ISU graduate Lisa Uhl currently runs professionally for the Oregon Track Club in Portland, Ore. Uhl is a former Iowa State cross-country and track and field athlete. She was formerly known as Lisa Koll before marrying husband Kiel Uhl.
Most recently, Uhl competed in the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials and qualified for the 2012 London Olympics for the 10,000-meter run.
You accomplished quite a bit at Iowa State. What would you say your most memorable moment was?
My most memorable moment was probably doubling at the NCAAs and winning both the 10K and the 5[K]. It was a great way to end my career and it takes great timing and a little bit of luck in order to have something like that happen at the right time of your career — finishing it out. And to be able to have a teammate [Betsy Saina] come in second in the 10K was really special, too.
You have been running professionally for a couple of years now. What would you say surprised you the most in your transition from college to professional running?
I knew it would be a transition, but I struggled a little more than I originally thought. I struggled a lot last year with injury, and that was something that I was prepared for, but when it actually happened, it was a little harder to get through. But I think that happens to everyone who makes the transition from college to professional running, and I'm glad to have it be done with and I learned some things from it.
You are currently running professionally with Nike and the Oregon Track Club. What has your time been like living on the West Coast?
It's been great. Everyone has been really supportive. I have awesome facilities at Nike. I do most of my training on the Nike campus. Here where I live, in Portland, there are great trails. It's been great for training.
I've got a couple awesome teammates — Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher. And a bunch of other guys in the group. So it's been really good because it's almost like a little college atmosphere. We have a group of 11 athletes all training together with the same goals and the same focus. It's been really nice. It's like a little college team that we have out here.
The weather is great; it rains a lot in the winter, but it's really mild and manageable for working out outside all the time. It's been a great transition.
Training probably takes up a lot of your time. Do you ever get to unwind and relax?
Usually after a big track season I'll have a couple weeks where I can unwind and not think about running for a while. So I've taken a couple trips with my husband to the coast quite a bit. You can be on the Pacific Coast in about an hour and half from where we live in Portland. Or you can drive the other direction and be in the mountains in an hour. We've been able to take a couple little vacations, and Oregon is just beautiful. Fortunately for us, we don't have to travel very far to get to experience cool stuff like that and unwind.
What would you say your favorite thing outside of running would be?
My favorite thing outside of running right now would be my dog. I adopted a dog a year ago, and I love just taking her to the park and playing with her, and she's just really active. That's been something that's been a good way to keep my mind off running. I love animals, and she keeps me busy.
In your most recent competition, you qualified for the 2012 London Olympics. Take me through your emotions of when it finally hit you that you were going to be an Olympic athlete.
It was kind of interesting, because the way it was this year was there were only four women in the field that had the Olympic A-standard. And if no one else ran the Olympic A-standard in the Olympic Trials, then those four would be going to London. And I knew one of those four was my teammate Shalane, and I knew she wasn't going to take the spot because she's doing the marathon.
Basically, long story short, we got halfway through the race, and I knew no one else was going to run the time that was needed to make the team, so I knew I just had to finish the race to be on there, to make the Olympic team. So, about four miles into the race, I knew I was going to make the team, that I was going to be an Olympian.
It was a weird way to go about it because four miles into it I was thinking "I'm on the team, I'm going to be an Olympian," and you can't let yourself celebrate it because you're still in the middle of a race. So, I really didn't let myself think about that moment until I crossed the finish line.
Once I got to the finish line, you think you'll feel this way or that way. I thought I would be crying and be a wreck, but I was so happy and so relieved because it's such a stressful experience. But, it was more of a relief more than anything. It still doesn't feel real. I think it'll feel more real once I get on the plane and go to London. It's unbelievable.
What are you looking forward to most about the Olympics?
I'm looking forward to being around a bunch of world-class athletes. Going to the Olympic Village and being in that atmosphere is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are only really two ways you get to represent your country, and that's to be an Olympian or to be in the military. So to be able to represent your country... Just that in itself is what I'm looking forward to. And putting on that jersey.