Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Twelfth Night

Well, twelfth lesson, really, I just couldn't resist the reference. My lesson tonight was really good. No sudden breakthrough moments or anything, just good solid progress. We started out looking at my swizzles again, and Glenn seemed pleased that I am showing more bend, more push, and more power, and I'm bringing my feet (almost) together at the beginning/end of each. I say almost because my knees do touch, but apparently I'm slightly knock-kneed such that when my knees are touching my boots are not, normally. I suspect a little bit more knee-bend would make it possible.

We next worked on the backward swizzles, and again Glenn wants me to bring my boots actually together. I'm not sure if this is really a swizzle issue, or an issue of the backward glide. We spent some time where I would bring my boots together, he'd push me backward, and then I would do a swizzle and bring my boots together again. It's hard to do, I really don't want to put them together -- it feels very unstable. Anyway, he got me to do it a couple of times and he suggested I work on it.

We also worked more on my one-foot glide. He pointed out that I'm tending to lean to get my weight over my foot, which then makes me unstable. I need to keep my shoulders even and just get my hip out more. We worked this at the boards and then he pulled me forward and had me do it. I need to practice this more, especially on my right foot!

We also looked at the 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle. From talking to other skaters, I gather this is going to feed in to doing a two-foot spin (among other things), just as my two-foot turn also will be needed in order to learn to do the two-foot spin. Anyway, he had me practice them on the big hockey circle and emphasized that I need to keep my head up, my weight over the non-swizzling foot, and keep a good posture.

Finally, we looked at the two-foot turn. I was so pleased to be able to show him my progress. We worked on it a bit and he basically reiterated things I already knew, except that he told me it's okay to bring my leading arm across my chest during the preparation. Previously I'd just held it forward. The point about the turn is that I need to be more focused so that I don't hesitate. I just need to wind up and go and be confident!

At the end of my lesson I asked Glenn about the thrice weekly coffee club at the rink. He said if I can get the time, it's worthwhile, it's only adult skaters and it's only $8 for 1.5 hours of ice time and half hour group lesson. I'm going to try to make it a Friday routine, work permitting.

After my lesson I stayed another hour and a half and worked over pretty much everything. The ice was not very crowded, and after the 8 p.m. Z-break it was in nice shape. I was feeling very good about things and I worked most stuff. I STILL need to work my right foot more, though, gotta stop chickening out on that one. Also, it occurred to me I have not tried the turn clockwise, it's always been counterclockwise. I'll have to give that a try. With luck I'll be skating Friday at coffee club, and also Saturday I'm going to have a makeup lesson since I missed the first one of the semester due to being out of town.

All in all I'm really pleased with my progress.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003


I went to the evening public session last night, and I had a very good practice. It was a bit crowded at first (a church youth group showed up) but more or less okay. After the first hour or so it was less crowded. I stayed for about an hour and a half and I spent the first hour or so just working on my stroking and practicing all my old stuff. I've noticed it still takes me a while to get warmed up to where I feel I can do stuff. I guess that's not surprising.

After I was good and warmed up I spent some time practicing my two-foot turn. My fear of falling was very much in evidence the first time I tried it (maybe I am braver than I thought), but I knew that if I couldn't do this I'd get nowhere. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I did it! I spent about half an hour practicing the turns (among other things, not constantly). I probably did 20+ turns, and I would say I did 4 or 5 that were just right. The remainder had the following problems in varying degrees:
  • Didn't keep head forward
  • Didn't keep left hand extended backward
  • Didn't bend-unbend-bend knees correctly
  • Didn't get full 180 degree rotation (either 90 or 120 degrees)

I suspect the last problem is really a manifestation of the other 3 problems. All of these turns were front-to-back, and counterclockwise, moving pretty slowly forward coming into them. I was really, really pleased with my progress. I think one of the main reasons it's so exciting to me is that in some ways it's my first "move" in a way that all the other stuff I do is not really a "move", i.e. it's a deliberate and hopefully graceful motion that has to be done just-so.

On a side note, I had two falls last night. The first was the typical "oops", where I was stroking (I think), and caught my toepick and fell forward. Not a big deal. The second one could have been more serious. I was working on my turn and something went wrong (not sure what) and I started to do the flailing-preparation-to-fall-backwards-seriously thing, when I managed to crouch down and turn it into a forward fall on my hands that didn't hurt at all. I'm not sure how I did that but I'm really pleased since it may mean I'm learning to handle falls better and to build better responses than the usual instinctual ones. I think it's a good sign.

