Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Lutz Divot Farm

Every freestyle session has lutz corners.  My rink has all four corners as lutz corners because we have some lefties.

The lutz jump is a jump where you reach back with one foot, toepick in and pull back your other foot, then leap off the ice/rotate/land.

The toe picking part looks like this (Scott Hamilton)

Less accomplished skaters hammer  that toepick in and pop up. I'm told it's not good technique, and coaches should correct it, but given the state of my rink's lutz corners, hammertoe lutzes may be the norm.

The other day I went to public when I passed the first lutz corner and there were over a dozen holes in the ice. Not toepicky holes, but big friggin' cause you injury holes.

Several of them were the size of my palm and a half an inch deep after grooming! I thought, "Is somebody raising these for export? It looks like a divot farm!"

When I told a gold skater at my rink about the 'divot farm', she told me about the time she tripped backwards in a divot and twisted her back.  I don't know how long she was off the ice for that.

It used to be common for skaters to go around at the end of the session to go around with a bucket filled with slush and fill the divots in. I've heard about this, but never seen it. I'm not even sure coaches remember  it used to be done. Gone away....gone away....the skaters of yesteryear...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stepping into the Black Boots

One of the hockey skaters (that's a guy in hockey skates who doesn't play as far as I know) told me he wanted to skate in figure skates. There were things he wanted to do on the ice he couldn't do in hockey skates.
"You have skates," I said. "I gave you  a pair when my guy friend quit. skating Do they fit?"

"Yeah, they fit, but they don't have blades on them."

Dude, spend the $80 to get some beginner blades.
 Moving on.

After some further discussion, he reveals his fear is that he will trip over the toepicks.

He says he skates on the forward part of the blade (shrug/some hockey thing/whatever) and is afraid that he won't be able to transition to new blades.

"You have knee pads?" I ask.


"Wrist guards?"


"Then what's your problem?"

As near as I can make out, apparently he thinks tripping on toepicks will be like this:
Or this:

When in reality, five year olds trip on their toepicks and get up from it.  I'm 20 years older than he is, maybe 25, and I get up from falling. And I can't remember the last time I fell from a toepick.

I've written about this before. That movie The Cutting Edge has a lot to answer for.

I suppose it was cruel of me not to tell him the real danger of figure skating isn't falling forward, but falling backwards. Hockey players are never afraid of that!

Portable Dasher Boards for Figure Skaters

Timidity, I've got it bad.
"Is there anyone skating wildly? Are there divots in the
lutz circles? What's that 5 year old doing?
Is it safe? Do I feel good?
Am I ready to move out in the middle?

I've started 1 foot back spins, but I'm at that stage where I need the boards.  *Cough* I'm at that stage where I think I need the boards. Shame. Shame.

However, other skaters at the rink know I've started one foot back spins and they want to see me out in the middle. This is the side of peer pressure that timid skaters fear. Really? You're going to make me do something for my own good?

I stopped next to two of my rink's two gold skaters to say hi towards the end of practice, and one said, "Show us your one foot spin." The other one sweetly agrees.

I look longingly at the dasher boards. "I'm still at the boards. I'm still unsteady." Won't they let me go over there?

The first skater spreads out her arms. "We'll be the boards."
The other skater laughs and spreads her arms out too.
Then the silver dance rink guard slides up. "Hey, is this a group hug?"
The others explain and SHE spreads out her arms.
Ladies and gentleskaters, mobile dasher boards
This is commitment time. I suck in my guts, head up, and do my one foot back spin,  in my dreams two revs. The only problem. Wavy arms. Where did that come from?


(And I did it one more time, then decided to quit while ahead)

(And I didn't fall!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Explosion of Skill Improvements

Saturday I skated on freestyle for an hour an a half (including a lesson). This is what it was like:

What happened?

1. Fixed my weak side change edge mohawk by rotating my hip position anteriorly
2. Solid FO3 both freestyle and figures style
3. Waltz 8, a little small, but solid
4. Got the 'hook' for the push for back edges and stroking
5. And out of nowhere I go a back one foot spin

Uh-huh, uh-huh a back one foot spin. Self taught.

Well, okay, it never got more than one and a half rotations. So it's almost a real spin.

Then when I showed it to my coach she failed to show any excitement, delight, pleasure, or any other expression of happiness.

I WHO AM SPIN PHOBIC HAVE A BACK ONE FOOT SPIN! Put your hands in the air woman! Or at least give me a band!
Nope, didn't get a band
What I got was, "Put your chin towards your other shoulder, you're leaning out of the circle."

Coaches, they're never happy.

And I've got a FI3 (bane of my existence) on one foot today too. Amazing day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Reaction Shots to Skatingforum Posts

 It's good to share.

If you're not a member of skatingforums, it's a good place to go to get suggestions.  But like every other forum, there's reactions to the posts.

Reactions to "I've been skating 6 months and I'm working on my toeloop!"

Reactions to "I've been skating 2 years and can't do a FI3"

Reactions when the 'Know-it-all' posts something insanely annoying:

Reactions when someone asks for help with a skating element and reports back that one of the posted suggestions worked perfectly!

