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."