Monday, December 21, 2009

Just another practice session

I can't believe that I haven't written for over a month but then again I didn't have much to write about until last week. I have been trying to learn new things so that I can pass my bronze freestyle test. This includes several stunts that I still can't do such as back three turns, a backspin, a good toe loop and a good Salchow. While I had a breakthrough last month with the Salchow while in Lake Placid, until last week I just kept practicing and not progressing very much with any of my new maneuvers. I seem to just keep making the same mistakes over and over and not getting anywhere. This is really frustrating with the back threes since I know I could do them when I was a kid but my body has retained absolutely no memory of them. The backspin is another story. I never learned these as a kid so it is all new to me. I just keep reminding myself how long it took me to get a good front spin and figure that the backspin will take just as long if not longer since I never did them before. Therefore, I am a bit more patient with that one.

The only things that have marginally improved is my sit spin which is finally becoming somewhat consistent (meaning I can usually pull a decent one off during most practice session unless I'm having an unusually bad day) and I'm doing better at actually jumping during the Salchow. Not to be confused with a good jump; jumping for me is that I actually manage to get air time between the take off and landing rather then stepping through the jump. This frustrates my coach to no end. As soon as she tries to "fix" my jump by giving me instructions it rapidly deteriorates back to the no air time variety. I was petrified of jumping when I was a kid and that was when I weighed about 1/3 of what I do now and was much closer to the ice so the falls weren't as much of a disaster as they are now. Falls seem to be infinitely more painful now that I am an adult. Even though I have more padding this also means I have more mass and further to fall. Being an engineer I also understand that this means that there is much more force to dissipate through my body when I actually do hit the ice. I have enough aches and pains as it is without adding nasty falls to the list of injuries. My fear of falling has intensified now that I am an adult. It often makes me question my sanity of taking up figure skating as a sport. I guess we can't always choose what we fall in love with. This sheer utter terror of falling has been detrimental to my jump practice. I have gone slow. Really slow. For a long time I would only jump when I was on weekend ice so if I broke something my friends and my coach would be there to help me. Now at least I can jump Salchows and Waltz jumps where ever and when ever I want. They just aren't pretty but at least I am practicing them each time I get on the ice. I guess this should be considered a major accomplishment on my part.

So a month goes by, my backspins still grind to a halt after the entrance three turn, I double foot my back three turns and I still can't do a "good" Salchow. I haven't even gotten to the toe loop yet. So what changed? Why am I writing? I had a good lesson last week. I had two small triumphs. My coach had me do a long, LONG, three turn practice. First she fixed my forward threes since I tend to pitch forward on push off. That was a simple weight transfer problem. I had my weight even between both feet before launch but it turns out that my weight needs to be all on my push off foot and then quickly transferred to my skating foot. This keeps my upper body still. Woohoo. Forward three fixed. Now I just have to practice a lot so I get some body memory for them. Then we started on the back threes. This was much harder. My free leg was all over the place. I can't seem to lock my knees together to keep the free leg still during the turn. The big reveal happened when I accidentally saw my reflection in the glass of the hockey barrier and noticed that I stuck my hip out horribly coming out of the apex of the turn. I had no idea I was doing this. Once I paid attention to keeping my upper body position then the turn was infinitely easier. I still two footed it after the turn but it was much closer to happening than my klutzy prior attempts. As soon as we switched to the other side I managed a good one on the first try! Huzzah!!

A half hour had gone by already. We moved on to spins. I did two scratch spins with no problem. They weren't centered as much as I like but she was happy with them. I tried a couple of camels which didn't go as well. It was a bad camel day for me and these spins are not even close to being consistent yet. She had a minor correction for me but that didn't fix the spin I still fell off my inside edge since I wasn't balanced over my blade. I did a sit spin for her which was great. She said it looked good and she had no corrections other than working on getting lower on the supporting leg. This is a high compliment from her. Then she had me try something new. A camel sit combination. I had never ever done one of these before even as a kid. She had to teach me how to transition from the camel position with my leg sticking out behind me to the sit position with the leg in front while keeping my balance and keeping the rotations going. The key is going slowly. I went into a marginal camel spin which I knew I couldn't hold for long so after two revolutions I started the transition to the sit. It went flawlessly! I was so excited that I only managed two revolutions in the sit before I bounced up, stuck my toe pick in the ice to stop the spin and wave my arms wildly in the air. She was amused. I skated over to the boards all excited and she just looked at me and said that I need three revolutions in each position. "I know but I DID IT!!!" The Zamboni chased us off the ice. I was so excited that all day at random I would turn to my husband and say "I did a camel sit today!" Now I just need to get some more practice in so I can perfect things.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Excitment and Frustration

While I was in Lake Placid for Skate America, I also got in some ice time of my own. I managed to squeeze in a little over three hours of practice but the real bonus was the half hour lesson. I love the coach I see up there. We are so on the same wavelength. We actually trained together as kids growing up on Cape Cod. We even had the same coach at one point but she went on to skate at the national level while I ended up quitting the sport. Anyway, within a half hour she had me jumping the Salchow and Toe Loop; she fixed my change edge spiral and we worked on the change edge patch figure.

Skating up there was magical as always. It is so exciting to be on Olympic ice. To be skating in the same rinks as Sonja Henie, Scott Hamilton and Evan Lysacek. Way cool. The first day on the ice was so so. I was out of practice and my muscles couldn't do anything but Brian Orser greeted my mom and I as we got on the ice, "Good Morning Ladies!" Cool! He is a cutie! The second day was my lesson and I had plenty of sleep the night before so I was raring to go. The lesson went great. I was skating well and fast and coordinated. I showed my mom the start to my program which she liked. I almost crashed into an elite dance team after they did a violent lane change and headed straight for me (they split apart at the last minute and went around me but it was a close one). I skated for over an hour and a half and loved every minute of it. The third day I only lasted a half hour. I was pooped from the day before but I wanted to go over the stuff from my lesson so it would stick in my head and muscles. Tired but happy I left the ice to the younger more elite competitors.

Now the reason I bring this up weeks later is that today I had my first private lesson since I got back from LP. I have been practicing my Salchow every time I get on the ice. I have been practicing it in my head before I go to sleep at night. The main thing Robin taught me was the timing of the Salchow: outside edge, inside edge, hook, jump. A nice steady 1, 2, 3, 4 pace. So before I fall asleep at night I am reciting "outside, inside, hook, jump". After two weeks of physical and mental practice I got to do them for my coach today. Once I got over my abject fear of jumping by doing a few along the boards I landed several out on the ice surface. She slowed me down a bit more but didn't have any other corrections. She was quite happy with it which shocked the hell out of me. She always has corrections. I am amazed. We moved on to the Toe Loop jump which didn't go as well but I haven't been practicing that as diligently. She corrected several items but then was fairly happy with it. I did a Camel spin for her which have been driving me batty but I hit this one fine and spun for several rotations before doing a nice scratch spin out of it. She told me again that she had nothing to correct. Another shock. This spin isn't consistent for me yet. I miss it more often than hitting it but I seem to be able to pull off at least a couple each time I'm on the ice if I am skating okay. She had more corrections for the sit spin which I had been doing really well yesterday. I did pull off a couple that she was happy with.

I wasn't so lucky with the back spin. This one is going to take some time. If I use the inside three turn as the entrance I just seem to grind to a halt rather than spin. I have better luck doing a change foot attitude spin and can eek out several backward rotations before putting my foot down. I actually managed the requisite three full rotations on one occasion which I have not been able to repeat since. When I start getting annoyed with myself I just remind myself how long it took me and how much diligent practice it took me to get a good forward spin. It will take as much time to do the back one. I have to get used to balancing on the ball of my foot just letting the toe rake scrape the ice while maintaining a back outside edge; all while the arms, torso and free leg work in perfect coordination and timing. This is going to take some serious ice time. It is a combination of learning the balancing, acquiring the fine muscle control in the foot and also getting the timing right of everything else which is just a long process. She told me that when I master it I will probably enjoy spinning backwards more than forwards. Apparently this a preference of most athletes. One extra obstacle I am trying to overcome is that I never ever learned this as a kid so it is totally new to me unlike the forward spin which I was actually quite proficient at and even had a nice layback when I was a kid. Patience. This is going to take a while.

