Thursday, October 8, 2015

Silver MIF; Things get fast

Back when I started skating I referred to Silver and Gold in joking terms. "If I ever get to Silver..." I'd laugh like it was some improbable thing in some far flung future. "Gold Moves?" I'd ask of fellow skaters. "As if!"

Well, the future is now, and Silver MIF is on my plate. Coach Fab and I started with the big beast that is the 8 Step Mohawk sequence. I suppose for those gifted with open hips, this poses little to no challenge. But for us closed hip marvels, this is scary and painful. This is not an inside mohawk, it's an outside mohawk, both directions. I can do it, but I have no rhythm to it. I hold the crossover forever, mohawk fast and step again... steps two through four happen quick and the rest of it I drag out. And of course my left side is better than my right, to the point where my right circle is slow and small and the left side is big and bold and nuts.

Cross-strokes, or Crossrolls, are next. Forward Crossrolls I always found horribly romantic, so I've tried these since day one. These are pretty good. Backwards crossrolls are smaller and need help. I know I look down a lot and I ride up on my toes which slows me down.
Which brings me to the true beast on this test.

FO/BI and FI/BO Three Turns.

Now, I have been playing with back outside threes for awhile. I could get them to work on a good day. But now we need them to start being controlled and consistent. And that means solid edges. Further, the lobes are your standard size with four forward and four backwards lobes on each side of the rink. Coach Fab was sure to count and check to see how big I had to be. And when I tried it, I was too slow. Silver simply doesn't have time for my chickenshit.

Back Inside threes terrified me, I hadn't even bothered, but when I gathered my wits about me and set my jaw, I found I could kinda do a LBI3. This morning Coach Yoda had me drill Back Insides and I did one (ONE) solid right back inside three. I was... amazed. Frankly, it's not so bad. As Coach Yoda says, "It's trust."

But once I set them on the FO/BI pattern, I was again too slow. My lobes were small and uneven, and I know judges are looking for consistency at Silver.

Edge Pulls? Again, the secret is speed and confidence. I'm way better at edge pulls backwards than I am forwards. I can't explain it. I can do backwards edge pulls until the cows come home, but forwards I can only make it halfway down the rink on my left foot and a quarter on my right.

Outside and Inside Spirals? Speed. They're just safer if you're faster. I read somewhere that this is the thing that holds Adults at Bronze... because the free leg has to be at hip height. Well, I guess all that time obsessing over it has paid off. When Coach Fab asked to see them, I did a set and he gave me a rare, "Wow. I'm impressed. I don't need to do anything with those." Even the insides, which I was sure were not great, he didn't feel the need to tinker with.

In short, Silver is Speed. Pre-Bronze you could get away with slow. Bronze you could still be a little pokey. But at Silver you have to move. It just doesn't work otherwise.

And we're looking forward to Gold MIF. We played around with Brackets one morning, and I've been doing double threes just because I can as I wind up a Patch Session. It hit me one morning during power class as we were doing fast tempo crossovers... "This is on Gold Moves. Take this seriously." Back Figure eights.. I have the outsides okay but Insides are tough.

Progress is happening. I feel like I’ve been on a plateau for a long time now, but we’re slowly chipping away at these hurdles that have been holding me back. Now if only I could start to get that Back and Sit spin under control...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Open Freestyle; Doing the Hard Thing

I have an Audition Program. We put it together in late winter to use for my ISI FS1 test and Spring Show auditions which never happened. The format changed and I got a solo without doing an Audition. But I had this program, and I did consider just using it as it stood for Holiday Show auditions. I looked at my drawing in my little notebook and then I skated the steps. Too Easy. I'd improved in the six months since working with this program, and it didn't reflect my current skill level. If I skated this, it would be more than enough to meet the stated requirements for an Adult Skater Solo. While I could most certainly do that, it wouldn't follow with my Mantra of Do The Hard Thing. Plus, I want to impress Coach Fab a little when he gets back. So I added a few things.

The Lunge - I made it into a slide and turn lunge. I have about a 50% success rate with these, and only at a controlled speed. When I put it into the program, I hit the lunge about 100% faster than what I'm comfortable with. The trick is to lower the knee to ensure that the blade doesn't strike the ice upon turning to backward. And commit. If it fails, it fails, but commit either way. And frankly, I need to fall when I've got judges on me. If I fall on this, I won't fall far.

Waltz Jump/Mazurka - I want to make this a Waltz Jump/Toe Loop combo. Even if I botch the toe loop a little, I will have put my entire jump repertoire into the program. Plus it will make a nice slower step forward into the Bunny Hop.

