Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

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

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Saturday Zoo

I went to the afternoon public session today, after my yoga class. It was a zoo as usual, but it was nice because there were several people I knew there. I was feeling a bit aimless but I did work on my T-stop some, plus my right-foot-glide, my two-foot turn, and all the usual basics (stroking, forward & backward swizzles).

I finally got my nerve up to work on the forward crossovers a little, but I didn't do very much with it. For some reason I'm feeling a real mental block with this, or I just am not able to flex or get my weight placement right, or something. It's frustrating because when I look at the things I most need to get under my belt, it's the backward edges and the forward crossovers. Of those two, the crossovers are the only thing left that I have to accomplish in order to feel like I'm at least a competent "ordinary" skater. The back edges are of course foundational for all the stuff I hope to do in the future.

I'm hoping that we will turn to these in class next week. In talking to one of the the other skaters today I discovered that private lessons here may be quite a bit cheaper than I thought. I may be able to afford them more readily than I'd imagined. I will need to give this more thought, although when I would be able to schedule private lessons (and have good ice time for them) is another matter.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Mohawk Madness

I went to coffee club today. As usual I spent some time warming up, working on various things etc. and just enjoying the ice.

When it came time for the lesson, there were four of us (a bit more than usual). She asked me what I'd been learning in my lessons and I said 3-turns and mohawks. I then took a moment to ask why I was being taught these things when I couldn't even do a back edge yet. Of course after I asked it and saw her reaction, I realized I'd committed a faux pas. Coaches aren't supposed to criticize other coaches, so all she could say (and did say) was something along the lines of that must be his approach or his decision or some such. I apologized for putting her in an awkward position.

So we spent our lesson working on mohawks, which proved to be quite helpful. For a practice technique she asked me to just skate the inside edge, rotate the upper body, and place the free foot against the skating foot but not actually do the turn. We started skating on the right foot, and it was hard for me to turn (my RF edges are a bit weak still). I could either turn, or place the foot, but not (seemingly) both. We tried it on the left and it was much better. It took a while to get the feel of turning out the free foot far enough, it certainly doesn't come naturally. Still, I made some progress and I know what I need to work on.

After the lesson she mentioned to us that the USFSA testing session was next Sunday (Oct. 5) on Rink 2, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and that we were welcome to come watch. I'm going to try to make it, I'm sure it will be quite instructive and educational for me. Maybe I can drag some of my classmates along too.

Thursday, September 25, 2003


I had a 6 p.m. meeting last night so I wasn't able to get to the rink until about 10 minutes before my lesson (instead of my usual 30). After getting my skates on this left me about 3 minutes to warm up... not optimal for me. As our lesson started, Glenn observed that 9/24 was his 49th birthday, so we wished him a happy birthday.

The class seems to now consist just of myself, Ashley and Luz. The other girl, Desiree, seems to have dropped out. Luz seems pretty determined (she has bought her own skates) and Ashley is also reasonably obsessed. So it is turning into a good class. After a little bit of edge work, Glenn went into reviewing the Mohawk we'd learned last week. He worked with me a bit on it, and I think my biggest problem is really just pure fear. I can do a two-foot turn and really a Mohawk is not that horribly different; it's certainly something I am capable of doing. I just need to make up my mind and just do it.

After some time on the Mohawk we went into learning a 3-turn, in this case the LFO. For some reason I was having considerable problems with this as well. It seems mostly that when I'm balancing on one foot I have problems convincing my upper body to move. Or at least if I have time to think about it, I do.

After the lesson I stayed until about 9:20 or so, working on miscellaneous stuff. After a fair amount of repetition I was able to do the LFO 3-turn with some success, except that as soon as I do it I'm in trouble since I still can't do a back edge. I discussed this with Ashley and we both agreed we need to talk to Glenn about this. Glenn did say at one point that he was teaching us this stuff in order to stretch us a bit, but it still seems to me that we need to have a firm back edge before spending more time on turns like this.

The rest of the session was a lot of fun, as between myself, Ashley, and José (who showed up for the public session) we had a lot of good conversation while still working stuff up pretty thoroughly. It's made the class a lot more fun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


I went to the public session tonight. It was a rainy, stormy night in Tucson, due to remnants of Hurricane Marty. The result was not merely an uncrowded session, but pure heaven -- I had the entire rink to myself for the entire session!

