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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


The Real Illinois – Entry 9

Aaaaand, we’re back again: The Real Illinois, Entry 8. For those of you who do not attend the University of Illinois, you more than likely have begun school or begin tomorrow. At the University of Illinois, we begin school starting a week from Monday. In this post, Jackie and Henry give their summer wrap-ups, and once again, we have a guest. At the end of the post, everybody’s favorite doctoral student, Chris Valicka will be sharing his past experiences so look forward to that. Anyway for now, as always, Jackie will start out on her last few weeks.


Jackie Newell

I will begin this post by summing up the last couple of weeks of summer. I went to Florida and ran in the heat and humidity every morning. It was really rough especially coming off of Lollapalooza but I managed. Then when I got home it was back to the grind of 65 mile weeks and workouts. I got to run with some of the U of I guys and Rachel on Sunday which was awesome! I love getting to know new people over a nice long run. Turns out Rachel’s team competes in the same track meet as mine so I look forward to seeing her in the spring. I felt like that day I was finally fully recovered from my weekend at Lolla. I now know what the effect that a weekend of partying has on my running and for that reason I do not plan on repeating that experience any time soon.

No more experiences like this for awhile

Overall I am very proud of the summer I put in. I re-read my first blog post and I held true to everything I set out to do. I lost 6 pounds on my diet, ran 5 65-mile weeks, and lifted or did core 3 days every week. I know that I have never worked this hard in my life and I can only hope that it will all pay off.

This past Saturday I had my first 2-mile time trial with my team. I pretended that I was not nervous but honestly I was really shaky. I think I was just freaked out to see how much progress I really made over the summer. My worry was letting myself down or not reaching my expectations. I ended up running a 12:10 and placing 4th overall on my team. My splits were all very consistent and I finished feeling very strong. My attitude going into this season is very positive and I am ready to start doing tough workouts and getting ready for the 6k.

Along with trying to get into really good shape I am also working to be the best captain I can be. It is weird being a Junior this year because for once I feel “older” than the freshmen. This will probably change as I get to know them but for now I am having trouble relating to them as they attempt to balance training and orientation activities. I also already had to make some tough decisions, including topics like dry season and team goals. Furthermore, my coach has decided to make us into a more competitive team and likewise take us to more competitive meets. The travel squad, the top eight, will be heading to Terra Haute in Indiana and Austin in Texas. Also our Conference championships are in Dallas, Texas. I think having a travel squad will be a hard adjustment because we have 20 girls on the team and only 8 will be given the opportunity to go to the competitive meets. At the same time though this will help us reach the most elite level possible and make us more competitive as we look toward the National Championships.

Terre Haute

I have a great group of teammates with me and I cannot say enough how nice it is to have running companions every day. Naturally, I will always miss my long runs with Michael and Zach. I start classes on Wednesdays and I look forward to having a consistent schedule filled with learning and running… Go TUXC!


Henry Wolf

Well, summer’s over now. I finished my internship this past Friday. I had a great time and learned a lot, but I am glad that it is over for now. The days were really exhausting and towards the end there wasn’t a lot of work for me.

Two weeks ago I spent about three days working on the first part of an ESIS report. I can’t remember what ESIS stands for and I couldn’t find it online but I’m pretty sure it was Environmental Site Inventory Survey. This really wasn’t my cup of tea when I first started and I was actually pretty mad that I had to do it. Fortunately, there was an older version of the same report that I relied heavily on as a template. I had no idea what I was doing so I did a lot of research online and asked people in our planning sections a lot of questions. As I got farther into it I began to find aspects that I kind of enjoyed. For example, I had to create a map of all the farmed wetlands along our project corridor. To do this, I used maps from the National Wetland Inventory and ArcMap in GIS (another computer program). I also had to learn how to sort through an Excel file with 280,000 entries to find the data I was looking for which was a fun challenge. In the end, I learned a new program, got a better scope of our project, and was reassured that I do not want to do environmental engineering.

On the whole, my summer at HDR was a very good one. I learned a tremendous amount, met a lot of great people, and continued to narrow down my career interests. I feel like I made a good impression and hope that I can work for HDR next year, this time in structures, in Chicago or one of their other national offices. One thing I learned last week that I’m really excited about is HDR recently hired one of the country’s foremost authorities on suspension and cable-stayed bridges. I would love to work with him next summer and maybe make a career out of it.

With running, I’ve been feeling great the last couple of weeks and have been up in the mid-50’s for mileage. The workouts are getting longer and longer, but fortunately I’ve had Coach Mark and B.D.Ben to run with all summer. Now that I’m back in Mahomet for the week I can get back to running with John Butcher(shown leading the original Wolf Pack), one of my former high school teammates, who will be joining Zach, Andrew and I on the club team. I feel like I’m in good shape and I’m feeling relatively healthy. The first test of the season is the Illini Challenge and I’m really excited to rub elbows (literally) with Zach for a fun 6k.

