Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

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

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Saturday Zoo

As usual I went to the Saturday afternoon public session. I did not go to yoga beforehand though; I slept in since I'd had a really tiring week and was up late.

I worked mostly on turns, crossovers, and my RB glide. Some good progress on the RB glide, I had a couple that were decent. I worked mostly the FO3s but I also spent some time on the RFI Mohawk. I also practiced the LFI Mohawk against the boards and I did attempt one without success.

All in all it was an okay practice but I was feeling a little down about things. I think it's mostly leftovers from yesterday's lesson. I just feel a little discouraged about my lack of nerve and wonder if I'm going to be stuck on making any progress because I'm a chicken. Objectively I know that I'll get through this like I've gotten through other stuff. I think it's partly that I see some of the kids that started after me that are so far ahead of me and I'm making comparisons. It's not helpful to make such comparisons. Oh well, I'm sure I'll be fine.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Dorky Day

I had a very dorky day today. There's no other way to describe it. I suppose it was partly because I had not skated since last Saturday, and partly because I was still very tired from a work trip, and partly just because.

I got to coffee club on time and had a full 15 minutes to warm up. I fell twice in the last 5 minutes or so. The first time I caught my toepick as I was just stroking. The second time (in full view of my coach) was just before my lesson, I was practicing forward crossovers and had a nasty fall on both knees, where I found myself skidding forward on my hands and knees for 6 or 10 feet. My left knee still hurts a bit from that one.

We started my lesson (my 6th) just looking at stroking. I'm still not setting up well for crossovers around the end of the rink. Next we looked at my backward 1-foot glides. My LB is pretty good; my RB is still having problems but it has improved. From there we went to work on forward crossovers -- perhaps because Anna wanted to make sure I would get over my fall, I don't know. I'm still having consistency issues. I tend to not stroke consistently in crossovers, both because I am afraid of going too fast and also because I wait until my edge/placement is right. Anna suggested that I should keep my free foot back and extended until I'm ready to do the actual crossover. This helps my positioning quite a bit since the extension means I pretty much have to get my weight placed correctly. It also doesn't hurt that I get more practice getting good extension, which I certainly need...

After that we finally got a chance to work on FI3s as Anna had asked me to remind her. We spent some time on the RFI3, which is not too bad although I have problems getting all the way around. Anna suggested that I'm tending to have my forward arm too high and my lower arm too low; I need to even them out a bit. Also I'm not getting quite enough rotation to begin with which is why I'm having to try to make it up on the untwist. We went on to the LFI3 and that was just a shambles; I just could not get myself to actually try it. I put it down to being spooked by a) having fallen on it on Saturday and b) having already fallen twice today. Anyway, I was kind of embarrassed at myself. It was annoying. I'll have to work on it.

For the last part of my lesson we worked on my spin again. Anna noted that I'm not placing my toepick very well for the pivot -- not engaging the top pick, so it's tending to drop out when I start. Also I'm not getting a very good initial pump. She said I need to think of standing tall through my central axis. I have worked on these a fair amount, but you'd never know it by the way I looked today.

Despite my dorkiness today Anna said I am still making progress. The Tucson Invitational competition is next week and I'm planning on going and watching as much as I can. Nikki (Anna's other adult student) will also be there so that should be fun.

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Saturday Zoo

I attended the afternoon public session as usual today. It was fairly crowded and rather frustrating. I spent a fair amount of time on turns, as usual. I even tried an LFI3, and promptly fell. That turn has me spooked! When I try it I feel like I'm turning to go backwards into a black hole. *sigh*

I also spent a fair amount of time on crossovers, both forward and back. I think I need to work on doing consistent forward crossovers so that I can move my comfort level up; if I were to do a number in a row I'd really be moving and I need to get to that point. I worked on my spins a bit too.

I also spent some time working on my RB edges specifically, at almost the end of the session. I had a little success. The key seems to be that I really am tending to drop the free hip; when I focus on trying to "stand tall" and keep my free hip up I can do an RBO for a little bit. I'll keep working on it.

I wasn't able to work on the serpentine XOs, it was waaay too crowded for any such thing. Unfortunately due to a work trip I probably won't be able to skate again until my lesson next Friday. *sigh*. Work sure gets in the way of my skating! :-)

Friday, February 20, 2004

Fun With Crossovers

Today was a very hectic day but I managed to make it to my lesson, my 5th lesson with Anna. (I don't know why I count, I just do) We started out by stroking, as usual; this time I went a little slower so I could do crossovers around the ends of the rink. She pointed out that I'm trying to do the end crossovers too squarely; when I set up for the first one I need to get my body turned (hips) turned toward the circle a bit.

