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?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Things only Figure Skters Understand #17: FLY MY PRETTY, FLY!!

When you do a hard, tight two foot turn, then feel your iphone fly out of your unzipped pocket and hear it skitter across the ice

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Boggable Moments in Group #1

The group coach is new, and has never met me before. "Show me your spin," she says.

I do a 2 foot rocker into back cross into a counter clockwise spin. Pick up the free foot and do two rotation 1 foot spin.

"Hmmm," the coach says, "Do only one rotation two footed, you're lifting your foot on the second rotation."

There's a funny thing about rockers, I can never remember which direction ends up being the one to start on to get a particular spin direction. I pick one, and realize it's my alternate direction spin. But, I pick the foot up on the first rotation...so there!

The coach is puzzled. "Did you just do a spin in the..............opposite direction?" I'm almost certain, that in that long pause she had to keep herself from saying "wrong direction."

"Yes." I reply.

The coach gathered herself together and in the way people do when they want to discourage some behavior asked, "Why?"

"Because it's my ONLY trick!"

Mr Badass Skater does a Lutz. It's not his best. Since our real coach is working with another student, I turn on my 'fake coach' act. "Would Paul Wylie skate like that? No, Paul Wylie would go out and perform that jump. Head up, smile, project!" I get an eyeroll, but Mr Badass goes in for another Lutz. He wipes out sorta like this. Lots of hopping around on one foot.
Well, that's the end of my 'coaching' career.

Next, Gold Skater nearly took out a adult beginner  in the no man's land between our class zones when she did a (LOVELY!) Lutz. There was actual blade to leg contact. Mr. Badass and I had to suppress our laughter.

The Coach of the beginner class came over and said about her students, "They need to learn to look behind them when they skate backwards."  No one cared about the beginner. I sorta feel bad about that. Sorta.

Did I tell you about False Spin Memory Syndrome where I think I"m doing one rotation two foot spin leading into a three rotation one foot spin, but I'm really doing three rotation two foot spin, leading into a single one foot spin?  Apparently, I'm going to make that a thing now.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Things Only Figure Skaters Understand #16: Vest Blindness

When you're in program, wearing the vest then 
some skater skates into your blind side and falls over.

And she blames you.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Where Does Adult Group Freestyle Skate on the Ice

We've had an explosion of adult beginner skaters at the rink. I blame Yuri on Ice (we've actually had a skater show up in full cosplay costume). This is summer, and the tradition is that most people start skating in the winter, and summer group classes are small.

Not here!

I came back after two weeks away and was told by Gold Skater how full the group classes were, and how the ice was full too.  Here's the layout for the beginner adults and the freestyle kids:

 Guess where adult freestyle goes.

Just guess.

C'mon. Give it a try.


 Are you thinking this?

I know, right?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Settling Into A New ROH

So my skate sharpener had taken me from 1/2 to 15/32  because I was afraid 7/16 would be too grippy. I like the float I got out of 1/2, but due to the rink's ice temperature, it was taking waay too much knee bend.

So I skated on 15/32 for a while. I didn't really like it. It was actually LESS grippy than 1/2. I mean, it should have had more grip than 1/2, but nooo. Somehow it didn't.

So last week I asked my sharpener to take me down to 7/16.

He ran his thumb over my edges. "They still have plenty of wear left," he warned me.

This reminds me of the time I called the roofing company when I needed to replace my roof on my fixer upper house. My roof with FOUR layers of shingles (two layers over code).  Let's just say, there was a period during a blizzard I trembled in fear that the roof would collapse.

"I need to replace my roof," I said to the salesman.

"Is it leaking?" he asked.

"No," I said. "Who waits til it does that?"


So apparently, people with a bad roof, in order to get the last penny of wear out of their roof--so they can go to their grave having not expended a nickel more than necessary in their lifetime--run the risk of major water damage to their trusses and ceilings.

These are the like the people that are miserable on their blades but refuse to get a new ROH or new boots because "they still have wear in them."

"Fuck it," I said to my sharpener, "I want a new ROH and I want it now. It's worth the $10."

My sharpener and I have a little ritual. When he does a change to my blades, he drops my boots off at the rink. I pick them up and text him a report. On the 3rd or 4th text I wrote:

"Ran into Jim and Jane and they both have 7/16.
 My sharpener replied: 7/16 is a popular cut. Maybe the most common.
I feel so ordinary now. No more kinky cut, just one that works for me.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Three Turn Checking Tips

So I picked up a couple of FO3 turn checking tips recently.

