Lisa Uhl knew she was going to have to stop. The key was to stay composed and not freak out.
With a spot on the U.S. Olympic team on the line, Uhl, who is a Fort Dodge, Iowa, native, had to veer to the side of the track 1 mile into the 10,000 meters at the U.S. track trials in Eugene, Ore., last month to tie her shoe.
The stop cost her 30 seconds and a lot of ground to make up on the rest of the field.
“My hands were shaking the whole time,” said Uhl, who was a standout runner at Iowa State and was the 2010 Quad-City Times Bix 7 champion in her first real road race. “I had to keep telling myself that this is just another race, tie your shoe and get back with the pack.”
The mishap left Uhl with a time of 32 minutes, 3 seconds and a fourth-place finish, with the top three earning Olympic bids.
However, Natosha Rogers, who finished second in the event, hadn’t met the the “A” standard qualifying time, moving Uhl up a spot and sealing her first Olympic team bid in London.
“The trials were a stressful experience,” said Uhl, who was a three-time NCAA outdoor track champion at Iowa State while running under her maiden name of Koll. “I punched my ticket through everything. I’m just glad I got it.”
Uhl will walk in the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, and then compete in the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium on Aug. 3 — the first day of track and field competition.
“I think I can do really well in London, but at the same time I can take a little bit of that pressure off and really enjoy it and soak up the Olympic experience,” Uhl said. “I feel really good and I feel my best races are still ahead. I’m really looking forward to the Olympics and having that be my best race for my career.”
Uhl and her coach, Jerry Schumacher, still have yet to devise a race-day plan, but equalling her personal-best time of 31 minutes, 18 seconds and a top-10 finish in London are a couple of optimistic goals for the 24-year-old.
“For me, it’s about going in and competing and trying to get the highest finish possible,” Uhl said. “At this point in my career, it’s not realistic for me to think my goal is to go out and medal because that’s not where I’m at now in my career. Hopefully in four years, I will be.”
Uhl got her professional career off to a fast start, running one of her best races in Paris in 2010 before returning to the United States to win the Bix 7. However, a foot injury cost her about five weeks of training last year.
“Bix was amazing, it was so much fun,” Uhl said. “The support there was just unbelievable and gave me a taste of road racing, which is something I’m looking forward to do later in my career, including doing a marathon.”
But first things first — a trip to London without any mishaps.
“I changed out my laces,” Uhl said. “Those were my unlikely laces. I’ve been double-knotting and triple-knotting them. I think we will be fine from here on out.”
OLYMPIANS AT BIX
How members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team have fared in the Bix 7:
Meb Keflezighi — 1st in 2002, 3rd in 2003, 5th in 2006, 4th in 2007, 1st in 2009
Ryan Hall — 1st in 2010
Abdi Abdirahman — 2nd in 2002, 6th in 2011
WOMEN’S 5,000 METERS
Molly Huddle — 1st in 2009
Kim Conley — 8th in 2010
WOMEN’S 10,000 METERS
Lisa Koll Uhl — 1st in 2010
Amy Hastings — 2nd in 2010