Next we went on to working on a serpentine crossover pattern around the rink; I'm pretty sure this is from one of the MITF tests but I'm not sure which. It consists of alternating crossovers so that you go around the rink making lobes which consist of basically one crossover near the boards and another (opposite foot) at the other end of the lobe. I had a really hard time with these, not so much the concept as keeping track of what direction I'm going and what foot I should be on. The basic pattern should be (for example going toward the boards) a right-foot stroke, cross right foot over at the bottom of the lobe nearest the boards, a right foot stroke, feet together, a left-foot stroke, cross left foot over at the extreme of the lobe (farthest from the boards), a left-foot stroke, feet together... repeat ad nauseam. I struggled with it, and Anna said it was pretty hard.

From there we looked at my almost-back-XOs, and backward stroking and edges in general. I still have a long way to go on this, especially the RB edges (duh!). She gave me some good feedback on weight placement -- need to have my weight over the back foot when I'm pushing it out as the front foot crosses, otherwise there's no power. Once it's crossed I need to shift weight forward and push while picking up the back foot.

After that we looked at FO3s. Anna says they are much improved, and she was pleased that I'd clearly worked on them a lot; and now I need to work on doing less with the arms and more below the waist; also work more to hold the exit edge (again, duh! :-)).

Next week we are going to look at FI3s. I guess I should work on them, especially the LFI3 since I don't think I've ever done one. Unfortunately I'm not sure how much practice time I will get this week :-(.

Homework for the week is to continue working on the backward stuff and the serpentine XOs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


I went to the evening public session tonight and had a great skate. I spent some time working on turns, of course; the FO3s are looking not-too-shabby, and even the RFI3 is a little improved. I still haven't tried an LFI3 in a while though. I tried a couple of RFI inside Mohawks and they are about the same. I worked on my spin a little just to keep my hand in.

I spent the bulk of my time working on my almost-backward-crossovers. After Monday I felt that I am really close to getting my BXOs, at least the CW ones (weak RB edges, remember?). So I started off by doing my backward 1/2 swizzles as before, but trying once again to get my back (left, in this case) foot moving backward a bit. Once I had that going I tried to add shifting my weight onto the forward (crossing) foot. After some work I was able to do that, I worked on picking up my left foot and moving it into the circle, without worrying as to whether I'd really crossed my right foot over or not. Once I was able to do that a bit I began to try to integrate all of these things. I had some success! I don't think what I've managed to accomplish is quite a backward crossover yet -- I suspect I'm not getting the crossing foot over enough. I'm still really jazzed though, because it's really good progress and all the individual pieces are, I think, present. I can see why BXOs are so powerful though -- it seems like you get a push with the crossing foot, while, at the same time, pushing with the back foot (it's a kind of scissors action that I actually started to get a feel for!), then picking up the back foot and placing it inside the circle while simultaneously pushing again with the front (right, in this case) foot. An awful lot of pushing!

Anyway, I skated for a full two hours and it never got horribly crowded, fortunately. I am really jazzed with my progress, it's awesome. I'm hoping I'll have an opportunity to work on this for a little bit with Anna on Friday.

Lang & Tchernyshev Call It Quits

This is sad. Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev are hanging up their skates. I really enjoyed their skating, and after all the trouble they had this last year or so it's sad to see them bowing out now. Naomi is pregnant which, I'm sure, played a part in the decision.

I came across a cool site, Ice Partner Search. Maybe someday I'll be able to skate pairs, who knows? It looks fun.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Monday Madness

I had the day off (President's Day!) so of course I spent most of it skating. I got there about noon (coffee club) and stay until almost 4, with a break for lunch, so, roughly 3.5 hours of skating. Eeep!

I worked on just about everything today (with that kind of time one can do that!). I worked on the two-foot spin a bit and it's improving; I'm getting a good snap of my arms coming in as the spin starts, so more speed and more revs. I was too chicken today to lift the right leg, though -- definitely have to work on that on Wed. I worked a lot on turns, and was able to do several RFI3s -- the problem is clearly one of nerve, not of skill. I also worked on the RFI Mohawk and that is coming along, a little bit improved. I did a lot of backward skating, and worked some more on my almost-back-crossovers. At this point it's really just getting the nerve up to put my weight on the forward skate so that I can pick up the back one; other than that it's pretty much there, at least clockwise. CCW is a little behind that. The exciting news is that I worked on my backward edges a bit, and I can do a reasonable LBO and even a start at LBI okay. My RB edges are still... works in progress I guess. And of course I worked on crossovers. I suspect a big part of my problem with crossovers (especially trying to do them around the ends of the rink when I'm just stroking) is not wanting to do them at speed. Hmm. Failure of nerve!