Friday, July 25, 2003

I Am Stupid

I had decided to try the Friday night public session, since I really need to skate three times a week and the Saturday session I attended last week was pretty crowded. Well, that was a dumb idea. Regular readers might remember I had my first bad fall at a Friday night public session. So I was fighting the it's-going-to-happen-again fear, since that was a nasty backwards fall. In addition, for some reason I had hope that since I have been skating a lot since then that somehow the lights etc. would not bother me. Well, they still do. Not as bad as back then, to be sure -- but still it was very distracting and I found it hard to do much. I could swizzle okay, but my stroking was lacking in... commitment? confidence? Certainly lacking in power and assertiveness.

It was not a total waste. First off I did manage to skate under the circumstances, which is a good thing. Secondly, there was an experienced skater there (didn't catch her name but she was doing some nice turns, crossovers, spirals, and a good Ina Bauer) so I took the opportunity to ask her about the two-foot turn. It had occurred to me that I wasn't entirely sure which direction I was supposed to wind up looking when I was done -- over my shoulder (it's front-to-back) in the direction I'm still moving, or backwards. She took a moment to run through it and said that I should be facing 'forwards', that is, over my shoulder in the direction I'm moving. I'm glad I asked since that wasn't the way I was practicing it on dry land, and I don't want to learn it wrong. I did try to practice it against the boards briefly, but not fully since I was still hanging on to the boards. I'm hoping Monday night I can be brave enough to try it for real.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Gordon Meets Two-Foot Turn

Tonight's lesson was great. I got to the rink earlier than usual, so I had some time to actually warm up and get my legs under me. For this lesson we started out checking out my progress on my stroking. Glenn pronounced me better than last week, and urged me to continue working on bending my knees more and spending more time on each foot, a leisurely stroke that makes me feel the one-foot balance.

From there we went on to check out my forward swizzles. Glenn had me do a swizzle and then put my feet actually together (touching!) and glide. This made me very nervous. We did that backwards too. He says that I need to relax, that my glides are not as effective as they should be because I pull back from them. I think he's probably right.

Following that, he spent some time showing me what the different turns (3-turn, bracket, rocker, and counter) all look like, as well as the mohawk and choctaw. Then we went over to the boards and he had me step through... a choctaw, I think, just to see what it looked like. Following that he had me step through a simple two-foot turn at the boards, and then after practicing that standing still a couple of times he balanced me while I tried a couple while moving very slowly. The counterclockwise two foot turn (front to back) involves first, extending right hand in front and left in back as preparation, then simultaneously 1) swiveling hips counterclockwise, 2) hopping/lifting knees/legs up, and then checking the turn. I did a couple that were very rough, but I'm not able to do one by myself at this point. I was happy to be introduced to this new skill, though, it's very exciting.

During the lesson I had my first fall in front of an instructor -- unplanned fall, that is. It was, I think, while doing a forward swizzle or something, just a quick forward fall. He said it was a good fall, which made me happy. At the close of the lesson he asked me to continue to work on the stroking and glides and other skills, and to practice the turn against the boards. Maybe if I'm very brave I'll try one on Monday, if I'm feeling up to falling.

After my lesson I stayed for another hour and a half or so, working on the various things I'd been taught. For some reason they never Zamboni'd after the school time, so the ice got progressively disgusting. It wasn't that crowded, but still by 9 p.m. the ice was really bad and I was tired so I left.

I had a nice conversation with Dana, one of the young freestyle skaters. She has a loose blade so it's concerning her until she can get it fixed. It was nice to be able to actually hold a conversation and skate, so I must be improving. I also had a brief conversation with Jennifer, one of the other coaches I'd had before. She said I am looking better and skating faster. It's nice to hear. Comments like that make me want to work harder.

I think the things I need to work most on at this point are still bending my knees more, and relaxing and being more flexible. I am definitely feeling more comfortable on the ice, which is really nice to see. I had a chance at the end of my lesson to talk with Glenn about my goals and so forth. I told him that I really wanted to skate well -- not to have a zillion things I can do sloppily, but to do what I can do, and do it gracefully. He responded positively to this and repeated that I am not a natural skater, but with work and perseverance I can be an adept skater. I think we are on the same wavelength so this is good.


Monday, July 21, 2003

More Perseverance

I went to the public session tonight to practice. I got there at 7:30 and stayed until 9:10 or so, with a Z-break around 8:10. It was not too crowded. I spent most of my time working on my stroking, although I briefly touched on most of my other "skills". My stroking is indeed improving. I concentrated on the stuff Glenn had told me, bending my knees more and being more deliberate about my movement. I also worked a bit on my forward swizzles, since Glenn had told me to bring my feet closer together at the end, to bend my knees more, and to feel the push from my knees before I turn my feet out. I'm getting a bit of power from them now, it's pretty neat. My stroking is improving. I tried a few one foot glides, all but one on my left foot. They are not much longer than last week, but they feel a lot steadier. It appears that Glenn's tactic to work on my stroking and let the glide improve through that is right. I'm also feeling a lot more confident on the ice and not nearly so dorky, which helps.

