Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mohawks - The Ongoing Saga

It took me a good six months before I could do a serviceable mohawk. The six months before that was spent doing mohawks on the wall, in endless rounds of ISI Gamma classes, and repeated falls to my rear. My chiropractor once asked me, “Did you break your tailbone at some point? It’s crooked.” I told him it was highly likely. But mohawks took a long time. I simply could not wrap my head around turning. Turning at speed? Forget it.

And for a long time even after I could do an ungainly turn on the ice, I was allowed to skip mohawks at my leisure. I did mohawks only when I absolutely had to, not because I had to turn. Why risk my neck on a mohawk when I could turn on two feet?

Well, New Coach isn't having any of this. I got a nice long lecture on the importance of mohawks, and over the course of three weeks I got no fewer than eight different drills, all involving various forms of mohawks. I do Mohawks from forward crossovers, mohawks from back edges, mohawks from three turns, mohawks from tap toe steps, and mohawks from more mohawks. Inside, outside, forward and back, I do a hell of a lot of mohawks. Coach never lets me turn on the ice unless it's a mohawk. If I chicken out and two foot it, I have to skate back and try again. Better, no new skill is taught in isolation; they all come with mohawks like fries with my cheeseburger.

Result? Well, naturally my mohawks have gotten better, but more than that my confidence and speed has improved. Which is great because now I can turn faster, but bad because on the moments I do chicken out or worse, hesitate, the end result is lightning fast and hella scary.

Now we're working on making my mohawks pretty. I'm not allowed to bring my feet together before I turn that mohawk. The free leg now has to turn out and head for the ice from a full extension. This is proving difficult. My feet like to check in with each other before anything considered marginally dangerous. This also happened with consecutive Bunny Hops. My feet liked to come together, check in, then pull back and jump again. Coach didn’t like that, so I spent a good amount of time in a “I’m gonna hop” position halfway down the ice before getting myself together to jump again. But it’s working. My Bunny Hops can happen at faster clips now, as do all my mohawks.

Discussions of Mohawks in the lobby prompted a parent to ask me where the term “Mohawk” came from. The general consensus is, “Nobody knows.” I do a lot of general reading on skating, and I like the old texts from the early 1900’s. They’re a lot of fun, but even here, all the authors admit to not knowing where “Mohawk” came from.

My best guess is that it’s a Native American reference, made in jest by snobby Englishmen when one of their fellow skaters would hit the ice too hard, thus making a sound like a tomahawk to the ice. I do this a lot; your foot just comes down like lead and  it sounds awful.  This book I’m reading now says that the usage of mohawks came about when English Skaters would greet each other on the ice, mohawk turn and doff their caps to each other, turn forwards and go each other’s way. I can only see Sir Reginald (my made-up name whenever I reference an Olde English Figure Skater doing crosscuts or whatever) making fun of his buddy Duke Orrington when he botches his turn.

“I say, old chap! You sound much like an Indian hatchet on your turn! What are those called? Mohawks?”
“Quite right, my fellow! Haha! Yes, I sound much like a Mohawk!”

And thus Sir Reggie and Duke Orrington forever confused a hairstyle with a crude hand implement, naming something completely irrelevant to either subject; a figure skating element. A century later, it’s something a lot of us struggle with.

So the next time you’re out and working those mohawks, perhaps having a hard time with them that day, just think of Sir Reginald making fun of Duke Orrington and it just might lighten the mood for you.

Because Sir Reggie always does a perfect Mohawk!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Motivation Monday

I missed the weekend, I was skating. (As per usual.)

But hard work pays off, as I got some pretty nice words from Coach this morning, along with a few words of warning that since I was getting "too comfortable," he was going to start pushing me harder. But that's what we wanted, right? A little farther, a little more, and I learned today that the weird turn he has me doing is actually a stepping stone to a Loop.

I may be a year or more away from doing a Loop. Judging by how slowly the Salchow is going, my jumping days will be slow in coming. But a little farther every day, and it will happen. My mohawks, now gaining repair and confidence, are a testament to that.

Farther every day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Let it Go," Please let it go.

As predicted, I am getting tired of "Let it Go." This is how I'm starting to react whenever someone is doing yet another skating program to "Let it Go." Seriously, I start doing random arm and leg things.

Actually, it's more like this.

Kids. Worlds of music out there.  There's nothing worse than every skater at the rink skating to slightly different variations of the same tune. Please let this fad be over by the end of summer!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Terror Tuesday

I spent a portion of an evening watching the Men's Long Program Event from Torino, 2010 on my big TV. I did this because I could, as my husband had installed some neat thing that would take signals from my tablet and allow me to watch YouTube on the big screen, but also because I like skating.

