Saturday, August 21, 2010

Last Post

This is going to be my last post to this blog for a while. Whatever bugs have invaded my body have taken up residence. So I won't be skating or even exercising for many weeks to come. Wish me luck. Hopefully I'll be back.

Friday, August 13, 2010

First Exercise in 3 1/2 Months

I climbed in the pool today with my old water PT sheet of exercises today. This is the first real exercise session I've done since getting sick in May other than very brief walks around the block. I got the water exercises from a series of PT classes I took many years ago after getting severly deconditioned after my diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the spine. Compared to what I used to do back in May these exercises should be a walk in the park but considering I haven't even been able to do that of late I was dubious of what was going to happen.

I decided just to do one set of 5 reps of each exercise just to start off. Well many body parts creaked, groaned and outright complained but I got through it with only a slight stiff neck. Not too bad. I'm completely beat as if it were Wednesday at adult skate week and I had been on the ice for three days straight already. I'm off to take a nap. We'll see if I am functional tomorrow. If I don't crash too badly I'm going to try and do either water PT or yoga on days that I'm not traveling to a doctor's appointment. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dashed Hopes?

It has been a bad week. I finally decided that I am going to have to withdraw from adult skate camp in Lake Placid this year. I was probably kidding myself but I was honestly hoping that I would be well enough to skate in the August event but there is no hope of that. I put my doctors note and my request for refund in the mail to ORDA today. I so look forward to this event each year. I learn so much when I go and I have so much fun there. I love skating in LP. I love skating with other adults. I love taking lessons from high level coaches. It is terrific so it is a big blow to me to have to withdraw.

Now here is the kicker. Even if I had been recovered enough from my viral illness to go I managed to twist my ankle so badly I am now on crutches. Yes, in my ambition to clean the swimming pool I stepped in a rabbit hole in my yard and heard all sorts of popping noises that should not eminate from a joint. Then as the pain tore through me there were a string of explatives that shouldn't eminate from a lady's throat. I guess I'm no lady. That evening I ended up at the ER where I got xrays, a splint, crutches and some prescription pain meds. I am now hobbling around the house even more limited that I was last week. I am SO bored! I am also loosing hope that I will ever be able to take to the ice again.

Then I went to the ortho doc. My doc wants me to see him since I abuse my feet more that the average person due to skating. His assistant gave me some new footwear. It is to keep my ankle imobilized while the ligaments heal. I keep wondering if I can attach a blade to the bottom of it so I can go skating in it. I would love to get some bling to decorate it with. It is a very boring black. I am hopeful though. I have a good prognosis and the lady I saw today is an ex-figure skater so she gets what I am about. She has chosen an "aggresive" treatment for me so that I will be able to take to the ice once again. I have to stay in my new boot for roughly three weeks; she re-evaluates me and then I eventually have PT to loosen the foot back up after it is healed. I am very happy with this prognosis. Between this and my acupuncturist change in my treatments for the viral illness I am hopefull again. Maybe I can beat this. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hope to go bling shopping tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Skating Dreams

For whatever weird reason I couldn't sleep last night although I was mighty tired. While I was lying there trying to go to sleep I kept thinking about skating. I did a run through of my program from the Stoneham show. I did my competition program. I did edges and figures. I choreographed a step sequence that had rockers, counters, back threes, loops, a lunge with a three turn in the middle of it and a half jump at the end. Every time I closed my eyes I saw myself on the ice skating. I was excited. I yearned to get back on the ice. I miss it so much.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Off Ice Lessons from USFSA

Hidden Training or How Noseeums Affect Your Performance
http://www.usfigureskating.org/content/HiddenTraining-SummerComp-08Jul16.pdf

Sports Psychology or Its All In Your Head
http://www.usfigureskating.org/Shell.asp?sid=20423
https://www.usfigureskating.org/Content/parentsarticles/Champion_Jan04.pdf

Nutrition or The Food Pyramid for Athletes
http://64.207.226.21:8215/content/Balance.pdf

Nutrition or Carbs & Protein for the Athlete
http://64.207.226.21:8215/content/Zoning%20In.pdf

Water (pay attention to this one: it is easy to get dehydrated at a rink)
http://64.207.226.21:8215/content/Water.pdf

Dieting or Loose the Fat & Keep the Muscle
http://64.207.226.21:8215/content/Lose%20Fat%20Keep%20Muscle.pdf

Nutrition on the Go (particularly important if you have food allergies and are traveling for a competition or test)
http://64.207.226.21:8215/content/Training%20Table%20in%20Backpack.pdf

Mr. Edge's advice for adult skaters
http://64.207.226.21:8215/content/MrEdge-AdultNeeds.pdf

Injury Prevention and Reconditioning
http://64.207.226.21:8215/Story.asp?id=40699

The USFSA web site is notoriously hard to navigate. I am constantly finding interesting things that other skaters have posted to their blogs that I've never found by rummaging around the site by myself. If you find anything interesting let me know. I probably haven't seen it yet.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dance Lessons

I love watching the TV dance shows, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Apart from enjoying the dancing and costumes, I am also trolling for information that I can apply to figure skating. Can I modify that costume for a figure skating program? Can I do that dance step on ice without giving myself a concussion? Can I use that music for a program?

Last night Nigel Lythgoe was critiquing one of the dancers on SYTYCD and what he said resonated with me. I would like this to become my goal as a skater. Here is roughly what he said: you need to practice the dance steps until they are second nature to you but then you have to not think about them and dance from the heart. I want to be able to do this with my skating program. I want to be able to skate from the heart. I want the music to flow through me. I don't want to just go through the moves: jump1, spin1, step, step, jump2, spin2. I find this type of skating boring and I don't want to be boring. I want the joy of skating to flow through me while the steps are being done from muscle memory. One of the skaters I adore is John Curry. He took this idea of skating from the heart to new heights. I admire his skating the most. He can take simple edges and make them look brilliant. Skating should be joy. I am looking forward to returning to the ice.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Off Ice Reviews: Part 2

This was a great movie week. But be forewarned, only two items are skating related. Yes, I have run out of skating things to watch and read. However, I haven't logged onto Icenetwork yet. I'm a little scared that if I do my husband would never be able to pry me away from the computer.

Books

The only book worthy of mentioning is Ice Charades. I finished it and absolutely love it! I highly recommend it even for non skaters. It is a delightful story and I hope the author does finish a second book as she has been hinting at on her blog.

Movies

Cutting Edge 4: Fire and Ice
This is the only skating movie I watched this week. Unlike the last Cutting Edge movie this one is worth watching if you can either get it for free or I would even pay a $1 to rent it from the library. Same premise as the prior movies, partnerless girl figure skater gets paired up with ass boy skater. The twist this time is that he is a speed skater instead of a hockey skater. Unlike the last Cutting Edge movie I watched this time they have people that can act and the actors can skate. Both bonuses. There are some decent skating sequences but of course everything has been warped by Hollywood. The competitions are done in spotlights. The skaters have empty practice ice and do basic moves etc. Still fun to watch if you are bored out of your mind. It is available free on Hulu.com

Ever After
Sorry this was a PG week. This is a surprisingly good remake of Cinderella. There are some excellent well known actors in the cast including Drew Barrymore and Angelica Houston. Well worth paying money to see.

The Saint
While there are some really stupid directions in some of the scenes thank goodness it is limited to only the odd one here and there. Not sure why I like this movie. Maybe it is because Val Kilmer is an amazing character actor or maybe because the heroine is a girl scientist. I love the soundtrack. Chemical Brothers!! Free on Hulu.

Ten Things I Hate About You
Another movie I'm not sure why I like. Yes, it is a teen flick but it is actually good. This is quite possibly because the Bard had something to do with it. It is a modern day Taming of the Shrew. It also has Heath Ledger in it before he became insanely famous. There is good acting and I love the over protective dad. Again another great sound track. Free on Hulu

Outsourced
Never heard of this one before and also never heard of any of the actors in it. However I really liked this little find. It is the story of a city guy that gets sent to India to train his replacements when his department gets outsourced. The movie is about culture shock and culture clash and is also very sweet. I found it on Netflix.

Up
Hey, I have a soft spot for kids movies. They are often very good and sure beats slasher movies. This one came recommended by a good friend. This is definitely worth seeing. The scout reminds me of one of my husband's friends and yes the guy talks just as much as the kid in the movie. I also love the dogs in this. I still like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs better (which I saw when I could still go out to the cinemas) but this one is up there on the list (pun intended).

Julie & Julia
I really enjoyed this one. It is about cooking and blogging, two things close to my heart. I also didn't know much about Julia Child and this is a great way to get to know her life story. Meryl Streep is a genius in this movie. Actually it is filled with very fine acting. I love Julie's meltdowns when her cooking goes awry. Wish I could do that sometimes.

