Friday, June 29, 2012

In the doldrums

I'm at a weird point in skating.  I'm not sure where I am going with it.  I have kind of met my ultimate goal from the beginning, to get my bronze test.  Originally I thought I'd be able to continue through with moves for a long time.  The harsh reality that 1)skating is really hard and my hip injury have kind of put an end to that.  So now i'm just skating.  There is so much to work on, but I lack motivation.

Having skipped LTS last weekend, I went into Tuesday not having practiced for almost a week.  Tuesday was pretty awful.  My feet were just not underneath me.  My level of skating is not maintainable without consistent practice.  Wednesday I felt a lot better, and got to the rink a bit early to warm up before my lesson.  My spins were good, and a high level skater told me she thought my sit spin variations were looking good- lower than my normal sit spin (and visibly so, since I switch from it).  My back sit is feeling better too, but not from a change foot.  Mostly, I was really happy with these spins though.  I bet if I videoed them, that feeling would change... isn't that always the case?

My lesson with Carson went well.  30 minutes is enough that I am exhausted.  We worked a lot on spins, and on making my salchow quiet.  Apparently it is all in the shoulder rotation, to keep the edge before I step into the entry from scratching.  Which of course screws up all my timing I've worked on.  My salchow goes back and forth between being my best jump and being incredibly uncomfortable. 

My camel isn't making any progress.  I'm annoyed with that.

We worked on dances.  I need to remember the Canasta Tango, the steps haven't cemented into my memory and I have lost them from the last time.  I just have no interest in doing the Rhythm Blues.  But Carson thinks I should work on it again.  That stupid dance knocked me out of this sport for over half a year.  I had to go back to ballet (which I actually miss, but there is no great class situation in Iowa City for me.)

Right now I kind of feel lost in what I'm doing.  If I don't have another goal in skating- am I just throwing money away?
We still haven't gotten the email on "next steps" for joining the rowing club, so even that is in a stage of waffling.

Oh, and my current (school) class stinks.  It is so unfocused and leaves me feeling like I'm guessing at what the instructor wants.  And it is set up so we get practically no feedback on whether we are meeting the standard.  A lousy example in teaching education (and I've been pretty happy with this program.)  Oh well, only 7 more weeks of it- at least the classes are short.  And then one more class and I'm done!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Learn to Row: Day 2

Day 2 we were supposed to be out on the water, but we got to the boathouse and there was lightening, so we started in the tank.  Good thing as one of the women was late.  The coach was NOT happy.  She really stressed the importance that when you have a seat in the boat, you have to be there to fill it.  Really preaching to the choir, because unless she said something in private to the other woman, that was only said to the people there on time...

In the tank we worked on timing of the stroke again and were shown some common mistakes.  The weather cleared up and we were able to row.  My seat assignment was bow seat, which internet research has told me is for the crappiest rower.  I refuse to believe I was the crappiest of that group (but probably bottom half- I'm weak) and based on the corrections the coxswain gave us out in the boat, I'm holding too this.  I've also since read that shorter rowers often go towards the back, and this makes more sense because the two seat was also my height.  The taller girls were up front.  Anyhow, we learned to adjust the shoes (mine need to go all the way up) and how to "set" the boat - lay your oar flat on the water to balance it.  Half the boat set the boat while the other half rowed.  Each half of the boat was 2 experienced and 2 new rowers, so the new rowers followed the strokes of the experienced ones.  We would pause at different points of the stroke, and then eventually did continual rowing.  It was pretty neat, and easier than in the tank.  The hardest part was rowing really slowly because while I didn't feel I was rushing to the catch, I also just don't have very far to slide before my legs run out, so staying with the tall girl in the 4 seat was tough! 

