Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

My adventures as an adult male figure skater in Tucson, Arizona Portland, Oregon Chandler, Arizona.

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Ack! Withdrawal

I've not been skating since Wednesday. It's driving me bonkers. I won't have a chance to go until Monday. Phew.

I finally got my commenting system in place, feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Fourth Lesson

Before my lesson tonight, I got over to the pro shop and got a chance to get my skates ordered. As I discussed before they are Jackson Freestyles -- maybe a bit "up" for me but I think it will be really good. They were $180 plus tax. Well worth it, I think. They should be here in a week or so. I can't wait!

Tonight's lesson was great. It was my last one with Dawn, as she is going home. I don't know who I'll have next week. Anyway, I got on the ice a bit before 7 just to get warmed up and so forth. I still feel like I've never been on the ice for the first 2 or 3 minutes. Dawn says that should diminish a little when I have skates of my own. I hope so. I got really good skates tonight actually, they seemed relatively new and fit well and I laced my right boot tight enough so it didn't give me problems.

I told Dawn about my fall on Friday and so forth and so we worked on swizzles some more (since that was what I was doing when I fell). It's amazing how having your instructor there can help you feel more confident, even when (as an adult who outweighs her) there's not a goldarned thing she could actually do to keep me from falling if I started. I think my issues with feeling a little out of balance are mostly due to posture -- too far forward; and looking down too much. Also I need to bend my knees a bit more and tuck my butt a bit. I know what I'm supposed to do, it's making it happen that seems like the hard part.

We started by working on my pushoff some more. Dawn confirmed that the 'crunch' I sometimes hear is when I am using my toepick (bad, sloppy) instead of my inside edge. We went on to work some more on my swizzles, and also (since I asked) she introduced the rocking horse. I can kind of get the feel of the backward swizzle but it's not quite coming yet. I need to work on it. We also touched on the backward wiggle, which I'm still having problems with, and then we worked on my snowplow stop. That is coming along much better. Finally in the last couple of minutes or so we looked (since I asked) at a one-foot glide, and she showed me the position I'm supposed to be in. The right boot (in this case) is tucked in tight just above the left boot and the leg is straight forward, not out to the side at all. I experimented with that a little bit. Dawn suggested I try to see if I can get to 4 seconds. Right now I'm at about 2. Then we were out of time, so I thanked Dawn for all her help and told her I'd see her in September. I hope to be greatly improved by then. I'm really grateful to have had her as my first instructor.

After my lesson and the obligatory Zamboni break, I skated for about an hour. I noticed with the relatively good skates I got tonight my feet didn't hurt at all and I wasn't turning in on my inside edge so much. I'm glad to know that was more the skates than me. It was not very crowded (15-18 people). I spent most of my time working on swizzles, gliding and the snowplow stop. The main thing I'm working on on the swizzles is to feel confident in them. The basic 8s say I have to do 6-8 in a row, which I was doing tonight so that's good. My glides are in good shape. I worked a lot on the snowplow stop and practiced going faster than usual in my glides and then stopping. Dawn thought that if I felt more confident in my ability to stop that I might not be as scared to go fast. There's something to that, and my stops are much, much better. As I think about it now, though, I'm wondering if it's not so much not being able to stop that I'm afraid of as just wiping out because I lose my balance. If so, it might take going fast and wiping out and losing my balance and falling (and surviving) to get over that. We'll see.

I did try a couple more 1-foot glides (on my left foot only). I'll keep working on that but it's a Basic 2 skill so I'm not going to worry about it a lot. I'm not going to get to practice over the weekend due to my schedule (don't want to go Friday anyway after my experience last Friday). At Monday's practice I really need to work on the rocking horse/backward swizzle and also the backward wiggle. The latter I still don't feel like I know what I'm doing but I need to not avoid it. Also I could stand to work on pushing off with my left foot more. Always more to work on! I'm really happy with what I achieved tonight though.


Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Basic 1

The Figure Skater's Website lists the Basic Eights from the US Figure Skating Association. The elements for Basic 1 are:
  • Sit on ice and stand up
  • March forward across the ice
  • Forward 2-foot glide
  • Dip
  • Forward swizzles (6-8 in a row)
  • Backward wiggles (6-8 in a row)
  • Snowplow stop
  • Rocking horse (2-3)
  • 2-foot hop in place (optional)
I have been at least introduced to all of them except the Rocking horse and the 2-foot hop in place. I'm certainly only proficient at the first 5 though (and I've not done 6-8 swizzles in a row except for my session on 5/19). I'm rather curious about the rocking horse, I'll have to look it up.