I bumped into Anna while I was there, she was teaching a lesson around 3:15 or so. She said hi and we talked for a minute. I noticed on the back rink they have finally posted a list of the available instructors, complete with pictures, phone #s, prices, and their backgrounds. I didn't realize (or didn't remember), but Anna has tested Senior MITF. Wow! Good stuff.

Update: I forgot to mention that I tried an experiment yesterday. I have probably mentioned at some point that my right boot has always felt slightly loose at the heel; my right foot is slightly smaller than my left foot (my left boot fits perfectly). A long time ago I had bought a Dr. Scholls heel insert thingamajig -- it's a small suede leather insert (gray so it matches the inside of my boot) with adhesive on the back. Anyway, I put it in my right boot yesterday before skating. It's pretty small but I think it helps a little. It took me a couple of tries to get it right -- too high up and it bit into my Achilles tendon, too far down and it just felt obnoxious. Anyway, hopefully that will help my RB edges a bit (maybe it already did).

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Random Quote

I have a friend who collects out-of-context quotes. Here's one from me on February 11th some might find amusing (or disgusting):

It's nice to blow your nose at the rink 'cause your snot is warm!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Saturday Zoo

Today's installment of the Saturday zoo was rather less crowded than usual; I don't know why. I got to the rink after yoga and (as usual) went in the restaurant to eat lunch. I bumped into my choir director from UA; his daughter is in the freestyle 5/6 class on Saturdays. It's a small world :-).

I had a reasonably good skate today. I worked on my RFI pivot a fair amount -- it's pretty darn good actually. I can get some wicked speed up on this thing. I feel a little guilty though -- every time I do one I drill about a 1/2" hole in the ice. Eeep! I also worked a little on the spin, although they are not really letting people do spins and jumps in the weekend public sessions since they are so crowded. I worked a lot on turns and also on my "moonwalk" homework, and skating backward in general. Lisa, one of the teenaged skaters who also works at the rink, commented that my backward skating has improved, and that I'm a lot faster. That was really nice to hear. At one point I started experimenting with my back 1/2 swizzle pumps. I do these a lot these days, often on a fairly tight circle (6 ft. diameter or even less). Anyway, I experimented with doing these but then moving the skating foot backwards as I swizzle the other foot. I think in doing this I could actually manage to bring my swizzling foot across -- I've got clearance. What's really stopping me is that I'd have to move my weight onto that foot in order to pick up the other one and move it in. I'll work on it.

In general it was a good day and I was pretty tired but happy with my skating today.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Spinning Like A Dervish

I had my 4th lesson with Anna today at coffee club. When we started Anna had a somewhat devilish smile on her face and told me she wanted to start by working on pivots and spins. I had done these with Allison in group, so I showed her my FI pivot. She thought it was not bad for a start, we worked a bit on it. The keys seem to be to really get one's weight over the pivot foot, and also to feel the left shoulder pushing back and look over one's left shoulder. From there we went to the two-foot spin and worked on getting a good pump to start, keeping straight up, and quickly bringing the arms in. In the process of doing this I reeled off the best two-foot spin I've ever done, probably 4 or even more revolutions. Of course we couldn't leave it at that, but went on to work on picking up the right foot. Not too much success with that -- I suspect I am not getting my weight over my left skate correctly (probably dropping the right hip, too) so that when I pick up my foot I'm off balance. After working on this for 10 minutes or so I definitely started to get dizzy!

We looked at forward crossovers for a bit. The emphasis today was on getting the shoulders turned into the circle without really turning the hips. There's a little bit of improvement.

We went next to look at stroking again and edging. Emphasis on stroking is to really push with the heels -- produces more power and stays away from toe-scratching. Anna showed me a basic power pull ("power change of edge"). I worked on these for a bit but I can't really do them, even with a really big curve/edge.

We finished by looking at backward edges and backward crossovers. My backward 1/2 swizzle pumps on a circle look pretty decent but I'm still blocked on bringing my foot over, and Anna's not convinced I'm getting my feet separated enough.

