Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

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

Friday, October 31, 2003

Coffee Club

I went to coffee club today. Before skating though, I stopped off to pay for my next semester of group lessons. They gave us a 15% off coupon with our certificates on Wednesday, so instead of $108 it was merely $91.80. Since our lessons are on Wednesdays I asked about Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, and the woman said I could go on Saturday instead of those Wednesdays... so that's what I'll do. I noticed they had a handout in the office that listed all the private instructors available and their phone numbers. There are only 6 or so at our rink.

As I was coming in the door to the rink, Cecilia the instructor was also coming in. She paid me a compliment, saying "You must really love this sport!", to which I replied something like "I must, I keep coming back."

During coffee club I worked on a bunch of things, but mostly my backward left-foot glide and crossovers. As I do periodically I tried to see how far I could glide (one foot) on a push off. Between some increased effort and the nice ice, I set a personal best -- I was able to glide from one blue hockey line to the other, which according to the diagrams I've seen should be about 54 feet. Yea!

During the lesson there were 5 of us. We spent the first part working on swizzles both backward and forward, Cecilia emphasing power. She told me I need to really bend my knees more (how many times have I heard that? :-)) and really push. After that we worked a bit on an getting one foot in front of the other. She had us skate the width of the rink with just a push off and then gliding the rest of the way with one skate directly in front of the other. It's hard! It really requires you to bend your skating knee to get the other foot in front. She had us do it on each foot, and then backwards. Of course I can't quite do it backwards, but I did try. She then worked us on crossing over without picking up our feet -- I can't do that yet either, although I almost could when on my (strangely enough) right foot(!). I thought that was odd. For the last couple of minutes she had us try a one foot glide in an "attitude" position, which apparently is just having the free foot behind over the print and bent at the knee, and the free arm held over the head very artistically. I think I did that okay.

The other fun thing for today was that Nicole landed her first loop jump... so of course we made her do it again while we watched. I'm so proud of her! She's worked really hard.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

It's The Little Things

I was reading a couple of emails from readers of this blog (thanks!) and I was reminded of something Cecilia mentioned in the coffee club lesson last week. We were looking at crossovers and she mentioned in passing that the thumbs should be folded into the palms when doing crossovers. I think it's just a stylistic thing, but I respect her point. Many of the things we do are just as much about presentation as they are about accomplishing something. Figure skating is not just athleticism, it's also grace and poise and, well, style. It's the little things.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Testing, Again

Tonight was the last night of our semester for skating school. Glenn was back again, and Luz was present so there were three of us for class.

Glenn started by looking over the Adult 1 & 2 curriculum (ugh!) and checking off what we knew. He then decided we needed to learn the forward chassé on a circle, so we spent some time learning it. It's pretty straightforward actually and I picked it up without any trouble, although I don't see myself practicing it anytime soon since dance is not something I'm currently interested in. After some review he decided we knew all the 1&2 stuff -- which is mostly true. I'm still not happy about using the adult curriculum though. I don't know how to deal with this other than by abandoning group lessons and I'm not prepared to do that yet.

After the chassé, we went back to working on 3-turns since Luz had missed several weeks and hadn't really learned them. As class was ending Glenn took a couple of minutes to compliment me on my progress, which rather surprised me. He said that he likes the fact that I'm continually making small, steady progress, and that over time it really adds up.

After the lesson I stayed all the way 'til 9:30 (with no Z-break!) and worked extensively on almost everything, but in particular I worked hard on forward CCW crossovers and backward skating. I also spent a good amount of time on the LFO 3-turn. This was undoubtedly the most time I'd spent on crossovers, which in a way is surprising since I've worked on them a couple times in class and at least a couple of times at coffee club. Anyway, they are coming along and definitely getting less scary and less clunky. It helps that my shoulder has improved enough that I can pretty much use it normally although it still hurts a little. My backward 1-foot glide (mostly left foot) is coming along well, too -- it's not so scary and I'm getting longer glides out of it. I don't know if I'm going to have a Eureka! moment with that or whether it will just be steady improvement. I suspect the latter.