My only self-criticism is that it took me about 20 minutes or so to warm up today! I felt very stiff when I started. I think that's because I hadn't skated since last Wednesday. I really need to get in three practices a week (evenly spaced) or it seems like I lose my edge, my nerve a bit.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ice Dance In My Future?

I forgot to mention in my post from last night that Glenn gave me the hard sell for ice dance last night (he's an ice dancer, he won gold at US Nationals in the Junior Ice Dance in 1972). He explained the different categories of skating and said that I'd never be a pairs skater (gee, thanks) but that I could do ice dance after I've learned the basics, etc. In some ways it was kind of funny. I don't know whether I will want to do ice dance in the future or not, that's too far out for me to see. I would like to think that I can learn at least some jumps and spins and some nice turns.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Tenth Lesson

I had my tenth lesson tonight. Glenn seemed very impressed by progress from last week. I don't know if he didn't expect that an adult would really practice, or just that he didn't think *I* would, or just that I made a lot of progress. To be honest, while I thought I had made some progress, I didn't think it was anything to get excited about.

Our lesson consisted mostly of working on the same things as last week. He looked at my swizzles again and he really wants me to bend my knees more and push with the knees and *then* turn out the feet and push from the back of the blade. We also worked on the glide, which is coming. Finally, we worked on my stroking, which really made me happy since I'm tired of feeling like a poky dork around the rink during the public sessions. He confirmed what I wrote yesterday about bending my knees, and told me to work on it for next week; especially, to stroke each foot in turn and be somewhat graceful and leisurely about returning the stroking foot next to the skating foot. In other words, for that brief time I'm skating on one foot, and presumably the longer I take to replace my stroking foot the more comfortable I'll be on one foot.

After my lesson I worked for another 1.5 hours or so on the various things I mentioned above. There was a Z-break around 8 p.m., so since I never got any dinner I went and had a light dinner at Little Anthony's at the Rink (the rink restaurant). It was better than I expected, and since I ordered the special it was not too much to eat and inexpensive as well. After dinner I went back and skated for another 45 minutes or so.

I felt more social tonight, and spent some time talking with other folks. José, the adult freestyle skater I've mentioned before, was working on stuff as usual. We have a little in-joke now -- he'll skate up to me and say "jump!" or maybe it's "jump?" and I say "not yet!" It's kind of fun. I left the rink around 9:15 and noticed I was more tired than usual. I don't know if it's that I worked harder than usual (I am working on bending my knees more) or just coincidence. I felt pretty good about it though.



I went to the evening session tonight and skated for about 1.5 hours. I worked on the one foot glide for about an hour, and I made some significant progress. I had quite a number of 6-second glides, and a couple of 8-seconds or more -- all of them on my left foot though. For some reason I'm still petrified about the right foot, and I decided to leave it alone until I make more progress on the left (we'll see what Glenn says about that tomorrow though!). I would not say I have it down yet, but it's coming. The biggest differences in what I did tonight seem to be that I'm bending my knee more, and that I'm getting my weight placement back-to-front more centered. If my weight is too far forward I can feel my bottom toepick starting to scrape, which at best will slow me down and worst will make me fall. Too far back and I feel like I'm going to lose my balance. Anyway, I have a better feel for it now, which is good. I think I'll definitely have it in a few more practices.

The other thing that was better tonight, kind of just in passing, is my stroking and speed. I was going a bit faster than I usually do and it was okay. It occurred to me that I look down too much, and that if I look down while stroking I get more freaked about my speed. So, I tried to look at the boards, or higher, and that did seem to help a bit. Good stuff!

Monday, July 14, 2003


It just occurred to me that I've not mentioned falls in the last week or longer. Trust me, reader, when I say that it's not because they are not happening. Rather, they are a commonplace now, I fall once or twice every session, for the most part. For example, on Saturday I fell twice, once on hands & knees, and once just on my hands (sort of a really large push-up). For the most part my falls are forward and don't hurt. I'll blog about them if they are notable, but otherwise just assume I'm falling from time to time and it's okay.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Saturday Session

I had some time free today and it was insanely hot, so I went to the afternoon public session. It was more crowded than the evening sessions I'm used to, but not too bad.

