Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Skatemares and Showmares

It's not good when I'm having skatemares about the Holiday Show and it's only August. But the dream itself was pretty telling in its reveal of what I am afraid of...

I showed up to the audition alone. My skating partner was not with me. What made this bad was that there was some kind of procession of everyone auditioning, and I was very obviously alone.

I brought my show/character dress and not my audition/test dress. I had already remade the skirt portion so it was longer and fuller, and my legs were swimming in heavy fabric. (Something I'm planning to do but haven't done yet.)

I forgot my tights, and had no socks. I was asking to borrow tights.

We had absolutely no program, and I knew it. I had no idea what to do. When I finally met up with my skating partner, I asked "What are we skating?" in a very sardonic tone. He was in his costume and skates and looking very relaxed while I was struggling with the skirt and only in one skate.

"Oh, I don't know, it doesn't matter," he replied blithely, and disappeared again. I immediately began piecing some moves together, figuring no one really knew what our program was anyway. Partner could follow along or not.

This dream is fairly clear: I am afraid of being alone and completely unprepared.

I won't say last year was a disaster, it wasn't. But it was Hard. I'm already taking steps to avert the Hard as much as I can, but there are things beyond my control that happened last year that can still happen this year. I know Circumstances are very, very different this year, but I can't make people do things they are unwilling or unable to do. I can't make people be at practice and on time. I can't make people focus or be supportive and positive. But this year I am either a part of a Team or I'm not. If I'm not part of a Team, then I'm out the door.

If this makes me "Dramatic," so be it. Contrarily, I think setting clear expectations like this affirms my position on "No Drama." I just need to remember my cardinal rule: My skating serves to make me happy. If it doesn't make me happy, then it's not worth my time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Coach Disapproval Techniques

When learning any new skill, you're bound to mess it up. When learning anything new on the ice, I usually go through a two month period of total cluelessness before things begin to gel for me. The Body/Brain Disconnect must be worked through, but while that's happening you're bound to see some disapproval from your coach. This comes in many forms, and its degree of severity is usually in direct proportion to the experience of your coach, and its expression is in inverse proportion to same.

The Repeater

I work with a Repeater for Dance. It's nice. No matter what you do wrong, how badly you screw it up, or how many times you try again, the Repeater just repeats the instruction, over and over. He repeats it verbally, he repeats it physically. He demonstrates, over and over. And he never seems to get ruffled or upset, he just Repeats. I have been tempted to try to do something overtly wrong to see what he'd do, but at the same time it's soothing so I don't want to mess with that.

The Sigh

A Sigher usually won't get very upset, they'll just sigh as they watch you. And you see their resigned expression as they explain it again, and you vow to try a bit harder to avoid that Sigh. But you get it again, and again, and again....

The Eyebrow Pinch

In the Theatre,  I am an Eyebrow Pincher. Missed cues, late entrances, or watching an actor go up on his lines in spectacular fashion will cause me to eyebrow pinch. For Coaches, it's a jerky crossover, a wobbly edge, a bad landing... or whatever is on their plate that day. You look up and you see them doing it, and immediately try and correct whatever it is you're doing wrong. But the damage has been done.

The Proximity Push

When my coach watches from a distance, I know I'm okay. It's when he's skating towards me as I'm doing something that I know I'm in trouble. Skating something new is hard, but skating something new with a coach twelve inches away and giving orders is absolutely nerve wracking.

Old Yeller

There are coaches that Yell. And sometimes they are raising their voices over the music of the Freestyle girls, but more often than not they are yelling in frustration. "Hooooooolllllld!!! Hold the edge!! What was that??" and watching a girl doing a spiral with shouts of, "Higher! Higher! Higher!" are common on freestyle ice. Coaches who coach from the boards *twitch* are the usual criminals, as they just have to yell to be heard.

Name Calling *Bad*

On rare occasion, I have been called Stupid. Looking back, I see that I should have stopped this behavior right away and not allowed it to continue. While the Coach insisted that it wasn't personal and only applied to the skating, it's very much a reddish-gray area. No other coach I have ever worked with in any capacity, (private, group or clinic) has ever called me Stupid, no matter what I did. This was also a big clue that it was not normal. It's far too easy, when in the throes of awkwardness learning a new thing, to apply it personally. Best to avoid it, and immediately stop those that try it.

