By: Christy Cazzola
2014 has been an exciting year for me. I graduated from college with a teaching license in the state of Wisconsin, coached my first track season, was accepted into graduate school, won six national titles in track and field, was named NCAA Division III athlete of the year in indoor and outdoor track, named Academic All american of the Year, Honda’s Woman of the Year, and made USA Championships for the second time in the 800 and 1500 meters. Despite all of this I was determined to not have these accomplishments define my career; as I ended my college career in the back of my mind I hoped that someone would want me to run for them. That said, I also had a lot of doubt. I worried that I wasn’t good enough, that no one would want to sign me. Like many girls and women I struggle with self-doubt. However, I also hoped that someone would decide I was worth taking a chance on. Oiselle has taken that leap of faith and my experience as a pro runner has far exceeded anything I expected.
Taking the leap from NCAA to Oiselle sponsored professional runner.
Because Wisconsin doesn’t have a Oiselle dealer I honestly didn’t know much about Oiselle. Once I learned about the story behind the company, I knew I belonged to this flock. Many training runs I went on this summer had several confrontations with birds that I embraced as symbolic in my joining the flock. At many race warm ups since I’ve signed with Oiselle I imagined myself as a rising phoenix full of fire and passion standing for courage and challenging my inner demons.
This was my first summer competing at the professional level and taking flight from my comfortable spot in the NCAA Division III nest. My last two races of a long season were The Grandma’s Mile and The Magnificent Mile. The Grandma’s Mile was held in Duluth, MN, a beautiful lake town with excellent running trails. The mile course was above the trails on the road along the lake heading into downtown. On race day there was a strong headwind, but I wanted so badly to perform well that I went out in the top three and heading straight into the wind. I was feeling great at the 1/4, just okay by the 1/2 and by the 3/4 mile mark I was exhausted. I felt like the burners were falling off and in the last 1/4 of the race I went from 3rd to 5th. I finally found another gear and just before the finish I gave it one last push and finished fourth in a time of 4:36. I knew after the race that I had run with my heart and not with my head. This is not always the best strategy, but it was the choice I made that day stepping up to the starting line. I was disappointed with my time and my place after the race, but I knew I was courageous that day flying into the wind and taking a chance in a competitive pro field.
Fourth place at the Minnesota Mile.
Sunday's race was in Raleigh, NC. I was really excited to come here and stay with some Oiselle homies. This was the first time I have ever home-stayed alone and I had no idea what to expect! I came away truly impressed with the women here; to me they are a reflection of the company that we all represent. These are not just ordinary women, these are women who have a voice, they have depth, and they are educated, dynamic, and diverse. These are the women I want to surround myself with on a daily basis and getting to know them has made me so glad that Oiselle has been a forum for feminine fierce women to flock to.
The amazing women who took care of me in Raleigh!
The Magnificent Mile was my last race of the season and I came in feeling a little beat up. However, I chose this race specifically because it supports motor neuron research and the race record was within reach standing at 4:51. I knew that a part of my psyche wanted to end the season on a high note. Leaving Division III athletics and coming into the pro scene has made me a little fish in an ocean of competitors and I had a hunch that this race was the perfect fit to end my season with a sense of accomplishment. Once again, I didn’t have a great race, however, I walked away truly feeling like I belong in the pro circuit.
Two winners and course record setters. Thank you Allie, you have such a big heart.
With the last race of my season behind me I now have to put as much emphasis on my break as I do on my training. To get the greatest benefits when you take a break, my advice is to Be Naughty, Forget about Running, and then come back to running feeling Hungry and Ready to Give your All! For me, being naughty means eating lot's of dessert, enjoying a glass (or glasses, or a bottle) of wine, and of course lots of coffee. Forgetting about running means placing running on the shelf for some time so I can rest and heal my body. So for now, I will do my best to focus on my other passions and priorities in life. This will give me time to do the things that are always on the bottom of the list when I’m in training mode. Even though I say I’m leaving the running world, I am not. I have local teams that I volunteer coach and enjoy supporting and cheering on at local high school and college races as well. I can truly enjoy being a coach and a spectator of running so that I can allow myself to see why I love the sport so much. This lets me begin to miss running and brings back the spark that will light the fire of the burning phoenix waiting to fly again.