Wow! I spent the whole two hours there, of course, and worked through just about everything (except skipping, once more, those darn forward crossovers). Especially, I spent well over half the time skating backward, both backward swizzles around the rink, and backward 1/2 swizzle pumps on the big middle circle. I also spent a good deal of time working on my backward 1-foot glide against the board. The technique I'm using is to do a backward 1/2 swizzle pump in a straight line backward, then when my feet are together after a stroke, pick up the free foot in front of the skating foot. I made some good progress with this, and a couple of times at least I was able to stay on the backward glide for 3 or so seconds. In doing this I also determined that part of my problem is that when I'm skating backward I'm tending to have my weight very far forward, which becomes a problem when I try to glide because then my skates really want to turn! I could especially feel this on the back 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle, and I spent some time while doing them on trying to balance my weight on the inside foot better, more evenly front-to-back. I think I made some progress.

All in all it was just a really fun session. I was reminded of my July 3rd session when I was visiting Dallas and had the rink there to myself. It's interesting to compare where I'm at in the 11 weeks since then. I am so much more confident on the ice now. I have a lot more power and speed. I can glide on either foot, do a turn, a T-stop, and a forward slalom. All my skating is generally light years from where it was then. I've come a long way.

Monday, September 22, 2003

My Skating Obsession

I have been thinking a lot about why I do this. That is, why am I skating? The reason I've been asking this is probably four things:
  1. I turned 40 last week.
  2. I was talking with my friend Amber Lee about it, and she says I'm more obsessed about skating now than when I started.
  3. I was watching the great skating movie, "The Cutting Edge" again tonight. There's the great scene there where Kate asks, "why are we doing this?"
  4. I re-read the Julie Learns To Skate Diary.

In talking about this with Amber Lee and just my own thinking, I came to a number of conclusions. At some point, I will be in one of the following positions:
  • I get frustrated and give up skating entirely
  • I get to a certain point and I just cannot improve, and remain at some plateau
  • I have some injury or life change that prevents me from skating, or at least from putting serious time into it.

Of these, the last will certainly happen to me at some point, although perhaps not for a long time. I think the first is fairly unlikely. So the middle point is probably going to hit first. The question is, how will I deal with that? In Julie Learns To Skate Diary she worked hard for about 2.5 years but seemed to get to a plateau and got frustrated. I think about this a lot. On one hand it seems like I have had to struggle a lot more for progress than she did, or than others I see around me who seem to pick up things more readily. I have to remind myself that I've never been particularly athletic so these things are always going to take more work. It worries me though. I'm hopeful that the effort I've had to put in so far will help me to be more pragmatic about my own abilities (or lack thereof).

So at some point I will reach a plateau that I can't get off no matter how hard I try. What will I do then? I don't know. I guess in part it depends on my life circumstances and how I feel about what I'm doing. If I am still learning and growing, if I still enjoy skating then I suppose I'll continue to skate even if I'm not improving. I guess the optimist (or my stubborn nature) says that surely if I keep working I'll keep improving. I've always said that my goal isn't so much to be doing jumps and spins but to skate well, with good form, and to feel like I'm competent. I think that is a pretty reachable goal. Furthermore I find that for me skating is sort of like dancing -- when there's a good song playing I really love to skate. If I have more skills in skating I'll have more ways to express that love, to express myself. Given that, I'm hopeful that I'll be skating until I'm physically unable to do so.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Sunday at the Zoo

I went to the public session today; as usual it was a zoo. Still, I spent the full 3 hours there (minus a Z-break) and it was a very productive session. I worked on pretty much the full list of stuff, with the exception of forward crossovers. For some reason I just had a mental block where I couldn't convince myself to work on that. I decided that I'd let it go this time and work on other stuff. I was rewarded with getting my RF edges really, really solid. I realized that I had been (as usual) trying too hard, and had been putting too much weight on my right three toes, trying to force my weight to the right place. The result (as Glenn had warned a while back, but I didn't make the right connection) was that I tended to turn the front of the blade, thus always getting an inside edge. When I let go of it and just felt my weight solidly on the ball of the foot, boom! it was there. I even was able to do some nice outside RFO edges on a circle. I also briefly looked at the Mohawk against the boards, but wasn't brave enough to try one. Finally, I spent some time working on my backward left-foot glide against the boards, and had a little progress. Being able to grab the boards if I think I need 'em might be enough to get me to do what I need to do. I'll have to experiment with that soon.