TV

North and South
Found this one on Netflix. It is a BBC production much along the lines of Little Dorit which is another fine miniseries that I highly recommend. This is another show I enjoyed immensely. Fine acting. Class wars. Good plot. Happy ending. Yeah.

Ten Things I Hate About You
What the hey. Found it on Hulu so I figured I'd give it a whirl. Heinous acting in the first couple of episodes but once the actors settled in it wasn't bad. Of course ABC canceled the show as they have had a tendency to cancel anything that is remotely worth watching. Don't go out of your way to watch this one but if you're bored it is something fun to kill time with. One of the things that makes this worth watching is that guy that played the dad in the movie reprises his role in the TV series and I love his character.

SpongeBob Squarepants
Love it. Love it. Love it. This show always makes me laugh.

Blogs

BlogHer
This is my find of the week. It is a website devoted to blogging. Men submit things as well but the majority of the participants are women. It is a fun site to visit because you never know what you will find there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Own Personal Saint



Notice the skates on her feet!

Thanks to another blogger, Sk8r Boi, I have discovered my own patron saint, St. Lidwina. She broke her rib skating on the ice and never recovered. Some say it was MS others say it was gangrene. In either case many miracles occurred at her bedside and she became a Saint after her death in 1433. She is now the patron saint of ice skaters and the chronically ill. Since I am both she is my new hero. Here is some more information on her

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lidwina


According to some customs today is her day. Since I don't believe in coincidences what is this telling me?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want

or Lessons Learned from the North Shore Open Competition

I had to withdraw from this competition after months of practicing my program. I was proud of it. I love my music and I love the costume I am making for it. Of course, everything got put on hold when I got ill. Every time I skated I felt like I got the flu the next day. Life does tend to throw us curve balls.

Of course, I went to the competition anyway. My friend was skating in the adult silver group along with another woman I practice with regularly but don't know well. I set up an area in the stands with blankets and snacks so me, my coach, my very pregnant skating friend and my competing friend could all hang out together. It was great seeing everyone again. We caught up on all sorts of news and club gossip. Then the adults took to the ice.

The first group to compete was the prebronze freestyle which is the section I had to withdraw from. I felt that if I could have skated I would have had a chance at gold. I had one judge rank me first place in the last competition I was in and I got a bronze medal at my very first competition. I know I'm not supposed to want to get a medal, particularly a gold one, but I felt like I had a shot and was bummed that I wouldn't be able to go for it.

The first two competitors took the ice and they skated very well. The were both strong skaters who had poise and presentation even if their jumps and spins weren't spectacular. Then the last competitor took the ice. She was the youngest and this was only her second competition. She wasn't very strong and her arms were all over the place. I figured that she would come in last and I would have done well if I had been able to skate.

Later I found out that she got first place. What? Why? I started emailing my coach but we couldn't really have this conversation via email. Between my faulty memory and us talking through the competition itself I couldn't put my finger on why this seemingly weak skater had won.

After a bit of poking around on Facebook (one of the hazards of social networking) and finding the video of her skate on YouTube I figured it out. She basically sandbagged the competition. This is the practice of not taking tests that you are qualified to take in order to compete at a lower level so that you will win against less advanced skaters. While this is legal it is questionable ethically. I have no idea why she did this: nerves? coach? personal? But the day after the competition she passed her bronze freestyle test. So now I am FURIOUS!! This is SO not fair!! You see this happening with the younger skaters but the adults usually have more integrity than this. Now I not only have to compete with kids half my age but I have to compete with this girl that has no trouble sandbagging a competition. ARGH!! This sport is hard enough as it is without having to deal with these issues. This 20 something kid has all of her single jumps, a backspin and back three turns. Of course she won a gold medal she was competing with older adults that can barely do a sit spin and have maybe two or three full revolution jumps tops. She did a flip jump in a prebronze competition!! WTF!?!

Okay rant over, onto the lesson part of this blog entry: you can't always get what you want. Unlike tests, competitions are a one shot deal. There are no do overs if you trip and fall. Even if it is over a sequin a prior skater left on the ice. You can't do the competition over a month later because you didn't feel good that day. At best it is a crap shoot. It is not just a matter of one's skating ability. It is a matter of nerves; if your body can skate that day; if you are in pain that day; if you trip over your toe rake; the judges; the other skaters (I have also had to skate against men in the same flight as myself: my coach claims my bronze medal is really a silver since the gold medal winner was a guy so it didn't count). You never know what is going to happen. I skated perfectly at Colonial and got bronze and skated poorly at Worcester and one of the judges put me first. You just don't know. As the experts say you have to go into the competition with a goal in mind that doesn't involve earning hardware. I think my main lesson from this competition season is that the hardware awards are somewhat random. All you can do is prepare the best you can and then hope for a good skating day for the day of the actual competition. Sometimes the skating gods will smile down on you and other days they take a colossal dump on you. You have to learn to take it all in stride. To not let it rattle you. To get back up and do it all over again the next day, month, year. All in all I am pretty happy with my first competitive season. I won my medals honestly and I achieved my goals of getting over my nerves and skating my best under pressure. Well, the nerve thing still needs some work but I am doing much better than when I started. After all it is all about progress. Getting hardware is nice but it shouldn't be the be all and end all of skating. I'll just have to wait until next year to get my gold medal :-)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Butterflys and Bees


Copied from http://museum.gov.ns.ca/imagesns/html/30820.html

Before I was a skater I was a Mom, wife, gardener, optical communications specialist (I play with lasers), etc. Now I am sick. I finally decoded my diagnosis. After doing lots of blood tests and even chest x-rays my doctor said I had 'viral syndrome'. I figured it was a bucket diagnosis meaning he had no clue what was wrong with me so go home and be sick for a while. After doing some reading on the Internet it turns out he left out a few crucial words and a hell of a lot of explanation. What I have is "post viral fatigue syndrome" which is a subset of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Apparently when someone has a viral infection like I did over Mother's Day it can often led to PVFS. This means that I basically can't do anything and most of all can't tolerate any sort of aerobic exercise. This would explain the flu like symptoms the day after I went skating which happened not once, not twice but three times! Okay I've taken the hint no skating for a while. I have to rest. My body needs to heal.

An odd subset of this are the ideas coming out of the alternate healing community. That this is mostly a woman's disease; that it comes of doing things for others; that it comes from not taking care of oneself; that it comes of putting all others before self. Hence the 'cure' is resting, doing things for oneself, taking care of oneself. While I'm not totally sold on everything they are saying it did get me thinking.

What have I done lately for fun?
What do I for fun?
Does everything have to become work?
Does everything have to be perfect?
Can I put myself first?
Do I always have to use my spare time cleaning the house?
Do I really have to take on the role of breadwinner while my husband's business tanks?
Do I have to be breadwinner and housekeeper at the same time?
Can they even coexist? Particularly when I throw athlete into the mix?
Should I have a career or a job? Are they mutually exclusive?

So I sat in the backyard this morning. Contemplating all things me. What I was supposed to be doing was watching the bees and clouds meander by and instead I find myself thinking that I should: pick some weeds, put my tomato plants in, go take a shower, get dressed, start skating figures as soon as I can get back on the ice, brush off the patio furniture, fix the broken wheel on the planter, move the bricks in the walkway, etc, etc, etc.... I really suck at this relaxing thing.

So in between the list of shoulds I managed to watch a Red Admiral butterfly. I saw the honey bees which I knew would be busy in the catmint I moved from the front of the house years ago when it got to big for its original spot. I saw a dragonfly the size of my hand and ones the size of my pinkie. All of them were enjoying the flowers I had put in years ago when I was a gardener and skating hadn't become my obsession yet. I felt the sun warming my skin and finally didn't feel cold. I felt the breeze tousle my hair and make the seed heads on the grass sway. I heard the birds sing and the chipmunk squealing from somewhere in the hostas. The breeze picked up and my wind chimes started to do a random walk through the Gregorian scale. Then one pipe was hit and the note sustained reminding me of the Buddhists call to prayer. The call to meditate on the healing powers of nature. And the world finally fell away.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Off Ice Reviews

I have now been off the ice for roughly three weeks. I did try to get back on, twice now, only to cause a nasty relapse of whatever bug has decided to replicate inside my body. I have been stuck at home for two and a half of those three weeks. I can only take so much commercial TV. Ugh. So what is an ice skater to do when she has lots of time on her hands and not much energy to do anything?

When running a fever watch movies:

Ice Castles (1978)
I finally watched this, mostly to see what all the hoopla was about. I am constantly hearing about how it is some skaters favorite movie. It was even nominated for an Oscar! Although I wasn't fond of it there was some decent acting and decent skating in it. The movie itself is very dated and I can see why they would do a remake. I would be interested in seeing the 2010 version. The original was slow in places and I still don't believe the premise that a blind skater can win nationals against sighted skaters. It was so exciting I almost feel asleep in the middle of it.

