I've never had great luck travelling.
Things have definitely improved in the last four years, but the amount of times my flights are delayed, cancelled, or downsized, my bags are lost, or I'm simply unable to arrive at my destination within a 12-hour range of when I was supposed to has become somewhat of a family joke.
That's why it was no surprise that, when I started my "Olympic Journey" last Thursday morning, I managed to leave my precious pillow in the overhead bin on the plane from Victoria to Vancouver. Not so much bad luck as just irresponsibility on my part, but nonetheless, not a great start to my trip.
And yet, other than the plane commandeering my pillow, my travel has been fairly smooth. Our last stop on Canadian soil was Montreal for the Quebec Cup event - the meeting place for the Olympic team and our last competition before the Games.
Before the Canadian Olympic trials
, I kept trying to compare everything I did to how I did it four years earlier when I was preparing for the Beijing Games. I kept looking at splits in races and sets in practice and attempting to perform a convoluted math formula to predict how well I would swim based on how much I've improved.
Part of me knew that what I was doing was ridiculous. I didn't need
to feel the same way as I had four years earlier because I was trying to do something completely different.
Now, as the Olympics draw closer and closer, I catch myself doing the same thing. Four years ago, we swam at the nationals in Winnipeg before heading over to Singapore for staging camp. I swam really well in Winnipeg, winning all four of my events, and naturally this was in the back of my mind when I walked onto the deck at this year's event in Montreal. I wanted to swim fast, but not too fast yet.The first 50
But before I could let my mind spiral out of control with expectations for my pre-Olympic performances, I stopped and reminded myself that I had one goal for the Quebec Cup: practice the execution. What the clock said at the end of the race was less a predictor of my performance in London than how
I executed the swim.
This mindset was especially helpful when I woke up Friday morning at 6 a.m. and my body still thought it was in Victoria (we had flown in just the night before). A three-hour time difference is miniscule compared to some of the jet lag I've experienced in my world travels, but it's enough to make a difference. So, when I dove in for warm-up at 7 a.m. and it felt like 4 a.m., I forced myself to warm up as well as I could to try and shake the sleep out of my muscles.
After all, you never know how you'll feel when you wake up the morning of your event at the Olympic Games. You have to be prepared to race exhausted, or sore, or even - God forbid - sick.
My coach Randy Bennett told me that my focus for my races at the Quebec Cup should be my speed in the first 50 metres. I've been working tirelessly on increasing my stroke rate (the amount of strokes you take in a cycle) while still maintaining my strength under the water.
I had a great morning swim in the 100-metre freestyle, clocking a fast 55.4 for my first 50. Considering my body wanted to be in bed rather than the pool, I took this as a good sign for the finals. Unfortunately, my final time was about the same, which was disappointing, albeit understandable since I'm not rested yet. My mom's whistle
I won the 100-metre freestyle, but was disappointed when I saw the time. But those negative feelings were quickly forgotten when I heard a familiar sound: my mom's whistle.
Before I go any further, I must digress: my mom has the most recognizable whistle in the world, hands down. When I was a little girl and my sister and I would be out playing several blocks away from home, my mom would just have to go out on the porch and whistle for us when dinner was ready or it was time to wash up for bed. We heard it every time and would come running without fail. To this day, I can pick out my mom's whistle anywhere, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard it from the stands after my race, even though I expected to have no family in Montreal watching me.
Turns out, two days before the meet, my mom said to my sister, "I should just go to Montreal and watch Julia race." My sister - who was also a swimmer - thought it was a great idea and convinced my mom to hop on the train from Stratford, Ont., so she could come see me.
I haven't seen my family since the Olympic trials at the end of March, so it was such an awesome surprise to have her there. Plus, when she found out about my missing pillow, she insisted on helping me find a replacement so I could be comfortable during my Olympic staging camp and in the village in London.
So what did she do? She didn't just buy me a pillow. She bought four (!) pillows, so I could choose one that felt closest to the one I had lost. She maintains that we needed new pillows at the house anyway, so that's why she bought extras, but I think it's just because she's the kind of mom who really "gets it." She may not know any of my best times, but she doesn't think I'm a diva when I freak out about losing my pillow. As "mothers of Olympians" go, she is definitely one of the best (if not the
With my support team in the stands, I swam the last two days of the meet and was fairly satisfied with the times I posted. I had some speed, but there's still a lot to come when I start to taper. I'm really excited to see what I can do in the 100-metre backstroke now that, for the first time in my swimming career, I have one clear focus
On Monday, I packed up all my gear and got on a plane to Sardinia (just off the coast of Italy) for our pre-Olympic camp. It's hot, sunny, and fairly secluded: perfect for our last two weeks of preparation. Now, just like before the Olympic trials, it's time to stay healthy, strong and positive.
The grind is officially over, and the "waiting game" has begun.
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