While I was hanging out at center ice working on my pushoff, one of the younger figure skaters came over and started chatting with me. We introduced ourselves, and Lisa (that's her name) observed that it was hard to get much done when it's so crowded, etc. Considering that she is a much better skater than I (I'd guess she's at Freestyle 5/6, or maybe better), I felt really pleased that she accepts me as "one of the gang." It's a good feeling.

My classmate Luz was at the session and asked me some questions about stuff from class. While we were chatting she mentioned she hadn't fallen yet, which is pretty surprising. Anyway, just before the end of the session she started to skate toward the exit, tripped, and fell. It wasn't a bad fall, and she got up right away. It was pretty funny, because she was calling to her daughter (who also skates) "I fell! I fell!" like it was the greatest thing in the world. Skating does strange things to your perspective :-).

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Yoga Class

I had my first yoga class today. I decided to sign up for yoga because others had told me it would help me with flexibility, balance, core strength, and relaxation; all things that I need to improve in order to be a better skater. Based on my first class today I think it's going to be a very positive thing. I was really struck by just how many of the positions and stretches and so forth are either the exact same positions for various skating moves, or are very similar -- for example one of the Warrior positions is very similar to a check position. All in all it was a good workout and I think it's going to positively impact my skating once I'm further into it.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Coffee Club Crossovers

I actually made it to coffee club today, and despite the fact I skated Wednesday and Thursday nights I was fine (although I didn't do anything particularly taxing). The ice was particularly nice today... there's something about good, fresh ice that is just a rush. It's hard to describe. On fresh ice you feel like you could glide about forever. Indeed, I had a pushoff today that I glided on my left foot for over 35 feet; and it wasn't that great a pushoff, even.

During the lesson Cecilia asked the 3 of us what we wanted to work on, and I said forward crossovers, so we did. We worked on doing a LFO edge, and just putting the right foot on the inside of the left foot and flexing it. Once we got that of course we had to put the right foot on the ice. I was able to do that somewhat okay, but then of course she wanted us to glide in that position for a bit and I just wanted to immediately pick up my left foot. Part of the trick is that you have to flex your crossing foot so that it's not tilted forward when it touches the ice -- otherwise your toe-pick will catch. So you need to flex your ankle so that it's parallel to the ice, then put it down. The other hard part was that you want to be on an inside edge when the crossing foot hits the ice, so you need to rotate your ankle a bit to make that happen. I'm having trouble with that.

After some time on that we went on to work on skating backward some more, which I certainly need to do. Once more into the backward 1/2 swizzles on a circle! They are improving, though. I really need to probably spend 15-20 minutes on them at every practice. It's just hard because the hockey circles tend to be in the traffic area so that only leaves the middle circle or doing it ad-hoc.

When I was leaving I was talking with Nicole and Cecilia a bit. Nicole was going to have her pre-bronze MITF test in a couple of weeks but they've pushed it back. She's disappointed but I'm sure it will work out fine in the long run. Maybe that will be me in a year.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


I went to the public session tonight. I usually don't go skating two days in a row, but I had planned on going skating with one of my classmates (although she couldn't come). It was a really nice skate -- the ice was in great shape (freshly resurfaced!) and not very crowded at all. I more-or-less went through my practice schedule and did everything there. No great breakthroughs for the most part, but some small progress on my backward 1-foot glide. I did some practicing of that against the boards and did a little better. Some good two-foot turns too. Worked on crossovers but I'm still very clumsy -- I know it needs to be more deliberate in the change of foot and mine is not at all right now.

The one major breakthrough is that toward the end of the evening I decided to spend some time on my T-stop (it's on my list of fun stuff). I practiced that against the boards and something just clicked (and it wasn't my blades!). I now have a pretty good T-stop, although it's not entirely perfect. Still, I did several really good ones in a row, so I know it's not just an accident. The secret seemed to be both turning my ankle out so that I ensure getting the outside edge of the braking skate, and most importantly really squeezing my feet together as I put the braking skate down. I think what was happening before was that I wasn't squeezing enough, and so as I put the braking skate down it would get pulled away from the skating foot heel and then catch the inside edge. So squeezing as I put it down seems to work. It's very cool :-).

Since I skated Wed. and tonight I don't know if I'll go to coffee club tomorrow or not. I'd like to since I'd like to work with Cecilia on my backward skating at the lesson, and also observe Nicole's lesson with Anna to see what she's like. Work is likely to be very busy tomorrow though, so I may not make it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


I had my 20th lesson today. For our lesson it was myself and Ashley and Luz; Desiree didn't attend. We looked briefly at forward stroking and edges on a circle, then spent the bulk of our lesson learning a mohawk (open right inside mohawk). I'd been exposed to a mohawk before but only briefly. We looked at it against the boards, and then Glenn helped each of us try one out while he held our hands. I sort of got the hang of it but I don't think I can do one myself.