The Cutting Edge: Going for Gold (2005)
I saw the original movie, The Cutting Edge (1991), years ago and while schmaltzy I liked it. This one you can skip. Bad acting. Mediocre skating. These skaters aren't believable regional level skaters never mind Olympic level. While the guy is a hunk and there are lots of shots of him shirtless, it isn't worth sitting through the movie just for that unless you are into that sort of thing. I did fall asleep in the middle of this one and had to finish it up the next day.

Blades of Glory
While I didn't watch this movie while I was home sick this time, I did watch it while I was home sick over Christmas. It is a great fun fluff movie that takes the silly elements of figure skating to their ludicrous extremes.

New Moon (2009)
Okay. I had to come out of the closet sometime. I like the Twilight Saga. Again I watched the first movie last year to see what all the fuss was about and liked it a lot. When I was walking through Marshalls before Christmas I found the books on sale for cheap so I got them and got totally hooked. Stephenie Meyer is an amazing writer. She has based each of the novels on some classic romance novel such as Romeo and Juliet but with a vampire twist. Breaking Dawn was the only one I had trouble reading. Anyway, back to the movie. Loved it. The CG was incredible.

While running a fever watch Hulu or Netflix TV:

Robin Hood (BBC)
Yeah, I know it isn't skating but it was awesome. Love this show and I watched the entire series on Netflix. Too bad it got canceled.

The Tudors (Showtime)
Again no ice skating but an awesome series about the life of King Henry VIII. Not for kids though. Lots of sex, nudity and violence but amazing acting, complicated plot lines, fantastic costumes and sets. Wonderful to get lost in. I've gotten through two seasons so far.

The Prisoner (BBC 1960s currently available on amctv.com)
The effects are dated but the show is still very watchable. It messes with some complicated philosophical questions which I always love in a SciFi show.

When in possession of my faculties read:

Toepicks, Cadaver Dogs, and Sports with No Balls by Sherry Bosley
This is a book to take to the doctor's office with you. It is a series of vignettes not necessarily related to ice skating. A fun light read that can be put down and picked up at whim, i.e. no plot.

Ice Charades: Penguins Behaving Badly and Other Follies From the Road by Jenny Hall
By far my favorite ice skating book. It tells the mostly true tale of an ice skater's first year performing in shows. Great whit and a good story.


Primer of Figure Skating by Marible Y. Vinson
This was written by my coach's coach. I use it as a reference all the time since I am trying to learn school figures. Not something I can read cover to cover but great for looking up how to do stuff. While out of print it can still be found for a few dollars through Amazon private dealers.

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar... by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein
What a great way to learn philosophy! Through telling jokes! This book is a hoot! Lots of great jokes and you learn something at the same time. You do have to have your faculties intact when reading since some of it can be confusing. Otherwise it is great for a good laugh and you can always reread the confusing bits later.

200 Sewing Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets by Lorna Knight
I'm always looking for information on how to sew complicated stuff for my costumes. This is a great book. Lots of pictures and great explanations. Includes serger techniques, embroidery and beading. Lots of useful information.

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli & Peter Bronski
Nutrition is difficult enough for an athlete without the complication of an allergy thrown in so I'm always on the hunt for good wheat free recipes. This is a great GF book. The previous "bibles" of GF cooking by Bette Hagman, while a great starting place, aren't for an advanced cook. Bette had to learn how to cook after her diagnosis of celiac. The recipes are basic, often missing steps and are throw-everything-in-a-bowl-and-mix variety, which often doesn't yield the best results. Artisanal GF Cooking is written by cooks. It includes pasta recipes!!! I'm going to make butternut squash ravioli! I can hardly wait! I haven't had any since I went GF. The recipes run the gamut from breads and muffins to entire dinners and desserts. Lots of really good recipes. Some fussy some not. Makes me look forward to being well enough to cook again.

When upright and bored with TV, etc, read blogs:
Xanboni
Life Skate
Ice Mom
Synchro Mom
Life on the Edge
Mahlzeit (food not skating)
Ice Charades
Ice Pact
Axels, Loop and Spins
On Thin Ice

Or for some real brain candy:
TED talks

Just got back from the doc. Tests are all normal which points to some weird viral infection possibly lingering Strep. Another week at home and crossed fingers are the doctors orders and no skating for a while. Yuck!! Guess I'll be doing some more reading.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wait and See....

Well, this is the third time this month, oh wait it is now June so make that the third time within the last four weeks, that I have been ill with some mysterious sickness. My coach has pneumonia so I am guessing that is probably what this is. Besides, I'm hoping that the doctor's guess of Lyme disease is wrong. Anyway, I had five vials of blood drawn and a chest x-ray done today. In a day or two I should have a diagnosis.

Whatever the results I'm thinking that I am going to have to withdraw from the competition Sunday. I'm going to hold out until the last minute. I've already paid the non refundable fees so I might as well wait to see if I have a chance in hell of even skating this weekend. At least I can stop stressing about it. At this point I will count myself lucky if I skate at all. A medal is out of the question considering I've missed so many practice sessions. We just have to wait and see.....

Friday, May 28, 2010

One more week

Am I ready for competition #3? NO! I've not been thinking about it directly because I don't want to wig out. It is a week away. I have the time, place and who I'm skating against. I have most of my costume done (see previous post); I just need to add the skirt and bling: NBD. So why am I mildly panicking? I was off the ice sick for two weeks; my coach was in the middle of rearranging my sit spin and back crossrolls just before I got ill; I am still doing neither the way she wants; I fall at least once a session on the crossrolls; my coach is now down with pneumonia; I can no longer skate during lunch and the practice ice is getting wicked crowded. I will have to cram most of my practice into this weekend. Next weekend I'll have to drive an hour to get some ice time the day before I compete with not much in between. I'll be lucky if I even manage to get on the ice Tuesday night for my lesson. Last year so many people showed up for practice that they closed the session and I was even early for it and couldn't get on!

I'm trying not to think about it. Ugh.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Body Image





I've been avoiding this post. I've been avoid the issue. Making costumes for the show and now for my next competition has forced me to at least face it if not conquer it.

I'm big. Not tall. Big. I'm 5'2" and 220lbs. I used to weight more but skating has drastically reduced my body fat and increased my muscle mass. It's hard to say how much fat I've actually lost. I just know my clothes fit really differently now than when I started three years ago.

I've been overweight most of my life. Basically since puberty hit. The only times I have managed to get down to a reasonable weight is when I'm active all day or in the gym several times a week at three hours plus a stint. Since I am an engineer by trade and stuck at a desk 40+ hours a week being very very active isn't an option for me right now. So I'm big.

I don't do diets. I eat organic healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, chicken and fish. I don't eat anything with wheat in it which excludes most things or anything with cows in it. Occasionally I eat pork. Even the doctor says I have an amazingly healthy diet. So I'm big at least until I retire and can live in a rink with a weight lifting facility in it.

I started sewing so I could have outfits to wear during skating tests and competitions that don't look atrocious on me. The first dress I made was loose fitting and of course black (black hides so much!). My coach wasn't involved with the design. While it isn't a perfect design (I've already come up with a redesign), at least I didn't look like the Michaeline Man. These last two outfits my coach was involved with and she likes tight fitting dresses, even on me. For the Bali Hai number I think I look like an overstuffed green sausage.

The next dress I'm making is based on a ballet dress; the standard leotard with skirt attached. Of course I've added sleeves so that my voluminous underarms aren't exposed for all to see flapping in the breeze. I've finished the leotard and it fits like a glove. I did a decent job making it from scratch. I based it on one of my swimsuits that fits well and looks good on me. As good as a swimsuit can look on a 220lb woman anyway. Somehow I don't think I'm going to be selected as the next Sport Illustrated swimsuit cover.

I actually put off making this dress. While I love the design and the material, it is going to expose me. I normally wear slightly baggy clothing. I have done so all my life. I hide in my clothes. This feels more like going out in front of everyone naked. You can see my Buddha belly and my back rolls. My thick upper arms and chunky legs. For all the weight I've lost, I still look like a big green sausage with tree trunk legs. This time I'm going to be a tie dye sausage. The leotard actually looks pretty good on me until I turn sideways and you can see I'm very thick around the middle. I can't believe I agreed to skate in this. Now I'm worried that I am going to look foolish out on the ice. I can skate. I am fat. I am a fat skater. I need to get over this. Of course I'm in a sport where looks count, particularly amongst the teeny bopper set who comprises 99% of the sport. I don't know why I'm freaking out about this. Many of the bronze adults are chubby. I'm not the only one out there. In fact at Worchester both my competitors were chubby. I guess I can't hide anymore. I'm going to have to adopt some new mantras:
"Large and in charge"
"Large and lovely"
Why can't I be confident like Queen Latifa? She is large and gorgeous!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Show

This is the first show I've been in since I was a kid. I still remember being on the ice during my most hated number. At the time I detested rock music and hence I hated the number. I even hated the costume. I much prefered doing the synchro number which back then was called precision. Precision teams only skated for the shows and never skated during regular practice like the synchro teams that are around now. If synchro had been around back then my mom would have never gotten me off the ice. Anyway, back to the present...