Back Edges: I don't need these anymore. So I'm replacing them with a Back Outside Spiral. The problem for me with this is Control. I lean too far and make too tight a circle. So right now the program is never ending in the same spot, or a twenty foot radius of the same spot, ever.

With the Back Edges gone, I'm replacing the final Waltz Jump/Spin with a Salchow, stepping forward into a RI3 and a Back Outside Pivot.

Ideally, I would love for the Spin to be a Sit Spin, but I know not to hope for too much.

My success rate with these changes? Not too great. I'm having trouble with transitions, breathing space and timing. But I want to work through this myself and see if I can solve the problems on my own. If I get really stuck, I have Blanket Permission (from Coach Fab) to work with whoever I like. But I'll give it another day or so and see how I do.

I also pulled up the FI/FO3 pattern from the Old Adult Pre-Bronze test and worked with that a little. It makes no sense that FI3's got abandoned by the Pre-Bronze test, only to resurface as far away as Silver MIF. I realized I hadn't worked with these at all since Delta, and they have a nasty habit of leaving me from time to time. So I am working to solidify them before we start work on Silver MIF.

Also Back Outside 3's. These are coming easier, the trick is knee bend. "Soft knees," as Coach Fab said while watching a skater on her MIF test doing back threes. So I worked to make my knees soft. Knee bend, turn to the point of pinch in the waist, commit and bend again. And get off the toepick. GET OFF THE TOEPICK.

I worked on a few other things, enjoying the relative freedom of doing what I wanted for a little while. I saw my penchant for being lazy, working only on things that were easy for me, and decided to make a list of harder things I remembered from lessons.

It occurred to me that just two years ago, Ice Show auditions were the biggest thing on my skating radar. I remember the sheer terror of having my name on that signup sheet, and the horrible pressure I had been under to skate perfectly. I realized that this year I'm planning to use the Audition Process to challenge myself in a relatively safe environment. Can I fall catastrophically out of a lunge and save the rest of the program? Here's to finding out!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Open Freestyle

I skated this morning and debated warming up with Bronze Moves. Then I thought "NO" and made up some random steps and crossrolls, edge pulls and back inside edge drills. And then I worked my program for a half hour. The Rink Friend who had video'd me gave me a copy, and usually I hate watching videos of me skating anything "real." But I made myself do it and it was valuable. I could see what needed tweaking or fixing. So I tweaked and fixed.

The Basic Skills Competition serves the purpose of getting you in front of judges, and putting on a little pressure. Not much. In the hierarchy of Competitions, it is the lowest of low level comps. Which was funny when I went to put on a little more eyeliner and found a girl sobbing in a bathroom stall. I wanted to knock and say, "Sweetheart, it's not that serious." The goal isn't to win, it's to skate well with a little heat on you. And I did just that, so I was proud of myself.

But next weekend is a higher level comp. So I needed to put on some polish and make things... bigger. And sparklier. I decided my costume needed a little more pizazz. And I need red nails.

After that... I played around. It hit me that Sunday morning's practice would be completely unscheduled, which would be weird after months of structured "Gotta do, no ice time to waste" mindset.

Coach Fab is taking off for an extended family vacation once this next comp is done. He's given me blanket permission to "Have Fun" while he's gone. So, I decided I'd revamp an old program to use for my Winter Show audition, casually work on Sit and Backspins, and back threes with the help of Coach Yoda to prep for Silver MIF. I also want to get with a great Coach to teach me off-ice jumps again, and a little conditioning to do while I'm on vacation and off the ice entirely for a week.

I'm seriously looking forward to a month of playtime on the ice, and some time off from the ice. My own little "Off-Season," as it were.

I will also be playing Video Games.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Testing day: Pre Bronze Free and Bronze MIF

Unlike my last test, where I was up early and done with it early and then off for brunch, this test was really late in the day. So I had not much to do other than sit around, watch bad movies and text nonsense to my skating friends. And be nervous. I had my things all packed up, maps and skirts and all.

Stitch was on his way back from Scout camp, and he was texting me. Dad was trying to be reassuring but not helping. I puttered.

Finally I decided I'd had enough and decided to get on the road. Rink FarFarAway was an hour's drive and I always get lost when in the far suburbs. Always. I would rather be early than late, so I took off. I detoured past Skate Shop in their new location for fresh tights, said hello to them, and took off again where I promptly got confused about where I was.