This one is for building leg strength and balance and is from one of my favorite online coaches, Isk8NYC, a coach who posts over on Skatingforums.com
"Practice doing back crossovers and holding the BI "cross" in the checked position - chest facing into the circle, shoulders over the curve, skating ankle/knee bent and free leg extended/pointed behind.  You can start doing it on a circle in one direction, then reverse to work the other side.  When that's less challenging, practice it as a serpentine pattern, alternating sides down the ice to fit in more lobes and develop faster checking skills."
 This motivates me to hold the 'checked position' with extension. For mere crossovers, I just move along quickly, slowing it down and holding is a good exercise for the back glide.

The other tip is to 'look at the diamond'. I got this from my coach, Miss Bianca.  She uses it for teaching the flip. But for some reason she was using it with me and I realized it would make an excellent three turn check trick.

"Stick out your leading hand and look at the diamond," she said.

"What diamond?" I asked, looking around at her hand and her glove.

"The one on your wedding ring." She pulled her gloves off. Diamond rings on each hand.

We debate back and forth as to whether I'll ever get married at this point, but finally I stick out my hand stare where the non-existant should be and continued to stare at it as I did a FO3. I checked the turn. May I didn't do it perfectly, and trust me, it's a little disorienting to keep my eye on my hand, but possibilities there, possibilities.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

"You're My Inspiration" #2

As you may remember, faithful followers, I fell a couple of months ago doing a forward edge pull and tapped my head.

Coaches I know gave me little lectures about head protection.

Anyway, I now wear an Ice Halo. A "minion yellow" Ice Halo. When I wear that Ice Halo, you can spot me across the rink, and I skate like a king.

A few weeks after I started wearing the 'minion yellow crown of protection' , a skater in Basic Skills came up to me and said I inspired her to make her own. She had taken a bike helmet apart and put the foam in a cute knit hat. Okay, I was impressed by that.

Then yesterday, I ran into couple I know and the husband said, "You inspired us, we went out and bought these Crasche helmets."

I'd rather inspire them with my skating.

But, I guess I'll take what I can get!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

My First Sit Spin Lesson

Coach Challenge idly glanced over to watch me do a spin.

I ripped into it and lifted one foot, then I began to sink at the knees as my body didn't want to stand up, and I was hunched over  with my arms and hands forward, to counter-balance my enormous ass that was sticking out behind as I kept sinking.

I finally, got upright and exited my spin.

Coach Challenge actually smiled. "If you bend over some more you'll get a better sit spin."

"That wasn't a sit spin try," I tell him, "That was 'desperate not to fall' spin."

Only now that he gave it a name, I can't do anything with it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Things only Figure Skaters Understand #15: Almost Empty Ice

When there's only three skaters on the ice

They always end up in the same place
at the same time


Friday, April 21, 2017

How Slow the Last MInute of Group Goes

Coach Challenge rolled his eyes to the insulated rink ceiling and pressed his forefinger to his chin while he thought.

"A..a..and for yo..o..ou...."

I glanced at the rink clock. It was one minute before session was over. "Well, session is over, don't worry about it," I say.

All session had been forward crossrolls into figure loops, then something new called power mohawks, then alternating crappy spins.  My figure loops were more like big circles, not oval loops. 

Coach Challenge brightened up. "Okay, I want you do two chasse's then a swing roll."

I glance at the clock. Still holding on the last minute.

I follow him around the space: chasse' chasse' swing roll.

"And then..." Coach Challenge announces triumphantly, "Hold on to that swing roll and circle around."

Clock. Time. Holding.

Chasse' Chasse' Swingroll Ho..o..old.

OMG!! This is to get me to do my figures loop!! Just one more try!

Zamboni horn. Gate opens.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Great Moments in Figure Skating History #3

The reaction when a man in hockey skates
 does an axel on a lightly attended public

All true. One of the coaches wanted to get a video but he left the rink before she could catch him.

It was a decent axel, about a foot of air, then spoiled by being two footed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I'm In a Skating Plateau

This encapsulates my feelings about the last 3 months

The only thing I've advanced on is the Back Outside Cross Forward, which once I realized I could make it  funny I really threw my heart into doing. Everything else,  all the graceful skills, FI3, spins, BO3, I'm kind of where I was  3 months ago. I've tried 'Do the Opposite', 'Five minute focus' and 'Deep practice' to break through. Zip.

I've been on a break for 3 weeks. I'm now at that awkward moment between 'lost all my skills' and 'brain has had time to forget my bad habits'.  I may have been wearing myself down, and I can only hope that this break gives my body a chance to reset.

I've run out of ideas for now, maybe I knead to sit back and get a massage. I mean, it can't hurt.

