Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

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

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Test Session

I got to observe another test session this morning. About half of Anna's students were testing, many of them more than one test. I was there from 9 a.m. to noon, so a very cold 3 hours!

I got to observe a Novice freestyle test. I didn't even know until Friday that we had anyone at that level at our rink. It was fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge she didn't pass; she fell on a ... double loop? And couldn't get it in the re-skate either. It's too bad, it's clear she had worked very hard and she's a beautiful skater.

I got to watch a number of dance tests. I don't really know what to look for on these tests, but it's nice to watch. The quality of the turns on these dances is a real goal to strive for -- but one that will take a long time to achieve.

Most instructive for me to watch were several iterations of the pre-Juv and Juvenile MIF. Wow. I know how to do one of these moves (the perimeter crossovers) so that was helpful for me to watch and see what a passing standard looks like for that. I need a lot more edge on those!

On the Juvenile MIF, I'd seen most of these moves before at various freestyle sessions -- but the back power 3s! Good Lord, those look mind-numbingly difficult. I am beginning to see how these MIF tests lay the foundation for the footwork elements required for both FS and dance.

In the end there were a lot of happy people, some disappointed people, and unfortunately a couple of nasty falls -- poor Ashley had a fall that probably wouldn't have been bad at all except she was coming back to the door to talk to her coach, and when she fell she whacked her wrist on the door frame, as near as I could tell. I think she's going to be okay, though, and she went ahead and tested her Preliminary freeskate at the end of the session. What a trouper!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Saturday Zoo

I attended the public session today, but only for about 75 minutes due to other commitments. The ice was pretty dreadful and I got very little done -- some spins, back edges, and 3-turns. I've noticed I'm better able to compensate for problems in my spins now; I can "fix" some problems without having to give up on the spin. That's pretty neat. I talked with Lisa Mc. about the alternating 3-turns; she's working on them too. Of course hers are much nicer than mine! I was thinking later, after watching her, that maybe it's easier to do a 3-turn if you are going faster. In thinking about it it seems like I can see some reasons why this would be true. I'll have to experiment with it, and if I remember I'll ask Anna.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Slip-Sliding Away

For today's lesson, for some reason Anna did not have her skates with her, so she was coaching from the boards. Not optimal but it worked okay. We worked on a bunch of stuff:
  • perimeter stroking -- we spent just a little time on this. I'm still not getting good extension. I think it's mostly a matter of getting (of course) my weight firmly over the new skating foot so that there's no hesitation or bobbling in allowing the free foot to push and extend.
  • 3-turns -- the FO3s are okay. Anna says I'm tending to have a little... not sure what to call it on the RFO3. A "hop" but a small one. Anna says the reason my BI edge curves in too much is not so much from dropping the free side (I'm doing a better job on that) but that the free hip is closing instead of staying open. She suggested trying to point the free toe as a way of getting tension in the free leg, to keep the hip open. The RFI3 is not so bad, but the LFI3 is still a problem. We're going to try to come back to it on Monday when Anna has her skates. Still, there is some improvement.
  • perimeter crossovers -- Anna says the pattern looks good and I look confident, it's just the actual crossover she's not happy with yet -- that's a general problem (toepushing etc.) not specific to this pattern
  • spirals -- I was finally able to do some good spirals in front of Anna! There is a problem on the LF one though of starting out with a good extended free leg and then I'm having some kind of bobble in my balance, resulting in the free leg curling in and then extending again when I have my balance back. Anna says I'm getting a little too far back on my blade.
  • lunges -- we finished up with a couple of lunges. They are looking pretty good, but Anna said I need to make them deeper (down more). I said, "how low are we talking?" and Anna said this is one of those cases where we want to take it all the way and see what happens. So I did! I promptly did an LF lunge, went waaaay down, and the next thing I know I'm doing my Zamboni impression (thus the title of this post). It didn't hurt, it was actually kind of fun. We went on to the other foot and did the same thing. I guess it is somewhat helpful to know how far is too far...

And with that we were out of time. I mentioned to Anna afterward that I need to work on my acceleration/deceleration for the holiday show routine, and also that I wanted to learn the forward-to-back lunge-3-turn-lunge. She said that we could look at that Monday.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004


I managed to get about 70 minutes of skating in at adult skate today. I worked on a bunch of things. In particular, though, I worked on that darn t-stop. Basically I did push-push-push-STOP. Did this a bunch of times with some success but it feels very unsteady; also I need to put more weight on the back skate so I stop in a more timely fashion... While I was at it I played around with doing a right-footed T-stop (i.e. RF glide and using the left foot to stop) since I've always done it on the left foot. Spent a little time on it with just a little success. I'll have to come back to it.

I worked a little on the spin prep crossovers... I can really feel that nice RBI edge but dangit if I still can't get myself to step forward. I'll have to think about that one.

I knew at one time, but had forgotten, that there's a USFSA testing session this Sunday at our rink. I know one of the instructors (Linda) has a dance test, and I'm sure I know others who are testing too. Marge (a judge) told me there should be a Novice freestyle test. Now that should be worth seeing! I had planned on doing 2 hours of freestyle on Sunday but I don't know if there will be freestyle ice available then or not; and maybe I'd be better off watching some of these MITF tests anyway.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Holiday Show Program

We had our first rehearsal for the holiday show tonight. Our music is Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" (the theme is "A Holiday of Rock"). There are 4 adults in our group. I'm going to try to record what our program is so I don't forget:
  1. come out and stand in a line
  2. 1st group skates forward and t-stop
  3. 2nd group skates forward and t-stop
  4. All skate forward, left 2 do a big circle CCW and right 2 do a big circle CW
  5. All skate forward and do a lunge
  6. Left 2 skate to the right, right 2 skate to the left in big circles, do 2 bunnyhops, and come back into the center
  7. We're now at or just after "if I were the king of the world" and the King (that's me) stands in the center while the others circle round kow-towing and turning.
  8. All join up in the center and each goes off to do a "trick" (individual choice) in turn, starting with me
  9. Come back to the center, then peel off to do 2 big circles similar to #4 except back crossovers
  10. All do a 1-rev pivot
  11. 1st group skates forward
  12. All do a 2-rev spin
  13. 2nd group skates forward and joins up to take a bow, program is over.
I think that's correct, although it's possible I'm wrong about 4 and 5, they could be reversed.

