Wednesday, September 21, 2011
So this blog entry is going to be a happy one, despite the fact that some sad things have happened recently. Tomorrow is my 28th birthday, and it's looking like 28 is going to be a good year for me. I've gone back to school to get my paralegal certification, my social life is bopping along at a good pace, and skating has vastly improved.
I went skating yesterday and it was really good. I was feeling very strong on the ice, I learned some new footwork from my friend Kelly (I missed our footwork class, so she was catching me up) and then I went to the Tuesday footwork class and discovered we are WORKING ON A PROGRAM SET TO THRILLER. That's right. It's amazing. I am so pleased, and it is so fun, and I'm actually enjoying being in a class with the kids this time. Yesterday the coach was telling Kelly and I to just observe the kids first, then join in, and one teeny tiny little girl beamed up at me and excitedly said "It's SO fun!". How cute is that? Y'all. She was correct. It is, in fact, SO fun.
So the next month will hopefully include more vast improvements on ice and possibly performing this Thriller thing in public. I will let you know if that happens, and when and where you can come see it and be vastly amused by me.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Along came figure skating.
Yesterday I seriously considered purchasing shoes that carried that famous moniker, known world round for his connection to shoes. No, not Manolo Blahnik. Dr. Scholl's. (They were like walking in clouds. Ugly, puffy clouds.)
Eventually I was lucky to find a pair of black flats. They're... serviceable. Sensible. They've got a nice enough detail on the toe, and enough room that I don't feel anything was being pinched, squeezed or rubbed. Because I have a pair of shoes that do that. My stupid skates. After my coach showed me just how tight I should be lacing my skates, I complained, "My toes go numb."
"Welcome to figure skating," he shot back.
Indeed. There is nothing that skating hasn't done to make my feet more sensitive and more unwilling to wear heels. Callouses, worse. Ankles, unwilling to deal with any kind of shenanigans. Toes, rebelling at the first sign of any squeezing. (I will not bore and horrify you, dear Internet, with the details of the state of my big toes. But rest assured, I could.)
While at the shoe store I picked up a beautiful pair of blue platform heels. They were a beautiful, cool, blue retro dream.
I put them on. Looked at myself in the mirror. And then I moaned pitifully. They were already starting to hurt. I put them back.
Equally distressing is that I will probably never pay as much on shoes as I will in December when I get new skates. In my fevered dreams I somehow magically manage to find $800 dollars to drop on Graf Edmontons and sleek new blades. Graf Edmonton skates are sexy in their own, skaterly way (particularly Stephane Lambiel's polished to a high patent sheen). I mean, come on, the description includes the words "stiff" and "leather." That's gotta be good, right?
Something inside me sighed and shook its head at what we have become.
I wonder if they come in blue, patent leather t-strap? No? Okay.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Speaking of practice, Thursday's practice was a really good one. I was there for about two hours and suddenly all these things I was struggling with have improved. It was like magic! I was even doing 3-turns fast, though when I showed my coach he looked unimpressed and told me "Let's see if you can hold it for three seconds before the turn and three seconds after." AND I DID. I was thrilled. I also got some good practice in with my spins and edges, though my jumps were not overly impressive. I never got frustrated, though!
I've started a new round of classes, which I think has helped with my confidence. I'm taking a shadowing class that teaches you pairs/synchro skating skills and several regular classes, and I'm feeling really challenged. On Tuesday, the teacher made me start learning how to go into a spin from crossovers, which is a new and scary skill for me. I suck at it so far, but that's what practice is for, right? I'm also working on improving my waltz jump - I land it incorrectly a lot, which can really hurt my ankle and my jumps are wussy. I want to improve my landing skills and start doing bigger jumps.
A lot of what was holding me back was fear. Fear of falling, fear of looking ridiculous, fear that everyone was secretly judging my skating and finding it wanting. I'm still nervous, but I find that it's becoming easier to overcome my fear and work to learn new things. A big part of that comes from this community of adult skaters - everyone is really encouraging and I feel pushed to work harder and get better.
Maybe I'll actually manage to keep that New Year's resolution and pass that pre-bronze test by December 31st!
Monday, July 4, 2011
Anyways! On to talking about skating. I went to class on Saturday and it was one of those days where everything is just wrong. In Power Skating I was slow and I had trouble doing power three turns, which, come on. I learned how to do those more than six months ago. It was ridiculous. Then, in Adult Workshop, I was just a frustrated mess.
Then: random breakthrough. Our coach was helping me with spins, and he was like "Focus on that arm! Now your core! Let's work on your balance!". There were one million small things in each element I was trying that I needed to think about, so we just took it back down to basics and I concentrated on technique, not speed. After months of frustration with spins, I finally, FINALLY am spinning on one foot again. Success! I'm not quite up to the four revolutions that Coach Yoda wants me to be at, but I'll get there.
The thing about learning skating is there are so many things you have to think about when you learn something new. Your arms need to be held the right way, your core strong, turning your head often helps. I tend to drop my right shoulder a lot which is part of why I'm having trouble with basics. Sometimes Candice and I just stand and shout "ARMS!" at each other or stare each other in the face so we remember to keep our heads up and not look at our feet.
This is such a fun sport, but at the same time it's incredibly frustrating. Sometimes I suspect we're all a bunch of crazy people, but hey. Figure skating is a GREAT thing to brag about at parties. I think I'll stick with it.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Afterward, I realized I had been able to contribute to a conversation about thrill-seeking of all things. I'm probably the opposite of thrill seeking. I don't even drink coffee. I don't like jumping off of things or motorcycles or crowds or gambling. A lot of times I'll spoil myself for the ending of a movie or a book in order to save myself the problem of being in suspense. I don't even find leather-jacketed bad boys to be very attractive.