I was talking with my classmate Luz after class; she says she is going to try to take private lessons because her schedule is too wacky (she's in an MBA program) for her to reliably make the class. So unless someone new joins it looks like it will just be myself and Ashley starting next week. Of course with class being Wednesday nights that means we're scheduled for class on Christmas and New Year's Eve this year. I don't see THAT happening, but I guess I'll ask about it.

With my certificate today I got my USFSA basic skills membership card. I'm not sure what that really means, if anything, but it's kind of nice to see.


MK Interview

There's a cool online interview with Michelle Kwan. Not heavy on info about skating, it's mostly personal info but still worth reading!

Monday, October 27, 2003

Basic Skills

While surfing the web I came across this description of the basic skills. Strangely it's not exactly in the same order as the USFSA Basic 8s etc., but it's very helpful none the less since it has descriptions of how to do each element.

Friday, October 24, 2003


Today was one of those days. In spite of being off except for a conference call at 8 a.m., I didn't get to the rink until 12:30 so I missed most of coffee club and only had about 5 minutes to warm up before the lesson. I felt kind of.. just off, a bit.

The lesson was just three of us, and we worked on forward crossovers some more. Cecilia gave me some time to just work by myself and she held my hand and had me do the crossover and hold on the LFO and crossed-over RFI. Hard! I'm making very slow progress on these, most of the time when I try them they are pretty clunky and awkward, not smooth at all. I need to bend my knees more and have better balance -- Cecilia says I'm basically falling onto my RFI, which sounds about right.

After crossovers we worked briefly again on backward skating, and then on 1-foot glides. Cecilia complimented my left-foot glide and gave me some pointers on the right foot -- mostly to establish my balance sooner/quicker and to not raise the right shoulder.

After coffee club I skated another 1.5 hours minus a lunch break, and spent a lot of time on the backward glide, plus some time on the right foot forward glide, crossovers, LFO 3-turn and miscellaneous stuff. I was able to get a couple of left-foot backward glides of 8 seconds or so, so I know I am making progress, but it doesn't seem like it. My 3-turn is improving slightly, mostly in that my shoulder is sufficiently better that I can do one without wanting to scream :-). I also spent some time working on edges, especially RF edges. I realized last night that I haven't really been working them and I really need to spend more time on them, since better edges will help practically everything -- balance on crossovers, balance on backward glides, and of course 3-turn and Mohawk.

The last hour of the session was pretty crowded with kids but I got a fair amount done. I'm pleased with what I accomplished even though I wasn't feeling at my best.

Thursday, October 23, 2003


I was running late last night and didn't get to the rink until about 8 minutes before my lesson. By the time I threw on my skates etc. it was 2 minutes after 7. As it turned out, Glenn was not present and Rachel subbed for our lesson. We basically went through everything we'd done previously. She also had us look briefly at a hockey stop but I certainly can't do one. We spent the majority of our time on 3 turns and mohawks though. All in all it was not a very productive lesson.

After the lesson I spent most of my time working on my backward 1-foot glide. I am making progress but it's slow. I think the longest I got (all on my left foot, although I did spend a little time on the right as well) was maybe 6 seconds. I'm trying both a straight glide back and an inside edge (these are the things I worked on last Friday). Of course I spent some time on pretty much everything else, including some work on my right-foot glide (improving), T-stop (only on the left foot, but that is pretty good), and also a little bit of work on crossovers. I probably need to spend more time on crossovers but I'm more interested/determined on the backward glide.

While it was an okay session I was pretty frustrated the whole time. First the lesson was frustrating. Second, although my left shoulder is much better it still hurts sufficiently that, for example, I could't hold my left arm up very long when I was working on my LBI edge. It's been more than two weeks since I hurt it, and it's probably at 70% or so. Sheesh.

Fortunately it looks like I will have Friday afternoon off so I can go on an extended skate (coffee club + public session). Yea!


Friday, October 17, 2003

Backward Progress

Only in skating can you say "backward" and "progress" and be telling the absolute truth!

I went to coffee club today. Once again it seemed to take me a while to warm up, I am not sure what's up with that. It might be my shoulder, still, or maybe it's something else. My shoulder is doing much better, so that I can check and turn etc. although I still have trouble raising my left arm much above shoulder height.

