Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I want a program

I'm starting to itch for an actual program. Seriously itch for it. I skate and I love it and it's great and all, but there's that itch. Which isn't to say I've never done a program, I have. I got one briefly, and for a lesson or two it got taken seriously, but then it fell off the radar for some reason. Which isn't to say I forgot about it, I didn't. I worked on it quite religiously, devoting 20 minutes of every session to it for three months. I think it got pretty good, but no one ever asked about it and unfortunately I was too scared to ask for an opinion myself.  Plus my own program got lost in the shuffle of the Pairs Program we did for the Holiday Show.

But that was then, this is now, and once again I listen to music with an ear of, "Could I skate to this?"

Coach is out of town until the 9th, and I told him I'd have my Salchow and Spin better by the time he got back. I'm working on the things he told me to do, and I've had a remarkable string of strong practice sessions. Everything seems to be solidifying. When we started working together, he pretty much nailed my problem on the head, "You can do a lot of things, but you have nothing putting it together. You have gaps."

"YES," I was ecstatic in his phrasing, perfectly stating what was wrong, the strange problem I hadn't been able to figure out for over a year.

Now the gaps are starting to fill in, and I'm feeling stronger and more confident. Even Inside 3's are stronger and faster. Mohawks I don't even think much about anymore. Jumping is jumping, you jump. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and the world doesn't end either way. Crossovers, edges, turns, and even some toepick things are starting to happen without a lot of me being involved, which makes me think I can devote more of my energy towards actually performing. Which is what I originally wanted to do, something I stated clearly two years ago.

So I'm thinking it's past time I got a real program. I think I'm overdue. Way overdue. After all, skating is supposed to be done to music, right? So not only do I plan to have a Salchow in decent shape and a spin happening (possibly solidified BO3's a bit more and his footwork patterns he gave me) when Coach gets back, I will have a CD and a Dress and a Plan. Already got the dress, put together the bulk of it over the holiday. All I need from him is some choreography and his eyes. He's already mentioned putting a program together, ever since I mentioned my problems with choreography. "Find some music," he said. "We'll put something together."

So, instead of feeling like Lucy constantly begging to be on the show, I'm just going to go for it. even if it means something like this...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Product Review: Lush Cosmetics Foot Treats

Typically I do not indulge in overpriced lotions. I'm a drugstore gal, since I'm usually on a budget and I'm just not that fussy. But we were all out on the holiday weekend, at the Nice Mall, and Lush Cosmetics just smelled too nice to pass up.

I wandered in, and the lovely associate asked me if I needed anything. "What do you have for feet?" I asked.

Now, the SP Teri's are great, don't get me wrong. They are hands down the most comfy skates I've been in. But a skate is still a skate, and hours in a stiff boot over the course of a week, plus walking everywhere (my commute makes me walk a mile, plus I do a mile at lunch) and off-ice, my feet get a little tired. Okay, very tired. And gross. I don't like to look at my feet anymore. I used to consider them my best feature.

But I figured I was flush and I deserved a nice treat, and the lovely associate sold me on The "Volcano" foot mask and a minty lotion for my feet, ankles and calves. She was nice enough to give me a healthy sample size of the cuticle cream, too. (Again, on a budget.)

We came home, and I put my feet up to watch the Rocky Marathon and take care of the most abused parts of me. I put on some Volcano, wrapped them up and put them in my winter slippers. Within a minute or so the tingling started. After five minutes, I wasn't sure if my feet were asleep or if this was just part of the treatment. After ten minutes, I rinsed off the kaolin clay mint freshness and did a scrub. My feet were very pink, very soft, very happy. I put on some of the mint lotion and the cuticle cream, and my once flaky, worn out, weird looking feet resembled what they had been two years ago before I started skating all the time. They still have some of the rough spots and weird folds, but they look healthy again. I wouldn't shy away from sandals.

So, would I recommend some fancy foot care from Lush? Yup. Not only do they work without being harmful (I read about that Japanese "baby foot" peel... gross) they are a nice excuse to say, "Can't get up, my feet are soaking." Even now, hours later, my feet don't feel like skating feet. They seem okay with me, which has been rare lately. I still have a nice bruise on my hip, but I think those are badges of honor now. And these are the first lotions I've had that come with an expiration date. I think these may become part of my "Regular Maintenance" program, both for my feet and myself.

I'm a big proponent of Self Care, and I have to say this stuff is worth the expense.

Motivation Monday

There's an interview online from a local ice dancer. One of the questions she was asked is, "Do you have Olympic aspirations?"

She said, "Yes .... you have to if you're in the sport and you take it seriously."

I laughed out loud. I thought of all the other adult skaters I know online and IRL who are in the sport, take it seriously, and not only have no Olympic aspirations, they don't need them.

Kids have it easy. The route is given them. Adults have the true courage, because it's a harder road to travel when the destination is unclear. But smile. Skate on. Have your goals, be they crossrolls or ISU Adult Champs.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

So, how *DO* you buy new skates?

