Saturday, July 7, 2012

Edges; Obstacle Course Style

For those my fellow USians, I hope you're keeping cool. It would seem our entire nation has been encased in a heat wave. *cough*climate change*cough*hack* Excuse me. Our little Suburban Paradise is no exception. It's been hot day after day, and I've been falling asleep to visions of tossing dollar bills out the window as I listen to the AC run.

The rink is a nice escape, but even there, the effects of the suffocating heat are apparent. The hockey glass is fogged up and the ice feels a bit softer. But that's not so bad. I can live with that.

This morning I headed out onto our small rink for my group lesson, and there were four small cones out. I thought they had been left there by the Tot class, so I picked one up to carry it off. Imagine my horror when I saw five large zits on the ice under and around the cone. Not quite big enough to be a stalagmite, so it was an ice zit. Every cone was surrounded by zits. The moist air was causing condensation to collect and fall from the ceiling.  I dropped the cone and skated off, inspecting for more. There were lots more.

The warmup coach was kind enough to mention the hazard, and had us skate on the opposite side of the rink. Backwards. Because you have to go backwards.

I push off for some backwards slalom business, and I know my left foot is acting up and my right side is being hesitant, and I can feel myself collapsing into a fearball because I know those zits are out there. They are out there, like mines, and I can't see them because I am going backwards. I feel the back of my blade catch and wobble, and I mentally mark, "Ice zit, just over the second blue line."

Warmup Coach stops us and gives some direction, noting that our feet are doing things they shouldn't, and I'm just wondering if I should say anything about the hazard behind me. Like Jaws.

By this time another lady has shown up, and, god love her, she's chronic at not being aware of herself. I know if we go backwards side by side, she's going to drift into me, and I'm going to trip over the ice zit, we'll both go down together and I'll mess up her pretty sweater as I claw for safety. As we push off for backwards half pump whatevers, I'm listening for her, noting where I am in relation to that second blue line, feeling the Fearball and hoping I have my insurance card.

Luckily this ends. Coach Snape wanders in, and while I did try to practice 3 Turns this week, I was less than successful. I'm wondering if he has some kind of harness apparatus or sparkly green jello for me that will make it happen (maybe a sedative) when he says, "Let's do Edges."

Yes, I'll take that sedative please.

He puts me on the red line and does some examples. "Outside edges."

Okay, for the record I have done outside edges. I've done them around the cones on a public session in a "Hahaha! I'm cheating death!" Kind of way. I also do them when I do forward crossovers, which had become rather daring the night previous when I decided to go for broke and just throw myself into that lean like Indiana Jones avoiding a blow dart. But Outside Edges can be scary. You're just leaning into empty space. Now I had to do them in the formal, "This is an Edge," kind of way, complete with arm and free foot movements.

Of course Coach Snape made it all look quite graceful. When I tried, I not only gave myself a solid push off with my toepick, my arms flew around and my foot flew in front, then I remembered hidden Ice Zits I couldn't see and bobbled it. Hey, I try. Coach Snape was patient, telling me to slow down, do the movements at the top of the curve lest I over rotate, which is funny because I like to see how long I can hold an inside edge, and if I can wrap some appendage around my torso in the process.

So I try again, carefully avoiding the Ice Zits as I slowly move my arms and free foot. I'd toss down that free foot at the first sign of trouble, which Coach Snape interpreted as over rotation. Eventually I figured out how to set up the half circles to avoid them, but I'm still moving my limbs too fast. By now I'm concentrating so hard on the lean, my arms, my free foot, my posture, where I am on the blade, the half circle and the Zits, that when another lady starts stomping on the ice for some reason my head almost implodes.

I resist the impulse to ask her "WHY?!" and keep going.

Snape comes back to me and starts to talk abut turning, when he glances at the clock. Our time is done. I turn to depart the hazardous ice, and to my horror Stitch (who is in town this weekend) has been photographing everything from the hockey glass.

