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The Real Illinois: Year II, Entry II

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

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Beth McGreal

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

estes

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

dumb

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

beth1

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

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Eric De Guevara

Hi Guys,

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

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

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

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

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Classic E

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

 E5

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

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

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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?”

trinity

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.

tinithin

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!

steeps

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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 13

And with that, we’re back. This is the 13th and second to last entry of The Real Illinois. 3 of our 4 writers have their seasons in the books. They were seasons of highs and lows and unexpected results. There is also a guest contribution in this post, coming from the one and only GOC (Brian Glaza) my assistant coach during senior of high school. So, prepare yourself for the penultimate edition of The Real Illinois.

Henry Wolf

Things are better than they were last time. Much better. I ran in our Nationals meet yesterday. It was fun. I had taken a lot of time off due to injury, but one day a few weeks ago I woke up and running made sense again. I ran that day and have been running 25-30 miles over 5 days a week since then. It’s not ideal but I’m really glad that I’ve been able to run lately.


On to the race. Zach and I were both very out of shape and just getting back into running, so we wanted to go out very relaxed. We did. After about a mile, the dead started falling back and the passing began. Zach and I worked together and talked until about 3k. saw an opening and took off, but Zach didn’t go with me. I moved up well, passed a lot of people, and kicked everyone close. The time wasn’t good, but the course was very hard and I’m happy with my effort and the way I competed. It wasn’t bad considering how out of shape I was. My pre-season goal of beating Zach Boehmke was one of the only ones that was met.

School has been going pretty well. I have three tests this week; one Monday, one Wednesday, and one Thursday. We did a lab on creep and notch failure in my materials class. This was cool because it was a brief introduction into Fracture Mechanics, which is important to structural health monitoring. I really like it when I can see how things I’m learning will apply to my work in the future.

Lately I’ve been playing guitar in Zach’s and my church band. It’s been pretty fun. I like the songs for the most part. I’ve recorded a couple of songs with my new computer but I don’t really feel too proud of them. Maybe next time around I’ll put
something on this.

My main goal for the upcoming track season is to stay healthy. To do this I’m going to have to train easier and more conservatively. I’m going to take more days off, run slower and workout with slower groups. I’m also going to make a better effort to do core, mobility and leg strength at least once a week. I’d like to run some really tough races and compete really well. If things go well I think that I can go under 16:00 in a 5k, 4:10 in a 1500, and 9:15 in a 3k.

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Jackie Newell

This year the South/Southwest Regional Championships were in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by Emory University. Trinity was ranked number one in the region followed by Emory second and Washington and Lee third. I personally was feeling a lot of pressure because we’d had such a great season so far and I was just really scared that we wouldn’t be able to close it out. What if we put in all of that hard work for nothing? It’s weird to think that I started training for this race back in May. Since that day in May I lost a total of 11 pounds, increased my weekly mileage on average by 15 miles a week, and remained completely dedicated to my goals. After my first meeting with my coach this fall I made the decision to have a dry season for myself. I wasn’t going to make any of my teammates suffer through it with me; I just wanted to finish this season knowing I did everything that I could.

I reflected on all of these things as I watched the start of the Men’s race on Saturday. The weather was beautiful and the course consisted of 3 very hilly 2k loops. Despite the nerves, I knew it was going to be a good day. Then my teammates and I took off on our warm-up, I gave the Emory coach a nod as I ran by. Emory was my number one choice, but I got waitlisted and I am definitely still a little sour about it.

Just before the start of the race I saw the Trinity Men’s team screaming and jumping up and down, they just found out that they finished in 2nd, earning their own trip to Nationals. While I was really happy for them, this just made me feel even more pressure because we wanted to do equally well. Now for the start of the race, gun goes off. I am in about 30th place after 800m of a slight incline uphill. My teammate, Rosemary, and I were working together, passing the girls that went out too fast and died out just as quickly. Our first mile was 5:57, which is pretty fast considering the hills. Then we finished our first 2k loop and just as I expected she took off. I maintained for that whole second lap, while my competitors kept falling back to me, but I didn’t really care about them. My main focus was the pack of 2 Emory girls up ahead.