Nota Bene: I write this post not as an expert in skates, because I'm not. This is a commentary on my experiences with buying skates and in listening to the words of others as they have bought and broken in new skates. I have found this process to be challenging, and so this is written as a "you aren't alone" guide to those being challenged and likely confused by the process that is Skate Purchase.

Fewer Topics in skating are more esoteric, complex, and obtuse than the selection and purchase of the very thing that you skate with: Your Skates. New skaters are often confused, and rightfully so. What's the difference between a $150 skate set with the blade attached and a $600 Boot without a blade? (Clearly, skate manufacturers are scam artists!) Three hundred dollar boots in competing brands have descriptions that are practically identical, so what's the difference? How much skate do you need for your level? Where do you buy skates, and how can you be sure they fit right? Why is one person telling me to see one skate tech, and another is telling me to avoid him like the plague? Why does one skater swear by one brand, and another skater won't have anything to do with that same brand? And why is the blade separate, and what makes one blade different than another? Is there really a difference? Are used skates okay?

The reason why you can't find answers is because there is no one answer. No one is going to sit you down and say, "This is the right skate for you, blade and all," because they aren't you. Skate preference is unique to the skater.

The introductory Boot and Blade Sets are fine to start with, but once you start getting into your edges and jumping and spending a lot of time in your skates, you're going to start developing tastes. You're also going to start learning more about your feet than you ever thought necessary, and how to get skates that cater to your particular set of feet.

I learned that my right foot is slightly longer than my left, which is why my right skate has to be punched out a bit. My heels are narrower than a stock boot thinks they should be, so I need custom widths. This is pretty common among skaters, and in talking to people I learned that just about everyone has custom widths in the Freestyle levels. I pronate, so blade mounting can be a bit tricky. I used to use an insole, but since I switched to SP Teri's I find I no longer need it. This is just the boot.

Blades are something else. I started off on a 7' Rocker, but I was really tippy on it, so switched to an 8' Rocker where I feel more secure. (I'm debating switching back since I hear spins are easier on a 7' rocker.) I find I like my edges super sharp, so I need a blade that will hold a decent edge for awhile. I also really like my crosscut picks. Blades come with different rockers, hollows, picks, materials, colors and makes, and what makes any given one better than the other is simply a matter of personal preference and where you're at in your skills. They're separate simply because they are a completely separate factor in the skating equation. I like my Ultimas, I think they're just the right amount of blade and pick for me. But my skating partner likes a heavier, beefier blade with a huge pick.

So, how do you buy skates?

Take an objective look at your skating, and think about where you're heading in your skills. Get measured by a skate tech, and work with that person. Try things on. Talk to other skaters. Ask questions, be detailed, be honest about what you like and what you don't like in your current skates. Used skates are fine. Be open to whatever brand works for you. Be patient. If you aren't getting the answers or results you need, be Pushy. Be picky. And when it comes to cost... be prepared. Introductory skates aren't so bad, but when it comes to better boots, consider the costs of injury before putting a price tag on boots.

It's true that Expensive Skates don't make you a better skater. It's also true that settling for Cheap skates can hold you back from being the skater you can be. (My half flips and all toe work disappeared as my Jacksons became problematic, but everything and more resurfaced with the amazing stability of the SP Teri's.)

So, if you're just starting out and need to buy new skates, and you came to this post looking for answers, I hope it helped a little. I know that how much someone spends on their boots and blades can sometimes be a matter of humblebrag at the rink, but price isn't always indicative of quality of product (or skater.) And remember, what is super comfortable in the skate shop is a different story on the ice when you're breaking them in!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Freeskate Friday

What a week it's been... I was finishing up with a client on the phone and he said, "Have a great holiday!" I hung up in confusion... holiday? I was so busy I forgot it was a Holiday weekend! This is better than Christmas!

In all ways, this week was a challenge. In my skating, there were skills that decided to disappear and resurface, some pretty scary edges, there were some close calls in falls, and I became guilty of jumping 3 turns. But we stay in the game, right? While some of those edge changes were frightening, I learned I can lean more than I thought I could... and some close calls with other skaters made me sharper on my stops and reaction times. It wasn't all for naught.

They can't all be ringers, and we just keep going as best we can.

So, have a great Holiday Weekend, my American readers. Stay in the game, next week is another week to give it our best shot!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Guess who is going to Skate America?

It's been a rough couple of weeks. Office work and nonstop events happening in the evenings have made my life much too hectic for my taste, and there have been points were I genuinely feel I'm losing my mind.

I was lacing up the other day, and noticed an advertisement for Skate America that had been posted on the Broomball bulletin board. Why was it on the Broomball board?? The skating school bulletin board sat largely empty just six feet away... anyway, there it was, and while I knew the event was coming, I didn't realize tickets were on sale.

I had a meeting get suddenly cancelled last night, so Stitch and I got a nice night off, playing with glow sticks and eating a banana cream pie for dinner in the front yard. I figured I deserved a treat. And on that same line, I went ahead and bought myself an All Event Pass to Skate America. My seat is eight rows back from the ice. I had worse seats at Home Rink's Ice Show last Friday.