We had 45 minutes to learn this, and we have 4 rehearsals still so I'm sure we'll be fine. For my part, I found it very daunting (which I expected). For one thing my acceleration is not so great; and I really need to work on my T-stops as they are a little rough. For the rest it's mostly just having to do everything boom-boom-boom is very daunting. Of course a "real" program would be much, much worse...

Anyway, I have a lot to work on. I need to find a trick to do. I was thinking about a forward lunge --> backward lunge that I've seen, although I'm not sure how I'd get out of that back to skating back to position. I've just gotten to where I can start to put things together in combinations and this is really going to make me work on that. It's a good thing, even if I am nervous right now.


I attended the adult session today. As usual for Tuesdays, it was very uncrowded (5 people tops) and nice ice.

"Highlights" for today:

  • spirals -- I don't know what my problem was yesterday. I managed several nice ones today, with (as far as I can tell) a straight free leg from the get-go. I'm still not at all happy with the RF ones though.
  • 3-turns -- spent a lot of time on these. My FO3s are really improving. I'm holding my exit better on them, but I still have a greater curve on the BI edge; I take that to be an indication that I'm dropping my free side. Got some improvement but not a lot. Worked the FI3s a bit (yes, even the dreaded LFI3). Of course the irony that occurred to me is that my LFI edge is much nicer than my RFI edge. Oh well. On the LFI3 (and a little on the RFI3, I think), I've realized (well, I think Anna pointed this out before) that I'm waaaaay overchecking this and that's a big part of my problem. Unfortunately there's little improvement as of yet. It would be really annoying for me to be held up testing by this...
  • spin prep -- I worked the back crossovers to step-forward part of the spin prep. I was only able to do the actual step-forward once though, and only after I slowed it waaaaaay down and made myself look over my hand. For the most part though I get into the rotated position with the free foot under, and then I either can't make myself turn and put the foot down in the appropriate direction, or my free foot has drifted out to the side already. It's frustrating.
  • back crossovers -- I worked the MITF pattern for these. It seems to be fine except that I can't convince myself to do the step-forward at the end for the "presentation," at least, not at that speed. I guess that's a comfort thing, I'll keep working on it. The initial LFI Mohawk went well though, so that's something.
  • back edges -- not much to say other than that I spent some quality time on them.
  • miscellaneous -- I did a few spins, a fair amount of stroking, some lunges and some forward crossovers. Didn't work the perimeter crossovers though.

Tonight is our first practice for the holiday show!

Monday, October 25, 2004

I'm Official, Part 2

I blogged about 3 weeks ago that I'd gotten my first issue of Skating magazine. Today, a much greater milestone -- I got my USFSA membership card. Yea! I'm stoked.


For today's lesson we looked at mostly freestyle stuff:

  • spirals -- we spent some time on spirals, but I was having a really off day for them. Anna told me I needed to keep the free leg straight from the beginning of the spiral and for some reason that just really threw me for a loop, I didn't do a single one I was happy with at all. Anna said the position on the RF spiral is actually looking fairly okay, but it sure doesn't feel that way. I'll have to work on this some more on my own.
  • bunnyhops -- emphasis on these was a) no hesitation, b) getting the rhythm of the move, and c) moving arms and free leg together as a piece. Anna also reminded me that the left (jumping) leg should be straight in the air before it comes down onto a bent knee. I got some good ones and Anna says they are more aggressive and somewhat improved.
  • waltz jump walkthrough -- we spent the bulk of our time on this and it got to the point I felt very comfortable with it. A couple points to remember -- keep the body straight, don't lean back (flinching!) or to the side; start off on a decent edge; be sure to bring the free leg up with the foot out, not tucked back. Anna says that being more aggressive on this move will help me get through it -- in part, I think, because I won't have time to scare myself too much. She was pleased with the progress on this and so was I.
  • back crossovers -- just a brief review of these. The CW ones are looking much better, the CCW not so much. I do much better when I don't rush them, just take my time. Anna says when I get going fast I tend to get up on my toes -- probably a subconscious fear reaction. Something to think about.
  • Mohawk combo -- just a brief review on this too. The cross step is looking better (my work on it the other day showed) but I need to bend my knees more and, Anna says, don't drop the inside hip while doing the cross. If I keep improving on this, I know she'll make me work on the cross-behind next. Oh well!
All in all a great lesson, and I was very happy with my progress.

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Inoue And Baldwin Move To Arizona

It's just been announced on the Desert Schools Coyotes Center - Peoria website that pairs skaters Rena Inoue and John Baldwin are moving their training to Peoria, AZ from LA.

I'm rather surprised that Inoue and Baldwin are choosing the Peoria rink -- the only other (good) pairs that I'm aware of are all skating at the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale (Yount & Marron and Aaron & Curzon). Interesting.

Clarification: Apparently the choice of rink was made by I & B's coach Jill Watson, not by I & B. Also I've been told that Aaron & Curzon are no longer a pairs team, but each have found new partners.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Saturday Zoo

I attended the public session today as usual. I only stayed for about two hours due to other commitments. It was a lot of fun since many of my usual skating buddies were there.