I spent my time before the lesson mostly working on backward skating and my right foot glide, although I did a smattering of almost everything. For the lesson we worked (yay!) on backward gliding and also backward edges. I actually made some significant progress on the backward glide and was able to stroke, and then lift my right foot up and hold it in front of my left foot for a bit. I was able to do this more than once, and Cecilia said I was doing much better than last week. After a bit we worked on edges (back inside only) and I was able to actually hold a back inside edge for several counts, even on my right foot! The setup was a stroke or two, then a strongly checked position and picking up the free foot and holding it behind (touching) the skating foot. For example for the LBI the right hand would be strongly back and left hand forward, and right foot picked up and touching the left boot. It really was much better than I've ever done before, though obviously it's not stable and I have much to do still. I would have liked to have stayed to work on it but the Zamboni came and kicked us all off, alas.

I probably won't get to skate again until Wednesday as I am going out of town for work. Alas!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A Falling Down Night

Tonight's lesson was pretty good. It was myself, Ashley and Desiree (Luz was, again, absent). I had talked to my classmates prior to class and gotten their agreement that we should ask to work on backward skating; so when Glenn came over at the start of the lesson and asked what we wanted to work on I said "backward skating!" and they agreed.

We started out by looking at a backward stroke. Glenn had us do something sort of like a pivot, where we stuck a toepick in the ice and then pushed off/did a half-swizzle around in a circle on the other foot. From there we went on to doing what I've been calling backward half-swizzles in a straight line; apparently this is pretty much equivalent to backward stroking. I was happy about that since can do those quite well. We worked at that a bit, then went to backward crossovers again. I am still hesitant about them, I need to work them a lot more. After that we went on to look at forward edges on a circle. My right edges still (not surprisingly) leave a lot to be desired.

After the lesson Ashley and I skated for quite some time (Desiree left fairly quickly). Ashley's 3-turns are awesome, she has been working on them diligently and they are much, much better than mine. In fairness I've not touched them much since I hurt my shoulder. I tried a few tonight and they hurt a bit but not too much. I also worked a lot on my edges and right-foot glides (RFO especially). It's a little better. I worked on forward crossovers a little but not a huge amount.

A lot of people were falling down tonight -- it was almost as if something was in the air. Ashley fell down at least 5 times. My little buddies Heaven and Veronica and Mariah all fell down several times, which is not surprising except that one of them was hard enough it made poor Veronica cry. And the girls' older sister Kira fell a couple of times, once badly. Finally as we were all leaving for the evening, Kira slipped in a puddle of water on the floor in the lobby and hurt her knee. We had to help her out to the car, poor thing. A bad karma night for falling!


Monday, October 13, 2003

On The Road to Recovery

Since I was off today for Columbus Day, I went skating at coffee club and then for a while afterward. All in all I skated for about 2.5 hours.

When I first got on the ice I was really stiff! I had not skated since last Wednesday, and I really felt it. It took me a good 20-30 minutes to feel comfortable. I mostly worked on easy stuff.

When it was time for the lesson, we worked a bit on forward crossovers (ta-da). I'm still having problems with them, and I was doing much better last week than I did today. We also worked a bit on backward skating, and Cecilia worked with me a bit and said I am almost there. We also worked briefly on stroking, and Cecilia suggested I try stroking on each foot equally, for a 6-count on each foot.

After the lesson I stayed and skated, but I didn't do anything particularly challenging. At one point I tried a 3-turn, and yow! that was not a good idea -- it really hurt. I know my shoulder is much, much better than it was last week but I guess it will take a little longer than I thought. Oh well.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

The Freedom of Skating

When I was skating last Wednesday after my lesson, I had an epiphany of sorts. It took me a while to figure out just what it means, but now that I've had some time to reflect I thought I would share it. It's pretty personal, so if that sort of thing makes you uncomfortable, stop reading now. I though that I would share it because it's a good way to communicate it to those of my family and friends who read this, and also because I thought it might serve to provoke discussion and reflection among my readers as well.

