The Olympian will rejoin her college coach in Ames.
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Coming off of a successful season where she made her first USA Olympic team and lowered her 10,000m personal best to 31:12.80, Lisa Uhl has decided to make a big change. She is leaving the Oregon Track Club Elite program in Portland under coach Jerry Schumacher and returning to Ames, Iowa, where she will rejoin her former Iowa State University coach Corey Ihmels. Uhl, 25, who grew up in Fort Dodge, about an hour’s drive from Ames, will train under Ihmels and also work for him as a volunteer assistant coach.
“I think a lot of people make changes after an Olympic year, and I think it’s a good time to risk if you think you need to change something,” Uhl said speaking on her mobile phone to Race Results Weekly from Portland last night. ”I think I’ve felt like I’ve needed to make a change for a little bit now, but I wanted to make sure I gave Jerry and Shalane (Flanagan) and the rest of the group a significant amount of time to make sure that it just wasn’t me being homesick, and to make sure it’s the right change and the right move because it’s a big change and a big decision.”
Uhl, then running under her maiden name Lisa Koll, won the NCAA titles at both 5,000m and 10,000m in 2010 and joined Schumacher’s group in Portland to train with Flanagan shortly thereafter. In her first race in an OTC kit at the University of Washington Indoor Preview Meet in January 2011, Flanagan paced Uhl to a personal best and facility record 8:53.14 over 3,000m. Uhl, who married Iowa State teammate Kiel Uhl one year ago, said she enjoyed training with Flanagan and that Schumacher taught her how to work even harder.
“Jerry, Shalane and the group have been nothing but supportive and great to me in my time in Portland,” Uhl explained. ”I’m very thankful for the time that I’ve had there. I think it just hasn’t been the right fit for me. It’s really hard to explain.”
Uhl struggled to find the words, but said she was struggling with an issue which is familiar to many Americans: trying to find the right work/life balance.
“I feel like I gave up being close to my family and a lot of other things involved in my life that weren’t revolving around running,” she said. ”I think taking balance out of my life has been difficult for me. I think I need to get back to a situation where I have more balance in my life outside of running and I think that will help me perform better athletically. I just really struggled trying to find happiness both personally and athletically out here. That has nothing to do with the group or the coaching; it’s just not the right fit for me.”
Also, Flanagan’s move to the marathon and the arrival of Kara Goucher in the group last year had also changed the direction of workouts towards marathon running (both Flanagan and Goucher are running the Boston Marathon next April). Uhl said she plans to continue to focus on the track and does not want to move to the marathon for at least a few years.
“Right now, Kara and Shalane have obviously been more marathon-focused, and I don’t want to do that for a few more years, at least,” Uhl said. ”So, I did end up doing a lot of training on my own here, but I was meeting up with them for easy runs every day. It wasn’t a lack of training partners or a feeling that I wasn’t fitting into the group. When I say it wasn’t the right fit, it’s not that I didn’t fit in with the people here, that I wasn’t accepted, or that I needed other training partners. It was more of the fit with the training.”
Uhl said that she and her husband have put their condominium on the market and on Sunday will begin the 28-hour drive to Ames. She said she plans to fly back to Portland later to fully empty their home after it is sold, but for now feels she needs to get to Iowa as soon as possible to start working with Ihmels because the NCAA cross country season is already in full swing.
“I’m really looking forward to that, being involved in something that isn’t purely focused on my own running, and kind of giving back to the university which gave me so much and so many opportunities,” she said.
Not surprisingly, Ihmels is thrilled to have his star athlete return to Ames.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have Lisa back in Ames and as part of our track and field and cross country staff here at Iowa State University,” Ihmels wrote in an e-mail to Race Results Weekly last night. ”She has meant so much to our program and to now be able to have her here on a daily basis will have a profound impact on all our student athletes. I am looking forward to the opportunity to coach Lisa and to continue the progress she has made since leaving Ames. I really feel she has a bright future and I can think of no better place to get that accomplished than Ames, Iowa.”
Looking ahead, Uhl said she planned to do at least one road race in the fall, and was particularly excited that the USA Outdoor Championships would be in Des Moines next year, just a half hour drive from Ames.
“I’m probably going to do some indoor meets, focus on getting a little more pop in my legs,” she said. ”Maybe U.S. Indoors, then focus on probably the five/ten double at USA’s in Des Moines, which is going to be great having it so close to home.”