Becoming an elite runner takes a lifestyle transformation that is hard to envision, but is achievable with the right mix of attributes.
It takes heart, dedication, competitiveness and the overwhelming desire to push yourself to the brink.
When Lisa Uhl (Koll) hit campus in Ames, it was all laid out for her - and there wasn't much in front of her that she wouldn't overcome.
"I think she was able to really concentrate on her running and academics in an environment that enabled her to excel,'' said Iowa State track and cross country coach Corey Ihmels. "She made a conscious decision to be the best distance runner possible, and did everything in her power to make that happen.
"She lived the lifestyle of an elite distance runner while here at Iowa State and committed herself to being the best she could be."
The biggest hurdle for Uhl was the step-up in training. While competing in high school, Uhl said she ran 40-to-45 miles a week. She made the jump to 60 her freshman season and wrapped up her career at 90 miles a week.
Uhl's personal competitive edge - and nature of being the best at the goal in front of her - helped buy into the Iowa State philosophy.
"She was very easy to coach,'' Ihmels said. "She bought into our system and did everything we asked her to do. She was willing to take some risks that enabled her to have some major breakthroughs while here at Iowa State.
"Although, we were very cautious with her while she was developing, we wanted to make sure she kept that fire and desire to win in her. She didn't go into things blindly, she understood the approach we were taking and we made sure that she had input in our training and racing.''
Uhl burst on to campus her freshman season, winning the Big 12 outdoor title in the 10,000 - the start of a record-breaking run at the distance.
By the time the Fort Dodge graduate had wrapped up at Iowa State, she rewrote the record books.
Uhl became the first woman in history to win four consecutive Big 12 conference titles in the same event (10,000 meters). She ended her career with nine Big 12 championships and was the 2009-10 Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year award.
"Lisa was always very competitive,'' Ihmels said. "I think one thing that she was able to do as she got older and more mature was channel the competitiveness and unleash that when it really counted. Her senior year here, she was able to train at a very high level without overdoing it and I think as the races came along that year, she was able to unleash the competitive spirit and it just steamrolled all the way into the summer.
"That is something I can't teach or coach, you either have it or you don't.''
The 11 time All-American was a four time NCAA champion and was named the 2010 Most Outstanding Big 12 Performer for Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
She was the top female collegiate track performer in 2010 and set the 10,000-meter record. Uhl was also a two-time athlete of the year at Iowa State (2008, '10).
On the academic side, she graduated from Iowa State (biology) in three years with a 3.9-plus GPA. She also completed two years of veterinarian school before becoming a professional athlete for Nike Corporation in Portland, Oregon in 2010.
The legacy that Uhl left at Iowa State will be hard to forget.
"Lisa will never be replaced, although her records may go away, the imprint she left on our program is here forever,'' Ihmels said. "She showed us all that the sky is the limit and that if you work very hard towards a goal, you can accomplish anything.
"Not only did she accomplish great things, but she did it with respect and dignity of her teammates, coaches and competitors.''