Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Great Skating Day

I have been on the ice twice since my last blog. I have tried spinning. Since I had my left blade moved I wasn't sure how this would go. I have a mixed report. I seem to have my scratch spins back. They are occasionally centered and very fast and long. I haven't been able to do a decent camel since the change but this has always been my least consistent spin anyway. My sit spins don't seem to be very good either but I have managed several multi-revolution spins in the correct position. They will come back with practice. The most improvement I've seen are with my three turns which are coming along wonderfully and jumps.

I had a great jumping day today. I worked on waltz jumps with my coach today. She had me mucking with the take off, both the length of the edge and when and how I actually launch into the air. Since I was changing things my timing kept getting thrown off. When I explained this to her she just smiled at me and told me that she was very happy with my jumps today; that I was actually jumping and that they were very good. She NEVER says that! I was SO Happy!! When I talked with my skating buddy she told me that they looked really good and that I was getting good height and distance with it. After this I went to putter on my own and landed several Salchows. They aren't good yet but I'm not afraid of them anymore. I need to do then on lesson with my coach. I am loosing speed so that my landing is slow to stopped. I think I need more speed on the entrance and also more knee bend on the take off. I seem to have the timing down. I am happy that I am at a point where I am comfortable enough to start working on it on lesson. I can hardly wait. I am so excited!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Best Boot Fitter in the North East

I finally made an appointment with Scott at Cooke's Skate Shop to have my boots looked at. (Yes these are the real names. I'm sure they would want me to get the good word out.) I told him all of the problems that I have been having with my boots. He measured my feet at least three times and decided that my boots were the right size but that mysteriously one boot was a double wide and the other was a triple. He said that my feet were evenly balanced so that didn't make much sense. The difference must be small because I can't tell which one is bigger.

He had me put my boots on myself so he could see what they looked like when I skated in them. So on went the bunga pads, nylon socks and skates. He looked very carefully at the various gaps in the lacing noting both the location and severity. He also asked me all sorts of questions about what parts of my foot I could wiggle and which direction I could wiggle in. Basically my heel moved up and down and I could move my toes all over the place. Then he took them away and baked them in an oven until they were toasty warm and very very pliable. He told me he heats them up more than most fitters do. This time he put them on my feet and laced them as tight as I could stand them and had me sit in them for fifteen minutes while they cooled down. Luckily I brought a book so I could sit and read during these long steps. When he was happy with them he had me stand up in them. I could now touch my foot to all the locations inside the boot. Prior I couldn't touch the top edges. My heel was still slipping a bit and I explained that the tongue was too stiff and caught on the padding. He took my boots away again and did something to the heel so it fit much better. He also cut away much more of the edges of the tongue than I did, about 3/8" on each side, and then ground down the edge of the leather to make it wedge shaped so it would slide past the padding inside the boot. This made it easy to cinch the laces down so that my ankle was now firmly held in the boot. It also means that the little knots in the stitching on the tongue that have been leaving holes in my legs were now gone. There is a good possibility that I won't need the bunga pads anymore!! If I don't have to wear those little sweat factories anymore I'm going to be a happy woman.

For the finale he had me walk up and down the store in the boots so he could see the blade placement. After about five circuits of the store he decided that the front of my left blade needed to go in a smidgen. He moved the blade and added some more screws. He was done with another masterpiece and it only cost me $35 for over an hours worth of work.

Today was pudding time. I had my lesson tonight. I got on the ice and the boots felt better than they ever have. I paid attention to my lesson and my skating instead of my boots. My teacher even liked my figure eights which are the true test of edge control/boot control. Much to my surprise I could still do three turns. This made me very happy. My boots felt more pliable than they ever had and I could bend my knees deeply while doing crossovers. This made my teacher happy. We ran out of time before I got to try spinning on them. We were so busy with crossovers, which are in the competition I just signed up for, that we lost track of time and didn't get to the jumps and spins part. We really needed two hours. I am looking forward to skating on Friday. I am going to try skating without my bunga pads and try some spins and jumps and see what happens. I think it will be a few more tries before I am certain about my boots. For right now I am much happier. I should have gone to Scott much sooner. He told me that if I still have problems with the tongue being too stiff he can take it apart and grind off the stiffener that is in the inner layer. Apparently Jackson over engineered these the tongues; it is two layers of leather, then hard foam, then the soft foam that contacts your foot. Trouble is that the tongue is so hard it doesn't want to stay molded to your foot and keep your heel in the heel cup of the boot. Once I do some jumps I will be able to tell better if the boot is behaving itself. Right now I am pretty happy with them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Competition Game Plan