A and I talked P, one of the two male skaters in our adult program, into doing the show number with us. The show theme was Stoneham Goes Idol and was supposed to be based on music that had been used on American Idol. Of course I went off and found music from Frank Sinatra, the original American Idol (but that was lost on the club board which tried to can our music). I had this wild idea of skating in grass skirts to Frank's rendition of Bali Hai, which was another enormous hit back in the day (also lost on the board: must be too young). Coach loved the idea partly because she is older than me and knows Frank Sinatra, Bali Hai and South Pacific. This also meant that our male skater only had to dress in Khakis since all of the guys in South Pacific are in the military. Coach eventually nixed the grass skirts but we wore them for our photo shoot for the program anyway. I then made flowered skirts for the show itself but incorporated the leis into headpieces and wrist cuffs. I'll post pictures later.

Our rehearsals were a little crazy. When I used to do the shows as a kid we did the numbers in 20 minute blocks. Each group had the ice to themselves for 20 minutes. This club does things a bit differently. They had four groups on the ice at once two of which were very large (10+ kids each) and we are all trying to skate at once. Chaos. Thank god all three of us have had dance before. We already knew to look for each other checking in to see what the others are doing, using each other to time the moves so that we skated together. We did the choreography in two shots. By the end of the first rehearsal we had it down. We had two more rehearsals and things were great. I got the women's costumes done two nights before the dress rehearsal which went well.

Show night. Turns out we had a private dressing room. The other group that was assigned to our room didn't use it since they were skating in jeans and Tshirts and were busy directing traffic behind the curtain. Woohoo! We got the rink really early as requested and found that various other groups had rehearsal time day of. Not us. We weren't allowed on the ice. Why? Who knows. We stood there listening to Bon Jovi over and over again. Coach showed up sans ice skates so I knew she wasn't staying for the finale. I gave her some flowers as a thank you for helping us out. We stood and talked for a long time. It was finally time to get the rest of our outfits and skates on so we migrated to the dressing room.

A was talking a mile a minute; she tends to do this when she gets nervous. My Mom was in the stands as was hers and I wondered if that was part of her nerves. P's wife was coming just before the show as was my spouse. Our friend that was in our group but was now off ice due to impending child was also going to be in the audience. I occasionally had a mild attack of nerves but mostly I felt weird. I was going to be skating and people were going to be watching. At tests the only ones there are the judges and the coach. At adult competitions some people are watching besides the judges but not a lot. At mixed competitions no one watches the adults skate. They are there to see their DDs skate. What is going to happen? Am I going to get nervous? Am I going to forget my choreography?

We get our boots on and decide to see if we can warm up backstage since there is a large patch of ice behind the curtain. Not a problem. A and I take turns spinning and jumping trying not to crash into P while he is doing his thing. The first group takes the ice and we hear the music hiccup and die. I knew the sound system had been having problems but Bon Jovi had been playing ad nauseum an hour earlier what happened? Another blurt of music and then silence again. The kids were frozen in their beginning poses. Long wait. Several sit spins and axels later music started playing and the kids got to skate. The next group took the ice. Their music started but had a couple of hiccups along the way. We looked at each other. "What do you want to do if our music stops playing?" I ask. A replies, "just keep skating. That is what you do in a competition or test." P agrees. We then figure out how we are going to skate onto and off the ice and hence the order we are going to line up behind the curtain. Just then one of my favorite coaches walked onto the ice backstage. We all got hugs and best wishes and I just couldn't believe she came to see us. It was a wonderful surprise.

After too many sit spins (my knee was starting to get sore) it was finally our turn. We lined up at the curtain, A first, me second and P last. The coach manning the curtain said "You are the calmest group of the evening." A and I just looked at her and replied, "It isn't a test or competition. There are no judges so no pressure." "Good luck!" Our introduction was finished and the curtain parted. I saw the hem of A's skirt shaking like a leaf. "Fibber" I thought. We lined up and I hoped our music would play ok. The strains of Bali Hai filled the rink and we started skating. It struck me that tons of people were watching us. I was filled with pride, awe and mystery. People were actually watching me skate!! I started to smile. This was fun! I had little trip ups over my toe rakes but I skated well. I hit my sit spin which is what I was really worried about. I had to calm myself down going into my spiral due to another rake trip. "This isn't you. You can skate this! It is generally easy stuff. Just calm down!" When the crossovers started so I could get some speed up for the Spread Eagle I suddenly realized that we were running out of music "crap! oh crap!" It was the fastest Ina Bauer I had done for this number but I finished on time and didn't take P out in the process. Yeah!! We were done. Suddenly it was over. All that work for two minutes of skating. Ugh.

I was leaning on the wall backstage panting. I must have held my breath again. I can never tell when I'm doing that. I just suddenly get out of breath and my legs shake. We compared notes. P high fived us. We didn't fall down which was the main goal. A had missed her camel and only got a couple of rotations out of it. She looked over and I was still spinning so she started doing three turns to kill time until I finished. I still haven't seen P skate. He is always in the middle doing his thing and I am always looking for A to take my timing off her so I never get to see what he did. I'm looking forward to seeing video so I can see what he did and what the three of us looked like skating together.

We take off our skates and I realize I should have brought some street clothes with me but I had assumed that we were skating in the finale so I hadn't bothered. I walked out into the audience in my costume replete with flowers in my hair. The first person I found was our very pregnant friend J. Hugs and kisses all around. She told us we were great. We sit and talk a bit. A wanders off with her mother and P found his wife. My mom was still sitting by herself and I knew my husband had left for work again. The Theatre on Ice people started their number and about a quarter of the way into the number their music croaked. They stopped skating and left the ice with their props. Bummer I was looking forward to that.

I spotted coach on the other side of the rink and decided to grab Mom and J and go sit with her. As I am walking through the audience random people stop me and tell me what a wonderful job I did and how brave I was for skating. I had a major case of warm fuzzies by the time I got to the other side of the rink. The show organizer ran past me looking for J's husband which was weird. I didn't think he was there. I grabbed my mom and her things and we moved to where coach was sitting. A, J and P joined us. Here we were, the entire adult entourage, sitting with our coach. I felt like I was sitting with my skating family. It was quieter there so we could actually hear the music and watch the skating. The audience was amazingly noisy. Everyone talking except when their DDs were on the ice. Coach told us that our music was the only piece that played without incident. That's odd I thought.

A had taken off her skirt and then announced that she and her Mom were leaving. She didn't want to stay for the finale after all. I would have liked to skate in it but she wasn't interested. While P stayed for the rest of the show, he and his wife left when the finale started. Coach also left at that point so it was just me and mom. I had a great evening. My mom had flown out to see me skate in the show which I still don't understand. We had a great weekend together skating both the day before and the day after the show. She got to meet my coach and my skating buddies and see the club show. All in all a great time!

When I finally caught up with hubby later that night, I found out another part of the evening antics that I didn't know about. He had fixed the sound system for them when it went haywire at the start of the show. It was him they were looking for during the intermission when it broke down again not J's husband. And the mystery of our music working when everyone else's failed? He had me burn it as a wave file instead of an MP3. The sound system didn't have the memory buffer available to handle the MP3 files. I gave him a big fat kiss for that one!! There are a few advantages to having a sound engineer for a husband!!

Video to follow. Another side note: hubby taped me, A's mom taped her and P's wife taped him so I don't have any shots of all three of us in the same frame ;-) Someday I'll have to talk the kid into taking a real TV camera into the rink and doing a wide shot of us skating (he is a TV student) so I can see what we look like skating together.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Skating to Music

This is the first time I have ever skated to music outside of doing a club show. It feels really weird but I think I like it a lot. The first two competitions I did I was entered in the compulsory moves events which were one minute mini programs without music. So the North Shore Open will be my very first program competition. I think my music is close to being perfect. I’m lucky my husband is a sound guy. He showed me how to use some editing software and I happily spent hours playing my music over and over chopping it up into little bits and glueing it back together so that I had exactly one minute and forty seconds of music that didn’t sound like it had been hacked up. Drove my kid up a wall. :-) Nice roll reversal for a change! Hubby then helped me out and changed the loudness of the beginning so that it could be heard in the rink. It is a piano piece that starts out softly which gets totally lost over a rink PA. I still haven’t heard this latest cut and am hoping that it will be fine.

