Monday, December 21, 2015

Dance Class

(Apologies for the long absence. Work has gone through an upheaval and I've been very busy! But I am still skating!!)

In an effort to improve my flexibility, turnout, and choreographic processing skills, I decided to try a dance class. Most of the people in our rink go to a dance studio right up the road, and just my luck, there is an Adult Modern Beginner class on a weekday evening. I had my first try last week.

I was a little nervous, but figured how bad could I be. I got into my stretchy pants and best Alex from Flashdance getup, headed out into our weirdly warm winter evening and hoped I wouldn't be too terribly awkward. Remember, it takes me awhile to process movements. I went up to the desk, and was greeted warmly. "Oh, yes, that's a great class," said the desk person, wearing dance clothes herself. There was a long awkward pause.

"Do you need payment?" I asked finally. "Any information?"

"Yes, the computer is slow," she sighed.

Being a trusting person, I tossed her my ID and credit card, and headed back to the studio. Studio 4. I ran into some other adults taking the class, some who were longtime dancers, and some newbies like me.

The class ahead of us filtered out, all lithe and willowy kids in dance gear, and we adults wandered in. It was a typical dance studio; long mirror on one wall, barres on the other wall. A piano, marley floor, a box of random props. And I was in it!

The instructor came in, introduced herself to us and set up at the mirror. We paced through a few short routines, which I did with varying degress of success. I had a hard time with extension, and turning, which I expected and I kept reminding myself, "This is why you are here." In some ways I was glad to see that it wasn't just on the ice, it translated off the ice, too. I learned a few awkward ballet moves, and I had to smile when we did an arabesque and I saw my foot come up above my head. "No, no," the instructor came to correct me. "Head down, make a straight line with your body."

I tried it, but it seemed really weird. We did some neat kicks and leans and it was all terribly fun, even if I was having problems. "You're trying, I can see that," the instructor was trying to be complementary of my efforts. At one point she turned my whole upper body outwards in a leaning thing and I discovered new muscles in my ribcage.

Then we tried some running and jumping steps. "Run, Run, Run, jump up (ballet jump, ok) then turn around (Like a half flip, ok) Run back, back, and spin," she explained. Okay this seemed easiest so far, and I had it okay, until she tried to make us go the other way. And I had to try and jump and spin the other way. I could not do it. My body stubbornly jumped up and spun to the right. "Go the other way," she tried to gently correct. "Turn to the back wall, not the mirror."

"I can't! I don't turn that way!" I was really trying.

Then we tried the final routine, which she said was the hardest. Lots of plies, and roundy leg things, roundy leg behind you into an arabesque, then plie/lunge, "And then we do a handstand," she showed us a small handstand. "Then leg behind and start again."

"Wait a minute," I bit my lip. "This is the beginner class, right?"

"Just try it, you don't have to go all the way up."

"Don't worry." But I did try it. I was fine on my good leg, but my bad hamstring refused to let me get up off the ground, and I didn't want to push him.

We ended with a lovely stretching routine, and at the end of the class I was sore and exhilarated. I explained to the instructor that I was a skater, and was here to improve my skills, and there was a valid reason I had trouble turning to my left. "Yes, that explains a lot," she smiled at me. "Will we see you next time?"

Yes, absolutely, and next time I will wear dance shoes. The next morning I nursed a coffee and several milligrams of ibuprofin and watched Flashdance.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Your Costume Crew at Work

It's that time of year again! Holiday Ice Show and we've been at work in the shop for a month now. We've been cleaning and organizing, and now we're getting skaters in to be fitted for their soloist costumes.

And I thought a GIF post was in order, to best explain how things go in a Volunteer Run Costume Department.

What really happens when I say, "Let me think on it..."


What I'd like to do to people who make unreasonable requests...


What happens when I schedule Appointments for people and then dozens show up unannounced..


When we're trying to find polite words to say, "It doesn't look good on you..."


When everyone leaves me alone in the shop for the day and I decide to try on tutus....


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Silver MIF; Things get fast

Back when I started skating I referred to Silver and Gold in joking terms. "If I ever get to Silver..." I'd laugh like it was some improbable thing in some far flung future. "Gold Moves?" I'd ask of fellow skaters. "As if!"

Well, the future is now, and Silver MIF is on my plate. Coach Fab and I started with the big beast that is the 8 Step Mohawk sequence. I suppose for those gifted with open hips, this poses little to no challenge. But for us closed hip marvels, this is scary and painful. This is not an inside mohawk, it's an outside mohawk, both directions. I can do it, but I have no rhythm to it. I hold the crossover forever, mohawk fast and step again... steps two through four happen quick and the rest of it I drag out. And of course my left side is better than my right, to the point where my right circle is slow and small and the left side is big and bold and nuts.

Cross-strokes, or Crossrolls, are next. Forward Crossrolls I always found horribly romantic, so I've tried these since day one. These are pretty good. Backwards crossrolls are smaller and need help. I know I look down a lot and I ride up on my toes which slows me down.
Which brings me to the true beast on this test.

FO/BI and FI/BO Three Turns.

Now, I have been playing with back outside threes for awhile. I could get them to work on a good day. But now we need them to start being controlled and consistent. And that means solid edges. Further, the lobes are your standard size with four forward and four backwards lobes on each side of the rink. Coach Fab was sure to count and check to see how big I had to be. And when I tried it, I was too slow. Silver simply doesn't have time for my chickenshit.

Back Inside threes terrified me, I hadn't even bothered, but when I gathered my wits about me and set my jaw, I found I could kinda do a LBI3. This morning Coach Yoda had me drill Back Insides and I did one (ONE) solid right back inside three. I was... amazed. Frankly, it's not so bad. As Coach Yoda says, "It's trust."

But once I set them on the FO/BI pattern, I was again too slow. My lobes were small and uneven, and I know judges are looking for consistency at Silver.

Edge Pulls? Again, the secret is speed and confidence. I'm way better at edge pulls backwards than I am forwards. I can't explain it. I can do backwards edge pulls until the cows come home, but forwards I can only make it halfway down the rink on my left foot and a quarter on my right.

Outside and Inside Spirals? Speed. They're just safer if you're faster. I read somewhere that this is the thing that holds Adults at Bronze... because the free leg has to be at hip height. Well, I guess all that time obsessing over it has paid off. When Coach Fab asked to see them, I did a set and he gave me a rare, "Wow. I'm impressed. I don't need to do anything with those." Even the insides, which I was sure were not great, he didn't feel the need to tinker with.

In short, Silver is Speed. Pre-Bronze you could get away with slow. Bronze you could still be a little pokey. But at Silver you have to move. It just doesn't work otherwise.

And we're looking forward to Gold MIF. We played around with Brackets one morning, and I've been doing double threes just because I can as I wind up a Patch Session. It hit me one morning during power class as we were doing fast tempo crossovers... "This is on Gold Moves. Take this seriously." Back Figure eights.. I have the outsides okay but Insides are tough.

Progress is happening. I feel like I’ve been on a plateau for a long time now, but we’re slowly chipping away at these hurdles that have been holding me back. Now if only I could start to get that Back and Sit spin under control...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Open Freestyle; Doing the Hard Thing

I have an Audition Program. We put it together in late winter to use for my ISI FS1 test and Spring Show auditions which never happened. The format changed and I got a solo without doing an Audition. But I had this program, and I did consider just using it as it stood for Holiday Show auditions. I looked at my drawing in my little notebook and then I skated the steps. Too Easy. I'd improved in the six months since working with this program, and it didn't reflect my current skill level. If I skated this, it would be more than enough to meet the stated requirements for an Adult Skater Solo. While I could most certainly do that, it wouldn't follow with my Mantra of Do The Hard Thing. Plus, I want to impress Coach Fab a little when he gets back. So I added a few things.

The Lunge - I made it into a slide and turn lunge. I have about a 50% success rate with these, and only at a controlled speed. When I put it into the program, I hit the lunge about 100% faster than what I'm comfortable with. The trick is to lower the knee to ensure that the blade doesn't strike the ice upon turning to backward. And commit. If it fails, it fails, but commit either way. And frankly, I need to fall when I've got judges on me. If I fall on this, I won't fall far.

Waltz Jump/Mazurka - I want to make this a Waltz Jump/Toe Loop combo. Even if I botch the toe loop a little, I will have put my entire jump repertoire into the program. Plus it will make a nice slower step forward into the Bunny Hop.