I'll know for sure tomorrow after I skate for my coach but it is looking like I am going to be skating in three competitions and one show this spring. Here is the list:

Colonial Adult Winter Challenge March 13-14
Worcester Open April 9-11
Stoneham Ice Review May 1
North Shore Open June 4-6

Now call me crazy but I still have no lung capacity after all the various illnesses this past month and here I am about to skate one event per month for four months. However, it isn't as bad as it looks. For the first two I'm going to be doing moves in the field and compulsory moves events. This will take under a minute. Moves is two laps around the ice and the compulsories are four or five easy stunts and I'm done. Shouldn't be a problem. In order for me to compete in North Shore I'll need my program finished but I have until June. Can I do it? We'll see....

I met with my personal trainer at the gym yesterday. We went over everything I wanted to do. I explained the difference between skating a program and skating compulsories. She compared it to sprints vs a 10K which is pretty accurate. She is a runner and trains for marathons so she put together this schedule for me:

Monday upper body and core weight lifting and cardio
Tuesday skating lesson
Wednesday lower body weights
Thursday cardio day
Friday skate practice
Saturday skate group lesson and practice
Sunday rest

I start the new schedule next week. We went through all the weight machines and it looks like I had never been to the gym. All of my weights dropped back down to where I started except for my stomach (huh?). Must be from all the coughing I've done over the last month. My abs were the only muscles getting any exercise! I have dropped two pounds since the last time I was there probably lost muscle mass. Ugh. She told my that it would be about a month and I'll be back to lifting where I left off in December.

I'm not worried about the muscle mass so much as the lost lung capacity. When I was on the treadmill my heart rate was low but I was still panting. My lungs still aren't fully recovered apparently. More acupuncture is needed I guess and more healing time.

I skated the MIF patterns today to try them out. I still remember them. I think I'll be fine with them by March as long as I stick to my new training plan. Spins are fine. Jumps are another story. While I haven't back tracked on them I haven't progressed either. My Salchow and Toe Loops are still lame on a good day. I'll probably have to stick to pre-bronze compulsories for Colonial. Maybe I'll have my jumps in time for Worcester so I can compete at Bronze level. We'll see....

For now I have to stick to my game plan. Sleeping and eating properly are my only hope of surviving this intact ;-)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And the Skating Gods Smiled Today

Everyone that skates is familiar with the fickle skating Gods. You can do a kick ass camel one day and then fall over your toe rake the next for no good reason. Some days the Gods find favor with you and other days not so much. This is particularly true of adult skaters; stunts randomly come and go. For me this past month has been spent in Hades. I have had two colds, two lung infections and an ear infection. I haven't been able to spin since Christmas and it is now January 20th. At one point I couldn't even do more than one three turn in a row or I would get nauseous and the rink would start slowly spinning around with no help from me. After yet another bad skating day last Saturday I was starting to get depressed. By yesterday, skating withdrawal had set in in the worst way. I was craving being on the ice again. I was even looking forward to jumping again. Me! Looking forward to jumping! When did that ever happen before? I was getting desperate!

Today my penance must have been completed. The Gods finally smiled down upon me and restored my ability to spin. Really spin. At full speed, centered, for so many revolutions that I lost count. Yippee!! So I spent most of the hour doing scratch spins, camel spins and sit spins. I even pulled off an under-rotated camel sit with good form. I had a blast. I also did lots of spirals: forwards, backwards and change edge. My spread eagles have gotten rusty so those got several run throughs until I could do them perfectly again.

Don't get me wrong, I did spend a significant amount of time at the boards catching my breath. You can't spend a month off the ice and out of the gym without severe consequences but I am so happy that I can skate at full tilt again. I was on the ice for the full session instead of collapsing in the hockey box after 30 minutes. I'm still not up for a double session yet but I am on my way again. Back to the gym tomorrow. I'm meeting my trainer and we'll have to jigger my routine to make up for the lost month. Plyometrics are going to have to wait a bit longer. I have to get back into shape first before I start those. But the Gods like me again. I have returned from Hades. Now to get in enough practice to kick some butt at the Worcester Open.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Decoder Ring

