Sunday, July 27, 2014

When Rink Managers Approach...It's Bad News for Someone

Every Saturday when I go to skate public, there's the same woman in the same corner, doing the same things over and over. Yesterday, she was in the same corner doing the same things over and over, again.

As I stepped off the ice the Rink Manager came up to me and asked, "Do you know who 'that girl' is?"

[By the way, 'that girl' is in her 20s. We're not talking about a kid.]

I didn't have to even look. I know the regulars and their terrain, as well as I know my house. "You mean the girl who camps out in the Lutz corner and does crossovers and bad spins every Saturday? No idea who she is."

"Well, she didn't pay."

At this point the Rink Manager, myself, and my coach who joined us in the discussion, turn and look  at the miscreant.

"Kick her off the ice." I say. Not that I have a dog in the fight, but I'm willing to express my opinion.

The Rink Manager goes out on the ice in her sneakers and confronts the girl while my coach and I trade notes on my skating. A few minutes later the Rink Manager comes back to us and fills us in.

The girl hadn't paid for A YEAR. She says that since she's in LTS, she gets passes and doesn't have to pay. She failed to read the instructions. Or is lying. Or couldn't figure out why she gets only 4 passes.

You're either a crook or stupid, little skater.
So the Rink manager told her: You only get four passes and you have to turn them in to skate, and when they're gone, you have to pay.

Then the Rink Manager tells us that there are Freestyle skaters who get on freestyle and pay their coach and not the monitor, and mysteriously, the freestyle fees don't seem to always get accounted for.

It's the single most expensive freestyle in the area, and now I know why! 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blade Placement Tips From Gustave Lussi

If you're not 'of a certain age', you may have never heard of Gustave Lussi. He coached Dick Button, Tenley Albright, Maria Jelinek / Otto Jelinek, Donald Jackson, Alena Vrzáňová, Ronald Robertson, Ronald Ludington, Barbara Ann Scott, David Jenkins, Hayes Jenkins, Emmerich Danzer, Dorothy Hamill, John Misha Petkevich, Scott Hamilton, Paul Wylie, and John Curry. Co-inventor of the flip jump, developer of modern jumping technique, he also developed modern program conventions, and designed the Pattern 99 blade. There's more, but do you really need more? Here's some more: the only reason triples and quads exist today is because he developed the cross-legged jump technique.

He was one of those seminal coaches who completely changed the sport, and is almost unknown today to modern skaters. But he still has good advice.

I happened to pick up his book Championship Figure Skating (C) 1951. Much of it has to do with compulsory figures, but at the beginning there's this section:
[Imagine a pair of skates] on which the blades are set to the inside of the centerline of the boot from toe toe heel. Setting the blades in this way brings the entire foot  under the body while standing on the skates, thereby strengthening and straightening the ankles....This method is logical and will not fail...Set in blades cause no harm to the foot; actually the skater will perform better with them than without because the additional support they provide will give him more self confidence. [He used this with all his students.]
I was having my old MK Pros transferred to my new boots, so I told my tech to move the blade 'in' just a smidgen.

A couple of days later I was lap skating in my boots; My new blocks of concrete boots. Don't they all feel like that the first half hour? Then I started doing 3 turns, spins, mohawks.

I have to say, I felt much more stable on the turns, and I swear stroking was easier and with more power. It was amazing.

So, for me that little experiment, and the $10 for the book was worth it!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Breaking in New Figure Skating Boots

I know what you're thinking; "She's going to post about breaking in her boots.It's going to be like  a puppy wearing socks!"

Good news, my first break in skate was actually much, much better!

I don't know how other people break in their boots, but I just strap the suckers on and lap skate. When breaking in new boots my usual experience is that I have to put in a few hours before I start doing 3 turns and mohawks. With these boots I was doing them in 30 minutes. I also did a couple of two foot spins. So, at least NOT ANY WORSE than my old boots. In most respects the boots were a perfect fit.

When I get new boots the most critical objective for the first couple of skates is trying different kinds of lace tying to get my heels deep in the counters (part 7). Right now the right boot is all the way to the top with no problems.

The boots aren't perfect. The toe boxes (part 13) press on my big toenails from above. I've had this issue with Harlicks before; I must have enormous toes. 

When  Real Skaters (TM applied for) have a boot problem, they fix it on their own. I"me planning a trip to the hardware store to find something I can stuff in the toe of the boot to push from the inside while I use my hair dryer to heat the toe up. If that doesn't work, I'm just going to take a Dremel tool and cut a hole in the boot where it presses on my toenail, and slap some Skate Tape over it.

I am so past 'pristine boots'. Ice princesses can obsess with that. I'm here to skate!