I've gotten to a point where I can see where and when a jump goes bad, when a skater becomes discouraged or frazzled, and how a costume can make or break a program. (Especially in men's events. Yikes!) I watched the fourth skater in the event, I forget who it was, but he seemed shaky right out of the gate. He wound up for a jump, and sure enough, his foot slipped out from under him and he was down in a bad way. But unlike the other skaters who fell, got up, and kept going, this guy got up, put his hands on his hips and his head down and proceeded to chastise himself, like he was on Practice Ice and had just messed this up. Meanwhile the music is going, and it's going to keep going because clearly he is not hurt beyond the capacity to continue, and he's still shaking his head and poking along the boards for what seemed like an eternity. "GO!" I shouted at the skater from four years ago, so frustrating was this behavior.

This morning I was working on spins. For the Record, after my terribly traumatic fall during a goddamn ice show during an attempted spin, I am terrified of spinning. I've been trying to spin for a year now, and it's not getting any better, because I can't find my balance and I'm frightened of the rapid movement. I bail on it. It got a little better for awhile, but now that I'm in my new boots it seems to have gone away again which is beyond frustrating.

But I'm determined, and so I was trying to spin. I got in a few good attempts, but I caught the back of my blade once, pulled forward too late, and went down on my knees and slid into the boards lightly. I was shaking I was so scared. I wasn't hurt, wasn't beyond the point of continuing my session, but I stood up, put my hands on my hips and proceeded to chastise myself.

Wait, I thought. What are you doing? Don't be like that nut in Torino! Skate, damn you!

I pushed forward and mohawked into some fast back crossovers in an 8, shaky legs and all. And then I tried some of the mohawks on a circle in my shaking legs, telling them to function regardless. It kinda worked. So, I made myself fall a few times more, each time scrambling back up as fast as I could to continue in my eight pattern.

Here's what I learned: It's hard to regain balance and speed after a fall. I can see how a Big League skater would be out of sorts for a few seconds after a hard fall, simply because it's a shock. And I was prepared for these falls. I timed and spaced them out so I wouldn't hit the boards or any part of me that I didn't want to strike. I can't imagine hitting an elbow or twisting an ankle or dripping blood like I was, and then going on with it.

But I practiced falls. And I walked away with a cold rear end and with a bit of understanding. Perhaps when I watch the rest of the Men's LP event later on, I'll stick to costume commentary. (Doubtful.)


Monday, April 21, 2014

Motivation Monday

I love Power 3's. Love love love them. I loved them before I could do them, because there was just something cool about them. So, I made an effort to teach myself how to do them, and it was pretty terrible for the first few months. I'd fling myself into the turn, because that was the only way I knew how to do it, then pull into a backwards crossover, hitch up on my toepick in a straight line instead of an arc, and grind myself to a halt before widestepping into a fresh flat to wing into another turn. Anyone on the rink with me would know I was trying Power 3's by the rythmic **Scraaaaaatch**Clunk**scraaaatch**clunk** I made as I traveled.

But I didn't give up on them. Eventually I figured out that back edge, and how to hold and turn closer to the center of the lobe. I still scratch a bit, the left side still wings too fast, and my step into the new lobe is wider than it should be, but my Power 3's are one of the things I'm most proud of. I do them alternating now, along with alternating power mohawks, as a part of my warmup. I have a long ways to go on them, but they are one of the elements that shows just how far I've come.

My current "That is so cool but I can't do it" Skill is Backwards Cross Strokes. I'm sure that eventually I will do backwards cross strokes with proficiency, and remembering just how hard those Power 3's were makes the process a little easier. And enjoying the challenging Process is what makes this fun.


Saturday, April 19, 2014


Sunday is typically a big skating day for me, but since it's Easter, the rink is closed. No Practice Ice to make myself crazy on, no Public Session to Guard at, no Class with children to dodge. I tried to look on the bright side:

1. You can sleep in. (Sleeping in for me has become anything past 6am.)
2. You can watch bad movies that you normally don't get to see all the way through.
3. You can catch up on those skating books you bought.
4. You can go for a nice long run and workout.

Or you can just sit and think about skating.

Nah JK, I'm designing my Test Dress. The boys will be at Baseball game and I'll be hip deep in burgundy stretch velvet and iridescent mylar chiffon, shaking my bead vials like they were crack cocaine.

Maybe I can get to like Holidays after all.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Freeskate Friday

Torvill and Dean's 1984 Bolero.

I've been doing a lot of reading as to why Figure Skating is in such decline. There's been much said about the constant drive for points and the loss of artistry. An essay I read this morning had not much flattering to say about Davis and White, and instead lamented for the days of performances like these.