Update: Apparently a rocking horse is a combination of a forward swizzle followed by a backward swizzle. I can see how it would get that name.

Jackson Freestyle?

Currently the skates I'm considering are the Jackson Freestyle, model #2072. I expect they will run me about $170. If anyone out there has an (educated) opinion on this stuff please email me. My criteria are mostly that I want skates that will last me through my beginning phase all the way up until I start doing jumps (if that ever happens, who knows?). I want good quality skates that will give me good support and make me proud :-). The description from the Jackson website:

• 5 1/2 - 6oz PU coated leather upper.
• Leather lining
• Softer topline for added comfort
• Flex notch for added flexibility
• Contoured backstrap for improved ankle fit
• Full quarter and extra ankle padding
• Solid brass hooks won't break or bend
• PTR insole is strong, torque resistant, lightweight, won't absorb moisture
• Leather outsole for strength and support
• Anatomically designed footbed to ensure proper foot alignment and comfort
• Ultima Mark IV all purpose, high quality chrome blade attached with screws
• Made in Canada

Monday, May 26, 2003


I hoped to order new skates today. I went over to the rink at about 1:30, only to see a sign at the pro shop saying they would open at 4. I went home (it's about 6 miles from my house to the rink) and came back around 4:30. The pro shop was still closed. Disgusted, I went home and decided I'd just come back early since I was going to the public session at 7:30 anyway.

I came back around 7 and yea! the pro shop was open. I went in and talked to Jason (I'd talked to him before). He measured me and said I needed a 9 1/2. I thought that was strange since I wear 9 1/2 shoes and I'd always heard skates were sized smaller. He then pointed out a pair of Glaciers they had in stock (these are the same miserable skates I'd seen up in Chandler on Sunday). I told him I wanted something better. He went and checked his computer and discovered they actually had a display pair of boots in back stock. He went and pulled them for me. They were actually GOOD skates, Jacksons I think, with a nice blade, but they were 8 1/2 and I couldn't even quite get my foot in them. He told me later they were $900 skates anyway! So he checked his ordering computer and came up a blank -- as far as he could tell there were NO adult male skates available in his system at all. That seemed pretty absurd to both of us, so he promised he would check into it more tomorrow when everyone was back from the Memorial Day holiday, and he would call me.

That done, I went ahead and got my rental skates for my evening skate. All in all it was not a great session. In particular --

  • Every time I go skating, the first 5 minutes or so I feel almost like I've never skated before in my life. It's very disconcerting. Danni (skater mom) pointed out to me, when I told her this, that in part it's because I have different skates every time I go. This probably does explain a large part of my problem, though not entirely. Still, I'll be really glad when I get my own skates.
  • I wanted to work on some of the things I learned last Wednesday, but I didn't try the backward wiggle at all, and the snowplow stop I tried a couple of times but only half-heartedly, in part because ...
  • I was skating a little scared. I still am a smidge sore in my ribs from my fall on Friday, and I think the fact that I could feel that every time I breathed deeply meant I was just a little bit on edge. It didn't help. I could feel that a large part of my difficulties was/is that I am not steady on my feet; sometimes I can feel my weight going from back to front or vice-versa. Not good.
  • Because of the above, I didn't really want to work on my swizzles. When I fell on Friday it was while working on a swizzle (I think) and the change of where my weight rests on my foot/blade was scaring me.
  • Also, I noticed a problem I've experienced in my rollerblading as well -- I am afraid to go over a certain speed. I'm afraid that I'll lose control and fall. This in spite of the fact that on ice skates (as opposed to rollerblades) I seem to turn easily and naturally, without much thought or effort.

So it was a frustrating skate. I didn't really work on much except straight-ahead skating, but I told myself this was okay because I need to feel comfortable on the ice anyway and build my stamina.

The session was only moderately crowded, about 20 - 25 people most of the time. When I first went out the Zamboni had just resurfaced the ice and it was beautiful. Fortunately there were no colored lights or strobes tonight. There were 3 or 4 obnoxious hockey dudes but they mostly stayed away from me. Indeed, my only real distraction tonight was the 3 or 4 nubile women who, despite the 50 degree temperature, insisted (apparently) on skating in skin-tight tops with bare midriffs. Fortunately they had hulky hockey-type boyfriends to help me keep focused on my own skates! :-) Seriously, though, I read somewhere on the Net a quote from someone about skating that when she skates she can't think about anything else, and that's why skating is so great. There's some truth to that. When I'm skating, at this point at least, I really can't get distracted by anything or I will just lose it. Presumably this will improve at some point, at least for non-competitive skating.

