September spin practice

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I’ve had a sporadic summer of skating — I’ve been going, but not as often as I’d like, and my practices have been a little unfocused. I’m actually in between coaches at the moment, and when I don’t have weekly lessons and a game plan, I find my practices can get a little random. I don’t mind, necessarily, since it’s nice to be able to relax and practice at my own pace, but I do feel like I work best in the long run when I have more of a set goal and direction. That’s next on my agenda!

But for now, I’m working on the same ol’ spins and jumps as ever, trying to make them better and more consistent. Here’s what some of them look like at the moment:

Notes to self:

  • Sit spin is looking okay – can get lower, but almost there. Back sit is coming along, thankfully! I haven’t been able to get more than 1-2 revolutions on that until this summer, so that’s a new development.
  • Camel is always a struggle. All my forward entry spins have been giving me trouble lately, and the problem seems to be in the entry hook. My most common error on the camel spin is that I don’t rise up smoothly and hook the spin into a nice centered circle, but rather the entry looks like a big 3-turn (hence the falling out early).
  • Layback still looks crooked and ugly, but I think I can see what’s going wrong now. I’ve thought all this time that my problem was one thing, but looking at the video I see that it’s actually something else altogether! I’ve been trying to lift the free leg because it feels like I collapse on that side, but the free leg is actually high enough. In trying to lift it, I’m not tucking my hips under me properly, which results in that peeing-dog position I hate. I don’t think I’ve recorded my layback on video enough, and doing it sooner would have helped.
  • Back camel is clearly falling on a very large outside edge/circle. It’s a miracle that upright backspin pulled up instead of falling out!
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Adult Gold moves in the field: Passed

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I took my Gold moves test this weekend, and I was the most uncertain I’ve ever felt going into a test. A few complicators popped up at the last minute, but the main one was my fault for thinking that the test date was the last weekend of the month, and then finding out on Thursday that it was actually in three days!

Apparently the club tests on the fourth Sunday of the month, not the last Sunday; the last time I tested happened to be both the fourth and the last Sunday of the month. The club tests every month so they don’t announce the test dates in advance; they just assume you know the rules, and send out the test date schedule a few days before the day. So all this time I thought I had more time, and then suddenly test day was upon me. On top of that, I’ve been moving places so I hadn’t been skating much lately; I figured I would focus on moving homes first, and then really buckle down and practice the last week leading into the test. HA. HA. Ha… Joke’s on me!

I’ve been working on Gold moves for a while so I wasn’t completely unready. But I hadn’t yet got to that place where I could skate the test clean in one full run-through with no mistakes, even though I was capable of doing each element without mistakes. So my confidence was not there, plus I had that extra bit of panic for not having as much practice time as I thought I would. I seriously thought about scratching the test, supposing that I had about a fifty-fifty chance of passing. But then I figured, well, if I skipped the test altogether, that’s throwing away a chance to pass.

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Making the adjustment to Ice Flys

So far I’ve had my new skates for about two weeks, and it’s been a roller coaster of excitement, doubts, and cautious optimism:

Day 1 on the ice:

“These skates are pretty stiff. Forward crossovers seem okay. Backward crossovers… oh my god I’m going to die I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

I spent the session with cramped leg muscles, and it was difficult to assess how the skates were doing because my legs were too busy trying to deal with the sudden change. I was a little concerned I’d made a very expensive mistake, and perhaps going from five-year-old broken-down Freestyles to brand-new stiff Ice Flys was a bit too much of a difference. I reminded myself of all the low-level adult skaters I’d talked to who loved their Ice Flys and didn’t seem to struggle with the stiffness, and tried to maintain optimism. But man did my legs hurt.

Day 2:

“These skates are still stiff, but I can skate in them. This is a good thing. I wonder how the shorter blades perform… *scraaaaaape* Oh crap, I’m going to have to relearn how to do all my turns again.”