I listen a lot, and at one point I overheard and Theatre Patron say that she didn't go to the theatre to "feel bad things." Well, feeling bad things is a part of being a person. We all have bad days, deaths in the family, a personal crisis, emotional upheavals, complete breakdowns. Theatre is an insight and exploration of these things, an inroad to our shared humanity. The best of comedies will strike a chord somewhere in the soul. (Ghostbusters, for example.) I wanted to turn and ask her, "Why are you even here?"

I had to agree with the author of the skating essay. Davis and White, while striking in their ability, perform much like a circus act. Go in, do the motions, smile, wave, win. Again, I'm left feeling not much more than awe at their ability, and nothing deeper. Their smiles and longing looks feel like an applique slapped onto a utlitarian piece to try and give it some humanity. I have similar experiences when I get tickets to the "big shows" that tour through town. At the end of "Shrek the Musical" I was thinking about kneepads rather than whatever message I was supposed to have taken home. The movie had been more, well, moving. (I consistently cry at the end of Shrek.)

So, don't throw things at me because I am just kinda "meh" on Davis and White. Something just seemed kinda "off" with me when I was listening to everyone rave about them, and all this reading has helped clarify for me why I was feeling that way. Sure, they're great skaters. But I wouldn't cast them.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sort Of Historical Thursday: Dick Button

In an effort to educate myself about the art, science, sport and cult of figure skating, I bought Dick Button's book, "Push Dick's Button." I downloaded it after my morning practice session, between changing clothes, wolfing down some breakfast and running for my commuter train. I finally got to tap it open once I was settled into my seat, and I spent the entire twenty five minute ride in a fit of giggles.

This guy is hilarious. He has a bit of a love affair with parenthesis, but once you overlook that, it's funny beyond belief. Dick goes into Performance, Costumes, Music, "Wilting" (or choking, however you phrase it) and the nitty gritty of skating. He talks about his own performance history, even daring to show us a picture of himself in a tuxedo jacket and black tights. Tights.

This is one of those books I'm going to plow through within a day or two, and then have to go back to re-read and fully digest. Books, unlike desserts, allow for some re-enjoyment while you fully taste them. I'm halfway through it now and just getting to the part about scoring, which is where everyone is getting their tights in a twist. Apparently South Korea filed some kind of complaint to the ISU to strip Sotnikova of the gold medal and give it to Yuna, and this isn't the first time I've read of strange scoring results. Like I said, I'm trying to learn, here.

So far this book is a wonderful view into skating history from a first hand perspective. How does one skate figures on an outdoor rink? I can't find my tracing in the halogens in the studio, I can't even imagine trying to see them in a sunny glare. And what about ice that goes mushy during the day, and you're supposed to compete on that? And how does the music play out there? Dick talks about his experiences with all these wonderfully terrible things and then some, all with the kind of humor that keeps one alive during the most difficult of circumstances.

My response after the tragic fall during last year's Spring Show.

He also goes into some detail about good skating. Now, remember what Charlotte said about good skating; it's difficult undertaking. Dick talks about what makes a good Three Turn:

"When doing a three turn, the skater changes from the forward outside edge to the back inside edge precisely at the center of the three, leaving an open space the width of the blade. The change of edge should not occur before the exact tip of the three, nor after."

I kept this in mind and gave it a few shots this morning on an Edge/Figure/Turn session. Sadly the best images I got are mostly whited out, but here's one you can see:

How am I doing, sir?

Aside from looking like I took a butcher knife to the ice, not too shabby. Coach is showing me how to better control the Inside Edge Check Out. Note that I did not photograph my Inside Threes, nor my attempts at Backwards Threes (which are still wallbound but progress is happening.)

Dick Button reads like someone I'd love to skate with and then go out for burgers and beer afterwards, just to hear him talk Skating. Fortunately, this book is just that. It's written conversationally. I might just have to get a cheeseburger this weekend while I re-read and notate. So, while I have no Full On History post today, I am thoroughly enjoying Dick talk to me about his past experiences in Skating. Should you get this book? Absolutely.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Adult Skating Wear; Again

Yes, we're on this again. I was talking with a fellow adult skater who is in the Spring Ice Show, and she was wondering where to get a skating dress. I sent her a link to Discount Dance Supply, where they have a nice line of adult dance dresses that can be just fine for skating in. But of course, that ubiquitous adult color, Black, is what's being brought up.


The subject of Testing for me is coming up more and more frequently, and while no date has been set, we're working more on specifics of how the test will run down; start here, end there, pose this way, and so on. So, I'm guessing I will need to start work on a suitable testing dress relatively soon.

When I'm in class with fellow adults, none of them are in "Skating Clothes." It's all a mishmash of workout clothes, stretch pants, and running jackets. But I get it. The first time you see yourself in a Skating Dress, it's disturbing.


