I never took video of my skating with any degree of regularity. There's video of my ice dance test and every once in a while I'd take video of something I had failed miserably at during a lesson, just so I could show Dmytri I wasn't a completely lost cause. But I know as a training tool, it can be valuable. Maybe it was time.
Feeling somewhat narcissistic, I balanced my tablet on the boards and took some benchmark videos. Forward stroking, forward outside edges, forward crossovers, figure 8s. I didn't get inside edges because, well, I forgot. When I realized I'd left out inside edges, it was too late to do any more recording. The ice had become busy and I had visions of someone falling, grasping desperately for the boards, and toppling my tablet to the ice. I'm way too OCD to deal with a shattered screen.
Fast forward four weeks. I've been getting a fairly consistent hour of practice each week. Sometimes a little more. It was time to take video of the little "welcome back" pieces I'd been working on. I felt silly setting up my tablet, but a talented skater I've never seen before came up and offered to take video for me. See!Everybody's doing it! (And by the way, adult skaters are awesome.)
I re-shot all the skills I'd benchmarked before and then did some benchmarking of new things: backward stroking, backward crossovers, backward inside edges. And again, I forgot the damn forward inside edges.
Oh people, it was awesome! Everything felt strong and stable. I was putting real weight on my bad leg. There was beautiful posture and extension. Excited and clearly more comfortable with my inner-Narcissus, I took a celebratory selfie in the rink parking lot.
But videos...they lie! Who was that chick? Girlfriend needs to straighten out her free leg. And bend her knees more. Dear God woman, stop stepping over on those crossovers. What a hot mess! The only improvements: I was a little faster, somewhat smoother and my lobes on my edges were marginally tighter. I shook my head and laughed to myself. If nothing else, I now know with absolute certainty what I need to work on.
Comebacks don't come easy. I'm cool with that.
The Kid read this over my shoulder as I was finishing up. "Keep working on it, Mum-mum!" he said encouragingly. "Practice makes permanent."
"The sun was so bright I couldn't see a thing," the man slurred as he recalled his Winter Classic experience. He leaned closer to the Kid. "I can see why Karl Alzner wore sunglasses."
"Really?!" the Kid said indignantly. "Did you just spill alcohol on me?!"
One could argue that the Kid was being rude speaking to an adult with that tone. One also could argue an adult shouldn't douse a kid with beer. Beer Man wasn't too concerned about my squirt's drenched pants and coat. He rushed off to procure a replacement for the overpriced cheap beer he'd spilled.
My friend stopped tying his skate. I moaned.
This was the second time in a row that a school or camp group was invading the ice. Exactly a zillion little kids, probably kindergarten, fidgeted on every inch of bench space in the lobby.
"I'm staying," I said, almost defiantly. I figured I had at least 15 minutes before they started getting on the ice. Since I'm mostly just trying to regain some muscle memory, I need my blades on ice. Any ice. These kids were small, making them fairly slow and easy to dodge (or catch). Besides, there was nowhere else to go.
I'm glad I stayed because what happened next was...dare I say it...damn near miraculous.
To maximize time, I did a brief warm up then focused on the following:
Stroking - forward and backward
Edges - forward and backward
Crossovers - forward and backward
I decided if I could fit that in before the tot invasion, I would be in good shape. I was laser-focused, my skating was surprisingly strong, and my wonky leg was holding up really nicely. At about the 20 minute mark my friend and I notice the kids still hadn't hit the ice. The unanticipated extra time was like a little gift from the skating gods.
Meanwhile, an absolute genius was organizing the tots:
1) The tots approached the skate rental counter three or four at a time. Any tot not getting skates was sitting on a bench. They stayed seated on the benches until every single skater was properly equipped. Then they all got up at once. (My friend and I watched this happen and laughed in mock terror at the wave of children descending upon us.)
2) The teachers and chaperones brought them into the rink and lined them up along the boards off the ice. Three or four at a time were allowed to get on the ice, holding on to the boards and shuffling along under the supervision of the adults.
3) The teachers and chaperones skated along with small groups of kids, doing a remarkable job of keeping them moving. Oh my god...too much cute!
This was the best experience I've ever had with a school or camp group. Everyone got exactly what they needed from their ice time. The tots were having so much fun! They were well-behaved and the adults with them did everything possible to maintain a safe environment. The competitive skaters were getting in some spin and jump practice. And little ol' me got to work on my muscle memory.
Teachers, parents, anyone who might find themselves chaperoning a skating party...do what these folks did. It was a thing of beauty.
Let's face it folks, ice dance isn't for everyone. It takes a particular degree of patience and a very focused mindset to spend that much time on...edges. But it's that unwavering attention to detail that draws me to it. The pattern dances at Nationals...oh my god they were like crack. I stared unblinkingly at the screen watching the exact same dance pattern and seeing such different skating. Differences in speed, edge depth, extension, confidence, strength, everything! could be seen much more clearly without the distraction of ... um ... programming?
I'm not a big fan of theatrics in skating, which you'd think would discourage me from liking ice dance. But the quality of skating in dance and the comparability of the pattern dances was addictive. Consistency produced competitive clarity. (Does that make sense or are the repeated drug references frying my brain?)
As I sat at my computer last week watching waltzes and pasos, I couldn't help but reflect on my own skating experience. I guess I didn't think about it at the time, but working on those pattern dances was everything. The details, the timing, the rhythm of my skating lessons - do the pieces, put them together. Faster. Now that I've taken a step back from it, I realize how much I loved the process.
The 2015 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships are right around the corner (do I get extra credit for using the product placement title for Nationals?), which means the Kid and I huddled up with my computer to make our fantasy picks. Hard-core figure skating fans that we are (absolutely no) thought went into these picks.