I'm going to a Grand Prix event, and this is really cool. By the time it's over, I may have seen enough skating to make my ears bleed. Will they skate to "Let it Go?" Can we have a Costume Bingo? Do they serve beer? All pressing questions.

Is it okay to eat concessions like crazy while being constantly reminded of the
tiny dresses you need to fit into?

If you decide to come to Skate America at the Sears Centre, I can tell you that there really isn't a bad seat in the house. It's a nice arena, a bit in the middle of nowhere but easy enough to get to and find. And if you see someone in a Swarovski hat in section 115, come say hi!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Species of Skaters on Public Skate Sessions

The Newbie:

This person has either never skated before or doesn't skate very often. Either singularly, in Couple/Cute Date or Nice Family form, The Newbie is in Rentals, sticks to the wall, doesn't do anything too daring, and generally enjoys their time on the ice.

The Hockey Dad:

This guy is in jeans and a Team Jersey, and of course hockey skates. These skates typically show little sign of wear, even though he's skating like a maniac chasing after his kids. He will sometimes get out his phone to text his wife or "check in" with the office even though it's Sunday, because he wants it clear he's an Important Person spending time with his kids. If you dare tell him that his kids need to slow down, prepare yourself for the caustic, "I can't help it if my kids are good skaters," remark.

Hockey Kid, Larval Stage:

Usually no more the three feet tall, this one is shuffling along as best he can while his dad is encouraging him to "Pick your feet up!" or "Move! Just move!" This is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is when Hockey Dad gets overzealous about his potential Hockey Star and outfits his tot in full on gear and helmet, in which case the overburdened child collapses into a wailing heap on the ice, begging for help, while Dad skates backwards screaming, "Skate to me! Skate to me! He's fine, don't help him!"

Hockey Kid, Pupae Stage:

Having survived the Larval Stage, Hockey Kid now sports a Team Jersey and Gloves. He will sometimes cast off these gloves in a wild display, as a show of prowess for potential mates, (See Queen Bee, below.) He darts all over the rink forward and back, but ask him to do a mohawk and he gives you a puzzled expression before skating off thinking mohawks are for Girls and Girl Skates. Should Pupae Stage Hockey Kid fall and cry, Hockey Dad shows less sympathy than before, sometimes even chasing off Guards who come to help.

Hockey Kid, "Mature" Stage:

Fully Grown, Hockey Kid may or may not skate in the jersey of his team, but more often than not he skates in his street clothes. He is an accomplished skater, so much so that he often takes to texting on the ice. He does not usually skate fast or erratically on his own, but when clustered with other fully grown Hockey Kids, he will attempt to prove his dominance by skating like he's going for the Stanley Cup while on uppers. If he appears with a Queen Bee, he will provide a flashy display of figure skating elements while in hockey skates.


The Queen Bee:

This chick is in the Uniform: Chloe Noel pants and jacket, and the jacket she quickly sheds to show a tee with more rhinestones. She's got the moves and she knows it. Her mom is standing right at the rink door to take any questions. Try anything yourself, and she quickly shows you that she can do it better. While looking right at you. Lower level skaters better look out, because she isn't, and everyone knows that this would not fly on true Practice Ice, but no one is quite sure what to do here. Queen Bee can be by herself, but more often than not they arrive in swarms of three and four.

The WannaBe:

This girl is in good skates, skating clothes, drags a Zuca and has the look. At first glance, she can skate, but then she does something "off." You think it's a mistake, but then she does it again. And Again. And then it becomes clear that she's mostly self-taught. She'd pushing off to spin the wrong way from the wrong toepick because she's attempting to imitate and it's working. She is spinning, but the entry is all wrong. And then she does some wild whirling FI3's in a circle, her drag pick tearing canyons in the ice and you silently stare at her as though the force of your distaste alone will force her to stop. She continues.

The Little Bee:

Little Bee is sometimes the younger Sibling of Queen Bee. She's got on a miniature version of the Chloe Noel uniform and some worn out skates that look like they belonged to her older sister first. The Queen Bees hover around her, and while they may not look out for other skaters, they keep a sharp watch on Little Bee. Little Bee, not used to looking out for herself, bumbles around, completely unaware of other skaters and is often a Trip Hazard for Hockey Boy in his various Stages.

The Could Be:

This woman arrives with nice skates, jeans, and a dignified air. Before long she's doing power stroking forwards and backwards through the madding crowd, and then she does a double something or other in the corner. When you ask her to stop, (Single jumps only and only in the center, please,) she gets this tired expression and doesn't say anything. She just skates off. You're torn between getting her a Practice Ice or Adult Class Schedule and just letting it go.

The Reluctant Mom:

This poor woman really doesn't want to skate, but her kids dragged her here and have begged and cajoled her into skates, or her little skating kid doesn't want to go out by herself. Worse is when her Husband is Hockey Dad, because suddenly Kids and Dad are giving her a million unhelpful pointers, and she's just stuck looking awkward and angry while her husband is saying, "Let go of the wall, honey! Just let go!" My favorite experience as a Guard is when a Hockey Dad asked me to give his wife some "pointers." I looked at her straight and said, "I hung onto the wall for two months. If you want to hold onto the wall, do it. Let go when you're ready. Ignore everyone else." She smiled and Hockey Dad was horrified and I likely started a fight in the car on the way home.