I was lost only momentarily, misjudging distance, and found the right road again. Now heading west, I turned up the music to ramp up the positive flow, blew down the road and missed my turn. When I hit a residential street that said, "Local Traffic Only," I turned around and consulted my map again. I had skipped a step. There was a northern turn before the road where the rink was. Okay.

Once I fixed that, I found Rink FarFarAway and headed in. There was the Testing Aura in the lobby; hushed voices, kids warming up, moms and coaches consoling tearful testers who didn't have a good day. Coach Fab was there with another student, we nodded to each other and I dropped my Zuca in a corner and went into the rink to cool down. I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't like to use AC in the car. I settled in with my MP3 player and watched the Intermediate and Juvenile tests ahead of me. I watched Coach Fab's student, and she didn't seem to do too badly.

When she was done, Coach Fab came up to chat with me. "She seemed okay," I spoke of his student. "She looked good."

He smiled and laughed a bit when I explained why I was so early. I always have to figure in at least thirty minutes of literal Lost Time when driving in the suburbs. "You're okay up here? Just watching?"

I said I was fine and to please go take care of the other girl. He nodded and took off to go over results with her. Stitch was home and we texted back and forth. I apologized for missing his homecoming. I was getting into my Good Place. As time wore on I headed out to get into my new tights and testing outfit. I warmed up, stretched and ran into a Young Rink Friend who was also testing. She was in my Power Skating class, one of the girls who gets me to skate faster.

By now the nerves were starting to come. My knees were getting watery. The silence of that testing rink is like lead weight. It's hard. "God, just play some music and I'd do so much better," I thought every time I stuck my head in. I checked the schedule once again, and they had me down for the wrong tests: APBFree and APB Moves. I'd already passed ABP Moves. I texted Coach Fab who had disappeared momentarily, asking if he could make the correction. I started to pace.

Coach Fab reappeared and was all over me now, and for some reason that didn't help. "I've got it, I took care of it," he smiled. "The judges know what you're testing."

"Okay, great," and then we chatted about kids and family for awhile. A Coach Friend from Home Rink talked with us about Adult Championships in Germany. "You should go. All adult skaters should go just once. You'll love it," she smiled. Coach Fab didn't seem convinced, but I was ready to buy a plane ticket.

He kept on me. "Are you warm? Are you okay? Are your skates okay? Do you need anything?"

The only thing I wanted was to get it on with and done. Finally our group was called to warm up. And it was a lot of small skaters. Once on the ice, he told me to go right for the test, even though I would have preferred to take a lap and feel the ice out first. It was softer and faster, I could tell that right off. But I went right into the moves test. And nearly killed myself on the first element, pitching too far forward. I recovered and went right into the next one. I ran into trouble on the Mohawks, with the other kids running all over my pattern. I finished the line and Coach Fab and I agreed to run that one again.

I started again, got through three, and warmup was called. I trucked off. "Just relax," Coach Fab was trying to be encouraging and soothing, but for some reason that was just freaking me out more. I hate being fussed over. The first to Pre-Pre groups went, and then my group. Two other kids and me. The Adult. And I was called out as such, which annoyed me. But I laughed it off and kept going.

I didn't have the near-miss on the power stroking this time, having felt out the ice and knew how fast it was going to take me. Power 3's... the first turn was awkward, but as I predicted, once that was done I was fine. Back XO's into back edges, those are pure fun for me so that was actually a moment to relax and feel the wind in my hair. I just had to pray that whatever kiddo's were back there had their eyes open. Circle 8, my left leg, which I usually call "Old Reliable" was shaking like all hell and I had to fight to remain steady. What in god's green earth was happening? Mohawks... I took a breath and started on them... and then Little Sally Skater crossed right into my path and I had to correct to avoid hitting her and get back on track. Would the fail me for something that wasn't my fault?? I inwardly begged for a reskate. I can do these better!!

"Thank you," the judge smiled at me.

Okay, that is either good or very bad. No time to think about it, I was called out for Pre-Bronze Freeskate. I only had warmup time for one test, so now we were going to test jumps and spins without having warmed them up at all on this fast ice. I crossed my fingers and prayed for the souls of all the little spiders I'd saved over the past few months to come to my aid. Crossovers were a breeze, and I immediately turned in for a two foot spin. Wobbly but I saved it for the required three. I might have done four, all I know was that I spun and that was what counted. Turned back again, wound up, and did a one foot spin that would nix the wibble wobble of the two foot. Great. I landed out of it, shook off the dizzy, and went for the jumps. Waltz Jump, no worries. Salchow, it felt low and slow, but I was on my feet and I pushed forward to the end of the rink so I could spiral right past the judges on my bad leg why in the hell did I go up on my bad leg???!

