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.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

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!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Skating Element of Mystery

Coach Challenge, who is our freestyle group coach, likes to throw out high level exercises for the Silver and Gold skaters in group, and the lower level skaters--we sort it out on our own.

First skating element of the evening: forward cross rolls. Good, good, we can all do that. We regulars scamper across the ice doing various levels of forward cross rolls. Then Coach Challenge demonstrates a forward cross roll immediately going into a 'thingy' so you turn and end up going backwards. I have NO IDEA what that 'thingy' was! I see it, then immediately I forget it. Wait. Which way did he turn? Was there a foot switch? Maybe a leg swing? Dear God, was it a choctaw, rocker or bracket? It's like my memory was wiped of that fraction of a second it took to do the turn.

All I know is it wasn't a 3 turn, or a mohawk because I know what those look like at a glance, going fast, at a distance, and even if I can only see the skater's shoulders.

The other  low level freestyle skater who's a regular hisses at me, "What WAS that!"

"It exits on a back inside edge, just do a mohawk." I hiss back. Which is what we do. The high level skaters, they scamper across doing whatever the turn is. And we haven't got to the mystery element yet.

Meanwhile the two new freestyle skaters in group who apparently have  never been exposed to the wild west show that is Coach Challenge's class, stand away from the melee' and watch in stunned silence. I give them a glance of sympathy. I want to be kind and reassure them, but on this patch of ice they're on their own.  I got my own shit to look after.

Let's just say, that in the world of figure skating, I'm getting a lot of experience in dodging, shifting, and somehow sticking to the program...while not exactly doing everything the coach says. And even if I can't, it's not going to be there for long. Zip zap thunderclap something will take its place.

Coach Challenge likes to do 'bad side' elements. Tonight it's 'bad side spins'. Silver ice dancer Mr Badass, actually moans and skates in a little circle of pain when he hears this.  Finally, something I can do. I give a Nixon.
This is a 'Nixon'
Yes, I am so old that I made a reference to
a President dead for over 20 years.
Then Coach Challenge wants alternating sit spins in a line down the rink.  I take a stab with two footed alternating spins, keeping up with the skaters who are doing them one footed. 

"Now, I want you to do this." Coach Challenge does a back cross roll with the crossing foot in the front. (RBO XF-LBO XF-RBO)

I can see it. I understand it. The crossing foot lands on the outside edge to outside edge. I take a stab at doing it. If you do the crossing foot inside edge to inside edge, it's sort of like a beginner's step over. The challenge is doing it to the outside edge on the roll. I get about three successful crosses, then my feet go to the inside edge and I swear.  I don't think I'm the only one.

Coach Challenge says, "Now I want you to do this." He does the back cross roll with the cross in the front then does 'another thingy'  hops up on one foot in a cute little jump and lands.

This time the entire row of skaters stands there heaving for beath, silent. No one moves. The 'other thingy' has every one, including the Gold skaters just back from Sectionals, stumped. Coach Challenge looks down the line; He clearly recognizes that he has overwhelmed everyone. "Okay, do this!" He does a back swizzle and hops up on one foot. At the end of the back cross rolls with the crossing foot in front, the little hop is a cute little transition.  We all are successful on the modification.

Now what is the skating element of mystery? It's the name of the Back Crossrolls with the cross in the front. I consulted with numerous skaters online.
  1. "That's a real cross roll, a cross cut is when the foot goes behind"
  2.  It's a cross front back outside
  3.  Low cross in fronts
  4.  XF--cross front as labeled in the Starlight Waltz

It's a good exercise, it deserves a well known and recognized name!

(I like BOXF--Back Outside Cross Fronts. It has the direction, the edge and a description and can't be mistaken for anything else!)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When Figure Skating Nerds Collide #1: ROH

I took my blades to my sharpener and pulled off my pink and purple fuzzy soakers. "I think I need a sharpening."

Actually I KNOW I need a sharpening, but it's always tactful to open the conversation with "I think." I can tell the instant I skid a turn whether more knee bend will fix the skid, or I need a sharpening.

He ran his thumb across it. "It's close enough, yeah, I can go ahead and do it. You wanted 7/16?"

