Thursday, February 21, 2013

Historical Thursday

In my search for information regarding figure skating, I made the gleeful discovery that the Google Online Library, as well as many other online Libraries, are replete with books dating to the 1800's on the sport. These are all free, all wonderful, and all hysterical. I encourage you to go searching for a few, and once you get past the flowery langauge, you can find some interesting and useful information.

Today we're looking at "Figure Skating for Women" from the Spalding Athletic Library dated 1921. This book is supposedly a beginner's guide, but it jumps from selecting and buying a good pair of skates to rocker turns within about twenty pages. You be the judge. We also learn that the standard by which we should judge ourselves is the premier european female skater of the day, "Charlotte," who is always referred to within quotations because apparently she is so very good that we cannot even say her name without religious pause. "Charlotte" is quoted very frequently, and she speaks pretty derisively of the quality of American Skaters she sees on public pond sessions. But she loves our enthusiasm.

This is "Charlotte."

She also has her own line of skates, proudly advertised in the back for ten dollars a pair.

On clothing, the book recommends that women wear a skirt no longer than the tops of the boots, and no shorter than mid-calf. Material can vary from sheer silk to leather. (Well, now I want a leather skirt.) Silk sweaters are advised, and to avoid bulk and aid in freedom of movement, we should have some silk or satin bloomers. Experts may wear costume "somewhat more striking than that which would be appropriate in public parks," but beginners had best stick to "subdued colors and simple design." I'm going to say it again; Bloomers.

The book goes on to say a few of the same things that Master Shifu says to me today, "don't look down," "bend your skating knee," and "twisting of the body." My personal favorite suggestion was "the palm turned down and the fingers slightly extended, but neither clenched nor spread out like claws." Now I want to try Claw-Hand at my next lesson just to see how that goes. It does state that teaching a friend to skate can be one of the greatest strains a friendship can bear, which I believe when I remember trying a few jumps, shaking and sweating in terror and thinking I was doing a little better, and Master Shifu yawning.

Hogwarts Coaching Team

Speaking of Master Shifu, the book does say that it would be wise to employ a "qualified teacher," but it warns that these people can command the exhorbant rate of four dollars an hour. If you want someone really good, then you can expect to pay fifteen dollars an hour.

Having been written in the twenties, this book doesn't really concern itself with jumping or spinning or any of that fun stuff we do. In fact, this is their idea of Spirals, which my husband would agree with.

No, it's all about school figures. These things, the shapes that the woman who studies Patch does, who gets annoyed with me when I accidentally invade her ice.

The figures range from the relatively simple.

To these things, which the book says we should not try. (I'm not joking.)

All in all, this is a pretty fun trip down skating history. I love history, because you can't know where you're going unless you see where other people have been before you. And now I think I will die if I don't get one of these glorious fur trimmed dresses to go skating in on the public rinks next winter.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I am being pressured to be in the Ice Show. Not by any coaches, mind you, but by my surrogate skating parent, Lady Cluck. She is insisting. "You have to be in the Spring Show! I'll have no reason to watch if you don't!"

This makes little sense to me as both her daughters skate. In fact, I'm putting together some dresses for their competition season. But whatever, I'll take any encouragement I can find at this point.

The theme is "Skating through the Day," and no one really seems to know what that means but seems rollable. Me, I always think I'd love to skate through the day until I hit hour four in skates and my feet and hips begin to loudly protest. Thing is, I don't really know how this theme could apply to adults, unless they want us skating in spandex blazers and skirts, waving reams of paper and copier toner to Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money."

Maybe we could suspend one of the guys from the ceiling chained to a chair in a ball gag and spiked dog collar, make prop boxes of Skinny N' Sweet and do a number to "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton. (This is actually one of my anthems.)

Or we could do a series of RFOW3's to TCB by BTO. This seems like the best option.

At any rate, I will be in the show but only because my surrogate skating parent wants me to be. I do worry over what I will be made to wear. After sorting and handling and doing adjustments prefab skating costumes for awhile, I think they seem itchy and weirdly cut. Doubtless, this is the precise reason I lost the amount of weight that I did, I still worry. Do I really want Rink Coaches, who have been known to make jokes about the Fat Moms, knowing my measurements? (My kid tells me everything, gang.)

Who knows. It's not for me to decide. But Lady Cluck wants me to do it, and seeing as she is my surrogate skating parent, I don't want to let her down. Maybe by then I'll be turning better, or at least bending my knees.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hi, I'm still Skating

So it's been awhile. I apologize. The holidays hit early, with me landing a gig lighting a holiday show, and frankly I didn't want to bore the Internet with the ongoing tale of me being interminably stuck in my skating. But I'm still at it, slowly chipping away at my current roadblock.

Which isn't to say I haven't picked up some new skills since the backwards crossover. I can do those pretty good, and I'm starting on the new "advanced" forward crossover which is kinda scary. In fact, I'd say I've picked up a pretty wide, if awkward, set of skating skills.

