Last year at the US Championships in Sacramento, we began our journey with Division III superstar Christy Cazzola. Fresh off graduation and with a fire and passion for being the best that she could be, Christy joined our running community. Throughout this year Christy has learned about the challenges of being a professional runner. We are very proud of Christy and are so happy for her as she takes flight on a new path and adventure. Leaving Oiselle behind, she is joining the Atlanta Track Club in Georgia, to be coached by Amy and Andrew Begley. Christy Cazzola is a force to be reckoned with! We are confident that she will continue to improve and we are honored to have been a part of her story. Fly, @FiveKrayCazzola!
My experiences as an elite athlete / professional runner.
Spring of 2014 I came off of one of the most decorated Division III careers ever in the NCAA and earned Honda's Woman of the Year for Div III. I had a teaching license in the state of WI and was substitute teaching and coaching track and field at a local high school, enriching kids lives and learning about what it means to lead kids on their journeys into adulthood. My life was pretty amazing; I was also starting my master’s program in Educational Leadership, taking care of my two beautiful children and holding on by a thread to being the best wife I could possibly be (and let me tell you, my husband did the dishes a lot) ;).
2014 was my second year qualifying and competing at the USA national track and field meet. I was so looking forward to meeting and hopefully signing with Oiselle. Becoming a bird and sponsored athlete was the highest honor I could receive that year; I was thrilled when Oiselle stepped into my life. I know this doesn’t come to a surprise to hear from another one of their SPONSORED athletes that I/we love the company, but it’s not a gimmick. It is truly their service, commitments, and goals that drive all the women and bro birds involved in the company to be the best they can be at all times.
Oiselle told me early on, “You matter to us,” and “we are here to support you, just let us know what you need," "we want you to be successful.”
I didn’t know what I would need in the upcoming year. It ended up being a lot more than I expected. It seemed like everything I did and everything I dreamed of doing kept falling apart. Then Oiselle stepped in. I had a simple contract and they were not legally responsible for any of the things they did for me, but they did it because they care about me and my dreams and they want those dreams to come true.
I thought, "It’s my first year running as a professional runner, I am sponsored = everything is great." Except it wasn't. I didn’t have teammates I could talk to or rely on. That shared experience was gone. I was in graduate school. School was very different and much harder. It required more time for reading and writing. I was working 20 hours a week. I served on a curriculum committee for the college of education, helped the toy drive for family services, and yes I am a MOM, a WIFE.
In reality things really fell apart when I didn’t have that college coach to schedule my meets, get me into meets, arrange for all my travel up front, and bring me to all the meets. That list of extras pushed me over the top and stressed me to a point that made me realize, finally, yes finally, that I CAN’T DO IT ALL! Besides, of course, being in Wisconsin and training in below zero, and fighting off normal seasonal affective disorder because it’s freezing cold, I run alone, and drivers try to kill me on the roads. I knew I needed to make a change.
So the conversations started and I started reaching out. Like family does, Oiselle started helping me make connections. I started to talk to other running groups, ask other questions about coaches and other athletes. I started to see a new world that I never had considered. I never thought I would leave Wisconsin: my family is here, my friends are here, and I have never lived anywhere outside of the regional Fox Valley. The saddest part for me was that the groups I was talking to had other sponsorships that would require me to leave Oiselle: my family, my flock. I couldn’t imagine it and after all the company had done to support me, take care of me, and pick me up when I was down….I didn’t know if I could do it.
As spring arrived and I was struggling to come back from injury, I knew I would be at USA championships but I didn’t know how well I could do. This uncertainty and the lack of racing made it hard for me to perform. I went out and I thought I would just give it hell until the gas ran out. It was the best I could do with the shape I was in. I felt embarrassed and truly sad about that race. But it is only one race and under the circumstances I won't let it define me. I took control of the race and showed that sometimes you race just to show yourself you're brave enough to lead. I am brave enough to lead and when I am healthy I will be able to take that experience to the bank. I had the best time watching, cheering, and hanging with my Oiselle team at USA’s; you know they always throw the best parties every year! Meeting Sally was a heartfelt moment when I could express how much I look up to her and appreciate all that she has created for not just elite women athletes, but for all of us gals who just need a push in the right direction.
The Pittsburgh Liberty Mile will be my last race for Oiselle, but I know I will always be a part of this flock. With the help of the Leskos, I will be moving on to the Atlanta Track Club to work with Andrew and Amy Begley. It was a heartbreaking decision to leave my family and friends here in Wisconsin, and to leave the Oiselle name because to me it’s not just a brand, it’s an idea and a family. I will be sad not to wear it or tweet it, but no matter what I’ll always believe it!
Atlanta Track Club is a thriving organization with great leadership. It's is a nonprofit committed to creating an active and healthy Atlanta. Through running and walking, Atlanta Track Club motivates, inspires and engages the community to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. With more than 22,000 members, Atlanta Track Club is the second largest running organization in the United States. In addition to the AJC Peachtree Road Race (peachtreeroadrace.org) – the largest 10K running event in the world, the Atlanta 10 Miler and Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon, Atlanta Track Club directs more than 30 events per year. Through the support of its members and volunteers, Atlanta Track Club also maintains a number of community initiatives (which I will be involved in), including organizing and promoting the Kilometer Kids youth running program to metro Atlanta youth, honoring high school cross country and track and field athletes through Atlanta Track Club’s All-Metro Banquets and supporting the Grady Bicycle EMT program. Atlanta Track Club Elite (which I am joining) is comprised of the Club’s top athletes who train together and represent the Club at local, regional and national races. The team aims to help athletes realize their goals while promoting competitive distance running, track and field and the mission of Atlanta Track Club. For more information on Atlanta Track Club, visit atlantatrackclub.org.
I’m excited to embark on a new adventure and become involved in all of the community action in Atlanta! I hope to keep in touch and follow all of our flyers throughout their running and life journeys. To all of us dreamers: Go Fast, Take Chances, something I wouldn’t have learned without this amazing family. Thank you Oiselle family, you know who you are!