My legs were cramping for the first half hour of the session, but finally did start to loosen up, and I felt a little more like myself again on the ice. The Ice Fly takes a shorter blade than most other skates, I had to get new blades along with the boots. I stuck with the same make, Coronation Aces, but since they’re shorter than I’m used to, at first ALL of my turns were completely screwed up. But once I figured out the new balance point, I realized that I could execute moves with less effort. Also, the new blades may have a slightly different rocker profile from not being sharpened a hundred times, so there’s going to be a learning curve here. But the movements felt familiar, and by the end of the session I had my backspin back. (Although not my forward spins. I don’t know why those are harder for me than the backspins!)

Day 3:

“Wait, how come I don’t feel uncomfortable today? They don’t even feel terribly stiff anymore! Is this really happening? Am I skating again? Wheeee!”

I stepped onto the ice gritting my teeth, ready to fight my way back to familiarity, only to find that suddenly I felt fine. A couple of adjustments worked wonders: Silipos gel ankle sleeves, which made my ankles more comfortable, an additional boot punch-out by the shop, and experimenting with lacing technique. I’d been told of the Edea lace-tying technique, but have yet to get it right on the first try, so there was a lot of fiddling with laces. But once I got them, I felt pretty good attempting everything. I can feel the difference in jumps right away, which feel more secure, and I’m excited about improving them.

I don’t have spins back yet, but I was pleasantly surprised with my moves, because the shorter blades are really working for me. I’d been warned that shorter blades would require more precision and control and be more difficult to manage, but I’m finding the opposite: It’s like parallel parking a clunky van for years, and then parking a Mini Cooper. My turns feel simpler, crisper. Like there’s less excess energy and movement necessary.

Once I got accustomed to the new rocker, my 3-turns and brackets became smoother and more controlled, and the extra ankle support makes a world of difference. On my Freestyles, I struggled with the exit edges of all my turns, and often wobbled, and my coach and I have been working on exerting more body control to keep me aligned throughout the turn. It felt like a lot of WORK to rotate and counterrotate and never let go of my core muscles, because anytime I let my guard down I wobbled. With these new blades, I can feel where my ankle wants to wobble, but the boot keeps me firmly in place and on my edge, and I can ride the edge out of the turn! It’s like magic!

Day 4:

“These don’t even feel that stiff anymore. These feel great! I feel like I can finally attempt things with more power without worrying about my ankles wobbling or being unable to handle landings! Was I underbooted for years?”

With another minor boot punch-out, I felt like I was getting closer to the ideal setup. I still have a few tweaks I’d like to correct, but mostly I felt comfortable on the ice by this point, like I was finally done adjusting to the new feeling. The most notable difference was that I now love how stiff the boots are, now that I’ve figured out how to skate in them, and feel like they are an improvement in all aspects of my skating: moves, jumps, spins all feel more secure and powerful, probably because I feel more comfortable skating into the ice with all that support.

Once I got used to my new blades and rocker, I was able to get most of my spins back, and those feel a lot more secure now. I don’t quite know why, but I do know that my spins feel like they can handle more speed and power, and it’s slightly less of a struggle to hook the entry on the ones that give me trouble (camel, for instance). I’m thinking now that I was probably underbooted for a while, and that the softness of the skates were holding me back. While I do think the jump from my old skates to the new ones was pretty drastic, now that I’m getting used to the new setup, I’m really feeling the benefits of the upgrade.

Upgrade time: New skates!

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I have new skates! Finally! After nearly five years on the same pair of Jackson Freestyles, it was getting to be that time, and partly as a pick-me-up (and partly because I just wanted to), I splurged on the fancy, popular (and expensive!) Edea Ice Flys, which I’d been thinking about for ages but wasn’t sure I was ready for.

