Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Givin' the old man the "stick".

After racing one of my boats down in Florida during a Mid-Winter Regatta last month (first time back in the boat since mid October) I was greeted by the familiar three-day thigh burn which is common after a lengthy lay off from dinghy sailing.  After returning to the ice rink I noticed one of my skater friends working her legs with what looked like a nouveau version of my grandma's rolling pin.  As the light bulb slowly went on in my head, I asked her to educate me about the gizmo.  It's called "The Stick" and you can read about it 

Wine isn't required for leg massage but can't hurt.  I bought the 18 inch long "travel" sized Stick.  If one shops around a bit, prices cheaper than those on the manufacturer's web site can be found.  I've been taking mine to the rink in my skate bag.  According to my skate-buddy, the best time to use the stick is immediately after getting off the ice, i.e. post activity.  According to her if one waits until getting home a lot of the benefit is lost.  Since my next regatta isn't until late May I will be very interested in seeing whether or not "the stick" helps me avoid or at least cut down the duration of muscle soreness which I always experience post regatta after a lengthy time away from the boats.  Gone are the days when as a teenager I'd feel the burn first time in the spring but then quickly sail myself into shape after a winter of not sailing.  Back then I sailed constantly all summer with a big regatta each weekend.  Now days, I sail maybe once a month during the summer/fall and then at the Mid-Winter event. Will the stick work on an old geezer's legs?   We shall see.  Who knows--it might even help my skating and give me a two sports benefit/single gizmo result.  Fingers (and legs) crossed!

Saturday, March 3, 2018


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I think cartoonist Roz Chast sums up Mirai Nagasu's Olympic accomplishment for 99.9% of us!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Slowly improving

Yes, I'm still working with my old friend--the right forward inside Mohawk.  The good news is that if I'm warmed up and if my brain is awake I remember (at least some of) the following during the split second that the turn occupies:  to bend my skating leg, to bring the free skate as close to the instep of the skating foot as possible, to keep my arms up (need to do this eventually when partnered), to rotate my hips during the edge transition and to check after the foot change.  If I remember all that and don't spend a lot of time looking down at the ice then the turn actually works well enough for me to hold on for the required two beats per edge.  Of course if I try this while partnered with coach A. everything goes out the window: I wide step, break at the waist, fail to check properly--oh, the agony!  But at least I can now hold the entry and exit edges for two beats each while skating solo, so that's progress to built on.  Slow improvement is better than slow degradation.

During our last lesson she brought out the dreaded coach's marking pen and drew curves on and slightly beyond one of the face-off circles, marking off where (a). she wanted the Mohawk to happen and (b). the placement of the tracing for the curves that make up the RBO edge (two beats) and the LBO swing roll (four beats) which follow the turn.  I worked on this with mixed success.  The free-style session during which my weekly lesson occurs, while not as busy as in previous weeks, still had enough skaters to make moving backwards a trifle hazardous.  I need eyes in the back of my head. 

Say--maybe the Ice Halo company could introduce a new model with a blind spot monitoring system.  I'd be first in line for that.

That and ooh, maybe an air bag instead of the current ungainly foam stuff.  Just think of those times when you get just that tiny, little bit too far back on your blades and the next thing you know you're falling backwards over the ends of the tails.  Rather than falling heavily and coming away with a bad headache or worse, if your Ice Halo had the all new ABS ("Aire Bagg Systemet", patents pending) instead of allowing you to crash, the bag would sense the unintended backward/downward acceleration and then, after carefully constructing next week's grocery list, deploy the bag a micro-second before ice and head make painful contact.  The falling skater would bounce and be instantly catapulted back to their feet--how cool would that be?!  And a lot less damaging to the ice as well I should think.  What?  Your favorite hat and artificially intelligent refrigerator can't cross talk and inventory each other's status?  Ha, you don't know the half of it.

 Image result for air bag hat


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

So many bad habits, so little time

Last night's lesson with Coach A. was devoted to breaking down just about every poor excuse for a turn which I have in my tool box: FO3s, FI3s, Mohawks, even two foot turns were dragged kicking and screaming from their dark hiding places.  At one point she threatened to add Bracket turns to the party and I don't even know how to do those--badly yet!  Then she said something about Counters and Rockers.  Yow!  By the end of the lesson I was so self-conscious I could barely stand up let alone turn!  All those erstwhile things that I use as crutches to get me turned from one direction to the other and from one edge to another are being righteously heaved onto the bonfire of the vanities.  I can't say whether or not my various attempts at turning qualify as "occasions of sin" but they all stand condemned under the unflinching glare of Coach A!

