Saturday, August 19, 2017

The "F" Word

My coach, Miss Bianca, is chasing me around the rink and barking "push harder,", "move quicker!" as I scamper through the pre-bronze perimeter stroking regime.

With Scamper

Sadly, as hard as I'm scampering, she is skating along side of me going, "I'm skating faster than you." Well, okay, I'd be rattled by that except as smoothly and quickly as she is moving, she's doing three strokes for every one of mine. I'm clinging to the pipe dream that as I do long strokes, I'm slowing down faster than she is. "You go faster, when you try," she says.

"Don't say 'faster'," I say, "As far as I'm concerned, it's the 'F word'." 

A few minutes later I'm doing forward spins, and she's metaphorically cracking the whip to make my rotations, quicker, and I get a "probably 2 and a something 1 foot spin," my coach says. You're getting up to the speed you need. when you force yourself." WIN!! She totally avoided the " F word". Unwin? Well, I still have to skate fas.....never mind.

Now back edges, back edges, outside and inside.  "You need to skate  the 'F' word," she says.

Yes, I've trained my coach not to say the 'F' word--FASTER. And apparently, if I work my little legs off, I can do the 'F word' better than ever.

However, she has told me when I go to Lake Placid, I have to take Marc Fenczak's group class on "Gaining Power." I suspect I can't train him to avoid the F Word--I'm going to have to skate faster--and I'll still be at the tail end of the class no matter how 'F word' scamper I go!

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Coach Gets into the Act for "Cue Words"

I'm deep into my continuing adventure with 'cue words'. These are words you select to 'cue' you to perform a certain action. I wrote about them here when I started learning my back 8s.

The cue words do three things for me:
1. Distract my brain. I've got like a hurricane of things going on in my head during skill development.  A cue word makes me focus on one skill and not every skill.
2.  If the skill is extended, like the Back 8, a series of cue words can chain simple skills into a complex skill
3. If I pick the right cue, all the fiddly distracting skills will fall together. I know, it sounds weird, but it's working for me.

So, I'm working on my spins (both ways) with different skills. I need to get my righ free hip to the closed position. My right hip is naturally in the open position, which makes my  left spin very irregular. So, my cue word is "hip" when I spin to the left. This reminds me to get my free hip in the closed position.

I show this to my coach. "Hip hip hip hip" I go. I get a really decent spin. Lift the foot up, hit the rocker, spin--2 really nice rotations. The third rotation eludes me.

My coach stands like Carlo Fassi, hands in her pockets.  She's used to my unusual training activities. "Try 'knee, knee, knee'. I want your knees together. They're not quite there yet."

So, I've done the 'hip' cue word a few times. If I've done it enough I hope the hip skill merges into the knee skill when I hit the first "knee."

I do the two foot entry, and start chanting "knee, knee, knee!". My 'free' foot whips in, my hip closes, the foot raises and suddenly, I'm doing a big girl spin. I can hear my coach cheering "That's the speed I want to see!"

Internally, my body is chanting "slower slower slower!"

Yeah, there's the reason I'm not getting that 3rd rotation.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Other Skaters Have 'Issues' Too!

I got a text from Mr Badass about his coach's comments in yesterday's lesson:
Beginning of lesson:  "We should definitely put your Lutz in your program."

Five minutes into lesson:  "We need to work on crossovers."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Moment Has Arrived: Big Girl Skills

My coach says, "Let's work on your back 8's"
 Yes Coach.

Then my coach says (same lesson), "Let's start on your rockers."

  Yes Coach.

Then my coach says (Same lesson), "Okay, time for counters."


Then my coach says (same lesson), "Brackets."

 "Yeah, whatever, Coach."
Hey, I did one, one-footed bracket!

Then finally after all the stress,  we work on my spins. I never thought I'd ever say, "Thank God, it's only spins."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Back 8's

"Let's start with back 8s," my Coach says cheerfully.

I've been reading a lot of skills building books lately--listening to them when I drive--and one recommended that for skills building that it's helpful to 'talk' your way through the skills as you practice. That is you say a cue word out loud as you're stepping through a skill in the beginning, then as you get experience doing the skill, you drop the verbalization.

I've messed around with this lately. It has promise so I used it in the back 8.

Here are the steps of the back 8...You start facing in the circle
Push off.
Balance forward towards the toe
Free foot is forward
Switch foot to back at the half way point
Switch arms at the 3/4 point so you're now facing out of the circle.
Look over you leading shoulder  and guide yourself back to the starting point.
This is the first half of the 8. This all I'll talk about.