I T-Stopped and turned, the judge smiled and said "Thank you!"

I stood there for a moment, as if to say, "You sure?" but I said thank you back and took off.

It was over. Coach fab handed me my guards and asked if they needed me to reskate anything. "No, I think we're good."

He nodded and said I'd done great, but I don't think he'd say anything else at that moment. We headed out into the lobby. Rink Friends came out to sit with me as we waited for results, and Rink Mom asked me how often I skate. "I take one day off the ice a week, and that depends on how tired I am, really. I skate six days a week."

Coach Fab smiled his approval of this. "You work hard," he agreed.

Rink Mom gushed about my work in the costume shop and during the shows to Coach Fab, which made me feel pretty good. "She makes everything go smoothly, she's such an inspiration."

I don't think Rink Mom knows about my Voodoo Doll hanging in the costume shop. But VooDoo is there so I can be calm when everyone else is losing their minds. I need VooDoo. I could have used VooDoo right there and then.

The referee came out with sheets, I took mine. I took a cursory glance at the bottoms. "One.... and two. Pass." I was so relieved I wanted to just sit down and let it wash over me. I handed the sheets off to Coach Fab for interpretation and did just that.

2.5's on most things and 2.6's on my back XO's to back edges and my Circle 8. "That saved you," he said. He also pointed to the salchow mark. "Nice height," the judge had written.

"That sal wasn't one of my best," I shook my head. "It felt low to me."

"Sal was good," Coach Fab reassured me. And gave me a hug. "You did very well. Congratulations."

We said goodbye and confirmed for our next lesson, right before The Big Competition the following weekend. I assured him I'd be all right without him for the Baby Competition at Home Rink the next day. He nodded and took off for home.

I stayed for a little while, packing up my things and texting friends. I took in the victory, smelled the ice once before leaving, and hit a fast food place for my ritual celebratory cheeseburger on the way home. I stopped by Home Rink, where Public Skate was happening, and shared my victory with friends. I got hugs and congrats. But I couldn't stay to skate and I didn't think it would be wise to. I might have gotten carried away in my victory skating!

First Competition Day!

(Yes, I know the Test Came First, but this was a good day. Test Post will follow.)

Stitch got back from camp while I was at Rink FarFarAway for testing, and I only got to talk to him briefly before I headed to bed Saturday night. Sunday I had to be up early to help set up for the Comp. And Skate the Comp! I told Stitch to sleep as late as he wanted, but head over to the rink when he wanted to so he could help out.

I picked up coffee and breakfast on the way, and once at the rink I helped load goodie bags, greet at the door, take music and set up the podium. Judges arrived, and one of them was the same judge from Saturday's test.

"Hello again!" I smiled at her.

"It's like it was only yesterday!" she smiled back.

I had told Coach Fab that I didn't need him there at the Home Rink Comp. I'd be fine that day, and I wanted to see how I did by myself. He had complied. And I had lots of Rink Friends to take my guards and jacket and generally babysit me, which is all coaches do really at competitions. I didn't need a babysitter when I was at Home. Lady Cluck, Skating Friends, Coach Friends, they were all around me to cheer me on.

And I was really proud of how I handled myself. I noticed how I generally don't freak out at performances/competitions the same way I do a full-on freakout during testing. But I was most proud of myself for what happened on Practice Ice.

Someone came around with a clipboard to check me in, and I looked at the list. The ice was pack jammed, and it was all high level skaters. My adult skating friend looked at me with mortal terror in her eyes. "This ice is full..." she said in a dire tone.

"Yeah, it's full," I replied. "And it's going to be fast and aggressive, because all these girls want to win. So be ready."

As the final Snowplow Sam event wound down, the girls and I had started gathering by the Zam door, all of us chomping at the bit. The energy was high and contagious. When the last tutu'd tot staggered off the ice with her coach, the ice door monitor said, "GO! GO!" and the announcer informed the audience what was happening: Thirty minutes of a full on territorial battle royale. "And now there will be a thirty minute practice ice session."