I made a huge move with 1k to go in the last lap. I wanted to catch those 2 girls so bad. When I finally got them (800m to go), I said to my teammate “C’mon Jessica” and we left them. It really was that easy. In the final 400m I caught 3 more girls for a 13th place finish, 4th on the team. Jessica finished 17th close behind me to round out our 5 scorers. My time was 23:20, a PR and All- Regional. (sidenote last year I finished Regionals in the 50th place)

My teammates and I went 2, 3, 6, 13, 17, 23, 27, we were all All-Regional, the best finish in school history. Emory’s first finisher was behind Jessica in 19th place. We completely swept them and won the meet by 100 points. I still can’t believe it. That was one of the best races of my life and I really couldn’t ask for a better team to celebrate that with. Crossing the line a Regionals knowing I was going to Nationals made every single 5:00am morning in the summer and every single day I forced myself to double completely worth it. There truly is no better feeling than knowing that all of your hard work toward one tangible goal has paid off.

This weekend we are racing NATIONALS in Terre Haute, IN. My team could actually do really well, we have 3 girls very capable of All-American status and Jessica and I plan on doing everything we can help keep our score low. The main goal, though, is to enjoy the entire experience. For most of this is our first trip to Nats and with the men’s team by our side, there’s no way it won’t be a awesome time!

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Andrew Gazdziak

Hello everyone, I’m back for my final update of the real Illinois for the cross country season. This weekend we had our Nationals trip to Hershey, PA. As always the whole trip was a blast. While my race didn’t exactly go how I would have liked it to, I’m not going to let my last XC race spoil all of the other ones I’ve had over the years. This was my 10th cross season. It is crazy to think that I have been racing cross country for almost half of my life. I started running in 6th grade, when the races were only one mile. In 7th grade, the distance increased to two miles and I thought that was pretty bad. When I started high school I didn’t run my freshman year because I thought 3 miles was way too far. However I missed running so much that I joined back up the summer before my sophomore year and I haven’t stopped.

5th from the right, bottom row

Pretty much all of my closest friends have been on a cross or track team with me at some point. Even when I look back at race results or photos from high school, I discover that I’ve ran against many of my best friends in high school.

Beating Brendan, nothing new

I just thought I would include some photos from a few of the past XC seasons. It’s a nice way to sum up my different cross country seasons.

Cool Runnings

Rub a Dub Dub

Packing up

Me and my nips

Gadz racing Cardboard Declan

So what’s next? I’ve got one track season left but after that I’m not sure. I’ll be moving to San Diego, CA next year to begin working full time. I still plan on running, but I know that it will begin to play a less prominent role in my life. I’m not too worried about it though, I’ll figure it out when I get to that point. I’m so glad that I continued running club in college, I can’t even imagine how different things would be if I had stopped.

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Zach Boehmke

Well, the 2012 Cross Country season for the University of Illinois Cross Country Club is officially over. I wish I could say that I ended the season running the best races of my life and that my team took home the national titles like last year, but unfortunately that did not come to fruition. I’ll start with the team. As I have mentioned in the past, all season was spent preparing for our national meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We arrived there on Friday with the smell of chocolate and sewage treatment permeating the air. The grasp of the Hershey Company on this community was enormous, especially where the race was held. The course itself lived up to the billing Mark gave it at the beginning of the season. Hill upon hill loomed before us, but it was not as intimidating as much as it was inviting

Going into this season, the men’s team thought their primary competition was Iowa State. However, as the season progressed, we learned that other teams across the country were making notable progress and repeating as champions would not be as easy as we thought. Teams like Indiana, Oregon, Delaware, and others were all improving just like us. By the time the national championship rolled around, we were ranked fifth in the country and we thought we were being slighted as we had won last year. It turns out that that was not so much a slight as it was a compliment to the other teams who had improved much more than we thought.