What it sounds like is...
"push... OFF!.......TOE TOE TOE....switch LEG.........switch ARM....LOOK OVER LOOK OVER LOOK OVER...!!!"

I skate without my glasses on and I cannot see that damn center dot to save my life.

At some point during the beginning of this strongly enunciated skill building, the music in public goes off and all you can hear is .....

I got a couple of strange looks.... but it did work.  So, whatever.

I do what I need for my skating

Friday, August 4, 2017

My Skates go to the Sharpening Spa

Since many of you want to know how to sharpen skates (at least in theory!) here is a long post on what goes on in a sharpener's shack. Actually, for my skates, it's a spa!

From my sharpener:

1.  Fix the laces:  Untie knots and untwist the laces; tie them up so nothing gets tangled in the sharpening wheel (That would be bad ju-ju.)

Why yes these are my skates
2.  Check the mounting for tightness.  You shouldn’t get more than ¾ to 1 revolution out of a screw to tighten it.  More and it’s either been too long since it was checked, or you may need to recondition the hole.  If a screw spins freely and will not become tight, you are definitely in repair-mode; that’s a different post.

 3.  Check for any large nicks/ burrs and stone them out


4.  Dress the wheel to the desired radius.  (He does this once for each pair of skates).


5.  Check edge for evenness.  (He uses a 12" piece of aluminum channel with a magnet in it.  Aluminum because it’s softer than a blade & won't wear it down; a magnet to help it hold on.  If the edges are even, the channel will be parallel to the the holder's vertical stand.)

I'm okay!!
 6.  Check blade to wheel contact.  If one of the edges was higher than the other, it should meet the wheel first.  If edges were even, both should meet the wheel simultaneously.  Adjust the holder's angle as required for the proper contact.


 7.  First pass (light pressure).

8.  Check the sharpening path:  If there was a high edge, it should be getting ground down.  Adjust the holder's angle if needed.  If you're changing the ROH to make it smaller, there should be a grind path down the center of the blade that widens with each pass until it goes edge-to edge.  If you're making it larger, the edges grind from the outside-in.  If that's not happening, check and redress the wheel.  If a change is made, repeat steps 7 & 8.

9.  Sharpening passes (medium pressure).  Usually two or three.  Repeat until the grind path covers the entire blade, edge-to-edge, all the way down the blade.


10.  Final check for level.

11.  With a hand-stone, gently pull down the tiny metal fines that are left on the blade from the sharpening--top to bottom down the length of the blade, then one long pull front-to-back.  Do this on each edge.  Then apply wax.

12.  Finishing pass (slow, very light pressure).

13.  Wipe down the blade w/ warm rag. (removes any leftover wax).

14.  Clean/ oil the blade and put the soaker on.


And for this I pay the munificent sum of $10!!

Plus he includes a chocolate!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Some Days the Public Skate Music Just Moves Me

I don't even know the name of the turne. It was in 4/4 time, rather slow, with a steady beat under some smooth modern melody. Not jazz, not rock. I'd heard it before, and it swept me up.

I was doing stuff on my toepicks backwards, arm waving and body bending, slow spins both ways, turns one foot and two foot, step behinds, deep edges, maybe a two foot twizzle, beautiful forward crossovers with unusual positions, deep back crossovers into a landing position, turn forward......

...turn forward?....What did I just do?... I stop..

.....I think, step one step two, step three: ...No,  I did an unintentional FI3....

I don't know whether to do this.....

Or this....

When I tell my coach, she nods sagely like she knows more about me than I do.  I need a back 3 shrink.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Figure Skating

The rink has installed new speakers, so the music is so loud in the center during public, my coach and I move the lesson to a lutz corner.

I'm really 'on point'. For the very first time, every crossover forward and back, have solid underpushes with extension, from the first to the last one I do. My coach cries out, "Those are wonderful!"

Then an adult ice tourist clinging to the boards next to the lutz circle exclaims , "Wow!" as I skate past him backwards.

My coach and I thank him and give him a couple of quick tips to make his time on the ice more enjoyable, then we move on.

After my lesson a four year old skater (her father coaches her) comes up to me to show her 4 year old stuff: Waltz jump, back inside 3, back spin. I applaud her. Not only is she better than I am, at 4 she has the intense focus of a 15 year old on the short list for the Olympics.

That's figure skating for you. There's always someone below you and someone who is better. I check my ego at the gate.

