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.