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The Real Illinois – Entry 13

And with that, we’re back. This is the 13th and second to last entry of The Real Illinois. 3 of our 4 writers have their seasons in the books. They were seasons of highs and lows and unexpected results. There is also a guest contribution in this post, coming from the one and only GOC (Brian Glaza) my assistant coach during senior of high school. So, prepare yourself for the penultimate edition of The Real Illinois.

Henry Wolf

Things are better than they were last time. Much better. I ran in our Nationals meet yesterday. It was fun. I had taken a lot of time off due to injury, but one day a few weeks ago I woke up and running made sense again. I ran that day and have been running 25-30 miles over 5 days a week since then. It’s not ideal but I’m really glad that I’ve been able to run lately.


On to the race. Zach and I were both very out of shape and just getting back into running, so we wanted to go out very relaxed. We did. After about a mile, the dead started falling back and the passing began. Zach and I worked together and talked until about 3k. saw an opening and took off, but Zach didn’t go with me. I moved up well, passed a lot of people, and kicked everyone close. The time wasn’t good, but the course was very hard and I’m happy with my effort and the way I competed. It wasn’t bad considering how out of shape I was. My pre-season goal of beating Zach Boehmke was one of the only ones that was met.

School has been going pretty well. I have three tests this week; one Monday, one Wednesday, and one Thursday. We did a lab on creep and notch failure in my materials class. This was cool because it was a brief introduction into Fracture Mechanics, which is important to structural health monitoring. I really like it when I can see how things I’m learning will apply to my work in the future.

Lately I’ve been playing guitar in Zach’s and my church band. It’s been pretty fun. I like the songs for the most part. I’ve recorded a couple of songs with my new computer but I don’t really feel too proud of them. Maybe next time around I’ll put
something on this.

My main goal for the upcoming track season is to stay healthy. To do this I’m going to have to train easier and more conservatively. I’m going to take more days off, run slower and workout with slower groups. I’m also going to make a better effort to do core, mobility and leg strength at least once a week. I’d like to run some really tough races and compete really well. If things go well I think that I can go under 16:00 in a 5k, 4:10 in a 1500, and 9:15 in a 3k.

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Jackie Newell

This year the South/Southwest Regional Championships were in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by Emory University. Trinity was ranked number one in the region followed by Emory second and Washington and Lee third. I personally was feeling a lot of pressure because we’d had such a great season so far and I was just really scared that we wouldn’t be able to close it out. What if we put in all of that hard work for nothing? It’s weird to think that I started training for this race back in May. Since that day in May I lost a total of 11 pounds, increased my weekly mileage on average by 15 miles a week, and remained completely dedicated to my goals. After my first meeting with my coach this fall I made the decision to have a dry season for myself. I wasn’t going to make any of my teammates suffer through it with me; I just wanted to finish this season knowing I did everything that I could.

I reflected on all of these things as I watched the start of the Men’s race on Saturday. The weather was beautiful and the course consisted of 3 very hilly 2k loops. Despite the nerves, I knew it was going to be a good day. Then my teammates and I took off on our warm-up, I gave the Emory coach a nod as I ran by. Emory was my number one choice, but I got waitlisted and I am definitely still a little sour about it.

Just before the start of the race I saw the Trinity Men’s team screaming and jumping up and down, they just found out that they finished in 2nd, earning their own trip to Nationals. While I was really happy for them, this just made me feel even more pressure because we wanted to do equally well. Now for the start of the race, gun goes off. I am in about 30th place after 800m of a slight incline uphill. My teammate, Rosemary, and I were working together, passing the girls that went out too fast and died out just as quickly. Our first mile was 5:57, which is pretty fast considering the hills. Then we finished our first 2k loop and just as I expected she took off. I maintained for that whole second lap, while my competitors kept falling back to me, but I didn’t really care about them. My main focus was the pack of 2 Emory girls up ahead.