(But I confess, just once I'd like to make people gasp at my skating-other than when I fall down.) 🙂

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Things That Only Figure Skaters Understand #26: In and Out

When the Half Dozen Regular Figure Skaters show up for Sunday Ice--
Zam broken
Compressor broken
Plumbing problem

And they get on the ice
 Then turn around and get off

But Ice Tourists on Public Skate?
Yeah, it's all the same to them

Just want to say, that I've seen reports of compressors failing at rinks all up and down the East Coast in this extra hot summer.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

When the Zam Breaks down after a Hockey Game but before public skate (Updated)

It was too rough for even just lap skating with out annoying my sharpener.

Thanks to Gold Skater for taking the video and running the risk of ruining her blades. She told me not to even bother putting my boots on.

Things Only Figure Skaters Understand #25: Male Pair Skaters

When you see a picture of a male pairs skater sans shirt

And your first thought is: "Yeah, he could lift me."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Magic Thumb

Miss Bun handed her boots over to our sharpener--"I'm thinking of changing my blade cut when I get my next sharpening."

Our sharpener ran the pad of his thumb over the edge of the blade. "It's got a few hours left."  He does this all the time, with everyone.  Run his thumb over the blade and say 'It's got a few hours left". It's quite a show.

I mean the thumb gets out quite a bit, goes to parties, meets chicks (or at least chick's skates), hangs out with famous people.

I call it the Magic Thumb.

The Magic Thumb Party's Hard

And well deserved!

Monday, July 17, 2017

I go SPLAT!!

For some reason my coach asked me to do a Bunny Hop.  It's been about 6 months since I did one, and I guess she wants to check that I still can. So, I do a FO3,  picked in for a half flip, then did a Bunny Hop.   And it was a nice Bunny Hop too. My coach said, "That's very nice," in that enthusiastic voice coaches use on talented five year olds.

And just because I wanted to show off (ALWAYS A MISTAKE!!!!) I did another Bunny Hop,  landed on a toepick, pitched forward, hit the ice in a roll that can only be identified as a horizontal back spin. And two full rotations--with no feet. Hah! I think I covered 10 feet from the trip until I stopped rolling and slid to a stop. It was pretty spectacular.

I was going pretty fast too

1. Thank God for knee pads.
2. Not having hip pads---ouch.
3. When my coach, SkaterDad and the rink guard got to me, I was already up going "I didn't hit my head!" in a loud voice. 

I'm a little sore today, but I can assure you I've had worse.

As in this picture--a horse going over a low jump was involved
(he balked and I flew)
Hit so hard my helmet cracked,
I was knocked out
Came too with short term memory loss
Had to go to the emergency room

Yeah, figure skating falls aren't near that scary. . . .so far....

Friday, July 7, 2017

When a Coach Who's New to the Rink Takes Over Adult Group

If you've been following my adventures in Adult Freeskate, you'll know that we don't skate 'Levels'. There's no Pre-Free, or Freeskate 1-6. There's warm up skills (which we do as a group to the best of our individual ability), followed by 15 minutes of personal skills we're working on. I've got much better because of this--and I've thanked my skating director for kicking my ass out of Basic into Freeskate.

But this new coach is new to the rink. He's a retired National Competitor. It's his first time running  our Adult Group.

He . Believes. In . LEVELS!!!!!

"What level are you at?" he asks me.

"Pre-Free." I say. I'm a dead solid Pre-Free, maybe a Free 1.

He flips open the chart the skating Director gave him. It says Babbette Duboise "FREESKATE 2". "That's just a placeholder," I say. And he completely ignores that.

He start rattling off the the Freeskate 2 skills.
Him: "Alternating forward outside and inside spirals on a continuous axis ?"
Me: "Yeah, sure, I'm good."
Him: "Basic backward outside and backward inside consecutive edges?"
Me: "Small but steady"
Him (quick like a fox on a chicken): "Why small?"
Me: "Power."
Him: "Backward inside three-turns?"
Me: "I'm working back outside 3's"
Him: "Where are you in your back spin?"

So I guess that's pretty much a "don't have it" answer.

Him: "Jumps?"

Me: "No." Him: "Why not?" Me: "I'm sixty FIVE!"

Anyway, this turn of events strangely puts Mr. Badass and I in the same level. He's a 100 times better than I and working on his lutz, but he's gracious enough to say "I need to work on my back 3's" when the coach assigns us to do them.  And he's on record that his back spin skill is "Sorta", so I don't feel too bad.