The same with my three turns. I swing them. It is supposed to be a slight twitch of the shoulders and I use my whole body for the turns. The back threes are frustrating me to no end. I managed to do some in LP during summer camp but I haven't been able to do them for months no matter how much I practice them. I know I have been doing something horribly wrong but without a coach watching me and fixing me they have deteriorated rather than improved. We spent a lot of time on back threes today. She got so frustrated with me. "It is a simple movement," she kept telling me. Just the shoulder twitch. "Nothing else moves. Hold everything else still." Then I try it again, I swing something and end up pitching forward at the waist and putting my foot down after the turn. I just don't do them well. I am trying to overcome 30+ years of bad habits here. If I don't practice even the forward threes they quickly deteriorate into swinging uncontrolled messy turns. I have to make these a regular part of my practice to make them improve rather than deteriorate.

As my friend was saying today "skating is hard". I totally agree with her but that is why it is so exciting when you can finally do something well. When something is mastered it gives you real pleasure to perform it. I try to make my practices a mixture of things I can do well, things in process and things I can't do yet at all. This balances out the frustration with some excitement and flat out fun.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Skating Gods

Anyone that skates understands that the figure skating gods are a fickle bunch at best. One day you can do a perfect camel the next day you can barely center a scratch spin and this happens for no apparent reason. You just have bad skating days. Somehow you inadvertently offended one of the skating gods. Of course where I skate the lesser gods inhabit our rink. They sometimes bestow a perfectly centered spin on you or an amazing wipe out while doing a simple three turn but mostly they ignore us. The Olympic skating gods however are much worse. Two international level top skaters will do the same jump, one lands it perfectly and the second cleans the ice with their butt. They can both do the jump or they wouldn't be in the competition in the first place. It is just that one is in favor with the gods that day and the other is not.

I was at Lake Placid for the Skate America competition. This is the first high level competition that I have gone to. I was very excited and got to see the Olympic skating gods in action. Brandon Mroz was one of their toys over the weekend. He landed everything in practice. He did okay during his short program but his long program was a complete and utter disaster. I don't think he landed a single jump in his program. I felt so bad for him. The gods had it out for him for sure. It isn't like he can't skate. During his practice he did a wonderful job. The Olympic gods just decided to mess with him that day. Rachael Flatt and Evan Lysacek however were in their favor this weekend. They both skated wonderfully. Rachel skated a perfect long program and Evan a perfect short program and a near perfect long program. Rachael even beat out Yu-Na Kim in the long. But the gods had favored Yu-Na the day before with a perfect short program so she got the gold medal.

But the gods decided to chase one of the Russian competitors down and take him out. Again the kid skated well in practice but dumped his jumps during the competition. If he didn't finish last he was dam close to the bottom. Once he was done he went out drinking. As if this wasn't bad enough, he then went out and found a car with the keys still in it (this is Lake Placid after all and people still leave their keys in their cars) and went for a drive. After the police caught up with him, he landed in jail for car theft and drunk driving. The Russian team left without him while he sat in jail waiting for a court hearing. He may get the charges dropped but the gods were not done with him yet. The Russian Skating Federation has banned him from competition for one year so he is going to miss the Olympics. The Olympic skating gods can be a mean lot when you piss them off.

I have felt their touch when I skate in LP. I seem to skate better and faster when I am up there. I am more daring but also fall more often. Their touch is feather light but always present. I truly hope I never anger them but I still have no idea how to appease them.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What is up with Wednesdays?

I performed boot surgery last Saturday afternoon. Sunday I went skating to try them out. Normally I don't skate two days in a row never mind three. My muscles typically don't have the stamina and my performance degrades each day that I'm on the ice. However, with the new arch supports in the boots and the tongues fitting much better I skated wonderfully. My figure eights were better, my three turns were easier and I managed my first perfect camel spin as an adult. I must admit it surprised me. I didn't think I did anything different but here I was spinning fast and easily, arms and free leg parallel to the ice. I wasn't slowing down either. I lost count of my revolutions after four. I was totally blown away by how easy the spin felt. I finally came out of it and ended the spin with a perfect scratch spin. I looked down and all the loops of the tracing were contained in a space of a dinner plate. You couldn't tell how many revolutions since it was centered so well. Wow! That is what it feels like! Amazing! Please let me be able to do that again some time soon!

As is my wont, I did my lower body weight lifting workout on Monday instead of skating. It kills me to loose a day of ice training but I know the weight lifting is doing me good. My legs are stronger, my knees are doing better and tolerating the abuse of ice skating much better than they used to, and my core is getting stronger so I can hold myself erect more easily. As an added bonus I seem to be dropping inches off my waist if not pounds off my scale weight. In general, lifting weights has improved my skating. However, it seems to have wrecked havoc on my Wednesday skate. After being able to skate wonderfully this past Sunday I get on the ice on Wednesday and can't even center a simple scratch spin. I have to go back to basic figures to get my edge control back. Then I slowly work up the difficulty scale and work on spinning from a standstill, simple spirals and spread eagles before moving on to spinning from speed. I am a wreck. I can't center anything even from a standstill. If I manage something resembling a centered spin and I try it from speed it has a three foot long trail instead of neatly turning on top of itself. OMG, why is it so hard to skate on Wednesdays? This isn't an isolated incident. It happens every week. The only thing I can attribute it to is the weight lifting.

Now I know that, in weight lifting, in order for the muscle to get the idea that it needs to grow, and hence get stronger, you need to damage the poor unsuspecting sod. So you go into the weight room and literally rip up your muscles until they can't lift any more. Then you take a day or two off, eat lots of food that is good for you, get lots of rest and voila new muscle mass is born. Turns out that I must need to teach the new muscles how to skate on Wednesdays. The old muscles haven't shown them a thing. They must be tired from being beaten up on Monday and don't feel like talking with the new kids on the block (leg, arm, torso..). By the weekend everyone seems to be getting along again and skating progress can be made.

But now, instead of loosing one day of training due to weight lifting I really am loosing two days since Wednesday is remedial day. I can't quit weight lifting. It really is doing me a lot of good. I am particularly impressed with how well my knees are doing with the new routine. I just have to accept the fact that the weight training is slowing down my skate training. Since I am older I need to make sure I am doing as much as I can to make myself strong and resilient instead of beating the crap out of myself as if I was 16. I have watched parents at the rink beg their kids to either get off the ice or not jump since the kid is injured and under doctor's orders not to skate hard. What does the kid do? Land an Axel, do double toe loops. The kid's competition is coming up and they don't want to loose training time. It is more important to me to be able to climb stairs pain free than land an Axel but that is 47 year old me talking. When I was 13 I thought casts were cool rather the pain in the butt and months of rehab my older body knows. I guess Wednesdays are going to have to be figure skating 101 days for a while.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boot Surgery

A few months ago I ordered custom Jackson boots hoping that this would be the end to my boot fitting nightmares. My Reidels seem to be made for a kids foot. Even though they were wide in the front and tight in the heel they still had to put me in a longer boot to the right fit for my foot. The nose of the "correct" size boot dived too soon and hit the top of my toe even though the end of my toe was clear of the boot. The tongue also regularly slipped over and unlaced my boots for me which was particularly hazardous since it was my landing leg. I went down at least one time after skating over my laces and was constantly having to relace my boots after doing MIF. So I splurged and ordered my very first pair of custom ice skates. I was so looking forward to something that fit perfectly. Instead when I got my boots they seemed too big. The tongue wouldn't tuck in very well and got caught on the padding on the inside of the boot. The guy that fit me kept telling me that they were fine so I figured I would give them a chance and see if things changed as I broke them in. After two months you could see the edges of the tongue curling up where they were running into the boot padding. My heel regularly slips in these boots and the front of my foot can wiggle around a lot. Now mind you these boots are very stiff and you just can't pull them tight with the laces at least not until recently. Of course I blame all of these problems squarely on the guy who took my foot measurements and ordered the boots. The only thing about Jackson boots themselves that I don't like is the fact that there is no arch support in them what so ever. Horrible. I was used to my Reidels that had intimate contact with the arch of my foot. Before I laid out another $600+ on yet another pair of custom boots I decided to go to my chiropractor and get fitted for some custom orthotic inserts. He had me step on a scanner that took a very nice color coded picture of the bottom of each foot. He called the company and told them the inserts were for ice skates and they immediately recommended one of their styles. This sounded very encouraging. They knew what figure skaters were after. I needed to be able to feel the ice under my feet and be able to control the boot with the small muscles of my foot. They recommended one of their thin sole models that was skinnier than a their regular insert and had much less padding than the one my doctor recommended. All sounds good. $200 later I got to put them in my boots today. While I was fitting the inserts I decided to do a little surgery to the tongues. I took my kitchen scissors (heavy duty) and tapered the padding on the tongue so their would be a gentle transition between the tongue and boot. I also cut off the sections that were obviously catching on the boot padding. I also made a slit that pointed toward the ankle which would aid the tongue in flexing so I could cinch the laces tighter in the ankle area. I matched the toe pattern on my old inserts to the toe ridge in the new ones and trimmed the new ones to the outline of the old. I bent the new ones up a bit and in they went. I then stuffed my bare feet into my boots so I could feel the boots really well and laced them up, cinching them tightly. When I stood up I couldn't believe the difference! My custom boots now fit like a glove. I have very little heel movement and I can feel the sides of the skate with my feet. I also have a nice hard arch support under my foot. I can hardly wait to try them out tomorrow. I wouldn't be surprised if I will need my blades moving again. The arch supports will probably make me stand differently in the boots. I'll report back and let you know what happens, but right now I think the surgery was a great success.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weights and Measures

