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Year II, Entry VI


Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Real Illinois. I apologize for missing last week’s entry. To make it up for everybody, we are double dipping on our post this week and having four of our correspondents write: Monica, Henry, Jackie, and I. Also, one of the most distinguished Lincoln-Way East running alums, who also just wrapped up a great collegiate career, Nate Troester stops by to write a guest post. There is a lot of material in this one, but it sure is good, so buckle up and enjoy.



Monica O’Connor

Hey all! Hope all of your summers are going fantastic!

The past three weeks have been absolutely insane, I do not think I will be able to fit it all in one post but I’ll do my best…

For one week I stayed in the West Village in Manhattan with my Aunt and younger sister. We wandered throughout the Village, saw Pippen, went to a taping of the Colbert Report and the NPR show Ask Me Another and visited the MET and MoMA. Basically it was an amazing trip.


I was lucky enough to be less than a block from the riverfront pathway where tons of tourists and New Yorkers run, rollerblade, bike and just hang out. The riverfront is a really cool place because many of the piers have been converted for other uses. On one run I came across a park filled with painted pianos. It was really easy to keep myself motivated because there were a lot of other runners out and my days were pretty laid back so I could always find time to fit a run in.

Following the amazing week in the city I headed out to Southampton to begin my summer work. To be honest I was insanely nervous, but also extremely excited. However after being at camp for only a couple of days it was clear that there was nothing to worry about. Surprisingly the majority of the counselors are from the UK, most from England but a smattering from Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. It was really fun hearing their accents and trying to imitate them, and have them imitate an American accent. The first week consisted of learning all about the camp I am working at, Southampton Fresh Air Home. Because the campers have physical disabilities there was a lot to learn. We had to practice showering, brushing teeth, feeding, diapering, and lifting the campers.


Although the days were really full I was lucky enough to find a couple of people to run with everyday. Another counselor, who just graduated, ran in college so we went on a bunch of runs together. We are conveniently located less than a mile from a bay and the Shinnecock and Nationals Links Golf courses. Basically the runs were gorgeous. The first week I was very optimistic about my training for the summer, it seemed as though having time to run would not be a problem. However I hit a road bump when the campers arrived…


I knew that it was going to be hard to get running in but I had no idea how tired I would be at the end of every day. To give you an idea of the schedule here at camp I wanted to give you a run through of the day but realized you would probably be bored.

Basically each day starts at 7:00 AM and ends around 9:00 PM when we put the girls down for bed. It is a really challenging day, and to be honest I think this has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. My back is sore from lifting girls and taking care of thirteen girls, although the other counselors are fabulous, it is quite mentally draining. But do not think I am not having a great time. I have learned so much about myself and various physical disabilities. This camp is seriously one of the most amazing places I have ever been. It is really cool to see kids, who at school may be ostracized or treated differently because of their disability, just get to be totally normal kids.


As much as I love being at camp it has really taken a toll on my summer training. I tried to run every morning but found that I was not able to put my 100% into my job here. I can already tell that this experience is one that I am going to learn a lot from and I want to do it to the best of my ability. I feel that in running everyday I would be acting selfishly, preventing the campers from having the absolutely amazing experience that they deserve here at camp.

more camp

After talking with Mark, the other counselors, and thinking about it for a long time I decided that for my health I would have to cut back on my running. This means that I will not be able to compete in the beginning of the season, as I wanted to, but will instead shoot for regionals and nationals. Although this is less than ideal, as I really wanted to be ready to race at the beginning of season, I know it is the right decision. I do not want to look back on this summer and think I gave any less than my best for the campers here. I am going to try to run whenever I can but I know I have to be realistic about my body’s capabilities.

I hope all of your summers are going amazing and that your running is going smoothly!




Henry Wolf

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve already been working for 6 weeks. I have 6 more to go

Since last time, I’ve been working more and running less.

I have had the misfortune of some pretty serious shin splints for the past 2.5 weeks. They’ve been pretty debilitating and I’ve only run about 46 miles in the last 14 days. I’ve been icing, but since I don’t have any of my rollers from home, I’ve been improvising with a can of Manwich, which is a pretty poor substitute. I really don’t know what to do, but I need to either commit to taking time off or pushing through, because these crappy 20 mile weeks are worthless.  That said, Nationals isn’t until November, so I’m not too worried about how this setback will affect my season yet.


