Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Progress Report

Oh, how I've missed classes! Those wonderful moments where you get some instruction and then you're left alone for awhile to digest it. The class coach will eventually make his or her way back to you, but you've got a few moments to let it sink in. Classes also serve to fill little gaps in your knowledge, like a Half Toe Walley. After one class session, I had a serviceable half toe walley. I still need to work on rotation, but it kinda goes.

And it's reinforcement of what your Private Coach might be doing with you, like spinning and Half Lutzes. Half Lutzes continue to flummox me, but they're getting better. Again, it's not being afraid of the rotation.

The Kid's Class is exactly what I needed, it's more focused and less jokey than the Adult Class. Believe me, I joke around a lot, but not when I'm getting skating instruction. Skating costs money, and I can make my own jokes for free.

The Package Deal comes with Moves&Flow Class and Power Class. Each of these is a half hour long. Moves class is great; it's edges and figures and arms, things I need reinforcement on. I like Moves Class. I just have moments of biting my tongue when the coaches ask questions of the kids and I KNOW the answer but I'm not sure if I should speak up or let the kids fight it out. Usually I stay quiet. Patch Coach Yoda heads up the Moves class so I think he's aware of my knowledge.

Power Class is thirty minutes of high speed terror. One the first few sessions I was incredibly grateful for Freestyle Coach's literal shoving and pulling me faster and his insistence on confidence in turns. Without those things, there would be no way in hell I could do this class. I keep telling myself it's good for me, even as we're all flying the corners with arms over our heads and praying everyone's balance holds, lest we start to resemble Mass Start Speed Skating. (And I have to watch out for the ones that are three feet high..)

Out of my way, Munchkins!!

I never thought I would ever reach complete physical exhaustion of my ankles until last week, when I got a fit of uncontrollable wobbling. Ever see that and wonder what's going on? Awfulness, that's what it is. The muscle set is so tired it literally just gives up for a little while. And we were just doing slaloms!

The new Strauss Program I am chipping away at. It scares the hell out of me, but I want this really bad so screw the fear! Jump! Bounce! Be happy! Ballet jump in the wrong direction, it's okay! We had it all nearly choreographed and I thought it was hard but nothing I can't do with some time and possibly Valium... and then Coach threw in a Left Back Inside Three.

Shit, are you serious? I took the RFI3-toe-RFI3-toe steps, I took the mohawks all over creation. Hell, I even took a backwards spiral that ends in me setting my free foot down right on my skating foot, and I didn't complain. But this?? And I made some remark that I wasn't good at those back inside threes (as in, Can't Do) and he says with a smile, "I know."

Yeah, typical.

So, back inside threes are now on the plate, not just at the buffet.

Plus, I had to break out a practice skirt, since the Skirt will be a big part of the routine. There's moments where I will grab my skirt and play with it... which is harder than you think when you're winding up for a waltz jump/mazurka or balancing grapevine steps. Comedy! (And it's even funnier when Coach does it. I'm going to ask him to stop, the laughing distracts me.)

But as scary as it all is, it's kinda mind blowing to finish up a practice and think, "Did I really just do all that?" Don't get all excited, everything is super rough and kinda slow, but it feels like things are really coming together. That backwards spiral? Nary a toepick to be heard. That's Patch for you. Those mohawks all over the place? Super fast and getting smoother all the time. That's Power Class. And everything happens because I'm just crazy enough to keep on trying.

"So, do you want to compete with this program?" Coach asked me of the Strauss music.
"Yes. I want to compete."
"Okay, then that's what we'll do. Adult Pre Bronze program. I need to remember what those requirements are. Can you send me a reminder?"

And off we go! With any luck, Strauss will take me to Nationals in 2016!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Skating Class!

I'm trying out a Freestyle Skating Class again, my first session is Saturday. The last class I took was Beginner (Adult) Ice Dance. It was okay, I definitely got something out of it, but Ice Dance just isn't for me. After ten weeks of endless counterclockwise Waltzes and Whatevers, my sports med guy looked at me and said, "What's going on? It used to be your left glute was the weak one. Now it's your right. What happened?"

Ice Dance. Ice Dance happened.

But that's done and I can say I gave it a fair shot. I like Freestyle, thanks! So I'm taking a bold step and trying out the "Saturday Package" deal. It's Moves/Flow, Power and a Freestyle Class all in one big swoop. Stitch did it when he skated, and it's a great bargain, a serious workout, plus you get to work with a bunch of different coaches so you get a variety of skating input. While Freestyle Coach is the Final Boss on what I do, it's fun to get some different viewpoints. Saturdays are also the Big Social Days at the Rink. Everyone, Pre-Alpha to FS6, shows up on Saturday, so you can meet and greet and see friends.