Let's go over the things I can do with a degree of skill:

I can do a pretty decent spiral. I can get both legs to hip level, and my right leg will actually get up a little higher.
I can do a decent Shoot the Duck. No, really. I can. It's pretty funny, because when I was showing someone they asked if the face I made was part of the element. I said yes.
I can *almost* do a lunge. Today I felt my right boot touch the ice, not just dragging the blade, and I counted that as a victory over my obstinate hamstring and quadricep.
I can do a Bunny Hop. Seriously. It's actually kinda fun after the first one.
I can do a Side-Toe-Hop from a LBO edge.
I can kinda spin on two feet. I can get around about three times before I get hit with the "Oh god where am I" sensation of dizziness and terror and I pull out of it.
I can do FO, FI, BO and BI edges, usually without looking unsteady or terrified.
I can kinda stop going backwards without hitching up on my toepicks. (And THAT was a tough habit to break, let me tell you.)
Yes, I can T-Stop. Even on a fresh edge, I can do it.
I can almost waltz jump. It's more like a hop/turn/ta-da kind of thing, but it's a start.
I can almost do forward crossrolls.
I can stagger through backwards crossrolls, which I figured had to be the same principle as forward, only backward. And it worked.

Now let's go over the things that are holding me back:

I can't turn. Which encompasses a vast blockage of skills.

I can do a RFO 3 turn with some regularity. I can do a LFO 3 turn, but I don't glide into or out of it. I just hit that edge and wing into it, throwing my free foot down before disaster strikes.
I can do a Right Mohawk but it's rough. There's no glide to speak of. Left side? My free foot stubbornly refuses to hit the instep of the skating foot, falling behind the skating foot and outside the circle. It's forced and awkward.
Inside Threes? Don't even ask.
Choctaw turns come to a grinding halt before I manage to get the free foot down.
Back to front mohawks do the same thing.
RBO three's give me nightmares, but I spend a few minutes doing back to front two foot turns every so often, just to feel myself "turning on the heel."

Turning is what is keeping me back.

I've identified a few culprits in my lack of turning ability.

1. I'm afraid to fall at 90 MPH. Speed is no issue, I'm not averse to going fast. In fact, I pick up speed pretty well. It's turning while moving fast that's the issue.
2. I don't have very good turnout to begin with, but on the ice it's magnified by 1000x.
3. I don't like to twist myself around. Master Shifu says I get stuck, and it's the terrible truth. I can't count the number of times I've found myself physically immobile and panicking on a rapidly deteriorating edge.

But before we get all maudlin about this, let's go over a few other things that have gone positively for me in the past few months.

Remember how I said I wanted to lose 35 pounds? Yeah, I've lost 38. I've taken eight inches off my waistline. I've gone from not being able to run three blocks to pushing three miles, three or four times a week. I'm registered for a damn 5K race, which my Running Friend encouraged me to do. I don't think I've ever been this healthy. Ever. Master Shifu asked if I'd done any other sports besides this, and the answer was "Competitive drinking." (I didn't say that.) Not the case now. Now I have a preferred tea. While stating this makes me feel as though my Butch card has been permanently revoked, physically I've never been better. Which isn't to say I don't still enjoy facets of my old life. The cooks at Five Guys love to watch me jump for joy as they proffer my bag of delicious junk food.

My left side which is my weaker, chickenshit side, had strained hamstring incident following a light hang and focus, which revealed a hip problem in physical therapy. The therapist said I was missing a significant degree of motion on that side, so I've been working on strengthening and loosening up that side. I have to stretch it out before and after (especially after) skating or running. While it looks like I'm being professional (or weird) with my post-skating hamstring and piriformis stretches, I'm actually just keeping myself mobile. If I don't do it, my left side is stiff and sore for the rest of the day. Part of me is a little envious of adult skaters who can wander off and on the ice without doing any warm-up or cool-down, but whatever. I roll with the punches. Besides, no one from the rink has seen me do Turnout Exercises while wating for my commuter train.

And now I can finally enjoy myself. The lady I used to skate with has since departed for another coach, but that's a longer story that I don't want to get into. (I have my theories.) But she was pretty competitive, and so I felt like I had to work myself hard just to keep up. With her gone, I'm more relaxed. Maybe I won't be crying in the car on the way home anymore. Can't turn? It'll happen. Eventually. My OCD has fits when I look at my practice videos, but even there I can see moments of improvement from week to week. Of course, now I worry that I will bore Master Shifu to tears, but hopefully the checks will stave that off.

I really like skating. When I skate in the mornings, the clock ticks to 6:55 and I think, "I need to get off and stretch but I want to stay here. This is more fun." I know there are people who must think I'm crazy to skate as much as I do, but other women do yoga or Zumba or pole dancing like there's no tomorrow and no one bats an eye. If this is the athletic activity that gets me off my ass, so be it. (Pole dancing is weirder.)

As an adult skater I feel a little removed from the Common Drama of the Rink. It's there, but it's largely background noise. It doesn't really affect me beyond Ice Time. I talk with the other moms, and I hear the "Competitions are expensive" and "my daughter is skating in the Freestyle 2 class but can't pass Gamma" and "I don't know what my daughter's coach is thinking," and I smile and nod. There's not much else I can do.

They ask me what ISI level I'm at, and I reply that I don't really care. (I'd peg myself as Gamma with some Delta skills, but I also have some FS1 skills. I'm all over the map.) ISI isn't really important to me. Let's test with the Big Kids.