I just try to remember that if my coach cares enough to disapprove on a regular basis, and if all disapproval gets broken up with a hearty compliment every so often, I'm doing all right. If I'm continually improving, making progress toward my stated goals, and I'm happy with my skating overall (and there are good days and bad days,) then all the sighs and brow pinches and shouts are working.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Case for Adults Only Ice

I'm a big fan of Adults Only Practice Ice. Adults get very few safe spaces in which to work on their skating, without the eyes of judgey skating parents and careless kid skaters. I have kicked kid skaters off of Adult Ice, ignoring the cries of parents, "But she neeeeeds it..." This was on the Shoebox Studio, where high level skaters attempted to barge in to get one last run of their competition routines amidst Delta level Adults.

Tough cookies. This ice is rare and and valuable, so shove off.

There was one Dance Practice Session where we had a kid visit for some reason, I think it was something about a grandparent visiting who wanted to see Pweshus skate... and what followed was pretty indicative of why I am a staunch advocate for NO KIDS on adult ice.

All us adults were skating fine, practicing things and involved in ourselves, and then here comes Pweshus. She's got on her pink Chloe Noel and matching pink hair bow, and mom and elder relation are in tow. All the adults, who had not five seconds earlier been skating around, suddenly began moving to the wall. Pweshus starts warming up, zooming around, and as she did so, I was watching all the adults. They kept their eye on her, and watched as Mom and Elder Relation began the Coofest that universally surrounds a very young cute skater.


I kept skating. Pweshus kept glancing at me, and Mom kept glancing at me, and the message I was receiving was, "Why are you still here?"

Well, I paid for this ice, so I will be skating on it, thankyouverymuch.

Yeah, Imma skate on ur  mah ice!
But all my fellow adults had retreated to the boards, chatting and talking, watching Pweshus dutifully perform with the Coach for Elder Relation, on command from Mom.

When the show was over and Pweshus left, the Adults crept back from the boards and continued skating. They had lost about twenty five minutes, but at least they didn't have Mom glaring at them like I did.

I'm not placing the blame squarely on Judgey Parents and Kids. Adults need to get some cajones and skate on the ice they paid for, regardless of who is watching and what they think. (Protip: No one is a great skater overnight, and no one gets better without skating! So LET US SKATE!) But a safe space helps, even if it's something you get just once a week. (For very new skills, I actually like to practice those on Public Sessions. No one cares if you look awkward and slow on a Public.) But don't think Adults Only ice is all slow skaters. There are plenty of fast adults doing high level jumps and spins, but they have the grace and courtesy that is sorely lacking in most kids.

The Adults Only ice has only a few weeks left, and already the laments of, "Why can't we have this all year," and "Who can we talk to... This is so nice, how can we keep this," have started. We've petitioned Rink Management, but it's always fallen on deaf ears. In the meantime, I will be skating on my beloved Adult Only ice, treasuring it while we have it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Meanwhile, in my Other Lives...

My Theatre Life took a turn for the Very Serious lately. Over the past two months, I have spent hours in meetings, executive sessions and Google hangouts when there was no other way to talk. I had many hour long phone calls and private meetings, which were preceded by me saying, "This is all off the record and between us, but I need to know..." and I'd just listen for the rest of the call. There were letters and statements and lists and money and tears and emotion, and what struck me the most is that all the people I spoke to, no matter what they were saying, had the good of the Theatre at heart. It all just reiterated my belief that passionate people just have no other way to exist than All Out.

I'd go to bed, emotionally wiped out and physically exhausted, and wake up to yet another email. But I had to go Skate.

I had to Skate because whatever was outside those dasher boards wouldn't follow me in. Skating has become a bit of a refuge, because everything else falls away while I skate. Coach has a laserlike focus on the ice, and that has become a priceless gift to me. I need that. Even with all the Rink Drama that is happening (and there is a lot!) what happens on the ice is completely isolated from it.

It's kept me sane.

Theatre Serious is not over yet; we have a whole season still in the balance, I'm designing lights for one of the shows in addition to taking on the roles of Treasurer on the Board of Directors and Chairing the Fundraising Committee. These new positions within the Theatre do scare me a bit, as I've never done anything like this before. We'll get through it, I have faith, but I will look to the ice as my refuge. Because if the past two years on the ice have taught me anything, (strained hamstring, scar on my chin, broken tailbone, knee in need of ongoing care, and unexpectedly cruel words) I've learned I can survive just about everything. And while I may not always come out on top, there is always the other side.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Motivation Monday - Looking Forward!

Well, I can honestly say I am not going in circles anymore. Between Moves and FS1 tests, endless mohawk and 3 turn drills and the given Challenge/Bonus material to work on, I am busy on the ice. I remember the days where I'd run out of things to do, and idle around for awhile before deciding what to do over again. My pet project of juggling on skates, just because I was bored, has taken a backseat to correcting all my Basics. I used to do scheduling as a way to motivate me to go, now it is a necessity to ensure I get to everything.