The first time I put on a true skating dress was at a Halloween Party with a bunch of kids. Kids are brutally honest, and so I got a vague compliment (I think) from one of the girls, "You look awkwardly pretty."

And that sums up how I feel in a skating dress. Awkward. So, in an effort to get over feeling awkward, I just decided to wear skating clothes and damn anyone who doesn't like it. Just go for it. Besides, when checking out your reflection in the glass or reviewing video, it's easier to see your line in things that fit.

I've been trolling Pintrest for ideas on a testing dress. I know testing dresses are supposed to be very simple and straightforward, with minimal decoration and glitz, but there's nothing about avoiding a flattering cut. I can tell you it will not be black. Perhaps a deep burgundy or purple, but wearing black all the time is just getting tiring.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Motivation Monday

Today I got my formal introduction to Backwards 3 Turns. While these may be much like Mohawks where I did them on the wall for three months, I just have to remember that process and know that now I do Mohawks with some proficiency now.

So, while I do not feel wholly ready for these turns, I'm going to have faith. I did manage one on my right foot, and even though Coach was holding my hand, it was something. I'm sure that before too long I'll be doing these turns and worrying about brackets and counters.
Right? ....

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Skates, Round 4

My first pair of skates was a pair I bought when I first moved into town. I had moved from the South where ice skating was not really a thing, to the North where outdoor public rinks were an attraction. My boyfriend (husband a few years later) bought hockey skates and I bought "figure" skates at a sporting goods store. I don't even know what brand they are, but I still have them. I'm thinking of using them as decoration for the holidays, Pintrest has a lot of ideas for old ice skates.

I actually did skate in these for awhile, but once I was doing crossovers and actually skating, I decided I needed something better. So I bought a pair of Riedell Blue Ribbons on consignment for $70.00.

Ignorant of such things as Rockers, I fell over backwards a lot in a 7' rocker for about a year in my Blue Ribbons. What precipitated me getting new skates was not the rocker issue, but rather me feeling loose in the boot and having to re-tie a lot. As in, every ten minutes.

i didnt get a lot of help with buying skates as I graduated into my first pair of "real skates." I managed to measure myself and find a pair of Jackson Competitors on eBay at a great price. Dumb luck. I got Aspire blades with a 8' rocker and the rate at which I fell off the back of the blade dropped. I've liked my Competitors. They've been great skates for the past two years, seeing me through three ice shows and far, far too much drama.

Well, I got loose in the boot at the heel, and started having to re-tie again (and again, and again.) More than that, I got pinched in the toe. My right foot developed an on-again, off-again corn problem that worsened to where it was more of an open sore than a corn. Aspirin before I skated and Anbesol on the sore spot is what made things tolerable. I also had a great variety of pads and gel cushions, which were annoying and variable in their effectiveness. Get them in the wrong spot and I'd be worse off than before.

As it came time to buy new skates, I really wanted some guidance to avoid the problems I had: heel slip, open wounds on my feet, and foot pain in the mornings that left me hobbling. I also wanted to avoid future problems, knowing I'd just be doing more, not less. But when I asked, I got told very little. When I pushed, I was told I wouldnt get any help at all. How nice.

Did I mention my foot really hurt?

I brought it up to my new coach, and he agreed with my internet researched choices; between a Riedell 910 or 1310 or Jackson Premiere. He mentioned the possible need for a new blade if I switched brands. An all-around freestyle blade would be fine, just longer if I went Riedell.

The Teri's were more dumb luck. I spent an hour this morning doing edge work, testing blade position, and everything feels as good as it can right now. My hands are bearing the brunt of things, with new laces and tight tying giving me three burst blisters on my fingers in less than 24 hours. My right foot pain is abating. I was Anbesol and gel pad free this morning. I was able to take off my right skate all at once, rather than in small painful stages, and I walked, not limped, all around and out of the rink. I think the Teri's will be just fine. Another few hours doing knee bendy things and I should be back in business.

That's the story of my skates. Sports store skates, to Riedell Blue Ribbon boot and blade combo, to Jackson Competitors with Aspire blades, and now SP Teri Dance Boots with the same Aspire blade. Now I'm actually looking forward to a blade upgrade! Who knows, maybe I'll be ready for some big scary picks by winter.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lucky, cushy skates

Way back in the day, when I was in sports store skates, I would visit the skate shop for Stitch and see women my age buying very nice skates. They were nice enough, but I had to wonder what it was like to wear very fancy skates.