I'm skating on 1/2" radius of hollow now, because in warm weather, I just float through my turns. But in the winter with hockey season on, the ice is as...cold as ice. With hard cold ice, a tighter radius of hollow gives you a grippier blade.

I bite my lower lip, and my sharpener can read my mind. I'm worried that 7/16 will be waaay too grippy.  I'm not jumping, and I don't have that much speed. Too grippy can stick me like glue.

"What if," my sharpener says, "I split the difference."

At this point, I have to do 4th grade arithmetic (well, 4th grade in the 1950s. GOK when kids today learn fractions. High School?--moving on). If he's going to split the difference, that means he has to halve the we're now in 32nds.

"Uh, 15/32nds?"  I pause then say hoarsely, "Kinky."

Knowing my blades and 
understanding technical issues

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What Do I Tackle Next?

I think I've figured out FI3,  and I'll formally pass into Pre-Free this session. That leaves me with one skill in Pre-Free I can't do: the mazurka (knees won't let me). I can do everything in Freeskate 1 (except the jumps --knees...again), and most of Freeskate 2 except Back 3's and Back spins (and the jumps--you probably know why). Three and Four I have a couple of onsie skills. It's not until Freeskate 5 that I can't do any skill at all in a section.

So over the next few months, what do I want to work on? Honestly, I could care less about jumps. I'm not going to master them unless I have a knee replacement. I want to do foot work. I really don't care about spins, but if I don't get a couple of spins, and spirals my programs will just look like a ship sailing on the silver sea. BORRING.

Let's get the easy selections out of the way--easy because my coach is going to make me do them no matter what:
  1. Back 3's
  2. Back spins
  3. Completely switch over (again) to my wrong side spin direction. I now have 4, maybe 5 coaches, telling me to switch. I might as well make a commitment.
  4. Back inside edges (one of those "I need to practice this 4 or 5 times with a coach to pull it together since the outside version is going so well" edge skills.)
And the harder selections--harder because I believe there are so many things to pick from it's hard to make one:
  1.  Waltz 3. Because that will force me to get my 3 turn checking in line. 
  2.  Back edge pulls...because every coach I work with is determined to get me to do this, I might as well just suffer and take one for the team
  3. Outside mohawks---because it will make my coach so happy to teach me, and then I can do mohawk rolls. My coach loves mohawk cute little elements.
Except for back inside edges, and outside mohawks, this is fraught with suffering. I think I'll suffer through the back three and back spins for months to come, because I'm terrified to do them without a coach. But I noticed everything else in those 2 lists I'm willing to practice on my own and only need lessons on them to solve technical issues.

The next few months aren't going to be the cesspool of suffering I thought they were!

You know, I feel much much better. 

Until I think of Back Threes...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Summer Public is HERE!!

I know it seems like 10° below zero outside, but the dearth of ice tourists on public today is the formal announcement that empty weekend summer public skate is finally here!

Winter Skate

Summer Skate!!

I was even able to skate backwards around the rink during public today as the total of people on public for a half hour was me + 1.

There seems to be some internal clock among the ice tourists  that one weekend a year they all mutually agree that there is a certain weekend that all of them stop showing up. Last weekend was packed; this weekend, empty ice.

Although it's  -50° outside, it's -150° inside the rink, and I have to skate wearing the following: t-shirt, long sleeved turtleneck thermal over shirt, regular skating jacket, heavy winter skating jacket, and a puffy vest I could hike the Himalayas in, in order to stay warm. (Plus gloves, and two pairs of pants, and a scarf).  

Despite the fact it is clearly the middle of winter (and well below -75°) the ice is abandoned, allowing me the sheer joy of not having to worry about knee high crowds of kids I have to look out for so I don't crush them when they run into me from behind, the side, but never the front--unless it's 3 on 1 and I can't escape. 

Of course two days from now there's supposed to be a blizzard which, according to local news, will cover the entire east coast, and drop the temperature to absolute zero destroying all life on the planet. That must be true, because there's no toilet paper or milk in the grocery stores. I guess that's where all the ice tourists are; stocking up on toilet paper.....and milk to survive the latest snowcopalypse.  