"You didn't," I ask him.
"Oh, I did." He grins.
"You have to delete them."
"Nope. They're funny."
"I have some prime naked baby Stitch pictures. On paper. Delete them."

Stitch sighs and fiddles with his DS, presumably deleting the pictures. I'll need to make sure.

So, watch yourself and your ice this hot summer. The Ice Zits are out there, and they are terrible.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Can't Turn

This statement is not entirely true. I can do a two foot turn from forward to backwards with some fair degree of skill. As I like to say at home, "I can do a 33 Turn!"

But of course, there are no 33 Turns in Real Skating. They are yet another figment of my imagination. I knew I had turns coming, but I was content to go Forwards and Backwards like I was on a perpetual Lazy River. "Turns can come later," I thought. "When I'm ready. My coaches will know."

Well, apparently either my Coaches are slacking off or I am, because I had Three Turns and Mohawks thrown at me in quick succession, and both of which were disastrous.

Why is this such a hard concept for me? Well, think of your skate blade. It's long and thin, and it likes to go forward and back. He simply doesn't support side to side motion. It's like your car. The tires are aligned in such a way that he can go forward and backward, with gentle turns.

Turn too fast, and you get this kind of disaster:

And it didn't help that Coach Snape was saying, "You'd be surprised at how easy this is. It can't help but happen."

Yeah, well, once again my Brain Stem started freaking out. I'd line up a turn, get on that FO edge, get my arms ready, and I'd try to swing around, and I'd think, "YOU'RE GONNA DIE!" And I'd just stay there, paralyzed.

I ended that class in severe frustration.

Okay, semi-privates are next. "Master Shifu will surely not do this to me yet," I think.  So we warm up, head on the ice, start normally with stroking and crossovers and life is good.

Then Master Shifu busts out a Mohawk. "We'll do this on the wall," he says.

Oh good, I think. I like the wall.

So we do this on the wall, and I'm wrapping my head around the mechanics of the thing, when he skates away from the wall.

Please don't ask me to do that out there, I'm begging inwardly.

But he does, and it's disaster. And once again I get that paralysis.

Now, bear in mind the lovely lady I'm working with grasped this right off the bat. She's doing mohawks and three turns, and I've been put back on the wall where I'm grabbing the rails for dear life. Every time I try to step away from the wall, I get paralyzed and think "Why can't I do this?"

Eventually I get so frustrated I start to shake, and it's over. Call the lesson done, I have forks sticking all out of me. Master Shifu insists that I'll get it eventually, but with Snape saying, "Oh, it's so easy," and Lady getting it so handily, I feel awful.

I come back later on, where I try again at Public Skate. I get a 2.1 turn on my good side, a 1.5 turn on my bad side, and that Mohawk is nowhere. I try it on the boards, and once again I'm clinging for purchase as my skate slides out from under me, or I land the T wrong and trip myself.

I've taken a few bad falls and come away with some pretty nice bruises. As it turns out, I can take the black and blue kind. What I can't take is a bruise to my ego, and I think that stings more than anything.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Backwards Skating, the Riddle of a thousand years

I can skate backwards. Kinda. And it was a long, treacherous road to say "I can skate backwards kinda."

When I see the kids on the ice, struggling to comprehend the bodily mechanics of a backwards wiggle for the first time, oh, how I ache for them. Because I understand. I understand so heartily.

The Brain Stem, he doesn't like to go backwards. Your body doesn't like it, either. No one can see where they're going, the knees and ankles don't bend that way, and your butt is hanging out there screaming at you, "Do you not like sitting? I know you and I don't get along, but is this really necessary?"

I hated going backwards. I hated it so much I made myself do it for entire public sessions. An hour at a time, backwards. Swizzling or wiggling, it didn't matter. I'd just go backwards, to feel the motion, to get used to the sensation of not really knowing where the hell I was going. Eventually I got pretty good at it, toepick scraping and all, so I decided to try to pick up one foot.