I had made an appointment to get fitted for custom boots. Multiple problems were forcing the issue, which I'll go into later. But I needed new skates. Which was scary, because it was going to be drawn out, expensive, and painful. Breaking in new skates, plus mounting the blades for my wonky feet is, well, terrible. Plus, I was thinking of changing brands, which would mean a new blade, which would in essence, double the price. Husband was unhappy with all this, plus the microwave broke the night before, so I was feeling very guilty about depriving the family of a microwave for my ice crack habit.

So I marched into skate shop, Jacksons in hand as a comparison point, and settled in. My tech put me in a pair of super cushy Riedells for a size and width reference, and I hesitated but asked the model in some hope I could afford them. He said they were a step above the model that was at the upper limit of my price range. If you have to ask, you can't afford it.

So we talked about the Riedell 910 or Jackson Premiere, my two main options. We talked about custom widths, but first starting with a stock width before chancing a custom order that might not work. New skates seemed miles away. I mentioned the blade issue, saying I loved my current blades and didn't want to go back to a 7' rocker. Yes, Reidells would mean the rocker of doom. I sighed.

"Wait..." skate tech said suddenly. "I have these SP Teri's. Used, but not very. Do you want to try them on?"
"Couldn't hurt." I said hopefully.

They were just as cushy as the cushy cush Riedells, narrow heel and wide ball. They fit. "How much?" I asked, figuring I wasn't spending money by asking questions.

He told me the price, less than the deposit I had been prepared to pay. "I'll take them!"

I had brought along the Jacksons for no real reason, but they got left at the shop so my favorite skate tech could pull the blades off and put them on my slightly used SP Teri's. I got to keep my blades. So, I went out to celebrate with a nice lunch, having saved up for new skates, but only needing a fraction of the money. Better, if they do work out, I can put my Jacksons on consignment. The shop assures me they will sell fast and high, being in a popular size. Between the gift money from the holidays I'd never touched plus the money from the Jacksons, the SP Teri's would be practically free.

I took my new (to me) skates to the rink to check the blade mount and skate in them. Coach happened to be there, and was thrilled. "You got lucky! Those are nice skates!" I apologized for rushing into the purchase without consulting him, but he was just happy I got such a great buy. He checked them all over, and took moments from his lesson with two small children to ask, "How do they feel?" And "Are you doing okay?" He came over after the lesson and gave me directions; lots of dips, shoot the duck, swizzles and lunges. Break them in.

These skates have not been broken in, so I am dealing with the painful break in period. But if they're like my Jacksons, they'll feel fine in about a week. I went from the "oh god I can't skate" feeling to doing half flips and tap toes in about an hour. Yes, my feet hurt like hell, but the cushy cush support in my ankles made back edges feel safe as a hammock. I wanted to skate fast, wanted to try everything just to see the difference in feel, which was amazing. I was off my toepicks, scraping a lot less. There's so much cush, I can barely tie them!

As I sat there in the skate shop, in my mismatched trouser socks and taped up Jacksons at my side, I noted the woman beside me getting her starter skates on for the first time. The PVC sole gave it away. We started chatting. She was Alpha level, but wanted something better. I agreed, outside edges require supportive skates. I told her about my experience with PVC soles and why I'd moved on to the leather and cork soles of Jackson Competitors. She noted the cushcush Riedells, the ones I would have smuggled out the door, "I would imagine you know all about this."

Not really. What I do know is largely from trial and error, plus a little luck. The SP Teri's were pure luck, perhaps the Skate Fortunes smiling on me after such a rough time during Winter Ice Show and keeping on a smile during The Switch. My SP Teri's might well be my reward for not killing anyone. I do know that I'm setting aside some of the money saved up for new skates, so I can upgrade my blade in the fall or winter. An 8' rocker, of course! If a fancy skate like these feels nice, I would imagine a fancy blade will feel great as well.

So, what's it like to buy fancy skates? Frightening. Worse than going to the mechanic, because you have no real notion of how much it's going to cost you. But much like going to the mechanic, once the work is done, your car runs great and you want to drive it around for no real reason.  I read somewhere that fancy skates won't make you a fancy skater, but cheap skates can hold you back. So, while I likely have too much skate for my level right now, I don't care. I love my new fancy, cushy cush skates!

Game of Skates

Because I am a Game of Thrones fan...

My typical response when the Head Coach of a class directs all his instruction to his Kid private students, ignoring everyone else who paid just as much to be a part of the class:

It's not a mystery why Adults don't like to be in classes with Kids.

What Lessons feel like on Sub-Zero days:

Sorry, Coach, I am too cold to think.

When I can perform an element better than a Kid skater:
This is rare, but I love it when it happens.

When an element is proving especially difficult:

And there has been blood involved.