Ashley Wagner - Gracie Gold was a strong contender for the Kid because "you have to admit, Mum-mum, she's pretty." But in the end he felt more of a connection with Ashley because she's been known to skate at one of his practice rinks when she comes to town.
Jason Brown - Nathan Chen and Jeremy Abbott were close contenders.
Jimmy Ma - Not gonna lie, I have no idea who this is, but I'll be looking for him now. Dude, pressure's on.
Haven Denney / Brandon Frazier - I've said it before, the Lion King is a ridiculous choice of music for adults, but I'll be damned if they're not making it work.
Marissa Castelli / Mervin Tran - Name recognition pick
Cali Fujimoto / Nicholas Barsi-Rhyne
Madison Chock / Evan Bates - The Kid fought hard against this one. He's Team Shibutani all the way, but I had given in to all of his other choices. This one was going my way. They better win big because nothing's worse than a 10 year-old getting an I-told-you-so opportunity against his mother.
Elicia Reynolds / Stephen Reynolds
Kristen Nardozzi / Nick Traxler
I've added the competition schedule to my calendar and will try to catch as much as possible with a primary focus on dance and pairs. Who knows how much I'll actually get to see live and how much I'll have to catch on the fly. I do know very little will be getting done around here until January 26th.
Anyone else out there got fantasy picks and viewing plans?
The Kid's hockey team is really struggling this year, so it was no surprise that they suffered a 4-1 loss to the Piedmont Predators. The boys tumbled out of the stadium elevator, sweat-matted hair, cheeks glowing red, and huge smiles. So much for the agony of defeat.
"Mum-mum!" the Kid raced over to me as quickly as he could given that he was hauling an over-sized hockey bag. "I saw Matt Niskanen and Tom Wilson and I fist-pumped Jason Chimera!" he exclaimed.
Thanks to our very resourceful team manager, the Kid's hockey team got to play at the Verizon Center and I'll tell you what, the Washington Capitals did a great job for us. The Kid is totally into sports broadcasting so going into the arena through the media entrance was pretty cool. Cooler still was running into John Walton. And it only got better.
It's hard to see, but the scoreboard at center ice has the youth teams on it.
The stadium was set up for the squirts almost exactly like it is for the Caps. The teams were on the scoreboards, both the jumbotron at center ice and the along the perimeter of the seating areas. As the teams took the ice, their names were announced over the PA system and each goal and penalty (including the Kid's) was announced just like during NHL games. Music was pumped through during warm ups and after each goal. The Caps did a fantastic job of making this as close to the real deal as possible. Very well done.
As part of the deal, we were required to purchase tickets (fair enough) in the 400 level. I sat in the top row, leaning against the wall. Not gonna lie, I got a little dizzy walking up there. The perspective up top is so different from what we experience in our regular seats. From up top you see plays develop so clearly it's easy to get frustrated when players miss a shot or make a bad pass. Seriously dude, the puck was right there! From down below you get a much better sense of the chaos that ensues when big men play fast hockey.
The Blue Devils lost. The Caps won. Everyone had a blast. Big thanks to the Washington Capitals for creating a great experience and to the individual players who took the time to interact with the team.
I was leaving for my ballet class when I got an unexpected (and pseudo-urgent) phone call. So much for class. I did a little barre work in my home gym and on a certain level was grateful that I wasn't going out into the brutally cold night. I had enlisted DCGiant to take the Kid to hockey practice so I could go to class, which left me alone in a blissfully quiet house. I did what any self-respecting hockey mom does - poured a big glass of shiraz, curled up under a warm blanket and settled in with my tablet to check out the figure skating blogs.
What happened to all the skating bloggers?! It occurred to me that my ballet feed gets a whole lot more play than my skating feed and I'm not following many ballet blogs. As I reviewed my skating list I realized just how many people have fallen off the grid. Skaters, coaches, parents and fans who were fun to read, provided fantastic information and told great stories. Gone. I miss them.
Recently, one of my fave ballet bloggers put together a list of recommended ballet reading. As crazy as it sounds, I kinda need this for figure skating. I feel like I'm an old-school blogger separated from the folks I grew up with. Remember Axels, Loops and Spins? I feel so out of the loop! (And axels. And spins.)
I love reading about the experiences of other skaters and I'm sure I'm missing out on some really great writing. So, I'm on a mission to update my feed. And while I'm at it, I need to brush the dust off the blogroll I used to have here and get that up and running again. I think we all know I need very little incentive to mix a cocktail and get lost in the skating Interwebz.
So folks, what are you reading (and drinking) these days?
Today, I went back to where it all began. The rink where I took my first skating lessons. The rink where Dmytri teased me that I would never learn how to skate and where he later pulled me out of a crowd to help me with backward crossovers. And where he patiently guided me through my ice dance test, the crowning achievement of my figure skating career. It was like a time capsule. I ran into a couple of people I haven't seen in years and surprisingly, the rink staff remembered me.
My mission was simple: to see if my unstable experience on the Winter Classic ice was my equipment, the ice or me. Turns out it was all three.
My Equipment. My skates do need sharpened. They're not so bad that I can't skate on them, but there was some noticeable slippage. If I were skating regularly, I'd definitely get them sharpened.
The Ice. The Winter Classic ice was different than what I'm used to. The bumps from the rain were a slight nuisance, but the hardness of the ice made it hard to get my blades to dig in. At the rink today, with softer ice, I had no problems getting my moderately dull blades to grip.
Me. With the exception of one 30 minute "lesson" when I told Dmytri I was quitting, I haven't skated in about two months. It took some time to get my legs under me, but eventually, I was coasting around just fine. I tried skating on my edges and snuck in a few crossovers. Nothing fancy. I felt rusty, but oddly stronger than I have in a while. Mostly, I was just having fun again.
Maybe I'll get my skates sharpened...just in case.