The next post will cover my blade adjustments: I take advice from the late, great Gustave Lussi and it works out fabulously! More power, more stability. Can't ask for more!

Monday, July 21, 2014

When Radiologists Google "Figure Skating Helmets"

I was glancing through my stats tonight and noticed that someone at a radiology practice was reading my posts on head protection. This and this one too.

When I have a radiologist visit my helmet posts, we all know what that's about. Someone's had a bad fall.

Or someone fell on the ice and couldn't get up.

And yet I imagine, whoever this is that fell on the ice, today was telling their radiologist. "I HAVE TO GET BACK ON THE ICE!"

And the doctor started desperately googling for "figure skating helmets".

Whoever you are that is telling your doctor you have to start skating again,  obey the doc and ....

Get Well Soon!
We'll be waiting for you when you get back on the ice!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The New Boots are in the Bag!

After sending my new custom boots back to Harlicks to have the right boot rebuilt (a tiny bit too large), I was finally able to pick them up at the fitter's today.

You may remember that the left boot (if it had been a man) fit like love at first sight:

However, today when I tried the rebuilt right boot on, it fit fine off ice, but trying to skate on it was like this:

I couldn't stroke well, or glide, or do crossovers, and the only 3 turn put me flat on my back.  I had no control at all on the right foot. Anyway, I got off the ice and tramped back to my fitter's office. I muttered about how I could pad the boot on the inside, and 'isn't the heel higher than the JAckson heel?" But I wan't happy with the boot.

My tech took the boots and sent me off. Fifteen minutes later he was back. The right boot's sole was slightly warped, he shimmed the blade to fix that. I went out on the ice and in the first stroke it was like this between the boot and I:

I could do all my shtick, and I knew that at the first stroke!

Now all that's left is the break in period!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: Stroking Exercises On Ice Vol 1. Basics - - Natalia Dubova

As a non-jumping skater I'm always looking for ways to improve my skating. Even if I never perform, or test, I want to continue to build my skills. So like many skaters I look at youTube, and other video sites for ideas or demonstrations.  youTube skating videos have their uses, but I really want to see three things in a video: good instruction, good production quality, and slow motion/close-ups of the skating. You usually don't see that on youTube skating videos.

So I plunked down my credit card and ordered Natalia Dubova's "Stroking Exercises On Ice Vol 1: Basics" from  For me there was a risk; I might end up with a video that starts with skills way over my ability. Happily, this video is useful for a wide variety of skaters, including people like moi!

Natalia Dubova was the coach of the following famous teams Marina Klimova / Sergei Ponomarenko, Maya Usova / Alexander Zhulin, Oksana Grishuk / Evgeny Platov. In 1992, all three teams were on the podium at Worlds. This was not equaled until the team of Shpilbad and Zoueva had three teams on the podium at Worlds in 2011. With her record Dubova is one of the great coaches of any skating discipline (not just ice dance) of all time.

Recorded in 1995, it is the typical class setting with young students, supplemented by the dance team of Elizaveta Stekolnikova  and Dmitri Kazarlyga as demonstrators. There are nine sections: Progressives, stroking, crossovers backwards,  progressives backwards,  chasse', waltz 3s, elements in combination, alternating progressives, and one foot change edge pushes.

In each section Dubova gives instruction to the students in clear but accented English. She herself does not demonstrate on skates, but calls on her demonstrators to perform the elements. The demonstrators are also videoed separately with a narrator (Cecily Morrow) explaining Natalia's points in more detail or clarifying her comments. The demonstrators are also shown in slow motion with the narrator highlighting certain details.

Dubova uses visualization and cue words to explain  her technique. 'Butter on the knee' and 'water on the top (of the head)' and 'back to the wall', to act as cues for the skater to use during exercises are just some of the terms.  Each section is detailed and builds on the terminology and technique from the previous section.

As an example of the level of detail, in the Progressives section alone, Dubova covers the following:
1. Shoulder and arm position
2. Hip position relative to upper body and arms
3. Head position
4. Balance and position over the blade
5. Double sit
6. All exercises in both directions
7. Not crossing the outside hip
8. Smooth change of direction
I would suggest that the viewer watch the video all the way through a couple of times before focusing on a 'problem' element to work on in detail just to understand all the detail that goes into the technique.

The production quality is excellent, with close-ups and slow motion used when necessary. Also, Dubova is miked, so the audio is clear and understandable and the narrator is great. The camera work is professionally done, with two (or more) cameras covering the rink, so you will see close in work in high quality detail.

Who is the audience for this video? I think the audience would be anyone from Basic 8 (Basic 6 for adults) or above. Certainly good for people who are beginning ice dance, but the lessons would also be useful for freestyle skaters who have, shall we say, chunky stroking.  So a wide audience but perhaps not a high level audience.