I was skating to some song, and "interpreting" it as I often do in the rhythm of my stroking, switching into a slalom at one point, and so on. It suddenly hit me that I was not really thinking about what I was doing, it had just come out from within. In that realization I also realized why skating has become so important to me so quickly.

For most of my life I've felt like I had things I wanted to say or do... things I wanted to be, even, that I couldn't seem to just let myself say/do/be. It seemed like in some fundamental ways or times I couldn't just relax and by myself. There's a great quote from the ABC TV show, "My So-Called Life":

Angela: People are always saying you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster. Like you know what it is even. But every so often I'll have, like, a moment, where just being myself in my life right where I am is, like, enough.

I have often felt this way. But in that moment when I was skating, I realized that I was... just being me. I felt like I was just me, being myself, a definite thing. I was relaxed. I was me.

There are a couple of other areas in my life that are like this, namely dancing and singing. With dancing, though, it always takes me a while to loosen up and relax, and sometimes it's still hard; and it generally requires other people. With singing it's the same, but different too. Singing usually requires or involves an audience and so it's not for yourself, with yourself, and it's hard to really relax when you are being listened to, when you have an audience.

With skating it's different. It doesn't require anyone else, and ideally there isn't anyone else involved. I'm not trying to please others, or even necessarily myself. In these moments I can just relax and let it flow. My mind and my body are connected, working together, and in harmony. I'm relaxed and at ease, not fighting, not posing, not evaluating.

That isn't to say that all my skating, or even most of it, is like that. Certainly I spend a lot of my skating time evaluating or analyzing! But the moments I'm talking about are not analytical, they are simply experiential. In the yoga classes I've been taking there's a lot of talk about accepting yourself and your body. I've always been very much "in my head", very focused on things of the mind and not at all very connected with my body. Now with my skating, at the ripe old age of 40, I am re-connecting with my body in a way I probably haven't since I was a freshman in high school. A unity of body, mind and spirit, which is what yoga talks about, and of course Catholicism does too. Perhaps it's a mid-life crisis sort of experience, but if so, it's not such a bad one.

Thursday, October 09, 2003


For class tonight it was just myself, Ashley and Desiree; Luz was not present. Glenn started by asking us what we wanted to work on and Ashley piped up and said "Crossovers!" (she and I had discussed trying to get back to that). So we spent 10 minutes working on forward crossovers and another 10 minutes working on backward crossovers. Then for the remainder of our time we looked again at T-stops, the open forward inside Mohawk and the two-foot turn.

I was really glad to have the time on crossovers and while I still am not at all comfortable with the backward ones, I am much more comfortable with the forward ones. Mind you I still will need to practice them about a cajillion more times before they are solid, but still I felt like I got over my mental block about them (for the most part) and I can now work on them on my own and expect to make progress.

Due to my injured shoulder working on the turns was problematic, and I pushed it a bit more than I should have so that I had some real pain working on the Mohawk. Nothing damaging, just pain.

After class I stayed 'til 9:15 working on crossovers, right foot glide, and whatever else I felt comfortable doing considering my shoulder and arm situation; after a while I couldn't even hold my left arm up in the usual position. There was no Z-break so by the time I left the ice was really gross. Alas, I spent a lot of time talking to my classmate Ashley and helping her with some of her stuff so I didn't work on my own as much. She learns some things really easily -- she has a good Mohawk already and she worked a lot on forward and backward crossovers, and she can skate in the crossed-over position even (for example, right foot on an RFI on the left and left foot on an LFO on the right). I'm jealous! I would have been more adventurous except with my shoulder the way it was it was difficult to risk falling knowing I couldn't catch myself.


Sunday, October 05, 2003

Never Race A Hockey Boy

I was going to call this entry "I Am Stupid" but I've used that one before...

I had some unexpected free time tonight so I decided to go to the Sunday evening "family night" ($5 admission includes skates, not that that applies to me). My friend Amber Lee asked to come along since she has wanted to go back to skating for a while. She had started to learn with her old boyfriend but hadn't skated in 4 years or so (her current boyfriend is not big on such things). Anyway, it turned out to be not too crowded and a relatively good environment, so I started out by teaching her the step-step-glide thing and getting her over her fear of falling and hurting herself. We also did the get down on the ice and get up thing. After a bit of that we went on and I introduced her to forward swizzles and then a bit of basic stroking. She was making pretty good progress and only occasionally felt the need to give me the grip of death.

