Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Own Personal Train Wreck

I really think that I am a fairly good skater. For an adult that never skated as a kid and only started 4 years ago, I think that I am not too bad. That all changes when I have to compete. It is like I lose my mind.

My artistic went very well. I placed 3rd out of 6 and was out "costumed" by one lady and out skated by another. I felt pretty good going into the freeskate. I was calm, but energetic. My warm-up was OK. I wasn't really landing my loop or flip like I wanted and the sit spin was not in the cards. So I was first on the ice in my group.

The first few seconds were not too bad. I sort of landed my salchow/loop, did fine in the next pass, threw out the sit spin, was fine on the spiral/toe loop and then it fell apart. I didn't land my flip correctly which got me flipped around the wrong way. I then totally blanked out. I forgot where in the heck I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing. I improvised the best I could, did a crappy back spin and ... well there ya go.

At least they call this competition the Mid-Winter "Warm-Up" cause boy did I need it!

Now I could simply throw in the towel and say, "The hell with this crap." But NOOOOO, I am too hard headed for that. I will be busting my butt at the rink between now and March 24 trying to get this thing licked. No silly program is going to hold me back.

Thankfully I am taking tomorrow and Monday off to rest. I really don't want to see a rink for at least 48 hours.

Friday, January 29, 2010

As Good As it Gets

Well there it was. The last practice before competition tomorrow. Of course the rink would have to screw me up by moving the start time of the freestyle up ten minutes and then cutting ten minutes off of the back end time. This totally messed me up because my friend was coming in to coach me in my coach's absence. So I frantically threw on my skates while I cursed under my breath at all of the hockey players in the world, ran to ask another friend to text my substitute coach of the new times, and got my butt on the ice.

There was no way to play music on this particular rink - perfect - I will just hum it I guess! My texting friend came to the rescue with her laptop and plugged it into the speakers. I did not know that her CD player has been broken for six months, so I popped my music in and it started to play. I had inadvertently fixed her CD player. Yea me. I got a big hug for that one.

My substitute coach ran out with just about 15 minutes to spare. Just in time for me to run through my Artistic (easy peasy) and once through the free skate (couldn't hear the music). I was fine. I will be fine. It is as good as it is going to get and I am OK with that.

Best of all are all of my great friends who have been texting me good wishes, hugging and sprinkling good thoughts on me at the rink, and leaving me inspirational messages on my wall and on my phone. Skating has given me such a wonderful, loving and open set of friends that I don't know what I would ever do without them now! They save me time and time again and I hope they know I would do the same for them over and over again.

So this one is for you AdM, "Team Balboa", SW, SS, LW, JJ, MR, JS, JB KH, PD and all of my other friends who make me smile. It is as good as it gets!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'll Write Anyway

Remember the work issue? Well it just keeps blowing up in my face just when I think it is gone. I am actually writing through tears right now, but I think that it will help to focus on skating for a bit.

Today was not a total loss on the ice. I was able to almost finish my program on time. I landed most of my jumps clean. My sit spin may become a scratch for this competition. But the big breakthrough for me today was that I breathed. I know what you are thinking - well of course you were breathing or else you would be dead! That is not the kind of breathing that I am talking about. I breathed deeply between each element of my program. I only skated one element at a time and tried to skate it strong and with conviction. I started my program with my chin held high and my arms strong. I pressed my shoulders down so I would not look like Frankenstein. My coach said, "You did the best you could" which could mean - "OK not too bad" or "Well... there ya go." I felt like I had moved a mountain.

I don't have high expectations for this weekend. My hope is that I don't fall and I don't place dead last. I will be putting myself on the ice, so I don't have to worry about letting my coach down in person. But most of all, I hope that I can just breathe and let the world escape from me for just a few moments. I think I deserve that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Momma Got Her Loop Back

I was darned determined to kick the ice's butt (if ice has a butt) today. Muffet and I skated the 5PM freestyle today and it was nutty! There were kids everywhere! I was a bit apprehensive when I first started out as my right hamstring is bugging me a bit. But again, I was determined to kick butt.

The hour I skated was a bit silly, but I was able to jump some, spin some and footwork some. It was in my "Jump C" class that momma got her loop back. At the beginning of my program I have a salchow/loop that has been giving me fits all week. For some reason I either rush the loop or land it flat. With a little help from my jump class coach - voila - it came back prettier than ever before. I was so happy! Then the flip was landed fairly well and I was able to move to lutz! Yipee!