Back Edges: I don't need these anymore. So I'm replacing them with a Back Outside Spiral. The problem for me with this is Control. I lean too far and make too tight a circle. So right now the program is never ending in the same spot, or a twenty foot radius of the same spot, ever.

With the Back Edges gone, I'm replacing the final Waltz Jump/Spin with a Salchow, stepping forward into a RI3 and a Back Outside Pivot.

Ideally, I would love for the Spin to be a Sit Spin, but I know not to hope for too much.

My success rate with these changes? Not too great. I'm having trouble with transitions, breathing space and timing. But I want to work through this myself and see if I can solve the problems on my own. If I get really stuck, I have Blanket Permission (from Coach Fab) to work with whoever I like. But I'll give it another day or so and see how I do.

I also pulled up the FI/FO3 pattern from the Old Adult Pre-Bronze test and worked with that a little. It makes no sense that FI3's got abandoned by the Pre-Bronze test, only to resurface as far away as Silver MIF. I realized I hadn't worked with these at all since Delta, and they have a nasty habit of leaving me from time to time. So I am working to solidify them before we start work on Silver MIF.

Also Back Outside 3's. These are coming easier, the trick is knee bend. "Soft knees," as Coach Fab said while watching a skater on her MIF test doing back threes. So I worked to make my knees soft. Knee bend, turn to the point of pinch in the waist, commit and bend again. And get off the toepick. GET OFF THE TOEPICK.

I worked on a few other things, enjoying the relative freedom of doing what I wanted for a little while. I saw my penchant for being lazy, working only on things that were easy for me, and decided to make a list of harder things I remembered from lessons.

It occurred to me that just two years ago, Ice Show auditions were the biggest thing on my skating radar. I remember the sheer terror of having my name on that signup sheet, and the horrible pressure I had been under to skate perfectly. I realized that this year I'm planning to use the Audition Process to challenge myself in a relatively safe environment. Can I fall catastrophically out of a lunge and save the rest of the program? Here's to finding out!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Open Freestyle

I skated this morning and debated warming up with Bronze Moves. Then I thought "NO" and made up some random steps and crossrolls, edge pulls and back inside edge drills. And then I worked my program for a half hour. The Rink Friend who had video'd me gave me a copy, and usually I hate watching videos of me skating anything "real." But I made myself do it and it was valuable. I could see what needed tweaking or fixing. So I tweaked and fixed.

The Basic Skills Competition serves the purpose of getting you in front of judges, and putting on a little pressure. Not much. In the hierarchy of Competitions, it is the lowest of low level comps. Which was funny when I went to put on a little more eyeliner and found a girl sobbing in a bathroom stall. I wanted to knock and say, "Sweetheart, it's not that serious." The goal isn't to win, it's to skate well with a little heat on you. And I did just that, so I was proud of myself.

But next weekend is a higher level comp. So I needed to put on some polish and make things... bigger. And sparklier. I decided my costume needed a little more pizazz. And I need red nails.

After that... I played around. It hit me that Sunday morning's practice would be completely unscheduled, which would be weird after months of structured "Gotta do, no ice time to waste" mindset.

Coach Fab is taking off for an extended family vacation once this next comp is done. He's given me blanket permission to "Have Fun" while he's gone. So, I decided I'd revamp an old program to use for my Winter Show audition, casually work on Sit and Backspins, and back threes with the help of Coach Yoda to prep for Silver MIF. I also want to get with a great Coach to teach me off-ice jumps again, and a little conditioning to do while I'm on vacation and off the ice entirely for a week.

I'm seriously looking forward to a month of playtime on the ice, and some time off from the ice. My own little "Off-Season," as it were.

I will also be playing Video Games.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Testing day: Pre Bronze Free and Bronze MIF

Unlike my last test, where I was up early and done with it early and then off for brunch, this test was really late in the day. So I had not much to do other than sit around, watch bad movies and text nonsense to my skating friends. And be nervous. I had my things all packed up, maps and skirts and all.

Stitch was on his way back from Scout camp, and he was texting me. Dad was trying to be reassuring but not helping. I puttered.

Finally I decided I'd had enough and decided to get on the road. Rink FarFarAway was an hour's drive and I always get lost when in the far suburbs. Always. I would rather be early than late, so I took off. I detoured past Skate Shop in their new location for fresh tights, said hello to them, and took off again where I promptly got confused about where I was.

I was lost only momentarily, misjudging distance, and found the right road again. Now heading west, I turned up the music to ramp up the positive flow, blew down the road and missed my turn. When I hit a residential street that said, "Local Traffic Only," I turned around and consulted my map again. I had skipped a step. There was a northern turn before the road where the rink was. Okay.

Once I fixed that, I found Rink FarFarAway and headed in. There was the Testing Aura in the lobby; hushed voices, kids warming up, moms and coaches consoling tearful testers who didn't have a good day. Coach Fab was there with another student, we nodded to each other and I dropped my Zuca in a corner and went into the rink to cool down. I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't like to use AC in the car. I settled in with my MP3 player and watched the Intermediate and Juvenile tests ahead of me. I watched Coach Fab's student, and she didn't seem to do too badly.

When she was done, Coach Fab came up to chat with me. "She seemed okay," I spoke of his student. "She looked good."

He smiled and laughed a bit when I explained why I was so early. I always have to figure in at least thirty minutes of literal Lost Time when driving in the suburbs. "You're okay up here? Just watching?"

I said I was fine and to please go take care of the other girl. He nodded and took off to go over results with her. Stitch was home and we texted back and forth. I apologized for missing his homecoming. I was getting into my Good Place. As time wore on I headed out to get into my new tights and testing outfit. I warmed up, stretched and ran into a Young Rink Friend who was also testing. She was in my Power Skating class, one of the girls who gets me to skate faster.

By now the nerves were starting to come. My knees were getting watery. The silence of that testing rink is like lead weight. It's hard. "God, just play some music and I'd do so much better," I thought every time I stuck my head in. I checked the schedule once again, and they had me down for the wrong tests: APBFree and APB Moves. I'd already passed ABP Moves. I texted Coach Fab who had disappeared momentarily, asking if he could make the correction. I started to pace.

Coach Fab reappeared and was all over me now, and for some reason that didn't help. "I've got it, I took care of it," he smiled. "The judges know what you're testing."

"Okay, great," and then we chatted about kids and family for awhile. A Coach Friend from Home Rink talked with us about Adult Championships in Germany. "You should go. All adult skaters should go just once. You'll love it," she smiled. Coach Fab didn't seem convinced, but I was ready to buy a plane ticket.

He kept on me. "Are you warm? Are you okay? Are your skates okay? Do you need anything?"

The only thing I wanted was to get it on with and done. Finally our group was called to warm up. And it was a lot of small skaters. Once on the ice, he told me to go right for the test, even though I would have preferred to take a lap and feel the ice out first. It was softer and faster, I could tell that right off. But I went right into the moves test. And nearly killed myself on the first element, pitching too far forward. I recovered and went right into the next one. I ran into trouble on the Mohawks, with the other kids running all over my pattern. I finished the line and Coach Fab and I agreed to run that one again.

I started again, got through three, and warmup was called. I trucked off. "Just relax," Coach Fab was trying to be encouraging and soothing, but for some reason that was just freaking me out more. I hate being fussed over. The first to Pre-Pre groups went, and then my group. Two other kids and me. The Adult. And I was called out as such, which annoyed me. But I laughed it off and kept going.

I didn't have the near-miss on the power stroking this time, having felt out the ice and knew how fast it was going to take me. Power 3's... the first turn was awkward, but as I predicted, once that was done I was fine. Back XO's into back edges, those are pure fun for me so that was actually a moment to relax and feel the wind in my hair. I just had to pray that whatever kiddo's were back there had their eyes open. Circle 8, my left leg, which I usually call "Old Reliable" was shaking like all hell and I had to fight to remain steady. What in god's green earth was happening? Mohawks... I took a breath and started on them... and then Little Sally Skater crossed right into my path and I had to correct to avoid hitting her and get back on track. Would the fail me for something that wasn't my fault?? I inwardly begged for a reskate. I can do these better!!

"Thank you," the judge smiled at me.