But then there's figure skating.
Yup, figure skating. As I talked to the martial artist I realized we've both chosen something that's not exactly the same as watching "Sex and the City" reruns on a stationary bike. A single misstep could mean we get our ass kicked. Both sports require us to be guided by an actual coach rather than a program on a treadmill or an exercise tape from an infomercial. Both sports have an aspect of competition in it. Both sports have the potential to make us feel like a complete fool or a total bad ass.
The only difference between us is that his opponent was another living, breathing human being and my opponent is a giant slab of ice. Well that and his sport could conceivably have a practical application in the real world. (I haven't yet figured out how figure skating will help me in the impending zombie apocalypse, but I'm working on it.) But I would also point out that his sport takes place on nice soft gym mats.
Skating is a dangerous sport designed to look pretty. A few months after I started skating a boy fell on the ice; he knocked himself out, and I believe lost a few teeth. The paramedics had to be called. He wasn't playing hockey, he wasn't trying a big jump. He was just skating and had the misfortune of falling in a very dangerous way. A few months after that I fell so hard that I had trouble sleeping on my back for a month. I wasn't playing hockey and I wasn't jumping. Just like getting into the ring, going into the rink always holds the potential for a surprise ass kicking.
Of course getting onto the rink isn't exactly like getting into the ring. Getting into a ring you're pretty much guaranteed to throw or receive at least one punch or kick. If you don't, you can't really call it sparring. Getting onto the ice, I could pretty easily avoid doing anything that might lead to a fall and still call it skating. (It just wouldn't really be the fun kind of skating, would it?) But maybe that's not any different than choosing to spar against someone you know you can beat. When I skate, no matter how I choose to do it, I'm always up against someone bigger and meaner than me. The ice is not going to pull its punches, the ice is not going to take it easy on me.
For example, I've spent an hour and a half on the ice, working at a dozen different things, flush and excited that I'm doing so well. Then I try a piece of footwork from a stand still and the next thing I know I'm on my back and something, be it my back or my wrist, is hurting. Strangely enough, almost falling is more terrifying that actually falling. Your heart races, your adrenaline kicks in, all with the thought of would could have happened. But then again there are the days I go for deeper edges, bigger (well not that big) jumps and come away bruise free.
I never know what I'm going to get, and I love it.
I used to run. I used to try and beat time and speed. My only opponent was myself and my greatest risk was doing gradual damage to a knee or somehow forgetting I was on a treadmill and shooting back into the wall. For a while though, training for a 5k was incredibly interesting to me. At the start, every milestone was thrilling but then it got boring. It got harder to go to the gym and I became complacent with my progress. Eventually, the only thing that made it interesting was the presence of TVs above the treadmills at the gym. Running was just a 30 to 45 minute appointment where I told my body to do something and then did my best to ignore it. The runner's high was nice, but no where addictive enough to make the gym worthwhile.
I've been skating for a year now, and I haven't been doing triple axels. A lot of this time has been spent practicing the basics like crossovers and stopping, edges and going backwards. I spend a lot of time wishing my 3-turns and lobes were better. Not a lot of fireworks, no razzle dazzle. Back when I told people my recent achievement in running was going for 30 minutes without stopping I got a lot of "Wow!" type reactions. I don't really get that when I tell people "I held a deep back inside edge!"
But I tell you what, I've absolutely fallen when just trying to do the basics; that back inside edge went right out from under me and I got a bruise for my trouble. The danger element is always there even if it wouldn't seem so to the average non-skater. Sticking with those edges has allowed me to finally get to some of the razzle dazzle, too. My coach and I working on three jumps, the waltz, salchow, and half-flip. When I tell people that, they get a little more impressed (probably because they're imagining the jumps they've seen on TV, but shh, don't tell).
The result of the experiment is pretty clear: I stuck with training for the 5k for no more than 3 or 4 months. After a year I'm still skating, looking to buy new skates, and I plan to compete. I'm even frustrated that my jumps aren't bigger, even with the potential for those jumps to end in a fall.
So what I mean to say is I am in the running to be the world's most mild mannered thrill-seeker.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Skating, however, has been mostly kind to me. I was briefly feeling very frustrated and angry with myself because I've been struggling with some of the same old things (backwards edges FOREVER), but I joined this team at the rink that allows me to take unlimited classes. I am currently taking five classes and am thinking about taking even more next session. These are split between Saturday morning and Wednesday night and let me tell you what, taking all these classes is kicking my ass. I walked out of my last class this morning feeling like I'd been wrung out and hung to dry.
What I also felt was clearheaded for the first time in weeks. When I woke up this morning, I was feeling super grumpy and off-kilter, as I had all week. "Why even go to class?" I asked myself. "I'll just be the worst ever on the ice and it will suck". I reminded myself that I pay for these damn classes and so I best get up and get to the rink. I wasn't great at everything - we practiced 3-turns (both inside and outside) in my adult workshop class and I'm pretty sure mine were the shakiest, but I did them. When I did the right inside three turn into the left outside three turn, the only criticism the coach had was the my lobes could be bigger. That's a big thing! I did the turns correctly! My left inside was the saddest thing on earth, but I managed to do the turn at least once. Power skating was a killer - I felt like I was the slowest in the class, but I kept going. I left the rink feeling strong and accomplished.
