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The Real Illinois: Year II- Entry I

the

Hello!

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

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Eric DeGuevara

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

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

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

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Beth McGreal

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

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

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Monica

Monica O’Connor

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

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

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

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Shoes still on

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

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

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

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Henry Wolf

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

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

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

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The real Project

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

 On to running.

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

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

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

 Thanks for reading.

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Jackie Newell

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

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

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

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

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Dr. Chandler

…just kidding

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

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San Antonio debauchery

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Zach Boehmke

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

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

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

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Gotta get rid of this flubber

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Walter Bagehot

The Real Illinois – Entry 14

The

 

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

Trin

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?”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 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!)

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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.

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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!

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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

The Real Illinois – Entry 7

Welcome back to The Real Illinois. This is the 7th entry in the series. A lot has been happening in the world. If you do not remember from the last post, the Olympics is currently taking place. Actually, they are almost halfway over. There have been some epic performances and the resurgence in distance running has certainly shown, at least for one Galen Rupp. Anyways, this is not so much about that as to update you on what is going on in the lives of Henry Wolf and Jackie Newell. We also have another commentator today: a man with a 2:26 marathon under his belt.

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Henry Wolf

Hello. I can’t believe how fast this summer has gone by, I only have two more weeks of work left. The past two weeks have been the best for running the entire summer for me. As Zach mentioned last week, I ran the Big10k with him and our friend Alex. We sort of ran it like a workout, with Zach doing most of the work. Looking back, this “race” was the thing that seemed to get me out of my summertime blues/ running doldrums. I’m finally starting to feel good and can settle into runs and relax on them. Every once and a while my legs feel tender or tight or my plantars fasciitis gets pulled too far, but for the most part I feel healthy. I’m way ahead of where I was last year and I’m beginning to look forward to running a pretty good time trial in a month at the Illini Challenge. I’ve added an extra 5 minutes onto all of my runs this week and so far I feel good. I think I’m getting into shape at just the right time.

One new thing that I’ve done at work these weeks has been going out into the field. I was in the field 3 of the last 10 days of work, which was something I was not expecting when I first received my assignment with the design team. The option to spend a little time out on the jobsite is just the cherry on top of what has already been a great work experience. The first thing I did in the field was work with Ben to verify the survey for our removal plans on our Jane Addams project. To do this we drove our entire project corridor and compared what was shown in our survey with what was actually out in the field. It was really interesting and very valuable for me to do this because it helped solidify a connection between the icon in Microstation and the thing that is represents. This really drove home the reality that what I design in the computer will be actually built. Furthermore, it is expected that it will remain safe and functional for a long lifetime. Lastly, I learned more about roadway drainage than ever expected to learn in my entire career.

 The other bit of field work I did was wetland delineation. This task involves going through designated wetland areas on the jobsite, confirming that they are wetlands, and marking them with flags for our surveyors. Determining whether an area is a wetland or not is a process that is well beyond my knowledge and interests, but from what I gathered, if an area has wetland plants (such as Common Reed/Phragmites, shown below) and a certain soil moisture level, then it can be called a wetland.

Lastly, I figured I’d make a shameless plug for Henry Wolf Meet of Champions. It’s a race I organized for fun last summer. This year, my younger brother William (pictured below) has taken the reigns and will try to carry on the tradition. So, if you’re reading this you should come to Lake of the Woods, Mahomet, IL on Saturday, August 11th at 11 am to compete in the most prestigious race in the Milky Way.

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Jackie Newell – Ready to Run

I am writing this entry on the Monday morning after the craziest weekend of my life. I didn’t think that Lollapalooza 2012 could top last year, but it certainly did. The events of Saturday made it impossible for me to run on Sunday. I tried, I got dressed and woke up to go, but then I felt like I was going to puke. I figured one weekend wasn’t going to kill my running career and I really just wanted to have one last hurrah with my buddies before school started. For once running was not my main concern. Unfortunately I was very destructive this weekend and I am sorry to say that I was “the drunk bitch that has to be carried– that sober girl that was perfectly fine” on Saturday. Very embarassing. Overall though there are so many hilarious memories from Lolla and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to share the experience with.

Anyways, on to the updates. My internship is over! I’m so happy to be done and just relax for the last couple days of summer. It was an awesome experience and I learned so much about Chemistry and Food Science. I found that I want a career in applied science, but that working solely in a lab is not my calling. I hope I can find a job that allows me to have more contact with other people and less running around trying to get samples in the HPLC.

Also my family is going to Florida today. I have been looking forward to this for weeks because I just want to lay out and read. Naturally, I will also get back to the grind of running. It has been going a lot better lately. I’ve been getting through the workouts with only a couple bumps here and there. My coach has me doing one track workout and one tempo type workout a week and I have to say tempos are my favorite. I can’t wait to run them with my teammates in the fall because solo workouts are rather tedious.

Well, I gotta catch a flight! Have a good week everybody!

