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The Top Seven Moments From Junior Year

School’s out for the summer and everyone knows what that means. It means that it is time to look back and reflect on the past eight months at the University of Illinois. Everyone has their own top moments, but here are mine. This is the third time I have made a top moments list and I am a little bit biased, but that is why it is my blog post. Anyways, here we go:

#7: Is this Real Life?

I grew up on American Pie. You know… the comedy series that started with an original cast and then kept breaking down every year until the only recurring character was Jim’s dad, Mr. Levenstein.


Anyways, I learned pretty early on that while movies try to emulate life, life very rarely matches movies. In three years at college, I have never witnessed a party similar to what was displayed in American Pie. My lack of fraternity experience could play a role in this, but up until now the raging keggers with the barely-clad women have not been something experienced. Now, that did not really change this year. Club parties did not transform into this, however one of my friends, Al (Nega-Sny)der, and I stumbled into a situation one time and this is the story.

It was early in the school year. We were coming back from the ARC from a long bike ride on the stationary bikes to make up for missing long runs (due to my back problems…) and were walking along our block. While our block has the occasional hecklers, there really is nothing out of the ordinary that ever happens. This day changed that though. As we passed the senior house next door to our apartments, we noticed a commotion. All of the guys (like 40) were on the porch harassing an apartment across the street. As we glanced up, we noticed that there were a lot of girls in this apartment… a lot of girls not wearing much clothing. Somehow these guys from across the street had harassed them into flashing their breasts many times at them and we happened to walk by in the cross-fire.

I do not want to go into too many details, but I have never seen Al Snyder with such a big smile plastered on his face in his life. The best part was the old guy walking on the sidewalk in front of us, about 30 feet behind his wife. I guess she somehow had not noticed all this, or she was actively avoiding the situation. But her husband sure was not.

Many have days have passed since that fateful afternoon and everytime we walk by that window, expecting the same scene, Al and I are sorely disappointed. However, for that one day, life was like an American Pie movie.

#6 A Night at the Inn

This was a recent addition to the list. For the last month or so, some friends and I (led by Erin Murphy) have started going to the Illini Inn. From the outside, the Inn looks like a pretty run-down building falling apart at the seams. From the inside, the inn still looks like a pretty run-down building falling apart at the seams, but decorated with a ton of Chicago sports pictures and posters. There is something about it that is a little endearing though.


Just lovely

Every Monday the Inn hosts Trivia night. I have only been to one of the trivia nights, but that night was one of the best of the semester. For me, the night started around 9:00 when Henry and I showed up to meet Erin, her roommates, and Jorg. Trivia started at 9:30 and throughout the game, pitchers of Budweiser and Old Style along with Apple pie shots (supplied by the bartender, Mike) were flowing. Between every round, I was entrusted with the music, which was Mike’s first mistake. During the first break, Photograph by Nickelback went on and people were very mad. The second break showcased Scott Stapp’s vocals on Higher and after that I lost my music privileges. Anyways, we were a consistent group, but in the end we lost to another team. After that the bar started emptying out for the most part, except our group minus Henry who had an 8 AM decided to stick around. Around 12:30, Jorg and I decided to go to Geovanti’s to get some of their famous/infamous chicken tenders. I have been told to try these for about a year now and they did not disappoint me. Eating them sober would probably be a mistake, or at least comparable to DP Dough, but eating them a little intoxicated pushed them over the edge.


The night rolled on. Around 2, Second Story, the pizza place above the Illini Inn closed, and we were bombarded by a second round of food by them (for free.99). The rest of the night consisted of more drinks and a couple games of Horse Darts. We left around 3:30, an hour and a half after it closed and then did a few other shenanigans and went home.

I’ve been thinking about that night and I guess the reason I thought it was so special was because I thought there would not be that many nights like that left in college. I have one year of college left. Jorg and Erin graduated (while Erin is staying here for grad school) and Henry graduates next semester. They are some of my best friends that I have made over the last few years and not having Jorg around next year is going to be especially hard since we have been running/lifting buddies for so long. Intimate nights like these with a great group of friends are few and far-between, but I am looking forward to making the most of them when we come back to school next year.


# 5: Unofficial

This was the first Unofficial on campus that I was really able to enjoy and because of that I do not really remember much besides that it was great. Anyways, here are some photos:


Peanut Butter is a Classic Hiccups Cure



Michelle’s Pre-game. Forest Green Pants


NIRCA Nationals was everything our season was building towards. We went through a big transition from last year to this year with our club. We lost our coaches, our President, and the rest of our executive board and very strong senior class from last year. So how were we going to recover? From the start, it was not easy. A lot of people on the team were having trouble with their training. Then we started figuring things out. We found a way to make a ton of money selling stuff at football games, which also really brought together the guys who were doing it. We made our way to Iowa State’s home course and secured second place with Chris DeSilva winning the race. Then we all drove to Hershey in the vans again. The trip there was a lot of fun and was a good way to boost camaraderie. We made it to Pennsylvania with all of our staches in check.


Unfortunately, things did not quite go our way that day. The men’s team placed 4th and the women’s team placed 7th — not exactly what our goals were going into the season. But we all still came together and competed well after all of the changes that occurred from one season to the other.

At the end of the season, we had our first IXC barcrawl. Now during the season, some of the veterans came together and introduced a game called Connections and the I-T-C block to the team. Well by the end of the season, that chant had evolved into a monstrous roar that almost shut down FireHaus. That night we all had a night to remember, albeit a bittersweet night for not taking home the two titles like we did the year before.

# 3: DIII Nationals

So everybody who reads my blog knows my friend Jackie. She was one of the main contributors in the Real Illinois over the summer and we kept tracking her progress through the end of her cross-country season. I was fortunate to get to see her race twice during the season (at Terre Haute both times, the second being Nationals.) Anyways, for the first meet I took Jorg and Mark Hayes with me and we had a pretty good time in the car and after when Jorg was overjoyed finding a salamander he had never uncovered in person. At nationals, I drove with Michelle because fall break had started for us, and her presence helped me not run the car off the road after a long night of Post-Nats shenanigans.

So, we got there in time to watch the race. And, it was awesome. After not being projected to be in the top 20, Trinity’s team ended up finishing in 12th with a pretty solid 1-5 spread. Jackie was fifth for the team and watching her finish down the final straight brought me back to the summer. I ran with her occasion, but she put in all the hard work and it was great to see all the hard work pay off. Unfortunately, this summer we will not be able to run as often together as she will be in Texas (see more in The Real Illinois). But the results of her season make me want to work harder, but smarter than last summer and hopefully this time will pay off.