This is why I skate. I do want to compete someday and I hope that eventually I won't be in the "slow group" in the adult workshop class, but that takes time and work. I refuse to quit skating because even on days where I'm frustrated and flustered, I still always manage to find something good in a practice. In times where my personal life has difficulties, I can go and skate it out at the rink and walk out feeling better.
I may not be the best or the fastest skater, but I really love doing it, and in the end, that's all that matters.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I was supposed to write all about my skate-a-thon week in late May. But if I tried to draw for you a diagram of my feelings about skating right now it would look like this:
I seriously cannot organize it any better than that. During any given practice I feel elation and frustration, determination and confusion, then boredom, hunger, envy, surprise, and fear. Even getting off the ice is a weird combination of never wanting to leave and wanting to instantly be home.
So my mind is a bit of a mess, and this blog entry is doomed from the start.
- My waltz jump is tons better. Tons.
- I did a tippy spin on one foot for two revolutions today.
- I am faster on the ice than I have ever been.
- My coach decided I could learn the salchow.
- I can't actually do a salchow.
- Spins have not decided to magically make sense and become easy.
- I need new boots.
- There are days where I want to clothesline the twenty-something-year-old men in hockey skates milling about me while I try to do something. Full on clothesline them.
And that may be all I've got. Other than a desire for a new skating wardrobe. Pride, aggression, progress, and as always, a long way to go.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Reason #1- I need to find out if I'm one those unlucky people that just suck at spinning. I don't want to use the excuse of "we only spent 5 minutes on it in class," anymore. Sink or swim. Am I a Lambiel or a Joubert?
Reason #2- I'm really bossy and I think my fellow classmates were going to murder me if I decide another half of a class should be devoted to what I love most (footwork).
Reason #3- Despite being incredibly sarcastic, my coach is quite fond of Yoda-like pronouncements about skating. I've already talked about his theory on trying, and during our first lesson he gave me his philosophical stance on whether or not you should say you're doing something "wrong." So really, the half hour I spend with him is the closest I'll get to starring in an inspirational sports movie.
We had our first lesson this week and I'm sure the title of this entry gives you a good idea of how it went. I mean, I do sort of wish that the first lesson had morphed into a montage so that I went from stumbling around on the ice to nervously awaiting my dark horse debut at Adult Nationals in just 5 minutes. But there was enough of a noticeable result that I'm happy to stick with it even though patience has never been one of my virtues.
Unfortunately I met this new development by kind of faltering on my practice regimen. So I can't report to you a stunning triumph in my skating, just a list of things I should continue to work on (I'll spare you). Too much real life burn out after about a month of going full throttle. However, after this weekend I am rested, refueled and feeling like I've got something to prove.
As an experiment this week I'm going to skate four days in a row including my lesson and just see what happens. Do I get better? Do I get frustrated? Do I get lazy? Do I get motivated? Do I, at long last, get scouted for the Geezerlympics?
I'll let you know.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Thankfully not at the rink. I may not have much dignity, but my pride allowed me to keep a stiff upper lip and talk to my fellow classmates and not bawl into my disgusting smelling skate bag like a little kid that had dropped her ice cream. No, I waited till I was in the car with Candice and she forced me to talk to her, and that's when the weeping began.
See, we've been skating together for a year, but I am suddenly very, very far behind her in skill level. Today we were working on jumps and the coach made me practice my bunny hops and waltz jumps (jumps I learned months ago) because they need improvement. Candice was doing much more complicated stuff. I spent the whole class feeling like a frustrated failure.
Here's the truth though: I was not a failure. I finally mastered the 8-step, which is a step sequence that we learned two weeks ago that's basically this:
- 2 crossovers
- forward inside mohawk
- backward crossover
- backward inside mohawk
I was having so much trouble with it and today I finally got it. I was doing it fast, too! My jumps were much improved, my footwork is suddenly developing much more rapidly. The reason for all of this improvement is happening is that I got new skates. New skates that fit right - my old ones were a FULL SIZE too big, which was part of what was holding me back. Lack of practice also held me back, I'll admit it, but the change between the skates is huge. The feeling is totally different. I feel much more in control of my feet with these skates.
So, why was I crying like a big old baby after class?
I've had a lot more time off the ice than Candice due to health problems and travel issues, but I feel like if I had taken care of this six months ago, maybe I'd be at the skill level I feel like I should be at. I talked to coaches a little about my skates and was generally told "Oh, don't waste the money to buy new skates, just get some insoles and you should be fine". That was also a big part of why I was so upset - I felt a little betrayed by the crappy advice and frustrated with myself for not being more assertive. I have a long history of not being assertive, and this time it really came back to bite me. I could tell something was very wrong about my skates and I wish I had listened to my body instead of outside commentary from people who could not experience what I was feeling.
You can't go back and change the past, however, so I am going to take another round of Adult Workshop and work these skates like a BOSS. I hope that in eight weeks I can report that I have mastered the elements for the pre-bronze test and am on my way to actual competing. Cross your fingers, my beloved three readers.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Phew. That felt good. You might have noticed that after my one enthusiastic post about spinning I sort of never mentioned it again. And the reason is I spent a year being awful at it. A year! I didn't admit it to very many people but it was frustrating me to the point that I sort of felt like a fool. I mean, it's not like I was upset I had not mastered a spin combo. I was upset that I could not actually spin. A few months, sure, a year, though? I mean, was I really expected to spend two years mastering the most basic of spins.
Now, you're probably wondering why my coaches didn't help me. I'm not 100% sure, but spins must be some sort of red-headed stepchild to most coaches, because for the longest time every coach, everyone of them, would generally be like, "Oh, yeah, spins" in the last five minutes of class. Meaning the I got about one minute of instruction with such gems as "Yeah, that's not too bad."
