Gordon's Sk8er Boi Blog

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

Thursday, June 30, 2005


Today's lesson was on the 7 a.m. freestyle --
  • alternating 3s -- back to these! We spent probably half the lesson on them. While they are continuing to improve there's still a long way to go (and we only looked at the FO3s, not the FI3s). Anna says on the RBI step forward I'm blocking with my shoulder so it's keeping me from stepping forward on the new circle without retrogressing. On the LBI, I need to feel more tension in the free leg (similar to the BI edge coming back to the line that I do so nicely). She says the upper body position is pretty good overall.
  • FO, FI, BO, BI edges -- we ran through these as for the test. FO and FI weren't bad (except for a reminder to point the toe!). BO I'm tending to pull the free leg wide when I'm on the right foot, and I was reminded to start the new edge perpendicular to the axis, not diagonal. Anna also says I need to avoid rushing -- the first couple of edges are usually quite good but then I start to rush them and they aren't as good. Need to focus and take my time on each part of each element. The BI edges weren't too bad but Anna reminded me I need to get better draw-through of the free leg, and there needs to be that "squaring-off" at the top of each lobe.
  • FXOs -- just a couple of quick times through at the end of the lesson. Anna says I'm getting reasonably good flow CCW, but the CW ones... bringing the crossing foot waaaay too wide. I also don't really remember too well that I was supposed to use a bigger circle than the hockey circles -- I have not practiced them enough that way. I believe we were aiming for basically splitting the width of the rink into two big circles. I am still not very happy with these, I just don't think they are flowing well.
A very productive lesson, all in all. Tomorrow I believe Anna wanted to look at crossovers some more, and maybe some jumps (back to Salchow and toe-loop entrances, I think) and spin setup.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fast Learner

I attended the public session tonight, but instead of my usual practice, I brought a friend who wanted to go skating for the first time in several years. She'd done roller hockey as a kid for several years.

Wow! She is a fast learner. In hardly any time she was able to pick up a rudimentary two-foot spin, two-foot turn, glide on one foot, basic crossovers and even a 3-turn and a scratchy Mohawk! I was jealous... I worked and slaved for months on those elements!

The moral of the story is if you have kids, teach them to skate! Even if they don't wind up wanting to pursue it as a kid, it will be in their feet and theirs forever.

Monday, June 27, 2005

New Ice

I skated the adult session today -- my first time on the new front ice. It's really nice! I liked it an awful lot, even though it was a bit wet on the ends. Hmm.

I was supposed to have a lesson today but Anna did not show (no word from her as of yet). I had a really good skate, though. Did my 10 waltz jumps, 5 from a standing start and 5 from the entrance. Wow. I'm really starting to like this. When I do it from the entrance I don't have time to get scared and it just flows. There's an awful lot to fix in them of course, but the main point for me right now is just to get them ingrained in me so there's no fear. Of course I am trying to work on improving the setup, looking up, etc.

I also worked 3s a bunch, and crossovers (forward and back), and stroking and power-3s and the 5-step Mohawk and edges. I had a lot of time and got to work on almost everything; although I didn't spend too much time on the spin entrance or spinning in general. In general, though, a really nice skate -- I'm psyched.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Waltz Jump & Spin Entrance

Today's lesson:
  • waltz jump -- I was working these (waltz jump with entrance from BXOs) before my lesson, so we continued into the lesson time. Anna was pleased that I had worked these up so well. We focused mostly on the extension and "gather" before the step forward. Anna says I need to ride the blade better on the BO edge, and have more control of the positions before the step forward. I'm still looking down too :-(. I'm just pleased that I've somehow managed to get these to where they are comfortable. I think it's because when done from this entrance I don't give myself time to think about the jump too much.
  • spin entrance -- just 5 or 6 minutes on this. It is SO CLOSE! It makes me want to scream. Anna says all I'm really lacking now is enough confidence/aggressiveness/oomph to get the edge-bite I need. Arrgh. I'll have to keep working on this. I think in general the form is looking okay so long as I'm concentrating.
A really fun lesson! Next week's lessons are Monday at adult session and Thursday 7:30 a.m.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I skated the adult session today, got about 75 minutes of skating in. It was not too crowded, which was nice. Spent the first 20 - 25 minutes feeling quite dorky and uncoordinated, but it got better after that.