Okay, that is either good or very bad. No time to think about it, I was called out for Pre-Bronze Freeskate. I only had warmup time for one test, so now we were going to test jumps and spins without having warmed them up at all on this fast ice. I crossed my fingers and prayed for the souls of all the little spiders I'd saved over the past few months to come to my aid. Crossovers were a breeze, and I immediately turned in for a two foot spin. Wobbly but I saved it for the required three. I might have done four, all I know was that I spun and that was what counted. Turned back again, wound up, and did a one foot spin that would nix the wibble wobble of the two foot. Great. I landed out of it, shook off the dizzy, and went for the jumps. Waltz Jump, no worries. Salchow, it felt low and slow, but I was on my feet and I pushed forward to the end of the rink so I could spiral right past the judges on my bad leg why in the hell did I go up on my bad leg???!

I T-Stopped and turned, the judge smiled and said "Thank you!"

I stood there for a moment, as if to say, "You sure?" but I said thank you back and took off.

It was over. Coach fab handed me my guards and asked if they needed me to reskate anything. "No, I think we're good."

He nodded and said I'd done great, but I don't think he'd say anything else at that moment. We headed out into the lobby. Rink Friends came out to sit with me as we waited for results, and Rink Mom asked me how often I skate. "I take one day off the ice a week, and that depends on how tired I am, really. I skate six days a week."

Coach Fab smiled his approval of this. "You work hard," he agreed.

Rink Mom gushed about my work in the costume shop and during the shows to Coach Fab, which made me feel pretty good. "She makes everything go smoothly, she's such an inspiration."

I don't think Rink Mom knows about my Voodoo Doll hanging in the costume shop. But VooDoo is there so I can be calm when everyone else is losing their minds. I need VooDoo. I could have used VooDoo right there and then.

The referee came out with sheets, I took mine. I took a cursory glance at the bottoms. "One.... and two. Pass." I was so relieved I wanted to just sit down and let it wash over me. I handed the sheets off to Coach Fab for interpretation and did just that.

2.5's on most things and 2.6's on my back XO's to back edges and my Circle 8. "That saved you," he said. He also pointed to the salchow mark. "Nice height," the judge had written.

"That sal wasn't one of my best," I shook my head. "It felt low to me."

"Sal was good," Coach Fab reassured me. And gave me a hug. "You did very well. Congratulations."

We said goodbye and confirmed for our next lesson, right before The Big Competition the following weekend. I assured him I'd be all right without him for the Baby Competition at Home Rink the next day. He nodded and took off for home.

I stayed for a little while, packing up my things and texting friends. I took in the victory, smelled the ice once before leaving, and hit a fast food place for my ritual celebratory cheeseburger on the way home. I stopped by Home Rink, where Public Skate was happening, and shared my victory with friends. I got hugs and congrats. But I couldn't stay to skate and I didn't think it would be wise to. I might have gotten carried away in my victory skating!

First Competition Day!

(Yes, I know the Test Came First, but this was a good day. Test Post will follow.)

Stitch got back from camp while I was at Rink FarFarAway for testing, and I only got to talk to him briefly before I headed to bed Saturday night. Sunday I had to be up early to help set up for the Comp. And Skate the Comp! I told Stitch to sleep as late as he wanted, but head over to the rink when he wanted to so he could help out.

I picked up coffee and breakfast on the way, and once at the rink I helped load goodie bags, greet at the door, take music and set up the podium. Judges arrived, and one of them was the same judge from Saturday's test.

"Hello again!" I smiled at her.

"It's like it was only yesterday!" she smiled back.

I had told Coach Fab that I didn't need him there at the Home Rink Comp. I'd be fine that day, and I wanted to see how I did by myself. He had complied. And I had lots of Rink Friends to take my guards and jacket and generally babysit me, which is all coaches do really at competitions. I didn't need a babysitter when I was at Home. Lady Cluck, Skating Friends, Coach Friends, they were all around me to cheer me on.

And I was really proud of how I handled myself. I noticed how I generally don't freak out at performances/competitions the same way I do a full-on freakout during testing. But I was most proud of myself for what happened on Practice Ice.

Someone came around with a clipboard to check me in, and I looked at the list. The ice was pack jammed, and it was all high level skaters. My adult skating friend looked at me with mortal terror in her eyes. "This ice is full..." she said in a dire tone.

"Yeah, it's full," I replied. "And it's going to be fast and aggressive, because all these girls want to win. So be ready."

As the final Snowplow Sam event wound down, the girls and I had started gathering by the Zam door, all of us chomping at the bit. The energy was high and contagious. When the last tutu'd tot staggered off the ice with her coach, the ice door monitor said, "GO! GO!" and the announcer informed the audience what was happening: Thirty minutes of a full on territorial battle royale. "And now there will be a thirty minute practice ice session."

Like horses out of the starting gate, twenty five fast skaters bolted onto the ice at full steam. Some warmed up with stroking, others went right for their starting position and coaches were barking orders over the music and other coaches also barking orders. I was a warmer upper, skating the shakes out of my legs, residual energies going where they shouldn't. Once I felt good, I went for a good spot nearabouts my starting position and went through the program as best I could without nailing anyone or being nailed. Timing was not important now, but I held the music in my head. Bigger skaters stopped for me and I stopped for them, all with a fast, "Sorry," on both ends before moving on. We all knew. The only near collision was me with an oblivious kid, not paying attention as I tried to dodge but she veered right into my path anyway. She gave me a dirty look but frankly it was all on her.

But I maintained focus. I ran the program in pieces, working out the harder elements, the finish with its awkward pose, the jumps. Thank god I had no spirals, forward or back. And as the ice slowly cleared, I did slow swizzle laps to connect muscle, blade and ice and think that I'd done this dozens of times and all I had to do now was trust that it was going to work. The fast ice had not scared me or thrown me. I was still there. Still focused. Like it had been absolutely nothing at all. Fast ice? Who cares. All those Power Skating classes where I'd feared for my life had paid off in spades.

I had about twenty minutes or so before my event. Not long enough to take skates off or go very far. Without a coach, I was better off staying near the Ice Door Monitor to hear her call. So I plugged in my headphones to drown out any potential negative energy floating nearby and bounced to the music, keeping my legs warm and my energy high. Compulsory events went on, and I saw the monitor wave at me to line up for our warmup.

"Can someone get the cones?" the announcer asked from the booth. No one moved.

I waved and flourished and went out to fetch cones to some applause. Which gave me a few extra seconds on the ice, as the other girls plowed out for a three minute warmup once the cones were clear. I was already across the ice. Now that there were fewer of us, I went for full on program runs. I got in two, I felt good, and I realized then that if I did anymore I'd be pushing my luck. Warmup was called as over, but I was the first to go in the flight. I tossed my jacket to the door monitor, glad to stand in for Coach Fab, and skated out as my name and club were announced. That felt so good and so right.

I made for my starting pose, the music started, and everything fell away but me, the judges and the audience. Spins were great, garnered some applause, Sal was high and smooth, bunny hop into lunge was good, and I had a minor lapse on the tap toes into a half flip, but I recovered it fast and moved on. And by then I was on autopilot. My legs knew what to do, so I vamped. It was over before I wanted it to be.

I did a flourish and bow to my applause and headed off, exhilarated. Nothing and nobody had rattled me. I was too warm for a jacket, and one of the other adults had come in and video'd me. "I'll get you a copy!" he waved. I headed out of the rink to get my skates off and settle down.

Or try to settle down. Still high off the event, I wandered around, chatting and laughing and wondering how bad my makeup had smeared with sweating. Suddenly Lady Cluck called me over in a loud voice, "COME GET YOUR MEDAL!!"

Oh mercy what color would it be? Did it even matter? I'd skated really well! I got applause! I was still standing!

All three judges landed me in first. Take that, rulebook. Stitch had arrived at this point and was distributing medals. "Sign here, please," he pointed to the results sheet. I signed, he gave me my medal. "Congratulations."

What a ride. Snowplow Sam the bear was all goofy eyed on my first skating medal with a blue ribbon, and I laughed a bit. I took a results sheet for posterity, and went to change back into street clothes. I texted Coach Fab the good news, and he was happy for me.

And then I crashed. I'd been keyed up for over forty eight hours at this point, and it was over and I'd won. More than a passing test or a medal, I'd proved to myself and everyone else what I could do. And I was suddenly exhausted. I sat down next to Lady Cluck and tried to eat a bagel, but the act of eating was too tiring and I gave up. "I need to get my music," I said suddenly, and started to get up.

"I got your music, mom," Stitch said, still in his official mode. "It's in your Zuca."

"Bless you," I relaxed again. Plenty of babysitters.