Perhaps the problem was practice. I despised being bad at them. I hated trying again and again for something that was slow and unstable and nothing like the spins that make me so happy to watch. But then I had to remind myself that it's been a year and even a year of so-so practice should yield some sort of result.
The problem, it turns out, was just that no one seemed to believe I really wanted to get better at them. Our new coach has a lot of experience with adult skaters and when I said I wanted to learn how to improve my spins, he basically improved them in two ten minute lessons.
First, he showed me how to enter a spin moving. Then, he told me to bend my stupid knees. Why those two things never occurred to a coach before, I have no idea. But those two tidbits of advice were all I need to go from HORRIBLE WOBBLY SPIN THAT LOOKS SUPER LAME to "holy shit that was actually... centered." Leading me to feel two wildly disparate emotions the first being, "Yay!" the second being, "Wtf?"
I don't know why in a year no one thought to tell me to hold my body a different way. Did they think I'd just figure that one out on my own? Did they think I got a kick out of being bad at spins? Did they think I didn't actually want to know? I guess it doesn't really matter. The point is that I'm done with lessons. Once this next round is over I'll be getting a coach for private lessons, monetary investment be damned, because I'm not spending another year waiting for someone to point out that my arm is in the wrong place.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Moving on! Last night Candice and I decided to watch Ice Castles, a delightful movie from 1978 about a girl overcoming adversity to become awesome at skating. OR SO WE THOUGHT. Warning: there will be spoilers in this post, though I kind of feel like getting angry about spoilers from a movie that is THIRTY-THREE years old is a little silly.
We expected the movie to be bad because it was 1.) about ice skating and 2.) made in the 70's. What we did not expect was the movie to be BALLS TO THE WALL CRAZY. We were tweeting throughout the movie, and here are some examples of our feelings as the movie went from "Wow, everyone in this movie is just here to cash a paycheck" to "Um, the main character appears to now be an attic-lurking zombie wearing her dead mother's clothes. What?"
"So Ice Castles is as schlocky as I hoped but everyone is napping through this movie. Also lololol a full house at Regionals."
"Apparently triples were just crowd pleasing acrobatics back in the 70s. Why would anyone want to do them? #icecastles"
"I'm already tired of watching split jumps holy crap. #icecastles"
If you've seen Showgirls know how hilarious it is when everyone is practically salivating over Nomi Malone's "abilities." That's pretty much what was going on with this movie. At one point this character is so over-awed by the main character's "natural" "talent" that she has like a meltdown... at a Christmas Special. Where apparently the main character qualifies for Regionals? WTF, Ice Castles?
And at first it seems like family fun (well, not that Showgirls was ever family fun, the comparison ends with the amazement over "talent"), and then suddenly the main character is playing with her nipples in front of a mirror. And that, my friends, is where the movie really veers off into insanity. We were tweeting away sarcastically about dated ideas about jumps and hilariously full houses at lame competitions, and then:
"She's had one glass of wine and now she's molesting an ice sculpture. #icecastles"
"Let that be a lesson to you all. Don't skate after drinking champagne. It leads to blurred tantrums about how you CAN'T SEE! #icecastles"
"Oh my god now she's a blind zombie wearing her dead mother's clothes. This movie is 900% more crazier than anticipated. #icecastles"
Yup. SPOILERS: She tries a double axel at a party, falls, hits her head on a table and goes blind. She then spends the next half hour lurking in the attic at her dad's house, wearing her dead mom's clothes and refusing to shower. You should watch this movie for the scene where her ice skating mentor kicks her ass up there, it's totally just like "The Miracle Worker". EVEN EXTRA SPOILERS: The miracle is she learns to skate while quasi-blind and comes back to kick ass at... Sectionals. Not exactly a Rocky Balboa triumph over the best the Soviets has to offer. More like a mild triumph over the the best a portion of America has to offer. But the point is it took pluck, I guess.
They remade this movie in 2010. Oh, yeah, they did. Clearly, Candice and I must watch it to see how they deal with this whole "doing triples is a parlor trick!" issue. And also if the 2010 version is just as crazy, with the attic lurking and the blind ass kicking and the random nipple touching.
So there you have it. If you've ever wondered "Hmmm, should I watch Ice Castles?", the answer is clearly a giant Y-E-S. Just make sure you have strong drinks and a good friend to commentate with, otherwise it's going to be two hours of bafflement. Don't worry. We'll let you know if the 2010 version is just as amazing. We're here for you, my dear four readers. We've got your back.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Three weeks ago (that's three, as in almost a month) I was failing to master choctaws when my feet went out from under me and all 900 feet of me (approx.) hit the ice squarely on my tailbone. I got up again and skated for another 15 minutes in an effort to prove that I was tougher than skating. And maybe I did, but by that night I had a lovely purple bruise blooming like a flower in a crack of concrete (get it?) and a lot of soreness. Skating got the last laugh, but I thought with the fading of the bruise, so to might the pain fade.
Nope times 100.
For a few days walking and sitting and sleeping and existing were all reason enough to be in pain. Walking, sitting, and existing did eventually became comfortable again, but sleeping (ALAS! My FAVORITE thing) did not. Even taking ibuprofen before bed was laughably ineffective. For the past three weeks no matter what I did, I would wake up roughly once every hour as the pain punched through my slumber and demanded that I roll over and try to find a more comfortable position. Once or twice there was nothing for it, even lying on my stomach hurt and I just had to wait for sleep to win out over the discomfort.