There is a string of codes used for skating elements. For high level skaters they have to submit a written version of their program to the contest chairs. These codes are the short hand used for this document. The document lets the judges know whether to expect a double or triple axle at a given moment in the program so that they can judge accordingly. I was reading "Ice Pact"'s blog and apparently these codes have made it into the Tweeting world. I don't Tweet so I didn't know this. However for those of you who do here is the decoder ring:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting on my freak bus

I have been sick for most of the last month. I've had two colds which resulted in two lung infections and an ear infection. I'm done with my meds but still wake myself up with coughing fits. While I feel about 80% of normal I decided to get back on the ice. It isn't pretty. I have no strength, stamina and my balance is questionable. I last about 30 minutes total before being pooped and I can only do one maybe two short spins before I am too dizzy to continue at all. Now I am talking about competing in the Worcester Open in April and I need to drastically improve my Salchow to do it and I can't practice. Prior to the colds I was on the ice fours hours a week and in the gym weight lifting and doing cardio for another two hours a week. Currently I've managed three half hour on ice session doing mostly patch and edge work. At least I could do three turns this week. Last week even those were making me dizzy. Best I could do this week was a four rev spin. Anything longer than that sent the rink swirling around me. So I am on my freak bus. I want to skate and I'm going into withdrawal. I want to practice. I want to get back to weight lifting. I need to do cardio to get my lung capacity back. But mostly I want to spin. I love spinning. Patience. I need patience.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

You hear about it all the time. My sister and I were no different. As kids we fought more often than we got along. My mother gave up trying to referee us and only stepped in when someone was in danger of getting injured. My sister and I also skated together. We were in the same club and skated on the same ice. This was back in the '70s so we did patch (figure 8s for you younguns out there) and freestyle together. We had the same coaches. My sister was the jumper. I don't know if she had no fear but at least she had less fear than me and as far as I remember she had a flip jump which I never mastered. Me, I was the spinner. I was scared of jumping but not spinning. I had a scratch spin, camel, layback, broken leg and a weird variation of an upright spin my mom had learned as a show skater. The only spin I didn't do well was a sit spin. I didn't have the quad strength to hold me up while keeping my leg straight out in front of me. My sister and I were always comparing notes. Can you do this? Have you tried that? I always thought we got along remarkably well on the ice. I guess compared to the knock down fights we had off ice (yes we used to get into physical fights as well as verbal ones) we got along famously on the ice.

When we were kids I never recognized the competitive streak that runs deep through my sister. It is only now as an adult that I see it once in a while. In a step aerobics class where I had more platforms under me than she did or during discussions on figure skating (she has never returned to the ice like I did). I am discovering that whenever we get into a technical discussion on figure skating she argues with me thinking that she is right. I even ended up going on to the Internet to look something up to prove that she was wrong. I am beginning to think that I might have to stay away from these discussions to keep peace during family gatherings. Yet she doesn't understand my passionate return to training for figure skating. I think my Mom, who instilled the love of the sport in me from the start, is also a bit shocked at the depth of my commitment to the sport and perhaps thinks I should be committed. I was quizzed about this during my last visit. Apparently neither of them knew that I have always Loved (yes, capital L loved) skating. Even when I was a kid I loved it. I just knew I wasn't great at it. I watched my friends progress faster than me and my sister always did better higher jumps so when my self esteem was at an all time low I quit the sport although I truly enjoyed it. Now that I am adult I understand that I won't be in the Olympics but I also understand that I don't have to be. Just being on the ice doing anything is fine with me. I don't care if it takes me years to get a back spin and I will be truly shocked if I ever do a flip jump. But I am going to keep skating as long as I enjoy it. I am going to compete now that there are competitions for us low level skaters (there weren't any when I was a kid) and I am going to pass as many tests as I can. I am happy when I am on the ice and that counts for everything. I just need to refrain from getting in technical discussions with my sister to maintain the peace when I am off the ice. ;-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spin lessons in Lake Placid