As for the men’s race, Oregon dominated the race placing 5 people in the top 16 (ridiculous) and then Indiana followed up (whaaaat?!) in second place followed by Iowa State and then us. Our guys ran their hearts out, but on this day it was not enough. While it was disappointing, it also reaffirmed the fact that we are going through a transition year and we have much to learn from and build on, which we will.

As for the girl’s race, while we thought going in that we had the premier team in the nation, we turned out to be incorrect as well. That is not to say we did not run well, but like the men’s race, the competition was just that much better this year. Cheers to Virginia for dominating the women’s race, but next year our girls will be back and give them and the other teams a great fight for the title.

My thoughts on our team’s season are this: we worked really hard in all aspects. The runners worked their tails off all season, pushing themselves to new levels. Some new faces emerged while will be the face of our club in the future, which is exciting. From an executive standpoint, I could not be prouder. The executive board  worked hard with very little hiccups to establish this team in a transition year as a force to be reckoned with. From there, the runners took over, ran for the repeat, but unfortunately fell short. But, there are lessons to be learned which we will apply to next year and we will be back to compete on the national stage in the men’s and women’s team.

I will cover what happened to me briefly. Unfortunately, my season turned out to not be what I expected after all the work I put in over the summer. I struggled with back issues for the majority of the season, which made running on hills hell. It would have been fine had we run on flat courses (actually, that may not be the case), but each course we ran from Loyola to Iowa State to Nationals, got progressively hillier. I think I have figured out the issues though. After a month at the chiropractor, my back is finally starting to feel better. Because of my back though, I ended up taking 9 consecutive days off a few weeks back. I thought it would end up with my back feeling better and stronger, but that was not necessarily the case. I started training for track thinking my cross-country season was over. I began a lifting routine with Ryan Jorgenson a few weeks ago, which should have my back stronger than ever by the time track season starts. The goals are the same: I will build off the fitness gained during the summer and cross-country season, learn the lessons I need to and be a better runner when it comes time to lace up the spikes again.

I did run Nationals, by the way. I figured that if I was making the trip out, I might as well run. It was fun; it was not the race I envisioned for myself when I was out on the trails racking up the miles over the summer, but I managed to enjoy the moment and the atmosphere more than any other moment this season.

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Our guest contributor for this post is Brian Glaza. When I was a Senior on the Varsity team at Lincoln-Way East, he joined our team as an assistant coach to the actual coach Ross Widinski. I owe a lot to the both of them because they both helped me develop as a runner and as a person throughout my senior of high school. That paved the way for who I am now. Coach Glaza brought with him a swagger to our team. That swagger eventually helped our 4×800 meter relay make the state meet after taking 17 seconds off of our relay time in two weeks for our sectional meet. His story is interesting and I hope our readers are entertained. So here he is:

GOC (Brian Glaza)

Last weekend, as I stepped onto Detweiler Park, home of the IHSA state cross country championships, a rush of emotions flooded my brain. The scene in front of me took me back to my days as a runner. I reminisced about long runs in the dead of summer, tempo runs that taxed my body to the fullest, fun times with teammates, and the feeling that accompany a satisfactory race.

The sport of endurance running has left me with so many positive memories that will be with me for the rest of my life. Through the sport, I strengthened my mental and physical capacities beyond measures I ever deemed possible. Even though I can no longer call myself a runner, I was once a runner, and because of that, my life has been changed in numerous fantastic and wondrous ways.

I first started running in junior high school with relatively minor success. I made excuses for myself during 8th grade and decided to not go out for any team at all. This continued well into high school as I bypassed my freshmen year of cross country; however, after some persuasion from a former teammate, I decided to come out for track. At the time, I thought I had made a major mistake. I could not run a mile without stopping, and seeing as I hated being second to anyone, the fact that I was the 4th fastest freshmen miler on the team definitely was unsettling. I decided to stick with it, and am obviously glad I did. After purchasing my first pair of racing spikes, I went on to run a 5:21 mile during my last race of the season, ascending to the 2nd fastest freshmen, just two seconds behind our best runner.