About a month ago I started weight lifting with a personal trainer. Turns out that my quadriceps are very weak and my hamstrings are very strong resulting in a weird muscle imbalance. It wouldn't surprise me if this is a big part of my knee cap problem (I have to tape my knees before skating to keep the caps tracking in the right place). Everything else seems fairly well matched. Since I am no longer 20 something I have divided the lifting work out between two days. I do the lower body and torso on Monday so that I have two days to recover before I skate and then I do the upper body and torso on Thursday in between skating days. When I was younger the regimen of lifting every other day to tax every muscle group with one day in between to recover worked wonders. When I went back to weight lifting prior to the car accidents I was in my early to mid forties and I had to have at least two days in between preferably three to recover or my muscles would just get weaker and weaker. I have never seen this discussed in any weight lifting literature. Apparently my muscles take much longer to recover now that I am older. According to weight lifting lore I shouldn't be gaining much muscle mass only lifting what equates to one day a week. However, I am finding that I am steadily increasing my weights each week. I am decidedly stronger than when I started out a month ago and even my heart is beating slower (I wear a heart monitor for giggles) and my cardio workout has to be harder for me to get the same level of workout. So much for what is written in stone. Listen to my body. This is working.

An added benefit that I wasn't expecting was weight loss. I am quite chubby. Always have been. Probably always will be. I never was a dieter and instead try to eat well balanced organic whole foods in smallish portions. I find I feel better if I break my meals up into small snacks instead of sitting down and sating myself into a stupor. I try to eat at least two fruits and three or more vegetables a day. Since I have a wheat allergy the normal junk foods are pretty much off the table (pun intended). Yet I remain chubby. My husband was musing on this the other day. Wondering why I weigh so much when I eat so well. He was giggling when he asked if I consumed boxes of donuts at work when he wasn't looking (the answer is no since I would be horribly ill). It is just the weird metabolism that God gave me and I am stuck with. What I had forgotten is how well my body responds to weight lifting. The other night when we were walking around a mall killing time while waiting for a table at a restaurant, my underwear started working its way down. Thankfully I was wearing pants so it didn't have far to go before getting stuck. Then it struck me that I was hitching my pants up constantly as well. I had lost weight!! Since I generally don't go near scales as a rule I had no idea what the weight lifting was doing. Plus muscle weighs more than fat so even if my scale weight has gone up I might have lost fat since I know for a fact my muscles are getting bigger. The next day I had the joy of going pant shopping and got to pick up both trousers and underwear in the next size down. Monday when I got to the gym I stepped on the scale and saw a weight I hadn't seen since prior to the car accidents. I must have dropped at least four pounds and probably more since starting the new regimen. How exciting! For me regular exercise just doesn't cut it for weight loss. When I started skating I dropped ten pounds and then got stuck. I always lose a few pounds at skate camp but I am on the ice three hours a day which I can't possibly do while holding down a full time job. Weight lifting is the only thing that does the trick for me. It changes my metabolism and burns more calories even when I am sitting around. Now I am skinnier and my sit spins are getting pretty good as well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Axel Dreams

Sometimes I feel like figure skating just courses through my veins. I am consumed by it. For days it will be the only thing I think about. My body is tense and ready to launch into a spin or jump even though I am running around on dry land. I am possessed. When I am like this for several days I dream about figure skating. Last month I dreamed that I landed a perfect axel. I am not even attempting them yet. I am hoping that it is a premonition of things to come; that I will, some day, land an axel.

Last night my skating dreams were neither as elegant or even relevant to the real world. I skated yesterday for about an hour practicing spins and the beginnings of my program. Last night I couldn't sleep because I was so excited about my lessons today. No wonder I dreamed about skating. But I didn't dream about my program or doing figure eights like other nights, instead I was in a strange rink where they had laid down fake ice mats on top of the real ice. I tried to skate on the stuff but my fancy blades got stuck in it like I was skating on couch cushions. The mats would move rather than my blades. Suddenly I was up in the stands naked (don't you love those naked dreams?) and they started taking the mats up revealing the lovely ice underneath. By the time I got dressed and got my boots on the Zamboni came on to resurface the ice and I didn't get to skate at all. I was very disappointed. (I am hoping that this dream is NOT a premonition of things to come.) Then as suddenly as all dreams go I was in Lake Placid with my family eating beef wellington in a cafe after being in the 1980 rink at the Olympic center, which is completely odd since I neither eat cows nor wheat although I did like beef wellington when I was a kid. In my dream it was quite tasty and I finished it all up without any of the normal digestive consequences which is what makes dreams so wonderful.

Today I am very glad my skating did not go like it did in my dream. I did a double session today. Two hours solid of skating. I am beginning to find that one hour is just too short a time to practice everything that I would like to do. The two hours allowed for some serious figure time. I did FO, FI regular and serpentine 8s, then some FO 3 turn eights. I didn't get to back 8s since I got distracted with loops. I have rather large drunken loops. They lay on their side. From the tracing it looks like I am going into them too late and exiting too early giving both lobes an odd tilt. This is when my coach came over for my turn in the "group" lesson. Turns out I was skating the entire figure too large. When I shortened it up to closer to the correct size they became easier to do. She also told me that the figure is actually traced with the free leg rather than the skating leg and the turn is initiated by pushing into the ice rather than bending the knee (I still don't really get that bit). I kept doing loops and they magically straightened up. She told me that I have a much better sense of them than the kids trying to learn them for MIF. I am actually doing the edge work rather than just swinging my leg around forcing the turn. since she doesn't give out complements lightly this made me very happy.

The second hour was my private lesson which was mostly consumed with breaking down the Salchow jump and the back spin. First just doing the entrance three turn over and over again until I got all the body bits in the right place. Then she would add the next body movement which I would repeat over and over and then the next. This was all done in slow motion until my skating leg ached. I never actually completed the spin and I only jumped one correct but minuscule Salchow but I feel like I have made a lot of progress. I have a lot to practice and I am over the idea of it has to be perfect and fast the first time. Now I have given myself permission to do things in pieces, go as slow as I want and two foot any part of it. She said I am very close to having the spin in the backspin and I will eventually be able to jump. I trust her absolutely so I know these will come eventually.

Just when I thought my right glute was going to cramp into a pretzel we started on my program. I showed her the stunt I learned from watching old John Curry videos, a spiral into an attitude, which is much harder than it looks since you have to have tons of control to execute the slow lift from the spiral to the attitude. She loved it and immediately put it at the beginning of the program. Now I am doing the spiral from a dead stop into the attitude. This helps tremendously since I just do some forward stroking and crossovers to get myself some speed for the spread eagles. This is much smoother and easier for me than last week's pivot into back crossovers and then the spread eagle. I could never hit the forward edge quite right to smoothly get into the spread eagle. Now it was easy. Next comes the three turns down center ice with the ina bauer and sit spin at the other end of the rink. Man, I hit that sit spin dead on. It was such a good one I stayed with it and made myself totally dizzy. It was awesome! She then added on two edges, one three turn into a waltz jump. When I caught my breath I did the whole thing again from the top. I was tired this time so it was much more sloppy and I had to stop dead after the sit spin since I missed the entrance and was off balance but I made it through without forgetting any of the steps. Boy does it need work. She then had me try back cross steps which are from the silver MIF which I haven't even started practicing for yet. Since I could do them reasonably well she added a pivot and the steps which will eventually lead into the salchow. I had skated the entire hour. It was over. I was pooped, sore, out of breath, and very very happy. Next week she is going to teach me how to do a change edge spiral. I have good spirals both forwards and backwards now I need to get fancy with them.

