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 ;-)