I ran into Coach briefly outside of lesson, and I gave him my test papers. He said he would date and mail them. And he said that it wasn't too much of a hurry, given that "we aren't going to Nationals this year."

"But I want to compete," I said firmly. "Please. Next time we'll do Nationals."

"Okay, next time." He seemed amused.

This morning he brought up the Pre-Bronze Freeskate test. He wants that done next time. The only thing holding me back is spinning, which is getting better. I'm pretty good at motivating myself, but I do get tired sometimes. Having that added Push from Coach this morning felt tremendous. I felt respected, that I was being listened to and taken seriously, and more than those things, that he believed I could do it.

I walked into my lesson very sore and tired and a bit demoralized from a week where any progress I made in spinning seemed to evaporate. But one good spin, a few improved drills, some positive words and a hard nudge from Coach, and I felt like I could face another week.

Testing is a serious goal of mine, but I'm starting to see what's beyond it. And it's very exciting!

Next time for Certain!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

You Spin me Right Round... sometimes.

I'm getting frustrated by my inability to spin. It's coming easier.  From a pivot I can get around six or seven times consistently on two feet, four times on one foot, but whatever I finally get is not enough. There's always more.

First, I have to get in a spin from an entry. I can do this, and sometimes I get around two or three times. But then I slow down too much and bail on it.

Now I have to get into the spin from an entry, get the spin going on one foot, then put the second foot down to spin on two feet. This is the single most ridiculous thing ever, because once I get this skill, I perform it for the test and then forget about it forever.

As an added Bonus Challenge Round, I have Dip Spins. It's precisely what the name implies; spinning in a dip position. Super Bonus Challenge Round is entry, one foot spin, set the other foot down and then dip. And now I have bigger toepicks to think about.

It's starting to frustrate me. It's the one thing holding me back right now, and I'm not sure what to do. Who would have thought I'd prefer working on back outside three's to trying spins, which I desperately want to do but can't. I'm hoping my new blades help. A spin entry was hard on unsteady edges, and my new blades feel much more secure.

Yesterday during practice I focused on staying straight and not collapsing in on myself and it worked better. But dip spins were a loss yesterday because I was worried I'd hitch up on those picks. I spent some time doing tap toes and pick jumps, just to show myself they are, in fact, farther back than I think.

But every lesson Coach has me spin, which frustrates me but I know is good. Tonight is the night I really focus on spins, so here's hoping for some success on the new blades.

But I found myself make an error so indicative of good progress, I laughed out loud: I mohawked the wrong way. I turned on my weaker side and I didn't even notice until I realized I was set up wrong for the half flip. The mohawk that had terrified me to the point of paralysis, I now did without much thought. So, I guess progress comes in many forms. Hopefully one day I'll spin without thinking much about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Blades!

I have new blades. My Aspires were going on a full two years old, and bad Skater that I am I did not keep track of sharpenings so I don't know how often that happened. But I knew I needed new blades, and soon, as my Aspires were getting dangerously old.

How did I know the Aspires were done?

There wasn't a lot of gray area left, which means there wasn't much left to grind down.

They weren't functioning as well as they had. After their last few sharpenings, the edge seemed to vanish almost immediately. Maybe it was all in my head, but I just didn't feel like they were on the ice as securely as they had been. Edge pulls got hard, crossrolls got hard, landings got slide-y, and on my last skate in them I was falling out of 3 turns.

It's likely I could have gotten another pair of the same blade and done just fine in them, but I felt the need to upgrade. I'm jumping a lot more than I used to, spinning is coming easier, and Coach loves toepicks. So, I felt an upgrade was in order.

I ordered the Ultima Legacy, the immediate upgrade from the Aspire, with the cross cut pick and 8' rocker I like. When I got the call they were in, I scheduled my appointment to get them on my boots, and then I was worse than Billy from "Where the Red Fern Grows" when he's waiting for his dogs. I begged out of work early to get them.

Side by side: the Aspires have a lightweight pick, the drag pick is not sharp and not that big. The pick on the Legacy means business from Point 1. It's big and sharp, and it's a little higher on the blade. Beyond that I did not see much physical difference.

Of course, once they are on the boot, you have to try them out. I didn't want to skate by myself in them on the first try, so I crashed the Beta/Gamma class on the way back from Skate Shop. A friendly coach gave me the advice to do some small jumpy things to "teach myself where the toepicks are," which addressed my biggest fear of a slightly bigger and sharper Drag pick. So I did a few 3-turn/taptoe/3-turn exercises, as well as edges to check the mounting. It all felt okay, but of course the Adult Classes are all taught in the tiny studio (useless) so it was hard to discern any real skating difference in them.