The Daredevil:

This kid can't skate, but he's determined to try. Unbalanced, arms flailing, he sees the center ice kids doing basic jumps and decides to try that, too. So he flings himself up, and down he comes on the back of the blade, falling backwards with a force that makes your teeth rattle to witness it. Undaunted, he gets up and tries again and again, and you start looking for Professor X because clearly this is a Student of his School for the X-Men and this kid's mutant power is a rubber butt.

The Macrame Artist:

This person failed Knot Tying, yet they are reluctant to admit that they have no idea how to tie a simple shoelace knot. To keep their secret safe, and to make it appear as though they are proficient at not only knot tying, but at ancient Inca methods of counting sheep herds, they weave all 100" of skate laces into a finger crochet your Hippie Grandma would be proud of. Unfortunately, the sheer number of knots does not make up for the fact that they left the lace hooks in the boot completely untouched.

The Screamer:

You can spot this one as she gingerly steps onto the ice, clutching the boards with white knuckles and wide eyes. Screamers usually appear within a group of Newbies, much to the embarrassment of the relatively calm Newbies. The moment her feet slip a little, even an inch, she lets loose a blood curdling scream before letting her feet slide completely out from under her. This is when she becomes -

The Reluctant Gymnast:

Ice and Skates can make the uninitiated do weird things. I had no idea that bodies could bend in the ways these people do. Like a Cirque du Soliel act, they bend backwards, they achieve full lateral splits, their knees meet their chests, their arms grabbing at anything and everything for support, even the nearest companion whom they drag down in a slow motion ballet. All while screaming for help.

The Coach:

Yes, there are some unfortunate souls who try to teach on Public Ice. Pre-Freestyle lessons are doable on Public Ice, but Freestyle Lessons are nearly impossible. The Coaches who work on publics often work with groups, because if Mom is being cheap and having her kids work on Public Ice, then why not go one step cheaper and share the lesson with as many kids as possible, right? So with the best smile they can muster, they work over the noise of pop music and shuffle around the Bees and Bugs to get to their charges, trying to teach crossovers on the same hockey circle that absolutely everyone is using. And you have to wonder if they debate the effectiveness of these lessons as much as you do.

The Topheavy:

There's always this notion that kids in skates can avoid head injury by wearing a helmet. I kinda get it, I kinda don't, because there's few things more awkward than a five year old skating in a bike helmet that keeps falling down over their eyes. These kids are also typically in a snowsuit, mittens, hat and scarf, because the caregiver is convinced that Ice Rinks are kept at temperatures close to Siberia. Which leads us to the opposite -

The Underdressed:

Skating dresses are awesome. Their power is tremendous. They are, however, cold. Practice Dresses are rarely made from the same shiny spandex as the competition dresses, because the material refuses to stay warm with body heat. (Yet ironically holds in sweat like it's its job and smells terrible after an hour.) The only way to stay warm in any skating dress is to Move Move Move, which is not possible on a crowded public session or if you're a beginner. Every session there is at least one small child in a skating dress with blue lips, chattering teeth and a stark determination to *not put on a jacket* because it would *cover the dress!* What's worse is that some of these kids do not know the difference between skating tights and pantyhose, so the rest of the rink gets a very uncomfortable when they go sprawling.

These are just a few of the archetypes I see on Public Ice. I'm sure there are more species specific to different areas. Got a new species?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summer Skating

I love Summer Skating. When I remember balancing myself and my skate bag on a frozen chunk of ice against the side of the road, trying to get the door open enough to slide everything in, freezing to death in the parking lot, slipping on ice where it shouldn't be (the sidewalk), and Polar Vortex #3 where I had to fight not to cry when I looked at the temperature at 4:30 am, Summer Skating is my version of heaven.

Arriving at the rink in summer at 5:15, the birds are singing, the sun is rising, and the air is so warm and lovely. Contrast this to winter where it's pitch dark, deathly still and feels like arriving at the Rebel Base on Hoth.

Here to Skate, Winter Arrival

What's ironic about this is that there's not as many 5:15's needed. Most practice ices move their start times back a little, so sleeping in a little becomes a common luxury. The rink is warmer, and on humid days it fills up with a haze that hangs about four feet high. It's like some kind of magic, which I much prefer to seeing the snow blowing in weird formations, looking much like fingers, into the cracks of the garage door.

In winter I'd wear two pairs of tights, leggings, cotton long sleeve leotard and two fleeces, and still be chilled. Skating around in a little skirt and short sleeve leotard feels practically nude, yet I'll still work up a sweat and be thrilled with it. Cuter clothes are just another Summer Bonus.