I spent some time on 3-turns; I'm now able on the LFO3 to step forward from the exit, but it's to an RFI that's almost perpendicular. Still, it's progress. I spent some time on Mohawks, trying to work on holding the exit edge there, but without much success. I worked on my spins and had some good ones.

I also spent some time on edges and crossovers, mostly just to keep up my skills. I spent some time working on the cross step at the barrier. The fact that I have difficulty with this skill shows up weaknesses in my back edges (which is not surprising); I managed to improve it somewhat so it's not quite so scrapey. There's much more to do, though. I also spent some time working on the scratch spin entrance exercise, but without much improvement.

The session was marred by a rather disturbing accident; a man fell and whacked his head and had some kind of seizure/convulsion. The rink staff called the paramedics and did what they could. It was kind of scary. I hope he's okay.

All in all not much to report but some good work and some fun socializing.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Edges & Spins

For today's lesson we started by looking at the spin prep stuff again that we looked at last time. I still can't do the step-forward out of the RBI edge from back crossovers, but we got some improvement. Anna says I really need to feel that RBI edge and really push into it. Also I'm tending to not rotate as I need to. Anna reminded me that for the spin entrance I'll need to feel like I'm pushing "under" my arm. Instead I'm tending to swing my arm away. We also worked on the forward edge a bit, with Anna showing me that I need to get more kneebend as I get deeper into the edge, and feel like I'm keeping the free hip open. Also I'm tending to keep my free arm back and she says it would be better to keep it at the side, straight out.

We took a little detour in the middle of all that to look at Mohawks on the circle again, both directions. Anna reminded me that on the back Mohawk I need to keep my feet closer together (she's told me that before!) so I'm not leaning forward or getting my weight ahead of me.

After all the spin prep work we then went to look at all my edges. The FO edges are not bad. The FI edges we worked more on keeping that free side up -- Anna says I need to fight for it more, and also that I need to bring my foot forward a little earlier (about 2/3s into the lobe instead of more like 3/4ths). She also reminded me again that I need to be looking up the line during these. Also, she mentioned that I need to work on the push between lobes, so that the amount of time I have two feet on the ice is minimized -- the push should be more like a push in stroking, where the new foot is taking the ice and the old one is pushing away. Lots to think about!

On the back edges, they are a bit improved even from last time. The BO edges we worked some more on the push-off and Anna says on the RBO edge I'm doing a good job of turning the head along with the arm rotation, but on the LBO not so much. Also Anna reminded me that I need to stay down in my knees for the push (for BO and BI edges both, I believe). I'm tending to rise too much out of the push. On the BI edges, still a lot to do but they are a bit improved. Anna suggested thinking for each lobe that I'm trying to get my weight onto the heel of the skating foot -- this helped a lot. The problems with the BI edges are not so much the edges themselves as the (almost) total lack of control of the body position.

Despite my concerns and occasional frustration, these really are improving. Anna says my forward edges are passing quality (I'm still not happy with the FI though), the BO are getting there and the BI still need lots of work.

We finished up by looking at actual spins. These are doing okay. Anna reminded me that when I drop my pivoting foot I shouldn't really be going backward any length on it (which apparently I am, at least that time), but it should just drop off the pick and start turning immediately. Still she was relatively pleased with these, especially the exit.

Anna says I can be/should be more aggressive on my spins, and also on my perimeter crossovers. Those are the two areas she said I can specifically work to be more aggressive, the rest is okay for now. All in all I thought it was a good lesson and it's nice to see some improvement in these basic items.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bonus Time

I don't usually get to skate on Thursdays due to schedule conflicts; however, the rink recently started a "Christian Family Night" skate on Thursday nights from 7 - 9 p.m., and I finished my evening activities around 8, so I zipped over to the rink and got about 40 minutes of skating in. No big breakthroughs or anything, but I did get some nice 3 turns and a couple of good spins in. Mostly it's nice to try to skate every day just to keep my feet feeling the ice. It wasn't crowded at all and the ice was pretty nice, so as long as they keep this session around I'll try to attend when my schedule allows.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


I skated the adult session today. I got there a little late so probably 70 minutes of skating. It was a pretty good skate; worked on back edges and 3-turns and Mohawks, mostly. The back edges are slightly better; I'm finding I really need to pay attention to where I'm looking, especially on the BI edges, or they go to heck. Still, just the fact that I was able to do a line's-worth of them is progress; although they are still quite rough and the form is lacking. Still, if I keep working I'm sure I'll have them by spring, so that is something.

The 3s are coming along, too. I'm doing a much better job of controlling the exit edge, but I still need to work on trying to get the step-forward out of them so I can chain them together. I did mostly FO3s and an RFI3, didn't touch the LFI3. I really need to spend some quality time on the LFI3.

Just before the end of the session I decided to do an LFO spiral; as I was coming out of it I felt my toepick start to grab. I managed to get both feet on the ice, but then almost fell backward instead. How I saved that one I don't know, but I decided it was just as well to get off the ice and back to work.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Spin Prep

My lesson yesterday was postponed to today due to the 5 p.m. freestyle session being cancelled. That meant when I got to the rink today I had not skated since Friday, and it showed. I had a good 40 minutes to warm-up, and I needed it. Today's lesson:

  • spins -- Anna asked me what I wanted to look at first, and I was tempted to say "anything but that darn Mohawk pattern!" -- but instead I said "spins" since we hadn't looked at them in quite some time, really. So we looked at them. I got a couple of quite good ones, and even evoked a "wow!" from Anna, which made me happy. She did have some corrections, though, mostly involving not trying to lead the initial pivot with the shoulder or arm, but really keeping the body (the box) constant. From there, Anna had me do an exercise consisting of skating an LFO edge with the free leg extended, while trying to have a good knee-bend and really pressing the heel. She wanted to have a really tight curve but I didn't quite manage that. Next we worked on another spin prep exercise, basically learning the entrance; she had me skate a back crossover, then hold the RBI edge and hold the free leg extended while rotating the body CW for the windup. Anna says this is one of those times when we really want to do a "real" rotation, not a "skinny" one. From there is supposed to come a step-forward but I couldn't quite manage that, so Anna left it for homework.
  • forward crossovers -- we went to FXOs on the circle next. Anna asked if I'd worked on them, saying they looked very improved. I have worked on them, but not that much. Anna pointed out that on the CW ones ("bad" side) I'm not pointing the crossing foot/toe when setting it down, which is part of the reason they feel so clunky. She had me do the CCW ones and then the CW ones so I could see how I'm different that way. This resulted in some improvement. I actually was getting some decent speed on the CCW ones, enough to scare me a little. I guess they are coming along.
  • forward perimeter crossovers -- since we were looking at the FXOs we went to the perimeter crossover pattern. This is getting slowly better. Anna said this is another place to do a "real" rotation and not a skinny one, but I'm so used to the skinny ones now it's hard for me to do the other -- as I commented to Anna, I've formed (in this case) a "bad" "good" habit. Also I'm still not tending to hold the body position and in general the first one or two are okay and then as I get out of the pattern I get messed up and confused. I guess I just need lots more practice on these to feel more comfortable with the pattern no matter what happens.
  • FO3s on circle -- for the last couple of minutes we finished up with doing some FO3s on the circle. I'm tending to over-check these way too much, and my trailing arm does strange things even on the LFO3. Still, I'm excited just at being able to do them at all.
All in all it was really a terrific lesson. I am so excited to be finally working on learning a "real" spin, I could just spit!

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Regionals Results

The final results are posted on the USFSA website. Katlynn McNab got 5th! The only other Arizonan in the final round of Juvenile girls was Madeline Kuhn from Phoenix. She got 10th. On the other hand, Arizonan Max Aaron got 1st place in Juvenile boys. Wow!


I did not attend the freestyle session. Between being sick earlier in the week and the carwash yesterday, I was wiped out and slept until 10. I needed the sleep, but I could have used the practice. Oh well. I don't get to go next Sunday due to church choir, either.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Another Regionals Update

Katlynn McNab got 3rd in her group in the 2nd round! Awesome!

Workin' At The Car Wash

We had a carwash today, a fundraiser for the holiday show (which is itself a fundraiser for World Care). It was actually a lot of fun, although I'm quite tired now. We did pretty well. People were really quite generous, and when you have a lot of people it's not so hard. There are going to be quite a few more of these in the next few weeks, so I'm sure I'll manage to work more even in spite of my schedule.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Regionals Update

I just checked the Regionals results on the USFSA website. Katlynn McNab took first in her group with 5 first place ordinals and 2 seconds in the qualifying round. TFSC's Erica Kris had a disappointing 16th place finish (4 16th place ordinals and 3 15th place).


I was off the ice for a couple of days due to some flu-style bug that I caught. Fortunately I was feeling sufficiently well today to both go to work and have my lesson. As I was finishing my warmup, Anna was finishing up Nicole's lesson, and she wanted me to "show off" some things for Nicole, including my BO edges and my one-foot spin. For once, I got a fairly good one-foot spin when people were watching! Yea!

We worked on quite a number of things today:

  • spirals --Anna showed me the pre-pre spirals pattern. It's basically the same start as perimeter stroking (steps down the width of the rink, then a crossover), then an LF spiral for the first half of the rink, change feet at the red line and hold to the end (more or less). As usual the LF spiral is okay. The RF one still needs work. Anna wanted me to work on holding it straight as she says I tend to be flat-edge-flat-edge and kind of wander on it. Anna suggested trying to feel like I'm bringing the skating shoulder back toward the free foot.
  • BI edges -- we worked these on the line. Anna says they've improved a lot since she last saw them. Still need to not short-change the length of the pushoff stroke. Anna reminded me that for the first half of the lobe I'm facing outside the circle, then change at the top of the lobe to facing inside the circle. And of course I still need to get the free foot in front for the first part of the lobe -- the whole "push, set" thing is lacking. Still, it's progress.
  • Mohawk combo -- yes, Anna wanted to look at this again. It's a little improved, even the cross step (which is the whole crux of the problem for me). I still need to bend the knees more, I think, though.
  • back crossovers -- the main thing Anna wants from me at this point is to have, at the end of the outside foot stroke, the outside foot closer to the inside foot in the "x" dimension (if "x" is the width of the body), but further away from the outside foot in the "y" dimension (where "y" is the dimension "in front" and "behind" the body). Part of what I need for this is a bit more knee bend on the back (inside) foot.
  • perimeter stroking -- we finished up with a quick lap around the rink. Anna said my extension wasn't as good as it could be/should be/has been, but that I had good speed and my end crossovers were better. Of course, she wants the extension too.

Anna was definitely in a "slavedriver" mode (or perhaps more "pc" would be to say, a very accomplishment-oriented mode). Still, in a way that's good, since I take it to mean that she thinks that I'm coming along to the point where she thinks she can expect more from me. As Martha Stewart would say, that's a good thing!

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Thursday, October 14, 2004


The Regional competition is this week. Good luck to Katlynn McNab, as well as Tucson's own Erica Kris!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Skating Music

I've been working on a CD of skating music -- actually, 3 CDs. I thought I'd do one of what I'd call "classic vocal" skating music, one of "classic instrumental", and then a "rock/pop" one. The first two would be to play at adult skate when I have the chance to play my own music; the second one would be for those rare occasions when I have the place to myself and I can be more... raucous. I'd combine the first two but my experiences so far with trying to mix vocals and instrumentals is that it doesn't work well as far as equalization and perceived loudness.