Here's the Hitch: I'm taking the class with the kids. For the record, I do not mind skating with kids. I really don't. I share Practice Ice with kids all the time, it's not that big a deal. But taking a class with kids can get a little dodgy. I took an Ice Dance class with kids and at times it was very unpleasant. Head Coach of the class tended to direct all his instruction to them and left the adults to the rear. It felt... weird. Dance wasn't constricted to any given level, so there were Beta Level skaters sharing the ice with FS6 people. We had some kids plowing at 90MPH around people struggling with Outside Edges. (I nearly ran headlong into a kid who decided to do a spin out of nowhere smack in the middle of the traffic flow.) Plus there was the Parental Peanut Gallery in the stands, which isn't normally there during Practice Ice. That was also weird.

But I'm thinking that the Freestyle Classes tend to be a bit smaller, and have less a wide array of skillsets represented. I'll be in Freestyle 2, and everyone else there will be at that same level. The Parental Peanut Gallery will still be there, but I think most everyone knows me at this point so it's just something I need to get over.

The two Coach's names that came up as to who might be teaching it are both cool. One of them I've already taken a class with and I like her plenty. The other I've never been taught by, so it will be totally new if it's her, but from what I've heard she's great. I'm so excited, seriously. I can count on not being left in the rear by these two!

I've stated that I test USFSA, but Home Rink teaches ISI.. so I'll be doing ISI FS2. These things are (in no particular order):

Ballet Jump - I struggle with this. I can't throw my leg out sideways if I'm trying to. Put me on an 8 and tell me to do FO3's on it, and my leg swings out to the side like it's his job, but jump up and straighten it sideways? Nuh-uh.

One-Half Toe Walley - What. I'm pretty sure this is that really cute step I'm dying to know ever since Skate America.

One-Half Lutz - Working on it. I just need to be sure I'm really on that Outside Edge and that I'm really rotating the full 180.

One-Foot Spin - Inconsistent, but 1000% better than it was a year ago.
Two Forward Arabesques (On either foot – and on either outside or inside edge) - Inconsistent, but happening. Outside edge Spirals are easier than Inside Edge Spirals for me.

Dance Step Sequence - Someone showed me this once... I think it's a crossover and an edge and an inside mohawk business. Eh, okay.

So yeah. This seems doable. I'm thrilled to be on the Big Ice, doing big Ice things. Coach tells me I'm pretty fast, so hopefully I'll be fast enough to keep up this Saturday!

Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 Skating Resolutions

Last year I didn't make any Skating Resolutions. I simply wasn't in a good enough place to do that. Unhappy, miserable, lonely and unsupported, I think my only goal for 2014 was to simply stay on the ice. Anything else I did was secondary.

But this year has been a complete Turnaround. I'm more confident and a hell of a lot stronger than I was back then.

Armed with that newfound strength, I unpacked all the Bad Baggage associated with my spins. I sincerely believe a huge part of the problem was Anxiety. Having been beaten about the head and shoulders repeatedly about it, I simply freaked out and tried too hard, and the bad vibes just snowballed themselves into a complete mental block. So, I backed up. I looked at where I was as a whole, how far I'd come, and the entirety of the process so far.

I've really been seriously Skating for just under 3 years. That's not very long. And yes, I had a lot of flow and power, but that's because I spent a lot of time doing what I could do, as I wasn't being pushed to do more. True, at this stage of the game I *should* be able to, but also I hadn't really been taught to spin until the FS1 Test came due. Only then did I spend an agonizing amount of time, entire lessons, trying and failing at spinning, literally under the gun. And I couldn't do it. I got hung up on what I couldn't do, which sapped my confidence.

So I let the anxiety go. If I spun, great. If not, okay. And I focused on what I could do instead. I worked on extension, edges, lifting my free leg higher, keeping my head up, those kinds of niggly details. And in lessons we still worked on spins. A lot. Sometimes they worked and sometimes not, and we never spent an entire lesson on them. Most of the time I traveled pretty far, but sometimes it worked. And Coach repeated himself a lot, but I thanked him for his patience every time. When I started getting those anxious vibes in practice, I stopped spinning and did something else for awhile and then came back to it.

At my lesson this week, Coach asked me to spin. And I did. And it was perfect. Seven revolutions, perfectly centered. I pulled out of it, checked the tracing, and nearly cried. Coach laughed, folded his arms and asked me to try a sit spin.

Needless to say, that didn't work too well. But it worked better than it did last week. Still, we backed off the one-foot idea and tried it on two feet again.

I told Coach I was going to push to get up to Bronze this year. Bronze Moves are happening. They are not perfect, but we're working on them. Jumps are happening. We worked hard on Salchow, and Toe Loop (not a Toe Waltz!) is something I've determined to master. Sit Spin is Bronze, and having gotten a handle on my Spin Anxiety, I believe this can happen.

So, my Skating Resolutions for 2015 are:

Pass Pre-Bronze Freeskate

Pass Bronze MIF

And if Bronze Freeskate happens, great! If not, that's OK, too! I sent Coach a really fun bit of music to put together another program, and he seems to like it as much as I do. He wants me to cut it right away! I listened to it again this morning, and debated the wisdom of this particular piece... it's really fast and Coach indicated there'd be a lot of toepick action. Yikes, but YES!! So, with two programs (a "Serious" one and a "Fun" one) and a lot of work, we can make the Skating Resolutions happen.