We came back to dock and switched seats (no one specializes as a port or starboard, everyone does both- the coach said she rowed one side all through college until one day she was asked to switch and then she was so confused she couldn't figure out which way to turn the key in her car door to make it open).  The number 2 seat I liked better, because I feather with my right hand, but I swear there was something wrong with it.  The girl who had been 2 said she couldn't sit in the proper position to set the boat, and I had no problem with that in the bow seat, but then I couldn't in the 2 seat.  You are supposed to rest the oar on your leg, and my achilles tendons don't stretch enough to ever get my legs that high.  It was very odd.  Nothing else felt wrong about it though.  We had a different cox this time (the first was a man) and she was very analytical, breaking down EXACTLY what she wanted.  You sometimes had to guess with the guy (follow the leader with the experienced rowers who knew what he wanted).  This is also when I got to learn to "back" or row backwards to help turn the boat- very hard, way harder than paddling a kayak backwards.

On the next switch I went to the sculling station and that was pretty awesome.  We used a rec shell, so it was wide and stable. This was a lot easier for me because the handles were much smaller, but also a lot harder because my right stroke wasn't as strong as my left and so I couldn't always stay in a straight line.  And, it is just like skating backwards, where you never know what is behind you- very nerve wracking.  We didn't use our legs yet, just arm/body part of the stroke - I tried the legs a few times, and man was that confusing.  Having two oars really means there is a lot to think about.  Still, I'd like to try sculling again.
And then we got the boats out of the water and washed off and that was the end of day 2.

Row, Row, Row your boat.

I decided to put this on my skating blog because it is sport related.  Plus I skipped LTS for it.

This weekend I took two mornings of Learn to Row.  I looked it up last month, but missed the cut off for registration by a day! I had to wait all month to take it, and wish I had gotten into it last month, as now I have classes again and don't know when I can get this into my schedule.

Anyhow- Day 1 started with us learning how to carry a boat and put it into the water, how to get the oars set, and how to get into and out of the boat.  I learned very quickly why you don't see many 5'0" rowers.  To open the port side oarlock, I pretty much only have the use of the very very tip of my middle finger, because I can barely reach it.    Additionally, when we carry the boat, I have to carry on tip toes, a fun safe way to walk down a slippery dock ramp :)

Another note: starboard and port are insanely confusing when rowing.  They are right/left when oriented with the front of the boat.  But you sit backwards in the boat.  So port is on a rowers right and starboard on a rowers left.  Thankfully, everything is color coded so it is best just to remember port = red, and starboard = green.  Thank goodness for Girl Scout camp because the song Barges goes through my head everytime "Starboard shines green and port is glowing red..."
After learning to get into and out of the boat we learned how to safely carry oars and about a dozen rules for the equipment that is club specific.  It makes sense though- this stuff isn't cheap and we are lucky to get to use it.  Already, I could see that vocabulary was going to be killer.

Then we went up to the  beautiful boathouse and used the ergs.   We erged in the boathouse between the rows of the boats.  A team of rowers was doing the same in front of the boathouse- they were supposed to be a 4, but only 3 people showed up.  Good lesson there on being committed to your rowing times!  There is a room upstairs of ergs, but I'm not sure if it is Hawkeye rowing only or if we use it when the weather isn't nice.  (The boathouse is the University's.  It is on city land so the community rowing program gets to use it too.  We are really lucky.  Apparently the men's club team shares some of their equipment in the summer. Of course, the ladies varsity boats are off limits and in a totally different bay.)  On the erg we learned the way to do a proper stroke: it is nothing like what everyone in the gym does on a rowing machine (which is what an erg is.)  Rather than pulling back with your arms while pushing off with your legs, it is important to go legs-body-arms (the drive), and then return with arms-body-legs (the recovery).  I have two challenges.  On the first part I start my body before finishing my legs, on the second part I tend to take my body with my arms.  These should all be separate movements.   My back is really hurting today (and yesterday) and I'm not sure if it is because I am doing this wrong, or if it is because I introduced movement to a muscle group that never has to work.