At one point we were skating along and she was holding my hand because she was feeling unsteady. Just then a hockey boy (probably 12 or 13) decided to duck under our hands, in between us. I yelled at him and he ran off, but I was so mad that I went after him and started to give him a tongue lashing. Of course the parents of these kids are never around. Anyway, like the idiot I am I try to talk to him like a person who cares and he just gives me attitude and asks me things like "who makes the rules?" and "I know the owner, anyway" and "how long have *you* been skating?" Finally at one point he says something like "well, I bet you can't catch me, anyway!" and reason seemingly leaves me and I say "sure I can" and he is off like the proverbial bat out of hell and I am off after him. Of course the kid is way faster than I am and doesn't have any compunctions about scaring the daylights out of innocent bystanders, so in a few seconds he's way ahead of me. I'm rounding a corner of the rink at what is for me a pretty high rate of speed when suddenly TOE-PICK! and I go down forward hard. I probably slide for 15 feet (fortunately no one was around) and then stop finally. I get up and discover I'm mostly undamaged, and then go do what I should have done in the first place -- go find a rink employee. I finally find one and tell him the story and ask him to talk to the kid about it, and he promises he'll talk to him. So I get back on the ice and go find Amber Lee and, after a brief break, we go on with our skating.

I'm basically okay, but I banged up my knees a little and seem to have wrenched/strained/sprained my left shoulder/upper arm. It hurts to move it. I hope it won't be too bad tomorrow, but I guess it serves me right for being stupid.

Update: As of Monday, my right knee hurts a little, my left ankle hurts a fair amount but not enough to keep me from walking, and my left shoulder/upper arm still hurts quite a bit. No check position for me on Wednesday unless I heal faster than I expect. I assume from the left ankle that it must have been my left toe-pick that caught. Oh well.

Testing Observations

I went down to the rink today to observe the USFSA testing. I observed a number of tests, but they were only of two kinds, the Pre-Juvenile Moves In The Field and Juvenile Moves In The Field.

The Pre-Juvenile MIF tests were particularly interesting to watch since I watched 5 or 6 of them. The forward and backward perimeter crossover stroking was about what I would have expected. The 3-turn sections were also what I had seen, except that I'm used to watching them being down across the short axis of the rink, and these are all done down the long axis (a lot of them!). The power pulls (power change of edge pulls) are something I'd seen before but I didn't know what they were called. And finally the 5-step Mohawk sequence was also something I'd seen before. It was interesting to observe since, for some of these elements at least, I know what the judges were looking for.

The only coaches present were Linda, Cecilia, and Anna. My skater buddy Nicole (Anna is her coach) was there for a bit too. It seemed like most of the students were Linda's and Cecilia's, and they were mostly (of course) young girls. There was a teenage boy there though (I think his name is Bob) -- the only male I saw testing. If he wanted to skate pairs I bet he could get a partner in a millisecond :-).

I committed a horrible faux pas. There was an adult skater there (I think her name is Trish) who I'd seen before at coffee club. I guess she was doing her Juvenile MIF. Anyway, I was walking over to get a better view of the testing and was standing next to her, so I congratulated her, only to find out she didn't pass her test. I felt like such an ass! I apologized profusely and more than once, but I still felt like I'd committed the unforgivable crime. I'll probably be forever marked in her book as the stupid guy who rubbed salt in her wounds. *sigh*

Anyway, it was very instructive to watch. I alternated between feeling overwhelmed ("there's no way I could ever do that!") and being encouraged ("hey, I think I could do those eventually").