When your skate sharpener goes away for awhile and then tries to tell you about it:

I nearly *died* while you were gone!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Freeskate Friday

I'm injured, and I'm annoyed by this. My foot problem nearly became a big problem, and I was told to take a few days off everything to allow some healing  time. I don't know how many "a few" is, but I'm guessing two. My foot feels and looks better today, but I'm really *really* annoyed. All this could have been prevented had someone taken five minutes to talk to me about skates.
I'm ordering new skates tomorrow, and I'm not going to leave anyone in this process alone until I'm positive the new skates fit and feel right. My bloody sock days are behind me, thanks.

But here is another skater who pressed on through an injury. Elvis Stojko of Canada, skating through a groin injury in the 1998 Olympics. Now, I've never been fully *injured* in the groin area, but I have done a lesson with incredibly sore adductors after a weekend of rough off-ice work. You don't know how much you need those muscles until they hurt.

Stay in the game.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Historical Thursday; Charlotte Hayward

I got curious as to just who this "Charlotte" person was, so I did some digging. Wikipedia shows her as Charlotte Oelschl├Ągel, aka Charlotte Hayward. "Charlotte" was her stage name, as she performed skating shows at the New York Hippodrome. (Chalk one up for my historical theatre research!)

I have diagrams for fully fledged power generators in the old Paris opera,
but an indoor ice rink in the early 1900's?
She was a talented figure, playing a host of musical instruments in addition to being one of the most talented skaters of her day. Her physician advised her to to figure skating as a way to treat her "nervous and growing problems." The wikipedia entry doesn't go into detail about what that means, but speaking from experience, most of the people who cause you anxiety are reluctant to venture onto the ice with you.
No Street Shoes on the ice, please.
I also found a skating book written by Charlotte herself; "The Hippodrome skating book: practical, illustrated lessons in the art of figure skating" It's a free download, available here:

I highly advise getting this, it's incredibly helpful even though it was written nearly 100 years ago. Charlotte's voice practically leaps through the years, making this book better than more recent texts on the same subjects. She speaks honestly and practically, which made me feel less like a noob and more like I am undertaking something of importance. Which I am.

Charlotte begins with equipment (claiming her skates weigh only four ounces) and what to wear (with a calf-length skirt being a bit daring, but try it anyway) and the starts right in with forward outside circles. "Start with the idea that good skating is a hard thing to acquire. It is." And also, "Graceful skating implies perseverance and determination."

This is harder than it looks.
So, she seems to have never forgotten just how hard even the simplest of things can be. Which is apparent as you read on. She speaks with a candor and honesty that's refreshing from many other skating books I read, where jumps are covered in Chapter Three like I'm baking a cake and not risking my neck. She mentions falling, saying, "Just let go and sit down as meekly as you can, smile and look about helplessly and some chivalrous American is sure to hurry to your aid."

Well, I'm not so sure if "chivalrous Americans" exist anymore, but the "just let it go" part is good advice, albiet hard to follow.

But Charlotte gets skating; "Skating is a matter of will power after all and not at all a matter of strength." Which is truth. The dirty little secret of skating is that just about anyone can do it, given enough time and determination. It's not magic.

She takes us through the basic figures and change edges in the first few chapters, then moves on to threes, counters, rockers and brackets. She focuses on the School Figures, saying that she doesn't consider anyone a real skater unless they can do school figures with proficiency. She doesn't even cover jumping or spinning in this book, except to say that they are a part of her "theatrical skating," not "real skating."

While edges and circles are not as flashy as jumps, it becomes clear who's good on their edges during takeoffs and landings.

Right, Ashley?
Trust on back edges only comes from doing them repeatedly, which is boring to watch. (Just ask any of the disappointed observers who watch me from the windows, only to get angry that I'm working on edges and basic figures that day. I had a mom with her toddler declare that I wasn't a real skater when they decided to crash one of my edge sessions, hoping I'd do something more interesting I guess.)

All this is comforting to me, as a part of my practice schedule involves a lot of time on edges. I like edge work. I could do edges and figures all day if given the chance. Edges are deceptively hard, especially backwards. Getting and maintaining balance on a back edge, inside or outside, requires some courage. Charlotte agrees with me on this point; "The art of skating backward requires pluck and courage. When one attempts the full backward circles without a helper it is an occasion to mark in one's diary."

I will do this one day if it kills me. 

Hell, getting balance on a back flat requires some "pluck and courage." I remember doing backwards laps, just trying to get balance on one foot backwards for weeks. The backwards motion alone is unnatural, doing it at speed is plain terrifying until you get used to it. One of my new drills involves skating backwards on a flat, free foot out forward, then slowly putting the free foot backwards brushing the skating foot while also rotating arms and shoulders at the same time. This exercise has been driving me insane for weeks.