Current location of Jackie Newell

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On to our newest contributor. I met Robert Wiley close to the start of my current internship at Takeda. I did not know too much about him except that “he was a runner” (a good conversation starter). I have gotten to know him a little better over the last 10 weeks through various intern functions. I will let him tell his story, but I would just like to say that it has been great getting to know him. He inspires me by showing that you can work hard at your job every day and still be a very successful runner. Not only that, you can do all that while also being there for your family. One day I hope to fill that same role in my life.

Robert Wiley

I am 37 years old and have been running for 14 years now. It all started back in 1998 when I was a year out of college and in the working world. After 13 years as a competitive swimmer and thousands of hours in the pool chasing the dream to be an Olympian, I found myself up 20lbs and feeling miserable. It is a tough adjustment going from finely tuned athlete to desk job and lost fitness. I was disgusted with how tired and lethargic I felt and finally laced up shoes and started running a few times a week. Gradually I got back into shape and by January 2000 I ran my first marathon in Death Valley. In hindsight it was not the best choice in races for novice runner with a couple of 5k’s under my belt but it was the catalyst to get me going. Over the next 7 years I found myself slowly getting fitter and faster. By 2006 I dropped to a 2:40 marathon and found myself at a cross roads. I was friends with Jenny Spangler (1996 Olympic marathoner) and she told me if I was willing to put in a few years of very hard work I could be good, possibly even qualify for the Olympic Trials.  I wasn’t sure how that was possible given the demands of working full time, raising a family and carving out time for my wife and friends. I tried not to think too much about it and gradually over the next year began ramping up my mileage from a peak of 70mpw to 100mpw. Within a year I had brought my marathon time down to 2:30 and my shorter races were improving significantly. A defining moment for me was attending the 2008 Olympic marathon trials in Central park. I was inspired by the athletes and saw that not all of them were young with great pedigrees and beautiful strides. The one thing they did all have in common though was a tremendous work ethic.  The next few years were a roller coaster of highs and lows. I sustained a sacral stress fracture in 2009 and a double hip stress fracture in 2011. After a comeback from the first stress fracture in 2010 I ran the U.S. Marathon Championships in the Twin Cities and lowered my marathon time to a 2:25 with a pretty hard bonk over the last few miles. I was on 2:20 pace through 16 miles. After that race I ramped the mileage up even higher to 140mpw for almost a month in preparation for the Boston marathon. I was hitting workouts that I had never been able to hit and was prepared to run 2:20 – 2:22. Unfortunately my body did not hold up and a broken hip slowed me to 2:26. The injury put an end to my Olympic Trials quest.

Many people think I am crazy and wonder how I am able to get in the mileage while working full time and raising three children. There is not an easy answer. I have an incredible support network around me with my wife, my running friends and my company  (Takeda). Also, from a very early age I was exposed to a rigorous training schedule and was forced to balance my life.  It made me develop very good time management skills. I do the same thing today. I lay out my days and weeks and figure out how to get in the mileage. During marathon training it can be brutal. I run between 10-14 miles in the morning before work and many days will sneak in another 4-6 when time allows. Takeda has a fitness center free to employees on site that I can access whenever time allows.

I feel blessed to work at Takeda. I have been with the company for over 7 years and have had different levels of responsibility.  As a project manager in the operations group I have travelled all over the world and helped shape the global supply chain. Travel can be tough because it throws you off your normal routine but running in new cities is a great way to explore an unfamiliar place. I ran on three continents last year. Takeda also allows some flexibility in my schedule. I have the option of coming in early or working later or working a compressed week and taking a half day Friday.  As a health care company they also value physical fitness which is important to me as an athlete.

So what does a typical training week look like for me? I do a quality run 2 to 3 times a week. I define quality as a specific workout such as a long run of 18+ miles, tempo run or speed work. The days in between are run at an easy to moderate pace. The goal is to recover before the next quality effort. For the quality runs I try very hard to run these with friends. I have a great group of runners that I train with on a weekly basis that are in exactly the same situation as me. We all have jobs, families and life demands yet share the same passion for running and competing. There is just something great about nailing a race or completing a great workout. You feel so alive!

There have been times were things get out of balance. I have gotten better about catching myself over the past couple of years before my wife throws in a reminder but it happens. Running is important but family, work kids activities etc. will take priority. I try to adjust my schedule and be flexible so that I cater to those needs. Having a stacked schedule keeps you on your toes and forces you to be efficient. As I have gotten older it has gotten harder to balance running with other demands but when contemplating walking away from competitive running I always find myself carving out the time for just one more race or one more shot at accomplishing something huge. I have never wanted to live my life with regrets or be one of those people that say they could have been great if they put in the work. As long as I am having fun and still passionate about chasing dreams I will continue to compete.

–        Rob Wiley

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Well, that is another week in the books. I hope everybody enjoyed that. I just want to thank my contributors Jackie and Henry, and especially Rob. Stay tuned for next week’s post where Andrew will wrap up his thoughts on his internship in San Diego.

Until then…

“Ability is what you are capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.”
–Lou Holtz