I made a huge move with 1k to go in the last lap. I wanted to catch those 2 girls so bad. When I finally got them (800m to go), I said to my teammate “C’mon Jessica” and we left them. It really was that easy. In the final 400m I caught 3 more girls for a 13th place finish, 4th on the team. Jessica finished 17th close behind me to round out our 5 scorers. My time was 23:20, a PR and All- Regional. (sidenote last year I finished Regionals in the 50th place)

My teammates and I went 2, 3, 6, 13, 17, 23, 27, we were all All-Regional, the best finish in school history. Emory’s first finisher was behind Jessica in 19th place. We completely swept them and won the meet by 100 points. I still can’t believe it. That was one of the best races of my life and I really couldn’t ask for a better team to celebrate that with. Crossing the line a Regionals knowing I was going to Nationals made every single 5:00am morning in the summer and every single day I forced myself to double completely worth it. There truly is no better feeling than knowing that all of your hard work toward one tangible goal has paid off.

This weekend we are racing NATIONALS in Terre Haute, IN. My team could actually do really well, we have 3 girls very capable of All-American status and Jessica and I plan on doing everything we can help keep our score low. The main goal, though, is to enjoy the entire experience. For most of this is our first trip to Nats and with the men’s team by our side, there’s no way it won’t be a awesome time!

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Andrew Gazdziak

Hello everyone, I’m back for my final update of the real Illinois for the cross country season. This weekend we had our Nationals trip to Hershey, PA. As always the whole trip was a blast. While my race didn’t exactly go how I would have liked it to, I’m not going to let my last XC race spoil all of the other ones I’ve had over the years. This was my 10th cross season. It is crazy to think that I have been racing cross country for almost half of my life. I started running in 6th grade, when the races were only one mile. In 7th grade, the distance increased to two miles and I thought that was pretty bad. When I started high school I didn’t run my freshman year because I thought 3 miles was way too far. However I missed running so much that I joined back up the summer before my sophomore year and I haven’t stopped.

5th from the right, bottom row

Pretty much all of my closest friends have been on a cross or track team with me at some point. Even when I look back at race results or photos from high school, I discover that I’ve ran against many of my best friends in high school.

Beating Brendan, nothing new

I just thought I would include some photos from a few of the past XC seasons. It’s a nice way to sum up my different cross country seasons.

Cool Runnings

Rub a Dub Dub

Packing up

Me and my nips

Gadz racing Cardboard Declan

So what’s next? I’ve got one track season left but after that I’m not sure. I’ll be moving to San Diego, CA next year to begin working full time. I still plan on running, but I know that it will begin to play a less prominent role in my life. I’m not too worried about it though, I’ll figure it out when I get to that point. I’m so glad that I continued running club in college, I can’t even imagine how different things would be if I had stopped.

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Zach Boehmke

Well, the 2012 Cross Country season for the University of Illinois Cross Country Club is officially over. I wish I could say that I ended the season running the best races of my life and that my team took home the national titles like last year, but unfortunately that did not come to fruition. I’ll start with the team. As I have mentioned in the past, all season was spent preparing for our national meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We arrived there on Friday with the smell of chocolate and sewage treatment permeating the air. The grasp of the Hershey Company on this community was enormous, especially where the race was held. The course itself lived up to the billing Mark gave it at the beginning of the season. Hill upon hill loomed before us, but it was not as intimidating as much as it was inviting

Going into this season, the men’s team thought their primary competition was Iowa State. However, as the season progressed, we learned that other teams across the country were making notable progress and repeating as champions would not be as easy as we thought. Teams like Indiana, Oregon, Delaware, and others were all improving just like us. By the time the national championship rolled around, we were ranked fifth in the country and we thought we were being slighted as we had won last year. It turns out that that was not so much a slight as it was a compliment to the other teams who had improved much more than we thought.

As for the men’s race, Oregon dominated the race placing 5 people in the top 16 (ridiculous) and then Indiana followed up (whaaaat?!) in second place followed by Iowa State and then us. Our guys ran their hearts out, but on this day it was not enough. While it was disappointing, it also reaffirmed the fact that we are going through a transition year and we have much to learn from and build on, which we will.

As for the girl’s race, while we thought going in that we had the premier team in the nation, we turned out to be incorrect as well. That is not to say we did not run well, but like the men’s race, the competition was just that much better this year. Cheers to Virginia for dominating the women’s race, but next year our girls will be back and give them and the other teams a great fight for the title.

