The benefits of comparison

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I was on Youtube recently (…in that I am on Youtube every day, procrastinating) and saw a few skating videos pop up in my recommended videos list, and realized that an account had uploaded a whole slew of programs from Adult Internationals in Vancouver from last summer. I fell down the rabbit hole of watching video after video, and then realized that Adult Internationals had posted the protocols of every single program from the event. Score! (Literally! Har har.)

Which meant that I could pull up all of the score sheets alongside the Youtube videos and follow along element by element. It was illuminating and incredibly motivating, because the event used IJS scoring, so not only could you see the placements, you could see exactly how well the judges deemed every element performed, and how strong their skating skills and other program component scores added up. (Here’s the Youtube channel; you can get the protocols here.)

I’ve done something similar in past years by looking up Adult Nationals videos on Ice Network (example: this link starts out with the 2016 Adult Nationals videos) and comparing them to the results, but since the event is scored on the 6.0 system for lower levels, all we get are ordinals. Still very helpful, but it was exciting to see the Vancouver protocols and see what my event category looked like — what jumps are being landed? What kind of GOE is standard? What’s the PCS range for bronze ladies in my age group? For instance, a salchow with zero GOE shows me what a standard, acceptable salchow looks like, compared to one with negative GOE that may have had a two-foot landing, or scratchy exit, or a stumble.

That also made me realize that while I feel like I could technically test for silver freeskate within the year (in that I could probably perform the elements at a minimum level), I don’t need to be in a rush to move up to silver because I’m not all that competitive in bronze yet. For instance, I saw that almost every layback spin attempt wasn’t given credit as a layback, and instead got called an UprightSpB — and some didn’t even net upright spin points and got the dreaded dash of doom. Same with sit spints — many ladies had them in their programs, but many weren’t credited at all because they weren’t low enough. Or they had asterisks next to them indicating that some portion of a combo didn’t meet the requirements (I’m guessing it didn’t hit the minimum revolutions). And in the bronze ladies, the PCS scores ranged from about 1.25 to 2.75, with the majority in the upper 1’s. Skaters who scored 2’s were, to my eyes, pretty darn good with flow and speed.

So I’m revising my goal to competing at bronze again, and getting some amount of points for every element attempted. I’d love to add +GOEs and PCS in the 2’s as additional goals, but I think that’s still a way off from where I am, so I’ll stick to that initial goal for the moment. I haven’t decided whether or not that’ll entail new programs, but I have a few months to put things together and get working!

Stoning my own figure skating dress, Part 2

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Oh wow, I’ve had this draft saved in my blog for over a year, and all this time I’d thought it was posted already! I only recently realized it wasn’t, so here it is, better late than never.

Last year I competed in Sectionals for the first time, and I had a new program for my bronze freeskate and for bronze dramatic, and I needed new dresses. Because I had two programs, I was wary of spending too much money on costumes, so I decided to do what I’d done before in buying a plain, unstoned dress and add crystals myself. Having done it once before, I felt pretty confident I could turn a plain black dress into something interesting, with the help of thousands of crystals and hours and houuuuurs of free time.

Here’s the dress, bought unstoned from Brad Griffies:

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Relearning how to skate

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Okay, maybe the title is a little dramatic, since it’s not like I was away forever or that I had to start completely from scratch… I’ve been back to skating for two months now, although only once or twice a week and still taking it easy. I haven’t resumed lessons yet, although I plan to in the near future; I’d wanted to be back at lessons by now, but my coach was busy through the holidays and so was I.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting my feet back under me, and getting more comfortable being back on the ice. I was surprised at how quickly some skills came back, and how some just… didn’t. I started out tentatively with stroking and basic skills, then gradually added freestyle elements as I felt comfortable. After several sessions of feeling awkward and wobbly, I started feeling stronger with basic edges and stroking, which was a relief. I practiced from the pre-bronze moves in the field and then worked my way up through bronze and silver. Right now I feel like I’d be able to pass the bronze moves test again, but I’d fail the silver.