The original poster's reactions:
It worked! It Worked!
The suggesting poster's:
You're Welcome

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Safety Nazi--On Ice!

I think long time readers know I spent 30 years in the military. Let me say that when you deal with dangerous things (planes, bombs, guns, really big generators, and multi-billion dollar systems that cover the entire nation) you Think Safety. It's drilled into you: a tiny little action today,  can result in death or injury tomorrow. (Sorry for that downer) Safety is a daily action, not just something to pass an inspection.  These safety actions become reflexive, even unconscious.

I'm a nice person. Conscientious. Dutiful. Safety focused at the unconscious level.

So yes, I am That Skater that compulsively closes the gates to the hockey boxes during public. And also the extra gates on the boards that are supposed to be closed.

Why? Here's an example from a hockey game of someone falling against an unsecured gate.

Additionally,  on public, filled with the inexperienced skaters, someone can fall and hit their head on the concrete framing around the ice that is exposed when the gate is open . Not too mention kids who shut the door on someone's fingers. It's a couple of seconds to shut the gates and keep the rink from trouble. I think of it as a form of community support for the rink. It's the rink guards' job, but sometimes they're too busy or I'm in the right place at the right time. It only takes a second.

Yesterday, as I was closing one of the gates, the  Nice-guy Rink Guard skated up to me and thanked me for doing it.  You know how it is when you realize one of your selfless gestures is noticed and appreciated; your chest swells with pride, and you smile. Tens of seconds of effort had been appreciated.

Then I looked over his shoulder.

Seeing a sobbing figure lying on the ice at the other end of the rink, I said, "Kid down and crying," and Nice-guy was gone to the rescue.

So the moral of this story?
  1. People notice you on ice.
  2. They're grateful for little kindnesses
  3. Sometimes they thank you
  4. Mostly, the act you do is its own reward

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I'm not Stalking You --- Really!

Ever have one of those days on freestyle where no matter what you do, you keep getting in the way of another skater? And it's always the SAME skater.

For the first hour of freestyle the other day, through some coincidence of timing, no matter what I did I kept getting in the way of a skater every time she was ready to jump. After the first near miss, I kept my eye out for her and did everything I could to avoid her. But inevitably I would end up right in her way every time she jumped.

I've seen skaters ranting about this on skatingforums.  It follows a distinct pattern.

First go round.

I apologize awkwardly


The other skater gives me the eye

Second go round.


Inside her head the other skater thinks I'm doing it on purpose

Third go round.

I'm even more profusely apologizing


Fourth go round....
I don't even dare look her in the eye!

The look I get from the other skater gives me this is what she's feeling
Then, when I explain this to my coach:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Brace Yourself--I'm Going Backwards

Going backwards is easy for some people, but like many adult learners it took me a long time to become comfortable going backwards.

So, let me cut this pain in half. My secret of going backward is
  1. Thighs together
  2. Upright posture
  3. Weight on the forward part of the rocker
This means I have to pull my feet close to under my butt, balance on the balls of my feet, sit down, and sit up.  Lots of ankle bend, toe pointing, ab clenching.

This is the story of my development of my back stroking:

In the beginning I really, really didn't want to fall backwards. Not enough ankle bend. Poor posture.

Then I got a little more confident and it got a little better. It was still bad.  Posture not upright enough. Needed to go deeper in the knee, and still need more ankle bend.

Then I got the whole thing together, except for the all important "point that toe"! Pointing the toe tightens the front muscles of the thigh, and supports a strong stomach.

Then finally I got everything together. Posture, knee bend, ankle bend, toe pointing, thigh touching.

The only problem is that my left leg is much, much weaker and much, much less coordinated than my right. So my coach, Miss Bianca, has me doing weak side backward pumps around the hockey circle. On my first attempt it took me 14 pumps to make it around the circle. Now it takes me six.

I'm also getting the little trick of the 'hook' at the beginning of the C-cut  on that foot. Give my lack of coordination on my weak side, this is a major advance. To get the 'hook' I have to twist the blade with a strong impulse, just at the beginning of the C-cut. It's easy on the right leg, harder on the left. It's just going to take a lot of practice.

 Six months! No, maybe like six weeks.....I hope.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Waltz 'S'

No, the 'S' in the title is not a typo. That's the shape of my Waltz 8's.

Are you not familiar with this particular type of torture skating skill? I think it's still on the pre-Bronze adut test. It consists of a FO3, back stroke, back mohawk (turn forward), forward edge back to the center. Then repeat on the other foot.
source with details

I took a stab at doing these on public today. They're perfectly respectable, a little small, but there's no 'return to center'. Instead they look like an enormous 'S' because I do them on open ice without  using a point painted on the ice to act as the center mark.

Not using the hockey dots as centers  for Waltz 8's is hard core skating. It's how real skaters developed serious skills back when figures were still central to skating.  When I use the lines  or the dots to set up skills, it's using a crutch.  I like to do Waltz 8s both using the hockey dots and without. No one says you have to use them and I think for myself it's a good idea to get away from them as my skills develop. Sometimes things go wonky, like today's Waltz 8. 