Public Skates typically drain out, leaving only a few die hard Hockey Guys and Kids out of school who venture out. This means Publics get to be much more useful for actual practicing, and I get a heck of a lot done on the cheap.

But what I love most about Summer Skating is the Company. Adults get their own Practice Ice twice a week in summer, and it's an utter joy to share the ice with other Adults. We all chat and check in, watch and film each other on request, and these ice sessions don't have the same level of intensity as sessions shared with the kids. It's not that we aren't serious, most of us are. It's just that we're not so serious that we don't apologize when there's a near miss, or give each other dirty looks or cold shoulders, and there's just not that Competition Feeling among the other adults. Nobody has anything to prove. Okay, maybe some people do, but they do their thing.

Skating alone all winter long can get tiring. Yes, it's nice to have the ice to myself a lot, but it's lonely. Which was why I was glad when I convinced another Adult to join me on the 5:15's over Winter. We skated together all winter long, and it was so nice to have someone to chat with about how the session went, what we were working on, what we did wrong and have a laugh or three. But her ankle kept bothering her. And the problem kept getting progressively worse, and she stopped jumping.

This morning she emailed me to let me know the results of her MRI scan, because I had expressed concern over it. Stress Fracture. Caused by her pronation issues and skates that don't fit right. I'm mad about this, because I remember her telling me that she kept asking for better fitting skates, and no one wanted to recommend an expensive boot because she was "just an adult skater." Now her leg is broken, and she can't skate at all. So, I lost my company, but hopefully she will be healed up by Fall. I told her that I'd come with her, with a bat if needs be, to ensure she gets proper skates that don't break her leg.

Now give my Friend Decent Skates!

But Summer is nearly here, and while I'll miss my Early Morning Friend, it will be so great to see all
the other Adults again.

Yes kids, we *do* have more fun than you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Motivation Monday

We all know the Negative Folks. Step into a five foot radius of these people, and it's completely exhausting. Attempting to share their Negativity can leave you with little energy to do what you came to do at the Ice Rink, which is skate.

Just as a Negative Mass drives in opposite directions, negative energy can take you where you didn't intend to be. Like my Coach is always saying, "Enjoy your skating!" Because approaching a skating challenge with a Positive force behind you can make the most difficult of elements a complete Joy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sewing Weekend

With Ice Show bogarting everything this weekend, I find myself with some spare time. Stitch and I have plans to see "Godzilla," I have to around between 5pm and 7pm for some internet person to fix our home lifeline, and then I'm off to Rink Neverwhere late in the evening, which was the only place I could find ice. But that still leaves me some time.

I have about three skating dresses in various stages of completion, all of which I've been toying with for testing. Either they've been getting too complex or ornate, or I just don't feel good about them. The design is fine, it's just not "right."

I turned on some skating on YouTube to drink coffee to, and out comes some chick in a simple halter. Now, I have a face that is brought out by V-Necks, and I want something that shows the muscle in my arms. If I'm a clydesdale, I'm going to own it. This dress would be perfect. It's Pre-Bronze test, so nothing too great, but would show off power. I can be a powerful skater, lithe and willowy I am not. Sometimes I get a little afraid of it because I have inadvertently pushed too hard and pushed myself off my own foot. I've gouged out some serious ice chunks on simple jumps, not because I'm heavy but because I just push hard. Coach gets after me for pushing too fast. I think I have to learn how to control it, make it work for me and not against me.

So maybe for her first run out, the Clydesdale should be in a halter.

On a less serious note, Summer Ice isn't far off. I like summer ice. The main rink gets opened to the adults one morning, and it's fun to skate with friends after not seeing them practically all year long. After skating alone all winter, it's social and lovely and I can't wait. It's also warmer in the rink, so wearables can be more frivolous. During winter I was skating in three fleeces, no joke, with the wind blowing snow into the slats of the garage door. Skating in light and pretty clothes sounds like heaven. Plus there's the ice dance class which needs to be livened up. So I bought some super fun spandex to make a new pair of leggings and a new skirt.

So, sewing projects all around. Here's to summer skating!

Friday, May 16, 2014

I Have Forms - Now What?

I asked Coach about testing, and he stepped me through the process. To start, I have to join USFSA. Right. He didn't care which club I joined, but in talking with a fellow Adult Testing Skater, I had one picked out.

I did some legwork, and a day later I had the necessary membership application form.

And then I realized.... Shit is getting real.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why I am Not Doing the Ice Show

Well, I have a lot of reasons. First and foremost, I was heavily involved in another show right up until the start of May. Committing to an ice show rehearsal schedule would have been tough. Second, I had the coaching switch. I had some premonition that this would involve some serious shakeup in what I was learning and how I was learning it, and adjusting to this on top of doing the show would have been tough. I was very, very right, and this was a wise call on my part. Given how crammed my practices got, I would have had no time to dedicate to learning a show program.

But Thirdly and most importantly, I was tired of Ice Show Dramatics. I did my best to stay away and out of it during Winter Show, but as Coaches and Moms kept stopping me and saying, "Have you heard...." and off they'd go on some rant about the latest horrible news from a subset of horrible people. I heard a lot. I shut out a lot. But it was tiring. And dumb. People told me I was being really quiet. It's because I was trying to shut it out.