2014 was my Turnaround Year. 2015 will be my Success Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Skate "Walkers" - Weapons of Mass Destruction

We always get a few inquiries when there's a tot on public skate: "Do you have those push things?"

I always say no.

The truth is, we do have them, but I hate them. Everyone does. They are the worst things ever conceived to "assist" with learning to skate. And like most things adults dream up to keep kids safer, they actually do the opposite.

I got to help out with a mass of tots, during a "Freebie" Learn to Skate class. (Free class, you get the instructor you pay for... me!) Mostly I just held them up and dried tears, but there were too many of them for us to handle, so the dreaded skate walkers were broken out. And the kids and parents squealed in delight, the parents thinking that kid would be safer and kid seeing a wonderful little jungle gym sliding towards him. Us skaters paled in horror.

Little kids clambered up the walkers, pushing them faster and faster, skidding into other kids, the walls, the coaches, and finally falling backwards, their feet and the walker flying up into the air and down onto the next kid who squealed that there was now a free walker. Another kid, who had fallen hopelessly over and over, still hadn't learned that ice is hard and slippery, so was now doing push ups on the bar of the walker, his feet dangling down. When he tried to roll himself over the top bar, the thing slid backwards like a rocket, slamming kid down with agonizing force. He blinked, shook his head, and went for it again, perhaps trying to permanently marry Skating and Gymnastics. (Like the Big League skaters do on TV.... was that my inside voice?)

Over and over, walkers slammed into my feet and shins. I ached for my expensive blades getting more nicks, my boots getting more dings, and prayed I wouldn't be upended by one of those horrible things. If I fell, I knew I'd land on someone cute and I didn't want that.

"You don't need that walker," I hopelessly tried to convince a Cindy Lou Who, who was actually doing really well and seriously didn't need the walker.

"NO!" she grinned up at me, pushing that thing into another fallen kid who tried to roll away. "It's mine and I NEED IT!"

The walkers become an immediate crutch. Convinced of skating's deadly nature, the kids grab for safety and never learn to ... well, walk. Because that's what they learn the first lesson: walking.

A real coach handed me a bigger first timer. I held her hands and talked her through walking. I pinned her hair up out of her face, tightened up her skates, and we walked for awhile. "Okay," I said. "Pick one of my hands and let that one go." She picked my right hand, and let go. So we walked like that awhile. "Okay, let go my other hand, and try it yourself."

And she did. She was still a bit unsteady, but she had the idea. And pretty soon she dismissed me. Seriously. "I think I can do it," she turned to me, smiling, and walked off.

So, yes, it's a literal pain in the back and legs to help your first timer in skates, but it's worth it. A huge part of skating is the satisfaction of doing something that seemed impossible just a few minutes or days ago. Impossible doesn't become possible with a crutch, it gets there with help.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Skating Costumes

In addition to sewing two Harlequin skirts, The Mouse Queen, Mama G, and endless minor alterations on our stock costume dresses for Ice Show, I had the honor of sewing an Elsa dress, an Anna cape and a Kristoff vest, hat and boot covers. These are for some "Learn to Skate" events Home Rink is hosting. Right now I am beyond done with sewing anything more.

Elsa was a mashup of the Jalie Princess dress and McCall's "Frozen-but-not-really" Princess dresses. I used the bodice portion of the Jalie pattern, and the overlays and skirt of the McCalls. While not exactly easy, it wasn't as complicated as I anticipated. I simply had to take my time and work the puzzle through. It's a genuine skating dress, but I did advise the skater to try it carefully before doing any complex manuevers. The overlays and long skirt may pose a hazard. She's not competing in it, so she doesn't have to do too much in it.

The Anna Cape was really simple. The McCall's pattern packet included it along with the Elsa dress. It was all straight seaming, with a collar thrown in in to wake you up at the end. I did not line it, as that would have taken up more time than I had and made it even heavier. That said, four yards of fabric of any weight is too heavy to skate in well, so I hope the skater in this one is just standing around.

Now, the Kristoff Vest was fun. I had no pattern, as McCall's doesn't think many boys want costumes from Disney Movies. But he just wears basic black with a furry vest type thing. So, I made a furry vest. Armed with two yards of pricey sueded cuddle fur in black/gray, I cut a basic vest with turned down collar. I rolled the armholes and bottom so the fur trimmed itself, added belt loops and a belt of scrap suede. It looks pretty good! I kinda want to keep it! Thrilled with my success, I made a hat, too! A simple scalene triangle, sewn on two sides and the edge rolled up wide in the back. But he needed boots... so I cut some simple covers with what I had left. Since the cuddle fur doesn't stretch, I added a black spandex panel to the back, which will allow the skater to pull it on and over his boot. Straps on the bottom will held keep it in place, and I gave him a few safety pins for good measure. Kristoff is fairly well outfitted at this point.

Having sewn pretty solidly since mid-November, I cleaned and reorganized my sewing things. I'm taking my machine in for a tuneup and cleaning, as I'm  finding and breathing bits of cuddle fur everywhere. Next year is a new year, and I'm starting clean.

But I do have an admission.. I've never seen "Frozen."