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Year II, Entry V


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


Eric DeGuevara


Hey again,

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

Eric would approve this song

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

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



Beth McGreal


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


Scrabbit, obvi

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


The sign I see on most runs

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



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


Sean Berbert

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Year II, Entry IV


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

Now… Heeeeeeere’s Jackie



Jackie Newell

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


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

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


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


Zach Boehmke


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

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

Carolina 3

The Lake


View from our house

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

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


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


Home for the summer

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

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

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

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



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


Emily Daum

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

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


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


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

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

Emily Winning RnR Dallas2013


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

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

Year II, Entry III

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


Monica O’Connor

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


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


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

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




Henry Wolf

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

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

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



Existing Bridge

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

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

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


Sturdy Structure

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


Michelle Turner

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

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


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


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


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





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



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

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

The Real Illinois: Year II, Entry II

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



Beth McGreal

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


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


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


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



Eric De Guevara

Hi Guys,

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

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


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


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


Classic E

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



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

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

The Real Illinois – 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 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