The original Wolf-Pack

Some changes I’ve made this summer have been in strength and shoes. I started doing push-ups, chin-ups and pull-ups and have worked up to 25, 10 and 10, respectively, at a time. That may not be much for most people, but it has been a significant improvement for me and I have never before consistently done any strength work. I’ve seen improvement in my arms; I still don’t use them as efficiently as I could, but I no longer deserve my high school cross country nickname of Double Dutch. In an attempt to learn to run with better form, I ran in a racing flat all summer. These DS Racers served me well and although they haven’t completely broken my habit of landing on the outside of my forefoot, they lasted for a long time and forced me to move my strike more to the middle and land lighter.

Well, I think I’ve written enough for the time being. I wanted to thank Ben Zeman once more for this summer. He is the reason I worked at HDR, the reason I had a place to stay, and the reason I had a successful summer of training. I couldn’t have asked for a better co-worker, training partner, mentor and friend.


Our next contributor is a special one. Chris Valicka joined our team last year and right away made his own unique impact. He is always there for the people on the team supporting through thick and thin. He is always putting forth an honest effort in every race. But, what stands out most for me is just his passion for running. I cannot remember a race last year where he did not have a smile on his face, whether that was intentional or not. Throughout the course of the season, his times kept dropping and he kept impressing all of us with his commitment and enthusiasm. I cannot say how excited I am to see him carry that over to our upcoming cross-country season. I thought this would be a good opportunity for people to get to know him a little better who don’t already. So, here is his post:

Chris Valicka

PRs:     5k: 16:58, HM: 1:24:36, M: 3:02:52

Hi everyone, my name is Chris Valicka.  This fall I’ll be starting my third year of PhD studies in the Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering Department and running my first cross country season with the Illinois Cross Country club. I had a blast running with the Illinois Track club last spring and meeting all the great guys and girls that worked hard to become both the men and women’s NCTFA champion teams. I’ve gotten into running taking a different path than many of my teammates and friends and I thought I might share a bit of my history, my current life in and outside of running, and my goals for this coming season and beyond.

            A bit about my past. I did both my undergraduate and Master’s degree studies here at the University of Illinois and after graduating in 2008, I left to work in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. My wife Kate and I spent two awesome years there, her teaching math at a middle school and me writing software for a couple of companies, Raytheon and Niitek.  It was there, while between those two jobs in early 2010, that I started running. My father-in-law’s dedication to distance running (~15 marathons over the years), a great set of trails right outside of our apartment door, and several active friends convinced me that running might be something great to get into. I started small, a two-mile run (I use the word run lightly here), and was hooked almost instantly.

            We moved back to Champaign in July of 2010 so that Kate could pursue her Master’s degree and I could start my PhD studies. After a year of running I ran the Illinois Marathon in 2011, shortly after which I joined the Secondwind Running Club where I met Jeff Kelly. It was Jeff that introduced me to coach Jake and the team, and being part of the team this past spring was great. Having so many experienced and devoted runners, and being under the guidance of Jake, really has increased my love and appreciation for running, and of course improved my fitness and ability.

(After three hours in Ann Arbor with my new (and fast) friend Jerry.  I just missed crossing the finish line to the Ghostbuster’s theme song.)

            On to this summer. Over at the Coordinated Science Laboratory, I have been actively researching topics related to the control and coordination of robots/unmanned vehicles. The applications are a lot of fun: programming and playing with car-like robots and quadrotor helicopters.

This summer though, has been only some of that and a majority of reading, technical writing, and writing code in MATLAB to simulate the vehicles. I try to put in eight hour days, five days a week, usually running after work. This summer’s heat has put a crimp in that schedule more than a few times.

I had the pleasure of working with a fellow PhD student from Spain at the beginning of summer. It was great to work with someone interested in the same types of problems and with a distinct and experienced perspective. I’ve also been fortunate to work with several Master’s degree students on implementing some of the simulated algorithms while setting up a laboratory for the robots and helicopters to roam.

            My summer goal has been three-fold.  I broke the 17 minute barrier for a 5k  shortly after track season. My big goal was to run a BQ time, which I was able to do during the third week of June in Ann Arbor, MI. Since taking a short time off after that, my mileage is now up around 65/wk, though I would love to get it a bit higher. I’ve had the privilege of running in a few different states this summer, including Wisconsin, Missouri, and Colorado. Though Ft. Collins wasn’t quite at the altitude of Rocky Mountain National Park, it was cool to learn a little about the challenge of running at altitude.

What a Beaut

            I haven’t done much towards keeping with my goal of increasing my dedication to proper stretching and core work three times a week.  This fall, I hope to do that and continue improving up through Group 5/6. I’m hoping to take full advantage of the hill circuits and to increase my involvement with the club. I hope to do all this while getting my research in a state worth publishing, finding a job for next fall, devoting time to my course(s), turning Kate’s and my new place into more of a home, and finding time to keep up with and upgrade my homebrewing. Looking forward to running with the Illinois Cross Country club this fall!


That wraps up this entry for The Real Illinois. Thanks again to all the contributors, especially Chris. Next week, Andrew and I will be providing our summer wrap-ups. Also, another guest? We will see. Stay tuned…

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves…The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.” 
-Sir Roger Bannister