Anyway, one of the questions that comes up is how to arrange a particular set of songs for the best effect. Here's what I've come up with so far for my "classic vocals" (which are not necessarily "classical", just not rock):
  • Pie Jesu -- Charlotte Church
  • Beauty and the Beast -- Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson (Beauty and the Beast soundtrack)
  • Oceano -- Josh Groban
  • I Hear Bells -- Starting Here, Starting Now soundtrack
  • The Prayer -- Josh Groban & Charlotte Church
  • At The Beginning -- Donna Lewis & Richard Marx (Anastasia soundtrack)
  • In Trutina -- Charlotte Church
  • To Where You Are -- Josh Groban
  • Simple Things -- Jim Brickman & Rebecca Lynn Howard
  • With You -- Pippin soundtrack
  • Green Finch and Linnet Bird -- Sweeney Todd soundtrack
  • Journey to the Past -- Liz Callaway (Anastasia soundtrack)
  • All I Ask of You -- Phantom of the Opera soundtrack

All told about 45 minutes of music. I was also thinking about adding the ever-popular Nessun Dorma (Pavarotti). My reasoning on arranging the tracks as they are is a desire for variety of tempo -- I divided them into about 9 "slow" songs and 4 "fast" songs, so I did it slow-slow-fast (x 4). I'd welcome some feedback either by email or in the comment box!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


By my count, my $250 annual pass paid for itself about a week ago. Not bad, since I bought it July 31st. To date I've had 44 regular sessions plus 6 sessions where I've skated on the public ice as warmup for a lesson on freestyle (yes, I'm anal-retentive enough to track this stuff). I'm averaging 4+ public sessions a week (where public includes the adult skate). Being able to warmup on the public session is a great saver since I'm loath to spend money on a freestyle when I can only skate 20 minutes of the hour I'm paying for.

Of course, in spite of that savings (which is substantial), I'm still spending $12 or $18/week on freestyle sessions and having an hour's worth of coaching per week, so it's not like my skating expenditures are waning...

Spirals In Solitude

I attended the adult skate today, which was on the back ice again although it looks like the problems with the front ice are all fixed now. It was a nice session, very quiet (3 of us to start, then just 2). Points of interest:

  • Cross-step -- I spent a good chunk of time working on this by the boards and on the ice. The key seems to be to really bend the knees more so that it's not stepping down so far. The other issue is that the new free foot needs to come off the ice at an angle and that seems to be an issue.
  • Spins -- I spent some time on these and got some good ones. I'm still fighting to keep the right side up, though, not to mention making the pump not so big and keeping my weight over the pivoting foot. I'm doing much nicer on the exit, though, usually keeping my eyes/head up and even bringing the free foot back with a pointed toe :-).
  • Back edges -- the BI edges are getting better slowly! I'm getting more consistent on the BO edges too. Still lots to be done, of course.
  • Spirals -- I spent a fair amount of time on these. My LFO spiral is developing well. I've noticed (another Duh! moment) that if I can really get my torso down low I can get good height on the free leg (good height for me, that is). If I don't, I don't. The RF spirals were being problematic. I have a hard time keeping the skating leg straight (knee tends to bend) and still tend to feel off-balance. Bleah! Still it was nice to be able to work on these without anyone watching (except Linda, who was on the session -- she's an instructor so she doesn't count :-)) so I didn't feel so dorky. I had a couple that felt really good, which is helpful in knowing what to aim for.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Mohawk Combo From Hell

So because of the equipment problems I mentioned in the previous post, the rink cancelled the freestyle sessions for today and just had the public session on Rink 2. I called Anna after the adult skate, when I found this out, and asked her what she'd like to do. Since the other two students for Monday were sick and out of town, respectively, she said she'd take me at 4:30 (since I had the day off).

I got to the rink about 3:45 or so and had plenty of time to warm up. The ice was pretty bad since it had not been surfaced at all since before the adult skate, as far as I could tell. It was crowded since it had a few "civilians" plus most of the kids who would have been at the freestyle. I did my best to get warmed up and work some stuff out.

When Anna got there we surveyed the ice and crowd, and decided to start working on Mohawks. We started out working them on the hockey goal, Anna pressing me to keep my head/eyes up and to try harder to hold the exit edge. Then we moved to the circle and worked on the Mohawk - back Mohawk combo for a little bit, then on to the Basic 8 move we've been working on (a.k.a. the Mohawk combo from Hell :-)). I had to work this several times in both directions and wasn't in the mood to, but Anna seemed in a mood too -- I think it was a "let's fix this stuff now" mood. So we worked on the combo and in particular Anna emphasized doing the two crossovers and then straight into the Mohawk, no hesitation or other steps, just boom do it. Which of course is actually fine once I really make up my mind to do it... then we worked on just the cross step since that's the part that's actually giving me trouble. Anna said part of my difficulty is that I'm (again) hesitating to do the step, which just allows me time to think about it and freak myself out and get out of position. She said I really need to maintain the position and the BO edge. Fortunately my BO edges are a lot better than they used to be or I wouldn't be able to do this at all. Anyway, we spent a long time working on this, with some improvement. Anna said the Mohawks have improved.

For the last part of the lesson we looked at back crossovers again. Anna wants to fix some things about my technique but I was having some trouble understanding exactly what she's getting at. Partly it's something she's mentioned before, that the outside foot stroke needs to be smaller. But she also wanted me to... not make the inside leg stroke so large? I wasn't clear on this, and we were out of time (they were kicking everyone out and bringing the Zamboni out) so Anna said we'd come back to this on Friday.

