Rachel Francois has started her third year competing for the University of Victoria Vikes in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport). She is a member of both the cross-country and track team, but specialises primarily in the 800 metre distance.
Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Francois converted exclusively to running after grade 10 having played primarily soccer until then. During high school she competed in the sprints, mostly in the 400m distance.
Perennially, the Vikes are one of the most competitive teams in the CIS and for the 2013 cross-country and 2014 track seasons are expected to finish top-three nationally.
400m – 55.01
600m – 1:29.69
800m – 2:03.47
1500m – 4:55.56 (2009)
Christopher Kelsall: Your sister has joined you in Victoria this year. How cool is that?
Rachel Francois: It’s been amazing for both of us. We’ve been talking about her coming out here since I moved from Alberta so for it to actually be happening is awesome. Although she’s battling some injuries that have carried with her from before, having this training environment has had tons of benefit and I can see that…which makes me very happy. We’re very close so it’s nice to be able to see her face to face instead of Skype, plus she’s fitting in with our team so well.
CK: Are your parents athletes?
RF: Yep, both of them! My mom used to be a middle-distance runner (mostly 1500 metres), and my dad was a 200 metre sprinter. It really helped growing up having two athletes who love the sport as much as I do, and also truly understand it.
CK: What other sports were you into while growing up in Edmonton?
RF: I played soccer up until grade 10, but it was too much of a commitment to do both track and soccer so I made the decision to focus on track. I also played a little bit of rugby in junior high (flag rugby) but I wasn’t allowed to continue to play regular rugby in high school for obvious reasons.
CK: Soccer season in Edmonton is spring and summer, yes?
RF: Yep! Well winter as well, I played indoor 7v7 too.
RF: Outside midfield.
CK: Here is an easy one, Oilers rule, Flames?
CK: What are you taking at UVic?
RF: I’m majoring in history, minoring in journalism!
CK: From your perspective as an athlete, was your European tour this summer an eye-opener?
RF: It was just what I needed to grow as an athlete. This summer was pretty rough battling a stress fracture and trying to come back and race fast, so once I knew I was fit enough to put something together, Europe was a bonus! The fact that I didn’t have anything to qualify for let me race without pressure and fully take in the experience. I learned so much, about the travel aspect of racing as well as racing against a nice mix of new and familiar competition. The group I was travelling with was a lot of fun too…I learned a lot from them. The trip really gave me some motivation for the upcoming outdoor season and really showed me why I love this sport.
CK: You were travelling with Diane Cummins, Geoff Harris, Lemlem Bereket and others? Who else was in the group?
RF: The Speed River group was also in Leuven at the same time, and a group of Americans as well such as Charles Jock and Cory McGee.
CK: What were some memorable experiences in racing as well as touring around?
RF: The races itself were awesome. I loved the atmosphere! Spectators were drinking beer as they watched the races which was pretty cool. I met a lot of people while I was there and there was a day where Geoff and I took a train to check out Amsterdam and walk around. It was so hot there though…about 35-38 degrees the whole time so it was hard to do stuff without exhausting ourselves. Very fun trip though! I Drank LOTS of great coffee.
CK: From the trip did you take away any good racing lessons?
RF: I’ve learned how to prepare for a race under travelling conditions, given the time change, long plane ride, and hot weather…all of those factors. I found it really hard to adjust with the jet lag for my first race and wasn’t sure how I’d feel. Sure enough, I felt like garbage, but having Heather Henniger there with me was such a great help by helping me learn how to deal with that.
CK: Your 800m personal best is 2:03.47 from March 2013. What are your expectations for the 2014 outdoor season?
RF: I guess first is to stay injury free! I’d like to drop down my personal best quite a bit, hopefully dip down into the 2.01 club. The loftiest goal is to qualify for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and also to compete at NACAC Championships in Kamloops.
CK: Can you describe a typical week of training? And what volume of mileage are you up to?
RF: I keep my volume pretty low, and my quality high. In base season I’ve been doing workouts with the cross-country girls, but doing a significantly lower volume in long runs and recovery runs, as well as keeping my weight sessions consistent. I don’t really know what mileage I’ve been running since I don’t own a Garmin…what a terrible distance runner I am! But I usually keep my volume at around 4-4 ½ hours a week at most.
CK: Well just tell people you are a recently converted 400m runner and you can’t get lost on the track.
RF: Exactly! My teammates call me “the sprinter”…
CK: Are you a full-on 800m runners now, or will you venture back into the 400 in the future?
RF: The 400 is a blast (feels short for me!), and great for training, but I am definitely focused on the 800. Maybe relays though!
CK: Vikes are known as a tight team. How close are you?
RF: I think of them as my second family! I’m pretty lucky to be a part of a team this close. Having a smaller team who all trains together makes that even more possible. I felt that kind of energy in my recruiting trip before I moved out here and it was a big factor in aiding my decision to move out here and join this team.
CK: Anyone with odd quirks that you want to reveal?
RF: Hmm…well I’m obsessed with Whitney Houston, Beyonce, all of the divas. They’re often in my warm-up playlists.
CK: You let your teammates off easy. You mentioned coffee earlier. Victoria seems fairly spoiled in good coffee houses. Which are some of your favourites?
RF: So many!! Caffe Fantastico is my favourite, as well as Discovery in Oak Bay. Habit in downtown is great as well. In my mind, my day hasn’t really started until I’ve had coffee.
CK: How do you feel about your first cross race of the season at Santa Clara University?
RF: It was fun!! It was actually the second, I raced in Bellingham last weekend but that was run much more reserved…getting a feel for just how long 6km is. The race in Santa Clara was just about as perfect of a 6km race that you could get for a track lover like me. It was flat!! It’s interesting, running cross-country…it’s just so out of my comfort zone that every race is like a mental battle the entire way around. It is so long, but surprisingly fun at the same time. I haven’t adjusted my training much to compete in cross but has been really good at toughening myself up while getting a really good base in, and really makes me appreciate the two laps of the 800m.
The team ran really well! We had five girls competing, and all of us were a minute apart from each other. I really felt like we worked well as a team and all of us were under 22 minutes which we were really happy with!
CK: For long-term goals, will you continue to seek standards once you are beyond varsity? Would you consider yourself a lifestyle runner?
RF: Most definitely! My sights are set on World Championships and the Olympics.