I spent a lot of time on 3s today, especially trying to work on the alt-3s. Not much progress there. Also worked power-3s, the 5-step, and a little time on Russian stroking and FXOs. I spent some time working on the spin entrance, but it was stinky today -- as soon as I did the step forward I would wind up doing an LFO3! Sheesh. Ideally I'd have a little longer edge and then do the spin where I was doing the 3, but I couldn't make it happen today so decided to leave it alone.

The bright spot for today was that after I did my 10 waltz jumps, I decided to work once more on doing them from the entrance -- i.e. BXOs, step forward, jump. I managed to do 3 of these in a row! The jumps were small (I wasn't spotting well and kept looking down), but the rhythm of them felt really good. I was pretty psyched about this. Hopefully I can build on this and get the jump a bit bigger. It felt much more free and natural than the standing-start attempts I'd done previously. I'll have to work on this some more.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Jump Entrances

Today's lesson was at coffee club since the morning FS schedule was changed. As it turned out there were only 7 or 8 people there anyway, so it was a nice environment. I talked to Anna about the Zimmerman clinic and how it went.

Today's lesson:
  • salchow entrance -- since I told Anna that I had looked at the salchow entrance, she decided to work it a little bit; just an LFO edge, LFO3, hold the LBI and then curve it in while bringing the free leg in. It's not too hard, actually; it's just important to control the LBI edge.
  • toe loop entrance -- we looked at this one too, very briefly. The main point Anna made was to make the RFI3 very straight and hold the RBO almost on a flat -- she had me do it on the blue line.
  • 5-step Mohawk -- we spent some time on these. The first and second steps are not too bad. We worked on the slide chassé for a bit -- went around the hockey circle doing slide chassés, then came back to doing the 5-step. Also worked on the step to the BO edge, to get more of a push onto it. Anna says I'm tending to stick my tush out on this 3rd step -- not sure if that will improve as I get more comfortable or if I just need to work on standing up straighter or what. She made me do a sequence of 4 of them down the line, which is the first time I've done that many in a row, I think.
  • BO edges -- we'd not looked at these in a while. The good news is that the push is getting better. The free leg position (and upper body) still needs work, though -- need more tension in the free leg. I did manage to do it better once or twice though.
  • BI edges -- these were looking pretty good. Nice draw through, nice free leg position coming back to the line. Anna says I need to get that same free leg position on the BO edges.
That was it! After my lesson I had some time, so I did some spins and my requisite 10 waltz jumps. Not much to say, there is slight improvement I suppose. They are at least comfortable, anyway.

Ice Update: The front ice is back up! There was a hockey practice going on when I was leaving the rink. It looks nice. We are still on the back ice this week; I believe they will be taking the back ice down next week or so.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Zimmerman/Fontana Clinic

Today was the big day, the John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana "Reach Your Dreams" clinic hosted by Polar Ice Tucson. We started with a warmup at 6:45, then a little after 7 we got started on-ice. The on-ice part probably lasted an hour and 45 minutes, then we had a break while we got our skates off etc., then an off-ice workout followed by Q&A and an autograph session.

On-Ice: We started with some stroking routines, basically quick stroking and crossovers down the rink both forward and backward. I found these quite difficult; it's one thing to do this stuff at a leisurely pace, it's another to do FI edge-->crossover-->FI edge-->crossover down the rink at a quick tempo. After that we did another exercise consisting of alternating FI3s down the rink... eep! I did my fastest-ever RFI3s, they were not that bad actually. Of course the LFI3s are still nascent.

Next we worked through single jumps: waltz, salchow, toe loop, loop, flip & lutz. Of course I can only do the waltz jump. If I remember correctly, feedback from John was to bring the right side through more (I could be wrong, it's a blur). I had a nice compliment from one of the coaches about my waltz jump, which was nice. For the other jumps it was a combination of working various exercises to improve the setup/entrance plus watching people do the jumps and get specific feedback. I did work the entrance to the salchow and the toe loop since they are fairly simple (LFO3 and RFI3, my best turns anyway).

