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!