What I don't understand is why we are learning a mohawk when we can't hold a back edge yet?! It makes no sense to me...

For the rest of the practice time I worked on a variety of things. Since it wasn't too crowded I spent a fair amount of time working on backward swizzles and backward 1/2 swizzle pumps on a line. I also spent a fair amount of time working on the mohawk against the boards and I am starting to get the idea. I spent some time on pushoffs (slightly improved) and my right foot glide. My right foot glide is much improved and is finally starting to come more easily and automatically. It's still light years behind the left, but much improved. I also had a little bit of success on doing a backward 1-foot glide. I managed a couple of times to glide for about 3 seconds on my left back inside edge. It's progress. I also worked briefly on crossovers. I really should spend a good amount of time on them since I know they are key.

There was no Z-break tonight, so I stayed until 9:30 although I did have dinner at the rink snack bar around 8:45 or so.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Practice Outline

I decided to try my hand at an outline for my practice time. "Fun stuff" is just stuff I'm playing with, and "end of session" is stuff I can do even when I'm a bit tired. "Uncrowded session" is stuff that I don't feel safe doing unless the rink is pretty quiet. The sub-points are particular things to emphasize.

  • stroking
    • power
    • extension
    • knee bend
    • rhythmic & graceful
    • feet to neutral position between strokes
    • no leaning/lunging
  • forward swizzles
    • knee bend
    • feet touching between strokes
    • push outgoing, pull incoming
  • forward 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle (CW & CCW)
    • weight on inside foot
    • head up!
    • back arm up, front arm down
    • powerful strokes
    • knee bend
    • feet together between strokes
  • left foot glide
    • extension
    • pointed toe
    • knee bend
Main Session

  • speed/stamina stroking
    • as much speed as I'm able/as I dare
    • sustained effort
    • other stroking points as above
  • forward crossovers (CCW & CW)
    • good check position
    • deliberate
    • smooth
  • two-foot turn (CCW & CW)
    • look up!
    • don't drop front shoulder
    • down-up-down
    • more speed
Uncrowded Sessions

  • backward swizzles
    • knee bend
    • hands at normal position, not back
    • don't lean forward
    • feet together between strokes
  • backward 1/2 swizzle pumps on a line or circle (L & R foot)
    • knee bend
    • weight on inside/non-swizzling foot
    • look up
    • feet together between strokes
  • backward 1-foot glide
    • pick up foot for more than 2 seconds :-)
Fun Stuff

  • T-stop
  • lunge?
  • forward slalom
End of Session

  • left-foot snowplow stop (fwd & backwd)
  • right foot glide
  • push-off
    • look up!
    • don't lunge
    • knee bend
  • fwd edges on a circle
    • good push-off
    • knee bend
    • lean
    • control

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Sunday Zoo

I went to the public session this afternoon since I will not be able to skate Monday or Tuesday nights due to choir rehearsals. I didn't wind up getting on the ice until almost 2. It was somewhat crowded, but not too many people. However, it had a high proportion of little and not-so-little kids with those stupid "EZSkater" things that are dangerous and a pain in the neck. If you've never seen one, they are little contraptions made of metal tubing that provide a sort of a "walker-on-ice" for little kids. That's fine except the not-so-little kids like to use them too, and they wind up throwing them around the ice. And of course the little kids never watch where they are going and often go in a different direction than everyone else, etc.

Nicole was there and I spent some time talking with her. She worked with me a little on my pushoff and encouraged me to bend more and reminded me to look up. She spent at least 10 minutes with me -- what a sweet person! Skaters are really some of the best people. She is prepping for the Pre-Bronze MITF test, which apparently is 10/5. She is working on her alternating 3-turns. I spent some more time talking with her during the Z-break and we talked about the various coaches etc. Her coach is Anna, who I've seen at coffee club before. She's a young woman (early 20s I would guess), I think she's done ice dance. She's a very good skater and I really like the way she skates. Nicole likes her a lot because "she doesn't treat me like an adult!" Which might sound like an odd complement, but I knew exactly what she means. She means that she will push you like she'd push any young skater -- she doesn't discount your drive or desire just because you aren't possibly going to the Olympics. For me, that's pretty high praise.