#2: The Mizzou Trip

This overnight trip was awhile in the making. My friend, Mike Brassea, started going to Missouri this year after two years at Joliet Junior College. On the first day of spring break, I decided to drive down to Columbia with Michelle to go visit. It was a four hour trip there, but it passed pretty quickly. Luckily, when we arrived, it turned out to be one of the nicest days of the year as it was 65 and sunny. We met up with Mike as soon as we got there and then went to Which Wich (a classic choice). After that, the festivities begun. We made the tour of campus, ultimately ending up at one of Mike’s friends where we played Super Smash Bros.

numero uno

After that, we headed to Shakespeare’s with our pockets full of PBR. It was fun just kicking back and hanging out with Mike as I finally got to see what his collegiate experience has been like so far. Around 11 or 12, I met up with my oldest friend Dan. I ended up staying back at his place and we got to reflect on what’s been going on each other’s lives for the last couple years. After he went to sleep, I ended up staying up with his roommates and explored what was happening outdoors as there was a lot of chaos at 3 in the morning in Columbia.

The next day we drove back to Mike’s to say bye and quickly hit the road. After stopping at the worst McDonald’s I have ever been to, mainly because of one drunk/stoned/cracked-out employee, Michelle and I headed back to the suburbs jamming to Nickelback and the like. Overall, it was a great experience and ends at #2 on my top moments.

#1B: The Toronto Trip

This past October, Brendan, Andrew, Adam, and I all flew out to Toronto for the Toronto Marathon. We decided to do it over the summer and it turned out to be a trip we will remember the rest of our lives. On the way out, we took a plane through Porter Airlines, which was pretty neat. The flight was fairly quick and the airport we ended up at was pretty hip.

porter-airlines-1After leaving the lobby, we took a short ferry across 150 feet of water and met up with Adam at the Holiday Inn Express we were staying at. From there, we hit the town. One of the first things we did was go get some poutine. If you do not know what Poutine is, then you are doing it wrong. While it is not served at any place that I have been to in America, Poutine is a delicacy found pretty often throughout Canada. We ended up eating it several times.

poutineThe next thing we did was hit up some of the pubs in Toronto. The drinking age is not 21 in Canada, so we were able to legally buy alcohol, which was pretty neat. On the second day, we walked around some more and explored one of the bigger food markets in the world. We also went to a brewery, where we were unfortunately turned away from being able to go on a tour because of the amount of people.

On Sunday, Adam ran. This was a really cool experience because we also were able to explore a lot of the course. We planned to meet Adam at every 10k mark to give Adam a drink and a gel and it was really exciting to see the race develop over the course of 26.2 miles. Adam ended up finishing in a new personal best for himself, which made the trip completely worth it.

After the race, the last thing we did was get poutine one more time. This time, we got to see something never done before on live television. On this day, Felix Baumgartner decided to perform the longest free fall ever performed by a human. It took awhile for the rest of the people in the poutine joint to notice what was happening, but I don’t think that anyone will ever forget when Felix took that first step and fell back to Earth.


Overall, it was a fantastic trip with some of my best friends and I cannot wait to see what we decide to do next. Maybe Montreal awaits?

Part1A: Breckenridge

Whaaaat? Two #1 moments? Yes indeed. This was the second time we decided to go to Breckenridge, Colorado. Just like last year, we stayed in the same building on the same mountain. This year, we brought around 15 new people, including my friend John Brassea. The car ride out was not as eventful as the year before when we got caught in a blizzard, but stopping in Cozad, Nebraska was just as exciting as the year before.

When we arrived, we split into two different condos and it quickly became apparent what our apartment would become infamous for. Within a day or two, we decided between the two different condos that we would be Hoodrat Hotel, led by Bert and John. The other hotel became Hotel Responsibility, but the best times came when we all hang out together, especially when Sam ‘Old Man Ricker’ led us in a rousing chorus of ‘Hole in My Bucket.’


Hoodrats in action

Looking back, the trip had everything. We had cars crashing, broken bones, high speed collisions, black-outs, hook-ups, concussions, jalapeno challenges, confession hour, and more. I was proud that I was able to improve my own skiing and consistently go down some black diamonds, albeit a little bit slower than some of the other people. These two trips to Breckenridge have been two of the most fun weeks in my life. I can’t thank Andrew enough for setting it up and for everyone else for attending it and making such a worthwhile trip. New friendships were made and older friendships were strengthened. It was just a wonderful time and definitely the top moment of my school year.

Breck yo

Honorary Mentions:

Illini bossing around NIRCA Conference

Chuck-town adventures

WashU/NIRCA Track Nats

Passing Biochem

Kevin Hearne Memes

Kevin Hearne facebook page

Kevin Hearne


Tenacious D/The Black Keys covers with Henry

Murphy’s Trips


An hour in the life of a Playwright

I had my first discussion for Theatre 101 today. There were a couple highlights:

The guy:girl ratio is 20:3 (so much for meeting girls)

There is a dog in my class

The dog sleeps all class with its tongue on the floor

…and that’s it.

Anywho, today we got our first foray into writing a script. Now, I use the term “script” loosely because we really just had to come up with a scene. The scene was what we predicted to happen after a scene we read as groups. Our goal was to write a follow-up to a scene from The Bear, a play written in 1988, by Anton Chekhov. It revolves around three characters:

Yelena Ivanovna Popova – a widow with dimples and a large estate

Grigory Stepanovich Smirnoff – a landowner in his thirties

Luka – an elderly servant

In the scene we read, Popova and Luka are in Popova’s living room. Popova is mourning her dead husband and her servant is trying to cheer her up and have her get back on the old pogo stick, in a matter of speaking. At the end of the scene, we are told Grigory Smirnoff enters, but not the extent. Here is the action that I decided would happen:

Luka: This man, he wants to see you.

Smirnoff: My name is Grigory, and I want to buy your land.

Popova: This land is not for sale. Can’t you see I am in mourning? Besides, I would never sell my land to such an ugly man.

Luka: “Shocked and surprised”

Smirnoff: Wow, that was mean

Luka: Yes, missus, why would you say something like that?

Smirnoff: It’s alright. I get that all the time. How about I take you for a ride on my horse? “Wink, wink”

Popova: Sounds like a plan, Stan!

End scene

Now, that was just a taste of the untapped creative potential I have. You may have not been as entertained as I was, but that is ok. Everybody’s a critic.

The Real Illinois – Entry 14



Welcome back to The Real Illinois: good news edition. In the last post, readers were able to see how seasons ended for Andrew, Henry, and I. You were also able to see how Jackie was able to achieve her own personal goals for the season, but that was not the ending to her story. Two weeks ago, Jackie and her Trinity University team went to DIII Nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana. I was there and it was a beautiful day for running, but I’ll let Jackie tell what actually happened.