Turns out (HA-HA) that me and my ankles (not to be confused with me and my shadow) need to get better acquainted.  Apparently I've been relying on knee bend and "forcing the turn" to get the job done way too long.  Now I've gotta tidy things up and get "hip" with the feeling of rolling back and forth on the rocker of my blades (without engaging the toe picks, of course).  Oh, that plus winding up with my weight on the correct leg after completing the turn in question rather than collapsing and being forced to put the free skate down--can I say "check, please"?   Additionally, my turns all tend to have way too much edge for ice dance, meaning that they curve more than they should.  Coach A. wants to see turns that somehow start off flat (but without skidding) and exit more or less on a straight line.

 After a bit of experimentation with rocking around on my blades she asked if I could feel the muscles in my ankles.  The only sensation I could report was that of the tongues of my boots cutting into my shins--maybe that counts for something?  Meh, probably not the answer she was looking for.  I'm having a steadying glass of rum as I type this.  As Zippy might say "am I making progress yet?"

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The History of Figure Skating Dresses

A breezy look at figure skating fashion:  Hopefully the link will open properly.  Couldn't figure out how to post the actual video. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tag Team Coaching

Coach A. and I have been chipping away at my wonky CC forward inside Mohawk.  It's improving but at a glacial pace.  Last night she had a little surprise waiting for me.  Her brother, Coach B. is also an ice dancer and after his final student for the evening had departed she had me attempt the turn while he watched.  He suggestion was that I wasn't pre-rotated enough to allow me to control the exit edge.  As a consequence I'm breaking at the waist and then collapsing to my right side as my weight falls into the circle.

Jo commented on my last post that she finds success with this particular turn by mindfully leading with her entry side hip which is another way of saying that I need to rotate more prior to establishing the entry edge for the turn.

I tried it several times under the combined glare of the brother-sister coaching pair and had limited but promising success.  I'll need to try this on my own when I get a chance to skate again later in the week.

Another benefit of having a second coach is that there was a second pair of eyes watching as Coach A. and I practiced chasses and back swing rolls.  Coach B. pointed out that I was wide stepping most of the time--something that his sister can't see while we're partnered.  So, lots to think about and tidy up.

After my lesson was over the brother-sister pair practiced several dances together during the remaining ice time.  A treat to watch! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wake Up!

Good Morning, Campers! Up with the lark!  It's a new year.
A new year, filled with left over problems from last year, but also the promise of new challenges.  Of course there are those pesky resolutions, generally put forth by perky people with way more enthusiasm than I can muster after a long night with the widow Clicquot; let's deal with all that right up front:  I hereby solemnly vow to make better bad choices this year compared to last.

Not wanting to be part of the slacker brigade, your old diarist went skating on the achingly beautiful first day of the new year.  I knew I had a lesson with Coach A. on the 2nd and figured if I could stand up on skates New Year's day, (actually my hair didn't hurt all that badly) that the lesson wouldn't be a complete waste of our time.

Come the 2nd, we dealt with an old problem--my poor excuse for a  CC inside Mohawk and a new challenge--my poor excuse for back outside edges.  Both of these foundation elements are key to my progress with the remaining two pre-bronze dances which I've left untested.  Doesn't matter if I remember the steps.  Doesn't matter if I remember to smile occasionally.  Without a good foundation this show ain't goin' anywhere.

So, on the 2nd of Jan. I found myself going backwards in both open and waltz hold doing outside swing rolls at dance speed during a busy FS session.  To say that we terrified a lot of inattentive free-style pixies would be a fair statement but no blood was shed.  The good news is that all this concentration on swing rolls left almost no time for Mohawks!

Scrolling on to last night's lesson, the focus was the dreaded Mohawk.  Coach A. had me over at the boards pivoting on my right foot.  Why is this turn such a stumbling block?  After what seemed to be a mind-numbing length of time (must have been at least ten minutes) we switched to back outside edges, but this time performed on the red line at the end of the rink.  There were no great breakthroughs in either department but I now have a couple more practice drills for homework.

So, that's my start to the new year.  Future posts will probably get v. monotonous and whiny, so feel free to tune out for a couple months!