For homework, Anna wants me to work on the spin, especially improving my balance so that I can pick up my right foot. Also, to help on my back crossovers, she wants me to try doing a sort of "moonwalk" either backward or forward, to get more bend in the knees/ankles and separate the feet forward-backward.

After my lesson I had about a half-hour to skate, so I mostly worked on stroking forward and backward and just kind of relaxing. My lesson today was pretty tiring (especially all the spinning) so I wasn't in the mood to do anything really complicated or strenuous.

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Thursday, February 12, 2004

Klingbeil Article

One of my faithful readers :-) sent me this article about Don Klingbeil, skate maker to the Olympians. I've sometimes thought about what my next set of boots would be, but I tend to think I would go to San Francisco and get fitted at the Harlick shop. New York is too expensive and too far. Of course I will probably have my current Jackson skates for several years to come.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Monday Heaven

Since I had to fly out of town for work Monday evening, and will have to miss my Wednesday night skating, I squeezed in 1.5 hours of skating on Monday afternoon at the public session. When I got there there was only person on the ice (Linda, a coach); and for the first 45 minutes it was just the two of us. Then we were joined by a young girl for about 30 minutes, and then for the last 15 minutes I was there there were maybe 6 or 8 people there. All in all it was excellent ice time.

Since it was so uncrowded I spent a good chunk of time working on skating backwards. It seems I've been working on this for about forever! While I usually complain about my weak back edges, it's really my RB edges that are pathetic. My LB edges are just weak. I can get on an LB edge and hold it for a bit, even if it's not particularly steady; but I have difficulty in even getting on the RB edge, much less holding it for any length. I assume I'lll be working on this on Friday...

I also spent a lot of time on my FO3s. These are improving slowly. I find that I really need to work on several things at once on them, and I can't usually remember to do all of them at once:

  • Keep the head up
  • Look into the circle on the turn
  • Keep the free leg pressed into the skating leg, don't let it loose
  • Get a good kneebend before the turn
  • Get a good rotation
  • Don't force the turn, wait for it
  • Get a good check

A lot to remember! I also worked on the RFI3 and it's a little better. I tend to come to a stop, though, which is either the result of a poor pushoff to begin with (probably), or not getting the turn all the way around (almost certainly), or both (that would be it!). I'll keep working on it. I worked a little on the RFI Mohawk as well.

Of course I ran through all the usual stuff as well, crossovers, lunge, basic stroking, etc. I spent a good amount of time stroking backward around the rink. It's really astonishing just how fast I can get just stroking backward; God only knows how fast I'd be going if I could actually do backward crossovers -- undoubtedly, faster than I (currently) feel comfortable!

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Saturday Zoo

Yesterday I attended the Saturday public session as usual, although I got there somewhat late (2 p.m.). The ice was horrid when I arrived, and the Z-break didn't occur until a bit after 3.

I worked a lot on my 3-turns and crossovers. It was pretty crowded so I didn't do a lot of backward skating. The 3-turns continue to improve. I tried a few RFI3s and was able to improve them somewhat. They are maybe 25 - 30% there. I also worked a bit on edges but no great breakthroughs.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Edges, Edges, Edges

I had my 3rd lesson with Anna today. She was a bit late, so I was very well warmed-up by the time my lesson started. We started by looking at my hockey stop (my homework), and she seemed satisfied that it was improved. I still need to work on it, though...

I told her that I'd concluded that my problems with the backward crossovers are because my back edges are weak; so we looked at them. Eeep! The BOs are not too bad, but the BIs.. yikes, they are weak. I was trying them on the hockey circle and I had a lot of difficulty just getting into them, especially (of course) RBI. She said I need to focus on getting comfortable, get set in the correct posture and be able to hold it.

From there we went to working on the FO3s. She said they have improved. There is still a lot of room for improvement, starting with consistency! Then we looked at the RFI Mohawk. It's better too, but still scratchy. I'm still having trouble getting good rotation. We also tried an LFI Mohawk or two; I need to work on these as I still don't have a feel for where to place the free foot, and of course one needs to just know since looking down will pitch me forward. I need to work on just skating a bit on the LFI with the free foot in the correct position so that I just know where it is.

After that we went to look at the FI3s. I know I did at least one of these before, but today I just couldn't for the life of me do one. It seems to be mostly fear; plus a little bit of weakness in the FI edges. To work on it we went back to looking at the MIF FI edges. I didn't do very well at them, and she said I need to get over my skating foot immediately when I push off; as it is there's a little bit of wobbliness before my placement is correct.

