Since dominating the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs at the NCAA Championships last month as an Iowa State senior, Lisa Koll has become an explorer.
Her adventures have taken the Fort Dodge, Iowa, native to the competitive tracks in Greece, Belgium and France in recent weeks, and Saturday Koll will get a feel for road racing when she competes in the Quad-City Times Bix 7.
"I'm excited about Bix. It will be my first test ever in a big road race. It's close to home, which is pretty cool, and this will be my last race for awhile," Koll said. "I'm going to take a little break after next weekend, so I see this as a fitting way to close what has been a great year."
Friends have told Koll about the challenges that the 36th Bix 7 will present.
She has heard about the hills that test runners on the 7-mile course through the streets of Davenport.
Growing up in Iowa, she's used to the heat and humidity.
But as a new chapter in her running career begins, she welcomes the chance to see what the Bix 7 and the elite field have to offer.
"Eventually, I see myself becoming more of a marathon and half-marathon runner," Koll said. "I'm currently in a bit of a transition, getting a taste of what is out there for me in a post-NCAA life."
Koll competed in the USA Track and Field Championships last month in Des Moines and has since competed in three European events, running a 3K in Greece, a 1,500-meter run in Belgium and most recently, a 5K in France on Friday evening.
"It's been an interesting experience, seeing what this level of competition is about," Koll said Friday in a phone interview from Paris. "When you compete at the college level, you get used to a routine of staying in certain hotels, having certain types of food readily available before competition.
"In Europe, those things are all different, and you have to learn to be flexible. I've tried to pick up bits of the language in each country as I've gone along, learning at every stop along the way."
Koll, who signed with Peters Stubbs Management of San Francisco shortly before competing in the USA Track and Field Championships, is anxious to continue her education in the Quad-Cities next weekend.
"I expect to gain a lot out of competing in the Bix," she said. "I know it is a hard, tough course and I know that the field there is always great. I've talked to people who have run it before, and I'm excited to be a part of it. This will give me a chance to see what road running is all about, and I'm looking forward to that aspect."
The summer competition follows what has been a whirlwind year for an athlete who never won a state championship as an athlete at Fort Dodge High School.
One of three finalists nationally for the Broderick Award honoring the premier female student-athlete and the winner of the 2010 Honda Award as the nation's premier track and field athlete, Koll won all-America honors in cross country last fall for the Cyclones with a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
She was chosen the most outstanding performer at the Big 12 indoor and outdoor championships this year. And her time of 31 minutes, 18.07 seconds in the 10,000 meters set March 28 is an all-time best for a collegiate athlete in the United States and the sixth-fastest time for a U.S. athlete.
Capping a career that included four NCAA titles, Koll went on to win the NCAA 10,000 meters by almost 24 seconds June 9, two days before she won the 5,000 by more than 30 seconds.
Iowa State coach Corey Ihmels said a "typical Midwestern work ethic'' allowed Koll to develop the ability to excel at the collegiate level.
"She has a competitive spirit about her, and I think that drive only pushes her to improve," Ihmels said. "She's like a lot of kids that we see in the high schools in Iowa and the Midwest. She isn't afraid to work to get better, and that has allowed her to become the type of athlete she is today."
Koll hasn't had a lot of time to appreciate her achievements.
"That will probably come in a few weeks. I need a bit of break because I've been going at it hard since last fall," she said. "I'm looking forward to taking a couple of months off, catching my breath, and then getting back at it. But before that happens, I'm anxious to see what the Bix and road racing are all about."