The rink began to empty out, with the last of the solo dance events finishing up and the judges filtering out. We said thanks to them as they left, and I began to collect all my things. "I have to go, I'm dying." Many fond farewells, and I headed home to collapse on my sofa with a beer and bad TV. Stitch played video games and made me laugh as he murdered Hannah Montana multiple times with a saxophone that made things catch on fire.

My Skating friend had also gotten first place, and I was proud of her, too. I'd convinced her to do the competition at Compulsory Adult 6, and she'd nearly backed out at the last minute. I threatened her with death if she did, but when she was done, she was holding her medal and blinking and saying, "That wasn't so bad. I can do this. What's on the Pre-Bronze test?" I told her she was perfectly capable of doing Adult Test Track. If I can, anyone can.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Testing - Round #2

I was happily going about my week, all week long, blithely aware that I was testing this weekend but not really all that concerned about it.... and suddenly it hit me today on my way into work: "The test is tomorrow."

Which led me to thinking... "Oh lordy were you focused during that last practice ice??
Were you paying attention?? Did you remember everything Coach Fab told you??"

Actually, I likely was. This past week I've been evenly dividing my time between Test Prep and Competition Program. I chucked all New Skills out the window for now, and just ran the two tests back to back for a half hour, followed by a half hour of Program runs. (Stops and starts, bits and pieces, and total runs.)

I have my Test Outfit ready to go: My Abstract Owl Print wrap skirt, (made from material I found on a remnant table but fell in love with) a matching wrap sweater and black mock neck leotard underneath. Gold owl earrings. I'll hit the early AM Practice Ice in the morning, and then go shopping for Competition Dress Accessories to soothe my nerves before heading out to Rink Far Far Away for the test session.

My last test was in the morning, so I had it overwith pretty quick and then went to brunch. This test isn't until late afternoon, so I can't let myself sit and brood all day. Best to go shop for ridiculous earrings instead.

Tonight I'll get The Pep Talk, which I'm kinda looking forward to, and last minute pointers... but at this point the moves are what they are. And really, I feel pretty good about it. If I don't pass, I'll come close. And no, I will not get my hair done up like I did last time. I'm just going to give it a little curl and spray and tie it back. No need to look like Doris Day.

Honestly, I'm excited. Nervous, but excited. The sun will come up on Sunday and we'll have a whole new challenge to take on: My first competition.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Adult Friendly Coaches, Coach Friendly Adults

I take the kid classes for several reasons, but a big one is that I get more exposure to more coaches. One of my big mistakes early on was a myopic focus on one coach, thinking that by doing so I would have better technique. Wasn't true, and was actually really limiting when that one coach didn't give me much to do.

So now I get instruction from a wide array of coaches, ranging from a former World Champion to the Regional Superstarlet new to this whole Coaching thing.

Last week I had a Coach that I didn't think was very adult friendly, so I kinda braced myself. It wasn't necessary, and I got one of the best Toe Loop Lessons I'd ever had. I used to think that some coaches just didn't like to work with adults, but there are some things adults can do to make themselves easier to work with.

1. Do what the Coach tells you

Most experienced coaches will modify their approach for you. Either by slowing it down a little or being more specific with steps, they get it that you're not a kid. A Younger Coach will likely toss things at you wholesale, and it's up to you to put the brakes on. But in either case, give it your genuine best effort. My Young Coach didn't quite understand that I can't do a twizzle (yet) and I need a moment to get into a back pivot, so I will sometimes say, "I can't do X Skill, so I will do this similar thing instead." And after a class or two, she understood. My Older Coach would smile at me and tell me to try X Skill anyway, which had mixed results but he was only disappointed if I didn't try.

2. Don't make fun of yourself.

Adults have a bad habit of mocking their age and skillset. Stop it. Take yourself with some seriousness. A Jokey Attitude sets up the stage for that whole "Not Trying" thing. On my first lesson with the Former World Champion, he tasked me with a side toe from an inside 3 turn and I laughed at it. "You never know until you try," he smiled calmly. I had already broken the bad habit of downing myself with Coach Fab, but I also had to break it with everyone else, too. I save the Old jokes for lobby banter when I'm with other adults, and not my coaches.

3. Be respectful.

My Power Coach is young, and she has said she isn't comfortable teaching someone who could be her mom. Okay, point taken, so when I'm in class with her, she's the boss. I do what she says to the best of my ability. I don't talk back and I don't pull the "Old Card," since that's where she starts to feel uncomfortable.

4. Be an Example

I'm currently stuck at Freeskate 2 with Backspins. The Freeskate 2 class shares a warmup with the Basic kids, so I'm literally a giant. But I'm the best giant out there, so I do my best to exemplify good stroking technique, crossovers, and whatever. "I can't do lunges," a scared little girl whispered to me as she watched the warmup group do lunges. "It's okay, I'll do them on my bad side with you," I said. And I did.

5. Constructive criticism is valuable

Take critiques for what they are, critiques of your skating, not of you. Ask for feedback, tell them where you're stuck or confused. In some cases, the clarity of an adult saying, "I feel like I'm on the flat, and not an edge," might be a refreshing change from a kid who can't say what's holding them back.

6. But Take no Shit

There have been occasions when a coach has made mention of me, an Adult, in class with the kids. "What are you doing here, this isn't the adult class." I reply simply that I am in this class and skate strongly past them with my head held high.

It's true that there is some Adult Skater Hate out there, but Adults sometimes do things to set themselves up for the distaste. Don't cop an attitude, don't limit yourself, and try hard. Even if you know you can't do what the coach is telling you, as long as it's level appropriate, try it anyway. I think that's the best way to make headway with Coaches who might have some reservations about adult skaters. Failure is better than not doing it at all or admitting defeat before you got started. And you'll impress a coach more by trying things outside your comfort zone than by making a great crack about your age.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"That's a lot of work!"

I overheard a conversation about how to avoid rust on skate blades. In a humid summer, it can happen in an hour if you're not careful. Once a blade is rusted, it's never the same. It's critical to take precautions against the Rust Demons.

"Once you take them off, dry the blades and put the soakers on," the coach was saying.

"Uh-huh, I did that. I still got rust!"

"When you get home, take the soakers off and let the skates sit in the open," the coach continued.

"What? I have to do that?"

I had to interject. "I have a bamboo sushi roller that I set my skates on, so they get a lot of air. And don't forget to pull the tongues out a bit so the leather inside dries out, too."

The woman looked at me like I was from mars. "That's a lot of work!"

"Right. But skates are a big investment. You want them to last as long as possible."

"I guess so," she looked hesitant.

"And don't forget to wash the soakers every so often. And put the blade guards in the dishwasher. WD40 if it's really humid." I didn't mean to take over.

"All that for skates."

Yes. This weekend my skates got some abuse, so they are enjoying some window time, airing out with a view of the courtyard and birds. Really hoping they'll be dry in time to start again tomorrow.

Maybe we should look at skating as a lot of work, and skate care as the post-workout ritual that keeps us safe!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Competition Program

Coach Fab asked me to get new music. Something similar to what I did for Ice Show, because while it was short, it was fun.

Okay. So I dug a little, and I found a jazzy little number I could wear a red dress to and something no kid would ever be skating to. Ever. I played it and Coach Fab nodded. "Yes, this suits you. It's very you."

Well, if we're going to be Adult Skaters, then let's have some Adulty music, please.

Now, the number should have this kind of feel to it:

Right now, however, it's looking kind of like this.

I played with it this morning, feeling for the music and looking for the steps. Surprisingly, some things started to come together for me.

Unfortunately, a Salchow from a mohawk was not one of those things.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Awkward Moments

So, we have to be nice to everybody at the rink. We're a community, and even though we sometimes have our little disagreements, we just have to move on... keep going... and all those quaint little sayings that pop up on Pintrest all the time. Right?

My ex-coach was subbing my skating class Saturday. Now, I just disconnected and let it go. This is about skating. Nothing else matters. We're adults. Okay, I did make some trouble during the warm up, but it was only to let him know I found the warm up boring. I had just come out of an exhilarating 90MPH Power Skating class and he was doing dips. Non moving dips. "Just like old times," the thought crossed my mind and I allowed myself an eyeroll once out of sightline.

But then, during the class, he complimented me.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: Alone, The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry

John Curry has become my latest obsession on skates. The man was a creative genius, truly, but like most geniuses, a little bit crazy. His attention to detail, his line, the way he moves, it fascinates me. There's a lot of Curry Work on YouTube, and some of it confused me until I read this book and got some backstory on the pieces and the skaters.