Until next week I hope I have more axel dreams.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Embrionic Stages of a Program

My next test requires music. I am hoping to take the Adult Bronze Freestyle test once I can land a decent Salchow and Waltz-Toe Loop and of course do a backspin. My sit spin magically appeared after I got my new skates. Not sure where it came from since I could only do it occasionally before. Suddenly, I can do one cold. One less thing I have to worry about for the test. Yeah!

Today we started on the choreography for the program. Now, you have to realize that even though I skated as a kid I never EVER did a program. I skated in lots of group numbers in the club ice shows but never my very own program. When you are in a group number the choreography is done for the lowest level skater in the group making most of the steps very very easy. I am very excited about doing my own program as a grown up. I am skating to "Dawn" from Pride and Prejudice. I am keeping the slow start and end but cutting out one of the fast bits in the middle. I am only allowed 1:40 of music. What is left after the edit I am going to digitally stretch to fill the time since with the edit it is only 1:30. This is going to make a nice slow tempo for it, more like a ballet piece than a manic skating piece. Just right for me ;-)

We started with the straight line footwork. It is simply two three turns into a power crossover repeated twice with an arm flourish during each three turn. Once I got this down she added a pivot on my toe pick into back crossovers into an outside spread eagle then an inside spread eagle. This got added to the beginning of the three turn sequence. It is working out that the spread eagles are done around the hockey circles and then the three turns head down the rink kitty-corner where I end up at the other hockey circle. She then added an Ina Bauer at that end into back crossovers into a sit spin. I ran through this a couple of times dodging people along the way. I couldn't believe how klutzy I was suddenly. Then I realized that I am used to performing these as individual elements which means I get to take my time setting them up and getting out of them for each individual stunt. While I have performed every single part of this well and some of it for years, it is more like playing scales up and down the piano rather than launching into a good Rachmaninoff piece. Way different! During the run throughs I stumbled over my own feet and then lost the arm movements altogether during the three turn sequence. While I did manage to get through the whole little bit end to end, from a performance standpoint it looked like crap. I am going to have to practice this a lot, starting quite slowly. This was also done without music which is going to add another stress on top of me tripping over my toe rakes and forgetting my arms. I suddenly have a new admiration for the kids whipping through their programs. I am going to have to ask for an ipod for Christmas so I can skate to my music the odd times I get the ice rink to myself during a public session.

To go back to the music analogy, I know the notes now I just have to learn the song.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Off Ice Training

Well, I finally did it. After talking about it for over a year I finally got a gym membership, hired a trainer and started weight lifting again. This is the first time that I've worked with a real trainer one on one. Usually I just get the gym tour and set up on the machines and then get left alone to do my own thing. I must be used to working out from ice skating because this return to the gym has been much easier than in the past when I have gone back after being couch potato for many months (usually due to some illness or surgery or other life disaster). I'm looking forward to having my routine tailored to help my skating. I have already increased some weights and she has me doing extra cardio so I can make it through MIF.

I went for my second visit Tuesday and while I didn't do anything out of the ordinary she kept me going at a brisk pace that soon had me sweating buckets. I miss working out on the ice. It is much cooler in the rink. I felt like I was trying to exercise in a sauna. Very weird being that hot.

I was sore today from the workout. Not bad but I could tell my muscles had a good workout yesterday. I was very glad that I had arranged for a full body massage tonight. Boy did that feel good. Well, not during. She is a deep tissue worker which means she digs into all the bits that hurt the worst. It feels wonderful when she is done. I have more range of motion now and the stiffness is gone. Of course I could well wake up in the morning feeling like I got his by a bus. This has happened in the past and I haven't had a massage since June. But right now I am reveling in warm soft pliant muscles. Time to go park myself on the couch for the evening and watch Glee.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Muscles Have Alzheimers

The person who said that muscles have memory must never have been an adult figure skater. Last Wednesday was "one of those days" where my body had completely forgotten how to skate. Okay, maybe not completely: I could still go forward and backward but that is about as much as I could handle. Crossovers; back to swinging the leg in a wide arc before putting my foot down- I thought my coach had gotten rid of that last year? Spins; couldn't center one to save my life. Spread Eagle; forget it. I couldn't even do a decent forward three turn. What happened? My muscles go on vacation early? I have a list of possible reasons (excuses?):

  • Too much weight lifting on Monday
  • Not enough sleep (always a problem)
  • That two day old yogurt I found in my lunch bag: blech, why did I eat that thing?
  • Boots too tight
  • Boots too loose
  • Too much skating over the weekend? (I uncharacteristically skated three days in a row which is usually results in muscle weakness but three days later??)
  • Forgot to take my vitamins this morning?

I just want to plead temporary insanity on the part of my muscles. They've lost it. Forgotten everything I've learned this past year in the space of two days. Fortunately this is a temporary insanity. Friday I had a great skate and practiced my spins from a standstill until I got them back. I was even doing small Salchow jumps. When I have days like Wednesday I just have to leave the ice (usually in disgust) and try again another day.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Spin Notes

Since my spins have been so variable lately, first I could do them very well with my new blades and suddenly I'm having trouble, I decided that today would be spin lesson day. My coach is back at group today after being sick last week and we had a person missing from our adult group so we each got a 20 minute lesson today instead of the usual 10-15 minutes. Yeah!

We started with my scratch spin which has seriously deteriorated over the last two weeks as I have gotten used to my blades. Here is my list of corrections from my coach and things I remembered I'm supposed to do:
  1. Go slow
  2. Take time on entrance edge
  3. Look slightly to the left
  4. Step into the center of the circle
  5. Turn 180 degrees in the three turn BEFORE starting the spin
  6. Look straight ahead
  7. Keep everything lined up over the skating foot (no sticking the hip out)
  8. Keep skating foot turned in (which in my case makes it straight: I have a wicked turn out)
  9. Lift knee up, cross legs keeping knee forward
  10. Slide the free foot down the skating leg
  11. Exit gracefully

After much practice I finally managed a tight centered spin.

Camel spins:

  1. Same entrance as above
  2. Keep low with leg behind until I make the 180 degree turn
  3. Come up quickly on skating leg

After a few tries I did a couple of three revolution turns. They aren't fast yet but they have much better form than they used to and more importantly I stopped skidding on the entrance three turn.

Sit spins:

  1. Same entrance as above
  2. Sit, pull free leg and arm around at the same time (don't fall on your butt)
  3. Sit more and pull leg around more
  4. Turn free foot parallel to ice and bring heel over the center line of the supporting leg
  5. Hold, hold, hold
  6. Stand up and finish with a scratch spin

I'm still getting used to the feeling of this one. I am always shocked when I manage to do this spin without sitting down on my butt. When I was a kid I fractured my tailbone trying to learn this spin because I didn't have the strength in my quad to sit and hold the spin and my coach would yell at me to do it over and over again. Now that I am an adult I must be much stronger and I also don't have someone yelling at me to get lower than I am comfortable with. I have no idea what it looks like. I am sure I am up higher than I should be and my legs aren't close enough together but I am just happy that I am actually spinning in a position that loosely resembles a sit spin. My coach was happy with it as well. She didn't have many corrections to it at all. At least not yet.

Back spin:

  1. Take a left forward inside edge with the free foot in front
  2. Step into a right forward inside three turn
  3. Turn and set the back edge
  4. During the turn snap the free foot in front of the body and the arm around
  5. Once the edge is set bring the arms in and the knee up to start spinning on the back outside edge

This was my very first lesson on the back spin. So far I have been only futzing with it on the ice copying one of the other adult skaters which it turns out wasn't doing it quite right. My coach had me do the entrance one step at a time. First just the three turn, then the three turn and the back edge and then everything in my list. My last spin actually had a revolution in it before my toe pick caught and stopped me in my tracks. The whole thing felt much better than what I had been doing on my own.

