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


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.