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Year II, Entry VII



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



Eric De Guevara

Hey Guys!

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


The man

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

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




Beth McGreal

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


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



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


Mark Hayes

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

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


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


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


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



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

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

Love that quote


Year II, Entry V


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


Eric DeGuevara


Hey again,

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

Eric would approve this song

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

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



Beth McGreal


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


Scrabbit, obvi

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


The sign I see on most runs

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



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


Sean Berbert

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

The Real Illinois: Year II, Entry II

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



Beth McGreal

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


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


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


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



Eric De Guevara

Hi Guys,

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

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


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


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


Classic E

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



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

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

The Real Illinois: Year II- Entry I



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



Eric DeGuevara

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

track club

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


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



Beth McGreal

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

estes park

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




Monica O’Connor

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


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

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

shoeless mon

Shoes still on

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


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

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



Henry Wolf

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

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


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

golden gate

The real Project

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

 On to running.

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


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


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

 Thanks for reading.



Jackie Newell

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

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


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

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


Dr. Chandler

…just kidding

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


San Antonio debauchery



Zach Boehmke

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

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

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


Gotta get rid of this flubber

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

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

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



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

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

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

-Walter Bagehot