From there, things didn’t get easier. I realized that becoming a good runner was something that took extreme dedication. As a tall, lanky individual, my body took some severe punishment, with tendinitis  shin splints, and various other injuries constantly slowing me down. Regardless, by the time I reached my senior year, I was starting to get it all together, and with a new enthusiastic coach, I felt I could finally reach my full potential. During my senior year of high school, after logging just over 900 miles during the summer months leading up to the cross country season, I got the worst news of all: I had a stress fracture in my middle metatarsal of my right foot. When the doctor told me I would miss the first 4 weeks of the season, if not more, I was crushed to say the least. Seeing my teammate’s dedication and strong work ethic was encouraging and helpful, but I was envious of their position; they could run and improve while I could not and would subsequently regress.

After four weeks, I was cleared to run, and man, was I ever ecstatic. Although I was mentally prepared to get back after it, my body was nowhere near ready to compete. During my first practice back, I slammed the mile warm-up to test myself. Needless to say, I went out hard and was near jogging pace the last half mile. All I could think was to be patient and keep working hard, and that was exactly what I did. My first few races yielded some sub-par results; but, at our regional meet, I showed some evidence of a turnaround, taking 3rd place. The next week, in a tough sectional, I took 4th behind the eventual winner of the state meet, and two individuals who ended up in the top 10. I was ready for state.

Seeing as this was my first time running at a state meet, I was feeling all sorts of emotions. As the day of the meet commenced, the only emotion I felt was insane amounts of nervousness. Walking on to the course only increased that emotion. All I knew was no matter what happened, I wanted to take home some hardware, something no one at my school had done in a long time. As I stepped to the line, that was all I could think of. I knew if I couldn’t accomplish a top 25 finish, I couldn’t help myself in deeming the season a failure. The gun sounded and off I went, out in a 4:47, not where I wanted to be. After a 5:12 second mile, I was in 26th place. I felt stupid going out so fast, but I knew I only had one crack at this. I dug deep, running a 4:58 last mile, making a mad rush to the line, to move up and finish in 23rd place; what an awesome feeling. Although I wanted more, I left the state meet happy and content, something many people never do. I was definitely one of the lucky ones.

As I look back now, even though I eventually took 6th place in the mile in the state track finals, was an all-conference performer in college, and racked up other various accolades, none was more meaningful and momentous as the state cross country meet. It was a moment that I had worked for since that freshmen track season. Sure, I didn’t win the state meet. Only one lucky person is able to do that each year, but what I did do was put forth my best possible effort, not for just one day, but for years throughout high school and eventually college. After that meet, I eventually was recruited to run in college, which was a fun experience, but nothing comparable to high school.

No matter what, after 7 stress fractures, various setbacks, and numerous negative issues with running, I still am immensely happy I decided to give the sport a try. For me, running provided a way out, a way to express myself, a way to forge my mental and physical capabilities, a way to meet friends, a way to relax, a way to think deep, and has since provided me with a way to teach, a way to help others, and a way to do what my coaches did for me. I may not run much anymore, but running will always be a part of me as well as something I am grateful for. It made me a better, smarter, tougher person.

Every issue in life can be related to running. As a runner, we push past our pain barriers, we reach new goals, break previous limits, and find out who we really are. Through running, I became what I am today. I know, in the face of adversity of any kind, I can succeed. Running has instilled this mentality in me, because to be honest, nothing in my life has been tougher. Those hot summer days, those tempo runs, those 20×400 workouts, those 18 mile runs, they have all taught me that whatever happens in my life, I can and will thrive if I put forth my best effort. No task in life is insurmountable. Each and every day, like in running, we can break previously unattainable barriers, we can achieve the unthinkable, and we can come out on top.