Jackie Newell


Hey everyone! Thank you for hangin’ in there and for keeping up with me all season. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Now who wants to hear about the Division III National Championships?!

The Thursday before Thanksgiving, my team and I made our final trip of the season to the National Championships. I was really unprepared for the whole event and I could not figure out why I wasn’t nervous. I actually wanted to be nervous but I could not muster it up. I was excited to race in such a large competitive field, but I had no expectations for myself. It’s a really weird feeling to achieve your goals because then it seems like there’s nowhere to go from there. The general sentiment on the team was “Yay we’re here! ..Now what?”


By the time Saturday rolled around though I gained a greater sense of purpose and my competitive edge was back. The attitudes of my teammates however were all over the place. We had girls cracking joke and dancing at the line, while others were too nervous to really talk at all. I tried my best to just stay focused on doing well in this one last race.

I was also really excited to see my mom, grandma, and coach from high school. It was cool that they were all able to make it out and see me. ALSO got to see Zach, Michelle, and Evan, which was awesome! It was so nice to have support from friends and family. Especially ZACH because this is what we talked about all summer (on our weekend and post-work runs) and then all the sudden it was here in real life!

Anyways, back to the race.. When the gun went off there was a stampede of girls in front of me. I was warned that there would be no “bad” runners to beat, but still I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the sinking feeling I experienced when I realized my whole team was in the back ¼ of the field. I panicked, we had such a great season and I didn’t want it to end in disappointment.

According to the results my team was in 18th place at the 3k mark. That must have been the time that we all really started to move up while other teams fell back. Our 2 front runners worked their way to the top 50 and ended up about 5 seconds apart for 43rd and 51stplace. Rosemary, a girl who battle a stress fracture all season, finished 80th. I worked the entire race to get closer and closer to my teammate, Jessica, who was only 50 meters ahead of me. I decided that if girls were going to pass me then they were going to have to work for it.


Going into the final straight away there were people 3 deep on either side screaming their heads off. I sprinted as fast as I could because I was not going to lose 20-30 points for my team by getting passed in the final straight away. I finished a couple seconds behind my teammate Jessica to round out the top 5. My coach told us we were 11th and we all started cheering and going crazy inside the gated chute. We really could not believe it. Even though there was a scoring error and the team was really 12th we are all still really happy with how we placed because we were only 10 points outside of the top 10. None of the girls on my team expected a finish like that. I guess the biggest factor was that on that day, at that race, we all showed up and ran our very best.


I am really proud of the way my team competed this season. I already can’t wait for next year. We graduate no one out of the top 7, and 5 of us will be seniors. I plan on training even harder from here. I know that with the right amount of work and dedication we can achieve anything… and by anything I mean a top 3 team finish next year. But for now I guess there’s just track to think about… BRING ON THE STEEPLE!



When I came up with the idea of The Real Illinois, I was not too sure what was going to come of it. My original intentions were to have an additional way to keep track of the activities of my summer outside of my running log. It was a way to keep my thoughts straight and find a way to maintain some balance in the most hectic summer of my life. From there, the idea evolved to include a few of my friends. I was not able to keep in contact with them as much as I wanted to, so I thought it would be interesting to see what they were doing in print. While I knew for the most part all about Jackie’s summer from consistently training with her, it was great to see how Henry was doing in his new environment and how Andrew was doing in a foreign city.

Over the course of the summer and eventually when school began, I was unable to maintain my original consistency that I wanted. I knew going in that that was going to happen, so I wanted to make sure I at least provided monthly updates and a way to see how the seasons culminated. As one can see, for the majority of us (Andrew, Henry, and I), we did not obtain the direct results that we wanted. Between injuries, lack of sleep, and just leading the lifestyle of a typical college undergrad, the training that was built up and worked on so hard over the summer went down the drain. Luckily, Jackie was there to keep providing updates on her fantastic season. And that is what I wanted to see. Ideally, Henry, Andrew, and I would have had the seasons we trained for and been contributing members to our running groups, and team in general. But, that is how it is with running; it is not always ideal, however failure one season can allow lessons to be learned, and hopefully success the next season. Jackie has found her niche. She has found what works and what it takes to be successful and be an integral member of her team. That helped push Trinity University to a 12th place finish in the country. The remaining three of us… we will find that niche and keep trying to get to that next level.

My hope for this project, this blog-ography as I kept calling it over the summer, was that someone would find it interesting, relatable, and a little bit comforting. I am not sure if any of the four of us knew what we were getting ourselves into this summer. As 20-year olds, we were preparing ourselves for a future of running and working and this was just the first taste. Once many people get into the real world, running and other forms of exercise fall to the bottom of their totem poles of priorities. Regardless of the reason, they become sedentary. That represents over 50% of our country now. I know this was just a brief 3 month sample of trying to maintain a steady routine of running and working, but what the four of us showed is that it can be done. Also, the guys that I worked with and ran with at Takeda (Rodney and Rob) slammed that point home, as did all of the other former alum and contributors to The Real Illinois over the past few months.  Running is not something that has to be an activity that you participate in high school and college, and then that’s that. Running is a lifelong outlet that brings balance to people’s lives. I think it brings the balance necessary to relax and get away from that cubicle and put that 40+ hour work week behind you; the tv sure does not do that. Not only that, running does not require fancy facilities, scholarships, and the best resources for success. What matters is the enthusiasm, and the work effort that a runner brings to the table, as well as the environment one finds themselves in. As a captain on her team, Jackie and other members promised dry seasons to their teammates. They accomplished that and look what happened. It’s little things like that that made the difference and I hope over the course of the last few months that we were able to demonstrate that.

As for the future of The Real Illinois, it is up in the air. There may be occasional updates, but there are no promises for what is in store. It was a summer project, and maybe it will be a summer project again next year. I hope that all the readers enjoyed reading it as much as the rest of the contributors and I enjoyed writing. Until next time…

“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”

– Steve Prefontaine

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.


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!


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.


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.


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!


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

The Real Illinois – Entry 12

Hi there. It has been quite awhile. You may not remember us, but we are back. It’s The Real Illinois, the 12th entry in this series. Sorry for the delay in postings, but life caught up to us. Classes got busier and time was not as free to hand out. However, with the month that has gone by, there have been a lot of changes. It is getting colder, the leaves are changing, and cross-country season has been kicked into full gear.

To make up for the lack of postings, this edition is going to be a mega-post, where readers will hear from everyone involved in the Real Illinois. Make no mistake, this will be a BIG post as you will shortly see. First up is the Wolf:

Henry Wolf

Well, I’m still hurt. We have no idea what it is or how to fix it. I am defeated. The last time I’ve run and felt decent was September 2. I have lost every 5:20 AM mile that I ran this summer. It’s really disappointing to see all of that work go down the drain.

