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!

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