After this we got to go in and use the rowing tank.  This was really neat, and I imagine if it wasn't for the women's team it is unlikely a community program would get to use something like this (unless they had a ton of members and a ton of money).  A tank is basically two really shallow pools on either side of a room, and in between them, set into the ground rows of rowing seats.  You can then use oars to row in the water, and the slide seats act just like the boat.  The tanks can be controlled to add currents and other movement, but we just kept them still.  Here we translated the movement from the erg to the oars.  When sweep rowing (one oar each) you have to also lean to the side of your oar, not just straight back and forth rowing.  Here we learned about how to use our shoulder (and not the back or elbow) to dip the oar into the water at the "catch" and we worked on our stroke and our timing (don't race to the catch).  After awhile we learned how to feather the blade right after the finish of the stroke, and to square it up (which is something I tended to forget in the tank, but luckily never in the real boat).  When you feather/square it always has to be done with the inside hand.  When I row starboard this is really hard for me, as I want to feather with my right hand. 
That ended day 1.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Status Update

Since I last posted I've skated a number of times, quite a few LTS classes, and a private lesson.
I've re-upped for 2 LTS sessions, because as long as I use the two freestyle sessions, it is almost like they are paying me to take LTS.  Seriously....  Even still, I'm not sure how much I get out of the classes.  Probably something, and just being on the ice is important. 

Here is what we are doing in LTS:
-Flip entrance.  This is a lost cause.  We mohawk, pick, and then backspin.  Except not the backspin part.  Not even close.  I think we need a different approach because these are going nowhere.
-Change foot sit spins.  This is something I'd like to get good at, so it is good to work on, but man, mine sucks.
-Camel spins.  Anything I was doing well with this a month ago is gone.  Miserable.  Also, why is it so hard to keep my right arm in front of me while I hold the entry edge?
-Attitude spins.  Last night we added these.  Elka is surprisingly good at them, not the pretty leg position, but just staying spinning.  I'm kind of jealous.  Mine don't spin very well, and my leg position is awful.  Taylor told me to keep my right shoulder turned inward and look to the left, and it helped a bit.  Either I misremember or this is the opposite that Courtney taught me.  probably misremember.
-All the normal jumps and spins.
There are still territory wars in LTS, but I think we have it figured out.  Yesterday wasn't bad at all.

In private lessons, Carson was surprisingly receptive to my "I never want to do a loop again" statement.  Possibly because he knows I still have to do them in LTS (and I did an AMAZING one on Saturday. Shocked both me and him, but I have not repeated the feat.)  He agrees we were spending way too much time just to get one element (which was necessary for the test) and he likes the goals I have outlined.  We started with sit variations and he was happy with my efforts on pancake (well, except I don't really get my torso down, so it's more just the foot position) and back tuck spin.  I honestly was surprised at myself.   We tried flying sit, but I can't do it anymore. I don't think it is worth working on, since it no longer comes naturally (it was never that good) because it can't be used at bronze level.  I might try dance again and am looking for new program music.  Before I can do my program though I need to get the better spins together.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Goals: aka what comes next

After going over my test results Carson said he would like for our next lesson to be a meeting.  He wants to set goals and go over what we will do in the future.  While I think most coaches do this, I think he is also a bit at a loss of what to do with me.  Usually when you pass a test you work on the next one.  People who are done testing are either a) graduating high school or b) internationally competitive.  I'm done testing and not quite at the preliminary level! 

So here is what I am going to email him to talk about.

SpinsI would like to be an amazing spinner.   It is really the only part of skating I really care to be great at.  I know I have a long way to go, but here are my thoughts on what I want to work on:
-Camel Spin
-Sit spin variations.  (As well as continuing to work on my regular sit spin)
-Combo spins/change feet spins (really determining what two fantastic spins are for use in a program)
-Attitude spin (I don't think I'm ever going to get a layback, but who knows.)
-Eventually flying spins (Courtney had me working on a flying sit spin.  It was a pretty poor attempt, but unlike anything else, I'd actually jump on the entry.)
-Getting really strong scratch spins

-Although I will continue to practice it when I run through all my jumps, I'd rather not focus on loop.  In fact, I'd be content in skating even if I never do another one.  I know you aren't going to let me do that though.
-Flip.  But like loop, I'm kind of 'eh' about this.
-I would like to focus on making my waltz jump, toe loop, and salchow into "real" jumps.  Ones that visibly leave the ice and cover distance.
-Jump combos/sequences

-Now that I don't have to drill loop for 20 minutes every lesson I would really like to spend some time working on footwork.  My CCW turns are abyssmal for my level.  I also haven't done a bracket, counter, or rocker in the year and a half I've been back skating since I hurt my hip.
-Although I don't want to focus on the test right now, I wouldn't mind working on some of the Silver MITF, if they ever change the spirals, then I'd like to work on the test.