This morning I took them out for a real skate on the big ice.

These blades are fast. They are also secure. I asked for a deeper hollow than what I usually get, and I like it. No slipping sideways on crossrolls at all, and mohawks grab and hold. They are also quieter. I hear much fewer scratchy toepick noises on them. Maybe it's higher profile, or the fact that the Aspires were so worn down that the drag pick couldn't help but drag, but these blades are quiet. The bigger toepicks feel sturdier, I feel much more stable. I'm able to commit better to the step-turn-step-crossover manuever.

Overall, I'm thrilled. My long and needlessly difficult process of new skates is done, and now I know precisely what I like so I never have to go through the uncertainty or begging for help ever again. (SP Teri, 5 1/2 Split Width!) Everything worked out, in spite of the obstacles, and I'm grateful.

The new blades had to arrive in time to give me awhile to adjust before my test, and that happened perfectly. Next lesson we run through the MIF Test in the dress and new blades, and I'm pretty excited!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ice Experiments: Dance

So I've been trying my hand at Ice Dance. I read everywhere that Ice Dance is what most adults gravitate to. There's no jumping and not much spinning, so the chance of falling and hurting yourself is less. I was trying Ice Dance as a way to get myself to listen to the music and move in time to it, not because it's a pursuit.

I've been learning the Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango, two relatively simple dances. There's no turns involved, no fancy footwork, and certainly no point where both feet leave the ice. But it's a bit vexing. It's not that the skating is especially hard, it's just hard to do it right and in time, which is what I was expecting.

Progressives aren't so bad, it's just a Better Crossover. I think Crossovers are one of those things that are easy to learn at the outset, but can be continually improved as we go on. (Speaking as a skater who spent three months fixing her back crossovers from a stumbly mess into something test ready-pretty.) But even knowing that and having that in hand when I try a Progressive, that foot goes up and over because that's what it has been taught to do for the past three years. It's hard undoing three years worth of practice into setting the free foot down slightly in front of the skating foot. Plus I have Freestyle Coach's words ringing in my ears of "Extension" and "Free foot up higher, please," so I spend far too long on the move getting pretty, by which time I have to hurry to land on that outside edge to complete the lobe. Dance Coach is telling me to skip the extension and get the pattern down, which I know is right but hard. When the Progressive was coupled with a Chasse and a Swing Roll for the Tango, I had a lobe that started in Myrtle Beach and ended in Peoria.

Plus there's the End Patterns; Specific Moves you do around the ends which should get you right into starting position to do the pattern down the long axis again. Should. With The Dutch Waltz, I again take far too long on the Progressives, which makes that middle Swing Roll a disaster, and then I'm nearly into the wall for the subsequent Progressive back into the pattern. My Tango is caving in on itself by the second pass, my end pattern gets so wonky.

And no, I am not skating to the music. I think what I need to do is reconnect with Coach YouTube and watch these dances a few times, get a better idea of where my feet go and when, and learn to let go of "Pretty" for awhile.

But overall my impression of Ice Dance is this: Boring. As. Hell. The steps involved require building the muscle memory as well as my own memory, which means doing them over and over and over and over again. It's like conjugating Latin verbs while sitting in a freezer. Frankly, there's only so many times I can do a chasse badly before I start getting frustrated with it, which is strange given that I dedicate mornings to Edge/Figure work. Also, the music. Dear god, the music. I went online to try and seek out better ballroom dance music to play, and heaven help us, it all sounds that bad. Okay, maybe not "bad," but not my taste. I'm thinking of bringing a bubble machine to the last class and plastering a picture of Lawrence Welk in the penalty box.

Towards the end of my Ice Dance Practice Session, after flagellating myself with Swing Rolls for an hour, I find myself working on Program Elements just because they're a bit more challenging and to warm back up. Backwards steps on my toepicks because Coach loves those and I do, too, (even though I can't quite do them yet) and sneaky mazurkas because that's not technically a jump. Dance is so physically undemanding, I'm typically shivering at the end of the session. I'm not alone, a fellow freeskater does the same thing. I don't want to offend people to whom Dance is super cool and fun and exciting, but I'm thinking Dance is not for me right now. It was a nice experiment, and I'm not saying I won't take anything from it, but not right now.

I'm thinking my next experiment will be actual Patch. Once winter show is done...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Physical challenges and you

I'm home from seeing my chiro, and I'm sore from the working over he gave me. My left hamstring was acting up again due to all the work on spirals I've been doing, and I had a minor complaint with my right (landing) foot. It was falling asleep in my boot and acting tingly.