Coach and I put together the choreography for it the other week and I have been skating full run throughs for two weeks now and with the music three times now. I love skating to the music. I can feel it. The little guy in my head shuts up and listens to the piano notes instead of yelling at me. I dance to the music but with skates on instead of ballet shoes. It is a wonderful feeling, getting lost in the music and it somehow flowing through me so that I can express it as movement on the ice. It is nothing like skating practice and nothing like rehearsing without the music. I have few words that can describe it but I adore it. I can see how this can become addictive, as if I wasn’t already enamored with skating. I am curious what five more weeks of practice will do to the number. I am already skating it pretty well. My coach has no corrections for me when I finish. When I am dodging people I don’t always make it to the final spin though. Coach tells me that should come with practice so I am not worried about it. This just feels right. The music helps me skate better. I can perform to it rather than just skate. This is fun!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Interval Training

I started interval training again this week. This is my second attempt at it. I am doing it to increase my lung capacity and improve my heart. In reality it is an evil torture developed by a sadistic trainer for nefarious purposes. (No offence Cyndi. I know it wasn't you.) Since I'm just starting it I'm not sure the loss of ice time due to almost killing myself is worth it yet but I'll give it a couple more weeks first before I re-evaluate.

What is interval training you ask? Ah ha. Pick a cardio sport; cycling, jumping rope, running or, in my case, rowing machine (personal fav!). Wear a heart monitor. Start at a reasonable pace that results in a moderate heart rate, which in my case is around 110 bpm (beats per minute). Do this for one minute. Then go as fast as you possibly can until you feel like your lungs will burst, your heart will jump out of your chest and you will pass out. Continue this for one minute. Apparently you don't actually die doing this. I'm living proof. My heart rate jumps up to about 128bpm during this phase. I seem to be limited more by my lung capacity than my heart rate at this point. As soon as the minute is up go back to the moderate pace, which after going as fast as possible is now slow as dirt. Continue for one minute watching your heart rate drop while catching your breath. My heart rate readily drops back down to 110bpm but my breathing takes the entire minute to get back near normal. As soon as the minute is up go fast again. This is repeated for an eleven minute cycle since the exercise starts and ends with the moderate (slow as dirt) pace. So your muscles don't go into convulsions at the end of this exercise, it is preceded and followed by ten minutes of light exercise on the treadmill. According to physical trainer mythology this is supposed to be good for you. Hum, two days later and I still can't touch my toes (normally this isn't a problem for me).

That isn't the worst of it; I couldn't skate yesterday. I got on the ice. I was exhausted due to the combination of interval training the day before and a snoring husband during the night. I started stroking around the rink. Everything from the small of my back all the way down to my toes hurt and I mean everything! Butt, hamstrings, IT bands, calfs, heels, toes. Ugh. I figured I'd just go slow, warm up and get the kinks out. After two slow laps around the rink I started figure practice. While this went ok my muscles got more and more sore as I skated rather than easing up and getting looser. I started three turns. Ouch. I did some walk throughs of my program so that I could memorize the new choreography. Pain. The thing that completely bummed me out is that I was planning on this being a jump practice day. Are you kidding? I could barely lift my feet off the ice. I couldn't even hop never mind jump. After half an hour my lower back was screaming in pain so badly I was almost limping. It was time to get off the ice. I couldn't do any more. Today I'm still sore. I stretched for half an hour before getting on the ice and it still took me a half hour of skating before I felt "normal" again. I managed to start jumping near the end of the session and debated whether to stay for the second hour. I restrained myself deciding to give myself some more rest and skate Sunday for two hours instead. Hopefully I'll be doing better by then. I need some Toe Loop and Salchow practice.

I remember some quote by a world athlete that said something about being flexible with your training. That it is more important to get out there and do something but to respect the body's limits on any particular day rather than having a rigid training schedule. You just never know what your not-so-evil trainer is going to consider is a good idea on any given day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Worcester Open Post Mortem

My spouse is a sound engineer. In his business production companies often hold post mortem meetings to figure out what when wrong, what went right and what can be done differently (theoretically better) next time.

Last night I skated in the Worcester Open. I learn lots of things, most of them only partially related to actually skating. I did get a silver medal but there were only two of us in the flight. As my husband said last night "if you fell on your face, wiped out the cones (I was skating on a half sheet of ice so they set up cones along the middle), got up and yelled f*&% at the top of your voice, I would have no less respect for you and you would still get a medal." While everything he said is true, I didn't wipe out or even fall on my face. I did land my jumps despite the jello that suddenly replaced all of the muscle mass in both legs. I didn't skate as clean and as in control as I like. There were a few bobbles and toe picks where there shouldn't have been. I didn't get my normal height on my waltz jump. Despite all of this one of the judges put me in first place. I missed gold by one judge. Not bad for what could have been a potential disaster.

I originally signed up for this competition to keep my friend company at the event. She was supposed to skate in the silver freestyle. After we both signed up and paid our entrance fees she was notified that there were NO other silver competitors so her event was dropped. Suddenly I was on my own in a competition I didn't really intend to enter in the first place with a shaky Salchow jump. WTF? I managed to talk my husband into driving me out there. He knows Worcester better than I do. Whenever I drive out there I get lost in the rat maze of one way streets. So we leave at 6pm and he estimated that it takes one hour to get there. My event was at 8pm so that should leave me lots of extra time.

I decided to forgo the practice ice since it was so early in the day I would have been stuck waiting around the rink for over 2 hours with nothing to do. Instead I skated at Stoneham in the morning and did wonderfully including a clean run through with absolutely no warm up. I landed 5 out of the 6 Salchows perfectly. I was ready.

Now hubby and I were loaded up in the car driving 85mph heading to Worcester. I got to the check in desk at 7:20. Plenty of time to get dressed, do my jump rope and stretching and get mentally prepared. The lady looks at me and says "I'm glad you made it. We are running about 25 minutes early. You are on next." Crap! Oh crap! Sheer and utter panic! I just dumped everything on my husband except my costume and ran to the dressing room. I never got changed so fast. The snaps on my leotard kept coming undone. Fine time to have a costume malfunction! I ran back out to the rink and grabbed my skates. I laced them up as fast as I could all the time thinking that I had to get them perfect the first time. A lady with a clip board came over and told me not to panic but keep lacing. I finished with one skater to go. I started pacing. I was dressed and had my boots on and I was pacing. This was good right?? So why was I still in panic mode? Suddenly time went in slow motion. They took forever to put the cones across the center line of the ice. I just wanted to get out there and start. The announcer took forever to get around to letting us on the ice for warm up. And then it started; my blade hit the ice. I was skating in a place I had never been and I was by myself. "Crap, this is a small rink." The ice was slow and a bit cut up since it hadn't been resurfaced for a while. This was good. I didn't have to worry about gaining too much speed. I did forward and backward crossovers, a spin, a waltz jump. Time for the run through. I did the Salchow ok but bobbled my waltz landing. Crap. Oh crap. The "one minute remaining" announcement came. Since I was skating first, I had to stop warming up so that I could catch my breath. Instead I went hunting for the sequin I saw lying on the ice waiting to trip me up. I managed to find it and took it to the boards and gave it to one of the ladies running the event. My husband told me to breath. I was panicking. I was fine until I started the jump entrances then my legs turned to jello. It didn't matter if it was the Salchow or the Waltz absolute rubber legs. No power. Breath breath breath breath. Crap. Practice ice was over and I had to step off the ice.

"Please take your starting position." Back onto the ice I went. Now I stood facing the girl at the other end of the rink. "Ladies you may begin." Away I went. Slow. Take my time. Step, step, arabesque, lunge, forward crossovers, stop. Now for the Salchow run; mohawk, three turn, back swing roll, jump. I did it! It was tiny but I jumped and landed it! Crossover, crossover, chasse, mowhawk, back crossover, back crossover, prep for Waltz jump "Oh crap my skates are dull. I'm going to botch this and slide on my ass.", mini jump. WTF? Why did I say that? I landed a huge one this morning despite the dull blades. Lousy power three turn, cross, cross, spin, edge, arabesque, finish. Done. Breath, breath, breath.

Not my best skate. Not as fluid as I normally do it. I couldn't believe the rubber legs during the jumps. And what was with that brain fart during the waltz jump take off? I wasn't on hard fast ice. My blades weren't sliding anywhere. Can I do it again please? I'll do better this time I promise! Just let me get my crap together first. Take a breather and get my head in the game first. None of this rushing about stuff.

I left there with a list of "what ifs":
  • What if I had gotten there earlier so that I could have done my warm up routine and mental prep?
  • What if I had managed to get my blades sharpened?
  • What if I had skated on the practice ice even though it would mean sitting around for a couple of hours?
  • What if I hadn't twisted my ankle so I would have had two extra weeks of Salchow practice?
  • What if I had skated cleaner and faster?