So all in all, not my best night. I did have one brief fall (my second); I was trying to work on my push-off and trying to use my left foot to push off since that seems to be harder for me than skating on my left foot and pushing off with my right. Anyway, in the process of doing that I lost my balance (I was barely moving anyway) and came straight down on my hands and knees. It didn't hurt at all, nor did it throw me. I just got up and went on.

I'm a little frustrated but I'm reminded of what my Mom always said to me about college -- it's all about perseverance, not really about talent. For what I'm trying to accomplish that is certainly true. So I'll keep on keeping on and see how I can improve in the next few weeks. I'm really hoping getting my own skates will help my attitude and my skating, both.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

No Skates Today

Alas, my trip to Phoenix today was a bust. I got up to Polar Ice in Chandler about 2:45 and checked the place out -- it's very nice. Two rinks, like Gateway here in Tucson, but the layout is much spiffier. You can see the rinks from the lobby area through glass so it's very inviting and open.

Unfortunately when I went in the pro shop, they didn't have any adult male skates in my size. After some calling to their store in Peoria (which is a long way from Chandler, I wouldn't have had time to go there, really), the Peoria store had some of the "Glacier" model. They showed me a pair of these and... I was not impressed. They were inexpensive ($80) but they had plastic or rubber soles, and they seemed pretty soft. I didn't think I would get enough ankle support in these things and I didn't like the soles, they seemed cheap to me. The bottom line was I decided I was better off going ahead and getting my feet measured at Gateway in Tucson and ordering a good pair in. I'll do that tomorrow if possible.

In retrospect I really should have called ahead and asked, that was pretty dumb of me. I've not quite gotten it through my thick skull that there seem to be almost no adult male figure skaters, and that I'm going to have to deal with that a lot. Something to remember.

Friday, May 23, 2003

First Fall!

Yep, at 8:58 p.m. MST tonight I had my first unpremeditated fall, flat on my butt/back. It didn't hurt too badly -- I couldn't catch my breath for about 5 seconds, and my glasses went flying, but I crawled over and picked 'em up and got up and went on skating.

Tonight's skate was disappointing overall, though. There were a number of reasons:

  • I didn't get to the rink until almost 8:15. While I didn't feel tired, I skated like I was tired. Not good. I only stayed until 9:30 and that included a Zamboni break.
  • Friday night has a lot of teenagers, and loud music, and the regular lights are off and the colored lights and strobe are on. I had thought that would be fun, but in reality I found myself having a lot of trouble with the music and the lights, and especially the strobe. I couldn't really skate worth a darn until about 20 minutes or so after I got there, when they turned the lights on for some reason (thanks be to God!). In particular the strobe was very disorienting. I'm hoping I'll get over this, otherwise I'll never Make It Big! :-)
  • Besides the aforementioned teenagers, there were lots of boy hockey players who liked to go whizzing past me at high speed, often only inches from me; some of them were going really fast and would actually turn in front of me because I was going so slow. I found that kind of rude and very, very distracting.
  • The fall didn't help. It didn't hurt nearly as much as the only backward fall I had rollerblading -- on that one I whacked my head and couldn't catch my breath for about 2 minutes. This one hurt but only a bit. As I sit here my butt and back don't hurt at all, but my ribs do a little bit on my right side.
  • I had a pain in my right foot and was skating on my inside edge on that side a lot. After thinking about it a bit, I realized my right boot was too loose. I went and tightened up the laces and it was much, much better. A good lesson.
  • I felt very unsteady for some reason.

All in all it was very disappointing. Still, I knew there would be times/skates like this. I'm looking forward to Monday night when I will hopefully have fewer people to contend with and the lights will be on. I am going to Phoenix Sunday to buy skates, so hopefully I'll be working on breaking those in. That might be a bit of a challenge but at least it will be fun.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

More Cool Skating Sites

Check out How an Ice Rink Works and also the wealth of info at Don Korte's Figure Skater's Website.

Worlds 2003 Pictures

Check 'em out, they are way cool. One would be foolish to deny that there aren't a lot of awfully attractive figure skaters out there. Sometimes I wonder if that doesn't play a part, at least slightly, in some skaters' success.

Flexing and Flossing

Last night while the Zamboni was doing its thing I was thinking about spirals (which, of course, I am a long way from doing), and I tried stretching out to see how far up I can get my leg behind me. I was not at all surprised to discover I can't quite get my leg up to hip height. This morning while I was using my special periodontal mouth rinse, I found myself practicing my push-off and then working on getting my leg up and more flexible :-). I'm very amused that I just find myself doing these things, it's so not like me. I've always been fairly strong, but lacking in flexibility and stamina. There's a lot to do. I can picture using my morning floss-time to stretch out -- sometimes being single is very helpful!