Thus, the most embarrassing Google search in a long time: "falling on ice butt injury." My butt, it was injured from falling on ice. Last time I posted I wrote about how I felt skating was, in some ways, an expensive and showy waste of time and money. Now I feel like skating is turning me into a hybrid baby old person, someone who falls constantly; someone who when they fall looks up at the ceiling in pure shock that such a thing could happen before clutching their hip and whining about not being able to get up; someone in need of some miracle cream to cure their butt woes.
Alas, there doesn't appear to be a miracle cream. Or even a miracle pill. According to WebMD I either have butt cancer, or I'll just have to be patient, stay active, avoid positions that hurt, and either ice it or using the heating pad until the pain disappeared. I was worried ice would trigger some sort of PTSD attack for my poor traumatized butt, so heating pad it was. It helps. I used it Sunday and, though I still woke up, slept much better than I had in a while. I used it last night, and woke up only in a little pain. Five extra minutes lying on top of the heating pad made me simultaneously more capable of getting out of bed and less willing.
And yet still I shall skate. Neither cold, nor lack of talent, nor lack of money, nor aching butt will keep my from the ice.
My butt isn't too happy about that, but oh well.
Monday, March 21, 2011
We got split up into groups in my last skating class and told to create a footwork sequence. The tiny blonde nine year old who was clearly the bossiest member of my group (in a group the includes me AND Candice, trust me, that is impressive) was like “let’s start with a twizzle!” I informed her that neither of us could, in fact, twizzle. She put her hands on her hips and gave me a look of disdain usually reserved for parents or people who don’t know who Justin Bieber is. “What? You can’t TWIZZLE?” In my head, I was like “Um, I can DRIVE and VOTE and STAY UP AS LATE AS I WANT, so NYAH” but out loud I just asked her to show me what to do.
Why was I in a class full of sassy pre-teens? Well, I’ll tell you.
Candice and I were doing the whole Adult Workshop class thing for a while, but that class was full of people and became really stressful because we just couldn’t seem to learn anything new in the crush. So we decided, what would be a better idea than switching to a footwork class with one of the most popular coaches? A footwork class that just happens to be full of nine year olds and one other adult besides us?
Let me tell you, people, there are a lot of better ideas than that, at least if you want to hang on to your dignity.
I feel that we have made it clear that we’ve made peace with the lack of dignity that comes along with learning to figure skate, though, so we were pretty much in heaven. Except for the part where all those nine year olds could do WAY better than us at footwork. Wait, hang on. Let me rephrase that. They were doing way better than ME. Candice could sort of keep up with them as they were galloping across the ice, doing three turns and Mohawks and whatever like little mini gazelles. I was always the last one lumbering across the ice, struggling to get the footwork sequences or turns or whatever we were doing.
I got really, really frustrated in that class. It showed me that my half-assed approach to practice is really coming home to roost as we come up on a year of skating and I’m still struggling to learn the most basic of things. The coach who ran the class managed to keep me from exploding in a ball of frustration by 1. Expecting me to try as hard as I could and 2. Encouraging me when I got things right. It’s so basic, so childish in a way, but all I really needed was someone besides Candice to be like “I know you can do this, so shut the hell up and DO IT. Awww, that was good, try again.” I’ve been practicing more often so that I don’t embarrass myself when I go back to classes. Magic of magic, wonder of wonders, my footwork has really improved.My next class will be with adults again, though. Seriously, y’all. Those kids are BRUTAL.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Beyond that I was also experiencing a major crisis of faith. Kate and I are toddling up to our first full year of skating and lessons. With the exception of a two-month break from classes, we've been making a concerted effort at this for a long enough time that everyone is expecting some results. On my birthday a few months ago, my sister who had not yet seen me skate at all asked me if I could jump. I suppose I can, a waltz jump has the word "jump" right in the title, but my waltz jumps leave something (everything) to be desired. They're about as timid as they can be without never having both feet leave the ground. My sister smiled encouragingly at what I managed to show her, but didn't exactly express any awe. It was okay, I wasn't that impressed myself.
A month later I'd learn the lead up to the half flip jump, but after being taught how I never received any follow up on why it didn't feel comfortable. It's not my instructors fault really, there was just too much else to teach. I was still struggling with some aspects of 3-turns, my spins, my spirals, my lunges, and pretty much everything. I've already had to dial down my expectations a lot from where I'd started, but I never would have believed that mastery of a Basic 5 skill would still be just out of reach after a year of trying.
It was beyond frustrating. Even embarrassing. What an obvious, and overly advertised waste of time. And all this after posting about how Bright Girls give up when things get hard. It was right there in front of me, "Keep working, keep practicing," but still I was pouting. In an effort to prove the article and everyone wrong, I went to my practices and spent an hour and a half on the ice each time. By last Friday I was still frustrated, still half-thinking about quitting.
Yesterday I went to the rink with Kate and at the end of an hour and a half I realized I could do a LFO (left forward outside) 3-turn, LFI (left forward inside) 3-turn, and LFI mohawk on a circle. I did a RFO 3 turn, RFI mohawk, and an RFI 3-turn on a circle. During my last class we were taught twizzles and the choctaw step. As of yesterday, I can do an ugly example of both going one direction.
For those of you keeping score at home: 3 new types of turns that I could not do last month (inside 3-turn, twizzle, choctaw). I also completed a pretty good looking LFO spiral. I think we can all be proud of me.
Last Thursday I skated by myself and practiced my waltz jump and, while they're not going to win any medals any time soon, by the end they started feeling like actual jumps. My lunges and spins are... improving. A little. Too little if you ask me, but horrifyingly the paragraph right above this one seems to indicate that I will still have keep to skating, and keep trying to improve them because they may, in fact, get better.