-As much as my test anxiety would make you think otherwise, I actually do like testing- it gives me something to work on.  I got fairly good at the Canasta Tango and Dutch Waltz with Courtney, but the step behinds in the Rhythm Blues tried to kill me, so I never thought about testing dance.  Although I don't remember the Canasta steps anymore, so I'd have to start from scratch- this could be a good way to get me to work on my edges, and give me a more solid goal.

Competition/Exhibition program
-I would like to compete at Adult Nationals, and while I have no expectations of placing well, I'd like a program designed for me to maximize the allowed elements and do the best program I can.  I think that is pretty in line with the goals above (more advanced spins, jump combos/sequences, stronger footwork).  Due to cost, I probably won't compete much locally, but I'd like to have a 'go to' program for when HSC has an exhibition.  Since I can't do the advanced things now, I can keep Geisha as a shell (and change the jumps out for ones that fit the Bronze rules) and do a new program when I can actually do the things I need to be able to do, or we can start over now.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

How the test went and how I really feel.

I hope this post doesn't make me sound like a brat.  My Mom told me "don't look a gift horse in the mouth"- but, well, passing isn't the happy thing I thought it would be.

Okay- the test session.   I get out on the ice and it is typical Quad Cities ice: super fast, super slick.  There is something magical about it for spins, it is like it grabs your blades and holds you in one spot. Centering there is so easy, and spins are fast.  But jumps- yeah, I've never jumped well there.

For the warm up, Carson keeps telling me to get down in my knees.  All my elements go well*, and my spins are great.  (*I missed one waltz-toe, getting stuck down in the toe pick position but did two other good ones.  My loops were not horrible, but my loops.)

Although my nerves have definetly got the best of me all week, I feel like I can do this.

I go out to do the program.  All the skaters have gone to the judges first (especially since they messed up one of the skaters paperwork, they had the wrong forms), so even though we've never planned to do this- I skate over to them.  Before I get there they say "we're ready for you"- urgh.  Should have just gone to the opening position.

My music starts, I smile, I'm happy.  My loop is okay.  I land on the toe pick and have some of an exit edge.  Still smiling.  I got to the waltz-toe, and what the hell?  Did I just toe-waltz?  I never do that anymore.  At least I jumped.  Mistake 1.   I enter my sit spin.  Way too over on the inside edge.  It isn't as low as I can get it, and it is slow for me.  Mistake 2.  I do my salchow, I have no memory of it so I bet it was fine.  I remember my toe picks dragged loudly but think to myself that I had great edge rip on the crossovers into it, and those go straight past the judges.  Hopefully the two noises even each other out.  I hold my exit edge and then go into my backspin.  My foot doesn't cross, but the backspin is good.  They have gotten really consistent.  I'm not able to kick out but swizzle out like I did last time.  Then I think to myself "oh crap, I am way behind the music".  I start my footwork and do only one waltz 3 pattern, not two.  I do my backwards crossovers and set up for my toe loop.  I jump, and still smiling "what the hell was that?"  Thank goodness I don't cuss, or mouth anything, as I often do that in practice.  My toe loop has become my steady element and I just blew it.  I didn't waltz-toe, but I didn't really do anything.  The pivot was there, but I think my foot landed on the ice before I took off.  This was not MY toe loop.  My toe loops have never looked like that.  I'm baffled, and now I hit Mistake 3.  I do my crossovers, realize I am now ahead of the music so I don't rush into the scratch spin.  I do a nice scratch spin (not looking down at the tracing, so I don't know but a judge said it was centered) and I tack a pivot on to the end of the program.   I don't bow to the judges.  I'm not sure I'm supposed to.  But no matter what, I know I just blew it.