And it got super Dumb when I caught a skater coming off the ice with a serious injury, and I ended up doing first aid with another mom volunteer while in full costume and show makeup. I'll stop there.

But the Dumb overwhelmed me, because there was so much and it was so needless. After I got accused of being overly dramatic for saying I didn't feel like a part of a team when I got left out of discussions about my own pairs program, all the joy went out of it. I raised a legitimate concern, and I was literally ignored for two days and lost a lesson for daring to voice my feelings. I shut down, and I should never do a show in Shutdown mode. I did the motions, I did the show, but that was all I did.

I understand why the Drama is there. Drama happens when Hurt Feelings become hateful words and actions, which multiply themselves. Skating is infectious, and the infection sets its roots down close to ones heart really. I think skating people need to realize that it doesn't matter who the skater is; young, old, beginner, old hat, pro or patch skater, we're all infected at the heart. No one would skate if they weren't. Compassion in words and actions are so important when we deal with each other at the rink. We need fewer conversations where we glance around before we speak, and more thinking about our words before we speak them. A moment of thinking, "What if someone said or did this to me? How would I feel?" might stop a lot of needless heartache in its tracks. A little empathy can go a long, long way.

There's a line from a middle school video on PMS and menstruation that has stuck with me throughout the years, "You might not like it, but you have to live with people." It's funny because it's so true. We can live with each other by letting Compassion, Kindness and Honesty govern our actions at the rink.


Because after all, we're supposed to be having fun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Was it really a bad practice?

I didn't have a great practice this morning. Typically, Tuesday is edge/turn/figure day, where I just focus on edges, posture, good turns and that kind of thing. It's not as physically demanding, which is nice coming off the weekend which nearly kills me and then Monday Lessons where I get pushed way out of my comfort zone.

But the ice show is this weekend, so my training schedule has taken a little hiccup. I'm cramming in Main Ice time, so I hit the big ice today.

Little changes to the training routine make a huge difference. Skating all-out on sore muscles hurt, and I was slow, and small in my movements. I knew I wasn't doing well, but I pushed on anyway. I nearly took myself out on a FO3, which was silly and frustrated me. I was scared to do spirals given that I was shaking a bit in the hamstrings.

A new skater was out there, and she was doing some pretty good crossrolls, forward and back, with some nice chasses and mohawks all around. I had to keep note of where she was, and I kept noticing that was all she did. No jumps, no spins, no spirals... it kind of confused me. I mean, she looked great, but she just had that one thing she was doing.

Well, I was still sucking. And I figured, if I'm sucking this hard at the things I'm good at, why not just go ahead and suck harder and do the things I'm bad at. So I turned to FI3/FO3 patterns and alternating mohawks, FO3's with tap toes, Toe Loops with a full on entry, and eventually I got up to doing the Spirals I'd been scared of earlier in the session. And I walked away not wholly pleased with how I'd done, but happy with the fact I'd done things I typically shy away from because I suck at them. And if Amazing Crossroll Person thought me slow and awkward, well, I was and I don't really care. I hate FI3's. I'm better at them, but I hate them.

It's too easy to spend an entire session focusing on the things we're good at. I once did Forward Crossrolls for an hour, and you bet they looked better the next day. But no one does a minute and a half of Forward Crossrolls in a program. When I was starting out, I'd spend half the session on Crossovers. I have great crossovers. But my mohawks and turns lagged behind, and now I'm paying the price. Looking awkward for a few months is a small price to pay for being fully rounded later on.



So, suck on, people. Because....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Why are you doing USFS?"

I ran into a fellow adult skater last night. We hadn't seen each other in awhile and so it was nice to catch up. He asked me what I was up to, and I said I was a hare shy of being ready to test Pre-Bronze. He looked at me funny and said, "That's not ISI, is it?"

No, it's not. That's USFSA.

"Isn't that too serious? I mean, ISI is fun."
"I guess, but I like the seriousness. Being too laid back about it isn't great either."
"Well, ISI is serious too, but..." and he trailed off and shrugged. "But whatever you want to do I guess."

That's true. This is what I want to do. Over the past two months, my off-ice training partner has noted I've become more focused, more serious. I've noticed it too, and I like that. "Is skating still fun for you?" He asked me, looking concerned.

"Are you kidding? This is the most fun I've ever had with it. I am having a blast!"

And it's the absolute truth. As much as a formal test can be intimidating, it's kinda fun, too. Formality doesn't mean No Fun. The trick with Formality is learning to have fun within the structure. As Picasso said, "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."

The American South has a bad reputation of being full of ignorant hillbillies living in trailers, shopping at Wal Mart and wearing offensive tee shirts. Which isn't to say I haven't worn an offensive tee shirt, I have, but the South was a place of gentility and grace before it got a nasty reputation. I grew up learning about forks and spoons and what to say and how to dress, palling around with little old ladies at formal little parties and gatherings. And it's here you learn how to eat as much lobster bisque as possible at a buffet without looking like a total pig.