I skated for about 2 1/4 hours, with time out for a Z-break. The ice was not too bad, except that (presumably because of the extreme temperatures) there was some amount of water on the surface. I worked mostly on the same stuff I worked on on Wednesday, my 1 foot glide and the 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle. The latter are in great shape. The glide is... coming. For a couple of moments today I actually had it, or at least I thought I did. I could not do it consistently, though. I probably need more speed. Also, I pretty much only tried my left foot. For some reason I had an irrational fear about my right foot. I'll have to get over that. I have Monday night (might be Tuesday though) to work on it some more before my lesson Wed.

I had a chance to talk to a new skater I'd never met before. I didn't catch her name. She looks to be late 20s or early 30s. She said she's been skating for 3 years and is in Freestyle 3/4. I'd never seen her before because she is in the Saturday classes and apparently only skates on Saturday. She expressed some frustration because she's been stuck at FS 3/4 for a year or so. She undoubtedly needs more practice time. She said she lives on the way northwest side though, and it's quite a trek from there to the rink. I feel lucky that I live relatively close. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. Anyway, we both skated until the end of the session and she gave me a cheery "good luck with your skating!" which was nice.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Strength And Fitness

I've been thinking about my overall strength, fitness and flexibility. This was occasioned by a couple of things -- first, I work on the 6th floor of a building and I walked up the stairs today on my way back for lunch. While I wouldn't say I was out of breath, it was certainly more tiring that I would have thought. Second, I've been thinking about some of the things Glenn said to me, as well as my perceptions, that I need to be better at relaxing and to grow stronger. Third, I was playing around last week or the week before with seeing if I could do the "shoot-the-duck" position (just on dry land, not ice). Yow! That's hard! I need to be more flexible and stronger if I hope to do some of these things.

In order to work on these things I'm thinking about a some things I could do... one is to take the stairs up to work every time -- certainly doable. I am also thinking about going hiking/walking more often. Tucson is a great place for that, there are a zillion trails around. Another possibility is a yoga class I might take with a friend. If any readers have taken yoga I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

New Instructor

I had my first Basic 2 lesson last night. My new instructor, Glenn, is terrific. I'd guess him to be in his 50s. He said he has been teaching for 30 (?) years or more and competed nationally. I'd say he's definitely not in the "kinder, gentler" coaching style -- more like the "lay it all out" mode. That is to say, he's not going to sugarcoat anything. The first thing he had me do was just kind of show him where I'm at and what I can do. He then said something about me being too tight (which is certainly true) and later said something like, "You're not a very adept (? maybe it was "natural") skater, you know that, right?" To which I responded "yes" since I do know that (see above about "lay it all out"). I am the only one in the class so I'm effectively getting a 1/2 hour lesson for $12!

Anyway, we had a really good lesson. The two things he had me focus on were 1) what I believe are forward 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle (actually a Basic 3 skill) and 2) those darn 1-foot glides. To work on my glide he several times balanced me while I leaned to see how to get on the outside edge. He also pulled me forward and supported me while I tried to get on the flat or the outside edge -- as I suspected, when I was curving to the right it's because I was on the inside edge. I did manage to glide on the flat briefly a couple of times, so at least I know sort of what it should feel like. It's further over than one wants to be -- like they say, on your outside edge, there's nothing but air between you and the ice. The best thing he corrected for me is that it's not about turning the blade at all -- I need to stay straight up and down, but lean my whole body so that my sternum is roughly over my ankle. At the end of the lesson he left me with those things and told me to work on them. He also suggested that I work on my weaker side twice as much as the strong side.

After the lesson I stayed to practice until 9. I should mention that when I arrived the ice was in really frightful condition (ironic that I praised it in my previous blog!) -- apparently they had busloads of school kids in the afternoon session. Anyway, it was really, really bad. They finally had a Z-break at 8 p.m. (he had to go over it twice, that's how bad it was!) after which it was much nicer.

I worked on the skills that Glenn had taught me, with a little time spent just stroking etc. Since the session was a little crowded it was kind of frustrating trying to practice some of this stuff, until I finally just went out in the middle of the ice and gave up on trying to be in the traffic pattern. That helped a lot. I worked on my 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle for quite some time. Swizzling CCW with the right foot was easy, as I expected. Clockwise with the left foot was monstrously difficult, and heeding Glenn's advice I spent a fair amount of time on it until it felt pretty natural -- by which time my left knee, while not in pain, definitely felt a little exercised! I then worked on my glide for a while and made some significant progress although it's still not there yet. I'll need to practice more between now and Wednesday, that's for sure. I left the session pleased with my progress.