I skated to Carson.  He is not happy.  We wait for a reskate announcement.  Maybe the sit spin still counted?  For sure I have to do the toe loop, and we always knew I'd have to do the loop.  No judge calls me over.  That's it.  I really did blow it.  Okay.  That's fine.  At least this time I can only blame me.  Last time I thought I did great, and failed.  This time, I thought I did terribly.  So the retry will be no surprise.

While waiting for the papers I eat a cookie.  Burton asked me if I wanted one before the test, but I turned it down thinking I'd be sick.  I told him we were going out for celebration sushi (ended up being Indian) but I'd take one if I needed a consolation cookie.  I felt miserable.  It is one thing to get a retry when you skate well but your best isn't good enough- but to do that?  I was disappointed in myself.  I didn't even get a reskate.

Then Sue brings us the papers.  Retry, but not marked down on artistic.  I thought that was right- I was mad last time when one judge gave me low presentation marks.  Next one- Pass.  Really?  and then I go to the next paper- Pass.  What?  What program were these judges watching?  I think I actually gasped.

Carson tells me "you got lucky".  We go over the papers and the comments are right- my sit spin wasn't low, my toe loop sucked, my loop was underrotated.  He is surprised by the nice ice coverage comments. We aren't sure what made the judges write 2.5 and pass me.  I think this is the most disappointed in me Carson has ever expressed being.  More than when I got a retry on the same test. 

I talked to Burton- he tells me my standard is higher than the test standard, and that might be true.  I think of the other ladies who have passed the test, and what their tests look like.  Honestly, they look like what my test looked like.  The standard is pretty low.  So now I'm just mad at the first set of judges.  Why did I get a retry last time?  I skated so much better then.   The judges were pretty hard all day.  Our club didn't have a good test session overall- but I was the only adult, so maybe the are just easy on the adults.  Was it a pity pass?

On the way home, I'm upset.  I just passed a test that has been my goal for almost 5 years, and I'm about to cry.  I am angry at the judges for passing me.  They passed me on a test I can't be proud of.  This is when my Mom tells me I'm being ridiculous.  I asked Kevin if he understands what I'm talking about, and he says no.   I wonder if that speed skater who won a gold because he was in last and everyone else fell might have had some of these feelings.  To get what you wanted without being good enough for it?  (Though part of speed skating is not getting caught in the pile ups...)

So today, I've given it more thought.  I think I had 3 mistakes.  But my loop wasn't that bad- I landed on the toepick, I had some glide on the exit (sometimes I land at a standstill).  Lots of people have passed this with loops like that.  My sit spin was definetly an "adult" sit spin, and it was slow- but it was slow because I spin well.  My toe loops- well I toe waltzed one, but I've been told repeatedly that that is fine for bronze skaters, and I barely left the ice on the other- but it was recognizable as a toe loop.  So I feel like all my mistakes were major for me, but maybe minor for the test.  Maybe I did really meet the standard.  Maybe it wasn't a pity pass.

But why the heck did I get a retry last time?

Friday, June 8, 2012

I passed!

On September 27, 2008, I passed my bronze moves in the field test.  Since then, I have struggled with my loop, struggled with my backspin, and struggled with injury.  I have been put off the ice (twice) by knee problems, once by hip problems (that almost had me quitting skating it was so bad!), once with a shoulder injury, and most recently with a badly sprained wrist. 

But finally, 1,350 days later- I passed Bronze Freeskate!  I unfortunately did not pass it with a program that makes me proud (another coach told me: your standard is higher than the test standard...  That was nicer than saying "the judges are easy"- as they hadn't been easy for most of the session) but a pass is a pass.

