Leading up to the 2011 Canadian Cross Country Championships, LondonRunner.ca will be profiling several top LRDC athletes by taking a look at their fall season and inquiring about their expectations for the big day on November 26th. Leslie Sexton is the 2011 Canadian 5,000m Champion, along with other victories including the Scotiabank Half-Marathon. She represented Canada at the 2008 World University (FISU) Cross Country Championships.
LondonRunner.ca: How has your training gone so far this fall?
Leslie Sexton: Since August I have had my best and most consistent block of training ever. Leading up to the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon on October 16th, I had several weeks totalling 175 km or more and I had some good long-distance focused workouts such as threshold workouts and long steady runs. Since the half marathon, I have worked on speed and sharpening and I have done more cross country specific workouts. My half marathon focus leading into Toronto has improved my strength over the longer distances, so I feel fit and confident as I head into my taper.
LR: What will be your biggest races leading into Canadian XC? How have they gone so far?
LS: My focus for most of my fall buildup was the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon on October 16th. I went into the Toronto half with the goal of running 1:16:30 and I was happy to have run very close to that (1:16:32) on a windy day. I have run a few half marathons before, but this was the first time I had trained specifically for it. Hitting my goal after putting in months of hard work throughout the fall felt great. Another important race for me was the Athletics Ontario Cross Country Championships on November 13th, where I placed second in the senior women’s race. I felt that this was one of my best cross country races in the past few years. That race gave me confidence, knowing that I could really roll on cross country terrain. I had to battle a fierce wind in that race, too, so if it’s really windy on race day in Vancouver I should be extra-prepared.
LR: What has been your best performance at Canadian XC?
LS: I was 17th last year at Canadian XC, which was my best (and only) performance as a senior. Prior to last year, I hadn’t run Canadian XC since high school. My best placing as a junior was 55th in 2003. As for a team performance, I have yet to run on a senior women’s team. Hopefully we can put a team together for next year.
LR: What are your expectations for November 26th?
LS: Pain and suffering. Seriously though, I think I am ready to have a great race at Canadian XC. I know that I am in the best shape of my life. I’m anxious to race on fresh legs and get in the mix with Canada’s top distance women. I plan on continuing to do what I’ve done all year at championships and big races: run smart, finish strong, and take some scalps.
LR: Is there anything special you plan on doing during your stay in Vancouver?
LS: Well, I plan on being pretty lazy for the first two days. On the day before my race in Toronto, Kate Vaughan kept laughing at me because I would always insist on taking the elevator instead of walking up a flight or two of stairs. Even though I was only racing the half, I wanted to rest like a marathoner. In Vancouver, I plan on jogging the course as a shakeout run, but other than that I’m going to be boring and lazy. However, I will be staying in Vancouver for a few days after the race, so I will have a chance to see some of the city and have some fun.
LR: Having the goal of contending to make the Canadian XC team, how does that affect your mindset heading into Nationals?
LS: To be honest, my goals and mindset heading into Canadian XC would be the same. I will need to be in the top eight to be eligible for selection to the Canadian XC team competing in the NACAC cross country championships. This might provide some extra motivation to finish within the top eight, but regardless I want to finish as high up as I can amongst the top cross country runners in Canada.
LR: Do you think the 7k distance in Vancouver will seem short, given your recent focus the Half-Marathon?
LS: It will feel short, but I’m sure the race will be just as tough. After racing the half in Toronto, it took some time for me to get used to running between 5k and 10k pace. In the first week or two I was definitely still in distance donkey-mode, so I felt like I was sprinting in cross country workouts. Since then I’ve become a bit more comfortable at that pace. I definitely prefer the longer distances, but I still love the challenge that cross country offers.