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.

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