My old pair have served me well, but I knew for the past several months that they would need to be replaced soon. The sensible part of my brain forced me to be patient and stick with my skates until they were truly done, because they still had life in them and I didn’t want to be wasteful. But the day finally came when, in a lesson, I landed a nice jump with a secure landing… and then just fell, apropos of nothing. My coach was surprised, because she said it was a nice jump and it looked like I was fine, and then suddenly I was down. I laughed that it must mean it was finally time to upgrade, because my skates just weren’t supporting me enough. I’ve been feeling wobbly at times, mostly when landing jumps, like I had to work extra hard after landing to stay in control, and I didn’t feel as secure as I wanted to. One of my goals is to increase power and get more jump speed and height, but I didn’t feel I could on my weak-ankled skates.

My Freestyles are my second pair of skates; I started on entry-level starter skates, the kind with plastic soles where you can’t change the blades. More than the boot, I hated those stock blades and was eager to get onto better ones, which is when I got into the Freestyles with the Coronation Ace blades. I liked that setup and felt it has been a good fit for the past five years (minus about six months of non-use), and I didn’t have any issues with fit, so it was definitely a consideration to stick with Jacksons. It would certainly be a cheaper option than the Edeas! But I’d had my eye on the Ice Fly, and given how long skates have lasted me, I didn’t want to wait another five years to try them out. I mentioned them as a possibility to my coach, who approved of them as a good choice.

I felt hesitant to make such a leap, because I know that they work for skaters with much more advanced skills than I have, and because they’re so trendy right now, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of choosing something that wasn’t the best choice for me just because it was popular. I knew it was more boot than I need, but it seemed that the consensus is that it’s fine for lower-level skaters, too. I’d heard so many things about how comfortable they are, and how light and easy to break in, and I’ve been seeing them on a lot of low-level adult skaters (Pre-Bronze or lower) who said they all loved the skate. So I felt more comfortable going with the choice, took myself off to the pro shop, and got myself fitted.

Will report back on how they do!

Working on Gold moves in the field

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After I passed my Pre-Bronze tests and was therefore able to work on programs and compete, I haven’t been in much of a hurry to take my tests. I usually defer to my coaches as to when I’m ready, and even when they think I am, I want to wait longer because testing is enough of a hassle (time, expense, emotional anxiety) that I don’t want to risk failing, in which case I have to repeat the whole process all over again.

I talked to my coach about the possibility of moving up to Silver for freeskate next year, but she was fairly hesitant about that idea. She feels that Silver is competitive and crowded, and felt I might be better off competing at Bronze again. I was a little disappointed since I wanted to move up to Silver, and I know that I still could push for it, but it’s not only that I want to skate in the Silver category; I want to be good enough that my coach thinks I am ready for Silver, and as of right now she doesn’t.

So I decided to focus more on the Gold moves in the field, and in contrast to freeskate, my coach does think I’m going to be able to test this year. I’d started working on this test before my surgery, but it took a while to work my way back up to the Silver/Gold moves after I returned. My moves coach has been encouraging me to test this summer, and thinks I’m at passing level on most of the moves and getting close on the weaker ones. Mostly, that’s the backward circle 8, and I feel like once I can consistently get all of the circles around, I will be ready to test. Currently, I’m sometimes able to get all the way around, but many times I’ll fall just a bit short on one or two of the circles. So I’m working on more power on the pushes, and a smoother glide.

Forward and backward double threes are pretty good. I’m at the stage where I can do them consistently, and the struggle comes in doing them with power and smoothness, so that there’s no jerky motion that comes from forcing the turn. My coach wants smooth ice dancey turns, with no lurching or breaking of position. I’ve been working on increasing the speed, too, because I know there’s a big emphasis on power and speed at the Gold level.

Brackets are coming along. As with the double threes, I’m working to make them look effortless and smooth, with no toe scraping or balance checks. More speed would be nice, too.

I think power circles are at passing level, although my coach would like for me to push that top speed, and to look less tentative. Forward crossovers at top speed still scare me, but I’m working on at least not letting it show!