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.
“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!)
“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!
“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.