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Third Lesson

For my third lesson I had the beautiful Dawn back. She is a good instructor (Jennifer from last week was good too) and is very encouraging. I think she understands where I am coming from now and so she explains things to me in terms of what's happening, which is helpful since I'm always analyzing things. Unfortunately, she told me she is going home to California for the summer so my lesson next week will be my last with her -- then presumably I'll have Jennifer for June. Dawn will be back in August (she's a student) so by that time presumably she'll see me skating much, much better. I got a chance to ask her advice on buying skates and some other things.

For today's lesson we reviewed what I had already learned. Dawn was very impressed with my progress (practice helps!). She taught me three new moves -- the snowplow stop, the push-off, and the backward wiggle. We worked on the snowplow for probably ten minutes or so, then the push-off for 5 or 8, and just a couple of quick minutes on the backward wiggle. The snowplow is coming slowly -- my lack of coordination shows in that I tend to push out one side or the other but not both together. Not good! My push-off is coming along although I tend to favor pushing off with the right foot much more than the left. I'll have to work on that. The backward wiggle will need more instruction and work, I didn't really get it.

After my half hour lesson I stayed until about 9:05, so I skated for about a full 2 hours with just a couple of short breaks (including a Zamboni break around 8 or so, yay! fresh ice!). I was pretty tuckered out by 8 though (not much sleep last night) but I stayed 'til 9 because I didn't want to waste the available ice time. For my practice time I mostly worked on my glide and swizzle and a lot of pushing off. I did a few snowplow stops but I need to do more, and I didn't practice the wiggle at all. I should be able to go skating Friday and Monday though, so that will be good.

I got a chance to talk with some of the denizens of the rink after I was done. There's Danni, who is a skater-mom. She has a son who plays hockey and her daughter Heather who is almost 6 and seems to be the rink's little star. She's very cute and skates very well. There was also Cass, mother of Tate. Tate is a young boy who's actually learning to figure skate (not hockey!) so yea Tate! And there's Nikki, who is an older (i.e not 18, she looks young 30s to me) woman who skates very beautifully. I spoke with her briefly and complimented her on her skating. She said she's only been skating for 6 months! Wow, I'd have thought it was years. Anyway she gave me some encouraging words and told me the only barrier was fear (I'm hearing that a lot). She seems really nice. Danni said she is at the rink a lot, which explains how she has learned so much in only 6 months. All in all they all seem really nice, it's kind of nice to feel like I'll be around nice people when I go skate.

I figured out why my shoulders are so tired, DUH! It's from holding my arms out from my sides for most of the night. I should have figured that out before. Anyway I am quite tired, and not nearly as elated as Monday -- I didn't have any big breakthroughs and I felt like I would have done better if I were not so tired. I probably shouldn't have stayed so long; it's going to take a while for me to get used to this level of exertion. I also keep forgetting to bring any water, which I really should. I get thirsty and it's bothersome to trudge over to the drinking fountain in my skates.

I really, really need to get some skates. Unfortunately, in checking my calendar, I don't have a free Saturday (I'm assuming it would need to be Saturday) to go up to Phoenix until June 21! Well, technically I could go June 7th after I sing for the ordination; except I believe I have to be back for a potluck at 6. Hmmph!


New blog!

Yes, I've started a new blog. The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my progress as an adult male who wants to learn to skate. My background: I'm 39, never been particularly athletic, coordination is so-so. I started learning to rollerblade about a year ago with so-so results.

I already have a blog, it's the oh-so-popular Hi! I'm Gordon Zaft, why isn't everyone?. That blog is a personal blog as well, but since it's a member of St. Blog's Parish, a webring for Catholic blogs, I thought it would be a good idea to move skating stuff to this blog -- especially since it appears there will be a lot of posts! So this blog is not specifically Catholic; it's really just about skating -- although I'm sure that from time to time I will have observations on how skating relates to my faith.

Just for completeness, here are the (ice-)skating posts from my previous blog:

Gordon's first lesson 5/7/03
Gordon's second lesson 5/14/03
Figure Skating Journal 5/15/03
Gordon's first solo practice 5/17/03
Skating obsession 5/17/03
Gordon's second practice 5/19/03
Another skating journal 5/20/03
The Sk8er Boi Blog Joke 5/20/03
Announcing this blog 5/21/03