The competition saga still wages on... three days to go...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I have no idea why I choose to compete in skating. I absolutely hate doing it. I get so freaked out that for a week before I compete I am a basket case. Why does this happen? I am not afraid to be in front of people. I danced for 20 years, have spoken in front of thousands of people and generally love to be the center of attention. But for some reason, this is different. My legs get stiff and shake, my hands go numb, and I can't breathe. It is kinda hard to skate balls out for a minute and forty seconds and look graceful when you can't spin without shaking and you can't feel your hands!

I was not able to skate yesterday due to another commitment, so my coach had me for an hour today. I may as well have stayed at home. It was pitiful! I couldn't land anything to save my life - except for a flip for some reason. My spins were off center. My heel kept sliding out of my skate. I was a hot mess.

I know all of the psychological tricks I am supposed to use on myself. Positive self-talk... visualization... only skating one element at a time... How about cursing yourself out on the ice? Does that work?

Yes - I will be fine. Even if I look like a total idiot on Saturday, I will survive to live another day. But can I just get that through my think skull before I step on the ice?

To be continued...

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Needing" Skating Today

I have had a really bad week. I made a huge mistake at work that impacted my entire team of colleagues. I got a ticket leaving work yesterday. The mistake I made earlier blew up today. The weather has been so bad that my sleep has been disrupted. All in all - a very bad week.

The only thing that has remained constant for me has been skating. Not that I have been tearing up the rink with axels and perfect programs, but I have been skating pretty well. I have made progress each and every day that I have hit the ice. I have also been inspired by my friends who are skating in the National Championships. I am in awe of their grace, power and beauty.

I have my first competition of the season in a week and I have been stressing out over it. That coupled with the work stress and weather stress have done their toll on me this week. But I am ready to put it all behind me and focus on the wonderful week to come.

Thank you to my hobby for providing me an outlet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Almost Conquering the Toe Loop

I have already established that figure skating is a crazy sport. It relies on muscle memory, physics, psychology and "unknown factors." I think that I experienced all of these on the ice yesterday.

Muffet and I had a two hour session yesterday on the ice. While she got yelled at by her "poise" coach, I putted around and tried to get motivated to actually work. Monday was such a rush that I was having trouble getting it together to try and trump it. By the time my coach arrived I was warmed up but already tired. I have been skating so hard the last two weeks that my legs are sore and heavy. That combo = bad jumps and footwork. I did however, have a massive break-through on my wonky toe-loop. I am finally feeling the "draw" so I asked my coach if we could start with toe loop. She agreed and said that I am much closer now to what she wants to see. My smile was a mile wide! The flip was pretty awesome too. I love that jump!

Next, footwork. Well... let's just say that I think my feet were already done for the day. They were operating independently from my body and not in a good way. Unfortunately, that lasted for the rest of my lesson.

My "sit-spin" is well... I swear that my butt is on the ice, but that is not what my coach is seeing. Who is she watching? Hahaha

As I limped off of the ice, tired and sore, I held my head up high. My muscles used their memory - my blades worked their physics on the ice - my psyche didn't psych out and the "unknown elements" were kept to a minimum. I have come one step closer to almost conquering the toe-loop. All is well... until I hit the ice again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Positive Reinforcement

I have only had experience with four one-on-one coaches in my short career as a figure skater. One was a friend who just happened to help me skate once a week; one kicked my butt for 30 minutes once a week; one is so handsome and make moves in the field actually fun to do and then there is my current coach. We fell into working together as my old rink closed and my kids coaches were moving to another rink. My friend coach moved somewhere I didn't feel comfortable and my kick-butt coach decided to retire. The handsome coach is a pleasure that I only get to enjoy once in awhile as his rink just reopened and he is so booked that it is impossible to get a lesson.

My current coach is not only my coach but also a great friend. She has the patience of a saint. I don't think I could be as calm as she is when I screw something up for the bazillionth time - but she is. She takes the time to explain every element with me. She shows me how to do things over and over again. She only yells at me to put my shoulders down or push harder during my program. But what I really love is that she won't give me positive praise until I have earned it. When I do an element and she does not like it, I will get "the look." Those of you that skate or have done an individual sport with a private coach know what I am talking about - the dreaded "look." I have been the recipient of many "looks" over the last few weeks.

