2016 Olympic Trials Results
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Leah Falland Gazelle Elite Racing Team
In Her Words
(listen to Leah’s full audio below)
Hey, David, thanks for doing this. This is a really cool project.
I think one of the biggest things that stood out to me after the trials was that, like, there are just so many different narratives and so many different stories of people who have worked really hard. And obviously, the top three in each event have a really great day. But everyone else kind of has a hard day. And my day was definitely hard at the Olympic trials.
Yea h. And it’s crazy that it has been four years. A lot has changed for me since then. I’m married. I moved across the country and back and have been in multiple different training situations since then. I’m now coached by Dathan Ritzenhein making a big move soon. I bought a dog after the trials. Honestly, because I was really sad after the trials and I was like, it’s time to get a puppy. And I got Harper, who’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
She’s an amazing, amazing dog.
Yeah, it’s just. Is it. I don’t really know where to begin because when I look at those pictures, there’s just so much emotion that surfaces. And, you know, some of it’s relief that I’m not I’m not the version of myself that I see in those pictures anymore. But then I also kind of mourn for that season of my life because it was it was just really hard. I’ll try to keep this brief. But like five months or five months, five weeks before the Olympic trials, I like had run a 918 at the pre classic and steeple.
And my foot started to hurt when I came back to Michigan and I got an MRI and I had partially torn my plantar fascia, my right foot, which is a huge bummer because my options were to either basically take time off and forgo the Olympic trials, which I had obviously worked very hard for. Or I could, according to doctors, keep training on my foot. It was just a matter of like how much pain I could withstand.
So I’m pretty bullheaded and I just was so locked in. And then you have contract stuff in different, you know, factors kind of pushing you toward competing. So I just decided, you know what, I’m going to send it and I’m gonna see what happens. I ended up supplementing a lot on the altar G and was getting a lot of treatment on my foot and, you know, doing what I could.
But it hurt really badly. I mean, every run, the first 10 to 15 minutes, I was just kind of limping on this foot until it warmed up and the pain never really went away and. Yeah, I also felt obligated to hide it from the vast majority of people because I didn’t want my competitors or people watching to discount me before the race even started. And so it was just strange. I showed up to the Olympic trials and I was really scared and, like, stressed.
And that’s not how you want to feel. Before the Olympic trials. But I was there. So I raised my prelim. And I think that’s the first picture where I’m standing alone. And I won the prelim and came home back to the hotel that night and I couldn’t put weight on my foot. And it was very painful. And I got some help from the doctors at St. Vincent and they worked on my foot. And I went back to my bed and my parents brought me pasta.
And I just, like, watched TLC and ate pasta in my bed and thought, “This isn’t good.This is really bad.”
But I fell asleep, woke up the next day and the coaches at Oregon let me get on their Alter G underneath the stands at Hayward. There was a down day at the trial, so I tried to run on the altar g and I could only run at like 30 percent of my body weight and got pretty scared cause that’s not great. And my foot was real sore. So I, you know, was contemplating pulling out of the final.
But eventually I was just like, you know what, I’m here. And the doctors basically that I talked to you were like, it’s just it’s pain, you know, it’s just a matter of how much pain you can withstand and hopefully it doesn’t rupture in the race. And so I just decided hopefully adrenalin would kick in. And I raced in the final and I remember it was rainy and like kind of a, I don’t know, a gloomy day.
And I thought, oh, gosh, this isn’t going well, it’s just going to add to sadness.
But I, like, slipped coming off of one of the water barriers and kind of came down on my foot hard and I felt it pop. And then I kept racing and I was kind of keeping in the top three, just like within striking distance. But slowly but surely, I felt my body just like start saying, nope, we’re not doing this. And I was in a lot of pain. And I genuinely don’t remember, like, the last bits of that race.
I think I was like near last like I went from the top three to like one of the last people in the race. And I don’t recall finishing it, but yeah, it was strange. I’ve never had an experience like that. Like, my body just kind of shut me down and they carted me over to a medical tent. I think what the second picture where I’m with my former teammate Katie Landwehr and an MSU alumn, Nicole Bush, they were walking me through the media tent, like making me laugh somehow, which was so sweet.
And I was thankful to have them there that whole time because they knew what was going on, obviously with my foot.
But there was a lot of emotion that I didn’t show to, especially the cameras for some reason. I don’t know. It was it’s strange when you’re that stressed like, I just felt like I had to maintain this stoic, like, happy image. And now looking back and like, I don’t know why I wasn’t just more honest. But when I got to the medical tent, that’s when I kind of, like, broke down. My parents came in and I just cried.
I remember just sobbing.
And then when I got my MRI basically that night that basically told me I had ruptured it completely, which, you know, is painful. They put me in a boot and gave me crutches and I couldn’t put any weight on it. And I just like went back and, you know, after the Olympic Trials typically that’s when people are celebrating and going out to bars and having fun with each other and I was, you know, lying face down on the carpet in my room just crying.
And I hate saying that now because it’s just, like, so sad.
But it was just like not a great experience and flew home early and just took some downtime and healed up.
But I mean, I vowed to myself I would be back. And when I do come back, the Olympic trials, I want it to be kind of like a celebration of the work that I’ve done and the amount of stuff that I’ve gone through to get back to a healthy place with running. And I will not go back injured and I will not go back and be stressed and scared and like, I want it to be a fun experience. And so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to go back and do it again.
And I mean, obviously, I was sad to not make the Olympic team, but I think the thing that made me more sad was just the lack of fun that I had with it. And I think, you know, there are just so many like these opportunities are very limited and I don’t I don’t want to have the life sucked out of it like that again. So, yeah, I mean, I’m just I feel like I’m a different person now.
Totally different place. And I can’t wait to go back with my husband and like to celebrate it, if, you know that all comes together and. Yeah. It’s it’s interesting. It’s kind of fun to look back after four years because I’ve learned so much. And as weird as it is, I’m thankful for that experience at this point. And I’ve grown a lot from it.
So, yeah, thanks.