There's a lot of me that empathizes with Curry. He, too, felt like he was being put in a box that he didn't want to be in. And he felt that skating wasn't just about flashy jumps and spins, but about gliding and line and elegance. The '70's coaches were trying to teach him their definition of Masculine skating, and he had a hard time breaking free of that definition. And even when he was finished with Formal Competition and those Rulebooks, commercial success was hard for him.

This book goes into the financial disasters that plagued his "Theatre on Ice" attempts after his Olympic win. Truly, he operated under a dark star. Poor marketing, cramped tours, tough rehearsal schedules and bad ice. It was hard for me to read, because I so badly wanted him to do well and I've been in those situations. And again, it put a lot of what I was seeing on YouTube into context.

Curry's secretive nature and bad temper didn't make things easier. He was rough on his skaters, but he was rougher on himself. Flirtations with had drug use, a brutal sexuality, so much of John Curry is in want of a hug that he'd just turn away. Some parts of it were very tough. Especially near the end. But I won't spoil it for you, since you already know how it ends.

There's always a price that's paid for beauty, and if John Curry was anything, he put himself up as the down payment for changing how we think of male skaters today. Here's my favorite piece by John. I tried the toepick push step he does at 2:48, it's not so hard. I'm going to ask if we can fit this into my new program.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Skating Paperwork -or- I need a Skate Mom

The past few weeks I have been doing a lot of paperwork. Skating paperwork. On the ice I'm doing MIF and choreography, off the ice I'm collecting signatures and watching deadlines. Frankly I'm only aware of one looming deadline, and I think everything else is square.

USFSA Membership Renewals

This is due. This was sent early this week. Requires my signature, a few checkboxes, some confusing membership classifications, none of which are and a check.

Test Forms

This got in way ahead of schedule, just because Coach Fab wanted to be absolutely sure I got on that session. Requires my signature, coach's signature, navigating some checkboxes, and a check. "You pay to test?" my colleagues ask. "What if you fail? You paid to fail?" In a sense, I tell them, all failure involves a form of payment. Cash is the least of the things you can lose.

Ice Contracts

Summer Ice needs contracting. The Adult Sessions are on the official calendar, whereas last year they were a word-of-mouth secret. So, to be sure I get a spot, I contracted. Those forms require my signature, a check, and a pinkie swear that I will obey the five pages of ice rules including the ones that say I have to enter the ice from the Zamboni side door and I won't start fights in the lobby. (I guess if you don't contract ice, it's Game On for Lobby fights. Yes, Lobby fights do happen.)

Competition Forms

Due in a few days. Actually, "must be postmarked" in a few days. What does this mean? When does the postal service do that? Whatever. Requires my signature, a waiver, a Club Officer's Signature, Coach's Signature, a check, choosing between a zillion checkboxes (mine was near the bottom) and swearing on my grandma's motorcycle that I'm a US Citizen and a USFS member and I'm good to compete at my stated level. I'm still one signature short but I'll have that done by end of day today, and will be mailed two days ahead of the deadline.

The Home Rink's Competition doesn't have their packet available just yet, but that also will require a check, more checkbox navigation and some signatures. I'm pretty sure that one will just be a Basic Skills comp and therefore much lower key than the other one.

Skating is starting to look like the easy part. I need to memorize my USFS number, and I need to get a stamp made of Coach Fab's Signature. I ordered two yards of dress fabric, and something else to meet the minimum order level, but seriously I have no idea what else I ordered. I've been so stacked with skating paperwork, dress patterns and sewing schedules (making two dresses for friends) I completely forgot and I'm too embarassed to call and ask, "Can you tell me what I ordered please?" I guess it will be a surprise. I think next year I'm going to hire someone to be my Skating Mom.

Monday, June 1, 2015

My Early Skating Influences

One of my first jobs was a drink vendor at Paramount's Kings Dominion, a theme park in Virginia. We were encouraged to ride the all the rides and see all the shows, so that when "guests" would ask us about them, we would have a valid answer. The Stage Show for that season was Star Trek On Ice. So I went to go see Star Trek On Ice.

Gentle Readers, I will not lie. I love Star Trek, and I love skating, but some things just don't mix. I laughed hysterically for forty five minutes. I wept when the "alien" creature was hefted up on a rope and spread her flourescent wings under a blacklight and was spun by a security officer underneath. The stage was so small, there were moments of NASCAR terror when a skater would land perilously near the edge of the stage. Nothing screams the 90's like ST:NG, and this was a quintessential 90's ice show.

When I got assigned the drink cart outside the theatre, the customers would ask me how the show was. All I could do was laugh, and they would walk away like I was insane. "GO SEE IT!!" I would call after them. "YOU WON'T REGRET IT!"

I never thought I'd see this masterpiece of unitards and fog and laser beams ever again. Imagine my delight when I casually googled this show, and I got a hit. Someone in their infinite wisdom recorded it, and put this beast on YouTube. So, I give you... Star Trek: ON ICE!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Coach Yoda is positive I can do Back Inside threes. "You should be doing these by now," were his exact words. But the physics of it has either escaped me or is lost on me, or I've just managed to convince myself that these are harder than they really are. Possibly both.

"I did try them this week," I assured him today. I didn't say I'd only tried them twice. I don't know why, they're not overtly scary. The worst I do is hitch up and turn on the pick, and catch myself with my other foot as I tumble sideways. There isn't the sheer terror I had when learning mohawks, just frustration.

"Try one now," he pointed out to the ice. So I did. I set up with a back crossover, got on an BI edge, brought the free foot forward, thought I turned my shoulders and rode up on the pick again.

"I'm panicking," I admitted. "I panic and ride up on the pick."

"You started off on the pick. Get off your picks."

At least he's honest.

I set up again. Back crossover, RBI edge, free foot forward, turn outside the circle and scrape, but it turned.

"You turned that time," Yoda pointed approval. "But stay off the picks. Turn your shoulders, not just your arms."

I set up yet again. Back crossover, RBI edge, free foot forward, turn everything above the waist outside the circle... and my blade flipped to a neat FO edge for about four inches. There was a satisfying shove from the blade itself as it happened, but quickly halted since I was slow going into the turn. But I did one! "That's one!" I said happily.

"Well, now you have to do more," Coach Yoda smiled.

I did try more, and I turned on every fifth attempt or so, and only RBI3's. But it was an auspicious start. Given the success I had with BO3's on both sides on Monday, backwards threes don't seem very much farther off. (Bend the knee coming out of the turn.)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Competition what what?

Ever since I started skating, I've wanted to compete. I don't know if it's because I'm competitive or I like performing or what, but the idea appeals to me so much. The excitement, the drama, all of it.

Yet it's never been mentioned in my direction. My first coach just didn't take me seriously about the whole thing and seemed to think I'd be content going in circles or doing ice dance. (No.) Coach Fab was getting me closer to the ideal by being serious about testing and getting the skating itself remarkably improved. But it was starting to frustrate me that I still wasn't competing. Moves is fun and all, but dammit I want to perform, and it seemed like the only way I was going to be able to truly perform was in competition. The Ice shows are okay, but adult skaters are so limited in what they can do. For my show solo I only had 53 seconds, which was practically nothing before I had to melt back into the adult group. Yes, I was frustrated.

Today Home Rink was closed, so I thought I'd miss my lesson. But Coach Fab is fabulous and he doesn't forget about me. He texted me saying he'd found some ice and could I come. Of course I said yes.

So I trucked to City Rink and bought an hour of ice, skating for a half hour before my lesson. My feet seemed annoyed since I'd worked all week thinking I'd have the day off the ice. They didn't want to skate. But I reminded them that we had a massage later on and please cooperate. So we did moves and spins, a few Salchows, waiting for Coach Fab to get done with his student and get to me.

He skated over and said he was sure about the test date, and also there was a competition we could try. I nearly died. Finally!! We didn't work on the program, just more Moves and Sit Spin (which is coming easier but I'm still on two feet. Have to bring the free leg around which is scary still... but it's getting there!)  He watched my five step mohawk and reminded me of when we'd started working together. "You only do five now. Before you did ten. But now you do it like the book." Yup, I remember. And now he was talking competing, which even if we don't do this one, it's on the table. I finally feel like I'm getting where I want to be!

Coach Fab had more kids to teach, but asked if I wanted to stay until ten to talk about it. I had to go, since I made a promise to my poor achy self that I had to keep.