Today, I only got a few "looks" and one, "Let's leave it at that for today." More importantly, I got a "Not bad! You are looking pretty good." YIPEE! I have been beating myself up for three weeks and today was a break through. My toe loop still has much to be desired, but the rest of the program is finally starting to gel. Now all I have to do is clean it up over the next 12 days. Hopefully I won't get any "looks" from the judges!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This is a Crazy Sport

The average figure skating fan, one who does not skate, has no clue as to how incredibly crazy this sport is underneath the spandex and crystals. All they see is Evan, Mirai, Keauna, Rockne, Tanith and Ben out there skating like the experts they are. What they don't see are the early morning practices with mom having to drag the kid out of bed and into skates before the sun comes up. They don't see the bruised hips, knees, elbows - the ugly, smelly feet - or the tears if they fall or just can't seem to get that jump today. They don't see the skater stomping their blade on the ice because their coach has told them to stop skating mid-program for the eighth time. They have no idea of the cost of equipment, sharpening, costumes, ice time, competition fees, private lessons, group lessons, travel fees or gasoline. They don't know how hard it is to decide to make a coaching change, whatever the situation - that it is much like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and can be extremely emotional and heart-wrenching. They don't know that you can't simply just decide to call another coach - that there is a whole ethical code in the sport and once you violate that code you can be black balled for a very long time.

I felt fantastic this morning as I skated the freestyle and then took that Power Skating class again. I was inspired as I watched my friends skate their short program so beautifully yesterday afternoon. I felt proud that I was able to teach a young skater's mom about the coaching code of ethics so she wouldn't accidentally step into a terrible situation. After all that I know, I am still amazed that I choose to let my daughter keep on skating. I wanted my son to skate as well, but that was a short lived dream. I don't know what my daughter's dream is - all I know is that she loves to be on the ice and I will wake up to take her there, spend all of my money, and soothe all of her wounds for as long as she wants to skate.

I know that I can never go to the Olympics as a skater. However I can watch this crazy, beautiful sport knowing that there are many broke, tired and loving parents, coaches, friends and family behind those skaters and share a private smile with them as their babies reach for the stars.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Backhanded Compliment??

I often get strange looks from moms and dads at the rink. I can't tell if it is horror, confusion, envy or amusement. Today I had a very decent practice that was kinda low-key and not too stressful. I worked through the rough spots of my freeskate several times and did the program once with music. I got reprimanded by another coach for flat footing a perfectly good flip landing when I was getting off the ice, but it was constructive. All in all a great hour.

As Muffet and I were taking off our skates, we were surrounded by moms. Now, I do get asked questions by some of them about how we are doing and if we are competing any time soon. But every now and again I get the, "You are so brave to be skating" comment. As I said before, I have no idea what this means. Does it mean, "Wow, you really look like an idiot out there, you are so brave to make a public ass out of yourself each and every day"? Or does it mean, "Wow, I am impressed at what you can do out there"? Or how about, "I am way too insecure, scared or out of shape to do that"? I am not really sure which one fits, but each time I get this comment I wonder.

Once my coach talked me into buying a video of myself skating. It was my first USFSA competition and I was a train wreck. I will NEVER purchase a video of myself skating again. In my head I look like an angel when I skate - not like the oaf I saw on that video. It totally upset me, so I vowed to keep that fairy tale image of myself up there in my happy little brain. I may be brave, an idiot or over-confident. But what I will never be is a frozen observer of the fun that is going on out there on the ice. To the moms and dads who skate (or those who would if they could) - huzzah! Thanks for being my inspiration and being just as "brave" as I am. I guess I will take those compliments for all of us.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It Will be Great!