I’ve done some cross training, but my routine got messed up by EXPO. Since then, I’ve fallen out of it and for the most part I’ve stopped all physical activity. I tried running but it feels awful. I limp like crazy and do more damage than good. I just can’t seem to get into cross training. That’s the problem with getting used to running every day, nothing else satisfies the way running does.

Not running has also completely changed my schedule. My coursework, especially my lab classes, have consumed a great deal of my time. I wind up spending between 12 and 16 hours a week in Microsoft Word and Excel analyzing data and writing lab reports. This results in some really late nights.

The Fall 2012 Engineering Employment EXPO went from September 17th to 19th. As I said earlier, I was one of the people in charge of the event. On the whole, it was pretty successful. It consumed my life for about a week and I was zombie when it finally ended. We saw a 40% increase in company attendance from last year, which led to some increased profits. Now that the fall fair is completed, my term is over and I am now longer involved with EXPO. I owe my committee (which includes Andrew), big time for making it a success. It was nice to see my summer work pay off.

I went to the Civil Engineering Career Fair a few weeks ago and talked to some great companies. Among them were: HDR, CH2MHill and T.Y. Lin. All three do cool projects and I would be happy to work for any of them next summer and full-time. I would really like to get involved with HDR’s Oregon Bridge Project or St. Croix River Crossing Bridge or anything with T.Y. Lin. They are the designers of some of the most impressive and revolutionary bridges in the world. The project of theirs that really captivates me is the Self-Anchoring Suspension portion of the Bay Bridge. I keep updated on the project at:

Some new developments:

  • My brother William ran 16:12 yesterday. He is a 15-year-old sophomore in high school. He has now run 8 seconds faster than I did as a senior. He also broke 5 minutes in the mile. We are the first brother team to make it into our team’s sub 5-minute mile club.
  • I saw Real Illinois guests and good friends Ben and Declan at the Loyola Lakefront Invite a few weeks ago. They are both still working very hard and doing excellent work.
  • Lately I’ve been obsessed with Grizzly Bear, especially While You Wait for the Others. Beware, it gets big.
  • I got a Mac. Expect to hear some crappy guitar songs recorded by me sometime soon.

And on a final note: although Dianna Agron can never be replaced, there is a new girl at McKinley High, and man-oh-man, is she good-looking.

Til’ next time


Jackie Newell

Hey everyone! Greetings from San Antonio! I’ve just returned from a fun filled weekend in Terre Haute, Indiana. This was a huge weekend for my team for a couple of reasons. First of all it was our first big Division III meet with 384 runners competing and many nationally ranked teams. Also it was our first time racing our biggest regional competition Emory and Centre. Finally, it signaled the start of our Championship season.

Pre-Race Shenanigans

Before the meet we talked about beating our Regional rivals Emory and Centre.  Beating them was important because only the top 2 finishing teams at Regional proceed onto Nationals unless an “At Large” bid is granted. Beating Emory could lock up an At Large bid even if we do not beat them at Regionals. We knew that beating Centre was an achievable goal, but Trinity hasn’t defeated Emory since 2006 and that seemed a little lofty. Emory has a 15 second 1-5 gap, meaning they have a really strong pack but no front runners, and on paper they look very strong.

When we got out of the bus at Terre Haute I had a really good feeling about the race. I was so excited that my family and Zach were there! My family very rarely gets to see me race so I wanted to run well for them. Also Zach and I trained a lot together over the summer; I wanted to show him all that we worked for was paying off. I couldn’t have asked for better cross country weather or a better course. Since it was the Nationals course it was perfect, rolling hills, wide turns, and 2 big loops. The guys ran first, and while they ran well they didn’t beat Emory. Our coaches told us “the guys just missed beating them, so let’s finish on the other side of that.”

My teammates and I all took it out really hard; I came through the 1k at 3:30. From there I settled into a pack for the first 3k of the race. When I passed through the 3k mark, though, I realized that I wasn’t tired and needed to start passing. From there I just moved up through packs, on a mission to get as close to Emory as possible. Then came the final turn and the last straight away, 400 meters of pain. My male teammates were waiting at the turn screaming “Emory is right there!! Go get them!!” That was the longest finish of my life, it was truly terrifying. That “15 second pack” was just in front of me. I went after them because I knew exactly what beating Emory could mean for our National ranking.

I ended up catching four Emory girls in that 400m stretch and placing 54th. The whole time I was thinking about my team and the victory pumpkin spice lattes our coaches promised us if we defeated Emory.

Spoils of Victory

My teammates finished 13th, 14th, 27th, and 72nd. We ended up getting 5th place and beating Emory by 80 points but I think we may have celebrated more than the team that actually won the meet. We all did the Gangham style dance and were basically the annoying screaming girls at the results stand. It was so exciting. I couldn’t be prouder to be apart of such an awesome team. Now more than ever I know I made the right decision to keep running in college.

So overall my return to the Midwest was a success and I am ready to take on the rest of the season including the Conference Championships in 3 weeks! Go TUXC!


Andrew Gazdziak

School is in full swing, the leaves are starting to change, and the mornings are cool. It’s cross country season! Fall is my favorite season and the cool mornings will always remind me of cross country races. This season I’ve been able to run at Swallow Cliff and Allerton, both places that are even more beautiful in the fall.

This season has been going all right so far. I had a few pretty rough workouts right when we got back to school, however I think things are starting to come around. Even though my races haven’t gone as well as I would have liked them to, I have run a faster time at 3 of the 4 courses when compared to last year. In addition, I think I competed in most of them better this year (I have a distinct memory of dying hard the last 1k at Loyola last year). There is definitely a lot of room for improvement, especially in my time management department – it seems my school work is starting to take up even more of my time.  I don’t mind doing (most of) it though – I really enjoy my classes this semester. This summer also helped put things in perspective – my hard work will eventually pay off and I’ll have a job making some real money.

One of the things I’m looking forward to is going to Toronto this weekend. I’ll be going with Brendan, Zach, and Adam for a weekend. Adam is running a marathon and the rest of us are tagging along. I’ve never been to Toronto (or to Canada at all), so it will be awesome to check out someplace new. I’m already looking at Yelp to see what is good in our area.

Toronto + Porter Airlines

This is my last XC season, and while I haven’t been trying to think about it too much, the end is nearing quickly. Regionals is in two weeks and I’m excited to race and see what I can do with a proper week of preparation. If I can run a pretty good workout and then also race pretty well on <= 3.5hrs of sleep, I should be able to do even better with plenty of rest. As a side note, the body is a pretty amazing thing, however after my race this past Friday, I’ve decided that I never want to race on that little sleep again – I was so drained after it. Now that I know how long my assignments really take though, I don’t plan on it being an issue in the future.