A very happy skating day. I feel well enough to start double sessions next week. There were only four people on the ice after our group lesson. I am finding that one hour isn't enough time to practice everything I want to do. I hope my blades get fixed soon so I can do better edges. My spread eagles suck right now due to the right blade being in the wrong place. Patience!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fun things from this week

ankle gellie

Skate Spinner

I finally made it to the gym this week and met with a personal trainer. She came up with a split program for me where I work the lower body on Monday (the furthest day away from ice skating) and then work my upper body between skating days. That way I can waste my muscles weight lifting but I should still be able to skate. She put together a mix of weight lifting machines, free weights, ball work and mat work for me. I am working all of my major muscle groups and throwing in some cardio as well. At the end I get to walk on the treadmill at an incline to get my heart rate up. Never done that before. I used to weight lift fairly seriously 17 years ago and have done it on and off since then in small spurts. I am looking forward to getting back into it and recovering some of my muscle mass. Mostly I am looking forward to sit spins being easy again.

On another note, I got tired of rubbing the skin off my ankles with my new boots so I finally ordered ankle gellies from Rainbo Sports. Since I was putting in an order I decided to try an off ice spinner as well. It was a difficult decision since I had no expert advice on them. There are two basic designs: plate style or rocker style. The plate style is actually two plates with ball bearings in the dead center. You stand on the top plate and can only spin around if you are perfectly centered on the bearing. Otherwise the top plate hits the bottom and the whole thing grinds to a halt. The second style is a piece of plastic that has a double curve on the bottom. One is cut to approximate the rocker curve of a skate blade. The second curve is more drastic and is on the short axis of the spinner so you can simulate edges. In the description, the rocker style is endorsed by the PSA (Professional Skaters Association). Well, with no other input, PSA's recommendation is good enough for me. Rocker style it is.

My son was very disappointed when the UPS truck showed up yesterday and the package turned out to be for me instead of him. He chucked the small envelope at me with disgust and I couldn't rip it open fast enough. Out dropped the gellies and the extra laces I ordered but I needed to do some more ripping to extricate the spinner. Once I managed to free it from the almost too small envelope I devoured the enclosed instructions which turned out weren't terribly helpful so I just dropped it on the kitchen floor and took it for a spin (sorry I couldn't resist). I spent the next half hour doing scratch spins, attitude spins and back spins. If I had enough room I would have tried camels but as it is I would have wiped all of my pots off the stove along with the jar of cooking utensils and possibly the block of kitchen knives as well. Considering the potentially disastrous consequences I'll have to stick with upright spins.

I went skating today. Not a bad crowd; the usual Friday ice dancers with the odd speedskater in the mix. There were only three of us figure skaters there. With this particular crowd it is relatively easy to pick a corner and get left alone. I started with eights and loops. I only used them for warmup since I haven't had my blades adjusted yet I don't want to get too comfortable doing edges on them. My loops are getting a distinct lean to them though. I am going into them too late and exiting too early making them lean severely to the left. They look like they've had one too many vodka martinis. Not good especially this early in the day. I'm going to have to work on that. On to the spins. After all that practice last night I should have no trouble with them. HA! Wrong! It was more like starting over again. Bad traveling. Going off my edge. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. I seem to be getting sloppy again now that I am used to my new boots. I am even falling off my inside edge during my camel which I used to do all the time in my old boots. I guess when I was first on the ice with my new boots I was being extra cautious, taking my time and doing things correctly. I was spinning much better two weeks ago than now. Suddenly all of my bad habits are back. I decided that I needed to slow down, take my time and concentrate on my actions. I did a decent scratch spin, a couple of nice multi revolution camels, a half decent sit spin and a back spin with the correct entrance and two full revolutions! I definitely need to slow down so I don't get sloppy. I don't want to start developing a fresh set of bad habits.

I have rave reviews on the ankle gellie. Love the thing!! No pain. No blister. Just copious amounts of sweat. Ick. My little toe went numb but I'm not sure that is the fault of the gellie. I'll find out when I use it again tomorrow. I'll have to get one for the other leg.
All in all a good skating week. Now I just need my blades adjusted and a second ankle gellie and I'll be ready to take lessons again.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Politics of Skating

I just want to skate. I want some decent ice with relatively few people on it so I can do my thing. I want to mind my own business and skate. What is it about the human psyche that coerces us into politics and makes things difficult for everyone involved? I skate at four different rinks, five if you include Lake Placid. At every single one there is upheaval in the skating clubs that run the figure skating programs. One club just ousted a popular coach who took close to 20 students with him when he left. He estimates that the club will loose close to $60,000 this year as a result. Of course, I heard from other people that he might poach the occasional student, which is not the done thing and highly frowned on by other coaches. At another rink the president has two kids that skate and are now old enough to coach. Now, there are trained, certified and insured coaches who can't get work there since the kids are teaching. I wonder if the parents have figured out that the teachers aren't certified? What happens when some kid is hurt and the rink/club gets sued and they find out there is no insurance? Yet another club is having trouble since a second club is muscling in on their territory setting up a skating school on their home rink. So what is a skater to do? Ignore it? Just keep skating and make pretend nothing is wrong? Go on a crusade trying to fix everything? Why does running a club turn into a big political mess?

Of course this isn't just in the skating world. I saw it happen in the gardening club I was in. One of the women made a grab for power trying to shut out people that had paid dues but didn't come to the winter meetings. She didn't like it when I stood up to her and said that if people paid dues they had a right to participate in the club decisions. Then I was in Toastmasters, a speaking club, and I watched a power grab at district level which governs the eastern half of my state. A group had banded together and had the sitting president removed. We have no idea what happened or why since everything was done behind closed doors. Why were people taking this so seriously? It is just a speaking club. Why did they have to go and crush this poor woman who was just trying as hard as she could to run the district? Was that really necessary? It is only a speaking club.

What is it about the wiring in our brains that makes us this way? How can we avoid it? This is supposed to be a democratic society with everyone having a say and a vote so why are there grabs for power? Why do club presidents think they have been filled with the power of God?

I just want to skate.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I have been looking forward to today for several weeks now. This morning was our first adult group class of the season. I love skating this session. It is my absolute favorite. The reason is pretty simple, me, my coach and my skating buddies are all on the ice at the same time paling around with each other and trying out new stuff. It isn't a regular practice session because we don't have the whole ice which means it is a "lets try something new" session. Today was also extra special since my coach was going to teach us loops. The old fashioned school figure loop NOT the loop jump. Ever since I saw this school figure done when I was ten years old I wanted to learn how to do one. It is a small figure eight with an inner tear dropped shaped loop at the top of the figure, hence the name. In order to do it the skater gets into a contorted position and then whips the leg and arm around to make the tear drop. Of course many others think this is about as exciting as watching paint dry but for me it was love at first sight and now I was finally, 30+ years later, going to learn one.

Loops have suddenly taken on new meaning for other skaters besides myself and I keep seeing coaches practicing them since they haven't been performed for decades. This year USFSA has reintroduced it into the kids MIF test because too many of the younger kids are getting injured doing a certain jump (of course I can't remember which one specifically). Loops teach the correct hip and torso position for this particular jump so it got put back in the test after a 30 year absence.

Loops are a bit tricky. They look like they should be easy. After all it is only a single edge with no sudden turns like a three turn or bracket. However, in order to actually execute one you have to go into the loop while bending the knee down, bringing the free foot around then suddenly unbending the knee and bring the free foot suddenly to the front all while switching arms. The stored kinetic energy in the knee and free foot steer you into the teardrop and the sudden release of energy steers you out of the teardrop. This all happens in the blink of an eye. Not as easy as it looks due to the huge coordination of knees, feet and arms. Oh, and I forgot to mention balance because the weight shifts suddenly as well or you go down off your heel.

We started off with both feet on the ice (double footing as it is called) to get the trace of the pattern down along with the foot movement. Once I got a feel for the loop I started doing them one footed. Amy fell several times since her upper body wasn't staying over her skating foot. Me, I was somehow inserting a three turn into it!?! Where did that come from? I would get 2/3rds the way around and bingo a three turn. My coach was madly correcting both of us until we all decided to give it a rest.

