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 ;-)

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