That was about all we had time for. I felt a little frustrated and disappointed in myself, it just seems like I have so far to go. There's so much to do. I know I've come a long way but I just feel like I have not made much progress recently. I know that in part I have a lot of fundamentals that need work and it's going to take some time (months, probably), it's just that I felt particularly dorky today. Oh well... Rome wasn't built in a day.

At the end of our lesson, my homework assignment was to work on backward edges... or, as Anna said, "backwards, backwards, backwards!" That will be a little tricky as the only practice time I'll have is tomorow at the Saturday zoo, and then Monday afternoon. I will be traveling for work Monday night to Wednesday night so no Wednesday night skating for me. The other thing that Anna asked me to be thinking about is to be more deliberate in my motions -- to try to move only as I mean to. It's a good thing to think about; when I think of skaters that I admire (not just on TV, but at our rink as well) the ones that seem most graceful and elegant have a certain precision that comes from a thoughtfulness, a deliberateness in their motion. I'll try.

My skating buddy Nicole was back today. She was off the ice for a while due to some surgery. It was really nice to see her again; she was one of the first people I met at the rink and she's always been very nice and encouraging to me. She takes lessons from Anna also so we have that in common as well.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Sharp Skates

I got my skates sharpened yesterday, so today I managed to take a longer lunch so I could skate at coffee club and get used to the new feel.

I must be getting better about this, because the adjustment wasn't nearly so bad as it had been the last time I had them sharpened. It was a bit "sticky", yes, but not at all difficult to manage. I had a good 1 hr 15 minute skate, and worked on all my usual stuff (although I didn't try any hockey stops until the end of the session). I worked on edges, especially on trying to keep my free hip back and not let it rotate forward. I also worked on crossovers and of course 3-turns and the RFI Mohawk. No great breakthroughs, just some solid practice.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Sunday Night Bonus Time

I had an opportunity to skate tonight at the public session, something I don't usually have time for. It was lightly attended and generally good skating.

I spent a lot of time on the FO3s and RFI Mohawk. I got the RFO3 back, and both it and the LFO3 are looking fairly good (for me). One thing that seems to help the RFO3 in particular is to think about "completing the circle". That is, when doing the turn by skating a semicircle it seems to help to think that you need to rotate enough to finish off the circle, i.e. that the back edge is part of the same circle the forward edge was. Sounds simple, I know, but it seems to help. Also, I am finally getting a pretty nice check on the LFO3. The RFO3 is still pretty scrapey but it's coming along. The Mohawk is improving too, I'm getting a reasonable rotation and finally starting to get a feel of it just being a step. I tried a few LFI Mohawks but I couldn't get the rotation started so I left it alone for now.

I spent a fair amount of time continuing to work on my homework, the hockey stop and the backward edges. It's become clear that my LB edges are starting to come along, but my RB are definitely a problem. Just getting on an RB edge at all is quite difficult for me. It's discouraging.

All in all I skated for a bit over 2 hours tonight. It was a good skate. I'd thought perhaps I could make this session a replacement for Wednesday (had other things I wanted to accomplish Wednesday evening), but I'm getting my blades sharpened tomorrow so I will definitely have to skate Wednesday night if I hope to have a productive lesson Friday.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Saturday Zoo

I went to the public session today, and it was even more zoo-like than usual... very crowded, and by 2 or so the ice was really bad, even in the center of the rink where it usually doesn't get as bad.

I worked on my homework from yesterday, although I didn't do a lot of backward skating since it was so crowded. I did a lot of work on my hockey stop, and while I wouldn't say that I'm stopping from great speed yet, I have definitely improved it. The key is to get down in the knees more (amazing how listening to your coach can be helpful :-)). Bending the knees as you skid you both feel more stable (lowering your center of gravity) and you can push into the ice to get a faster stop. Progress!

I worked on my FO3s. My RFO3 has deserted me again; I think it's just a matter of not getting full rotation and failing to commit to the turn. The session was kind of distracting so I didn't worry about it too much for today, but I'll try to go on Wednesday night and work on it more.

I also spent some time working on my RFI Mohawk, and it is improved. The key to this is that I remembered Anna saying I needed to have a better entry edge. Previously when I'd done it, it was a fairly shallow edge and I had a lot of trouble. Sure enough, once I tried it on a deeper edge I got much better results. I tried some LFIs too but they aren't coming yet.

I'm finding that my Saturday sessions are not the most productive. They are very crowded and it's hard to get good work in. Still, I will probably continue them since I have the time for them (usually) and it's better than only skating twice a week, at least somewhat.