Ooooh, kittehs.
I won't skate on Good Friday, however, Holy Saturday, there's no mass, so I'm back on the ice! I'll see then if I need to ask St Jude for intercession for those FI3s!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Overused Music: Schubert's Ave Maria

Carolina Kostner
Johnny Weir
Caroline Zhang 
Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov 
Belousova & Protopopov 
Totmianina & Marinin 
Shizuka Arakawa
Peggy Fleming 
Yuzuru Hanyu
Stephan Lambiel
Maria Butyrskaya 
Wesley Campbell 
Yu-Na Kim 
Jeffrey Buttle

I know people complain that Carmen is overused, but I think Ave Maria has become a warhorse too. It's so associated with figure skating it's even included in Mario and Sonic Go to the Olympics game.

Well, good coverage of the ice, I didn't expect to see that.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Send-Off to Adult Nats

Saturday there was a going away party for all the adult skaters going to Nats. I don't know how many your  rink is sending, but the Adult Freestyle Circle of Fire is sending 10 skaters.

Since I had practice and a lesson, I tramped over to the VIP room in my skates just to wish the departing skaters good luck and hear their plans. When I got there, I realized that I had forgotten that the VIP room doesn't have matting on the floor, it has carpeting.

Carpeting on top of a concrete foundation. This was going to crush my edges.

I stood in the door for a moment, said my "Hi!", then added, "I don't have guards, I'll just toepick in."

"I'll loan you a set of guards, " Mr Badass said.

"I've got an extra pair in my bag," Miss Bun said, "You can have them."

A couple  other voices said something like "Hey use these!"

I then had to confess, "I HAVE guards, ...."

Someone (maybe Miss Bun) yelled out cheerfully, "You're just too lazy to get them out of your bag to walk over here!"

The end of this story, is that after a quarter hour of chat, I couldn't get out of my chair by going straight onto my toepicks, so a couple of people had to pull me up out of the chair on to my toepicks so I could stalk magnificently out of the room to go back to the rink.

But to all the adult skaters from my rink, (especially those who rescued me from the skater eating chair) have the most and bestest of fun at Nats, and skate your very best!!!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Behind the Scenes at the Sharpener

Boredom On Mid-Shifts Leads to Harmless Habits

Until One Day You're Holding an Irreplaceable No Longer Manufactured Jackson Interchangeable Blade in one Hand


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Great Moments in Figure Skating History #2

A Teenage Hockey Player, in full gear, shooed away 
annoying hockey boys who nearly skated into me
in the Center


Sunday, April 2, 2017

When Adult Skaters have Lives Outside the Rink

When only one person shows up for Group
And the Coach is missing too

I was gone, and the 2 gold skaters got called in to sub in other classes, there was someone with family obligations, and another skater who just didn't show. And I never heard why the coach wasn't there.

But Miss Bun took the single skater and put him  in Kids Freestyle




Friday, March 31, 2017

Things only figure skaters Understand #15: Specialty Clinics

When You Sign Up for a Specialty Spin Clinic and Realize You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into

Thanks to: Mr. Badass Skater

Monday, March 27, 2017

Blade Snow--Mystery Solved

When you get off the ice after you skate, most people find their blades wet, and they wipe them dry with a blade rag before putting their boots away.

I don't find my blades wet, I find them covered in 'rink snow' from the cutting edge to the top of the blade. I've never seen this on anyone else's skates

What's 'rink snow'? It's the shaved ice that skating blades create as everyone glides across the ice. You know how the more people that skate, and the longer they skate, it's harder to get a good glide? That's due to 'rink snow'.

My snow coverage is much much heavier
Unlike everyone else I skate with, I get a half inch thick of snow over my blades. Not only is it thick and heavy, it interferes with my 3 turns and spins. If I turn with just the wrong angle on the blade to the ice, the back of the blade drags across the ice and chops the turn or the spin. To 'chop' the turn is my term to indicate the snow blocks the turn and I come to an abrupt halt. It can be a  scary abrupt halt, that if I wasn't careful could could drop me on my ass.

A coach told me that I needed to wipe my blades while I was skating to clear the snow build up. It makes a significant difference in my glide, spins and turns. But the question what Why? Why did my blades get so gunked up, and no one else's?

It is a mystery! Let's examine it closer.
It took me a few times on the ice to figure it out. What was it that I did that no one else did? What was it that could build up snow?

Then I finally got serious about it and checked my blades for snow after each warm up element.  Slalom.Nada. Swizzles.Nada...then...

When I did my alternating T-stops in warm up (about 10 times on each foot) my blades gunked up like they were covered with mud.  Hooray! Positive finding! I wiped the snow off my blades and it was much easier to skate!

Did it solved my 'chopped' turns and spins?  I can say that those don't get chopped as often and when they do, I wipe my blades just in case. It's not perfection, but it's a great improvement.

So is it worth it to wipe your blades in mid-practice? It certainly helps me. So it may be worth a try for you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Big Girl Spins!

Back Cross..ride the inside edge...
 Step forward into a...
Outside Three..
to a Hook ...then...
One Foot Spin

Both Ways!