 The coach had me practice my two foot back 3's. And my spins. Then when he wasn't looking I did some back outside edges, just to check how bad I was. And wouldn't you know it,  during what was supposed to be a step forward, THIS happened...
One. Just one.

These are going to be like my FI3--lifetime total: 11.

And the next day, I mentioned it to my coach in a scheduling email.

C'mon...some enthusiasm please!!!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Things Only Figure Skaters Understand #22: Two Weeks Away from Skating

First 15 seconds on Ice
(It's nice to be back. And when I stepped on the ice I nearly did this exact faceplant, but I grabbed the door and saved myself)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Just For Me: Change Edge Alternating Crossovers

I love to do change edge serpentines. Below is an example of a forward change edge as part of a compulsory figure at the Olympics.

Once you master these, there's a sense of "Now what?" Well, what I did, just for me, was to put a crossover at the peak of the curve.
Now if you put a crossover at the point where you change edge, that's a cross stroke. We're not having none of that here.

This is what I do.

Okay, simple enough. Now why do these?

1. Timing and placing the crossover in just the right place means I have to change the edge in just the right place, and be solid on the edge in time for the crossover. If the serpentine isn't very big, this is a challenge.
2. In order to do the change edge after the crossover, I have to do a decent underpush with the inside (outside edge) foot when the free foot crosses over. Then get on the inside edge and be solid before doing the next edge change.

This cute little drill takes a few minutes to do, and helps me with quickness, edges, and upper body control.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Flashback Tuesday: November 2011

A married woman I know slightly came up to me at a party and began chatting. After a while she got to the personal. "So, are you dating anyone?"

I was a bit surprised at this question. But, I'm resigned to the fact that the manners of my youth are long gone, buried in the 'faded memories cemetery' next to the grave of the last pantyhose in America.  "No, not really. But, " I said, thinking of my ice dance coach, "I pay a 28 year old man 50 dollars every week to hold my hand for an hour."

Her eyes widen in shock. Then she hunched closer to me, "So, how can I get some of that?"

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Things Only Figure Skaters Understand #20: Skate Bag Confusion

When Half the Skaters at Your Rink have Zucas with Matching Inserts

 At my rink, there are six Zucas with red inserts--including mine.
Even if you have yours tagged, it's hard not to grab the
first one to hand

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Things Only Figure Skaters Understand #19: Missing Person

When coming out of a hard fast spin from a difficult position you're so dizzy you can't find your coach

 (My coach made this worse by constantly moving behind me--)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Things only Figure Skaters Understand #18: Buying a New Skating Jacket

If you buy a new jacket and it's warm, and comfortable, and just the right fit--
There's always something wrong with the pockets

If you buy a new jacket and it's warm and fits, and the pockets are perfect--it's the butt ugliest styling in the history of mankind

I now have two jackets: The pink is fantastic--but the pockets--they're pointed backwards. The black is nice in the pockets and, but God is it ugly. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Our Brave Beginner Adult Skaters Soldier On

Remember a few weeks ago when I described my rink's placement of adult freestyle during group? It's in the red area below. Adult beginners skate in the center circle, with freeskate skaters around them.

What it's like in reality.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

My coach's expressions for various levels of my Figure 8's

Basic FO8 with a two stroke entry

Basic FO8 from a standstill, transitioning into a FI8

3/4 of the first half of a BO8 from a standstill
Yes, BO8 is much much harder.

"You almost did the first full circle of a BO8," she cried.
I swear she was so happy she was practically in tears

And I wasn't even deliberately doing a BO8

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Everything I Did Wrong in Forward Crossovers and How to Fix It

Friday, a beginner adult skater I see around the rink got to talking to me about her progress. She's having problems with  beginner forwards crossovers in which you step over the skating foot and she's on her third session.

I commiserated. "Almost all adult beginners have crossover issues."

(Legal disclaimer) I AM NOT A COACH, If none of this stuff works for you, fuggedaboutit.

Everything I Did Wrong in Forward Crossovers and How to Fix It

1. I didn't bend my knees enough. I bet you think you are but you're probably not.

2. My arms weren't on the circle OR I tried to do crossovers  with my arms square to the circle. This means I felt like I couldn't do a stepover.
 It feels unnatural to twist your upper body to face inside the circle, but it's what you have to do. Your coaches will badger you until you do.

3.  I rolled my shoulders forwards, which made me hunch. (okay this is a real personal thing for me, I've never had a coach give me this particular tip, they just say, "Open that shoulder." With what? A can opener?) I am now going to give my 'beginner's open shoulder tip'.