I had some time to speak with José a bit, who has his freestyle class (with Jennifer) the same time as my lesson. He's pretty neat, and I do like watching him skate. It's nice not to be the only male around. I also got to talk briefly with Dana, who I mentioned in an earlier post. I think I had mentioned I thought she was between 22-29, but the school list says she's 17. So much for my powers of observation! I also talked with some of the skater moms etc. I'm really enjoying the social aspect of skating although I don't really know any of these folks too well at this point.


Monday, July 07, 2003


I went to tonight's public session at Gateway. I got there right as the Zamboni was finishing up. I love fresh ice! I skated for about an hour and a half. I spent a good half hour to 45 minutes just working through stuff I already know -- for some reason I felt a little unsure and unsteady. I don't know if it's just trying to adjust to home ice again, or what. I have to say that for sheer surface, the ice at Gateway is generally pretty darn nice. I can't (usually) complain about that too much. The session was not too crowded but there were three obnoxious hockey boys doing the usual sorts of antics. In my uncharitable moments I really wish I could make toepicks magically appear on their skates.

After I finally felt a bit more warmed up and okay, I spent a good chunk of time working on the 1-foot glide again. I made a little bit of progress. In particular I worked on my right foot some, which I had previously pretty much stayed away from. I was able to briefly skate straight on my right foot, and with only a small curve on my left. I count this as progress; but I still have to keep slogging through and wait for my Eureka moment on this. I'll be really glad when I get this, it's coming hard.

I checked the Gateway website this afternoon and noticed that the July/August skate school schedule is up. Apparently the instructor for Adult 1/2 is Glenn. Skater mom Danni said that no one showed up for that class last week, so I guess I will have him to myself. She said he's pretty good. I guess I'll find out for myself on Wednesday.

Basic 2

I've been looking ahead to what I'll be learning in the next two months. Basic 2 consists of:

  • Forward 1-foot glides (R&L)
  • Backward 2-foot glide
  • Backward swizzles (6-8 in a row)
  • 2-foot turn from fwd to backward in place
  • Moving snowplow stop
  • Fwd alternating 1/2 swizzle pumps, in a straight line (slalom-like pattern)

I already have the backward swizzles down cold. The 1-foot glide is a sticking point, which is disturbing to me since skating on one foot is so basic to pretty much everything else. I'll have to work on it tonight and see how I do. I'm not clear how a "moving snowplow stop" differs from the snowplow I'm already doing. The swizzle pumps should be fun. Rachel showed me these at my testing lesson.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Another Skating Blog

I came across another skating blog, Rachel Skates. I'm a little jealous, it seems like she learns a lot faster than I do. I guess that's just the way it goes...

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Ice Heaven

I went skating this morning at the Rink in Addison. I got there a little before 8 for the morning public session, to discover that -- yes! -- I was the only skater there for the public session. There were skaters next door on the full size rink for a freestyle session, but I was the only one on the small rink.

It was a pretty good session. I skated for two full hours. The session didn't start off too well, with three falls in the first ten minutes or so -- all, I think, from catching my left toepick; the second one whacked my left knee hard enough I'll probably have a good (small) bruise later. After that I was a little reluctant to try anything challenging for a while, so I put in some extensive time working on my backward swizzles. This was particularly nice since I didn't have to worry about hitting anyone or being hit. I worked on them until they are almost second nature; they actually feel easier, I think, than the forward ones. Finally after an hour and twenty minutes I had enough nerve to work on my one foot glides, which I did (not solidly, but somewhat sporadically) for the remaining time. I didn't make a whole lot of progress except to realize that my problems are probably a combination of not tucking my other leg close enough to my skating leg, and also that my weight is a little too far back on my skating foot. The last time or two I did manage to make it a bit straighter and I didn't curve so much. I will be skating again on Monday so that's what I'll work on again. All in all it turned pretty well, and I'm really glad I got out of bed and made the effort.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Get Me To The Rink On Time

(to the tune of "Get Me To The Church On Time")

I'm going skating in the morning,
BEEP! BEEP! the alarm is going to chime,
No time for sleeping,
Zambonis are sweeping,
But get me to the rink on time.

I've got to be there in the morning,
Right when the ice is good and prime,
Stifling a last yawn,
Shoving my skates on ,
But get me to the rink on time.

If I am gliding,
I'll be a clown,
If I skate backwards,
Then I'll fall down!

Oh, I'm going skating in the morning,
BEEP! BEEP! the alarm is going to chime,
I'll try not to fizzle,
I'll practice my swizzle
And get me to the rink,
Get me to the rink,
For Gawd's sake,
Get me to the rink, on time.