Next we worked briefly on spins. John spent a couple of minutes with me looking at my spin entrance -- feedback was to get a better tension on the back (right) arm before the step forward, and to keep the free leg back on the step forward. All stuff I'd heard from Anna, of course, but good to hear again.

We finished up by working on musicality and expression. Silvia choreographed a mini-routine for us to slow music ("Fallin'" by Alicia Keys I think, although there was another song before that that I don't remember), and then to faster music ("Footloose"). On both of these we'd do the routine and then improvise. It brought to mind that either I just don't have enough elements in my arsenal, or I have few ideas on how to put them together. Probably both! Still, it was good to loosen up a bit and try to work at thinking about how to feel the music and how you might express it.

Off-Ice: We went next to some off-ice training. This part totally kicked my butt! A number of exercises, including grapevines, grapevines with a kick in the middle, running/hopping sideways, a bunch of jumping exercises (including one where you jump a 1/4 rev, 1/2 rev, 3/4 rev, and full rev in quick succession), and of course some good stretching. By the time this was done I was sweating profusely and got a little dizzy even. I was fine after resting a bit.

Q&A: A number of good questions and discussion. They showed us a video of their 2002 Olympic performances and commented on how they felt during the routine. It was interesting to hear John say how tired he got toward the end of the routine and how he worked through it. You know skaters feel these things but it's rare to hear them talk about them. They asked us about our goals and some of us shared them. Lisa M wants to land an axel (I'm pretty sure she'll get there); Patricia wants to do a particular move and to compete. I just want to pass the @*!&%$! Adult Pre-Bronze Moves!

Impressions: We had a pretty good turnout of adults -- actually I'd not realized we even had that many adults (17 in all including some coaches)! They were both very, very approachable and generous of their time. While many of the moves were totally beyond me, I did learn a fair amount. It was a lot of fun. It was also really the first time I'd seen most of these adults doing anything interesting (and probably most of them could say the same for others and for me). It was nice to have the adults out there bonding.

Kodak moment: At the end of the on-ice portion, John did a quick Rhythm Blues around the rink with Marge. It was awesome to watch!

Bonus: There was a drawing for goodies between the Q&A and the autograph session, and I won tickets to Stars on Ice! Yea!

It's hard to be sensual at 8:30 a.m.! (Silvia Fontana)

What I learned: A number of things --
  • I still have a lot to learn (big surprise), and in particular to be more comfortable on the ice to be able to put elements together readily.
  • People learn and do things at different levels. Even some of the "good" skaters had problems with specific elements that you would somehow think wouldn't be a problem.
  • I have a fairly good foundation. Obviously there's a lot to learn (see above) but I can actually do some basic elements better than skaters who have lots of jumps.
  • I really am not in good enough shape yet. I need to do more off-ice training if I want to really get the most out of my on-ice time and effort.
All in all it was a great experience and I'm really glad I did it. Hopefully I'll get a chance to post one of the pictures with John & Silvia.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Back On The Ice

I got back in town last night, and so was at the adult session today and skated for the first time in a week. Since I had also gotten my blades sharpened last week, the combination of rusty legs and sharp blades was interesting...

Worked through a lot of stuff. Did my 10 waltz jumps -- I'm not impressed. I'd rate form at a 6, height at about a 2. Did a couple of good spins, worked some 3s and 5-step Mohawk and power 3s. Did a few crossovers and some edges. Wow, my BI edges felt so much better with sharp blades! It was really nice.

Met a new skater, Phil, and his wife. Phil says he's been skating for 3 years but has been off ice for 4, so he's trying to get back to where he was. Always nice to see new adults!