I spent most of the session working on basics again, but it was too crowded to work on my backwards stuff. I spent most of my time working on my pushoff and my right-foot glide. The right foot is still very inconsistent. I'm really annoyed/disturbed by the fact that after all this time it is not better than it is, but I know I've not worked it nearly as much as my left so I have only myself to blame.

Nicole mentioned to me that she keeps a list in her pocket of stuff to work on. I think I will probably do the same; as I mentioned I feel like I need to be more organized in my practice time.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

The Cost Of Skating

I was emailing one of my readers and we compared costs for skating. The reader is on (in?) Long Island, and of course I'm in Tucson:

I live on Long Island. Most of the Coaches seem to be charging $40.00 per half hour. Others charge more, especially if they are a Style Coach, Jump coach, spin coach, etc. Group lessons cost $99.00 for 8 weeks @ 1 half hour lesson a week. Group Skaters can skate on the Ice (at the Rink where the lessons are taught) for free, whenever they want. I think it's a pretty good deal. Admission costs $5.50 if you are NOT in a group lesson, and the public sessions are two hours each. DJ Night costs $10.00 for 2 hours, and it consists of Rap music/pop music, strobe lighting, and VERYFAST hockey players that skate the way that Sea Gulls fly. They swoop down low, change direction quickly, and they seem to have no "game plan" at all.) Besides all of the above, there are teenagers skating who can't skate, but they are all really there to meet members of the opposite sex anyway. Can you tell that I dislike the DJ nights? lol
Freestyle Ice Sessions differ in price, depending on the Rink. Our closest Rink costs $11.00 for an hour and a half session. This is inexpensive compared to other Rinks which can cost DOUBLE this amount.

I think $40/half hour is about what our coaches charge, but otherwise it looks like it's better in Long Island. Our group lessons are $12/lesson, in two-month semesters, so it's either $96 or $108 depending on whether there are 8 or 9 lessons (lessons are Wed. nights and Saturday mornings). For that you get a half hour group lesson, a public session the same day, free skate rental (doesn't apply to me) and 2-for-1 admissions to public sessions on other days. Our public sessions are $7, and they range from 2 hours (nighttime) to 3 or 3.5 hours for afternoons. Freestyle ice is $12/hr but skating club members (I'm not one yet) can get a 10-punch ticket for $90. Friday and Sat. nights are the DJ and strobe thing with the high school kids (yes, and the hockey boys). I've decided I'd rather have the little kids who have no clue and skate right in front of you going the wrong way, etc., than the hockey boys.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Coffee Club Plus

I had the day off from work, so I slept quite late and then went to coffee club, and stayed after and skated 'til 3:30. All in all I was on the ice for about 3 hours, which is a lot for me.

For the coffee club lesson today, Cecilia had us work on two-foot turns for a bit. She says that I'm tending to drop my right shoulder as I turn, which is part of the reason I am sometimes off balance. I need to work on that. Next we worked on forward slaloms, which I had taught myself a week ago or so. She said I'm doing them fine, except (surprise!) I need to bend my knees more. From there we went to look at some backward skating issues. I worked on doing backward 1/2 swizzle pumps some more. Before I'd done them on a circle, but this was in a straight line. I think this exercise really helps me feel where my weight is a bit better, and I think with some more work on them I will finally get my back edges. Finally we were mostly done and she asked if we had any questions, so I asked her about my problems with my push-off. She had us (there were 3 of us) do a pushoff and she confirmed that I am tending to lunge forward. She had us practice bending our knees more from the pushoff "T" position -- basically a plié. It helped a bit.

After coffee club I skated for a bit, then had a lunch break and then skated some more. I worked a lot on backward skating, especially doing the backward 1/2 swizzle pumps in a straight line. I also spent quite a lot of time working on my right foot glide and my pushoff. Finally I decided I really needed to work on my left foot because it tends not to turn in very well. In particular my snowplow stops tend to be mostly my right foot, whether I'm doing them forward or backward. So I spent about ten minutes just practicing snowplow stops forward and backward, using only my left foot. It helped a lot. I'm going to try to remember to use only my left foot for a while to build up my strength and dexterity on that foot.