Of course, I did it crazy wrong. I'd straddle some imaginary horse and try and lift up a foot at random, leading to a loss of balance and a general awkwardness. It was so bad, I started thinking, "Well, no one really skates on one foot backwards for any length of time anyway..."

Then I remembered this, and sighed, and went back to work.

Eventually I picked up the right idea. Half swizzle backwards, pick up one foot. As with the FO edge, I did this forever. I still do this. (As with FO edges. Or any F edge.) Rink Pal noted me doing it for the bazillionth time and said, "Gee, you sure are getting comfortable going backwards."

"I'm so glad it looks that way," I clipped back.

I still find the sensation of going backwards disconcerting. Even today, after I was done frustrating myself with turns, I polished off the session with some backwards half swizzles. Fast, while listening and feeling to toepicks. And holding out my arms. And being aware of my posture. And solving some algebra equations in my head while I was at it. I solved the riddle by just heading out there, sighing greatly and doing it.

Because I know that one of a Coach's favorite things to say is, "Oh, so you can do that? Great. Now do it backwards."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

So, how hard is it?

Remember me saying, "gosh, it doesn't look all that hard..." and I'm sure many of you gave me furtive looks through your screens. Well, it isn't all that hard, it's just frustrating. And it's frustrating because once you learn any given skill, there's always someone showing you some way you could be doing it just a hare better. And that little hare ends up tossing you back to square one.

Like forward crossovers. I got those. I could do those with some fair amount of proficiency last year, so I felt like I was walking into this year in pretty good shape.

Heh. Nope. I came into my first class, did a few crossovers, stopped in front of Coach Shape (Stitch had said he looked like Snape, not me...) and smiled, thinking I was ahead of the game.

"That's nice, not bad," says Snape, and then belts out a few Champion style crossovers and says, "But they need to be more like that. Push with the blade of the back foot, not the toepick."

And from that moment on I was forever aware of the constant, nagging, *cross*pick*cross*pick*cross*pick.*  And I tried. Lord knows I tried to banish that pick push from my life, but my brain stem had taken over and was stuck in this mode of, "Get that foot out of there before you hurt yourself."

See, your brain stem is the primitive part of the brain. He's concerned with self preservation. When you're at home, packing up your skates and getting ready to practice, and you think, "Yeah, I'm gonna own this bitch today!" That's your gray matter talking. When you get on the ice and you find yourself hunched over in this quasi ball of fear, sweat and self conciousness, that's the brain stem. He's saying, "You can't be serious."

So, when I was trying to hold an outside edge, leaning over into oblivion where there was no foot to throw down and save me, my brain stem was screaming, "AHHHHH!!!NOOOOOO!!!!STOOOOOP!!!" But I knew holding that edge was pretty critical, so I managed to talk him out of his panic, and now I can hold that edge. Fairly well... well enough to throw my free leg back. On my right side. My left side is constantly playing catch up. Anyway.

Once I could hold that edge, I tried getting rid of the pick, but it was still proving to be quite the challenge. My foot kept ducking, and picking out, well beyond my control. It wasn't until I started taking semi-privates with Master Shifu that the light went on. Master Shifu says, "Do this exercise where you swizzle out," he does the half-pump thing, "then bend your leg forward and let the free leg roll out behind you."

I did that for awhile, and that got easy enough, but when I added that to my Forward Crossover Equation, it just didn't work out. For awhile I'd just stare at my skates thinking, "What the hell.." I knew what it was supposed to look like.  I had some fair grasp of how I was supposed to do it. But I just could not get my body out of Panic Mode, and allow that free leg to just roll out of the way like so much butter.

Around and around I went, carving circles in the Studio Rink, getting caught in my own edge tracks or whatever, my past self tripping up my present self, cursing and sweating, until finally I got some slight roll out.

Proud of myself, I headed to class and showed Coach Snape. "Not bad," he said in his usual unimpressed tone. "But you need to stand up straighter."

And so I tried again, this time standing straight, and all my extension was shot.

Back to Square One.