Nevertheless, don’t get caught up in results, numbers, or the frustrations that life brings. All of this is part of the journey, and the best part of any fantastic, memorable result is the journey that accompanied it. Think about all the memorable things that have happened to you in life. All of them may not carry a journey, but the most meaningful will always have a tale to go along with it. So I guess what I’m saying is appreciate the moment, appreciate the pain that those journeys bring, appreciate the small almost imperceptible progress, and appreciate all those little nuances in-between. We’re so caught up on those goals that we forget to appreciate what is in front of us, and the moment staring you in the face is the greatest of all.

I want to take a minute to thank Zach for allowing me to throw in this little blurb. It is much appreciated. I’d also like to throw a shout out to Zach’s former teammates – those who I believe are on facebook and can read this –  John Brassea, Michael Brassea, Joe Paviolonis, Tom Rotondi, Kevin Hearne, and all the other LWE squad who helped me in my first year of coaching. You brought running back into my life and helped me rediscover a passion for the sport. Many thanks, you were the best and I owe any future success in coaching to all of you!

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Our next entry will be the last entry. We will be following up with Jackie’s run at Nationals as well as posting some final thoughts. Stay tuned:

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”  ~Walt Disney

The Real Illinois – Entry 10

Week 10 of The Real Illinois is here. When I came up with the idea for this, I was not sure what people’s interest level would be in this project, but as we have now broken double digits, I’d like to thank everybody for continuing to enjoy the reading. This week Andrew and I will be providing our summer wrap-up. Also, our friend Declan McDonnell will be contributing a post which has some great content that I hope everyone enjoys. For now, on to Andrew:

Andrew Gazdziak

The school year has officially started. I’m so excited to be back on campus and to be running/competing with the club. This will be my last year at U of I, and while it will be very busy I am going to try and enjoy every moment of it. Reflecting back on my summer I had a few goals going into it. Here is my summer report card:

Some summer goals: Run Every Day: A-

o   I think this is the first summer that I have ran every single day. However, towards the end of July / beginning of August I had a few weeks where my running suffered, mostly due to poor planning on my part. Overall I feel like I put in a solid effort and earned an A-.

Core / Mobility 3x a week: B+

o   This was something I really wanted to work on this summer. I started off strong, with doing strength work 3x a week for all of June and most of July, however it tapered off towards the end, right when I had a bunch of really short runs. While I don’t really notice an improvement in strength, I did notice that I can do more pull-ups (I’m up to at least 7 or 8!). Now that we are back at school I’ll be getting back into the routine of doing it with the team every week. Overall, I’d say I earned a B+.

Eat Smart: B+

  • This was the summer of fitness, and that also includes treating my body right. I worked on eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, and I also expanded my food boundaries. I’ve never been one to eat seafood, but I tried new things when I went out to restaurants. I figured if I get seafood in San Diego it’s bound to be good.
  • Learn what it’s like to work at a utility: A

o   This was perhaps the most important goal of my summer. Will my 18 years of schooling be worthwhile? Will I enjoy my field of work? Will I be able to find a full time job in the industry once I graduate?

  • Explore San Diego: A

o   I really learned a lot about the San Diego area. I tried to do something fun / new every week, and I visited a ton of different places. I went to a different beach almost every weekend, I ran on a bunch of different trails, and I ate my way through the different neighborhoods. There are still a lot of things that I didn’t get to do (surfing, parasailing for example), but I never had a dull weekend in San Diego.

  • Have fun! A+

o   I definitely enjoyed myself this summer. Just check out my photo album on Facebook, I documented a lot of what I did (and more importantly what I ate!). I took two road trips that were a blast and I got to see a lot of the country.