Today was pretty good, although I was pretty tired by the time I left. I think I probably need to think more about how I use my practice time and what I work on so that I am more effective. At the end of the regular coffee club session I was talking with Nicole (I'd been calling her Nikki but apparently she prefers either Nicole or Coli) and she complimented me on how much progress I have made and how much more confident I am skating. That was really nice to hear, and particularly right now. I sometimes have doubts about this whole thing -- standard issues like "I'm too old, I'm too klutzy and uncoordinated, I'm not athletic or flexible enough". So it helps sometimes to look through another's eyes to remind myself that I have made a lot of progress and there's every reason to think that if I keep working I will continue to improve. I don't know what my limits are but I suspect they are a ways off still.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The More The Merrier?

Tonight I had my 19th regular lesson (not counting coffee club lessons). Besides the 3 of us that were there last week (myself, Ashley and Desiree), there was a newcomer, Luz. We spent the first 25 minutes or so reviewing basics again -- swizzles, one foot glide, stroking. He also spent some of that time working on the two-foot turn, which they all picked up a lot faster than I did as far as I can tell. The last 5 minutes were spent working on something I'm actually interested in, forward crossovers. It was kind of a frustrating lesson.

After the lesson I stayed until 9 or so working on the usual stuff, including some extra time on the right foot glide and the forward crossovers. When trying to do the forward crossovers I seem to turn way too much in the process -- almost 45 degrees by the time I finishe one step-over. I'm not sure how I should be doing this. I also spent some time working on my push-off and I think I improved a bit.

I was disappointed that only one of my classmates (Ashley) stayed to practice for any length of time. It's too bad. Ashley seems to be quite interested in skating, though, which is neat to see in another adult.

I'm very frustrated with the lesson situation right now, especially now that there are 4 people in the class. I've pretty much made up my mind that unless things are drastically different I'm going to talk to Glenn next week about a 15 minute private lesson following our group lesson. If we work it right we can do complementary things -- for example, I could work on my backward skating in a private and forward crossovers in group. I don't think the group lessons are likely to go to backward skating in a big way anytime soon, and anyway I will need more time probably than others.


Monday, September 08, 2003

Polar Ice

Once again I had to go to Phoenix for a work trip, and I was able to stop at Polar Ice in Chandler on the way home and catch the afternoon public session for a while before leaving for home. I got there around 2:30 and skated until about 4. It wasn't too crowded at all when I got there (6 or 7 people) but eventually there were 12 or 15 people (still not bad).

I'm still adjusting to my newly-sharpened skates so I didn't try anything too ambitious. I worked on my 1-foot glides a bit, and my LFO edge. I tried a few 2-foot turns but they are not going well right now so I didn't push it. I also worked a bit on my backward skating but I was not feeling up to trying a backward 1-foot glide; I don't quite know what my problem is. I keep having dreams about doing that backward 1-foot glide so hopefully these dreams will help me get my head in the right place. In my dream I've got a nicely bent knee and it feels... well, I know how it feels. I also worked a bit on my push-off; I'm still not getting any power and I'm not sure what is wrong. I'll have to ask. I suspect I am leaning forward too much (sort of 'lunging forward') at the outset.

Anyway, it was a nice skate but I was bit tired since I'd been up early and out the door at 7 for the 2-hour drive, so I was a little out of sorts.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Whee, Sharp Blades!

I picked up my skates this morning, and actually managed to get to coffee club for an hour in spite of a really crazy work day. The Sharpener said he was pleased how they came out, and warned me to work with them as it would be very different and I'd need to adjust. Wow, was he right! I got on the ice and it was like... wow, I'm gripping the ice. Really gripping the ice. Death-gripping the ice! So I skated around a bit and worked on snowplow-stopping in these things and finally started to get used to it.

Cecilia was the instructor for the lesson today; there were only two of us, myself and an older guy named Joe. She asked us what we wanted to work on, and I said that while I'd like to work on forward crossovers, what I really need to work on is backward stuff. Joe agreed. So we worked on (in my case) backward glides. Cecilia emphasized that I need to have a good backward two-foot glide (feet together!) and then lift up one foot and put it in front of the other in the air; arms in the usual position, not back. She went ahead and skated with me and held my hands a few times so I could try it on each foot. That helped a lot as far as at least getting an idea of what it should feel like. She said that the balance for a backward glide is different than forward glides; for a forward glide it should be just behind the ball of the foot, and for a backward glide it should be just forward of the ball of the foot. I think my balance is often too far back, and sometimes too far forward. Still, I can feel when it's right on the forward glide, and at least I've experienced where it is on the backward glide, so that's something I can work on. From there we went on to look briefly at the backward 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle. I'm still experiencing the problem that I can't get my weight onto the inside leg, it's still in-between. The correct position should have the weight on the inside leg and the swizzling leg has almost no weight at all. I'll keep working it. Finally we looked a little at stuff I'll need for crossovers, namely, being able to put my free foot directly in front of my skating foot. This is similar to the grapevines that Glenn had me working on before (which I've not done for a week or two). I can do them at the boards but it's a different matter when I'm moving! Another thing to practice. All in all it was a good lesson, I got more out of it than most of the coffee club lessons I've had.