Here are my comments:

Judge 1: Retry
Technical: 2.3  toe loop is not a toe loop, it was a toe hop  (I'm embarassed to admit this is true.  The single toe was the worst one I've done in six months, even though I got the pivot.  I toe waltzed in my combo.) next to the element it says "cheated".  Sit Spin not low enough.  This judge made no note of my third single jump, not even a check mark in that space...
Presentation: 2.5  presentation nice 

Judge 2: Pass
Technical 2.5:  All requirments met.  Nice centered scratch spin.  Sit needs to be lower.  There is a note next to loop that it was underrotated.
Presentation: Good ice coverage, nice smile

Judge 3: Pass
Tchnical: 2.5 Completed all elements, jumps could use more height. (understatement of the year...)
Presentation: 2.5  Covered ice surface, a bit cautious  This judge counted 4 sit spin revs, 5 back spin, and 6 scratch spin.

My coach was surprised by the ice coverage comments, because it was an Olympic rink, and I din't come close to covering it, but I'm guessing that means I had good coverage "for a bronze lady"  I still can't believe how bad my toe loop was, and my sit wasn't fantastic- though I did a great one in warm up.  My loop was decent for my loops. .  I had no reskate, so I left the ice pretty certain I had not passed, since that was 3 poor elements.

Because the test was during work, Kevin wasn't able to come.  I have no video of it :(

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lost the motivation to keep a journal.

So I haven't posted in awhile.  Oops.  I guess it is because things are pretty much the same.

Lessons with Taylor are going really well.  Tomorrow is my last one, and then Carson comes back.  I'm a little bummed, I wish I could alternate between the two of them.  They both have their strengths.

I think my loop is a little stronger, at least when I remember to actually get over my left side.  I'm landing on my toe pick more often.  Taylor calls them fully rotated, but who knows. 

I learned I am a conscientious objector to a flip.  It just isn't going to happen.  I really like half flip, but I don't pull my leg in correctly on the pick, and so it leaves me in an open position.  Single flip won't work in the open position.  I've gotten better at pulling in correctly (we just enter and pick, and then roll of the toe pick into a glide- that actually took a harness lesson to get me to do!  I lean forward in a protective instinct, because I don't want to fall backwards) but to pull in and then backspin is impossible.  I CANNOT bend my left leg.  It just does not work.  I want to pole vault, which is wrong.  But I looked it up in the Bible, and it is against my religion, so now I don't have to do flips anymore.  I never though I'd find something worse than a loop.

My camel has improved.  I have good days and bad days.  Once I even did a spin that left circles traced on the ice.  I still feel like a hippopotamus doing an airplane impression though, but at least I'm leaning more to the outside...

My backspin-well, I'm crossing it more, but it is still as a 4, not in a closed position.  This prevents me from picking up the speed I have when I'm not crossed.  And I still freak out after being crossed for a few revolutions.

My test is Friday.  I'm terrified.  I honestly just want to be done.  I'm tired of the program.  I'm tired of doing nothing but loops in lessons.  I'm annoyed at my costume because somehow the skirt got bleached in one spot so I want a new one. (And it was SO pretty!).  If I pass my test, all these things can change.
I had a scare last week that made me physically ill.  The warm up was so awful I was ready to withdraw.  It set me up for certain failure.  I was on the ice with skaters who would run me over (senior, novice, intermediate, 2 juv, 2 pre-juv.  And the senior skater is one who is far beyond senior free test level, already being a competitive senior pair), and who I'd worry about messing up their warm ups. And I was the last of 8 skaters to go.    Thankfully, it has since been revised.  Now I just have to worry about swiss cheese ice (2 hours since zamboni, and I'm still the last freeskater).  I just have the juv and pre-juv kids to deal with now.

Carson is actually going to be at the test session.  I kind of wish he wasn't.  I have sinking feeling it will be just like the last.  I'll skate my best, but best isn't bronze.  I'd rather not have witnesses.  Kevin has to work (you know, like most adults do Friday at 2:00- I'm taking vacation) so there will be no video.  Just typing about my test my heart rate has sky rocketed.  I feel like I'm prepared, but what good is that? My loop still sucks. But at least I got to get new eyeliner- I got the kind with sparkles.