But today, I've had a foretaste of the months to come; Plenty of freestyle on the weekends, empty publics, and I'll be able to skate in short sleeves and a light jacket. Let me for a moment revel in that...I'll be released from the prison of ice tourists and enjoying the light breeze of freedom as I skate.

And now that my revel is over, I know that after the storm, next Saturday the rink will be packed with little kids and parents skating through the middle which I work on back cross rolls. I...I..just need to cling to my moment of summer dreams just one more minute.

Friday, March 10, 2017

I'm a BAAAAAD Girl (at Group)

We had a change of coach with the new session. Let's call him Coach Challenge. Group session is for all level adult freestyle skaters; Coach Challenge runs it at high Silver to high Gold.  I took the advice of another skater who is also a low level freestyler, "Do a lot of things two footed," she whispered.

After fifteen minutes in session of weird shit like back loops, things that might have been twizzles in a back pattern, forward cross rolls with hands behind the back, back cross rolls with something else I faked, then double back threes, alternate jump entrances (I skipped that one); I was exhausted and needed a chance to catch my breath so I decided to distract the coach.

"Coach," I said in Coach Challenge's ear, "Bad Ass skater, has trouble with his back left bracket." I patted his shoulder, "Use that knowledge wisely." I don't think I've ever seen a more delighted evil smile.

As I slunk away, Coach Challenge spun to face Bad Ass..."Hey, Bad Ass, let's work on your brackets!" he announced cheerfully.

My work here was done.

I suspect though, that Mr. Bad Ass has certain evil thoughts about me:

Whatever, he needs to fix that bracket. That will make him so much better at Nats.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


The Lake Placid Adult Skate Camp announcement was posted last night. There will be two sessions:

June Adult Skating Weekend -June 22-25, 2017
August Adult Skating Week -August 20-26, 2017

Registration begins March 13. You can find the 2017 handbook here.

A list of coaches (don't expect all of them on the list to be there) can be found on teh  Professional Staff page. There may also be famous skaters there. Ryan Bradley showed up one year and taught lessons. My prayers for Johnny Weir to show up will probably be unanswered.

Coaches I've skated with in group lessons:

Natalia Dubova--skating skills, and performance skills. I've written quite a bit about Natalia's technique. I really like Natalia's classes, especially for lower level skaters.

Joel Dear--skating skills.  These were classes  on improving technique. He taught classes off ice and on ice.  My memory of his off ice class was his focus on small details such as placement of the blades in stroking, posture and body position. Joel has appeared as both a dancer and skater on television and in theater, so he has performance skills to teach that would be useful to a skater who wants to improve presentation and expression.

Mark Fenczak- ice dance and figures (I only took his figures group class, I think he's heavily booked for ice dance, so if you want to take lessons with him for dance, you don't want to wait.)

Gregory and Petukhov-- I took a group class with them that was a fun skating obstacle course class. It really put me through my skills in balance, speed and control. However, skaters that took private lessons from them raved about their team teaching. Melissa Gregory got high marks for her jump coaching.

Mimi Wacholder--I took both a private and a group class from Mimi about mohawks. I'm not sure she still teaches that mohawk group class, but she was a fine and thoughtful coach with good methodology; my hips just weren't ready for mohawks then. If she is still teaching the mohawks group class, I'll take it to see if she can up my mohawk checking skills, since I'm nailing mohawks now.

 Paul Wylie--the divine Paul Wylie. He taught a group class on performance skills, and private lessons. What can you say about Paul? He's not only a great skater and a great performer, he's a great coach. I watched him take a skater who had self taught himself jumps and Paul just tweaked his skills to an amazing degree in an hour.

Evelyn Kramer "The Spin Doctor"--I took a group class from Evelyn and she got me over my fear of spins in about 10 minutes--in a GROUP class! So if you've got spin 'issues', at least try her group class.

There were also coaches for group classes whose name I don't remember, but they were all good.  There are also guest coaches from out of town, so you should show up at the first night meet and greet when the coaches are presented.

Whether you go to the June weekend or the August week, I hope you have a wonderful time!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Improving My Push Off for Stroking with Power

I found an easy technique that improved my power in my stroking, with my push off. I mean conceptually easy; It took me some time to put everything together, to actually have an effect.