Cecilia mentioned in passing that she thought my boots were too big. I don't know what to do with this as a) I already have them, and b) they seem fine to me. I suppose I'll just live with them for now; when I buy new boots (whenever that is) I am going to be getting something much more expensive and better, and I'll probably have to go someplace else to make sure they are the right size etc.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

First Sharpening

I took my skates to The Sharpener today -- his name is Jim. He's highly recommended by the figure skaters at the rink, and after talking with him I can say that he definitely knows his stuff. Anyway, he looked at my blades and measured them. The current ROH on them is somewhat more than 1/2". Generally from looking at them he was greatly disturbed and kept shaking his head, there is some seriously funky stuff going on in regard to the way they were sharpened when I got them.

Based on what I told him about where I'm at, how much I skate, etc., he suggested an ROH of 1/2" would be appropriate. He said that they are good boots for me based on where I'm at and should last me about a year or a bit more, but that when I start doing serious jumping I will need something with more strength and ankle support, especially since I'm a big guy (5-10, 220 lbs). He also said that the right blade (which I've had issues with before) is slightly misaligned at the heel but that it is probably not a big deal, at least for now.

I will be able to pick them up from him tomorrow morning and then be off to coffee club. That should be an adventure in newly-sharpened skates!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Group Lesson Hell

I got to the rink good and early for my lesson (I like to get there 30 minutes ahead, which allows about 10 minutes for getting my skates on and a good 20 minutes for warming up and getting my legs). I had had some (personal) bad news right before I got there so I was in a foul mood. It didn't help when I checked the board and discovered that there was another person signed up for the Adult class with me!

After getting my skates on and warming up, Glenn came over and asked me where the other person was, and I said I didn't know. I then took a moment to talk to him about the curriculum -- I gave him a copy of the Basic 8s and the Adult curriculum. He said (as I expected) that he was just teaching me the basics as fast as he could drive me. I told him that that was well and good, I was just wanting to follow the Basic 8s as far as the skate school people are concerned, and that he'd already taught me half of Basic 3 and a chunk of 4 as well. He said that was fine.

Finally the other person showed up and introduced herself, her name is Desiree. We were confused because that was not the name of the person on the roster, but it was all made clear a few minutes later when Ashley showed up. Glenn asked me to go work on stuff for a couple of minutes while he figured out where they were, so I did. After 5 minutes or so he beckoned me back, and for the next 20 minutes we worked on... forward swizzles, backward swizzles, and the snowplow stop. Yep. Both Desiree and Ashley had skated before but had never taken lessons, so while they are somewhat behind me, it's not as much as one might think. In particular each of them could skate on one foot at least a little bit, which readers will know took me forever. I'd like to think that I have a slight advantage in that I have no bad habits to unlearn (no toepick pushing for example) and that I've learned somewhat good form... but it's hard to say.

For the last couple of minutes we actually looked at the stepover for forward crossovers! I was rather surprised by that. After the lesson was over I did manage to show Glenn my much-improved turn and he was suitably impressed. After the lesson the three of us skated for 15 or 20 minutes and then there was a Z-break, whereon they both went home. I found out that Desiree won lessons as a door prize at a charity auction, and Ashley is a student at UA. I wonder how much they will actually practice. If they don't get any practice between now and next week... hmm.

After the Z-break there were only 6 or so people on the ice, so I stayed all the way to the end of the session at 9:30 -- almost 3 hours of skating, counting my warmup. I am wiped out; it's a good thing I didn't skate yesterday or I would truly have been exhausted. For the last 45 minutes or so there were only 3 people on the ice! It was great. I put in lots of work on my backward swizzles, working to have more speed and more push, and to get my feet together between and get more knee bend. It's coming. Along with the backward swizzles I tried a little bit of backward glide, but it's not coming. I also spent a lot of time on the turn, trying to do the CCW ones with more speed going in, and trying to improve the CW ones. I also spent a fair amount of time on basic stroking, getting more extension. Finally, I spent some time on my right foot glide, and it is much improved. I've noticed I have to remind myself to get in position for it, though; if I don't prepare I am just all wrong and can't get my weight placed appropriately. I am able to get an RFO but it feels so unnatural! I really have to make myself turn my body out clockwise to get it. It's funny how it feels so natural to turn my body CCW for the LFO, but turning it CW for the RFO feels like major surgery or something.