Two ways to order: DVD or download.
I don't know about the DVD, but the download was like watching a VHS, which means no chaptering. I'd like to have chaptering to play sections over and over again, but it's not a major issue.

One video is $49. But this is a real specialist video, with good production quality and technical content. If you buy it you can be assured of getting your money's worth.

I'm working on the edge push section now. Maybe with the slow motion demos and Dubova's instructional technique to guide my way, I'll finally get those pesky things to work for me!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Curse of the Magic Marker of Doom!

Miss Bianca is always thinking of something new for me to do with the handful of skills that I have. This week it was skating several elements in a circle.

FO3 -- Back Mohawk (step forward) -- Inside mohawk in a circle.

She takes out the Magic Marker of Doom and draws the pattern on the ice.
Even though I can do these elements separately, I'm not able to string them together on the black lines she's drawn on the ice. For some reason the instant I put my foot on the black line I lose my head (interiorly). I feel  so uneasy I can barely stroke off.

I have to move over a foot and skate the pattern so my feet don't actually touch the ink. "I can't do it on the lines you've drawn on the ice," I tell her.

Miss Bianca nods solemnly. "Pattern Panic," she says.

It has a NAME?!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Creating a Solo Power Skating Program

All my coaches have mentioned how I need to skate with more power. I never even bothered to look at power skating classes for figure skaters. I've got 45 years and 75 pounds on anyone in that class. I can't power skate for a whole hour. I need to work my way up to power skating for 10 minutes, much less an hour. So, I've created my own personal power skating program.
My present technique, Nice long glides....but sloooow
I couldn't find anything on youTube about power skating for figure skaters so I've modified what I've seen in hockey power skating videos.

1. Get down in the knee and stay there (never rise to straight leg)
2. Bring the boots together between strokes
3. Pre-position my edge before each stroke
4. Maintain an upright 'ice dancer' posture
5. Full extension on each stroke
6. Keep the glide short, but don't scamper

Yeah, I know you're wondering "What does she mean by 'scamper'?"


The purpose of my 'power skating' is to build up my leg strength, quicken my reflexes, increase my speed per stroke, without sacrificing technique. I only do a set for 5 to 8 minutes at a time, then I go and work on something else for a while. I'll do 3 sets an hour. I'm aiming at 10 minutes per set.

Does it build my leg strength and power? My coach says she's noticed better power, so looking good.

The downside was that for 3 days after my first session I could barely walk. I guess I'm weaker than I thought!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Miss Bianca and the "Cute little element"

Miss Bianca came back from her coaching seminar refreshed and ready to deal with the oldest student on freestyle (ME!).

"Today we're going to learn side toe hops!" She said cheerfully as she positioned me at the boards. This is another one of her string of "cute little elements".

"Is this something from your coaching seminar?" I asked.

"No," she said, "This is my own development torture."

Well, she didn't actually say the word 'torture', she actually said 'own development skill'.  Anyway, it's supposed to build up my quadriceps. And probably help with my timidity. And maybe get me ready for the dread bunny hop.

I just can't hold these. No matter how hard I try. I think it's because there's no ankle support in my boots since my boot tongue isn't wide enough. I have legs like tree trunks from horseback riding and I lost the nice ankles genetic lottery too. (new boots enroute have a custom tongue!). 

I did learn some important lessons.
a. REALLY bend the knees
b. REALLY up on those toe picks!

And this is where the problem begins. My body kept trying to cross the skates. It was if my boots were cursed.

 Toe in  - Hop - Push off. That's what's supposed to happen.

What my body wanted to do was:

Toe in - Hop  over -- push off.

Although I  never did cross the boots in side toe hop practice, apparently it lingered in my muscle memory.

 Fifteen minutes later when I was doing fast crossovers, I toepicked in hard in the cross, rolled across the ice after slamming into my hip, jammed my wrist guard, and flopped around like a fish. I did get up and do the pattern again though. So yes, I got back up on that horse.

Hey, I did this over a jump once!
I'm sooooo ordering hip pads from this week!

Friday, July 4, 2014

When My Coach is Away

Last week my coach emailed me that she was going to be away last weekend. That meant no lesson.

You're leaving me! You're leaving me!
(For one day)

Then she said at the end of the email that she was going to a coaching seminar.

Oh, dear. I know what that means. She'll come back with all these coaching ideas. There will be techniques. Sort of like   "Grasshopper" getting trained by the Kung Fu monks. Or achieving graceful arm movements and gaining inner peace at the same time.

REally, Kung Fu Panda is just crying out for an ice show.

Sadly, I'm sure I'll be more like this, no matter how many coaching seminars she attends!

There's only so much you can do with a 62 year old student!