As you can see, this was a great summer for me. I feel that this semester will be my most difficult one yet (it feels like I say that every year but it really seems like it this semester). I’m taking 18 hours of all technical classes/labs, and at least 2 of those classes will be very demanding of my time. In addition I’m involve with the XC and Track clubs, the EXPO career fair, and a part time job on campus.  This will certainly be a challenge for me, but I really do enjoy being involved in all of these things, and I wouldn’t change what I have done. When I provide my next update in a month my views might have changed.

More importantly I am beginning my final year of school. I know that I will continue learning for the rest of my life; however it will be in a much different environment.  I’ve got a bucket list of things I want to accomplish before I graduate (original idea, right?). Hopefully I can cross everything off (and hopefully the list keeps growing!)

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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 4

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It is that time again: Entry 4 of The Real Illinois. Just to provide a quick summary of what will be in this post, there will be a check-in with Andrew and Zach after two more weeks. After that, we have our first guest commentator: the man, the legend, Ben Zeman who will provide some excellent insight into some of his own experiences. The dog days of summer are upon us so, everyone, stay cool and enjoy some easy reading.

Andrew Gazdziak

(*To better understand Andrew’s life right now, here is some easy listening while you read his update)

The past two weeks have been pretty stable for me training wise – I’ve gotten into a routine that I like and I’m sticking with it. I usually run at 3:45 M-F and in the mornings on the weekends. I do core, mobility, and strides 2-3x a week along with some leg strength thrown in. I’ve been slowly increasing my mileage, I hit around 55mi this week and will probably hit peak somewhere around 65-70. I’m adjusting my running as I go – if I’m really tired or sore I’ll cut back on mileage a bit and if I feel good I’ll go a little farther. I’m finding that how I feel has a lot to do with how much sleep I’ve been getting (crazy, right?).

Last year I started logging how much I sleep each night. I define sleep time as from when I lay down in bed to when I wake up in the morning. Obviously it’s not the same for every night but it’s probably close enough.

Here is my monthly sleep data. Generally it looks consistent with only a few exceptions (Jan 2011 must have been glorious).

Figure 1 – Monthly Sleep Data

However when I dig into the weekly data it appears that I’ve been getting less sleep since I’ve started working full time, which might be why I’ve been feeling more tired on my runs than usual.

Figure 2 – Weekly Sleep

While playing around with RA, I decided to graph pace vs time.

Figure 3 – Pace per week

Interesting to note is track season – my weekly paces averaged out to be pretty consistent. Also, I had suspected that I have been running a little slower than in the past during my summer training. That is fine with me, and I wonder how different it would be if I was training at home with other people. Most runs are at a pace my body wants to go. I’m not pushing myself when I’m tired, and if I feel good I usually go a little faster. Good? Bad? Guess I’ll find out!

One thing I’ve really missed this summer is morning runs. In the summer I LOVE morning runs – it is really great to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. Some of my favorite days from the past few summer are when I would get up, run at swallow cliff with some friends, and eat before most other people have woken up.

While I love it out here in San Diego I am also really looking forward to getting home and seeing my family, my friends, and running at swallow cliff. I’m really excited for XC this fall. I also can’t wait to try the cookie monster flavor ice cream at the Plush Horse.

(For those who have not seen it)

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Zach Boehmke

Life slowed down the last two weeks for me. There were no trips to Champaign or Iowa City or the like, just a little bit of hanging around the area, outside of a brief trip to the beach with the team.

(failed jump attempt)

Anyways, work slowed down a lot in the last couple weeks. My days at the office have mainly consisted of me sitting in my cubicle waiting around for someone to give me an assignment. What I do is pretty easy and I can take care of most things pretty quickly and efficiently. This includes such tasks as populating tables (oooohhh) with study results or writing brief little blurbs on other studies. The job description is Medical Writer Intern, but so far it may be more appropriate to call me a Medical Ink-Slinger.