I continued my lesson with the coach while Amy practiced some jumps. My coach wanted me to do some stroking and then we got into a big discussion on my blade position on my new boots. We started to try to figure out if the blades needed to be moved some more and whether they needed to go toward the inside or the outside of the boot. She had me try some outside edges. Apparently leaving snow on the ice is bad and means the blades aren't quite right. I left a hell of a snow track with my left foot and I can't do an outside edge on my right foot for beans. I'm guessing they need moving a bit more.

On to some spins. My coach wanted a camel spin. I did a nice one right off. Three entire revolutions; I got upright and finished with a nice scratch spin. I skated over to her and she told me "that is your best spin" and she doesn't give out compliments lightly. I was so happy!! It is probably the best camel I have done in 20 years. Yeah!! While I'm having trouble with edges on these blades they are a dream to spin on. I've been doing some killer scratch spins in practice already and I'm not used to the boots yet. My coach moved on to Amy for her lesson leaving me to diddle around on my own.

I went back to loop practice. I decided to do them as a figure eight which seemed to help me with the timing immensely. Knowing that I had to go into the loop at the top of the eight made me set up for it correctly. Doing eights also forced me to practice on each foot. After a half dozen times I was getting the timing down of the knee bending, free foot swing and arm change. However, I was executing it too slowly to make a tight loop. Mine were large loops almost the same size as the circumference of the eight circle itself. You know, while they aren't close to anything passable for a test I was rather pleased for my first day trying them.
According to the USFSA rule book (an old copy with no date on it):
"Loops: The diameter of the circle of the loop figure should be approximately the height of the skater. Loops should be clean cut, without scrapes or points....The distance from the center of the loop figure to the entry-exit crossing of the loop should be about 5/6 of the diameter of the circle. The length of the loop should be approximately 1/3 of the distance from the entry-exit crossing of the loop tracing to the short axis of the figure. The width of the loop should be approximately 2/3 of the its length."
The diagram at the top of the page is one half of a full loop figure. This would be repeated, flipped of course, on the other foot in the other direction forming a weird looking figure eight. In math it is called a limacon. Of course I was doing forward outside loops. There are also forward inside loops, backward inside and outside loop and all of the above in a serpentine pattern (three lobed eight). These are all advanced figures which is why I never skated them as a kid. I didn't make it far enough along in the school figures to learn them. I am very happy that I finally had a go at them. I think they are fun and it is going to be a challenge to do them correctly. Woohoo!! Let the skating season begin!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Agony of da Feet

Yeah!! I picked up my new boots last Saturday. They are custom made Jackson boots with a Paramount blade. Way too much money but I got a little bit of money from the car accident settlement so I went for it. I am now the proud owner of new boots and blades.

It is an odd feeling getting new boots. I am excited that I finally have boots made just for me but I am in serious pain from trying to skate in them. This always happens. It takes months to break in new boots. I had just been thinking that my old boots were just beginning to feel really good when the lining fell apart. I could have had it fixed but the blades had already been ruined by some over zealous sharpening. So I went for an entire new ensemble. There are many break in methods for new boots out there but my favorite is Ice Mom's (another blogger). Put the skate guards on, set a timer for fifteen minutes, vacuum the rug with your boots on. When the timer goes off, sit down, take the boots off and wiggle the toes and feet. Put the boots back on and repeat until the whole house is clean. I haven't been this adventurous yet but I did wear my new boots to unpack groceries and clean the kitchen. I hate vacuuming so I'm not sure I will ever get around to using Ice Mom's method. Apparently the back and forth motion is similar to skating and makes you bend your ankles which is one of the critical aspects of breaking in new boots: lots of knee bending.

Mostly I've been wearing my boots on the ice. Wednesday was my first day out. I was SO excited. I got to the rink early, paid my $5, and walked into an empty rink. Marvelous!!! I sat down and laced up. I walked over to the boards and opened the gate. I took my guards off and gingerly stepped onto the ice. I held onto the boards and slid the blades back and forth making sure they slid. I also checked where the toe rake hit and where the back end of the blade was. Then I went for a slow glide across the ice. The blades felt sticky. Probably my imagination but I was skating very slowly on them. I couldn't get the speed I normally do; not that I wanted to go fast. I was scared to death I was going to fall over. The new blades are much shorter than my old ones and have a violent toe pick on them. Nothing but stroking and edges today. I tried patch but that didn't go well at all . These obviously not patch blades. I still can't figure out why my push offs are ineffective and noisy. I'll have to have my coach watch and let me know what is going on with my feet. As I took slow laps around the rink, it was annoying the hell out of me that I was the only one on the ice and I couldn't do anything. I finally got up the nerve to try some edges. A lap of forward outside edges and an even slower lap of forward inside edges. I don't have the nerve to go backwards yet. A few slaloms and I'm done. There is searing pain on the outside of my left leg where the tongue is rubbing my leg. Did I mention that they are extra wide tongues? They wrap all the way from outside ankle to inside ankle. I sit down and take off my boots and sure enough I have rubbed and popped a blister on my left leg. No more for today.

Friday after patching my legs up with bandaids and moleskin, I got daring and decided to try some three turns which went remarkably well. Neat and crisp. No toe rake marks and my usual skid mark on the entry was missing. Hum. Maybe I like these blades after all. I wasn't so sure after not being able to do patch on Monday. I steeled myself and turned around and went backwards for a bit. Using both feet of course. Just some elementary pushes. Nothing one foot. I managed to gain quite a bit of speed. The blades seem to be less sticky today. After fifteen minutes of edges and slaloms I decide to try a spin. I did a nice one right off. About a one foot radius series of circles. Not bad for not even trying hard. I am definitely warming up to these blades. My legs were killing me. Time to get off again.

Today was better. I lasted the entire 50 minute freestyle session. I unlaced my boots twice to wiggle my toes and give my feet a rest. I did front and back crossovers, front and back edges both inside and outside, forward three turns inside and outside and some damn nice spins. I am totally warming up to these blades. It is very easy to spin well on them. I did one highly centered spin with only a six inch radius. Woo hoo!! I tried some camels and managed one three rotation spin after tripping over my toe pick a couple of times first. Not too shabby. Maybe my blade is in the right place on the boot. With a little practice I should have a camel spin soon.

I had an extensive talk with my coach after skating today (she was teaching someone else during the session). I can't decide if my boots fit. I am so used to wearing boots that are too short or too long and always too narrow that I can't tell if these fit or not. I've always had to have a half dozen spots punched out to make the new boots fit better. Not so with this pair. Just heat them up and off we go. My toes wiggle freely which is a novelty in itself. My heel slides a tiny bit up and down but apparently that is normal. There is no pressure on my arch at all which is weirding me out. I'm used to the boot arch cramming uncomfortably into the side of my foot, not necessarily where my actual arch is located. Apparently orthotic insoles are an option and I seem to have enough room to accommodate them. I might try them out depending how much they are. Meantime I'm going to give a pair of Dr Scholls a try. I am mostly interested in getting some better arch support since right now I have none. I am also going to have to buy some of the gel ankle cuffs. The tops of my boots are killing me where the tongue is rubbing. I think I am going to cut back some of the foam on the tongue. It is very thick and goes right up to the edge of the tongue which means there is a huge gap between my boot and my leg along the edge of the tongue. I might make a slope out of the foam so there is a transition from thick to thin towards the edge. Then again maybe I should leave it alone. It doesn't slip at all like my old one did.

Overall a vast improvement over my old boots even though they feel a bit big (which might just be my imagination). Mixed feelings on the blade. The spins are great but patch is an issue. I might have to invest in patch boots and blades. A used pair of boots is best for this since they need to be more floppy than freestyle boots.

In the meantime, I just purchased a brand new pack of moleskin so I can skate this week. Oh the pain..............

Friday, August 28, 2009

Between coughing fits

Between the cold and my Advair I now have bronchitis. There is a warning on Advair "increased risk of respiratory infections" right next to the warning "may cause lethal asthma attack". Go figure. My asthma medication can make me sick might cause asthma and death. Since I am rather partial to breathing I guess I have to keep taking the stuff. I don't have any other options since the lamer non-lethal inhalers aren't strong enough for me. In any case, I have a headache and my ribs are killing me from coughing so much. I went to my doc and got put on antibiotics and went to my acupuncturist and got stuck full of needles. Today I am feeling a bit better. It is easier for me to breath and I'm not coughing so much. Now you would think that with bronchitis and spates of frequent hard coughing fits I would be at home in bed. Au contraire, not only am I at work, I have made it to the rink twice this week. I just can't stand not being on the ice any longer. I don't care that I can't jump or spin (too dizzy from the meds) I just want to be out on the ice, feel the breeze on my face and hear the wind across my ears from skating too fast. There is a certain freedom when skating. Another skater said that it feels like flying. I think it feels like swimming but without the drag of the water. There is certainly a liquidness to the movements which is delicious to feel.