This past week at work we’ve been trying to finish up our plans for a 95% submittal due on July 3rd. I’ve been in charge of all of the quantities for our Higgins Road bridge (the one with the big skew I talked about last time), so I’ve been very busy updating the quantities and finalizing them. Definitely the most consuming and challenging calc I had to do was Structure Excavation. This involved quantifying every cubic yard of earth that needed to be excavated in order to build the bridge. It was a real challenge trying to keep the different phases of construction and the varying elevations in order so that I didn’t overcount – or worse, undercount the excavation required. All in all, these quantities were pretty crazy and I wound up working 60 hours last week.

I’ve also been doing some work on a railroad bridge on the Illinois River. There is a structure (called a protective dolphin) that serves to protect the bridge from impacts with the barges passing under. This dolphin was hit by barge and damaged and I’ve been working with the structures section manager to design the replacement. It has been a lot of CAD work mostly, but I’ve been told that I can design the steel plates that will hold the structure onto the piles (the element that anchors the dolphin in place under the river floor). This is a long way from the billion dollar cable-stayed bridges that I hope to model and design in the future, but it’s a start. I will be using things I learned in my Design of Steel Structures course and this is the first bridge I’ve worked on that actually spans water. It also makes me think of this song.

That’s all I have for now. I’ve been enjoying city life too. Last night I participated in the Late Ride, a bike ride that goes all around the city in the dead of night. There were thousands of others and I got to see parts of the city that I’d never seen before. All I could think of on the ride was how beautiful infrastructure can be (even in the bad shape most of it is in). I hope I can make as lasting a contribution to a city as some of the ones I saw last night.




Jackie Newell

This summer has really gotten away from me. I feel like June was stolen from me! I think it’s because I really only think of it in terms of weekends. It’s not really what I expected, but I don’t mind. Before the summer started my friends and I had loads of plans to watch movies, go to happy hours, and other fun activities to do during the week. Waking up at 5:15am to run, working all day, and then working out again is not really conducive to fun weekday activities. This is a sad reality of being a real human with a job, but it’s all worth it on the weekends. I work so hard during the week to stay on schedule, so I can experience the pay off on the weekend.


Does anyone even remember what my job is? I am a chemistry researcher at my school in San Antonio. I am currently probing a gold on titania-oxide catalyst using the hydrogenation of nitroarenes. The topic is really interesting and there is a wealth of information being published every month on new gold catalysis mechanisms. My reaction can be really frustrating at times. I won’t get into the gory details, but basically I can’t get my products to remain stable over time. It is seriously driving me crazy. As if that is not bad enough, I also have to present my research at a symposium in 2 weeks! AHHH! I feel like I have little to show for the hard work I’ve put in this summer. The comforting thing, though, is I will continue this research into the school year. So I have time to keep working and developing my reaction. I also have a helper (minion) who helps to collect data. We’re a good pair because she reminds me a lot of myself. She’s anxious to learn about lab work and offers good ideas for the chemistry behind our reaction.


Some Quality Chem

In other news, running is going great. My teammates and I have been tearing it up. For starters, we excel in the workouts our coach gives us. I feel like this alone made staying here completely worth it. I would not have achieved the quality effort that comes from being pushed by other people on a solo-mission. Then there’s the long runs. Our long run’s usually have a 1-3 mile hard effort thrown in either the middle or the end. I think this will show at the end of races when we’re forced to push through being tired. Also, lately, we’ve been doing pancakes after our weekend long runs. They are a great incentive to get through 13 miles.. I love pancakes. Easy runs are still at5:45am and waking up never got easier. It’s ok though, only a few more weeks and I’ll be back home running on my own time and real people hours.


Speaking of back home, I went home for the fourth of July. It was great! I saw my friends, sewed a quilt, and won a 5k. Ask me later about how a 17 year old boy almost swiped my plaque! Surprisingly I won the race in 19:16. This time is faster than any 5k I ran during track season freshman and sophomore year of college; more proof of what a solid year of hard training can do to you. Leaving home was bittersweet because I love my friends and working at my school but I also really do enjoy being home.

So just to conclude, here are my goals for July: Collect some sort of reproducible data for my reaction, don’t die of my 21st birthday, hit 70 miles 3 weeks in a row, do core 5 days a week and restrict alcohol consumption to once a weekend.

Well everyone- enjoy your July and remember the new month offers new opportunities to be better!