There are a couple observations I have so far about working, though. Working is not bad when you are kept busy. Time flies by and when lunchtime strolls along, you feel like you have accomplished something. But, when there is nothing to do, there is nothing to do. One nice thing about Takeda is that there are people from all professions of the medical field. So, since I have recently learned I can talk to people outside of Medical Writing, I am going to try to reach out and get a little more insight to see what is out there. Hopefully I can arrange something to talk with a doctor or two.

Another opportunity that I have stumbled upon recently is to run with some of the people at work. I was able to get a few runs out in the Deerfield area and stumbled upon the Des Plaines River Trail. Those days when I do not want to make the commute I can stay out there and run with these guys. “These guys” are no slackers when it comes to running either. The group I run with consists of a handful of fellows with nice times attached to their names. There are a few running in the 2:35’s or 2:40’s for marathon and another co-worker who runs 2:19!! Talking to them has provided me with a big rush of confidence that you can do this (work full-time and run) and be pretty good and accomplish the goals you set for yourself.

Shifting gears, when it comes to running, things could not be better right now. I had my first little scare of the summer earlier this week when my achilles started bothering me. But, after a couple days of “sticking” it to the trigger point, it has loosened up and I am running free and well. I am starting to approach about where I am going to train the rest of the time. I ran 60 miles this week with a great long run with Jackie Newell this morning and am ready for workouts to start this week. In the coming month or so, I hope to close in on 70-75 mpw and settle in for the season.

I am really happy overall with how things are going right now. Work is good (besides the commute and lack of things to do), class is fine (3 weeks left), and running could not be better. This week should be one of the harder ones with an exam to cap it off, but it will all be made better by some friday night, The Dark Knight Rises.

The general state of summer

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And now, something that I have been trying to incorporate into this blogumentary: some insight from an individual with actual real world experience. To provide a quick introduction: Ben Zeman is an individual who was on the Illinois Cross-Country and Track team and really helped to make it resemble what it does now. He was the treasurer and did his job pretty well (actually, he was one of the guys who encouraged me to become a little more active with the club). I had heard a lot about him from some of the guys on the team and his general reputation gained everybody’s respect. He is a very hard worker, a disposition that allows him to succeed in the workplace and be a pretty respectable runner as well.

Ben Zeman

PR’s: 5k: 17:03, 10k: 34:37, HM: 1:19:39

Hi everyone.  I’m Ben, and I work as a Transportation Design EIT (Engineer in Training – a state-licensed designation) for HDR, Inc., an engineering/architecture consulting firm with more than 8,000 employees.  I graduated from the University of Illinois in May of 2011 with a BS in Civil Engineering and the biggest joke of a minor: business (only had to take four additional classes).  The summer prior to my senior year, I worked as an intern with HDR and was thrilled when I was offered a full-time position there about a month and a half before graduation.  I started working full time just a few weeks after graduating, and have been going strong for about 13 months now.  “Real Illinois” regular Henry Wolf is living with me at my parents’ house in the beautiful Chicago suburb of St. Charles, Illinois

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In my senior year at Illinois, as graduation drew nearer, I knew that running was a part of my life that I couldn’t let go of. Luckily for my fellow graduates and I, our coach was ready and willing to provide a training plan and support for us as we worked toward competing in the Indianapolis Monumental (Half) Marathon in the fall.  As was the case in years past, I had the chance to run with both college and high-school teammates who were in the area for the summer.  However, my highly motivated training partner from years past was away at school, (http://www.angelosports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=2057) leaving me to run by myself before work. My only real motivation to wake up in the morning and finish my run was the thought of not having to run after work.  It was a lot different than the days when I looked forward to getting to spend time with my friends while we worked toward common goals.  When the weekend rolled around, I was able to connect with friends and have someone there to help me push myself a little harder than what I could do on my own.