That’s about it. To sum it up – fall is my favorite season, I’m excited to go to Toronto this weekend, and I can’t wait for our Nationals trip


Zach Boehmke

Oh, where to begin. Let’s start with the exciting news. Next weekend, as Andrew mentioned, our friends Brendan, Adam, and us will be traveling to Toronto to watch Adam run the marathon next weekend. While I am excited for the race itself, I am also thrilled in the manner we will be traveling there. We are traveling on Porter Airlines, which flies into Toronto and puts us a short ferry ride away from the heart of downtown. The flight is meant to be a comfortable, Pan-Am style flight and the lounge when we arrive has complementary food and drinks (self-serve latte as well) for a much cheaper price than we would have paid on another airline.

One can only hope this is our future flight attendant

Where’s Don Draper?

100 foot ferry ride

So, that should be very exciting. What else is happening? Oh, the club is running very well. We have had a handful of meets now: Eastern, Loyola, IWU, and there have been some good races by members of the club. One thing that brings me a lot of happiness is that we have found a great, consistent way to bring in money for the club. We are now working at the football games as “hawkers.” That is, we are the people walking up and down the aisles yelling witty sayings, and trying to get people to buy our product. Although it is difficult to fill the stands for a 2-4 football team that is looking worse by the week, our loyal fans are still buying concessions in droves, which makes us happy. Our most successful game was the home night game against Louisiana Tech where we were drubbed. However, even with the drubbing we made $1000 at the game and then $200 from the girls team selling puppy chow. Finding a successful way to bring in money was one of the big worries coming into the season and it is a relief to see it going well, especially to see everyone on the team so excited for it.

Anyways, I suppose I can talk about how my training is going. Long story short: not well. I have not had a good workout in quite some time. Going along with that, my races have gone from bad to worse. The only race I am happy with is my race at Eastern where I had no warm-up and the last race I felt like my feet were being run through a cheese grater because of all the blisters forming and tearing throughout. I guess that says a lot about how the season has been going if that is what I am most proud of. I did not really understand where Henry was coming from at first, but now I really sympathize with him. You put in so much work during the summer to be the best you can be, and then it all starts going downhill from something you cannot quite pinpoint or explain. The most disappointing part is not being there for my group. They (Andrew, Chris Valicka, Joe Zeller, Ryan Kelch, and more) are all running fantastic and I wanted to be right there along side them and be a key to pushing us all to good races, but that has not panned out thus far. I started going to a chiropractor again last week, so I could get my back looked at and that was a good experience. However, every run since that appointment has not been.

At this point, I still think I can salvage what is left of the season. There are 5 weeks left from yesterday to our national meet. I know I am in the best shape that I have been in in my life, so that is the hope I am hanging on to. If I can get my back/pelvic issues sorted out soon and string together a couple good workouts, and possibly a quality regional race (fingers crossed), I think I can still be the runner I wanted to be at the start of this summer when I started to put in all the work. It’s just a matter of looking at the long-term picture and not getting caught up in the current missteps.

Last point I wanted to mention: I drove out to Terre Haute this past weekend with a couple friends to watch Jackie and her teammates race. We watched the men’s and women’s races (the course is much better suited to watch the women’s race from a spectator’s standpoint). Trinity ran very well, and it was especially awesome watching Jackie run a great race. After all the work that we put in this summer together, I am glad that it is paying big dividends for her and her now, nationally-ranked team.


And now, the moment we have been waiting for. Our special contributor today is The Big Guy. The many of many names: Alex (Harrington) Harrison. Alex is a year older than me and I got to know him pretty well right off the bat my freshman year. His presence at practice was something you could rely upon as much as his eccentric behavior. Even with all his eccentricities, one cannot deny his passion for the sport. He puts in all the work and although he does not always get the results he wants, he has shown steady improvement throughout his four years here and that is very motivating. He always keeps people on track and makes sure that the primary focus is on running first and foremost. It has been nice training with him the last couple years, and there will be a noticeable absence when he is no longer a member of IXC. Anyways, here is Big Guy:

Alex Harrison

Hey TRI readers, I am Alex Harrison, a senior teammate of Zach’s on the Illinois XC Club! I have loved reading these updates since Zach started them over the summer and I finally got the chance to write one myself. A little background about myself: I started running in sixth grade, beginning with the sprints in track before I found a much better fit with the distance crew. Once I got to the long distance side of running (a mile seemed so much longer in middle school, the tracks must have been redone since then) I never looked back, joining cross-country the next year and then running all four years in high school (Go Bison!). In high school, I was perhaps a decent runner, running 4:49/10:08/16:59 for one, two and three miles (cross-country) respectively, and with running in college seeming like an unlikely possibility, I began planning my last summer of high school before going to the University of Illinois.

                  Then, the night of my worst race, I caught a break. Getting Jake Englander’s email address from a then-team member (Talbot), he and I began to talk about me running for the Illinois Cross-Country Club. So ecstatic to have the opportunity to continue my running career in college, I signed on right away. The first thing I did after moving into my dorm was to run with the team for the first time. Over the last few years on the team, I have continued to run and improve, met many close friends (all of my roommates have been teammates) and made countless great memories.

Moving on with the story, this summer it hit me that I was a senior, staring down the barrel of my last cross-country season. With that in mind, I began training diligently, trying to maximize my potential without burning out as I have in most of my cross seasons to date. I was helped greatly by the fact that my best friend and training partner since high school was in town the entire summer, something that had not happened since we were both in high school together. He and I ran together practically every day, except for the workouts. More importantly, he designed an arduous, thrice-weekly strength program that we did almost without fail the entire summer. My mileage was a little bit lower this summer than in the past, but I am hoping that the emphasis on strength work will pay off large dividends come championship season and we race several tough courses to end the year.

                  The other notable thing that I did this summer was that I interned with Parson Brinckerhoff, an international engineering consulting and project management firm, on the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP). The OMP is a long-term project by the City of Chicago and the airlines to construct several new runways and their supporting taxiways and facilities to increase the traffic capacity (allow more planes to simultaneously land and take off) of the airport. Personally, I was out overseeing the general contractors, ensuring all of the work was up to specifications and plans, and that we could pay the contractors for it. It was the best summer of my life; being able to work out on the airfield barely 100 meters from planes landing was incredible, and my coworkers and the crews I oversaw were fantastic. This job cemented the fact that I want to go into construction after I graduate, and I hope I can come back and work there later. Not wanting to bore you with the technical details, I will keep the story rolling, and if you want to ask a question, just shoot away.