About 9 p.m. or so I was dinking around a bit and I managed to teach myself a forward slalom, which is part of Basic 3. It's actually pretty easy, I just had to get the hip movement in which, for a guy like me, doesn't come easy. After a bit though I pretty much got the hang of it. That means I have all the Basic 3 stuff except the two-foot spin and the backward 1-foot glide. I expect the two-foot spin to be not too hard now that I can do the turn okay; the glide is another matter. I expect that will come hard and take a lot of work.

So I left the rink at 9:30, very tired but with my head in a somewhat better state as far as my troubles are concerned. I am annoyed and saddened that my wonderful individual lessons have now turned into a true group, but those are the breaks. I suppose I could just wait it out and see how it goes -- maybe it won't be so bad. Or maybe someone will drop out :-). I'm also wondering if I shouldn't book a private lesson with Glenn, if I can work it out money and timewise (I am lucky that it's more time than money as an issue). I have a feeling that, for example, for me to make progress on my backward skating I'm going to need some good individualized attention from him and I don't see that happening soon. I'd appreciate comments and feedback from my readers (both of you!) on whether you think I would be advised to try to supplement the group lessons now or not. Maybe I'm just too impatient. I had planned originally that I'd stay with the group lessons through the Basic 8s and then consider private lessons instead of the group freestyle. What do you think?


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Skating Well

Following up on my comment in my last post about kids (though it's not only kids!) who are obsessed with jumps and spins when they can't even skate well, I ran across an article at Ice Skating Addict on lack of skating skills. It says a lot of the same things. While I am a novice in this sport, I think this actually gives me better insight in some respects than the more experienced. After all, I hear the mantras at every lesson... bend your knees!... puuush!.... chin up!.... and of course my own personal mantra, "straight you back!". So I know very well what I should be doing even though I'm not always able to do it. I know that someone doing a spiral should have the leg hip-height or better and point the toe! I fully expect to spend a lot of time on fundamentals; I want to skate well before I skate dramatically. In the long run, after all, I may not be able to do any jumps, or maybe not even any spins -- but if I learn to skate well that can stay with me for a long time.

Incidentally, I'll remind my readers that they are welcome to email me (link at the right) or comment on a particular post (comment link after each post). Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 01, 2003

Labor Day Skating Marathon

Since I had the day off, I went to coffee club and then stayed after for the public session for a while. In all I was at the rink for about 3.5 hours, with time out for lunch and a Z-break. I'm wiped out.

I talked with the skating school director today about the curriculum issue (Basic 8s vs. Adult) and she said it's perfectly fine for me to talk with Glenn and ask to use the Basic 8 curriculum. Yea!

During coffee club I mostly worked on backward skating. Linda gave the lesson today and we worked on the backward stuff with the other student in the class, but I have so far to go that it was a little frustrating. Until I can do better at getting a backward 1-foot glide I am going to have a hard time with the other stuff. We also spent some time working on the turn and she reinforced what I've been doing. I asked her about spotting the turn and she said that was a good technique to use.

After the lesson I continued working on my backward skating. I'm finding that since it's hard to work on backward skating at the public sessions (unless it's not crowded it tends to be a hair-raising experience), I work on it whenever I have good ice time, like coffee club and such. I am still fighting my tendency to lean forward.

After coffee club I had some lunch and then joined the public session. It was somewhat crowded, but not too bad -- more crowded than I'm used to at night sessions, but not as bad as the Saturday afternoon zoo. I worked on the same old stuff. My CCW turn is getting pretty good, so I spent a lot of time on the CW one with mixed results. I also worked on my right-foot glide with only modest results. I'd like to think that someday it will feel as secure as the left foot, but I'm beginning to have my doubts.

I was struck today (as I have been in the past) by the little skater girls who like to work in the center ice. They are obsessed with spins, which they practice over and over. That's all well and good, but I can't help noticing that most of them have really poor form and don't do the fundamentals very well -- pushing the toe pick when stroking, leaning forward like hockey players, etc. Sheesh! First things should be first.