Dr Magic shares his office with Massage Genius, who worked on my shoulders (BO8, BI8, BO3, BI3) lower back (edge pulls, BO3, BI3) quadriceps (edge pulls) my left leg and hip adductors (spirals, mohawks, extension and all the off-ice work I do to open up my hips) and my ankles which are always tight.He also dug into some muscle deep in my hip that i had no idea about, but felt better once he finished with it. When he got to my feet I thanked him profusely. We talked about different sports, and how the one that makes the participant happy is the best one for them. Apparently there is a fued between the Runners, the Pilates people and the Yoga people. The Crossfitters are too busy chucking trucks at each other to get involved. He does some form of yoga that seems tougher than most.

So, competing is a Thing now, and I'm so happy. I came home to go back to bed and thought about my revamp of the costume. See ya'll on the competition circuit real soon!!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rain of Terror

It's late May and the weather is finally warming up here. The birds are nesting in the eaves of the building, squirrels are in the recycling bins fishing out half eaten granola bars, and you have to watch for the occasional lumbering skunk or possum in the early morning hour. But the Wildlife isn't limited to the outdoors.

Inside, the insects are blossoming as indoor insects will always do. The problem is, a great majority of them make their homes in the rafters above the rink between the steel ceiling and the insulating sheet. There's a lot of holes in that sheet. And bugs and spiders are raining down onto the ice with terrifying regularity.

Spiders are most common, tumbling down onto the ice where they get about a minute of scurry time before they start to slow down.

Spider on the ice!!!

I happen to love spiders, so if I can catch one just as he's slowing down, I'll warm him up and deposit him outside. Even a spider that seems frozen can sometimes be revived with some warm hands. A pair of male skaters were once circling a recently stopped spider of considerable size. I picked up the poor thing, whereupon male skaters freaked out and thought me crazy. I am a terrible person and could not resist chasing one of them with the spider, who was warming up and starting to scurry again. Where I come from, it's bad luck to kill a spider, so I figure saving them is good luck.

We also have House Millipedes that fall. I do not like house millipedes, a.k.a. Eyelash Bugs. Those things can freeze in hell for all I care, and for some reason we have kamikaze millipedes that seem to wait until I am right underneath them to drop. Maybe with my Catch and Release Spider Program, I'm hoping some of these spiders will remember my kindness and eat some of these hateful millipedes.

50 Pairs of Harlicks, please. I Pronate.

This morning I was practicing my Lunge/3-Turn manuever and realized I was on a lunging course with a centipede frozen to the ice. I tried to alter course, but there was an ice bump right on the inside three turn path, so I had no choice but to collapse the lunge rather than touch a centipede that might still have some scurry to it. (No, it was not a large centipede but it was ugly.)

Fortunately none of my millipede or centipede encounters have happened with my coaches present. I have managed to fool both of them into thinking I am a strong, brave woman ready to try most anything. If they saw a millipede land on me, my carefully crafted image would be shattered as I leaped in terror screaming "GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME!!" And as much as I love Spiders, I don't like Surprise Spiders.

I know lots of my fellow skaters don't like the spiders, but maybe the Spiders are just like us. They just want to dance.

I iz John Curry Peeplez!!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ice Charades is Writing a Sequel!!

Have you read Ice Charades; Penguins behaving Badly? If you haven't, and you're a child of the Eighties looking to explore her lost fantasies of gaudy outfits, bad makeup, French Braids and European Travel, then you need to read this book. *Plus* there is Ice Skating. You need to read this book. I've got mine on my Kindle, and when I get tired of reading "serious" things I just click back to this standby, and I'm on the ice with Showgirls in Fishnets and fiberglass Owl Heads.

This book actually gave me the courage to try False Eyelashes for this past show. (It wasn't so bad!)

But then I read that Miss Ice Charades is writing a *Sequel!* I will be dying a little every day until it comes out! Miss Ice Charades, write faster! My Kindle is incomplete until I get this book!

Please please please put this book in my Kindle!

With Love for my Skating Family

I was feeling like hell yesterday. I'd done some heavy duty work at the theatre on Monday night, stripping down the grid completely and hanging a basic plot for a Memorial Service for a Friend. Tuesday I attended the Services after work, followed quickly by a rather dramatic Advisory Board meeting at the Rink. Summer Practice Ice Schedules are out and some folks are crying foul. (Even though there is actually more ice for them, which is amusing.)

By the time I was done, I was totally fried, physically and mentally. Wednesday we got some really bad news from a Friend, and it downed everyone with sadness all day. I just wanted to go home and go to bed, but I had to drop off test forms for Coach Fab's signature and my own Contract for Summer Ice. There are two Adult Only times and I wanted to be sure I got on them.

I pushed through a terrible headache and severe stomach cramps, drove to the rink and found my mood immediately lifted. I assembled my papers and forms, got handed a baby, warmed the hands of a little girl I skate with on Saturday, was greeted by Pairs Coach from Winter (and thought happily that I had Coaches to choose from these days.) I watched the practice session for a bit with the baby, fending off the "Are you skating?" questions with "No, I can barely stand." Coach Fab breezed in, I threw the envelope at him so he could get to his Student, I dropped off the baby in the monitor's booth, and then I was a little loathe to leave.

Whatever bothers you outside of the rink typically does not follow you in.

Today I started to get excited about testing, now that it's a Thing again. Hopefully this round won't be as panicky as last time, now that I have some idea of what I'm doing. I'm only unsure about the 5 Step Mohawk thing on one side and the now scanty three Power 3 Turns I get on the Bronze MIF test. (Yes, Coach Fab cut one. It's a nightmare.)

However it goes, I'll be glad to get it done so I can go back to the Program, because at that point we can take the Program out and compete with it. I want to revisit the costume for that program as well, since I fell in love with Elizaveta's dresses from last season. Another Skating Mom has asked me to make the Season's dress for her daughter, and she wants a practice dress of her own, so we're all going to go fabric shopping after class on Saturday.

Skating, whatever else it may be, is always a lovely haven from my day-to-day routine. We can laugh at our collective lack of ability, celebrate the little successes, nurse each other through the hurts, and encourage each other in what we think we just can't do. We're not a clique, we're not a gang. Anyone can dive in or out at any time, we all have different coaches and everyone's cool with everyone else. It's the way a skating community should be, and one I'm so grateful to have.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Are you a skater?

There's some new adult skaters at the rink, which is totally great. But as beginners, they are somehow under the assumption that they are not really "Skaters" yet.

I know, I thought this way too. I wasn't a skater because I couldn't do a three turn. Or spin. Or jump. Or *insert skill.*

But here's the thing: Even after you learn a three turn, spin or jump, there's always more turns, spins and jumps to learn. There's always something new. So, at what point do we look at a person and say, "Yes, that person is a figure skater."

When they sign up for a class or lesson and put on skates.

It's just that simple.

Because we can't put a limit on who does and does not qualify to be a skater. Communities of athletes can't function on an elitist hierarchy like that, because we're all in this together. Every new skill is a struggle before it's mastered, and even mastery gets refinement.

So when I hear a new adult skater tell me, "I'm not a real skater..."  I laugh and point to the skates on her feet. "You look like one to me!"

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Book Review: Talent is Overrated

In my quest to learn skating, both the culture and the skill, I picked up this little e-book, Talent is Overrated. We hear a lot about "talented" kids and such, and I'm not disagreeing that these kids are talented, but I wanted to see what was differentiating "talented" people from ordinary people like me. This book says, "Not much."

People that we percieve as Talented are really very ordinary, they just have extraordinary backgrounds, a lot of training resources, great teachers, and an amazing amount of drive. They also engage in what this book calls "Deliberate Practice."

Deliberate Practice is designed to make you better, and it's not easy and it's not always fun. You need a lot of it and you need feedback when you're doing it. Worse, you're going to be terrible at it.

But the payoff is tremendous. By continually engaging in high level skills, we make ourselves better at all the skills underneath them. In terms of Figure Skating, tackling the super challenging things makes us more confident at the more basic skills. Which isn't to say we should stop working on the Basic Skills, we shouldn't. Which brings me to the other big thing I took away from this book...

Within the concept of Deliberate Practice, there are three zones that we work in; our Comfort Zone, our Learning Zone, and our Panic Zone. We need to spend most of our practice time in the outer edge of the Learning Zone, minimal time in the Comfort Zone, and press some time in the Panic Zone. If you think of them as concentric circles, they should be continually expanding outwards as you push those boundaries farther and farther out.