Also, when I'm not using the lines or the dots, I get an opportunity to just focus on my skating. When I used the makings, I'm over focused on getting back to the line or the dot.  Doing skills on plain ice is liberating. It's just me and the ice, an opportunity for enjoyment, rather than testing.

How Coaching Works

If you're lucky enough to have a good coach (and there are bad coaches), your coach will plan your lesson. They'll sit in their mystic dungeon, magic marker of doom in hand and sketch out what torture skill development is due to you at the next session.

Then you meet your coach on ice and it pretty much goes like this:

Then after the lesson she takes my money and goes home to this!

What? No?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

This Week IN my Figure Skating

Me trying to figure out which skater with the 'in program belt'
is actually in program, and which one is cheating.

The know it all hockey guy who drops his phone while on ice

How I feel practicing lunges

When I'm the only adult on public!

When some guy skating backwards with his arms spread
whaps another skater in the back of the head.

And that's a summary of my week on ice!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Double Mint Twins in Freestyle

 My rink uses a yellow piece of plastic as a belt to indicate a skater is 'in program'. I'm not sure where it comes from, but there appears to be an unendng supply. Some of the skaters aren't very controlled and I think they need to be belted by 'cop tape'. Or even wrapped in it.
So a couple of Saturdays ago on freestyle one girl had on the program belt, and so did another girl.  One was skating to her program, so was the other. Who's music was playing? No idea.

I hate this kind of behavior.  It's the evil twin of figure skating.
Good Skater...Evil Skater
(If you're under 45, you probably don't get this)
One skater is playing fair, the other is to be blunt, cheating. And because these aren't world class skaters I can't tell by watching them skate whose music is playing. Most of these girls don't have great musicality, their stroking and arm movement is marginally mechanical, their presentation skills are weak and their jumps don't seem to have any relation to the music. For this level of skater you could substitute almost any music to their skating and it would not make any difference.

Well, you can use this to your advantage. The next time you're at a comp and yet another skater has a program to "Let it Go", just plug in your earphones and listing to whatever music you want. It won't make any difference to the program.

Yeah, I'm on a roll of bitchiness, aren't I? Sorry.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

All Hail the Mighty Gel Ankle Tube!

There are three great inventions in figure skating:
The rocker,
Heat Moldable Boots,
and the gel ankle tube.

 About 8 inches long and 3 inches wide it is composed of a stockinette fabric exterior magically lined with medical gel. This tube is the savior of many skating careers; protecting skin, and helping boots fit correctly. 

For example, you have a pair of boots whose rough top rubs your leg skin raw. I even read that Michele Kwan had calluses on her legs from her skates (this is called mechanical dermatoses). Simply slip the magical gel tube so it covers the affected area--problem solved!

What if the heels of your boots, or just the heel in one boot is just a little too wide leading to your foot slipping around? Slip the tube over your heel! (I usually use a stocking over the tube to keep it smooth).

I actually don't wait until mine wear out to replace them (and they will wear out after a long, long time) I keep an extra one in stock in case I lose one.

What about calluses on the side of the foot, or the toes, or the heels? I've found that for small calluses that the small burn gel pads from the drugstore work very well.

So there's your helpful skating tip for the day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Double Swing Change Edge Mohawks

Let's talk about swing mohawks.....

So a swing mohawk starts in this video at 1:29 (This is a former World Champion. Recognize him?)

You're wondering why I'm doing this (torture), right? Well, in the pre-Bronze MITF test there is a section where you do forward crossovers in an 8, then as you complete them, you swing your freeleg forward, bring it to the center of the skating foot, and do a mohawk so you can begin back crossovers.

It's a 'cute little element' but it has a purpose. Imagine now that you are doing forward crossovers around a hockey circle. As you are approaching the space between the two circles, you do your final crossover, stroke onto your OUTSIDE edge, glide forward,  then switch your arms so you are now facing into the other circle.

You are on your outside edge and facing out of the original hockey circle and into the new hockey circle. At this point you want to get onto the inside edge of the skating foot. To do that SWING! your free foot forward, then bring it back to the center of the skating foot and do a mohawk. 

This is a change edge mohawk--or Swing Mohawk.

I can do that, on occasion, on a good day, when the sun's out and the ice is good and my coach isn't looking at me.

What I normally do is SWING! my free foot forward, then swing it back PAST! the heel of my skating foot, the SWING! it forward again to the center of the skating foot and do a mohawk. 

I call that a double swing change edge mohawk.

What's happening is that when I swing my free foot forward, I'm not getting enough impetus to change edges. When I swing the foot back past the heel, that introduces a tiny bit of drag in the glide, which  causes the skating foot to change edge and begin to curve into the circle. Then I can do a mohawk.

BTW, all this talk of Swing Mohawks has mad me think of swing rolls.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New Technique Blues

Ever have a coach, maybe a group coach or someone in a lesson at skate camp. gives you a new technique to do a basic element.  This.Drives.Me.Crazy. 

 When a group coach wants me to start my 3 turns facing out of the circle,
and my private coach wants me to do start facing in the circle

 So I give it a try