I do alternating T-stops with two strokes in between stops.

Bear with me.

I have stiff hips, so to build up the flexibility and strength in them, I started doing T-stops around the rink as part of my warm up.

I started out with several strokes between stops. Then as the weeks passed, the strength and flexibility in my hips got better. I decided to do two stroke between T-stops.

Let me explain the procedure:

I do the initial push off to the skating foot with my right foot. My skating foot is the left foot. I glide on the left foot, stroke to the right skating foot, bring my left foot to the T-stop position and do a complete hard stop onto the back edge.
Without raising my left foot (the one now at the back of the right skating foot), I push onto the right foot and glide, then stroke on to the left foot. I now do a T-stop with the right foot.

See what I did there? Stroke. Stop. Stroke.Stroke. Stop with opposite foot.

Okay, easy peasy. What's the trick?

The trick is, I do the push off from the T-stop direct from the stopped position on the outside edge without any fiddling by adjusting the blade. I stop. I push onto the new skating foot from the stopped position.

The first few weeks it was hard to gather my legs, with the right knee bend  and upper body position so I didn't have to move my feet around or give a preliminary stroke. I nearly fell on my face a couple of times before I got the knee bend and push coordinated. But after doing this for a few weeks I could do the alternating stops fast and hard, and push off from the stopped position easily.

Then last night at Rink #2 group, I realized I had a lot more power as I was just stroking aroud. I wasn't pushing from my inside edge anymore. I was pushing not exactly from the outside edge, it was more like I was stopped on the outside edge, then sharply rolling onto the inside edge for the push.  I can't emphasize enough, that the description may over state the roll from the back edge. It's not exaggerated, it just happens.  It works for me.

I've read about pushing from the back edge in a figures book, or maybe a coach told me. I don't know if this kind of push has a name, or if it's part of figures or freeskate. If I can find an older skater, maybe I should ask.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

When a Skill Is Inconsistent

Last week at group I had 3 perfect FI3 in a row. Then I didn't skate again until today. Adulting got in the way....result? Too little sleep,  too much time in the car driving to meetings in another city, too much stress; this all leading to the onset of persistent exhaustion.  I  need a week off.

This week, I don't have perfect FI3.

Now, I'm back to half-assed FI3. But they're much less half-assed than they were two weeks ago--so, maybe I'm up to quarter-assed  I guess you can say I'm improving. Certainly my quarter-assery is consistent and in the middle and without fear. I don't even say 'fuck' anymore when I don't have a glide out.

I complained to my coach. "I get a skill and it disappears. Why?"

She gave me a thoughtful look and said:

"One day I did five lutzes in a row, then they disappeared and I've never seen them since."

So I guess I'm not getting any sympathy from her, cause my FI3 is probably going to come back tomorrow.   

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Adult Skaters Can be Evaluated at S*T*A*R*S Too

USFS runs an off-ice physical evaluation program called S*T*A*R*S or  Standardized Testing of Athleticism to Recognize Skaters.

The ADULT SKATER POLICY is here.  Adults are limited to the High Performance Movement Screen.

Here is the official announcement.
S.T.A.R.S., the official fitness assessment program of U.S. Figure Skating, is returning to more than 15 cities nationwide! U.S. Figure Skating is also excited to introduce the brand new High Performance Movement Screen at selected cities during the S.T.A.R.S. season.

The S.T.A.R.S. combine consists of 15 tests in three areas:

Registration includes:
An assessment
Dynamic warm-up class
“Nutrition Throughout the Season” educational seminar
S.T.A.R.S. t-shirt
A detailed report at the end of the season to track the athlete’s personal improvement and comparative statistics for each test level.
The High Performance Movement Screen (HPMS)
HPMS is an individual, one-on-one evaluation focusing on three key areas:

The tests are based on established movement screen protocols commonly used in sports medicine and are administered by a group of physicians, physical therapists and certified athletic trainers. Each participating athlete will receive a detailed report flagging areas of concern and a thorough explanation of exercises to strengthen and improve flagged areas. Reports are confidential and never shared without permission.

Registration is now open. Click HERE to register today!