I'm a person that likes to quantify, so I immediately started to divide up my given skills into what was a Comfort Zone thing versus a Learning Zone thing. My inclination was to drop FO 3's into the Comfort Zone, but I thought better of it. FO3's are a challenge at speed and when stepping out of a crossover. So they are still in the Learning Zone, but towards the center. Mohawks are also in the Learning Zone, since my Left Mohawk still has problems. So, that makes the notion of "always be perfecting your Basic Skills" much easier to take.

When I approached these skills on the ice with that Cocentric Circle idea in mind, it actually was a bit easier to approach that Left Mohawk and tackle the weak spots. When Coach Fab and I were working on More Push on Forward Crossovers, I suddenly found myself in the Panic Zone, flying at a much greater speed than I was comfortable with. He got mad when I put the brakes on, but it beat hitting the boards. So, those got moved from the Comfort Zone into the Learning Zone.

Other Panic Zone items are more clear. BI3's. Backspins. Half Loop jumps. FI3's at speed. Stag jumps. When I spent ten minutes in the Panic Zone, dealing with these things, I felt better for just having ventured into the territory. Identifying these things as "No, I can't do them but I can try," actually took some of the pressure off. And keeping all this in the back of my head kept me mindful during my practice. I wasn't thinking about my "list of things to do," but I still managed to get to everything and I felt more focused while I was doing it. What felt good, what felt off, and what I could take to Coach Fab later for feedback.

Are there naturally talented people at skating? Maybe, but I'm starting to believe that one of Skating's dirtiest little secrets is that virtually anyone can do it if they are determined enough and encouraged along the way. This little book certainly helped me see past some of the mythology that adults inherently can't skate and kids are just better by default.

Don't practice harder, practice smarter!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Stitch might be back.

Some of you might be wondering about Stitch. He's still around. He helps out at the rink when I'm there and entertained us all during ice show by putting on a full on tutu, top hat and cane, dancing to "Shake it Off" in the Costume Shop. He's joined the Boy Scouts and goes camping and does Boy Things with them. He spent last summer fishing and firing guns of some sort, which was all fine by me. He does pretty good in school and he's mostly a laid back kid preoccupied with video games, Five Nights at Freddy's in particular.

But we had a deal at the start of the school year; You need to do a Sport. I didn't care what it was, just something for organized physical activity. Well, being a pre-teen boy he never did. So I decided to toss him to my Speedskating friend, and come to some of the Drop-In speedskating sessions.

Oh, how he hated me. "Mom, no! I don't skate anymore!" he wailed. "I don't want to! You can't force me! Why are you doing this??"

"Because we had a deal. You didn't pick a sport, so I picked one. I think you'll like Speedskate Coach, you already know how to skate, and it's just forward stroking and crossovers. We hang out at the rink anyway, so this is easy. You'll go for three or four sessions and we can make a decision from there. Okay?"

"Mooooooom!!!! Why do a need a sport? I want to LIVE my LIFE!"

The preteen angst was killing me. "It's only an hour and a half. You'll live."

The Speedskating drop in is a half hour of off-ice followed by an hour of on-ice instruction. While the kids do off-ice, the parents are shanghied into dragging out mat after mat after mat after mat after mat after mat to line to boards. So I hauled mats. The kids came back, most of them in rather professional looking skinsuits, and started getting skates on.

Stitch was issued a pair of freshly "sharpened" club skates, Speedskate Coach tied and strapped them. I gave Stitch my fleece and gloves, and helped him down to the ice door. "This is death class," Stitch said ominously as he made his way through the door and past the mats.

"Good luck!" I stepped away, and re-took my place in the stands, where I used to sit and watch him practice jumps and spins. And the Speedskating Moms sat near me and I just listened and smiled, watching the kids, having done this before. There was a Queen Bee mom of the Starlet Racer, and the other moms hovered around her and they discussed races and meets, much like the Figure Skating moms talk about Tests and Comps. Nothing else changed, just the skates.

Stitch was awkward for all of about ten minutes. It wasn't long before he was getting some speed, although he did look intimidated during the warmup. I would have been, too. Three other kids Stitch's age showed up in jeans and fleeces and bike helmets, also newbies, and they were now Team C. Teams A and B were flying around the perimeter in skinsuits, while ragtag Team C took the center to learn the basics. I watched in horror as Stitch actually tried a spin or two. In Speedskates.

Once they got some one foot glides and stroking down, Team C got the perimeter a few times, too. Stitch was flying around, obviously having a blast and winning all the races of Team C. Whenever he'd cross the finish line, he'd throw his arms up in victory. He took one fall that I saw, but recovered fast and won that race too. (Apparently there was one other fall where he went into the boards. I missed that one but Stitch says it was hilarious.) At the end of the session he managed to do a few crossovers in those horrible skates.

When they were done, Stitch was reticent to say he had fun, but it was pretty clear he did. "Are we coming back next week?" I asked as I helped him off the ice.

"Yes," he muttered, unwilling to admit that I'd been right. "The off-ice is torture, but the skating is pretty fun."

"Great. How do you like Coach?" Speedskating Coach is a character study, and saw right through his 11 year old attitude.

"He's cool. He told the other kids to do two laps and me to do three, and I still won. Why is speedskating only on Sunday?"

"That's just how it is, but I can ask Coach if you can use the skates during publics to practice on them."

"Yeah, I'd do that."

"Great. I just need Coach to show me how to tie them."

"When can I get my own speedskates?"

"When your feet stop growing."



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Revenge of the Three Turn

For the longtime readers of this blog, you know that 3 Turns were a big deal for me. As in, six months of long drawn out drama involving fits and tears and angry words all stemming from my frustration with simply flipping my blade around from forwards to backwards. But as with all skating, everything happens in due time and I got three turns figured out. FO and FI, with my outsides much stronger and easier, and insides happening with good regularity, if a little slowly still.

With the show over, I pressed Coach Fab to move on to the next level of testing; Pre Bronze Freeskate Test and Bronze Moves. So we did Moves.

Bronze Moves are more fun than Pre-Bronze. Power Stroking, 5 Step Mohawk, Power 3's, Back Edges and a Figure 8. I was pretty sure I had most of this under control, just needed it cleaned up. Coach Fab apparently disagreed with my summation of my skillset. First he tore apart my Power Stroking. I need to push more and better, and the backwards power stroking is all off on the tempo and lobe. "No, stop. Come here. Let me show you. Watch me. Stop. Stop it. Stay still and watch," was a pretty good summary of that portion of the lesson.

"What's next?" he asked me after all that torment.

"Power threes!" I was all so super confident about these things. Yes, I can *do* power threes.

Until I couldn't. "You get four," he said, looking down the length of the rink. "Right now you're doing five and a half."

"Just four?" And I watched as he drew out just how I was going to do only four down the length of the rink on the long axis.

The trick to four is as follows: widen out the lobe, take the three turn as fast as possible, check out like there's demons on your inside shoulder, push on the step down, and push, push push on the back cross without turning too much into the lobe. It's complicated, and I failed miserably. My major error? Failing to fully check out of that three turn, and being so fearful of the speed I took it too slow.

On Patch Ice this morning, I repeated the same fault on 3's to Center. "You need more push," Coach Yoda said again. "And check the turn."

I'm just going to get t-Shirts made for my coaches to wear so they don't have to keep repeating themselves.

Once again, three turns have become a hurdle. Now that I can do them, it's time to work on making them better, faster, bigger and more precise. Much like crossovers, 3 turns are apparently one of those skills that you never stop learning. "They're pointing the wrong way," Coach Yoda indicated, standing over the tracings of dozens of side-pointing threes turned too soon and too slow.

"I got one," I indicated one lonely little 3 that was dutifully pointing down the long axis. "That's something."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Your Typical Ice Show Rehearsal

What the skating kids think they look like

What the Coaches are doing

Moms in the stands

Dads in the stands

Kids on the boards waiting to go

The Kids who just can't get the choreography

The Costumer upon seeing more feathers and Glitter Tulle.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ice Show Update!

"Go by the glass, audiences love it when you go by the glass..." Coach Fab points down by the hockey glass as I'm hurtling backwards with my blade in my left hand. I Vogue with my right hand in my best Catherine Zeta Jones Bad Girl face. "Yes, that's great, I love that," Coach Fab says from somewhere.