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Today was a milestone, my 100th lesson with Anna. It's also my last in this timeslot, at least for a bit, since the freestyle schedule is changing yet again soon. Today's lesson was all about turns:
  • backward stroking -- just a couple of minutes on these to start off. Uusal reminder to point the free foot, and to bring it off the ice by sliding it off, not just picking it up. I was having a lot of problems with trying to keep from getting up on my toe on these, especially on the right foot (of course).
  • Mohawk combo -- this is the FXO, FXO, FI Mo, cross-step, BI Mo combo on the circle. Wow. I had not practiced this in a while and it really showed. The CCW one wasn't too bad except that I had a lot of problems with the step forward; the CW was very scratchy and insecure. Need to work these, it's a good combo. Anna was pleased, though, that I was entering the Mohawk with (apparently) more speed than I previously did, and it was more aggressive.
  • Mohawks -- Anna wanted some standalone Mohawks on the circle. Not too bad; Anna reminded me to keep looking over my hand. The LFI Mo tended to be a little rushed, though. Anna had me do them from a standing start, then from stroke-stroke-Mo. Since I've been practicing the 5-step Mohawk I really like them a lot more; I suspect I'm more comfortable with the BI edge. Still have to not rush the FI edge though! Anna also said I'm tending to bring the free foot too far forward before the turn, which makes it harder.
  • 3s/alt-3s -- a good chunk of time on these. These have definitely improved (even the FI3s). I was able to get my placement dead-on for the FO3s and I can do the step-forward from the RBI -- still not happening from the LBI yet. The FI3s are improved but still considerably lagging the FO3s. Still, just this week I'm starting to feel like there's a chance I will get these darn things by August test date. I hope so.
Anna mentioned in passing that she is raising her rates to $50/hr starting the 15th. Apparently my reaction was the same one she's gotten from everyone -- "it's about time!" She is so worth it. Besides, with the cutbacks in freestyle time I can only imagine it's hurting her (and all the other coaches') income.

I will be off the ice for a week as I'm going to be travelling (and won't have a chance to skate while I'm gone). I will be back on the ice a week from tomorrow, just in time to get my skating legs back before the John Zimmerman clinic at our rink 6/18.

Ice Update: I have to retract my skepticism. I failed to blog last night that they have started laying the new front ice. After 2.5 months, it will be really nice to see it up and functioning again.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wednesday Night Skate

I attended the public session tonight, and skated for probably 1 hour and 40 minutes. There was no DJ tonight so I got to play my pop/rock CD :-).

I did my requisite 10 waltz jumps, in spite of having an audience (Sarah and Rita). Worked a lot on 3s, and also quality time on the step forward. Some of that was just skating the LBI edge and trying to do the choctaw. It's much better from the RBI edge than the LBI. I can do it very sloppily from the RBI edge, not quite from the LBI edge although it's definitely getting closer. Worked on stroking too -- it's interesting how I can have such nice extension if I just concentrate!

Toward the end of the session I spent a bunch of time on the 5-step Mohawk. This is definitely improving, especially that I'm holding the first and second steps longer. It's still a little tricky to do the slide chassé, and I think it probably looks stinky, but it's getting better. Also worked the power-3s a bit, trying to place the 3s better. I do so love doing these!