As a girl, I was involved in a branch of the Masons. If you want formal, they have it. Little old ladies measuring the distance between the knots in your silly ritual wear, and hissing a bit if you didn't square your corners just right when crossing the room. Skating likes to think it's the only activity with an underwear fetish, but I've got more experience with straps, no straps, tights, slips, "a red thong, really? flesh tone only please," pasties and some other device we nicknamed "The Madonna" after a music video from the 80's. ("Sharon, do you have The Madonna? I need it for the dance next weekend.") I've had rulers taken to my hemlines and necklines, had my steps measured so I crossed the room correctly, and ritual work was no joke for these blue-haired adorable old women.

But for some reason it was fun. I don't get it either, because I can see where it might become stifling and awkward and frustrating. But for me, it was like a game. I still don't know what you win, but it was a fun game to play by the rules and get it right. If you lose, you always get another chance.

Skating is like this. Turn here, do it just this way, tuck in your laces because they're distracting, and for god's sake act like a lady. This appeals to me. I'm sure ISI is a fine program, but it lacks the formality, the fun little game, that I like playing. And I think what's hilarious is if you get the test part wrong and fall, how can you not laugh? Here everyone is, all dressed up and stuffy and prim, and you wind up sprawled on your butt, wet and cold in a spangled leotard? Skating has this veneer of being so graceful and elegant and whatever, but we're all well aware of some ridiculous things that happen in the name of "grace." (Don't eat too much before training or you'll puke. Watch what you say, know who will get the message because making gossip work for you is an art form.) How is that not funny?

I'm not doing USFS because I think it's better, it's just better for me. And I'm getting excited about it!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Crazy Skates I have Seen

I am a volunteer Rink Guard on weekends. I started doing it as a way to break in my skates, but I kept on doing it because it's fun and I like the people at the rink.

That having been said, I have seen some crazy things. Mostly crazy skates. Some of the things people step on the ice with amaze me, and the things people strap on their kids feet is even more amazing.

Let's start off with my words on skates: Skates are how you and the ice communicate, it's the foundation of your relationship. And like any relationship, it's built on trust. If you don't trust your skates, you won't do well.

Rental Skates


Rentals are typically fine, but there are the people who will clomp up our cement stairs while wearing them and hence ruin the blades. There's no way to tell which skates have been worn on the cement, so when you get your rentals, run your finger along the blade. Does it feel a little sharp? Some semblance of an edge? Great. When you put them on, do your ankles cave? If they do, trade in that pair for a different pair that's not so broken down.

Rentals are just fine if you tool around once or twice a year. I've seen people do spins and jumps in Rentals. These people deserve medals.


Sports Store Skates

I started off in a pair kinda like these. Not a lot of ankle support, and my toes swam in the front. Again, just fine if you tool around every so often. However, these skates are not great for lessons or skating in frequently. I see these skates on a few kids once a week, and they are breaking down at an incredibly fast rate. These kids, their ankles get lower every week and I cringe every time one of them jumps. Word to the Wise: If you are seeing deep creases in the boots of your kid's skates, they are in the wrong skates. If you're doing skating lessons, get the most out of those lessons and invest in some actual skates.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I have no idea what these are. Not quite hockey skates, not figure skates, but some kind of mutant demon skate that seems to exist only to frustrate small children. Some of them even come with some little pick on the front. Why is this? On a skate like this, it's like an engineered trip hazard. The copy on the ad says they are adjustable, but how adjustable can they be? And waterproof? Well, yeah, they are all hard plastic. Naturally they are waterproof. These seem heavy, you can hear kids clunking around in these. And their legs do not bend. It's like the skate locked their ankle into place and their knees just followed suit. The worst part is that you can see the longing look in the eyes of the girls stuck in these things as they watch the figure skaters in the center. I hate these things.

Double Runners

There was a huge jump in the appearance of these hellish things right after Christmas. Suddenly every tot in the neighborhood had a pair and was out on Public Ice, trotting three steps and falling forwards. Or trying to push forward and falling flat. Or Jumping on double runners and taking out the hapless passerby on their way down. This is my unbridled opinion on Double Runners: Dangerous. As. Hell.

The whole idea of an ice skate is that motion holds you up, not just sheer balance. The whole idea of "balancing" on a Double Runner is stupid because it's wrong. And in reality, if you consider Inside and Outside edges, all skates are actually double runners. So, parents thinking of starting their kids off in Double Runners, let me state here that it's the Double Runnered kids who fall more frequently and harder than kids in actual skates. This includes toddlers. These things are a menace.


There was some poor tot out in a set of these some weekend, being pushed along by his frantic dad. They were falling off every three seconds and I was tailing close behind to pick up whatever this is when it finally came off the kid's shoe. I don't know what these are but the website says it is a BOB skate. Maybe that's an acronym for Breaking One's Bones.