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Charismatic Gordon

As has become my custom of late, I went to the Saturday public session after my yoga class. It was the usual crowd. I'm starting to know several people at most of the sessions, and today was no different. Besides Lisa and her friend Alicia (adult skaters) there were the four skating sisters -- Kira (oldest), Mariah, Veronica, and Heaven. Veronica is 7 or so and attaches herself to me pretty regularly in that way that kids sometimes do. She's about at the same level as me, too, so we sometimes trade tips and so forth. I took a moment to introduce myself to the sisters' mother and grandmother (Bonnie). Bonnie noted how the girls seem to flock to me, and I said it's a compliment. I guess I just have charisma that way :-). Of course it's too bad it doesn't work with girls my age! I spent a fair amount of time talking with Veronica, she's a great kid. Kids that age are very open and talk about anything and everything. While we were talking and skating she stuck out her hand and we skated hand in hand for a bit (my first time :-)). It's nice to be an "uncle" figure once again.

I spent most of my time working on my problem areas -- right foot glide, backward left-foot glide, two-foot turn and 3-turn. I did try a couple of RFI mohawks with only moderate success, and I'm still avoiding working on crossovers. My two-foot turn is really pretty good right now, and I did manage several good LFI 3-turns, including a couple where I actually managed to hold the backward edge for a little. That was very gratifying. On the right-foot glide I managed to get it much more stable and was able to get some good extension on my free leg. I didn't get to work on the backward glide as much as I would have liked due to the crowd, but I did manage to make a little progress, including one that was about 6 seconds and relatively stable (left foot of course).

There was a quite good skater there doing some nice spins etc. I asked her if she was there for the testing tomorrow, and she said yes, she was testing preliminary. She asked me if I was a judge :-) and of course I laughed and said no. I wished her luck and told her I would be watching the tests in hopes of learning some stuff.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Thursday Night Practice

I don't usually go skating Thursdays, but since I won't be able to go tomorrow for coffee club and I was free I decided it would be worthwhile. When I got to the rink I noticed the session time for Thursday night was covered over, so I asked if there was a public session. The person (Miranda) said there was, but that there probably wouldn't be on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the future as there would be hockey taking the session time. She suggested I might want to call in the future before coming out. Very disturbing! I didn't get on the ice until a little after 8, and only stayed until about 9:15 or so. Still, I got a lot done.

It was not very crowded, probably 10-12 people. I spent a good chunk of the session still working on the backward 1-foot glide. I am making progress, I can feel it. I got a couple of good 4-5 second glides on my left foot. I'm hopeful that I will make a breakthrough on this in the next 2 or 3 weeks. I'd like to have it by the end of October since I'd like to finish all the Basic 3 curriculum.

I also spent some time on the two-foot turn, the LFO 3-turn, and the T-stop. All of them are looking pretty good. Finally, I spent a good amount of time on my right foot glide. It's still got a ways to go to be as good as the left.

If I was ever worried about whether I might get tired of skating, nights like this put my fears to rest. The ice was nice and fresh, and there is something about skating on fresh ice that is... a rush, for lack of a better expression. There's a serenity and peace and yet a thrill in skating on good fresh ice. It gets me every time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

More Mohawks

For our lesson tonight we had the 3 of us, plus Desiree (who had missed the last two lessons) returned. We started out by learning a T-stop, which Glenn had taught me about a month ago. I'm pretty proficient at them, but my fellow student Ashley had a hard time getting her free foot into the right position. After a few minutes on that it was a little bit of forward stroking, then back to the mohawks again. I got some more individualized attention but I'm still not quite there yet. For some reason I'm really scared to work on them by myself -- I really need to get over that.

After class I stayed until 9:15 working on a number of things. I worked on my LFO 3-turn and it is getting respectable, at least as respectable as it can be for someone who can't hold a back edge yet. My two-foot turn is getting to be pretty good -- even young Tate said "that was a good turn!". I spent a good chunk of time still working on getting a good one-foot backward glide, with some amount of success. I got a couple of 3-4 second glides in and I'm starting to feel where my weight should be -- mostly for me it seems to get my weight further back, not all in my toe, and feeling my weight firmly on the ice. I think I'm getting a lot closer to having this.

Besides the backward 1-foot glide, I'm really hoping to get back to the forward crossovers next week. Glenn said he might not be teaching us next week due to a schedule conflict though, so we'll see how that goes.