Would any of these have made a difference? Scott Hamilton says that to win a competition you have to get rid of all of the would haves, should haves, could haves. Now I really understand this. If I were to do this competition over I would have skated on the practice ice and put up with sitting around for a couple of hours before the competition. I would have also made a better effort at getting my blades sharpened several weeks prior to the competition. Then I would have taken care of everything that was within my power to do anything about. At that point it would have been up to the skating gods to shine down upon me or crush me as they saw fit but at least I would have done everything I possibly could to do well. I'll know better next time. I know that I HAVE to do the practice session. I HAVE to give myself time to warm up. I HAVE to be there hours early. I HAVE to have sharp blades. Then the rest will be up to the gods.

Originally I came away from the competition with mixed feelings. I had just won a silver medal. Something I should be proud of but there were only two of us in the competition. I wanted to be proud of it but was unsure. I didn't skate my best and that is what I was hoping for. A much cleaner skate; more like the one I did at Colonial. However, I went there. I skated. I jumped and landed both jumps cleanly. I did all of the elements I was required to and a few extras that looked pretty good. I had one judge think I came in first. I'm 47 years old and managed to do all of this by myself during what amounted to as a panic attack. I think I'll let myself be proud. Despite the weird series of events I skated fine and I came home with a medal that was 2/3rds silver and 1/3 gold!! Just wait until the next competition. I'll give the skating gods a run for their money!

video

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Competition #2 or The Evil Salchow

A Salchow is one of first "full" revolution jumps taught to beginners. I have quote marks around "full" because the jump is really only a 1/2 to 3/4 turn at most. It is a weird combination of a three turn and waltz jump. You do the forward three as an entrance and then from the back inside edge you start swinging around and when you are sideways you jump and land on the other foot going backwards. This is supposed to be easy. Turns out it is very difficult to do properly. I can do an amazingly crappy Salchow at speed. If I am trying to do them properly I have to go slow. Unfortunately I need this dam jump for my next competition on April 10th and due to the twisted ankle I wasn't able to jump them until a couple of weeks ago. I did practice the entrance over and over again which was a good thing since I keep tipping forward after the three turn. To make matter worse I was on vacation last week and lost eight hours of ice time and a lesson while away. (I had a great time BTW. I highly recommend going to Santa Fe, particularly if you like rocks or stars not so much if you like ice skating.)

Anyway, for the competition I need the following five elements: lunge, forward crossovers, Salchow, Waltz jump, and a single foot spin. Four of the five elements I have a strong consistent grip on. The Salchow is still dicey. I fell on it last night during my lesson. The coach just looked at me and said "you shouldn't have fallen on that. You did everything right. You had a good entrance but you fell anyway." In some strange way it was comforting to hear that I shouldn't have fallen. It was great to hear that I finally did the entrance correctly. I don't know if it was just nerves since this jump still scares me sometimes; the little guy in my head telling me that I'm going to die that freaked me out; or if the little toe on my landing foot was numb (never ending nerve problems from the blasted car accident years ago). Who knows. Sometimes I just fall. I swear the little guy in my head causes brain seizures. I get so wound up about jumping and he gets so loud I just freak out and botch the jump either not taking off at all, doing it poorly or just plain falling down. Why is this so difficult?? Why is this so scary?? I should be able to do this. I have landed a bunch of them and some of them are even good. I have even landed them at speed. Why do I still get on my freak bus?

I think I need to get some dialog going. I don't have my words yet to distract my brain from the little guy constantly screaming about dying. Today in practice I started counting out loud. That seemed to help tremendously. I am doing a Mohawk turn and three turn prior to the jump so the cadence should be the same. I think I need to start doing six counts for each element so I can't hear the little guy. It will probably go something like this:

Mohawk: 123 bend the knees, turn, 456 hold, step
3 turn: 123 bend the knees, squeeze shoulders together turn, 456 bend and hold, step
Salchow: 123 stand up straight, squeeze shoulder together turn, 456 stand up straight, swing bend jump, hold landing, step forward

Between counting out loud and going over instructions in my head the little guy can't get a word in edgewise. I have used this technique for a while now and it seems to work well. I even found it in the sport training book I've been reading so I'm not the only one that finds it a useful technique. I'll have to try my new words out during my next practice. I have one week to get more comfortable with this. Unfortunately, since I am 47 I can only jump so many times during practice before my legs are wasted. This too will improve with time but for this competition it is a luxury that I don't have.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bronze Goddess


CJs movie
Originally uploaded by p_danek

Not sure what to write. My friend called me this after she found out that I won bronze and I liked the title.

This was my first competition ever. I only had one event the PreBronze Compulsory Moves. Which is a mini one minute program without music. There are five required elements with connecting steps. In this case it was a two foot spin, one foot spin, lunge, waltz jump and backward crossovers in a figure eight pattern.

When I was a kid I wanted to skate in competitions but you had to pass seven school figure tests first. Since I have never been a gifted skater this would mean that I wouldn't be able to compete until I was 20 or so. My family also didn't have the money for me to continue in the sport so at around 13yrs old I decided to just skate recreationally.

Then, two years ago after being injured in two car crashes, I decided that I needed to exercise. I had been off the ice for almost 15 years and had no idea if I could do it because of some lingering minor nerve damage to my feet. That same year I also went up to Lake Placid to watch my mother skate in Adult Nationals. During the competition I watched the Bronze ladies events in my age category. As I watched I came to the realization that even though I was in my mid 40s, quite overweight and slightly injured I had a shot at competing. What did it matter that it was 35 years later? I could do this!! And thus my training started....

Yesterday was the culmination of the last two years of work. My first ever competition. I kept telling myself that this wasn't important. It is only an adult competition, not regionals or nationals. It was only a moves event not a full program. But dam it, it was VERY important to me. Here I am a 47 year old, 200+lbs woman skating in a competition. I was excited beyond words. I knew I could skate this program. I had been skating it clean for a month. It came down to nerves. Could I keep them in check? Could I hold myself together?

I got to the rink with my two other skating friends, one of whom was also competing. We set up shop in the stands under one of the heaters. Our bags were every where. We had to have practice clothes, costumes, stretching gear, food, water, street clothes, blankets, et al. We settled in for the duration noon-6ish. I couldn't believe how many people that I knew there; people running the competition from Colonial Club, people I skate with at various rinks, people I even met on line. I felt plugged in. I got to chat with various folk and introduce my friends to them. It was really cool.

Then it was stretch time. My practice ice was in 20 minutes. Jump rope to get my blood moving then stretch out on the yoga mat. Suddenly the events ended and practice ice started without an announcement. I went up to the gate guard and asked if this was practice ice and he said yes. "I guess I'll go put my boots on then," I replied. I was late but I wasn't going to stress about it. I had booked 40 minutes of practice which I knew right then and there was too much. I had skated hard the day before and only needed to warm up and get the feel of this particular rink and ice. They make great ice at Colonial so I wasn't really worried about it.

I got on and diddled around just getting my feet under me. Did a few spins. Worked on my 2 foot spin which had been giving me problems. I just had to remember to point my toes in and it was fine. I did bits of my routine. Then I decided I had to do a full run through. I went to the end where I was going to perform and did it flawlessly. I could do this if I held myself together!!

My friend took to the ice. Her practice time started during the second 20 minute slot. It turns out that her mom is a still a skating mom. She was hanging over the boards taking flash photographs of her daughter during practice. The bulb kept firing and it started to get irritating. Flash photography is prohibited during skating events since it can be horribly distracting and now I know why. It breaks your concentration. I don't know how she put up with it.

I did a couple of spirals just for fun and then decided that I was done. I left the ice only to be faced with the longest hour in the history of man. Every time I looked at the clock it had only moved a minute or two. I wanted to get ready. I wanted to warm up again. Instead I had to settle for pacing. I went to the snack bar with one friend and then to the skate shop with the other. I showed one the figure rink that had no hockey lines or Plexiglas.

Finally I took my things to a changing room. It was a disgusting vile dirty room with the light fixtures hanging by wires from the ceiling, the showers boarded up and the whole thing painted battleship gray like they had some kind of sale on it. Icky. I didn't want my feet to touch the floor but I had no choice. They also didn't have double doors so anyone in the hockey boxes could see right into the room when the door was opened up. I promptly decided an underwear change was not an option. On went the tights, on went the leotard, on went the dress. I was done in record time. I wanted out of that nasty room.

I have to move to get rid of nervous energy. When I was home that morning I suddenly understood why Johnny Weir cleans his house before a competition. I found myself doing the same thing. I cleaned the kitchen and living room before I got distracted with doing my nails. But here I was at the rink with no dust cloth so I paced. During one of the brief moments I was sitting I almost broke down and started crying. I can't believe I am here. I can't believe I am finally doing this. I can't believe that I am skating in a competition! I had to get a grip. I can't start bawling two minutes before I get on the ice. Ugh.