Monday, June 06, 2005


Today's lesson:
  • FXOs -- ugh. We started with these and spent almost 15 minutes on them -- it really kicked my butt! We worked them both in the Moves pattern and on the circle. Anna said on the CCW ones I'm tending to look into my arm -- need to keep the leading arm/hand down; also she said that as I pick up speed on these, I tend to pitch forward, which of course makes me uncomfortable (actually, it scares the heck out of me) -- need to take my time (rhythm!) and settle more firmly on the whole blade. On the CW ones I still need to work on keeping the trailing arm up and turned into the circle, and bringing the free foot around closer/quicker. Anna also said I'm tending to bring the crossing foot too far over into the circle. She mentioned four checkpoints I should think about for FXOs (this was new to me): 1) push and extension, 2) foot crossed just before placing it on the ice, 3) crossed-over just after underpush, and 4) feet together. I'd never quite thought of it in that way. She also suggested I should go ahead and make bigger circles, and demonstrated that instead of slavishly following the hockey circles I can follow them about 2 feet or so out and still clear the boards. This gives me more room; it's basically splitting the rink in half. She said, though, that she thinks the real key for these is for me to get a better tempo, and I think she's right. When I practice them in isolation I often can get into a good rhythm on them (not always); but when doing the Moves pattern or in front of Anna I'm tending to not establish that tempo. Without that rhythm I'm thinking too much about what I'm doing instead of letting it flow.
  • Perimeter stroking -- in the middle of working FXOs we did some of these in each direction, CCW first. Anna said my tempo was too slow and I still need to get a straight leg on the extension. There were about 8 people on the session (including mostly higher-level kids) so I was feeling a little inhibited. Not my best effort. I need to work these more so I get the right tempo for 6 strokes down the rink (I'm still oriented toward 4). When I did these for Anna I did 4 strokes for most of the length of the rink, then threw in 2 more and wasn't set up for the end crossovers. Grrr.
  • FO edges -- Anna was actually happy with these! Yea!
  • FI edges -- Anna was pretty happy with these as well. She still wants me to wait to bring the free foot through though; she suggested just holding the free foot up (toe pointed down) until I'm done rotating the arms.
  • BO edges -- I'm tending to get up on my toe coming back to the line, which gives me problems including a weak push; need to keep the weight on the heel coming back and use the whole blade for the push. Anna says I'm also tending to try to make my push too small; it's okay to make it rather bigger than I was (several feet). Also need to focus on drawing the free foot in so I can bring it in front.
  • BI edges -- not that bad. I complained that my first lobe is always stinky, though, and we discovered it's because I'm doing the pushoff on two feet and I'm not pigeon-toeing the soon-to-be-skating foot (right foot) enough and I'm turning the left foot a bit. I actually need to keep the left foot still and turn the right foot out more and then push off. We worked this a few times and it made a big difference -- bigger (more balanced) first lobe, better push, and it's easier to keep the free foot in front for the beginning of the lobe.
All in all, a good but very tiring lesson -- as I said to Anna when I looked at the clock after we finished FXOs, "The longest 18 minutes of my life!" At one point while we were working on edges, Anna went over and looked at my tracing, then turned and asked me if I needed my blades sharpened. I told her I was due, it has been 6 weeks. She said she thought so, because my tracing looked like I was on a flat although the edge had looked okay when I did it. Interesting!

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Real Perseverance & Fortitude

No skating yesterday or today; but I have wanted to blog about this for a while...

I often title my posts "Perseverance". In some ways this is a "fallback" title when I don't know what else to say; it's also an expression of hope and trust that all the work I do is indeed paying off. My mom used to remind me that college (and by extension, anything worth doing) is 90% perseverance and only 10% ability. I sometimes describe my skating as the triumph of perseverance over ability; I'm not being self-deprecating when I do this, it's pretty much the truth. I'm okay with that, usually.

The wonderful thing about skating is that it's all about the individual. Oh sure, there are competitions, but as we all know there's nothing you can do about the others in the competition, you can only do your best; there's no "opponent." The annoying thing about skating is that it's all about the individual :-). My success or failure is entirely up to me, my abilities, my skills, my drive and desire. Sometimes it is indeed frustrating to see others, who've been skating for less time than I have, outpacing my progress even though I skate more than they do and, I think, work harder. I'm talking about adults, not kids, by the way! Still, there's nothing I can do about that, I can only play the hand I'm dealt and do the best I can. It's just the way it goes.

So -- perseverance and fortitude. Whenever I get a little proud of myself and how hard I work, I only have to look around the rink and see examples of people who work harder than I do and put even more of themselves into their skating. I am particularly reminded of a couple of younger skaters who I see at practice, trying, falling, trying, falling. I'm not sure when (if) I get to that point (working on jumps, especially doubles in this instance) that I will have the perseverance and fortitude to try, and fall, and try, and fall, over and over again like that. I guess I'll find out.

I had a particularly striking example of real fortitude on Wednesday at the public session. There was a girl there -- I'd guess late teens or early twenties. At first when I saw her I thought she had her arms tucked inside her shirt from the cold -- but on looking closer I realized this girl had no arms! And there she was, out on the ice, skating. Going fast? No. But on the ice by herself, not hugging the wall and not timid. The next time I think I'm all that, I'll try to remind myself that I would not have the guts she displayed, were I in her place.