I held off on jumping for a while but resumed working on spins, and they were just awful — it was like I was back in Learn to Skate, trying to hang on to more than a revolution or two before wobbling out. I was surprised that the backspin was easier to get back than the forward scratch spin (which is still AWOL), although I suppose my backspins had been more reliable before the injury. Even at my best, I struggled with the forward entry, and now that I have no power or speed, it’s even more evident that the basic technique is lacking. For some reason I find the backspin entry much simpler and I trust that edge more going into the hook. I suppose the silver lining is that now I really do have to find the right technique and not just muscle through the forward spins.

I returned to jumping very very cautiously, which was a double-edged sword, since jumping with no speed or power is so hard. I’m sad to see that my loops are the worst off, because my right (landing) hip is the weak one and I’m afraid of twisting it or putting too much pressure on it, so I’ve started bailing on a lot of attempts. I want to figure out how to continue to practice them without getting into that pattern and learning bad muscle memory! Flips and lutzes… are a work in progress. For whatever reason they feel safer to attempt (for my bad hip) than loops, so I am practicing them, but they’re just not there yet.

Lots to work on.

Goals for the upcoming year

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I’m terrible at seeing through goals — not because I give up on them, but because I tend to plain forget about them! — but in the name of fresh starts and new years, here goes.

  • Testing: Pass either my silver freeskate OR my gold moves. I’d love to do both, of course, but that may be overly ambitious, so I’d like to focus on one for now. I’m leaning toward the silver free, but it depends on how soon I can be back to pre-surgery form.
  • Competition: I really, really wanted to compete in Sectionals this spring, because it’s in my neck of the woods and very likely will move out of town next year. But there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get a new program ready by March (or even Adult Nationals in April), so I’ve set my sights on the adult international competition in Vancouver. It’s technically an international trip, but since I’m on the West Coast, this may be an easier trip than making it to Nationals on the East Coast, and it would give me through summer to get back in shape.
  • Get all my single jumps back. I’ve started jumping recently and can land some, but they’re very dinky and awkward, so I’d like to get these back to where they were last year (and better, of course). I’m not sure about resuming work on the axel; I’d love to do it, but I’m still not sure how strong my hip is.
  • Spins: Get them all back, of course. Also, get layback consistent with better free leg position and back arch. Get more than 2 revs in my back camel. Work on flying camel.
  • Incorporate new footwork into my programs, such as split jump, hydroblade, (at least a double) twizzle.
  • Flexibility: I’ve lost a ton of flexibility all over, and some of it may never come back (sniffle at my dreams of a beautiful outside spreadeagle or my ultimate dreams of an Ina Bauer into an axel). But I’m sure some can be worked on gradually, and I want to at least get back mohawks and inside spreadeagles, maybe some baby Ina Bauers, and spirals.
  • Get into overall shape (to where I can do 2 run-throughs back to back), lose 15 pounds and regain the muscles that disappeared.

Easing into post-surgery skating

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It’s been a frustrating summer/fall, being laid up after my hip surgery and not healing as fast as I wanted (or the doctors projected), but I’ve finally started to feel like there’s hope in sight. Following my surgery, the immediate pressure and pain inside my hip joint eased, but I wasn’t actually able to sit upright in a chair for months; the angle put undue pressure on the joint and I could only take it in short bursts. So despite feeling generally better and able to walk and stand freely, I wasn’t able to work in a chair, drive, or eat at a dining table. Frustrating, to say the least!

I went to physical therapy and had lots of check-ups with the doctors, who didn’t seem that worried although I was starting to be when my recovery seemed to stall and plateau. I know it’s only been three and a half months since the surgery, but I really didn’t think I’d still be bed-bound after several months, and it was concerning. I completely understand now why pro and elite athletes fall into depression when they’re injured! I’m a pretty positive person in general, but mentally dealing with the recovery was a lot harder than I thought it would be — I expected crankiness and frustration, but I was surprised by a few sudden bouts of panic and anxiety, and an overall cloud of depression that went beyond temporary sadness. It wasn’t even about skating in particular, but about life and general existentialism at that point.

(If you don’t mind seeing a picture of the surgery camera and labral repair, you can click this one for a bigger image. The torn labrum was anchored to the bone, and the broken/loose cartilage pieces that were damaging the joint were pulled out.)

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