Finally it was warm up time. I don't remember much of this but I did do a complete run through that went awesome and I stopped directly in front of the judges who were all looking at me. Yeah! It was time to get off. I was the second skater. I had to wait one minute before I had to do this again. I wasn't sure I would catch my breath in time. I stood by the gate, panting, doing deep breathing just trying to catch my breath and calm down. Suddenly one minute went blazing by at light speed instead of crawling like molasses. It was my turn. I stepped on the ice and hovered at the boards until my name was announced. I skated elegantly to my start position. Said "what the hell" and launched into my two foot spin. While I was spinning I heard the announcer "You may begin." @#$% no one told me I was supposed to wait. I hadn't watched the girl before me so I hadn't noticed this for this event. Oh well. Can't do anything about it now. Onto my backcrossovers, "nice and slow" I kept telling myself. "take your time" "pay attention". Lunge, three turns, jump, spin. I was done! I skated clean!! I was so happy!

I headed off the ice. I collapsed in the bleachers and couldn't catch my breath. I almost cried again. I was so happy!! I had done it. It didn't matter to me if I came in dead last I had competed!! I had done my best and did it well. I was excited!! I was exuberant! I was desperately trying to catch my breath and not break down crying. My husband came over and took my picture. He found it amusing that I turn beet red when I skate. I felt like I had held my breath for the entire minute I was on the ice. I hate the picture but love it at the same time. I look so tortured and happy. It isn't at all flattering but it shows the physical and emotional work it took to get to this point.

Turns out I got a bronze medal for my efforts. I got to stand on a podium for the first time. I congratulated the winner whom I had met on an Internet forum for competitive adult skaters. It is a small world.

We then stayed at the rink for my friend's turn to compete. She did well. She landed her axel and got a silver medal. We all went home happy. We had a great time together even if it was stressful.

Now, a day later. I am happy with the experience. I think I am hooked. I want to do this again. I want to take more tests so I can compete at a higher level. I don't know if I would have been any good at this when I was a kid. I didn't have the nerve or self confidence. Then again if they had let me compete my mom may have never gotten me off the ice ;-)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tidbits

Tidbit #1
I dreamed that I passed my bronze freestyle test. I was surrounded by little kids and they were all cheering for me because I did so well.

Odd since I'm not even practicing for that yet. I would understand if it was a competition dream since that is only five days away, but a test dream??

Tidbit #2
I have been reading about mental training which is fascinating to me. Concurrently I've been listening to interviews with Olympic skaters. I am starting to see weird patterns with them prior to them taking to the ice. They have preparation routines that they don't break. Johnny Weir vacuums his apartment so that there are lines in the rug for his return and dusts with lemon pledge. Evan Lysacek burns a particular brand of scented candle. The routines are calming routines. To start getting ready mentally for practice or for competitions. The routine that I seem to have fallen into is tearing around the ice really fast and then doing school figure practice. This gets rid of the high level energy and then calms me down and makes me connect both with my body and my body to the ice. Once I have done figure practice for five minutes or so I am ready to skate properly. I have plugged in to the rink and left the world outside.

Tidbit #3
I skated Friday and Saturday until I was very tired. My ankle which I had sprained two weeks earlier was behaving itself. Then Sunday I went dress shopping and spent two hours walking over concrete. That night my ankle started aching. I put it up. It got worse. I slathered Traumeel on it. It got worse. I looked down at it and it had swollen again. I put ice on it. This morning I had trouble walking on it so I made the rounds. First the chiropractor, who rearranged the bones in my foot, toes, ankle and knees. Then to the acupuncturist to get rid of the swelling. It is doing much better. I've had it up all day. Next is an Epsom salt bath after I'm done writing.

Tidbit #4
My very first ever competition is in five days. I don't feel nervous but there is tension in my shoulders that doesn't want to go away. Wish me luck.

Tidbit #5
Things seem to have returned to normal on the group ice that I skate on. After taking a week to calm down I talked with the group skate director regarding the safety issues of not warning the little kids to stay out of the adult area. This is when I find out that not only is the ice for group lessons but they have opened it up for bridge lessons and freestyle (the club is cash strapped). I feel sorry for any of the kids trying to do MIF during the group skate. I gave that up last year. You just can't skate the length of the rink during group lessons. You'll take someone out or go down yourself. At least I had some good practice. The only people I've had to dodge is the other adults most of whom I can skate around.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Going for Gold

We are in the throws of the Olympic season. The ladies long program was on two nights ago and our adult class has more new students in it than I've seen during the entire time I've been back on the ice. Some of them can even skate! While I would love to be chatting with them and getting to know them it is two weeks before my own competition. I am getting focused. I do back to back run throughs during every practice now. I am trying to get used to doing the program from end to end instead of practicing it in bits. Since this is a prebronze event there is no music so I can't don a neon vest and have the right of way on the ice. Instead I am dodging people. I figure if I can do this while not tripping over the guy on hockey skates that just went down in front of me I have half a chance at the competition.

At this point I can skate all of the elements and skate them well. My problem is distractions and forgetting that EVERYTHING in the program is important. The connecting steps count just as much as the spins and jumps as Evan Lysacek just proved winning gold without a quad. He has excellent connecting steps. After I showed my coach my run through today this was the first thing she corrected. I had sped through the connecting steps rushing from jump to spin while not giving the steps my attention and consideration. I did it a second time concentrating on each element and she was much happier. I am on the verge of freaking out about this. I can feel a rush of nerves every once in a while that subsides as quickly as it showed up. I am going to be okay. I can do this. Perhaps I too can win gold without a quad.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Worst Skating Day

It was bound to happen sometime. I suppose I shouldn't complain; no one got mangled, at least not yet. However, a day later I am still quite upset by the whole thing.

It started out badly. For no apparent reason, I twisted my ankle walking out of the house to my car. I didn't trip. I didn't loose my footing. I just stepped on the side of my foot and down I went. Of course with the competition three weeks away a string of expletives were sent out to greet the sunny Saturday morning. After having a crying jag, throwing my water bottle and hitting the door a few times I calmed down. My husband finally found me and helped me get up. I could put weight on it and walk without limping so I decided I was going to the rink anyway.

I skipped jump roping and just did my stretching. Then, on went the boot. A little sore but very tolerable. I got on the ice. Stroking no problem. Hard edges no problem. Forward crossovers no problem. Backward crossovers no way. Since I injured my landing foot, I already knew that jumping was out, so today went from a Salchow practice day to a spin practice day. I did a program run through with a few substitutions to mark the back crossovers and the waltz jump but I was happy with it considering the bum foot. I practiced the footwork prior to the spin. So far so good.

The ice was getting crowded. This session is a group lesson session rather than public or freestyle. Anyone that pays money can get on. This is where we learn to skate on club ice without the high test kids whizzing around. The rules of play are slightly different for group lesson ice than freestyle ice. Typically each coach is given an area of the ice and their students take their lessons and practice in that area. The adult group has been assigned the end of the ice from the blue hockey line. Of course we get the Zamboni end of the rink with the crappiest ice but hey it is cheap ice and sometimes it is even smooth.

We are in the midst of Olympic fever so each week one or two new adults show up for group lessons. We went from four of us skating a month ago to having nine crammed in our area with two others down the other end of the rink with a different coach. That is eleven adults from absolute can barely stand up beginner to my friend that is doing axels and double jumps and we are all bouncing off each other in one third of the rink. Thus, my friend and I commandeer one of the hockey circles and take turns, me spinning and my friend doing jump runs. Everyone is fine if a bit cramped.

Now this is where thing get strange. I went up to my coach for my ten minute lesson and apparently someone had told one of the other adults that we were supposed to stay at our end of the rink. Well I already knew this and once warm up is done we all tend to stay down that end of the rink anyway. It was probably announced for the benefit of the newer adult skaters that didn't know this. I don't mind adhering to the rules as long as the other kids/coaches do the same. However, during my lesson we kept getting interrupted by kids whizzing past me. I looked down the other end of the rink and there is a coach who stacked her students up in a line and was sending them one by one down the length of the rink right into the adult end and right through the path of my lesson. We had to move to another patch of ice. My lesson was done and my coach moved on to another skater. My friend and I went back to the hockey circle setup. I was in the middle of a sit spin and along came the little kids. I almost sliced one of them in half with my blade. That was it. I shooed all of them out of the area before one of them got seriously hurt. My friend and I went back to practice. However, I notice something totally weird, the rest of the ice is completely clear. The nine adults are all skating around our 1/3rd of the rink but all the kids are clustered in clumps around the boards. Super odd. While I have seen this phenomenon occur in freestyle sessions, I dont' think I have ever seen this in a group session before. Not being my concern I go back to practicing.