Friday, June 03, 2005


I skated the adult session today, and spent a little time on just about everything (no spirals, though). Did my 10 waltz jumps and succeeded in getting a little more height (despite harassment from Nicole and Anna: "JUMP!" :-)). A little more up and bit less out. Ironically (or maybe not) it's a little easier to do with less "out". Also did a couple of spin entrances that were pretty good -- still not there but I'm building consistency at least. And a couple of good spins, some good 3s and stroking and FXOs and some BXOs too.

Anna caught me a little after 1 p.m. for my 10 minutes of makeup lesson, which turned into more like 20 (not that I'm complaining!). We worked on power-3s -- no more being sloppy with the free leg going into the 3! And we worked on the step forward, especially on the bad side. We spent some significant time working that LBI step forward, which of course is the same one I have so many problems with on the alt-3s. Some small amount of progress. We finished up by looking at BO and BI edges briefly. The first couple were stinky, then they were better. I really need to concentrate more sometimes so that I get them good from the beginning instead of having to go back.

All in all, some small progress on stuff I really need to work on, so that was good.

Addendum: Anna is going to the Orange County Open in a couple of weeks with one of her students, and I remembered to ask her to keep her eyes open to see if there was an actual adult men's competition. None of the Arizona competitions I've been to yet have had enough adult men to have a competition. I'm hoping that won't be true of some of the CA competitions. As Anna said, it would be absurd if the only place I could compete would be Regionals!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jumps & Spins

For some reason I am just never able to have a good night's sleep before these early morning lessons. I don't know what it is but I probably had 4 hours of sleep. Oh well! Today's lesson:
  • waltz jump -- still working on getting more lift and bounce off the toe. Anna said I am trying to be light and have lift, which is good, but that I need to get that lift by being heavy and springing up. This was a better way to think about it. She also had me practice just jumping up from the ice and landing straight down, to work on getting more ankle-motion and knee-motion. Bend, jump, land like on springs. It's pretty simple, but I did find that if I did that and then did the waltz jump, wow, it makes a difference. The jump feels so much more free when you get that bit of lift. Anna also said I'm opening my arms up in the air and I need to keep them together until I land.
  • spin entrance -- this is beginning to feel like Zeno's paradox to me. The key issues we worked on today are avoiding the wide-step, going in with a bent skating knee for the FO edge, getting a good (complete!) push to the FO edge, and keeping the free hip/leg back on the FO edge. I almost, almost did it. Sheesh. I need to work this some more. Maybe we'll spend some time on this in our makeup time tomorrow.
And that was it. It was a short lesson (20 minutes) due to some scheduling issues that came up. We'll probably make it up tomorrow at coffee club. I'm going to count that makeup time tomorrow as part of this lesson, so I won't blog it separately in the sidebar.

We decided my lesson schedule will be the same next week even though the FS schedule is changing. It's just as well. The week after I may not have any lessons as I will be out of town and then Anna is going to a competition.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Wed. Night Skate Karaoke

I attended the public session tonight, but got there late so only about an hour of actual skating. About 8 p.m. Christa, our DJ, decided to do karaoke for a bit... so we were treated to some *ahem* performances. I didn't get a chance to sing, unfortunately. I was hoping it would be REAL "skating karaoke", but apparently she doesn't have a wireless microphone, so it's only karaoke while standing still. Too bad!

Did my 10 waltz jumps, worked a little on the spin entrance and a couple of spins, and of course worked on edges and 3s. And talked a lot...

I had the following rather amusing conversation with Sarah:

Sarah: I almost landed my Axel!
GSB: I just did a waltz jump!
Sarah: Well, I've only been skating a year and 3 months.
GSB: I've been skating for 2 years.
Sarah: Oh... well, I'm younger than you!
GSB: You are? Oh yes, I noticed last week!
Sarah: Oh, I thought you were 12.
GSB: No, I just act like I'm 12.

These kids crack me up.