Once summer break was over for my friends (August 20th running log entry: “last time having a running partner til the half marathon”), the true shock of having graduated began to hit.  Running began to lose its appeal when all my friends and teammates were no longer there to spend the miles with.  Realizing what was happening, I knew I had to find a way to keep myself motivated toward my goal of breaking 80 minutes in the half marathon that fall.  Since the weather was improving, I switched my schedule so I could run after work rather than before work, allowing me to “sleep in” every morning.  I also gave myself one weekday off every week, a big difference in my training plan from the past.  It was exactly what I needed to get through doing two workouts, hills, core/upper body, and a long run alone every week, for a peak total of about 60 miles.  I found that running could be used both to take some of my frustrations out after a long day at work with a tough, gritty workout, and also to relax the mind on an easy day when I needed it.  In the end, everything came together well, as I completed some very difficult workouts entirely alone and accomplished my goal of breaking 80 minutes in the half marathon, finishing with a two and a half-minute personal best time of 1:19:39, close to my more aggressive goal of going under 6:00 pace.

As many of the other “Real Illinois” bloggers have mentioned, working full-time puts some strain on the ability to run consistently.  What I tried to do was to take away the pressure I previously felt to run every day by building a day off into my training schedule.  That way, if I missed a day of running due to work, I could just shift my training around so that was counted as my day off for the week.  I also used work as a motivation for my running, which ended up benefiting my work performance and my running performance.  While there’s certainly no substitute for friends and teammates, there is real value in running alone after a long day of work.

Well, that’s it for this week. I hope readers enjoyed the updates and some valuable insight from Ben. One other link that I wanted to attach: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/sports/olympics/faith-is-central-to-marathoner-ryan-halls-approach.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=global

Agree with it, disagree with it, I think we can all say Ryan Hall is a pretty polarizing figure in the running community .

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“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. 
Try to be better than yourself.” -William Faulkner

Running with the Wind

America is all about winning: being the best, strongest, most powerful. Every four years when the Olympics come around, it is a chance for us to once again show our superiority over the rest of the world in total medals won. Nowadays, our focus is on events with the marquee names: swimming with Michael Phelps, gymnastics with Shawn Johnson, and track and field with Usain Bolt. When we look at track and field, a lot of people watch the events to see the “world’s fastest man” in the 100 and 200. No one really seems to care about anything longer than an eighth of a mile. I wonder sometimes if people even know how many miles make up a 10k race. If I told you that one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history came from a 10k, not many people would believe it. Yet, this is most certainly the truth.

Let’s pretend for a moment it is 1964. We are in Tokyo gearing up for the 10,000 meter final. Dominating the public’s eye is Ron Clarke, the world leader in the 10k who is representing his native Australia. Among him are the various Kenyans, Ethiopians that have come to dominate long distance track. Lost in this group of ultra-skinny, mess of tight muscles is Billy Mills, a Native American who hails from the Lakota Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Everyone is counting him out; most people do not even know who he is. But, he is about to shock everyone and win this race.

Billy Mills is the only American man to ever win the 10,000 meter race. He was also the second Native American to ever win an Olympic medal. His win is not only impressive from those figures, but also the stats and perspectives facing him. He bested his personal best by 46 seconds to win this race. Nobody put him in contention. But, he did. He did because of what his culture taught him as a kid. Like many runners, running was his way to get away. It also enabled him to form an identity as a warrior like his father (3/4 Sioux) taught him growing up. It was a way to blunt the rejection and insults he faced as a Native American growing up in a prejudice nation. His story is almost like Shoni’s of a couple blog posts ago. Instead of retreating into the reservation, they are broadcasting the talents and skills that Native Americans have. They are providing a sense of pride and identity for their respective nations.

The story continues after the race. While gaining fame for this momentous occasion, Mills never forgot where he came from. He has co-founded “Running Strong for American Indian Youth” which ” helps “American Indian people meet their immediate survival needs – food, water, and shelter – while implementing and supporting programs designed to create opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-esteem.” He still speaks to Native American youths and contributes a lot to charities. Billy Mills is a person that not only young Native Americans, but every young person can look up to for what he does on and off the track.

 

Courtesy of  Indian Country Today