Soft Booted Skates

Riedell makes these, and they are pretty decent skates. Stitch started off in a pair and they served him well up through Beta. I've seen adults do great in these, also up to Beta. I saw an adult skater doing catchfoot spirals in these at some point. My problem with these is that they don't seem to allow a lot of ankle bend. I've never worn them so I don't know. But these seem like a great option for recreational skating.

Barbie Skates

Yeah, I've seen these out on Public. I ignore a lot of things. Note the useless toepick, because Barbie apparently hates small children.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Freeskate Friday

I am in the process of breaking my Sugar Habit. Anyone around between public skate sessions on Saturdays has seen me come back from 7-11 with bags of Sour Patch Kids, gummy bears, and whatever else got my eye, but bottom line, I am a sugar addict. And it has to stop. Reality hit me when I realized I went through two five pound bags of candy hearts between February tenth and March fifteenth, Stitch and I went through about six boxes of Peeps, one white chocolate rabbit and two bags of Cadbury mini-eggs over Easter, I found five empty bags of skittles in my car while cleaning it out, and in a fit of desparation I raided a co-worker's desk of his M&M's while he was on vacation. I replaced the bag before he came back.

I'm trying to substitute the refined sugars with things like apples and strawberries and whatever other pathetic fruits don't come close to Twizzlers, but more often than not I find myself sucking down Splenda and Coffee like a deprived animal. I've done some reading, and sugar withdrawal is a real thing; with irritability and anxiety being the primary symptoms. Perhaps I should not work as a Rink Guard this weekend. ("Sir, get your street shoes off the ice before I cram them where the zamboni doesn't go.")

But here is a skate to lighten my mood. It's been raining nonstop here this week, so it's fitting that we should just sing it out.



(I would kill someone for a Snickers bar, seriously.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Historical Thursday: It's "Figure" skating, after all.

I like reading crazy old skating books. They're usually written by some stuffy Harvard Dude who starts off by telling you about his knickers and then graduates into quotes from "The Tempest" before going into minute details about rockers, counters and change edge figures. I like to try the Backwards Change Edge figures when I have some spare time on the ice, and they are a challenge. I usually end up miles off course on a flat, free foot off to my side as I scramble for balance.

The commonality of all these books is that just about all of them written by older men. The Illustrations are of older men and sometimes women, but none of these people look under twenty. I began to wonder just what happened here: When did this sport get taken over by kids to the point where adults are now the anomaly?

I have parents of skaters tell me they can't stand up on the ice, much less do what their daughters do. Nonsense. Skating is not much more than time, patience, muscle memory and money. With enough of these four things, you can skate. But it seems that the overpopulation of Young Girls out there has either frightened off or convinced all the Adults that they can't skate, and if they can, there's only "so far" you can go.

Horseshit. It's not a question of distance, but direction.

All these skating books written by adults feature edges, figures, turns. We're talking difficult figures that are every bit as challenging as the Salchow I'm working on, if not moreso. Most of these books don't even mention jumps, but wax poetic about body position, free foot holds, and leans into hard turns. Think it's easy? I once cut a deep gouge on a stupid FO3 turn, an easy turn I keep thinking I've finally mastered. I still screw it up royally from time to time.

This book is one of my favorites on Olde Timey Skating, and the diagrams in this one have proven maddeningly fun. It also has the actual diagrams for writing in cursive on the ice.

I had an Adult Skater tell me that she would never get past Freestyle, simply because she had a firm rule that her feet would never leave the ice. Total nonsense. This woman could study Patch and School Figures, and bested the kids every damn time, because the kids just don't care about Figures. Adults are being sold on the Jumping Bill of Goods, and if they aren't jumping well or at all, then they aren't skating.

Historically, this is completely inaccurate. The whole Jumping/Spinning/Gymnastics thing didn't really come into play until this chick came along. Before Sonia, figure skating was precisely that: Figure Skating. People out with friends for a quiet afternoon of tracing complex and difficult patterns in the ice, and any jumps or spirals they did were gravy. One book even advises you on what lunch to pack. I can't think of a better way to spend a free afternoon. A lot of Figures from these books involve two, three and four people, with a "Caller" who tells everyone when to turn. I can't even imagine how much fun this could be, given that skating can be such an isolating sport. (You'd either all be fast friends or kill each other by the end of it.)

I once got told that if I couldn't spin, "you should just quit now." I'm not joking, I wish I were. My spin might be my most troublesome element, but I'm not giving up on it. (Did that person really want me to quit? Maybe, but Fat Chance!) More than that, even if I never learn to spin or jump well, I don't have to quit skating. I can switch disciplines and every day can be "Edge/Turn/Figure" day. Does this mean I'm not really "Skating?" Of course not. But Coach assures me that the spin will happen, so I'm holding on to that at present.

People ask me what I'm going to do when I'm too old to skate. That day won't ever happen, because Skating doesn't equate with jumps and ice aerobatics. When I get old I plan on bringing my orange with me to "mark my center" as I learn this "Forward Once and Back" thing, and try to figure out how to write my name in the ice. I might even wear my silk bloomers and a big feather hat when I compete.
Actually, I think I can do this now...