My thoughts on our team’s season are this: we worked really hard in all aspects. The runners worked their tails off all season, pushing themselves to new levels. Some new faces emerged while will be the face of our club in the future, which is exciting. From an executive standpoint, I could not be prouder. The executive board  worked hard with very little hiccups to establish this team in a transition year as a force to be reckoned with. From there, the runners took over, ran for the repeat, but unfortunately fell short. But, there are lessons to be learned which we will apply to next year and we will be back to compete on the national stage in the men’s and women’s team.

I will cover what happened to me briefly. Unfortunately, my season turned out to not be what I expected after all the work I put in over the summer. I struggled with back issues for the majority of the season, which made running on hills hell. It would have been fine had we run on flat courses (actually, that may not be the case), but each course we ran from Loyola to Iowa State to Nationals, got progressively hillier. I think I have figured out the issues though. After a month at the chiropractor, my back is finally starting to feel better. Because of my back though, I ended up taking 9 consecutive days off a few weeks back. I thought it would end up with my back feeling better and stronger, but that was not necessarily the case. I started training for track thinking my cross-country season was over. I began a lifting routine with Ryan Jorgenson a few weeks ago, which should have my back stronger than ever by the time track season starts. The goals are the same: I will build off the fitness gained during the summer and cross-country season, learn the lessons I need to and be a better runner when it comes time to lace up the spikes again.

I did run Nationals, by the way. I figured that if I was making the trip out, I might as well run. It was fun; it was not the race I envisioned for myself when I was out on the trails racking up the miles over the summer, but I managed to enjoy the moment and the atmosphere more than any other moment this season.

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Our guest contributor for this post is Brian Glaza. When I was a Senior on the Varsity team at Lincoln-Way East, he joined our team as an assistant coach to the actual coach Ross Widinski. I owe a lot to the both of them because they both helped me develop as a runner and as a person throughout my senior of high school. That paved the way for who I am now. Coach Glaza brought with him a swagger to our team. That swagger eventually helped our 4×800 meter relay make the state meet after taking 17 seconds off of our relay time in two weeks for our sectional meet. His story is interesting and I hope our readers are entertained. So here he is:

GOC (Brian Glaza)

Last weekend, as I stepped onto Detweiler Park, home of the IHSA state cross country championships, a rush of emotions flooded my brain. The scene in front of me took me back to my days as a runner. I reminisced about long runs in the dead of summer, tempo runs that taxed my body to the fullest, fun times with teammates, and the feeling that accompany a satisfactory race.

The sport of endurance running has left me with so many positive memories that will be with me for the rest of my life. Through the sport, I strengthened my mental and physical capacities beyond measures I ever deemed possible. Even though I can no longer call myself a runner, I was once a runner, and because of that, my life has been changed in numerous fantastic and wondrous ways.

I first started running in junior high school with relatively minor success. I made excuses for myself during 8th grade and decided to not go out for any team at all. This continued well into high school as I bypassed my freshmen year of cross country; however, after some persuasion from a former teammate, I decided to come out for track. At the time, I thought I had made a major mistake. I could not run a mile without stopping, and seeing as I hated being second to anyone, the fact that I was the 4th fastest freshmen miler on the team definitely was unsettling. I decided to stick with it, and am obviously glad I did. After purchasing my first pair of racing spikes, I went on to run a 5:21 mile during my last race of the season, ascending to the 2nd fastest freshmen, just two seconds behind our best runner.

From there, things didn’t get easier. I realized that becoming a good runner was something that took extreme dedication. As a tall, lanky individual, my body took some severe punishment, with tendinitis  shin splints, and various other injuries constantly slowing me down. Regardless, by the time I reached my senior year, I was starting to get it all together, and with a new enthusiastic coach, I felt I could finally reach my full potential. During my senior year of high school, after logging just over 900 miles during the summer months leading up to the cross country season, I got the worst news of all: I had a stress fracture in my middle metatarsal of my right foot. When the doctor told me I would miss the first 4 weeks of the season, if not more, I was crushed to say the least. Seeing my teammate’s dedication and strong work ethic was encouraging and helpful, but I was envious of their position; they could run and improve while I could not and would subsequently regress.