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Since I had today off (Columbus Day!) I skated at the adult skate at lunchtime, then came back for my lesson (I'll put the lesson entry in a separate post). Unfortunately the compressor problems the rink had Sunday were not yet solved, so adult skate was on the back ice (cold!).

It was a good skate. I spent some time on 3-turns, and did some good ones. A little time on spins, and got one very good one (how I wished Anna had seen it!). I worked a little bit on the cross step since that's been an issue, but not much progress. I also spent a fair amount of time on spirals, and actually got one that I saw in the reflection of the glass as I went by -- it looked almost okay! By that I mean the free leg was not much below hip height. I was very pleased and impressed!

Campbell's Classic

I got to watch my tape of Sunday morning's broadcast of the Campbell's Classic. Wow! First, it was great to see Kimmie Meissner come out and skate such a great program. It was awesome to watch. Second, what more can you say about Michelle Kwan? 20 seconds into her program, Peggy Fleming was saying, "I like this program already," and I have to agree. My all-time favorite MK program is still 2003's Aranjuez, but this Bolero program is a close second.

The things I like about this program are myriad, but two things stand out in particular. First, the influence of Christopher Dean on the footwork and general moves is really neat to watch, it's different, graceful, fluid. Second, the program just builds and Builds and BUILDS and BUILDS. It's a great melding of choreography, music, and MK's persona and mystique. The end result is this steamroller of a program that just bowls over everything in its path. I predict that if she can fix some of the small things that were wrong, she's going to have a good season. If she can add a triple-triple, it's going to be a great season. Wow.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Sunday Morning Freestyle

I skated the 9 a.m. freestyle this morning. It was, oddly enough, on the front ice -- apparently the hockey players got there first and opted for the back ice -- a wise choice since they were patching the ice at one end of the front sheet and had 15 or 20 feet coned off on the end. It was annoying to have to skate in those circumstances, albeit worse for those with programs to practice.

I worked a little on the footwork assignment from Anna; it's the cross step that's the real problem. I didn't make any real gains on that front. I worked a few spins; I'm glad to say I'm starting to do a better job at keeping my head/eyes up on the spin exit. It's about time. I spent a fair amount of time on 3-turns, and especially at the end of the session on the LFI3. I discovered some interesting things. Part of my problem with this turn is I'm losing my arm/shoulder position in the turn; I notice when I'm done with my attempt my trailing arm isn't trailing at all, it's pointing into the circle. Hmmm. Anyway, I worked these for a while with no real apparent progress but at least some understanding.

These 1-hour sessions are a little frustrating, as I wrote last time -- right when I'm warmed up and doing well it's time to go. Oh well, it's better than nothing I guess.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

3-Turns And Sharp Blades At The Zoo

As usual I attended the Saturday public session, arriving around 1 and staying until the end (4:30), so with the Z-break etc. probably 3 hours of solid skating.

Although the ice was not so great, it was a fun session. Most of my little (and not so little) buddies were there. I had a fun time with Rebecca, in particular, as we got into this little diatribe a couple of times:

Gordon: You're mental!
Rebecca: You're mental!
Gordon: Oh yeah? You're mental!
Rebecca: Bring it on!
Gordon: Talk to the hand, girl!
Rebecca: Oh yeah, well, I can do a back spiral! Can you do a back spiral? Didn't think so!

She had me with that, I've not yet tried a back spiral. Maybe tomorrow, but I wasn't about to try one at a public session.

I had some solid improvement in my 3-turns. On Tuesday, Anna had mentioned to me that I should try to think of it as keeping my calves together, not my knees. I finally really tried this and wow! what a difference it makes. Much more control on the exit edge. On one of the LFO3s I was able to do a step-forward, albeit to an RFI not an RFO. Still, very exciting.

As I was taking my skates off and drying the blades as usual, I managed somehow to get my left index finger caught between the towel and the blade. The result was that I basically pressed and drew the blade down my finger. OWW! I got a very nasty cut. And this is when my blades have not been sharpened for 4 weeks already. Sheesh. Very dumb, but instructive I guess. Anyway it bled like a son of a gun for a while. Note to self: throwing some Band-Aids in the skating bag wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Friday, October 08, 2004

More Woodshedding

Today's lesson started out by reviewing forward edges. We ran through them like for the test; FO out and FI back (no "presentation" though). The FOs are okay, the FIs I still need to work on lifting the free hip a bit. Anna says I need to look down the line as I'm coming back to the axis, and to think about progressing a bit. Also it would help if, along with lifting the free hip, I managed to keep the free foot firmly in front of the skating foot coming back to the line. Hmmph!

Next we went to back edges. First BO edges, which are improving but still rough. Anna reminded me that for these I need to be looking down the line the whole time as well, and to think of going "out" more (i.e. a little straighter). Next we went to BI edges, which took the bulk of our time for today. These are slowly improving (long way to go though!). We worked on getting a better push, holding the "set" position and getting the free foot in front, and improving/smoothing the rotation. For these I need to be looking over the shoulder at first, then toward the line as I come back to the axis. In contrast to the BO edges, for these I need to think less "out" and more "diagonal" both "going out" from, and "coming back," to the line. In looking back, I see that I was introduced to the BO edges in February, I think (!) so I have been working on them a long time. Of course I've been working on most of this stuff for a long time.

For the last bit of our time Anna showed me a pattern that she wants me to practice, it's more or less the same as from the USFSA Basic 8 curriculum. It's done on a hockey circle and consists of forward crossovers into an inside Mohawk, then a cross-step, then a step forward (BI Mohawk). There can be some back crossovers in there too for speed. Anyway, the Basic 8 one is a cross behind but she said I can do a cross in front for now -- that is, skating backward (e.g. RBO) cross the free foot inside the circle, but cross it in front not behind. Anyway, Anna says this is a nice combination of things. I managed one or two in each direction so that was good. I'm sure at some point I'll have to do the cross-behind though.