                  Once I got back to school, my training continued, getting more intense as the weeks to nationals slowly began to melt away. Seeing everyone again after a long summer and getting to know the new freshmen was exciting, but it is now time to get to brass tacks. Taking only 12 hours this semester, I thought it would be a great year for my training (and my racing in turn), being able to sleep in and continue to do more of the little things that matter so much in this sport. Both fortunately and unfortunately, that appears to be not the case. Several of these classes appear to be much more work than I was anticipating, and I will continue to be swamped with work the way I have been all throughout my academic career. On the bright side, through talking to my pavement professor, I am now working in his lab in Rantoul. Having worked on paving a lot this summer, I am very interested in learning more about it, and this is a fantastic opportunity for that. It is 10 hours per week, with me driving out to Rantoul twice a week, but it does pay (and pay well) and I am enjoying greatly so far.

So far, however, these new developments have not hindered in the least my training, and my season has started on the right foot so far. My training has progressed more or less to plan at this point, and it looks like we are going to be going eight or nine deep this year in terms of top runners, which is much better than what we have had in the past. We have been rolling in our workouts, with group two sticking tight every time we get going. I am really looking forward to Loyola (editor’s note: this was written two weeks before this post) and seeing how we perform under hopefully ideal race conditions. Ideal racing conditions are not something we have seen yet this season, the rust-buster notwithstanding. Our first real race, at Eastern Illinois, we had no time to warm up after a thunderstorm came through town, with more threatening behind it, and so it became a race to see who could hold on the longest, with times across the board being slow. With that behind us, we need to keep training well and keep focused on Nationals.

All right, I need to get back to working on real schoolwork now, but this was a lot of fun, and if Zach asks, I would be more than happy to write another. Happy trails and good luck on your training!



Like always, I want to thank all my contributors, especially my guest contributor, Alex Harrison. There was a lot of good stuff in this week’s post and I hope all the readers enjoyed that The Real Illinois is back. Hopefully there will be a post in two weeks with a regionals update, but if not there will be one shortly after.

End-of-post quote note: This poem I am posting was given to us by our assistant coach, Brian Glaza (Team GOC) back in senior year. It’s not the most eloquent piece of literature, but it was always a motivating force for me. I used to read it before every race and with the recent struggles, I have been keeping it in the back of my mind to remind myself of the main focus, but here it is:

The Man Who Thinks He Can

If you think you’re beaten, you are. 
If you think you dare not, you don’t. 
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t, 
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost. 
For out in the world we find, 
Success begins with a fellow’s will, 
It’s all a state of mind.

If you think you’re out-classed, you are; 
You’ve got to think high to rise. 
You’ve got to be sure of yourself, 
If you ever want to obtain a prize.

Life’s battles does not always go, 
To the stronger or faster man. 
But, soon or late, the man who wins, 

-Napolean Hill

The Real Illinois – Entry 11

After the longest break in The Real Illinois History, we are now back. This will be the 11th entry and the first in-semester updates from two of our correspondents. Today, Henry and Jackie provide quick up-to-dates of their scholastic and athletic journeys of the last few weeks. Unfortunately, there will be no additional contributor after them today, but hopefully readers will still find interest from other columns and editorials. But first up is Henry Wolf.

Henry Wolf

It has been a while since I’ve last written. There is a lot to update on. Coming back to school, I kind of wish I was still working at HDR.

            I guess I’ll start with school. This semester I am taking only 14 hours, but there are two lab sections that are extra time consuming. My courses are CEE 300 and 380 (Behavior of Materials and Geotechnical Engineering), TAM 335 (Fluid Dynamics) and CLCV 231 (Development of Ancient Cities). So far I like them all pretty well and they have all thrust a heavy workload on me from the start. My favorite so far is probably Geotechnical Engineering, soil classification and mechanics is pretty cool stuff, plus there are no labs. I expect to learn a lot about writing lab reports and to finish up my core Civil coursework this semester.

Running has sort of been a disaster since I came back. My first two weeks I did around 60 miles and had some pretty good workouts. I felt fast, strong and fit. Then the Illini Challenge, our season rust-buster happened. I ran 6k in 21:50, which was roughly at my threshold workout pace and slower than my freshman year time. The field went out fast and even though I was several seconds fast through the first mile I was in DFL. I tried to pick it up around 2k, but after a decent move I hit the wall and started struggling to even maintain pace.

If a bad race wasn’t enough, I had dead legs and a nagging quad/groin injury bothering me as well. As I normally do, I ran through the discomfort, but unfortunately this didn’t go away, instead getting worse. After trudging through 2.5 at 8:10 pace last Wednesday I decided to take some time off and try to heal up. This meant that I had to skip last Friday’s race at Eastern Illinois, which is normally a fast race. I really think that I could have run around 28:00 if I was able to run, but talk is cheap.

I’ve been cross-training the past few days, swimming a mile then aqua-jogging for easy days and stationary biking for long runs. Zach’s been a bit banged up too, so I had some company on my long bike ride Sunday. Fortunately, I went to our campus free physical therapy and had one of the best experiences with a trainer ever. He seemed to find the source of my problem and gave me a list of things that will fix me up quick. Normally people just tell me to take time off and rest. I’ll do what he says and I’m seeing him again Thursday where he’ll hopefully give me the go-ahead to run.

The Engineering Employment EXPO is coming up rapidly. It is next week from Monday to Wednesday and I have been doing a lot of work making sure that everything is good to go at the fair. We have 259 companies registered to attend, which is about a 40% growth from last year. We got a Daily Illini article, our campus newspaper, so check it out here if you want. Hopefully everything runs smoothly for us next week and all our hard work and preparation pays off.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Just so you know, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have released some new B-sides from their album I’m With You. Even though Josh Klinghoffer is playing guitar they are pretty good. John (Frusciante) also released an avant garde electro-snyth-pop EP called Letur-Lefr. I promise you’ve never heard anything like it.


Jackie Newell

I am now a week and a half into my Junior of college. I honestly cannot believe how fast time goes by, sometimes I still feel like a Freshmen. My class schedule is proving to be a challenge but nothing that I can’t handle.. yet. I am taking a lot more science classes including Physical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, and Integrative Biology, but I am finding the material really interesting! As nerdy as this sounds, I really enjoy figuring out why things happen the way that they do. I am also enrolled in Country Western Dance, so to my Illinois comrades, prepare for some Texas Two-Step!

Jackie and friends

In my last entry I mentioned that being a captain forced me to make some tough decisions concerning things like goals and alcohol. We decided as a team to focus on becoming the best TUXC ever and gain a really positive reputation on campus. To do this we are going to win meets, NOT get in trouble for stupid pranks, and refrain from breaking the ice baths again. Last year we had a dry season and I absolutely despised it. This year we are just preaching self-responsibility, and hoping that as the season winds down the team will take their training seriously on the weekends. I don’t think that drinking a couple beers effects performance anymore than eating a piece of cheesecake does, but getting blacked out can definitely set an athlete off course. I personally decided to have my own dry season because I want to give this season everything that I have… its only 11 weeks of saying “no.” It also helps that my friends are very supportive of my decision and some are in a dry season of their own for soccer. I don’t think I could make such a tough commitment without them.