PS- A shout out to everyone who reads and the few that comment. I get beyond excited about each comment, but I can't figure out who to reply directly to you. No matter, just know I'm thrilled about you.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
...Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses.
Hello, Candice's reaction to High School, how are you aside from being perfectly summed up?
Psychologist Carol Dweck has discovered the way in which girls are praised have affected their outlook on difficult tasks. "Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their 'goodness.' When we do well in school, we are told that we are 'so smart,' 'so clever,' or 'such a good student.' This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't."
Hello, Candice's entire life since birth, how are you aside from being a mind blowing revelation?
A little back story, my dad was a tall, smart, creative, funny and hard working person. This, according to my mother, meant I was also destined to be tall, smart, creative, funny and hard working. To listen to her tell it, I didn't have to try to be any of these things, they were just coded into my DNA. Done and done, all I have to do is sit back and wait for my innate talents to bloom.
With the exception of being tall, obviously that attitude was not exactly true. Through a beneficial confluence of circumstances I did manage to become 5'10", get on a few honor rolls, a Dean's list, etc. My creativity, nascent in the "drawing things with crayons" phase of life, did in fact blossom once I entered the "write well enough to put a story together" part of life. Funny didn't really all come together for me until high school and the internet. That just leaves hard working.
I have to work hard at being a hard worker. If I think something will reflect poorly on me as a person I will diligently work at it until absolutely no one can deny that Candice should not be chastised, and should even be praised. If I think I can get away with it though, oh the corners I will cut.
Which brings me back to high school (and then college), when I could do a paper in the hour before it was due and pull a B+. I could coast through math and get a passing grade. I could do the summary, annotated bibliography, and first draft of a paper and then not turn in the actual final draft of the paper and pass the class. So I did. My intelligence was never really doubted by my teachers, but my ability to get shit done definitely was. I've stated many times that if I could just go back in time and slap myself across the face, and tell myself that doing homework DID have a point and that point was opening doors later in life, I would. In a heartbeat.
I'd also tell myself to get up and move. My basic motto about sports was, "If at first you don't succeed, write it off and never do it again." If running was hard, then why bother running? Not being able to run didn't affect my intelligence, my creativity. All I had to do was show up to PE in order to pass the class, so I cut all other available corners that required effort. And more importantly, required I fail the first few times.
Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., "If you would just pay attention you could learn this," "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.") The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.
They're talking about schoolwork here, but where I needed to hear it most was physical activity. Kate likes to say she was a natural at skating, a little whiz at the ice from an early age which she later abandoned in pursuit of tween-age ennui. It's an aspect of skating that we simply cannot share with each other. The first few times I was on ice, I was slow, I fell, and I was not a natural. Replace "first few times I was on the ice" with "any sport I ever tried ever and you've got the summary of my ability to instantly pick up a sport.
For me the ice is something I have to "pay attention and try harder" at. All the time. Every time. Working a regular schedule means that I'm able to make a weekly appointment with myself to skate for an hour that I rarely miss. Kate's had interruptions here and there described before in this blog. If I had to say who had practiced the most, it would be me.
And after almost a year of skating there are things Kate can do better than me, and things that I can do better than she can. The results, unique to each of us, are roughly even. Our enjoyment of the sport? Dead even. The result of the experiment is that if I'd put in time, effort, and practice as a child I might well have been a decent player of any sport. A star? A natural? I suppose not, but I can confidently say that doesn't detract from the value, and enjoyment I could have had.
This article was a lesson learned too late in some ways. I can't go back and re-do my years in high school and undergrad. I can't go back and tell myself that volleyball might have been a worthwhile thing to keep trying at. I can use the lesson now, in skating, at my job, and in a lot of other things.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
So really, it makes no sense for me to be in this sport. The boots are uncomfortable. The ice is hard and cold and wet. I've fallen so hard I still felt the bruises two weeks later. Getting ready for more vigorous jumps I find myself thinking I should really cut back on the cookies if I ever want try an axel. Skating is completely antithetical to my way of living.
And yet, I adore it.
Added to this unpleasant mix, is the recent development that from time to time my knee hurts. The pain is nothing to write home about, I think it ranks somewhere between "a little stiff" and a "twinge" but my reaction to it surprised me. I had this weird moment of, "I'm an athlete, bitch."
Which is of course, not true. I spend roughly three - five hours a week on the ice. Max. This past week I went four days in a row and by the fourth day I was like, "Lord, what am I even doing here?" That hardly constitutes living and breathing a sport. And anyway, I'm pretty sure knitters could at least knit every day and still call themselves a hobbyist. And I'm sure if they knit every day their hands would be a bit crampy and they wouldn't really think much of it.
But again, see my usual roster of activities. Eating, drinking, reading, lounging, none of these activities usually give you much more than a stomach ache, a hangover, or a limb that has fallen asleep because you had it folded for too long (as if you spent so much time not moving that your body gave up and forgot it had hands or feet). When I was a runner I was mercifully free of any lingering pain issues. My knees and ankles never bothered me after I finished the run, and the biggest challenge was just dealing with the burn when I tried to go for a longer time or a faster pace.
So this is new for me. This is something that hopefully will not, but possibly could, turn into something like that "Love Hurts" Gatorade commercial (which is sadly NOT on YouTube). Maybe one day it'll be ME grimacing in pain while covered in fluorescent sweat. Being a hedonist, shouldn't I turn away from this path and look for a comfy couch? No. Instead I find myself thinking, "Hey, it'll be okay, because then I'll know I went the distance." Now I know that's pretty dramatic. The distance for me will be taking two or three test levels.