For the very last part of our time Anna showed me another pattern she wants me to work on, FO spirals. I think it's a simplified version (or not) of the Preliminary Moves pattern (which is FO and FI spirals). Anyway, it's just doing alternating FO spirals on lobes down the rink similar to the perimeter crossover pattern. I tried it once and discovered that I needed a) bigger lobes (!) and b) to get into the spiral position faster.

And with that we were over our time by 5 minutes or so. Anna wants me to work on these patterns and we'll look at them again next Friday. She asked me how much time I would have to work between now and Monday, and at first I said just Saturday at the Zoo and the Sunday 9 a.m. freestyle; but later I remembered that I am off on Monday (Columbus day!) so I will have more time Monday. So she said we'll possibly look at one of them on Monday (or not).

In looking over my blog I'm realizing that I am, in some respects, far behind where I'd hoped to be by this point. For example, it's October and I still haven't learned a waltz jump. I'm a little disappointed, but that's tempered by the realization that I really am progressing and a lot of things are become easier and more solid. For example, I was warming up today and I intended to do an LFO edge and did an LFO3 instead. A lapse in concentration? Sure, but the point was I was able to do a 3-turn without really thinking. Okay, it was kind of a scrapey one, but still -- there's something to that. Also in the warmup today I did the best one-foot spin I've done to date -- a solid 3 revs! Of course Anna wasn't looking at the time :-(. Still, the point is that I am in a good place in my skating, I think, and I should not be too frustrated by somewhat artificial goals when I otherwise think I'm making pretty good progress.

I asked in the office and was told that the Wednesday night public session has indeed been changed to 7 - 8:30 p.m. indefinitely due to hockey. Considering the condition of the ice and the shortness of the session I think I will be better off trying to skate the adult session at lunchtime on Wednesdays too -- it's only 10 minutes less time, the ice is better, it's less crowded. It's hard to get away from work that much (3 long lunchtimes a week) but I can go ahead and stay late on Wednesdays to make it up so I think it will be okay.

I was talking with Lisa H. after the session -- she's very excited, having just done her first flying sitspin today. She did 4! She says they were small, but hey, you have to start someplace. Congrats Lisa!

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Blood On The Ice

I attended the public session tonight, having invited some friends to come skating with me. Unfortunately the starting time was changed last minute from 6:30 to 7 due to hockey, and when the session started the rink still reeked of hockey boys. The ice had been zamboni'd but was still rutted and rough. If this is the state of affairs now for Wednesdays, I'm likely to skate at the Wednesday adult session and just work late instead. It's better ice and only 10 minutes less skating time (1:20 vs. 1:30 if the 7 p.m. time is permanent).

I had a fun time and didn't work on too much. I did get one really nice 1-footed spin; I think it was close to 3 revs! About 8 p.m. or so a hockey boy (he looked early 20s to me) fell and cut his cheek on the ice and was bleeding all over -- and here I thought hockey boys were made of rubber! Apparently it looked worse than it was -- one of my friends present is a nurse and she helped him out; she says he'll be fine.

It was a fun session as far as socializing, but like I said, I will probably stick to adult skate at lunch if they are going to a) have such miserable ice and b) have only a 90 minute session. It's just not worth it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Today's lesson was a make-up lesson from Friday since I was out of town and had to reschedule. As usual, the adult session was pretty quiet (2 people plus myself and Anna) and nice ice. Really, ideal conditions.

Surprisingly, Anna wanted to work on 3s again -- presumably because she'd wanted to work them on the circle yesterday and we never got to that. So we worked on the FO3s a bit on the line first; Anna reminded me I need to get a better "lilt" or "down-up-down". As usual the LFO3 was not too bad, the RFO3 less so. I feel like I've been working on these things for about forever, but they certainly have improved a lot.

Next we went to work on them on the circle -- the FO3 --> back 2-foot turn move again that we'd worked on a while back. The LFO3 on the circle is actually surprisingly good; we spent a fair amount of time on the back 2-foot turn. Anna pointed out that like for the other back turns (back Mohawk), I need to press the heel before the turn. She also suggested lifting the toes, and reminded me (as always) to turn the head to see where I'm going. That helped quite a bit but these are still very awkward and, worst of all, I really can't stand practicing them. I guess I'll have to get over that. I was complaining to myself, "why can't I just do a step-forward on this?" but of course this is training for the inevitable back 3s that I'll be learning at some point. Eeep!

We also worked on the RFO3 on the circle; it's a bit rougher. Some of the symptoms are the same as the LFI3, that is, the free leg coming unglued. Anna said that rather than keeping my knees together, I should think of it as keeping my calves together, with the free foot pointed down. This results in less "swing" in the free leg/foot and seems to help. Another good point.

Next we went on to work the back outside and inside edges. The BI edges are a little bit improved but still quite rough. Anna gave me some posture corrections (tending to lean forward a little bit) and also suggested that I need to push from the heel more (how often have I heard that phrase?) on the push-off. It's true, I can hear the toe-scratch on the push and that shouldn't be happening.

We finished up by looking at bunnyhops again. Anna says I'm trying to get momentum from bring my arms forward, and that I need instead to get it all from the ankle motion (the actual hop). She also said I should feel like I get the left leg totally straight in the air before I bend the knee so I land on the right foot/toepick. She also (once again) said I'm not taking off from a straight-on toepick but instead turning my left foot out. She had me pushing onto the LF flat from a RF glide, then doing the bunny hop, so that the right leg coming back would come as a natural sequence of pushing onto the left foot. Anyway that seemed to help some. And with that we were out of time.