I pitch into the waltz jump-toe loop, then step forward for some cross strokes. God I love program skating. More vogue-ing, spin with arms up, tap toe out and then vogue the hell out of it before I do my new favorite move, a high kick with big arms and jump again. I have a tendency to over-rotate this one, which gets my hopes up that maybe an Axel isn't an impossibility for me but that's not today. I touch down this one like a feather.

From there I beeline it back to my Tango Partner before we hit the kickline for the ending sequence. The Kickline is a moving thing now, and when we break it I have to slow down a lot to avoid hitting the glass or my fellow skaters before we reassemble into a Lunge Line towards center. As if this wasn't fun enough, I learned last night there will be a Grand Piano in my jumping pattern.


I also got invited to skate the Finale for the show, and now I'm the unoffical line captain for the Stage Left side of FS4 &5 kids. I guess the coaches figure since I'm older I must have some idea of what I'm doing. Which might be true somewhere but right now my directives are, "GO!" and "KEEP GOING!" When we make our circle to rotate clockwise, I didn't realize the higher level kids would be circling counterclockwise outside of us. When we put everyone together, I glanced up and realized I was in some kind of horrific whirling carousel of blades and kids and shouting.

I did the only thing I could do. I laughed.

Yes, it's chaotic. Yes, this rehearsal process has been rushed and cramped and not what we're used to. No, I wasn't happy about putting more yardage of glitter tulle and fake fur through my freshly cleaned sewing machine. Yes, I'm tired, and we've still got to make it through the weekend.

But I have to say, when our finale group is tearing back to meetup with the other skaters to make our circle, and I see two girls with big smiles and laughs reaching for me, I don't even care about the chaos anymore. Just go, it's okay. And when we're back in the costume shop exchanging gossip and dirty jokes while we sneeze feathers and shake glitter out of the hair of the new baby who is being passed around, everything that was terrible ten minutes ago falls away.

I've put together a few outfits for girls where we didn't have anything to suit their numbers in the shop. The moms asked me what they owed me, and my reply for ice show work is "A Snickers bar and a Diet Coke and we're even." The way I see it, it's sewing experience which makes me better, and we're in this big ShowBoat together anyway.

The show is this weekend, and I've got my fair share of jitters going on, but for the most part I'm excited. And the fun thing about skating is that once you get done with This Big Thing, you're immediately onto The Next Big Thing. Testing, anyone??


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

If you can't do it off the ice...

Working on my show program this morning. Trying to add a little Sexy into the Skating. Because it's a sexy number and I'll be wearing fishnets. Because hell yes fishnets. Coach Fab has told me to wait until we get the entire number down and then we will add the Spice, but I'm impatient. And it never hurts to try, right?


 Yes this is Sexy Kitchen Tiem.
And I realized that the image I have in my head is something I've never done on dry land, much less while in skates. The addition of Ice did not suddenly make me perfectly choreographed. Pretending to be Beyonce while cooking dinner is one thing, but actually putting it all together in show choreography is something totally different.

I'm cookin' fishes people...
Did you know that when you throw your hips it throws your balance? Let's see those three turns now, with one arm up and the other on your hip... and when you bunny hop, throw your arms up because Awkward needs redefining. Actually whipping your hair back and forth? Harder than it looks.

Fortunately the morning hour isn't too populated.

I finished up, stepped out to the lobby, and realized I'd have to dedicate some time this holiday weekend to doing the program on the ground. Once my body figures out the drill, it might be easier on skates. I hope...


Friday, March 27, 2015

My Landing Knee

My legs have had their fair share of issues since I started skating. When I started off, I had a left hamstring problem that got so bad I couldn't sit down for more than ten minutes without stabbing pain. It also made my back crossovers choppy and everything from spirals, lunges and bunny hops on my left side were out of the question. I then found Dr. Magic and that issue, while a process of ongoing care, has resolved and I am no longer in pain. Not only that, but I have strong spirals on both sides, and hops and lunges on the left are weaker than my right, but coming along nicely. (Dr. Magic does say that my left leg will likely never be as flexible as my right.)

Then my landing knee began hurting. It hurt on the cutback on a left over right back crossover, on jump landings, and anything involving picking in on the right leg. At first I just braced it and stretched it a bit more, but it got worse. I stood up from a backwards shoot the duck on my right leg and almost went down from pain. So I went to go see Dr. Magic.

Once again, he determined it was a glute problem. My right butt is weak, so the hamstring and quad try to take over, ultimately pulling the kneecap out of alignment. He gave me a series of exercises to do in order to strengthen my ass, but in the meantime we had a right leg full of tight muscle.


The Clamshell exercise. This is easy.


  1:03 to 2:10 I do with my lifting leg pressed against a wall and foot flexed out. Starting to hurt...

Then this. This is death.

Three weeks of acupuncture (during which I fall asleep), trigger point (ouch) and electrical stimulation (which is one of the weirdest things I have ever done) and my knee is better. I'm no longer bracing it, and it doesn't hurt on landings or cutbacks anymore. But I'm still on my foam roller after every skate, and still doing glute exercises. Much like my left hamstring, my right knee will likely be an ongoing care project for as long as I skate. Especially as I start doing more jumping and progress on backspins.

But surprisingly, during one of our sessions, Dr. Magic went for my right foot. "The fascia is really tight," he dug in and I thought my foot was going to come off. "Are you taking care of your feet?"

"What? No. Ouch. Please stop."

He did not stop.

My feet have their fair share of skater's corns and such, but I don't pay much attention to them unless they truly hurt. Dr. Magic insists I need to do some foot care in addition to leg care. Everything, from boot to butt, has got to fire correctly or I risk more cumulative injury. Now when I get home from skating I work my butt, roll out on the foam roller, get some coffee and catch up on the internets while rolling a tennis ball under my feet.

It's really weird to see the kids just jump on and off the ice and skate, when as an Adult Skater, there's very much a physical process going on that makes this happen. But it's worth it. Maybe someday I'll get that Stag Jump, and I'll have all these butt workouts to thank for it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rolling Stone Asks Why We're Losing

The Thirteen Votes are in, and I'm disappointed in the 67 of you that didn't vote, but that's okay. We had a lot of votes for "Experience" and "All of the Above." So, Experience seems key for a lot of people. And of course the comments brought up the all-important "How well they work together" factor.

But here's an article from Rolling Stone that is relevant to our discussion:
"Why is American Figure Skating Losing the Cold War?"

From the article:

"They don't teach individually in Russia from the beginning. They don't have private lessons for six year olds, seven year olds, eight year olds. They have basically group lessons," Vlassov says. "Working in a small group, they start to compete against each other. And kids like to compete.

In other words, competition is completely entrenched in a Russian skater's training. Not only that, Russian skaters must attain a particular rank in competition to advance to the higher levels. This is wildly different than the USFSA testing system, in which skaters show that they can complete the elements in a noncompetitive setting and are even permitted a certain number of re-skates for failed elements. It's all very nice to get second chances, but there are no second chances in real competition. The FFKKR, Russia's figure skating federation, knows this. It's one reason that they schedule their skaters to compete within the country far more often than is customary in the U.S.; they want their skaters to practice competing. They don't want to bestow gold stars. They want fierce competitors.

The American A-for-effort ethos isn't just a problem in terms of testing either; it's a problem with coaching too. At the Basics Skills levels, some coaches have few qualifications, and even at higher levels, coaches in the U.S. need only pass four online courses, buy liability insurance, join the USFSA and complete a background check. "I can call it babysitting, very expensive babysitting," Vlassov says, explaining that when foundational skills aren't taught adequately, it can mean a lot of retraining later in a skating career."

I've just spent a lot of time retraining mohawks and 3 turns, and I'm still retraining back and forward crossovers so they not only look good, but so they don't cause me injury. (Seriously. My landing knee was taking a pounding due to bad crossover form.) It's really easy to gloss over foundational skills when it seems the flashier stuff is more fun, but you do it at your own peril.

 The "Just Group Lessons for Kids" idea nixes the "How well do they click" factor for the younger set. And I think it may push an Individualistic Strength that may carry a skater through a completely insufferable yet incredibly talented Coach. After all, we can't always work with people we get along with. It's not all sunshine and rainbows.

Just my thoughts, but feel free to add your own. All I know for certain is that if Elizaveta wins Worlds I will die of happiness. She is so beautiful, and you can tell she works hard. I love it when a skater gets what she's earned, and all too often it seems USFSA gives a skater what they think she deserves.