Balancing school and running this year has also proved to be a challenge. My team has practice at 6:30am and 5:30pm. In the mornings we run and in the afternoon we aqua jog or run and then do light core-work. I like the routine, but it is all time consuming. However, every minute spent pounding the pavement or in the pool will be worth it when we win Regionals. While it is still two months away, the thought of a Regional Championship is always in the back of my mind. Our main competition is Emory University, Rhodes, and Centre College. My teammates and I are just trying to keep our focus and determination until that meet. I know we can win, we just need to close our 1-5 gap. While these teams have defeated us in the past, my team is older and has more depth than ever before.

This past Friday Trinity had its first meet. Two of our top girls were injured so I finished 3rd on the team, and 7th overall. It was a really great first race though, I managed to stay competitive and keep my eyes up the whole time! I know I’m having a good race when I am “racing” instead of just running to finish. My team also competed really well and one of our girl’s got 1st. The meet was a really great preview for the rest of the season, our next meet is in two weeks in Houston Texas at Rice University. Bring it on!


It is good to see that Jackie is doing well and her commitment to the team and its wellbeing is very impressive. As for Henry, finding a trainer who knows his stuff seems like it should be a good omen for him. He has worked too hard this summer (as everyone has read) for this to hold him back for too long. In two weeks, Andrew and I will provide our updates which will include our escapades from the first two meets (including quite a barnburner at Eastern Illinois).

But for now, enjoy some interesting articles:

If you are into politics, you have probably heard about Paul Ryan’s miss-step about his marathon time. This miscue is getting a ton of airplay and here is an abcnews article about it:

If you are lacking sleep, here could be a reason why:

If you have the time available or you are Adam Sukienniek, you will probably get a kick out of this video talking about the leading causes of death in today’s society:


That’s all for now. I am hoping for a contributor to come out of the woodwork for next week, but until then:

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

The Real Illinois – Entry 10

Week 10 of The Real Illinois is here. When I came up with the idea for this, I was not sure what people’s interest level would be in this project, but as we have now broken double digits, I’d like to thank everybody for continuing to enjoy the reading. This week Andrew and I will be providing our summer wrap-up. Also, our friend Declan McDonnell will be contributing a post which has some great content that I hope everyone enjoys. For now, on to Andrew:

Andrew Gazdziak

The school year has officially started. I’m so excited to be back on campus and to be running/competing with the club. This will be my last year at U of I, and while it will be very busy I am going to try and enjoy every moment of it. Reflecting back on my summer I had a few goals going into it. Here is my summer report card:

Some summer goals: Run Every Day: A-

o   I think this is the first summer that I have ran every single day. However, towards the end of July / beginning of August I had a few weeks where my running suffered, mostly due to poor planning on my part. Overall I feel like I put in a solid effort and earned an A-.

Core / Mobility 3x a week: B+

o   This was something I really wanted to work on this summer. I started off strong, with doing strength work 3x a week for all of June and most of July, however it tapered off towards the end, right when I had a bunch of really short runs. While I don’t really notice an improvement in strength, I did notice that I can do more pull-ups (I’m up to at least 7 or 8!). Now that we are back at school I’ll be getting back into the routine of doing it with the team every week. Overall, I’d say I earned a B+.

Eat Smart: B+

  • This was the summer of fitness, and that also includes treating my body right. I worked on eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, and I also expanded my food boundaries. I’ve never been one to eat seafood, but I tried new things when I went out to restaurants. I figured if I get seafood in San Diego it’s bound to be good.
  • Learn what it’s like to work at a utility: A

o   This was perhaps the most important goal of my summer. Will my 18 years of schooling be worthwhile? Will I enjoy my field of work? Will I be able to find a full time job in the industry once I graduate?

  • Explore San Diego: A

o   I really learned a lot about the San Diego area. I tried to do something fun / new every week, and I visited a ton of different places. I went to a different beach almost every weekend, I ran on a bunch of different trails, and I ate my way through the different neighborhoods. There are still a lot of things that I didn’t get to do (surfing, parasailing for example), but I never had a dull weekend in San Diego.

  • Have fun! A+

o   I definitely enjoyed myself this summer. Just check out my photo album on Facebook, I documented a lot of what I did (and more importantly what I ate!). I took two road trips that were a blast and I got to see a lot of the country.

As you can see, this was a great summer for me. I feel that this semester will be my most difficult one yet (it feels like I say that every year but it really seems like it this semester). I’m taking 18 hours of all technical classes/labs, and at least 2 of those classes will be very demanding of my time. In addition I’m involve with the XC and Track clubs, the EXPO career fair, and a part time job on campus.  This will certainly be a challenge for me, but I really do enjoy being involved in all of these things, and I wouldn’t change what I have done. When I provide my next update in a month my views might have changed.

More importantly I am beginning my final year of school. I know that I will continue learning for the rest of my life; however it will be in a much different environment.  I’ve got a bucket list of things I want to accomplish before I graduate (original idea, right?). Hopefully I can cross everything off (and hopefully the list keeps growing!)


Zach Boehmke

In the last two weeks, many things have taken place. Most notable, I finished my internship at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. My experience at Takeda was wonderful. There were so many great people that I met and worked with. While I was not constantly busy doing work, I gained valuable insight into the industry and saw different sides to the business. I did not do all the networking that I wanted to do going in, however, I do appreciate the relationships I made with some of the other interns and colleagues.

Another difference in my life is that I am now back on campus at the University of Illinois. Our alma mater statue is not here, but all of my friends and teammates are. Being back among them is a definitely a reward for all the hard work that was put in this summer. In three days back on campus, a lot of things have happened. The first “social gathering” was on Friday night and even a few freshman showed up so it was cool to meet them. Saturday was a lot of cleaning and organizing the home base with my fellow roommates. Today (Sunday) was Quad Day. For those who are unaware, Quad Day is when all of the incoming freshman, or just interested people in general explore the Quad where booths representing all of the RSO’s are set up with information and smiling faces. We had pages and pages of new faces signing up for our cross-country and track clubs. While I am not going to hold my breath on all of them signing up, it will be exciting to see all the people who we have successfully recruited be at our first official team practice tomorrow afternoon.

