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Year II, Entry VI


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



Monica O’Connor

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

more camp

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

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




Henry Wolf

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

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

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


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

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

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




Jackie Newell

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


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


Some Quality Chem

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


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

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

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



Zach Boehmke

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

julius meme

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

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

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



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


Nate Troester

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


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


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

past and future

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

one more

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


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



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

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


The Real Illinois: Year II- Entry I



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.



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.

track club

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.


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!



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.

estes park

 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.




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.


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).

shoeless mon

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.


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.



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.


 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.

golden gate

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.


 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.


 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.



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.


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.


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!


San Antonio debauchery



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.


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.



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 13

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

Henry Wolf

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

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

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

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

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


Jackie Newell

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

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

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

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

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

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


Andrew Gazdziak

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

5th from the right, bottom row

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

Beating Brendan, nothing new

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

Cool Runnings

Rub a Dub Dub

Packing up

Me and my nips

Gadz racing Cardboard Declan

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


Zach Boehmke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

GOC (Brian Glaza)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Real Illinois – Entry 9

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


Jackie Newell

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

No more experiences like this for awhile

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

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

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

Terre Haute

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


Henry Wolf

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

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

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

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

The original Wolf-Pack

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

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


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

Chris Valicka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a Beaut

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


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

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