Like horses out of the starting gate, twenty five fast skaters bolted onto the ice at full steam. Some warmed up with stroking, others went right for their starting position and coaches were barking orders over the music and other coaches also barking orders. I was a warmer upper, skating the shakes out of my legs, residual energies going where they shouldn't. Once I felt good, I went for a good spot nearabouts my starting position and went through the program as best I could without nailing anyone or being nailed. Timing was not important now, but I held the music in my head. Bigger skaters stopped for me and I stopped for them, all with a fast, "Sorry," on both ends before moving on. We all knew. The only near collision was me with an oblivious kid, not paying attention as I tried to dodge but she veered right into my path anyway. She gave me a dirty look but frankly it was all on her.

But I maintained focus. I ran the program in pieces, working out the harder elements, the finish with its awkward pose, the jumps. Thank god I had no spirals, forward or back. And as the ice slowly cleared, I did slow swizzle laps to connect muscle, blade and ice and think that I'd done this dozens of times and all I had to do now was trust that it was going to work. The fast ice had not scared me or thrown me. I was still there. Still focused. Like it had been absolutely nothing at all. Fast ice? Who cares. All those Power Skating classes where I'd feared for my life had paid off in spades.

I had about twenty minutes or so before my event. Not long enough to take skates off or go very far. Without a coach, I was better off staying near the Ice Door Monitor to hear her call. So I plugged in my headphones to drown out any potential negative energy floating nearby and bounced to the music, keeping my legs warm and my energy high. Compulsory events went on, and I saw the monitor wave at me to line up for our warmup.

"Can someone get the cones?" the announcer asked from the booth. No one moved.

I waved and flourished and went out to fetch cones to some applause. Which gave me a few extra seconds on the ice, as the other girls plowed out for a three minute warmup once the cones were clear. I was already across the ice. Now that there were fewer of us, I went for full on program runs. I got in two, I felt good, and I realized then that if I did anymore I'd be pushing my luck. Warmup was called as over, but I was the first to go in the flight. I tossed my jacket to the door monitor, glad to stand in for Coach Fab, and skated out as my name and club were announced. That felt so good and so right.

I made for my starting pose, the music started, and everything fell away but me, the judges and the audience. Spins were great, garnered some applause, Sal was high and smooth, bunny hop into lunge was good, and I had a minor lapse on the tap toes into a half flip, but I recovered it fast and moved on. And by then I was on autopilot. My legs knew what to do, so I vamped. It was over before I wanted it to be.

I did a flourish and bow to my applause and headed off, exhilarated. Nothing and nobody had rattled me. I was too warm for a jacket, and one of the other adults had come in and video'd me. "I'll get you a copy!" he waved. I headed out of the rink to get my skates off and settle down.

Or try to settle down. Still high off the event, I wandered around, chatting and laughing and wondering how bad my makeup had smeared with sweating. Suddenly Lady Cluck called me over in a loud voice, "COME GET YOUR MEDAL!!"

Oh mercy what color would it be? Did it even matter? I'd skated really well! I got applause! I was still standing!

All three judges landed me in first. Take that, rulebook. Stitch had arrived at this point and was distributing medals. "Sign here, please," he pointed to the results sheet. I signed, he gave me my medal. "Congratulations."

What a ride. Snowplow Sam the bear was all goofy eyed on my first skating medal with a blue ribbon, and I laughed a bit. I took a results sheet for posterity, and went to change back into street clothes. I texted Coach Fab the good news, and he was happy for me.

And then I crashed. I'd been keyed up for over forty eight hours at this point, and it was over and I'd won. More than a passing test or a medal, I'd proved to myself and everyone else what I could do. And I was suddenly exhausted. I sat down next to Lady Cluck and tried to eat a bagel, but the act of eating was too tiring and I gave up. "I need to get my music," I said suddenly, and started to get up.

"I got your music, mom," Stitch said, still in his official mode. "It's in your Zuca."

"Bless you," I relaxed again. Plenty of babysitters.

The rink began to empty out, with the last of the solo dance events finishing up and the judges filtering out. We said thanks to them as they left, and I began to collect all my things. "I have to go, I'm dying." Many fond farewells, and I headed home to collapse on my sofa with a beer and bad TV. Stitch played video games and made me laugh as he murdered Hannah Montana multiple times with a saxophone that made things catch on fire.

My Skating friend had also gotten first place, and I was proud of her, too. I'd convinced her to do the competition at Compulsory Adult 6, and she'd nearly backed out at the last minute. I threatened her with death if she did, but when she was done, she was holding her medal and blinking and saying, "That wasn't so bad. I can do this. What's on the Pre-Bronze test?" I told her she was perfectly capable of doing Adult Test Track. If I can, anyone can.