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I'm Official

I paid my TFSC dues back in July or so, and while I've not gotten a membership card yet, I got my first issue of the USFSA member magazine, Skating, today. YEA! On the other hand, they have my last name misspelled. Grr! Hopefully that will be corrected soon...

Monday, October 04, 2004

All 3s, All The Time

For today's lesson, we entered the 3-Turn Zone. Seriously, we spent the entire lesson working on 3s, both outside and inside. First we worked the FO3s. Anna seemed surprised that I am scissoring my arms, although we had worked on this in a previous lesson (see, there are some good reasons for this blog!). Anyway, the FO3s are not too bad. We worked on improving the entrance position. I'm still having trouble holding the exit edge, but Anna said she doesn't want me over-checking since that will give me other problems. She did say that I'm looking into the circle after I turn (presumably to look at the tracing or some other stupid thing) -- need to keep looking over the arm/hand that's leading. How many times have I been told this? Sheesh!

We went on to work on the FI3s. Anna introduced a new exercise to help with this, consisting of skating two lobes of an FI edge followed by the turn. I found this really helpful both to remind me that other than the turn it's really pretty similar to doing edges as far as initial setup etc., and also just to be better prepared for the turn. We started with RFI edge, LFI edge, RFI3. To help with placement of the turn, Anna called out on the edges where the turn would be placed -- it's further than it seems it ought to be. Anyway my RFI3s still need work but it was a very helpful exercise.

After that RFI3 we spent some time on the LFI3. Anna agreed that my free foot is sabotaging me here; and we worked on keeping the free foot in position during the turn, as well as getting a better edge and some other issues. There was some small improvement. Anna says I need to just get one somehow so I know how it feels and then it will be better. I don't know if it's fear of falling or what on this. I've fallen doing 3s before, but except for one nasty backward fall a long time ago, they've never hurt or been serious. The backward fall was because my foot got in front of me, and I'm not doing that anymore. As Anna said, I need to turn my brain off on this one. Any suggestions on how to do that?

All in all it was a good lesson, although of course a little frustrating I'm not doing better on the darn LFI3.

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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sunday Morning Ice

I managed to get my butt out of bed to attend the 9 a.m. freestyle today. It was cold in the rink! The thermometer said 45 degrees! Eeep. It took me a while to warm up under those conditions.

I spent most of my time on 3-turns and back edges, and a few spins. My spins seem to be off lately from where they were a few weeks ago. I assume it's because I have not practiced them a lot, but even so, my balance seems to be a bit poor. I also spent some time on the waltz jump walkthrough and a few bunnyhops. No big breakthroughs.

For the next few weeks I'm only going to be able to skate for the 9 a.m. (1 hour) and leave at 10. It is frustrating because I'm just getting really in the groove by 9:30 or 9:45 and then I have to leave. Grrr!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Saturday Zoo

I went to the public session as usual today. I got there a little late and left a bit early; probably 3 hours of skating total.

Not much to report, I spent a lot of time goofing around but did get some good spins in. I reminded myself to keep my weight over the toepick on the pivot and tried to be more aggressive on my pull-in, so I got some increased speed from that. I also spent a little time on Mohawks, 3-turns and crossovers but nothing major to report.

The amusing things for today -- Kathryn and her friends pretended to be "clueless newbie" teenybopper skaters; they were flipping their hair and saying "I don't know how to stop!" then falling down and (of course) being unable to get up. Skating comedy is an underexplored field, I think. I attempted to give Dana a "cool name" of "DK" (her first two initials). That lasted about 30 minutes when it occurred to her that a name that sounds like "decay" is perhaps not as salutary as one would hope. Oh well, I had the best of intentions! Maybe just "D" will be sufficient.

Skating Field Trip

I had the day off from work yesterday, so I was in Phoenix to visit friends and family and have a "skating field trip."

I attended the coffee club session at Desert Schools Coyotes Center (formerly Polar Ice) in Chandler. I'd skated there before, but only at the public sessions. They coffee club session was really nice -- only about 6 or 7 people, all figure skaters. I dragged a friend of mine with me; she'd not skated in many years (she's a recreational skater) but she did fine, didn't fall once and was able to get around the rink and enjoy herself. I didn't work anything seriously since I was supposed to be there with my friend :-) but I did manage a few 3s, a couple of spins, and some miscellaneous other stuff just to keep my hand in.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they honored my Polar Ice annual pass, so I didn't have to pay to skate. Yay!

After the session I said goodbye to my friend and headed up to the Alltel Ice Den. There I met up with Katlynn McNab's dad (Dale) and we had a good conversation while watching her practice. Her double axel had deserted her for a while, but it looks like it's back (and a nice one it is, too!). It was interesting to watch the session there, a lot of really good skaters. They have a practice I've heard about that we don't do here in Tucson -- the person whose music is playing wears a little sash/ribbon so that others know to give them the right of way. I was personally disturbed to discover one of the skaters there has a program set to a John Williams piece that I've always wanted to skate to -- here I thought it was my only little back-pocket secret and then I hear it playing over the loudspeakers! Of course by the time I get around to being able to skate to it it will be several years from now, I'm sure, so I got over it :-).

Another interesting thing about the session was that after the session they make the skaters patch the holes in the ice that they've made. I thought that was an interesting thing -- another custom we don't have in Tucson. Apparently it's pretty common elsewhere, but I thought it was kind of neat.

After the session we were standing around talking, and Dale introduced me to Grant Marron. Grant is a pairs skater (his partner is Jenna Yount), and I'd actually gotten to watch them practicing some side-by-side jumps and other stuff at the session. He seems a very intelligent, together person and of course he's an awesome skater. We had a nice chat (he was playing around with Katlynn, putting her on his shoulders etc.) and then it was time to go.

I had a great time on my little field trip. It's nice to see what other folks are doing and how other rinks function.