my first little scare of the summer earlier this week when my achilles started bothering me. But, after a couple days of “sticking” it to the trigger point, it has loosened up and I am running free and well. I am starting to approach about where I am going to train the rest of the time. I ran 60 miles this week with a great long run with Jackie Newell this morning and am ready for workouts to start this week. In the coming month or so, I hope to close in on 70-75 mpw and settle in for the season.

I am really happy overall with how things are going right now. Work is good (besides the commute and lack of things to do), class is fine (3 weeks left), and running could not be better. This week should be one of the harder ones with an exam to cap it off, but it will all be made better by some friday night, The Dark Knight Rises.

The general state of summer


And now, something that I have been trying to incorporate into this blogumentary: some insight from an individual with actual real world experience. To provide a quick introduction: Ben Zeman is an individual who was on the Illinois Cross-Country and Track team and really helped to make it resemble what it does now. He was the treasurer and did his job pretty well (actually, he was one of the guys who encouraged me to become a little more active with the club). I had heard a lot about him from some of the guys on the team and his general reputation gained everybody’s respect. He is a very hard worker, a disposition that allows him to succeed in the workplace and be a pretty respectable runner as well.

Ben Zeman

PR’s: 5k: 17:03, 10k: 34:37, HM: 1:19:39

Hi everyone.  I’m Ben, and I work as a Transportation Design EIT (Engineer in Training – a state-licensed designation) for HDR, Inc., an engineering/architecture consulting firm with more than 8,000 employees.  I graduated from the University of Illinois in May of 2011 with a BS in Civil Engineering and the biggest joke of a minor: business (only had to take four additional classes).  The summer prior to my senior year, I worked as an intern with HDR and was thrilled when I was offered a full-time position there about a month and a half before graduation.  I started working full time just a few weeks after graduating, and have been going strong for about 13 months now.  “Real Illinois” regular Henry Wolf is living with me at my parents’ house in the beautiful Chicago suburb of St. Charles, Illinois


In my senior year at Illinois, as graduation drew nearer, I knew that running was a part of my life that I couldn’t let go of. Luckily for my fellow graduates and I, our coach was ready and willing to provide a training plan and support for us as we worked toward competing in the Indianapolis Monumental (Half) Marathon in the fall.  As was the case in years past, I had the chance to run with both college and high-school teammates who were in the area for the summer.  However, my highly motivated training partner from years past was away at school, ( leaving me to run by myself before work. My only real motivation to wake up in the morning and finish my run was the thought of not having to run after work.  It was a lot different than the days when I looked forward to getting to spend time with my friends while we worked toward common goals.  When the weekend rolled around, I was able to connect with friends and have someone there to help me push myself a little harder than what I could do on my own.

Once summer break was over for my friends (August 20th running log entry: “last time having a running partner til the half marathon”), the true shock of having graduated began to hit.  Running began to lose its appeal when all my friends and teammates were no longer there to spend the miles with.  Realizing what was happening, I knew I had to find a way to keep myself motivated toward my goal of breaking 80 minutes in the half marathon that fall.  Since the weather was improving, I switched my schedule so I could run after work rather than before work, allowing me to “sleep in” every morning.  I also gave myself one weekday off every week, a big difference in my training plan from the past.  It was exactly what I needed to get through doing two workouts, hills, core/upper body, and a long run alone every week, for a peak total of about 60 miles.  I found that running could be used both to take some of my frustrations out after a long day at work with a tough, gritty workout, and also to relax the mind on an easy day when I needed it.  In the end, everything came together well, as I completed some very difficult workouts entirely alone and accomplished my goal of breaking 80 minutes in the half marathon, finishing with a two and a half-minute personal best time of 1:19:39, close to my more aggressive goal of going under 6:00 pace.

As many of the other “Real Illinois” bloggers have mentioned, working full-time puts some strain on the ability to run consistently.  What I tried to do was to take away the pressure I previously felt to run every day by building a day off into my training schedule.  That way, if I missed a day of running due to work, I could just shift my training around so that was counted as my day off for the week.  I also used work as a motivation for my running, which ended up benefiting my work performance and my running performance.  While there’s certainly no substitute for friends and teammates, there is real value in running alone after a long day of work.

Well, that’s it for this week. I hope readers enjoyed the updates and some valuable insight from Ben. One other link that I wanted to attach:

Agree with it, disagree with it, I think we can all say Ryan Hall is a pretty polarizing figure in the running community .


“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. 
Try to be better than yourself.” -William Faulkner


One response »

  1. Best entry yet. An appearance by Ben Zeman obviously means that’s no coincidence.


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