It was nice to get a quick go-over and hear, "You've been training harder lately..." Why, yes!

I spent an hour there, getting loosened up and straightened out again, and getting pointers to improve turnout and strength. I've been so good about strengthening my left glute that now it's my right one that needs work. Go figure.

My physical state, much like my skating, is an ongoing work in progress. Six months ago, before I started seeing my chiro, I could not sit down for longer than ten minutes without horrible cramping in my hamstring. I tried physical therapy after I managed to actually hurt it, but that didn't work for very long. I asked my coach for help, but the answer of "stretch it out," was also limited in its effectiveness. I had my former physical therapist ready to send me off to do some hardcore MRI's to determine the problem. But I found this guy, and within three months he had me painless.

Now I see him about once a month. He helped my back when I hurt it, but mostly I see him for routine physical maintenance. I do this because GP's (general practitioners, or your family doctor) are useless when it comes to soft tissue issues. They don't get it. If they can't give it a pill, stick a needle in it, or see it in some kind of expensive and likely hazardous scan, they have no clue what to do with it. Worse, it's usually a three month wait to get in to see my GP, at which point the problem would either be gone or a whole lot worse!

"Well, what does he do, exactly?" I get this question a lot. The official answer is "joint realignment and muscle work."  The short version is, "a harder version of a no-mercy massage." Today's session was a very painful ten minutes on my plantar and the top of my foot, but when it was done I could feel a noticeable improvement, and the "pins and needles" feelings were gone. Working on my hamstring, I got into the spiral position and explained how the balance worked. He noted that not only was the hamstring being stretched, it was also bearing weight at the same time, which was causing the problem. He gave me some work to do that will improve both strength and flexibility. My landing leg also got a thorough workover.

There's no way I would be able to skate like I do and not have this kind of help in my corner. I know nothing of physical medicine, and this guy is available to me in person or over email to help me. I can get an appointment within a few days, and when I hurt my back he took me that day. He's helped my landing knee, too, which is another ongoing thing. Also improving my turnout, which is all about me keeping my quads and core loose to allow it to happen. (I spend a decent amount of time on a foam roller.)

Six months ago the answers I was getting were not working, so I looked until I found something that did. I think every adult skater needs a person like this. When you walk into a physically damaging sport like skating, already bearing the weight of a lifetime of (in my case) physical labor, you need help sorting out the physical issues that invariably crop up. It's also good to have help after a bad fall, because adults just don't bounce the way kids do.

There's only so much you can do on your own. I'd advise any adult skater to find solid help for the aches and pains, and bumps and bruises of this sport. It's done nothing but magic for me!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

So I got a program..

This is one of those cases where one should be cautioned, "Be careful what you wish for."

This program is by far more complex and difficult than the three I've learned previous to this. (One solo, the one that got forgotten about, and two Pairs Programs, one of which was a simpler rehash of the former. I don't really count Group Show numbers.) My music is only rough cut, it has two minor glitches that I can eliminate easily by cutting a second, but I need that second left in there. I am seriously debating stretching a different segment out to keep that second in. Every second is going to count. I'm at 1:39 now, pretty much the limit for time.

I'm going to have to move, move, move, and no hesitation, no balking, no stopping and no excuses! Otherwise I'm not going to make it.

Most of it is things I can do easily; two waltz jumps, half flip (no worries there), spirals (one is a catch foot but no problem, just need to stretch that quad out), edges, pivot and spin from a pivot. And of course the necessary 3 turns and mohawks, plus some presentation moves that are fun and easy.

But Coach has thrown in some things I can't do easily. I can almost do them, but I tend to get stuck. But as I work on it, these new things get less scary. They are hard, but it's a Challenge hard, not Impossible hard. And I'm encouraged by the fact that the moves are *nearly* there. I have a plan on when to work on it as a whole and when I can break it down into parts, so hopefully by tackling the hard parts on specific days, I can make them go when I work on it in its entirety. I'm also encouraged by the relative ease in which I got the bulk of it, and the overall positive tone in which we work. There's no harsh criticism, no face-making, no yelling. Just quick, assertive, constructive correction.

But for a program we roughed up last week, and continued on this week, I think it's in good shape. I don't think I'll be forgotten about, which was a big problem last time. Coach spotted me on a session where we weren't working together and asked me how it was going. This was after the first time we played with it, so this is encouraging. And this is where Consistency is going to make a difference; working on it regularly, I won't make a habit of mistakes, and consistent support will keep my confidence from sagging.

So there we are. I got my wish. Now I have to work to make it pretty! Between the new program, MIF and Dance, I have a very full plate full of skating. I almost miss the days where my intinerary just consisted back crossovers and 3 turns!