So I have to embrace and enjoy the melodrama, and delude myself into thinking I'm testing the limits of my body rather than just, I don't know, aging. Otherwise, I'd just stop skating, too afraid that it'll take out my knee someday. Eternal glory is a lot more attractive than "nightly applications of Bengay."
But what is harder to do is have this same attitude toward bruises. Knee pain appeal to my womanly understanding of suffering in silence. Bruises are in direct conflict with my womanly desire to have perfect legs. There's currently a thumb sized bruise on my left calf, exposed for all the world to see because I am wearing a skirt. It's nothing new, a bruise on a knee cap for two weeks to be followed by one on my hip, and then a brief reprieve from bruises, only to get a blister on my pinky toe when I wear the wrong socks to a practice session. Skating was supposed to make me PRETTY, dammit.
Despite it all I keep going. And will keep going. Because I've apparently actually become the tiniest bit masochistic.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
You know what wasn't a win? Going to skating class last week and getting a slap of reality by falling on my face not once, but TWICE. The first time we were doing crossovers in a figure eight and I went too deep on my edge and BAM, down on my hip. I was so embarrassed - the other girls in this class are doing, like, rotational jumps and camel spins and I fell on a freaking crossover. I got back up, gathered my tattered pride around me and kept going. A few minutes later, our teacher made us do lunges and spirals for warm-ups. OF COURSE the higher level girls are doing better than me, but I managed to do some respectable lunges and spirals without falling, so I was feeling pretty good.
Then. Oh, then. Our teacher is like "So, everyone knows how to do bunny hops, right?" Bunny hops are the easiest of jumps. So we're all like "Yeah, of course, duh" and she's like "Okay! Final warm-up! Do bunny hops across to the other line!" Everyone takes off, bunny hopping away (which looks ridiculous, the jump looks like you've tripped and are stumbling along) and I go, take off, and land.....on my kneecap. And then flop to my stomach, my left arm taking my weight as I collapse completely and slide across the ice, penguin-style.
Why do I always do that?
Our teacher was horrified and rushed over, all like "are you okay?" and I didn't even bother gathering my tattered pride this time because I had none left. I just got up as gracefully as I could manage (which was not gracefully at all) and said I was fine and kept going. The rest of class was pretty demoralizing - I was super shaky, even practicing easy things, and I could not seem to get up the courage to jump again. The worst part was I had spent almost two hours at the rink the day before practicing my jumps and turns and stuff, so I came into class ready to be a bad-ass and was pretty thoroughly demoralized by my complete lack of bad-assed-ness.
Here's hoping this weekend's class is better and kinder to both my knees and my dignity.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Though I doubt Elmo's pantomiming would create the same kind of catharsis as watching Florent Amodio transformed into the happiest six year old boy you've ever seen by winning gold. Nor would the part of the play where he loses his favorite toy wreck me as much as Jeremy Abbott's 4th place finish. But it would at least be skaters on ice, and with only slightly more fur and feathers than Johnny Weir's crazier costumes.
In addition to the competitions, there is also the exciting development that I have learned my first toepick assisted jump. There were roughly two dozen ladies and two dozen men skating in Europe, the same number skating in US Nationals, almost all skating two programs. Not everybody went for the flip, but enough did that I must have watched somewhere in the ballpark of at least fifty flips (or at least flips and flutzes combined) in the past five days.
Previously forward and backward crossovers, three-turns, mohawks and lunges were pretty much all I had in common with my beloved competitive skaters. So I can only imitate roughly 1% of what they do on the ice right now. Well that and slow, strained spirals. Adding a toepick assisted jump at least brings it up to 2%. Put my tiny little waltz jump and my flip together along with my 5 second footwork sequence and you've got the world's shortest, and technically pathetic program. But still.
Saturday night I went to an unusually awesome party but I refused to let myself indulge too much, lest I wake up unable to try the flip again on Sunday. My only concession to the good time I was having was to stay up just a little too late. I got only six hours of sleep, but a lazy Sunday in bed held no allure. I got up, made breakfast, and got to the rink five minutes before they finished resurfacing the ice.
My usual Sunday skating was paired with watching the the American men skate their free on TV (so many tears and surprises and surprise tears), creating a DethSpiralz twitter account so that I can live tweet 4CC and Worlds with Kate, vacuuming every inch of my apartment to rid it of the tumbleweeds of cat hair rolling about on the carpet, doing laundry, and spending time with both my cats and my boyfriend.
I didn't just burn the candle at both ends yesterday, I made new wicks and burned it at the top, bottom and a few places in the middle. I woke up this morning with a sore shoulder, a sore back, and a feeling that I didn't get near enough sleep to make up for the energy I put out on Sunday. I could have easily put out at least one fire yesterday and saved the energy from skating so that I could have done one more thing, like go to the grocery store, or make dinner instead of buying it.
But that would have been impossible. Even right now, sitting at my computer all I can think about is getting back on to the ice and trying it again. Or failing that, I want to try the flip again and again on the floor. Or see how much closer I can get to an attractive catch foot position so that my spirals can at least be slow, faltering, but also pretty.
I'm just going to have to get a bigger candle.
Monday, January 24, 2011
IN MY DEFENSE, I had surgery less than a month ago and my recovery has been slower than when I was younger, which my doctor teased me about when I was like "what's up with that?" Surprise, everyone! You don't bounce back from ANYTHING as fast when you get older! Sigh.