Zach Boehmke

Hi all. Last time I wrote, I was amazed that we were a month into summer. Now, I am amazed that there is only one month left in my internship, which means July is here and Cross-country is coming.

julius meme

Training is going pretty well for me. My mileage is slowly inching its way up without any hitches. There are no aches and pains to speak of. Everything is going as I want it to… except for the heat being here now. I have a fairly tough time running well in the heat and that part of me reared its ugly head during a long run this past Sunday. I am happy though because the trails that I run on are very shaded and do a good job of keeping out the sun from beating down. Although that keeps me cool, I do have to find a way to train it direct sunlight without mentally breaking down. That always is my crutch at the beginning of the cross-country season and I would like to not repeat that this year. But, outside of that and the overbearing humidity and swarms of mosquitos (and possible future westnile in my future), running is everything I could ask for right now. It could only be better if I had a training parter like last year. Although this past weekend Jackie was in town and I was able to run with her a few days which was nice. We ran a 5k on the 4th. I did not do very well; she won as she mentioned above. It was pretty fun all around.

Work is going pretty well too. I am being kept very busy — not 60 hours a week busy like Henry, but my assigned tasks can pretty easily fill up a 10 hour day. I have several projects right now that I am working on right now that I am pretty excited about. I am being assigned fairly large portions of documents to have free range with putting together (from sources) (with review done my co-workers obviously), so it is exciting actually being able to do the position I was hired for since there is more trust. I do not want to write too much about it because it will probably come off as boring what I am doing, so I will spare everyone. This Thursday, all the interns get to meet with one of the VP’s over lattes, so it will be cool to pick his brain, although his area does not exactly pertain to what I want to do in the future. We also go to a Sox game in the sky boxes pretty soon, so I am very much looking forward to that.

I really do not have too much to write about this week. I am looking forward to the month ahead as there are many fun things planned. We have a guys weekend at Andrew’s lakehouse this weekend, so it will be good seeing everyone after I missed our old coach, Jake Englander’s wedding (congrats again, Jake!). The half marathon is in a couple weeks and the Big 10 10k is the week after that, so there will be some good opportunities to work on getting faster. Aaaand after that is Lollapalooza. So for the next few weeks, I am going to focus on being the best I can at work and having as much fun as possible on the weekends. Hopefully I will have some good stories for next time.



Our next contributor is Nate Troester.I have known Nate since I joined cross-country my sophomore year of high school. At that time, I was so out of touch (and slow) with the sport that I was unable to appreciate his performances throughout his senior year during cross-country and track and field. He was 7th in state in XC and 2nd in state in the 2 mile. To this day, he still holds the 2 mile record at our school of 9:07 and is part of our school record Indoor 4×8 squad that my crew of knuckleheads could not take down. After graduating, I was happy to see that I be happy to see more of Nate outside high school since I was accepted into the University of Illinois, where Nate just graduated and finished up his time on the varsity squad. I’ll let him tell his story, but I just wanted to say that Nate was one of the big reasons I got into this sport. Watching him and Ron Revord and Myles Scott-Stirn put in the miles (and being astounded that they could run for that long) was one of the things that motivated me and the rest of my graduating class to reach our goals of getting to state, ourselves. He is one of the nicest guys I know and always has time to have a conversation with anyone and I know that his character and work ethic are the primary reasons that he is going to have a very successful future. Anyways, without further ado, here is Nate:


Nate Troester

Hello everyone!  For those of you who do not know me, my name is Nathan Troester and first I want to say thanks to Zach Boehmke for inviting me to be a part of this awesome blog!  Alright, so a little about myself.  I graduated the University of Illinois with my Master’s degree in accountancy this past May and am now currently studying (and hopefully passing!) the CPA exam before I start work in September.  The studying has been consuming my life for the past 4-5 months so writing this post should be a nice break.  Anyways, I ran on the men’s varsity XC and Track & Field squad all 5 years at U of I, mainly focusing on the longer distances.  I had most of my collegiate success on the cross country course and put together a few solid 5Ks and 10Ks on the track.  My cross country 8K and 10K bests are 24:35 and 30:57, respectively, and 5K and 10K on the track are 14:35 and 30:41, respectively.