The third development was the final phase of training for the summer. Andrew came back from San Diego as you know and he and I enjoyed some satisfying runs at Swallow Cliff. On a personal note, I am “redefining” what I have previously been able to do with my volume of running. I was never really a high-mileage guy, but as I mentioned at the beginning, I thought the new direction for me for this upcoming season was to start training at a higher level. It took all summer, but I have built up to 70 mpw and feel great. It was hard to exercise patience at a lot of times (early on when I wanted to do more than 40 minutes of running or hiccups along the way where I do not feel the way I want). I have attached my graph for the last three months of running and as you can see there has been a steady, consistent increase up until now. I still have a few weeks to go to reach my peak, but right now I am very excited with what I have been able to accomplish this summer.

My graph

This summer was very challenging for me. I was busier than I have ever been and working very hard to start paving the way for a hopefully successful future. I am not blinded by the fact that most people go through what I did this summer and don’t have to write a blog for it. However, I think it was a rewarding task to be able to see the evolution that took place this summer. Balancing all the tasks that I did was tough, but I think that will make me that much stronger for this upcoming season.

Anyways, we have our first race this coming Friday (the Illini Challenge). It is a 6k and we have a handful of returning runners participating (including me for the first time!). The following week we run at Eastern Illinois and then a few weeks later we return to Loyola to run on the lakefront. I am very excited to see how the next few weeks go and how the work will pay off.


I am very excited for our special contributor’s post today. What can I say about Declan McDonnell? I met him before coming to school apparently confusing him and his brother (my roommate Brendan) for being the same person. During my freshman year here, Declan (as a Junior) traveled to France which has allowed me to spend more time with his cardboard cutout than him even still. However, when he came back from France, his impact as a leader on our team was immediately felt and his contributions were wide-ranging. Declan (and some other individuals) is also one of the reasons as to why our club has become the cohesive unit it currently represents. I could write a lot more about him, but I think I will let his post do the talking. What I have gathered is that Declan has been very important for our club and his passion for running and the work he puts in is one of the reasons I have decided to put that much more work into my own running. He is a great guy and now that he has left school, I am excited to see what he has been doing and what he will be doing in the real world.

Declan McDonnell

As someone who looks forward to reading this blog every Sunday, I’m honored to be a guest contributor to what I think has been a very insightful and interesting take on running in the “real world”. Whether Zach knows it or not, he has asked me to write this at a very critical junction in my life so far, so I hope this can be as interesting to you all as previous contributors have been to me.

As it stands today, I am one of the recently inducted 2012 Teach for America – St. Louis corps members and I have just completed my second week as a Biology teacher at Riverview Gardens High School. When I began my senior year of college as an architecture major, I had never heard of Teach for America, never been to St. Louis (with the exception of Wash U meets, technically not in the city though so I’m not counting it), and had no intentions of becoming a teacher, high school Biology or otherwise.  Since that time, I decided that I would not be going into architecture following my graduation from U of I, applied and was accepted to TFA, placed in St. Louis, spent five weeks teaching high school Algebra in Chicago Public Schools, rented a house with two girls and a guy from Minnesota, West Virginia, and San Francisco, respectively, met hundreds of new and veteran teachers and at least as many students, and began my teaching (and coaching!) career. Even as someone who usually takes things in stride pretty well, my head is definitely still reeling at the extreme change of direction my life has taken these past 12 months.

Running has been one of the few constants I have carried with me throughout this process, and my state of equilibrium and my sanity sometimes seems to be hanging by that single thread. If I didn’t appreciate how important running was to my mental health before this year started, I definitely do now. I have always been a person who enjoys periods of solitude in my life, and so running alone was never as much of a struggle for me as it has been for some of my friends.

Especially after spending nine months in France and around Europe, I got to experience running as a companion to my almost spiritual experiences of seeing a beautiful Italian hillside at sunrise, or watching a storm roll in off the coast of Ireland, or seeing the Roman Colosseum before the tourists get there. So in that way running alone stopped feeling so alone – it started feeling like sharing my life experiences with a close friend who I already knew so well.

Lately it has taken on a different turn. These sudden changes in my life have had me on a complete rollercoaster ride and I usually feel like I am at the point of being almost-overwhelmed all of the time. My daily run has now become a part of my support system in coping with this. Going through the beginning of the school year process as a first year teacher, it seems like my to-do list is interminably long and never seems get any shorter no matter how hard I work. My daily run is now met with joy and happiness and the reminder for me to stop (not literally) and smell the roses before continuing on with my work.

So I guess that’s my tribute to how important running has been to me, and I’m excited and curious to see what role it will take on next in my life. Coming back down to the ground a little bit, another of my new experiences this year is facing a fall in which I am not part of a typical cross country team. However, I’m lucky enough to be a first year member of Team Illinois Elite, the soon-to-be premier post-graduate running club based out of (Champaign? Illinois? America? Remains to be seen). Fortunately for me, former IXC club coach Jake Englander is also a first-year member, which means is going to be an organized, streamlined, and competition oriented team that will definitely be making some big strides (not funny, sorry) this year.

Part of my vision for this team is to use it as a means to keep in touch with old teammates as life in the real world carries us across the country. Having the knowledge that somewhere out there your teammates are working just as hard as you are for the same upcoming race is a nice comfort to have, and my hope is that as we get older we’ll essentially be planning family vacations and get togethers around the goal races we all decide to race at (I refuse to do the Disney world marathon however).

Our plans for this fall are to tentatively race at the Columbus half-marathon on October 20th, where I’ve set the lofty goal to break 1:13 (about 5:35/mi) (I ran 1:17 in Paris in 2011, without great training). We’re also hoping to compete as a team for the first time ever at the USATF Club XC Championships in Lexington, KY on December 8. I’ll be doing a few other cross country and road races along the way, hopefully at least one in the same race as the Illinois XC Club. Training has been going extremely well especially given the circumstances I’m in, and I have yet to miss my daily run (though my sleep schedule looks the same as architecture studio circa fall 2011). Additionally, I have just started meeting up with a great group of really fast people who run for Big River Running, a local shoe store. All in all, a lot of good things are on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to life settling down a bit and getting to have some really great experiences down here in St. Louis over the next couple of years. Again, big thanks to Zach for inviting me to write this piece, and I apologize for the length. It definitely helped getting that off my shoulders and on paper though, so I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Also if you like big parks, frozen custard, and are interested in visiting the most fun museum on earth, then come visit me in St. Louis sometime!


Well, that is 10 weeks in the books. Because we are all back at school now, The Real Illinois will be on a once-every-two-week basis. Things are going to be heating up in a lot of aspects for all the contributors, so I would like everyone to be able to focus on the real important matters. I want to thank Andrew and especially Declan for posting this week. It was great to be able to put this all together and I hope that everyone enjoyed it. Like I mentioned, look for The Real Illinois two weeks from now.

“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Steve Prefontaine