I am recovering, though, and am trying to make plans that involve getting back on that resolution train. Candice and I have named 2011 "The Year of Not Fucking Around Anymore, Seriously This Time". I have been stretching after I skate and trying to remember to take anti-inflammatory drugs before I go on the ice to help with pain.
So, on to the skating. I went back a week or so ago, and was really nervous. I was convinced that I had forgotten everything and would slide around like Bambi, weeping about my lack of muscle tone and embarrassing myself in front of the other skaters.
THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. In fact, I improved on some things! My inside 3-turns are a lot better and I'm jumping better, too! Yeah, that's RIGHT, people. I went back on the ice less than three weeks after surgery and mothereffing JUMPED. I felt like the biggest badass ever until my abs and thighs were like "We hate you" and got so shaky I had to get off and rest. I'm still rebuilding muscle, and I can't skate as long as I could before I stopped, but I'm doing really well. Plus, as a final braggy note, we signed up for Adult Basic 4 again, figuring we needed to really get the skills for it down before moving up to "Adult Workshop", which is where you learn the really fun and harder stuff.
Well! We have been moved up to workshop! We're too good for Adult Basic 4! I was so excited when the workshop teacher (who used to teach our Basic 4 class before we took a break) pulled me aside after class and was like "Um, you need to move up" and the Basic 4 teacher agreed.
Everything is going well. 2011, for real. It's all about not screwing around.
Monday, January 17, 2011
While the blog and the diet (and the attempts to get more flexible) have all become cobblestones of failed good intentions on the road to becoming lazier, heavier and still inflexible, the skating, at least in part, continued. In the face of the holidays, social commitments, and well, let's say challenges at work, the temporary sabbatical from lessons unfortunately continued for the full 8 week semester. Thankfully a lack of lessons did not stop me from skating at least once a week. (It did, however, stop me from learning anything new.)
I'm happy to report that I've gotten even better at the things I was already pretty good at. The footwork sequence making use of all of my strengths can now be done at a speed that feels impressive (at least, I'm impressed). Forward crossovers, feh, easy peasy! Backwards crossovers? Much less terrifying and way more consistent. Outside three-turns? I can do a hundred of them before breakfast.
Oh but what about the things that I wasn't so good at? Inside three turns? Footwork that puts the emphasis on my weaker leg? Again, you already know where this is going. Don't patronize me with your insincere curiosity and I won't patronize you by pretending that they're not just as dreadful as ever. Despite all the good intentions, practice, and trying I've done in the past months, if there's one thing that I've learned it's that I'm more stubborn than myself.
What I mean to say is no matter how many times I tell myself, "You're going to work on inside three turns until you've mastered them," the outcome never changes. I will get on the ice do a few, shaky half completed inside three turns and think, "This sucks. Not being good at something is way less fun than being good at something." Almost immediately I rebel against practice makes perfect, and rely instead on look what I can do! Unfortunately the same applies to nearly everything I want to do that requires discipline. See also: diet and stretching. Further reference: time management and my budget.
You might have noticed that the name attached to this blog is Verochka Grinkov. Verochka Grinkov is the name I decided should be applied not to my imaginary friend, but to my imaginary life coach. In my mind, Verochka is a solid, no-nonsense Russian woman in head-to-toe fox fur. Her hair is dyed the same aggressive red as her lipstick. She frowns at me constantly. Verochka is the voice in my head that tells me to shut up and skate, sighs in dismay when I have the fourth (or fifth, or seventh) cookie, and tells me to walk it off when I get an unexpected kick in the keister from life. If Verochka was a real person, my life would be in much better shape because I would probably be terrified of her. Alas, though, she is easily dissipated with a wave of my hand, leaving me to my cookies and lethargy.
Alas, Verochka Grinkov is not real, but there are figure skating that are. I've signed up for another round of lessons, and hopefully their polite but disappointed faces when they tell me to execute an inside three turn will at last shame me into trying harder at them. I'm hoping that with lessons blog updates will become much more regular, skating will become much more fulfilling, and progress will become much more quantifiable. All good things.
But you know, in that same vein, I should probably start calling my mother after every meal in order to get an approximation of Verochka's disapproval at eating the same soup for three days until I go crazy and decide life will only be worth living if I eat three tacos with chips and queso. Hey! Maybe I could even tape Martha Stewarts face to the side of my cats and be guilted into doing the dishes more often!
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Well, I’ve had another break from skating thanks to the surgery. I’m waiting until my post-op appointment to go back to it and we resume classes on the 22nd, so this blog should be a lot more active then. We’ll have new things we’re learning and exciting stuff to talk about.
My surgery included some Very Bad News, which I am somewhat uncomfortable discussing here despite having discussed it elsewhere on the internet. Listen, I’m weird this stuff. So, let’s just say it’s going to take me some time to come to grips with it. It’s also kicking up the grief I have over losing my mother. I wish she were here so I could talk to her and get some advice.
She isn’t, though, and I can’t change the Bad News. I can only move forward, and I am going to start that by actually posting in this thing. I’m going to document my New Year’s resolutions. I used to not really make them, figuring I was just setting myself up for failure, but then last year I made one and it was “find a physical activity I actually enjoy and stick with it” and I DID! So, inspired by that, I made more than one resolution this year:
1. Pass the Adult Pre-Bronze test before December 2011 so I can start competing.
2. Start cooking at least twice a week like a goddamn adult.
3. Actually do off-ice training instead of waking up and being like "Oh, I suddenly...don't....want to." and then being lazy.
4. Finally stop dithering and buy a pair of cowboy boots. Seriously, I've been thinking about this for like four years. It's time.
Wish me luck! Hopefully I’ll be able to keep at least three out of four!