Over Christmas, I got to skate up in Lake Placid which is always a pleasure. This time I was surprised at how few people there were on the ice. Apparently this is normal. There are not a lot of skaters that are seriously training up there. I don't know why since ice is cheap and there are some great coaches up there. I guess they aren't high level enough to attract the serious skaters. It is a great place for intermediate level people though. Anyway, I got three days on the ice and a spin lesson. I got to show off my camel sit for my Mom which thrilled me to pieces. I learned a few extra tricks for the back spin but the most important exercises I learned for the camel and back spin were straight line work. For the back spin you start going backward in the loop take off position with the arms in an L as if you were going into a backspin. Now as you travel in a dead straight line you pull your arms and free leg into the back spin position and hold it. Think this is easy? Try it. I found I would tip my shoulder just slightly and I was off on a curve. It took me numerousl trys to stay traveling in a straight line. Then we tried the same thing for the camel. Do a back spiral in a straight line. I still can't do this one and I've been trying for weeks. Weird thing is I have been doing forward spirals for two years now and have no trouble traveling the length of the rink on either foot in a straight line but backwards? No way. Not happening. This proved to me how tipped over I was in the spin. No wonder it doesn't work most of the time. I'm getting into some wierd contorted postion. I'll get it eventually but it is going to take a lot more practice.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

shut up, Shut Up, SHUT UP!!

Like duh! I've known about sports psychology for decades. I just never considered that it would ever EVER apply to me. Why would I need to know any of this? I have never considered myself an athlete even though I have spent many many hours in the pool, gym, weight room and ice rink. Now that I am seriously into figure skating and potentially facing my first season as a competitor I am recognizing that I am going to have to take a dive into the psychology end of this sport.

Currently in my training I am on the cusp of relearning the stunts I used to do as a kid and learning brand new things I have never tried before. I am currently and always have been afraid to fall. The ramifications of a serious fall as an adult are much more far reaching. As a kid I would inconvenience my parents (mostly only my mother) and end up doing my school work at the house for a while and maybe get to go to school with a cast on. As an adult I would scare my husband silly, halt all cooking and grocery shopping in the house, suspend taxi service for the kid and make a mess out of my work career. With this in mind I have taken up a sport that for every 1000 hours on the ice there is a serious injury (not necessarily from a fall). I have seen these injuries occur which is probably the basis of my fear. I have taken up a sport that is very very hard; you are trying to do stunts from the single edge of a blade while keeping most of your body rock still and in perfect alignment. It requires great balance, core strength, concentration and skill. This is probably why I like it so much. It is HARD! However, while relearning old stunts I do get frustrated but I know in my heart of hearts that I can do this. I've done it before and with enough practice I'll be able to do it again. But now I am crossing over into new territory, doing stunts that I have never done before. Can I really do this? My coach thinks so and I think she needs a reality check. In my mind's eye I see myself doing a belly flop on the ice. I am finding that when I start a learning a new stunt such as a back spin (I never learned these properly as a kid) I go through several weeks of mental anguish. Every time I start the entrance to the spin the little guy in my head starts a rant that goes something like this "We are going to DIE! Or at least fall on our ass. It is going to hurt. A lot! Did I mention we are going to die? You look like an ass." No matter how much I plead and yell he doesn't shut up. Now what this guy does is stop me from having any rational thoughts go on in my head at the same time such as "Bring you arm forward. Snap the free foot around to the front. Bend the skating knee." or all the directions that I need to follow in order to actually perform the spin. So what happens? The guy in my head wins; I look like an ass and come damn close to falling down if not cleaning the ice with my butt. So far I haven't actually died so he has been wrong on that count multiple times but it still doesn't shut him up. I have to go through this for 2-3 weeks every time I start something new; Salchows, Toe Loops, Back Spins, etc. Once the guy figures out that I'm not going to die every time I attempt one of these stunts I can start hearing the instructions. This is when I switch over to actually learning the element and improving on it. I have decided that it is absolutely no use having a coaching session while the guy is screaming in my head. I literally can't take instruction while he is yelling at me. Once he has quieted down it is another matter entirely and I can start fixing things.

I have also had face offs with him during test sessions. Luckily I did several years in Toastmasters and have managed to quiet him down to a dull roar. He can no longer tell me that I will make a total ass out of myself. He knows it won't happen. I do however need to keep him from talking prior to my taking the ice. I have to jump around, pace, stretch, do stuff so he can't take over my head. I need it empty so I can hear the instructions. As long as I can hear the instructions I know I'll be fine. So far I have passed thee tests on the first try with no reskates.

I find that tests aren't so bad since it is only the judges, my coach and me that are in the arena. No biggie for me. I am used to being judged (evaluated) in Toastmasters. I can handle it no problem. Now I am about to launch into a whole new area, competition. Skating to music in front of lots of people. Ugh! How am i going to shut him up this time? I'm not sure. I have to think about this for a while. In the meantime I'm off to the library to start researching sport psychology or "How Not to Choke During a Competition!" Wish me luck and if you see the little guy from my head running around stomp on him for me. Thanks!