Commonwealth Games Blogs

Pan Pacs highlight jam-packed summer

It's only been a week since the final day of the Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., but it's been a busy one.

With the Commonwealth Games coming up in just over a month, I, for the first time, had no summer vacation. Well, technically that's not true. I took a summer vacation on Monday, Aug. 23rd. Come Tuesday afternoon it was back to the pool at Saanich Commonwealth Place in Victoria, and back to the grind.

But, even without a break, I am more motivated than ever, thanks to the successful weekend I had in Irvine. Also, my mom flew out from Ontario to visit me. She cooked me dinners, filled my fridge and stocked my apartment with necessities like laundry detergent and garbage bags. It was so wonderful to relax and let myself be "taken care of."

Before Pan Pacs started, I was feeling a little bit unsure of myself. A rarity, considering I am pretty good at getting amped for big international competitions. But I had just switched training programs after graduating from Texas A&M University in May. Since my new coach, Randy Bennett, and I are still trying to figure each other out, I honestly had no idea how I was going to swim. So I decided to just step up and see what I could do rather than putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself. When I am confident and relaxed, I swim my best. Since I was struggling with confidence, I worked on the relaxation part.

It definitely paid off.  

Broken nail, broken record

Randy and I decided that I would only swim three individual events. That's a lot fewer than the six I swam, including relays, at the 2008 Olympics, where I exhausted myself trying to do a huge load. I decided to swim the 50- and 100-metre backstrokes in Irvine as a lead-up to my main event, the 200-metre individual medley, which fell on the final day.

Julia Wilkinson set a personal best and Canadian record in the 200 IM at this year's Pan Pac championships in California. (Bret Hartman/Swimming Canada)
On the first morning, I woke up feeling excited for the 100 back. My stroke had been feeling fast in practice and, unlike the previous summer when I was still dealing with the repercussions from shoulder surgery, I was actually able to train properly for the race. But, once I reached the ready room, my nerves kicked into top gear and I was sick in some bushes around the corner.

Unpleasant as it was, it paid off. I had a great morning swim that qualified me for the final. At night, I managed to relax a little bit more and keep my stomach in check. I came out fifth, only a tenth of a second off my personal-best time. Now that we can't use polyurethane suits, it's extremely exciting to be close to or faster than your best times. I felt my confidence flooding back.

In the 50 backstroke, I broke my Canadian record in the morning, but also broke one of my red and white acrylic nails when I touched the wall. But, hey, a lost nail is definitely worth a best time in my book!

At night, I botched my start and ended up seventh in the final. Not what I wanted, but now I know what to fix. When I returned to Victoria after the meet, Randy had me working on my starts.  

Exiled to Texas

My best race came on the last day in the 200 IM. That's my best event. My "baby." I was in the fastest heat in the morning and came second to world record holder Ariana Kukors of the U.S. I was only a tenth off my Canadian-record and personal-best time of 2:12.03 - a time I hadn't come close to matching since I set it at the 2008 Olympics, prior to my shoulder injury. More importantly, I was going into the final seeded third.

For the first time in my life, I was in medal contention at an international competition. I handled the pressure well, but unfortunately was out-touched for the bronze medal. On the bright side, I did come home with a big best time - and new Canadian record - of 2:11.31. Plus, seeing my disappointment in not receiving one of the Pan Pacific teddy bears that were distributed with the medals, my good friend and teammate Ryan Cochrane gave me the one he got for winning the men's 800-metre freestyle. I'll just have to wait for the Commonwealth Games to get a medal to go with it.

The freestyle relays that I was a part of were also a blast. We raced well against the Americans and Aussies to come third in the 800 freestyle relay, and also picked up a bronze and new Canadian record in the 400 freestyle relay. Big props to Genevieve Saumur for her final leg that almost caught the Australian team. Don't worry, Gen, we'll get 'em in Delhi!  

Next week will be a heavy and hard week of training in Victoria. Then, on Saturday morning, I'm off to Texas to train for a little over a week while Saanich Commonwealth Place is closed for annual maintenance. It will also be nice to visit my former coach, teammates and see my boyfriend, who has been all over the United States this summer playing in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Don't worry, just because I'm out of the country doesn't mean I'm on vacation. I'll be training hard so that I can lower my IM record even more and get up on that podium in Delhi!

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