Once I actually land it. The flip that is. I have been having jump issues lately. I changed blades back in October and have been adjusting ever since. I hated those old blades. The toe picks were like long, sharp teeth that stopped me mid-back spin every time. I won't even tell you how my back outside to inside threes sounded - ssssccccrrrraaaattttcccchhh. So I switched to a blade with a much more modest toe pick and I love them except for jumping. I didn't realize how much I had been relying on that old, monster toe pick until I no longer had it. I couldn't land a waltz-loop anymore and loops were nearly impossible. *SIGH*

Well, now I am back to my old form (good or bad) on waltz, salchow, loop and combos. My toe loop is a forever pain in my patoot, since I learned it incorrectly in the first place. It is more like a toe waltz. I have been backwards pivoting and jumping for weeks and it still looks like poo poo. But the flip -

I actually get some major air with my flip. It feels really cool and I wish my other jumps felt as good. The problem is landing that puppy. I either land it flat (OUCH) or put my other foot down at the last second. I really want to get this jump down so I can move on to lutz. Not to mention that it feels really cool. I hope it looks as cool as it feels.

Today I had a hilarious encounter with outside twizzles. My program has one left outside twizzle and every time I do it I spin instead of twizzle. So on a whim I tried it on the right side, which is supposed to be harder, and guess what? I could do it, no problem. I am lame...

I have a day off tomorrow. It is mi madre's birthday so we will be playing hooky from class and eating cake instead. So don't go expecting a post tomorrow!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Getting the Hang of It

What a difference a week makes! Today I finally hit my stride with my new program and felt like I could almost finish it. It totally kicks my butt every time I do it, but tomorrow I promised myself that I would do it full out, with music at least 5 times before my lesson.

Skating is such a mind game. I have been told to visualize myself skating my program the way I would like it to be, but for some reason my body just can't seem to see the same picture. I have been told to skate each element separately, one by one, only concentrating on each one and not thinking ahead to the next, but I can only think of the dreaded salchow loop combo coming up. I get so nervous on the ice for competition or tests that I literally shake as I spin. LAME!

However, I keep going. I am hoping that this first competition is not a total goof-ball fest with me as the main attraction. That is why I have to keep doing that program over and over again. Body memory - maybe if my body can memorize the program, my mind can shut up!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dress Making

I am fortunate that I can follow directions very easily and am too stubborn to give up quickly. These two attributes have served me well since I decided to take on making Muffet and my figure skating dresses. If you have ever sewn with Lycra you know that it really has a mind of its own. It wiggles, shifts and moves wherever you don't want it to go. Add to that the cost of good lycra and the stress of sewing grows ever greater.

I decided to start sewing my own dresses because #1 - they are expensive to have made, #2 - I cannot wear dresses off the rack and #3 - I want creative control and #4 - I want my kid (and me) to look original on the ice. I soon discovered why a custom dress costs at minimum $99. It is incredibly tedious and difficult to get it just right.

Muffet's new dress is almost done. I am six sequined appliques away from being done. She will look unique! The greater feat is my dress. It has poofy, chiffon sleeves that are supposed to be stretch lycra. Three sets of sleeves later - they look amazing. I am hand gluing stones on the dress to look like Asian inspired clouds. My music this season is "Riders on the Storm" by the Doors but it is done by the Prague Orchestra and has an Asian sound quality. After an entire day and afternoon of gluing stones and sucking in E6000 fumes I am that much closer to being done. The dress design is #806 from Specialty Sportswear at

Oh but wait - I just got another order. So much for being done! (Pictures after I am done stoning!)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Power" Skating

This morning Muffet and I went back to our old rink (which has just reopened under new ownership) for an old pastime. Every Saturday morning we would skate the 7AM freestyle and then take the power stroking class. This class used to be 15 minutes of hell on ice. I loved every second of it! Even when I felt like I was going to throw up from exhaustion, I felt as if I had conquered a giant.

We have not skated this class in over a year and we did not skate the freestyle beforehand. Therefore my old bones were no where near warmed up when the music got pumping. So, off I went, trying to remember what it felt like to take this class. Back power threes, power pulls, cross strokes with a beanie baby sitting on my head. Oh, and did I mention that the class is now 25 minutes? Oh, and that it is taught by an Olympic Silver Medalist and former World Champion? Holy guacamole!

There I was "power" skating - well, kinda just trying to skate rather quickly without falling or getting run over by Muffet and her little speed demon friends. Fortunately I had three other adults stupid, I mean brave enough, to take the class too.

What is the moral of the story? Get your butt moving on the ice, slow-poke, or the little people will run your sorry excuse for a skater OVER! They won't even look back to see you fall, but may run you over again as they pass by the second or third time...