My coach comes over to give my friend her lesson so I leave the hockey circle and find another patch of ice to practice spins on. There isn't enough room for an entrance so I am doing them from a dead standstill. Suddenly kids come tearing down the ice doing spirals. I look to the other end and every single kid is coming down the ice. A coach is at the other end yelling instructions. The kids had formed a pack and were now commandeering the entire rink doing circuits following the coaches instructions. What is this bullshit? No one can skate. Everyone has to get out of their way. My friend's lesson is interrupted. All of the adults trying to practice are interrupted while this mob skates around.

I get pissed. Really really pissed. I'm tired. I twisted my ankle and didn't get the practice I wanted. I almost hurt a six year old kid because they haven't been told to stay out of our area by coaches who should know better. I tear off down the ice. If they are skating in the adult area I'm going to skate in their area. Because the kids are skating as a pack there is lots of empty ice at the other end of the rink. I start doing spirals, spread eagles, spins. Anything that takes lots of room and speed. As the mob starts back down my end of the rink I start doing sit spins since these take up a huge amount of space. People can't get near you or they risk getting their shins slashed open. I hear the coach yell "Stay away from the girl that is spinning!" WTF!!

I don't blame the kids. I think I stepped into some weird turf war between the coaches and the kids were being used as ammo. The coaches were shooting them down the rink into enemy territory. In the heat of the battle what wasn't taken into consideration is that someone can get hurt and hurt very badly. We wear razor sharp blades on our feet with very nasty toe picks on them. You can break bones and get concussions when you hit the very hard ice. This is a very very dangerous game to be playing.

Because I am angry I just want to go and get in their way. Tit for tat. This is very sophomoric on my part but I am so angry. There is no call for this. This is immature and dangerous. There is no reason for this as far as I can see. If the coaches have a problem with each other then they need to settle it off ice NOT use the kids as pawns in their battle. I need to calm down so that I can act more mature myself. I don't want to but I know that if I don't then I will just escalate things. I will make them worse if I start skating through other people's lessons. I might get kicked off the ice myself. Besides this isn't the fault of the kids. It is the coaches that are behaving badly. What the hell is their problem anyway??? Why interrupt my lesson and practice when I haven't done anything to them? WTF? GROW UP PEOPLE!! This is supposed to be fun!!

I'm not enjoying myself anymore. If this continues I'm going to have to look into other options. I am friends with the rink manager. I could always see if he will set up an adult only session independent of the club. Then we could skate in peace instead of in pieces.


(Just to keep you guessing I skate at five different rinks with four different clubs.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Four Weeks

In a little less than four weeks I am going to be in my first ever competition. I just got finished with my lesson. My coach only made me repeat the second half of my power three turn MIF pattern. She then had me repeat my back edge pattern but hold my chin up. We then moved on to the compulsory moves program. She told me that it was fine and she didn't want to touch anything. She also told me that was my personal best at skating my back crossovers. She then went on to say that this was getting too easy for me and that I needed to start working on harder stuff. I am so happy. If I were a dog my tail would be wagging! This is someone that doesn't hand out compliments lightly and she basically passed everything I just did! Wow!

Now I just have to remember everything for the competition. I do run throughs in head every night before I go to sleep. I try to vividly think of the rink, me, the sound of my blades, my body positions, what it feels like as I run through my program. Now I am starting to step through it on my living room floor. I am nervous of forgetting what comes next. If I repeat it enough times I'll be fine. I am already pretty ok with it. I tend to get caught up in the element I am skating and forget what comes next. I need to relax and let my body skate.

I did so well we had tons of time left to do other stuff. We moved on to jump practice and she had me walk through Salchows and Toe Loops. We did everything slowly. Went over all the minutia. After doing the entrance over and over I finally jumped a Salchow. She then told me that I could now do it better than some of her other students. I don't think that they are very good yet since I am not doing them at speed or with much height but she is happy that I am doing them correctly. It is a good start.

We then ran out of time. I am starting to want to skate for more than 50 minutes again. A sure sign that I am finally feeling better since being so sick over Christmas. I can't get in enough skating practice. I didn't get to do spirals, spread eagles or Ina Bauers. I am probably going to have to start doing double sessions on Saturday again.

What a great skating day!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Small Victories

I watched Apollo Ono win silver last night in short track speedskating. He does four, 4, two hour training sessions a day and is one of the fastest skaters on the planet. Me, on the other hand, gets pooped doing six 30-60min workouts per week. Apollo Ono I'm not, nor ever will be. I am short, forever chubby and about to turn 48. I am not destined for the Olympics. So why do I still skate? For me it is the little victories: doing a figure eight that has three tracings within inches of each other; landing a good waltz jump (only a half rotation: Axels aren't even on my radar yet); being praised by my coach for a good entrance to my backspin (I still can't do the spin part). This is what makes me ecstatic. Doing something terribly hard and seeing small progressions in my abilities. A year ago I couldn't jump and my figure eight tracings were miles apart. I have improved and will continue to improve. This makes me happy.

Maybe I'll do well in my upcoming competitions. If I get a medal after doing a two foot spin, some crossovers and a waltz jump I'll be just as happy as Apollo getting his medal at the Olympics. Maybe even more so since an older chubby lady shouldn't be on the ice to start with ;-)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Salchow Jumps

Salchows are an odd little jump. It is one of the first full rotation jumps learned. However, it really isn't a full revolution but gets cheated on the take off so that it is really a 3/4 rotation when done properly. It was invented in 1909 by Ulrich Salchow who won the world championship ten times, a record that still stands. Apparently the first female skater to perform this jump in competition in the 1920's was reprimanded for unladylike behaviour.*

I have been attempting these buggers for months now. Today my coach finally told me that they are very difficult to do well and of course she is a perfectionist. This is why she is never happy with my jump but also why I love having her as my coach; she makes me do things right. I get very frustrated with jumping. Things happen so fast that I can't think through them. When I spin I can do it slowly so I can concentrate on each little part. Jumps can't be done slowly. Not well anyway.

This jump seems relatively easy at first glance; a nice flat three turn entrance; a hard check with the arms; scribe a small circle with the free foot close to the ice; bend the supporting leg and launch. Why is this jump such a pain? Lots of things can go wrong. My coach has had me practicing just the three turn entrance for weeks now. When I was in LP I worked only on the timing and not the execution. Now that I am not afraid of the jump I am working on the execution. I am trying to make it a good jump; to get all the body parts in the right place at the right time. She told me that I landed a good one at the end of practice today. I still don't feel comfortable with it though. I don't trust that I can repeat the performance. I have until April to make this consistent and good for the Worcester Open competition. My coach said that it was good for adult and not too many kids do the jump well. I hope to improve it. I know I will with more practice. I will continue with my unladylike behaviour!

*information is from Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Butt Pad Wars

Over the last two years I have added various accouterments to my skating arsenal. First it was hard guards and soaker guards for my blades both of which are absolute necessities. Then came a wheelie bag, although I didn't succumb to the allure of the Zuca bag. After I purchased new boots I had to get ankle gellies since the new boots rubbed my ankles raw. I also got a plastic spin trainer. Then after a few nasty spills while learning to jump I purchased crash pads. These are asymmetric kidney bean shaped pads that slide between the underwear and skating tights. I'm not totally fond of the gellies and the butt pads. They make me sweat horribly. I end up with soaking wet ankles and butt even if I didn't sweep the ice with my ass. I've only fallen on my crash pads once but my fall was so cushy I decided that it was worth the aggravation to wear them regularly for jump practice.

Since I started off ice training at the gym I have started to loose weight. Due to laundry issues I wore my black leggings rather than my standard skating tights for practice. I changed at work since I was driving straight to the rink afterwards. I dressed in the ladies room and went back to my desk to tape my knees, put on my gellies and insert my butt pads. I picked up my clothes bag and my wheelie bag containing my skates and started the ten minute walk to my car (I'm not kidding. I work in a huge complex.). As I got to the end of hallway one my left pad started to creep out of place. By the end of hallway two both pads had wandered away from my outer thighs around to my backside. By the start of the parking lot the two pads were having fistie cuffs over who got to cover my ass. I was so glad I was wearing a big baggy winter coat so no one could see the two huge lumps moving independently around my backside. It must have looked like I had some sort of alien invasion in my underwear.

Apparently I've lost enough weight that the leggings are now loose enough they can't hold the pads in place any more. Some day I might be skinny enough to fit into the pants that have built in pads but for now I am going to have to stick to wearing skating tights for jump training. They are still tight enough that the pads can't become free range chickens on me.

For those who were wondering I ended up taking the left one out completely for practice but there is no way I'm jumping without my right pad in (this is the side I always fall on). I just had to rearrange it a couple of times while I was on the ice. At least at the rink they understand why I keep putting my hand down my pants ;-)