I started my running career in the Spring of 2004 when I went out for the track team in 8th grade.  I had never run competitively before, but always ran pretty well in those annoying gym class miles they make you do for fitness tests in grade school, so I figured I’d give it a try.  We only practiced a few times a week and I never ran more than a mile or two in practice, but I managed to run a 5:24 for 1600m the first time I tried the event.  So I knew I had some talent for the sport, but my first love was basketball so I knew I wanted to pursue that in high school.  Fortunately, my Dad convinced me to go out for XC in Fall (which I rationalized as getting into shape for basketball) where I ended up making the varsity squad and the state meet at the end of the season.  After XC, I squeaked onto the basketball team and spent most of the year on the bench / getting shit on in practice by all the guys that continued to grow taller and stronger, while I still stayed at 5′ 8′ and barely weighed a buck 20.  So to much of my surprise, I spent most of that season wishing I was still running with all the awesome dudes I met on the XC team last Fall.  As I’m sure all of you guys reading already know, what makes running awesome is the team comradery.  An XC/Track team is always made up of a group of stand up guys/gals that have level heads, stay out of trouble (for the most part), and are genuinely great people that are working toward a common goal.  And it is amazing to me that I have witnessed the same attributes in every XC team that I have been on or been around.  So anyway, I was very happy when basketball came to an end and I was able to run the outdoor track season with my teammates again.  Needless to say, I did not try out for basketball again the following season and then went on to have a pretty successful high school career which landed me a spot on the team at U of I.


My collegiate running career was a bit of a roller coaster in terms of my personal progression and success in the sport, but the one thing that was always a constant was the quality of young men and women that I was surrounded with in my teammates.  I came to Illinois because the guys on the team and Coach McRaven were committed to turning the program around and establishing a place on the national scene.  My five year experience may not have gone exactly how I had envisioned it, but from my freshman year until this past Spring, our XC program / distance squad has improved leaps and bounds.  We are still fighting for our first national appearance in over 25 years, but we have come oh so close the past three seasons, sending two individuals each of the past two years.  That is something that our program has not done since the 80s.  Additionally, the class of guys I came in with had to overcome a lot of adversity as we ran under three different coaches in five years.  Each coach had extremely different training philosophies and personalities and it took a decent amount of effort and time to adapt to each one.  Our current coach, Jake Stewart, has been unbelievable in both his training philosophy and his vision for our program.  He has helped me rejuvenate my career after coming off some overtraining issues in 2011/2012 that really got me down, and almost every guy on the team has improved significantly under his guidance.  I have 100% confidence in him and the group of guys on his team right now and know they will get over the hump this season and put Illinois back on the national scene in both XC and Track.

past and future

My biggest takeaway from my collegiate running experience is to take nothing for granted and to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.  Running is tough and it’s a mental battle as much as physical.  For example, one day you may be on top of the world, running new PR’s every meet and feeling great, but then all of a sudden you get injured, or your times aren’t getting faster anymore.  Then it becomes a mental battle that is fought on a daily basis and tests our perseverance and love for the sport.  That is why you can’t take anything for granted, and you have to enjoy the journey that leads to that opportunity to go run at a big meet, or set a new PR, or qualify for a national meet, or whatever the goal may be.

one more

So now to what I am doing now.  Like I said before, I am taking the Summer to study for the CPA exam before I begin working for the public accounting firm, Ernst & Young, in September.  But I still have some unfinished business I want to take care of in running as well.  I have signed up to compete in the Chicago Rock’n’Roll half marathon in July and also the full Chicago marathon in October, which will be my debuts in both events.  Since this is my last “work free” Summer I feel like this is my best opportunity to train hard, get good sleep, and run under 2:30 for a marathon before my competitive running days come to an end.  It has been a great Summer so far as my running has been going really well.  I’ve been increasing the mileage and intensity now for the past 6 weeks or so.  Additionally, I have passed 2 of the 4 CPA sections and am currently studying to take the third section at the end of July.  As I’m sure you all know, running has made us all pretty darn good at managing our time, so I’ve been able to balance the rigorous study schedule and get in 70-80 miles a week as well.


I am really excited to start this next chapter in my life, even though it will be weird not having a distinct XC and track season for the first time in a decade.  The good news is that running helps us build those great attributes that lead to becoming successful in life such as dedication, leadership, time management, working well with others, etc. so it will be interesting to see how my running lifestyle translates into my work lifestyle.  Lastly, I definitely will continue to run while I work.  I’m not sure how competitive/intense it will be, but I surely intend to at least get my butt out of bed every morning and get some mileage in before work.  Because once you become a runner and begin to live the lifestyle it’s an extremely hard habit to break!  Thanks for reading!



Well, that is another post in the books. I want to extend a big thanks to all the contributors, especially Nate for writing this week. I will try to get back on schedule and have next week’s post ready by Sunday. Stay tuned to see how Eric is doing back in America and how things are going for Beth. Until next time…

“Thus I urge you to go onto your greatness if you believe it is in you.  Think deeply and separate what you wish from what you are prepared to do.” – Percy Cerutty