After four weeks, I was cleared to run, and man, was I ever ecstatic. Although I was mentally prepared to get back after it, my body was nowhere near ready to compete. During my first practice back, I slammed the mile warm-up to test myself. Needless to say, I went out hard and was near jogging pace the last half mile. All I could think was to be patient and keep working hard, and that was exactly what I did. My first few races yielded some sub-par results; but, at our regional meet, I showed some evidence of a turnaround, taking 3rd place. The next week, in a tough sectional, I took 4th behind the eventual winner of the state meet, and two individuals who ended up in the top 10. I was ready for state.

Seeing as this was my first time running at a state meet, I was feeling all sorts of emotions. As the day of the meet commenced, the only emotion I felt was insane amounts of nervousness. Walking on to the course only increased that emotion. All I knew was no matter what happened, I wanted to take home some hardware, something no one at my school had done in a long time. As I stepped to the line, that was all I could think of. I knew if I couldn’t accomplish a top 25 finish, I couldn’t help myself in deeming the season a failure. The gun sounded and off I went, out in a 4:47, not where I wanted to be. After a 5:12 second mile, I was in 26th place. I felt stupid going out so fast, but I knew I only had one crack at this. I dug deep, running a 4:58 last mile, making a mad rush to the line, to move up and finish in 23rd place; what an awesome feeling. Although I wanted more, I left the state meet happy and content, something many people never do. I was definitely one of the lucky ones.

As I look back now, even though I eventually took 6th place in the mile in the state track finals, was an all-conference performer in college, and racked up other various accolades, none was more meaningful and momentous as the state cross country meet. It was a moment that I had worked for since that freshmen track season. Sure, I didn’t win the state meet. Only one lucky person is able to do that each year, but what I did do was put forth my best possible effort, not for just one day, but for years throughout high school and eventually college. After that meet, I eventually was recruited to run in college, which was a fun experience, but nothing comparable to high school.

No matter what, after 7 stress fractures, various setbacks, and numerous negative issues with running, I still am immensely happy I decided to give the sport a try. For me, running provided a way out, a way to express myself, a way to forge my mental and physical capabilities, a way to meet friends, a way to relax, a way to think deep, and has since provided me with a way to teach, a way to help others, and a way to do what my coaches did for me. I may not run much anymore, but running will always be a part of me as well as something I am grateful for. It made me a better, smarter, tougher person.

Every issue in life can be related to running. As a runner, we push past our pain barriers, we reach new goals, break previous limits, and find out who we really are. Through running, I became what I am today. I know, in the face of adversity of any kind, I can succeed. Running has instilled this mentality in me, because to be honest, nothing in my life has been tougher. Those hot summer days, those tempo runs, those 20×400 workouts, those 18 mile runs, they have all taught me that whatever happens in my life, I can and will thrive if I put forth my best effort. No task in life is insurmountable. Each and every day, like in running, we can break previously unattainable barriers, we can achieve the unthinkable, and we can come out on top.

Nevertheless, don’t get caught up in results, numbers, or the frustrations that life brings. All of this is part of the journey, and the best part of any fantastic, memorable result is the journey that accompanied it. Think about all the memorable things that have happened to you in life. All of them may not carry a journey, but the most meaningful will always have a tale to go along with it. So I guess what I’m saying is appreciate the moment, appreciate the pain that those journeys bring, appreciate the small almost imperceptible progress, and appreciate all those little nuances in-between. We’re so caught up on those goals that we forget to appreciate what is in front of us, and the moment staring you in the face is the greatest of all.

I want to take a minute to thank Zach for allowing me to throw in this little blurb. It is much appreciated. I’d also like to throw a shout out to Zach’s former teammates – those who I believe are on facebook and can read this –  John Brassea, Michael Brassea, Joe Paviolonis, Tom Rotondi, Kevin Hearne, and all the other LWE squad who helped me in my first year of coaching. You brought running back into my life and helped me rediscover a passion for the sport. Many thanks, you were the best and I owe any future success in coaching to all of you!

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Our next entry will be the last entry. We will be following up with Jackie’s run at Nationals as well as posting some final thoughts. Stay tuned:

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”  ~Walt Disney

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