     I made sure that I rotate my arms so my thumbs are pointed to the ceiling, which slightly rolls the shoulders back. It also opens my chest, and can help reduce hunching. AND! it makes it easier to twist to face into the circle!  I'm going to call this 'the open shoulder.'

For 3 and 4
Open shoulders, and facing inside the circle with good arms
Be a ballerina

You will see more experienced skaters do crossovers with different arm positions, but this is what worked for me when I started. I mean, with open shoulders it felt it was a lot easier than skating with a rolled shoulder. When my trailing shoulder is rolled forward, it makes it hard to twist to face inside the circle (the shoulder compresses the chest), and puts me in a natural hunch position that your beginner anxiety only makes worse. Open shoulders--Thumbs up!

4. I started my crossovers with the crossing foot too far away from the skating foot. Let's call it a wide stance. What happens when I did this?
My unconscious brain told me 'I'll fall if I step over',  and I  LEANED AWAY from the crossover! And once you're leaning out of the circle, doing that stepover is like stepping across a ditch. Of course I felt uncomfortable.

   Get my stepover foot close to the skating foot before I raise it to step over.

  5. I hunched. I was not comfortable with my balance, my blade position,  and my toepick scared me. Hunching makes all those fears worse. Not hunching is the solution. It helps me get on the right part of the blade, supports good balance and helps keeps me off my toepick.

This image illustrates 3, 4, and 5
Here's an illustration of a well trained skater starting
a crossover (1) with feet close together,  arms on the circle, and
not hunching (note she's holding a different trailing arm position,
but she's an experienced skater)

So there is a list of all my bad crossover habits and how I fixed them,

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Back 3's Now and Forever

My coach and I were working on back threes this weekend. So maybe I've been working on these for several years? We don't work on these every lesson, but often enough that I've made slow (if timid progress). I'm now in the position were I can see the top off the mountain.

I'm a little concerned about this metaphor
I'm doing the back 3's on two feet, and doing solid one foot back edges with correct shoulder, head and arm movements, but that turn on the back of the blade on one foot just ain't happening.

She lets me rest one hand lightly on her arm to do the one foot back three. "I always worry about this." I say." I'm afraid if I fall, I'll snap you like a twig." I tell her.

She laughs, "I move much faster than you, you'll never take me down."

I imagine it like this!

Saturday, June 3, 2017


Coach Challenge sat down after Group to join the Freeskate Circle of Fire. "I've been learning how to stone." He added solemnly, "I'm a stoner."

In case you're new here, 'stoning' is what skaters call 'professional level bedazzling'. It's part of the 'crafty' side of skating.

"Going to be another Brad Griffies?" I asked.  Brad is a famous skating costume designer, who does beautiful and striking designs in stones on costumes. I don't think I've ever seen stoned men's pants even on his custom costume site.

"No, no. Just trying it out. " he smiled at everyone. "I want to put some stoning on my skating pants."

"Bunnies!"  someone said.

"I was thinking of a pony." Coach Challenge joked back. Who knew Coach Challenge was a Brony?

"Oh much better," Miss Bun said, "UNICORNS!!"

Almost everyone agreed on unicorns, except I'm still holding out for ......


 But, it will probably turn out to be a diamond stone stripe down the side.  We'll see how it turns out.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fear of Champion Cords

My coach dug into her pocket and pulled out a set of Sheila Thelen's Champion Cords. "You've got the one foot entry to the one foot spin," she said, "It's time to use Champion Cords to refine your technique."

I glanced at the rink clock. My lesson would be over in 1 minute and if I could keep her talking, I wouldn't have to try them out.

The idea of attaching one end of a cord to my boot and holding the other end of the cord in my hand while turning terrifies me.

"Of course many people are initially terrified by Champion Cords," she said, 'But I can assure you, you won't get tangled up in them." She was very firm about that.

The clock hit 30 after the hour and I almost shoved her off the ice. "You've had a long day. It's been a good lesson. See you next week."

But, it turns out she is right. I won't get tangled up in them. If this guy doesn't get tangled up, no one will.

So, I guess Champion Cords are in my future.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

It's always about the hips, isn't it?

I'm working on my back power pulls with my coach.

"Put your hips into it." she says. "Arms stay still, move below the waist only."

I came to a halt. "Wait, will this make my butt any bigger?" I ask.

My coach paused for a moment. A real Nicholas Cage moment.

"It will firm up your backside muscles," she says diplomatically.

Which translates into:
Just like everything else in figure skating.....why do I even ask?