I managed to see both of my friends and my coach on Wednesday night. I got to see both of them skate their programs. Jackie looks wonderful and Amy's spread eagle has improved greatly. We are all bummed that there is no ice next week but we are all looking forward to group lessons starting again in mid September. The North Shore FSC, where we all skate, is considering adding an adult membership option for their club. Right now we are each individual members of USFSA. It hasn't made sense for us to join a club since they are expensive and we tend to walk on to different session at different clubs each week as our work tends to interfere with skating quite a bit. Jackie is going to join anyway but she makes it to the same rink more regularly than Amy and I. Amy and I will probably join if they decide to have a reduced adult membership rate. My coach is rooting for it during the meetings. She has a very good point; adults shouldn't have to pay as much since most of the ice times fall during work hours and are inaccessible to us. The club has actually reduced their evening hours this fall which is terrible for us adults. There are no more 7pm slots which means I have to go straight to the rink from work to make the 6pm slot. No more dinner for me before I skate and if Amy misses her train from Boston she can't make it to the rink either. Bummer. It is a good thing that there is a rink near work where I can skate a couple of times a week.

Anyway, I only lasted 40 minutes skating on Wednesday but I have great news. I was doing patch and I did two perfect forward figure eights! The first since the mid 70's. I was so excited. I managed to trace two entire figure eights on single edges without accidentally hitting my second edge (or going on the flat of my blade as it is also known). This is huge! This is what I have been trying to do since I started patch practice last year at adult skate camp in Lake Placid. I am so pleased with myself! I also did some decent three turn eights and some serpentine (three circles) figures. I am still trying to do back outside eights. I can now make one complete circle from a dead stop on my right foot but I can only make it half way round on my left foot before the whole circle spirals in to the center of the figure. It'll come with practice. My forward eights are now starting to look like something. Most of the tracings are on top of each other to within two inches instead of a foot and a half. They are close to the correct size and shape. I am going to have to take my scribe to the rink soon and check the circles I'm making and see how out of round they are. To me they are looking pretty good but I'm prejudiced.

I have been working on my three turns and counters as well. I have decided that there must be something in the air at Lake Placid. For some reason both of these were much easier to do up there. I have been able to do a few lame back outside threes; I always touch my foot down on the counters; and I don't have the nerve to do the back inside threes. When I was at camp I was able to do all three most of the time. It must be the Olympic air. I always skate better up there. Of course being on the ice three hours a day might have something to do with it also.

When I got off the ice and was telling my coach about my excellent figures we decided that all three of us will learn loops during our first group lessons. We are all very excited about this. My coach says it will help with many of our freestyle elements. I have just always thought they looked cool ever since I first saw them skated when I was a kid. I wanted to take patch just so I could learn loops. I didn't stay in the sport long enough to ever learn them. I was very bummed this summer when I fell up at Lake Placid and had to sit out the loop class that was held by the patch goddess there.

I miss skating. Zach tells me that his acupuncture treatments will get me off the inhaler soon. I can hardly wait. It can't come soon enough for me. I am grouchy not being able to skate.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lung Trouble

A month later and the flu is gone but I still get out of breath just going up stairs. I have been going to the odd public session when I can and doing mostly figures. If I do any freestyle at all I have to stop often and catch my breath. I am constantly coughing. It really stinks. I had to pull out of the Charter Oak competition. Of course I put it off until the last minute to withdraw. They were going to keep my money either way so I waited until the day before.

I went skating Monday night and got to see everyone at the rink which was wonderful. I love talking to everyone and seeing how they are doing. My friend Jackie's skating has come such a long way. Her spirals look great now and I can't believe the jumps she is doing. Incredible. My other friend Amy just passed her adult silver test. And my coach is worried about me. Skating starts in mid September and we are all excited about going again. We didn't want to leave the rink since it was nice a cool inside. It has been 90+F with high humidity for the last two weeks. I have been miserable.

The day after skating I came down with a cold, so much for practicing a lot during my vacation week. Hopefully things will improve. I see a pulmonologist in early September (doesn't matter that I can't breath that is his first available: don't you just love American medicine???). I can hardly wait to get back on the ice for real. I need my lungs to heal faster.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

To Breath or Not to Breath

I haven't been writing because I haven't been skating. After I got back from LP my lungs were feeling full and kind of goopy. My acupuncturist started working to clear them out. I skated a couple of practice sessions and you would think I had been off the ice for months instead of one week. I was panting up a storm and shaky on my blades. Very strange. Then on the way to work the following week I had an asthma attack. I hadn't had one in eight years. Luckily there is a medical center at work and I drove straight there. I ended up with the traditional Albuterol inhaler. This helped except it only lasted three hours instead of six. I went to my regular doctor the next day. I got put on Flowvent. Over the weekend I started hacking up green goo balls. This was not good. Back to the doctor on Monday and I was put on antibiotics. By midweek I had something that was more than a cold but not quite the flu. Off to the doctor again. They told me I had a cold. My coworkers who came down with the same thing got diagnosed with the flu. No diff. I was sick. Really sick. No skating for me.

A week later I was done with the cold/flu but still had asthma and a horrible cough. My ribs ached. I tried skating but I ended up having coughing fits and had to get off the ice after half an hour. (That nearly killed me since I had the entire rink to myself and I just couldn't skate anymore. Bummer!) Back to the doctor and I was put on Advair. All this time I have also been going to the acupuncturist. I can't believe how horrible this has been. It has been making me tired. I get winded just walking the level corridors at work. I have missed four weeks of skating practice and I am supposed to compete this Saturday. Ugh. I am so disappointed and frustrated. I really want to go. I keep talking myself into it and then out of it. After skating for 20 minutes today I had talked myself into going. Then I went to acupuncture and he said, very wisely, "if you are on the fence, stay home and take care of your body. I know how crazy you athletes can get and you need to take care of yourself." Now I am talking myself out of it again.

Things running through my head:
  • It isn't like it is a big competition.
  • I am only doing two moves in the field patterns and two spins.
  • I would be on the ice less than five minutes.
  • There is only one other lady competing in my group.
  • I am 47 years old what the hell are you beating yourself up for?
  • Stay home and take care of yourself.
  • There will always be another competition.
  • My competition dress never got made since I was too sick to even sew.
  • I'm crazy.
  • My acupuncturist is right.
  • If I was a real athlete I would just suck it up and go anyway.
  • I should go just for the experience.

So I vacillate back and forth. I am driving my spouse nuts since we are definitely going one minute and definitely staying home the next. I will have to make up my mind tomorrow. I'll let you know what I decide. Meanwhile I have to practice tomorrow and see what happens.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Random Skating Photos

The entire cast of the show at the Lake Placid June '09 adult skate week. Mum is second from left in the front.

The Dueling Scribes synchro patch team. "Ta Da!"

Rosemary skating to "Stary Night". This is one of my favorite numbers. I first saw it when she competed in the 2008 Adult Nationals.

Mum waiting for her turn in the adult ice show. She is a member of the Dueling Scribes, a synchro patch team.

Mum and her dance coach Mark during a lesson on the 1932 rink.

Me skating patch one morning in Lake Placid

My test dress
Notice the white leotard hanging behind it.
The little white splotches are ribbon flowers with crystals in the centers. Just enough bling for a test dress in my humble opinion.

Two Tests

I didn't panic as much this time as last year. After all last year was the first time that I had tested in almost 40 years. I was okay this year until the day of. Thank God I was still sewing my costume right up until the time that I left the house or I would have had time to really panic. This year I was taking two tests, pre-bronze freestyle and bronze moves in the field.

I took the week off work after skating at Lake Placid. I figured I could sleep a lot,let my knees recover, have time to practice for my test and also time to sew my outfit. I had the design in mind but hadn't started sewing yet. I had until Friday to complete the dress. The basic design I stole- ah copied- from a dress that looked good on me. My modified design consisted of two pieces, a glittery white leotard undergarment and a black overdress with white gores in the skirt. Sewing with the serger made this a breeze. "Where have you been all my life?" I loveingly asked my machine. I always did run my old machine at top speed and it could barely keep up with me. The serger goes so fast I have to run it at half speed so that I can keep up with it. Enough of this. This blog is supposed to be about figure skating rather than sewing.