She gives advice for the "good side/bad side" phenomona experienced by most skaters; "If one foot is harder than the other to manage, it must be skated with more often until equal skill is attained.." My own coach has me do edge pulls on the bad side first, bad side twice, then I'm allowed to work on the good side.

The best quote out of the book makes Charlotte one of my favorite people, where she responds to would-be critics who accuse her of breaking the rules of skating:

"My pet philosopher says that rules were made for slaves."

Indeed, Charlotte. Indeed. And I'd have to apply this not only to the given rules, but also the rules which others arbitrarily apply to you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coordination Issues

Coach has me doing alternating 3 turns down the length of the rink as a part of my warmup. These are fine. With the exception of the lobes resembling eggs at times and fighting my wonky turnout problem, I can do these. I've been focusing on holding the back edge, really turning my upper body, arm position and keeping my head up. This last part is hard, because when I'm trying to set my foot down in the right place, I want to look down and see where it's going. So, all of that is happening and it's working okay. I can tell because I'm getting some "molo dietz!" which I remember from studying Russian some years ago is a good thing.

But then Coach asks me to put my arm up; The arm that goes up is the one over the turning foot. Well, this will make looking down harder, but more than that, coordinating my upper half and lower half in concert has always been problematic. My feet can learn steps just fine, but ask my arms to do anything at the same time and my feet suddenly forget what the hell was going on and my arms seem to do nothing more than flail for support or waver in confusion.

And this is precisely what happened this time. What had been happening with some normalcy and semblance of grace now looked like a dying bird pitched from a plane. But Coach is a patient man, and urged me to try again. "Better this time, now do the crossover." Okay, so it's three turn right into a back cross, alternate and do the other direction; hold the back cross and free leg, slow it down, put the arm up, turn to forwards, and do it again the other way. I beg myself to straighten up, because the sound of my toepicks is enough to wake the dead.

"Work on that," Coach implores me to stop. "Try to stay on the flat of your blade, and straighten your back. Putting the arm up with help you stand straight, which is important for jumps." I like the way these little exercises get explained to me, because knowing where they fit in the grand scheme of things makes me more liable to be diligent about them.

But the arm problem has been a consistent one. Power stroking was fine until I got asked to use my arms, at which point I suddenly forget how crossovers worked. Mohawks on a circle were nuts for awhile, as I couldn't discern which arm went where and when, and more often than not I ended up trapping myself in a closed body position that needed to be out. Putting my arm anywhere other than out to the side invites disaster on a grand scale, as I typically find myself throwing my weight backwards and off the blade. The compensation for this is skating like Quasimodo, which Coach does not like. This new Three Turn Arm thing will require some work and possibly a little Irish in my morning coffee thermos.

After my lesson, one of the freestyle girls was struggling with her music on the CD player. I hate that thing, it reminds me of something the Beastie Boys might have carried around blaring Brass Monkey at full volume. "Can you play my music for me?" she looks at me imploringly.

"Sure, but tell your coach that you're out here on your own in the mornings, and to put thirty seconds of something before your music so you can hit play and get in position, okay?" I plug everything in and cue her up, she poses and smiles at me. I press play and she's off, yet another program to "Let it Go," a song which I like a lot but I have a feeling I will hate by August.

When she's done, I put on some disco remix and work on spirals and back power stroking to relax. I even put my arm up on the back edges. I entertain the notion of competing myself for a moment, as it was one of the things I said to Coach when I first talked to him. "Maybe two competitions a year," I had stated as a worthy goal. He had agreed with me, saying that learning programs was key to learning speed and to start thinking about what kind of music I wanted to skate to.

Freestyle girl puts her music on again, and I debate replacing one catchy tune for another, skating to the closing song from Avenue Q. On the way home I decide that this would be terribly inappropriate.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Motivational Monday

This is my favorite scene from Flashdance. Alex is walking past all these prissy little ballerinas, head held up. She got chased off once, she won't be intimidated again. I think everyone can relate to this scene in one way or another; everyone is giving you the message, "You don't belong here," but you just keep on. This image is so powerful, it doesn't even need a caption.

(Yes, I can weld, but I'm not as good a welder as Alex was!)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Freeskate Friday

Alexi is one of my favorite skaters. If you look up his programs on Youtube, just about every single one of them is a complete delight to watch. This remix with Jedi Lightsabers involved just makes my entire day.

Did you know that Alexi was diagnosed with a congenital hip disorder *after* getting six perfect marks for his short program in the 2002 Olympic Season? He'll be the last skater ever to do so, given that the new wonky judging system was implemented the following year.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Riddles for Ice Skaters

Three low Freestyle skaters are sharing a full rink surface. One is working on MIF, one is practicing her program without the music, and the other is working on various elements which at times require her to go slow. How long does it take before all of them are within the exact same hockey circle and glaring at each other?