I will be going back next week and the week after that and the week after that. I will be skating the freestyle before hand to make sure that my legs don't feel like toothpicks before I "power" skate. Who knows? Maybe in a few weeks I can actually skate with the "faster" skaters again?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How to Calm a Kid...

who just hit her head smack on the ice. Well, the first rule of thumb is to not show the utter horror on your face after hearing the kid hit the deck. I was very good. Miss Muffet was working on her new footwork sequence and was coming out of a set of brackets at full speed when she got too far back on her heel and SMACK! Down she went. The head was really all I was worried about, but her elbow turned purple immediately and her thumb hurt too.

But - there I was, the bastion of motherly/skater strength - dusted her off, asked her how old she was, looked for blood and sent her on her way to work on spins instead. Geez, we still had a good 20 minutes left of a perfectly empty freestyle and I had work to do!

Today is special for Miss Muffet because not only does she turn another year older today, but because her birthday is always the anniversary of when she first stepped on the ice. She and I took a Mommy and Me class four years ago because she wanted a pretty skating dressy and look at us now. Darn pretty skating dressies!

So to recap - first don't look scared, concerned or worried. Second - skate yourself so you know how it feels to smack the ice that hard, especially when you least expect it. Third - brush them off and send them to work on that camel-sit-back sit combo, minimum of 5 revolutions per spin please.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Public Humiliation and Not Caring

So on Wednesday nights, I take a skating class called Jump C at my rink. We work on loops, flips and lutz jumps. I have had to work through the fact that I am in full view of mommies and daddies watching their dear little ones as I attempt to do these jumps. Not to mention that the average age of my classmates is 9 years. So there I am in all of my glory - jumping away.

I didn't want to go tonight. It is a 30 minute drive for a 30 minute class and then a 30 minute "dodge the unbalanced" practice session afterwards. However my little princess had axel class and therefore we went to the rink. I was 5 minutes late which meant that I missed the warm-up. My old bones take a bit longer to get going. I was not looking for much progress tonight.

The instructor is new to my class and I was impressed with him the last time he was a sub. We worked through toe loop, then loop and to flip. He took the time to really get me to break down the jump into components and told me to fix specific parts of the jump. He then even worked with my an extra 5 minutes after the class was over on the flip. When our time was up I landed a fairly clean flip with only a slight flat foot.

It is when I am able to concentrate on the ice and myself that I can let go of the thought of humiliation. It was only the coach, the ice and me - the rest of it disappeared for a few moments. Then I remember why I do this crazy sport. It is not about what others think of me, it is about how I feel when I skate. Some may call it humiliation, I call it fun!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Being Pushed a Bit Too Hard

The reason I am starting to blog about my skating boils down to my experience over the last week or so. I skated last Tuesday, took off my boot and discovered a nasty blister on my left instep. I went home, cleaned it out and took Wednesday off. I was back on the ice Thursday for a two hour session and could not even do back cross-overs because the stupid blister hurt so bad. I had to give half of my lesson to my little one and worked on back spins for 30 minutes. This Monday promised to be better as I put moleskin on the remnants of the blister and my foot didn't hurt. However, my program would get the best of me and I left the ice feeling lame and dejected. Last night I was ready to fall asleep while working on the xword puzzle, but as soon as I laid my head down I started to skate in my head. A dose of NyQuil later, I slept but work up feeling hung over. I vowed that today I would have a better outing on the ice.

Out I go for another two hour session and am feeling pretty confident - until I get to the footwork. I am being pushed this season. But after the first run through of my new program I realized that the program was in control and I was not. I was angry, frustrated and ready to cry. The Type-A in me was not happy with the fact that I could not just simply do what my coach wanted me to do. The counter into the choctaw sequence was just not happening and I was about to lose it. Competition is very stressful for me to begin with, but to have an out-of-control program on top of it all was pushing me over the edge.

So, I offered some suggestions for changes. We worked through the footwork and changed it to a rocker into a back three from the counter/choctaw and I feel as if the world is off of my shoulders.

I am one of those people who likes to be pushed. I like to prove to myself and others that I am able to take on just about anything. When I started running my first event was a marathon simply because I wanted to prove I could run one. But I discovered today that in skating I am only willing to be pushed so far. Especially when I have to display myself in front of judges, strangers, family and friends.

So here is to the next challenge - and that is to get this program down. I have three weeks to do so.