I was sitting on the couch the morning of my tests, sewing on the modesty panel and the crystal rosettes. Yes, I fell for the lure of crystals but I kept it understated. I knew I wouldn't get the the hem done but I also knew that it wouldn't matter. This year I was determined to get to the rink early. Last year they were running 45 minutes ahead of schedule and I barely had time to get my boots on and get mentally prepared before I had to be on the ice. I wasn't about to let that happen again. I got to the rink and finished dressing. My coach wasn't there yet and my husband decided to run errands for half an hour since things seemed to be running on time this year. I paced, stretched and paced some more. I'm a pacer. I like to move around a lot since it helps me release some of the tension. I started to panic. Still no Joanna. My leotard was slipping so I decided that it was safety pin time or it would bug the hell out of me while I skated. Note to self; finish costume early so you can actually skate in it and then make repairs if necessary. In this case, I shall need a different leotard design if I want to wear this outfit again. So here I am in the ladies bathroom with no coach and no husband trying to insert safety pins that are too short into my bra and leotard and I can't see since I don't have my glasses on. Now I was really starting to panic. Luckily another coach came in that I knew by sight but not to talk to and I asked her if she could help me. It took her some considerable effort and several pins (one bent) to get the two garments attached to each other. Back to pacing again. It was less than half an hour until I was due on the ice and still no husband or coach. My feet were starting to go numb. This is not good. I was just about to sit down and unlace my skates when I turned around and there was Joanna. "How is your husband?" I asked. I had assumed the worst; car accidents, sick spouse, etc. "He's fine. Why?" she replied. "You're late," I didn't mean this as tersely as it came out. "No I'm not," she shot back. I was too wound up and nervous to realize that I wasn't being very nice. Instead of apologizing I sat down and unlaced my skates. I showed her the skate order and I was in the last group and the second to last skater but we couldn't figure out when I was supposed to skate the freestyle and when I was supposed to skate the MIF tests. There were over ten people lumped together in my group with all sorts of tests listed for each one. I just sat in the crowded warming room wiggling my feet around inside my unlaced boots. I had to keep doing deep breathing to calm down. Joanna and I didn't talk at all. Finally word came back that the judges were splitting the group up into two groups of five while preserving the skating order. I was still next to last. As the group before me took to the ice I laced up my boots and resumed pacing. I watched some of the skaters. It turned out that we were all at about the same level. There were two judges so they were calling two girls onto the ice at a time and having them follow each other down the rink for their moves test and then do their freestyle test right afterward. Oh crap! I am going to have to skate the tests back to back! OMG! This is going to be horrible. Particularly since I am supposed to do the freestyle after the MIF and I am useless after the moves never mind jumping! Crap. Oh crap. Oh crap. Now I am really wound up. Suddenly I have to get to the other side of the rink. The other group had finished early and had left the ice already and I wasn't even in the hockey box yet. The other kids in my group were already on the ice warming up and I hadn't even gotten my skate guards off yet. I finally get out onto the ice and don't even make it one lap around and the judges call my name out summoning me to the boards. Since there were five people in my group and my test was different they asked if I could switch and be last. No problem I said. I took the opportunity to ask if I could do my freestyle test first which wasn't a problem and I got up the nerve to ask for a breather between laps of my MIF test. "I'm not as young as I used to be," I said, which elicited chuckles from the balding grey haired judges. He said that wasn't a problem and I could take my time. I told him that I would let the coaches and other skater know about the switch. I skated back to the other booth and let the other skater know. Fortunately she was standing right there. Unfortunately this was cutting into my warm up time. I heard the "one minute left" announcement and I hadn't done a thing yet. I skated off and did some spins. "Warm up is over. Please clear the ice." Nuts! I managed a couple of spins and a couple of waltz jumps and that was it. No moves warm up. Crap oh crap. Now I was last and had to wait. At least this year I had warm clothes with me. I couldn't sit still and kept wiggling my feet and legs. I kept using deep breathing to calm myself down. My right leg was starting to go numb. Damn, this is my landing leg. Not good. I stood up and shifted weight back and forth. There wasn't time to unlace my boots. I sat down. Wiggled and stood up again. Damn. Damn. The girl before me was still skating her freeskate test. I looked over at the judges and he signaled for me to come over. It was time.

I took off my guards and skated over to the judge. He said that we could do our freestyle tests together and then I could do my moves test on my own, which was fine by me. I think I had this judge last year but wasn't sure. He was very nice. He let me know that I could do the freestyle test in any order (no music since this was the pre-bronze test) and he would check it off that I did the element. I started with my spins. The two foot first and then the single foot spin. I had a mild panic attack going into the single foot spin but I forced myself to relax. I knew that if I relaxed and looked straight ahead then the spin would more than likely center itself. My skirt flying around me caught my eye. I could just see it at the edge of my vision and I had to fight the urge to look down and watch it (another reason I need to practice in the outfit first). During the spin exit I snuck a quick look down to see my tracing and it was centered!! Yeah me! Now for my jumps. First the half flip. I landed it a little clunky but it was technically correct. On to the waltz jump; not great height but I landed it fine if a tiny bit wobbly. Nothing that an on looker would notice. I looked around for the other girl since the next element was a huge circle of forwardcrossovers. She was further down the ice so I launched into the forward crossovers. She whizzed by me. Apparently she was setting up for a jump in the corner and now I was in her way. We did't quite crash but her sudden appearance surprised me and I lost my concentration. Luckily I was only doing crossovers so it was no big deal. I flipped around and started the back crossovers. She skated over to the boards. Yeah, she was done. I didn't have to worry about where she was and I could concentrate on what I was doing. I finished the crossovers and flipped around again and stepped right into a nice spiral. My leg doesn't get as high as the kids but at least it is above my butt. I wish I could see myself in a mirror. Oh well. I skated over to the judge. Panting of course. He asked if I needed a break and I told him that I was fine. He asked me if I knew the skate order for the moves which I did. I have skated this so much I literally skate it in my sleep. Last year I had to write the order down on my wrist; this year I didn't need a crib sheet.

Off I went to the other end of the ice. It didn't bode well that I was out of breath before I even started my MIF. "You can do this. You did this in Lake Placid. You can take little breaks. You know this stuff cold." I skated the test well. I went a little slower than usual but I wanted to skate well rather than risk making an error. As it was, I caught a little rake during the backward power crossovers. All in all everything went well. By the third lap I was skating over to Joanna and taking a very short breather, taking slugs of water to hide the fact that I was really trying to catch my breath. She looked at me and said "You can do this. You'll be fine. Just skate." I was 3/4 of the way around the rink on my last pattern when I started "You're almost done. Three more lobes. Shut up and pay attention to your feet. You're almost done. Shut up! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! You're done! Flip around. Don't trip! Present it to the judge. I'm done!!!!!! Yeah me!!!!!" He just looked at me and said "all set." "Thank you!" I breathlessly replied and I left the ice. That was a good sign. I didn't have to reskate anything! Always a good sign. We walked quietly around to the warming room. All you could hear in the rink was my breathing. "If that didn't pass, I'm a bad coach," Joanna said. I smiled. I was done. I was still panting and couldn't talk. The entire place was empty. Everyone was gone. It wasn't like last year where I had ten pairs of eyes watching me skate. There was no one left except the officials, me, Joanna and my husband. I couldn't get my boots off fast enough. I changed my clothes. I caught my breath. Finally the results came. I had passed both tests! The only comment on my freestyle test was "well centered spin." The MIF test was my first ever scored test. It takes 2.5 to pass and each of the five moves had 2.5 written down. The comments included "good edges" and "nice flow". Joanna told me that he is a hard judge. He doesn't mark high but he is fair. To my mind the comments weren't terribly helpful. I thought that I had skated some bits better than others but there was no indication of that on the test. Typical, I would see a "B+" on my test and wonder why I didn't get an "A". I passed and I passed with a hard judge. I looked up my old test and indeed he was a judge of mine last year as well. He hadn't written anything on that test at all. I guess I should take "well centered spin" as a high compliment considering the judge.