A portion of your program requires you to perform a backwards spiral directly across the center of the ice. How many other skaters will be doing Sit and/or Camel Spins at the exact moment you need to do this? Bonus: How many will be right at your skate (hip) level?


Your coach has introduced a new element which is requiring a lot of explaining, new physical work and being held in position. How fast do your boots suddenly need to be re-tied?

You are working on MIF in a presumably quiet corner. How many skaters sharing the session will find their way to your pattern and spin?


While doing stretching and other work on the boards in a public session, how many little girls will grapple their way to you and demand you show them how to do a "twirl?" What are the odds you fall on your face in said demonstration?

It's Sunday afternoon. You've had a great week training, having done everything on your On-Ice and Off-Ice schedule with no hiccups, and you've adhered to your diet plan to the letter. You get done with your morning off-ice and decide to treat yourself to a nice lunch. How many people do you frighten with your velociraptor impression in the restaurant?

Bonus Round:
It is forty below zero outside the rink. It feels like fifty below zero inside the rink. How many pairs of gloves will you be wearing?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Flexibility - Too Much?

Am I the only one who finds some of the images of Julia disturbing? I mean... really??

Yes, it's amazing that she has that flexibility. Yes, it's an impressive display of athleticism. But at what point does the athleticism take precedence over the art? Have we set artistic merit into the back seat, possibly even the trunk, and just decided to go with sheer force?

This isn't what I would call skating, it's more like rhythmic gymnastics on skates.

I mean, yeah, it's pretty cool...

But yikes.

Art is meant to make you feel things.
The only thing this makes me feel is shock.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Off Ice Work

If you watch the kids, most of them do some form of Off-Ice exercises. Jumping, spirals, Pilates, Yoga or a combination of these things. Their coaches will either encourage, or in most cases, facilitate these things.

It is rare to see the same thing with Adult Skaters. This blows my mind, because IMO, Adult Skaters need more Off Ice than the kids, not less. We sit more and older bodies get stiff, so we need more stretching, and we need to work up the cardio to help us move faster. It's unfair to state that Adults are not as flexible or as fast as the kids, when there is no guidance to help adults improve their flexibility or get up the oomph to go that fast. (It only looks effortless. It's not!)

Off Ice for adults is even more critical when it comes to jumps, spirals, and lunges. I waltz jumped all over dry land before trying it on ice, and I still do. Lunges on dry land are way less frightening, same thing with spiral stretches. Even spirals on the boards are incredibly helpful. But adults seem to be tossed to the proverbial wolves, and told to do all these things without the benefit of Dry Land training. When they look awkward and stiff, it's just a self-fulfilling prophecy. Were Adult Skate Coaching up to me, I would give adult students a stretch/jump/lunge/spiral routine to work on from Day One of Alpha Class. Even though these things wouldn't be touched On-Ice for a long time, the foundations would be built.

So, given that I had very little to go on by way of making my own Off-Ice routine to build cardio, core strength and flexibility, I made my own. I bought this book, and it's a huge help.

On the mornings I do not skate, I run two miles to start. Nota Bene: I did not start out with Two Miles, and I will not do the full two if my knee is testy. I started walking a mile, and gradually added run time until I was up to 2 miles. This took me about 3 months. So, do not feel bad if you cannot run a full mile right away. Do what you can.

After I run, I stretch my legs thoroughly. Spiral stretch holding onto a pole or something, and lunge stretches the same way. After that, try it standing on your own.

If you can, take a Pilates class and learn some good Core exercises. Planking, leg lifts, and crunches (Pilates style crunches, not the back hurting crunches that I hated) all work well. Core strength is indispensable in skating. Enlisting a personal trainer for a session or two to step your through exercises tailored to you is a wonderful idea. I did, and it really got me over the "I hate exercise" thing, because she knew routines that didn't hurt me.

Dry Land Jumps, yes, look ridiculous, but Isolated rotations are good for you. If you can't get all the way around, do halfway. Then try for 3/4. Just pick a landmark and go from there. After a few of these, go through your jump repretoire. Waltz jump is getting more complicated as it evolves, so doing it off-ice helps my uncoordinated self build muscle memory. I'm still looking for a way to do Dry Land Salchow and Lutz, so anyone who knows me and can show me, please do!

I do my Off-Ice three times per week. It makes a difference, trust me. So, do Off-Ice. Do it regularly. As everyone loves to say, "You're not a kid." Whatever you do, the key words here are: Do what you can. If you cannot do 10 reps, do five. Do two. Do whatever, just try to do more the following week. So, get yourself back into fighting shape, and work out! Because, speaking from experience, it feels really good to lap a little kid.