Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Joining the Club--Setting some goals.

Up 'til now I haven't bothered with club memberships with either the ISI Team or the USFSA Figure Skating Club at my rink.  I was, and still am, taking group lessons under the rink's ISI lesson system but decided not to join anything until I was good enough to consider testing or competing.  At Bowie Ice Arena, club and team memberships begin on the first of  July and dues are in synch with the reopening of the rink after the annual two month closure for maintenance.  The ISI Skating Team seems to mostly cater to kids.  The only adult activity I've seen is the adult synchro team.  Nothing against synchro, but I'm having enough trouble attempting ice dance with just one extra person.  If I was on the synchro team I'd probably be like that first domino that triggers the fall of the entire kit and kaboodle. 

With that in mind, on 1 July I sent in my membership application to Bowie's USFSA FS Club.  I've yet to hear back from them but one of the coaches said to expect a goodly lag time since membership cards, club magazine, etc. trickle down from the National organization.  There's no real hurry. I'm not going to rush off for any tests just yet.  However, testing was in the back of my mind when I decided to join up.  Another inducement was that for first time joiners, dues are roughly half price for the first year of membership.  So, now that I've joined this opens up a whole new testing territory.  Time to do the easy part--make up a list of goals for the new skating year and see if I can pick any of them off.

 Goal Nr 1 is to pass the USFSA's adult pre-bronze moves test.  My ice dance partner was packing to go to the ISI Worlds or Intergalactics (whatever, I can't keep the names of these contests straight) up in Boston this week, so Coach K. and I worked on the elements that are part of that moves test.  All fairly basic stuff:  forward stroking, front and back consecutive inside and outside edges, front and back cross overs, waltz eight pattern and forward spirals on each leg.  Nothing here that an ISI FS-1 skater hasn't seen.  Should be a piece of cake, right?  Ha.  Doing these elements is one thing.  Doing them at the level which Coach K. indicated would be the passing standard is another.  The waltz eight pattern will definitely require quite a bit of work on my part and elements like the consecutive edges which I haven't bothered with since passing them back in delta and FS-1 will take a bit of polishing.  Even my forward stroking needs work to refine extension to qualify as passable .  But this, I tell myself, is why I wanted to take tests like this--testing will force me to clean up my foundation skills and in turn become a better skater.

Goal Nr 2 is to pass at least one of the three preliminary level ice dances before the end of the skating year.  This goal should directly benefit from the work required of goal nr 1. The rub here is that my partner is an ISI club member but not a USFSA member.  I don't know if she wants the expense of two club memberships.  We shall see.  If not I suppose that I can skate with our coach as my skating partner for testing purposes.

Goal Nr 3 has nothing to do with my new membership.  I plan to keep chipping away with free style group lessons under the ISI system and hopefully will pass FS-2 this year.  My one foot spin is improving at a glacial pace.  At some point I need to come to grips with the various half jumps that are included in FS-2.  I think I can, I think I can...     

Friday, July 11, 2014

The dreaded Click-Clack

Tuesday's and Thursday's summer rink schedule tends to bring out the over-achiever in me.  Adult group lessons run from 6pm to 6:30.  On Tuesdays, a two hour public session starts at 6:45 after ice resurfacing.  Thursday's schedule is the same except that the public session is replaced by a two hour freestyle session which mercifully can be purchased in one hour chunks.  So, I take a group lesson and then after a 15 minute break go back out for thirty minutes of practice followed by an ice dance lesson, followed by more practice (on Tuesday's less spendy ice).

This Thursday was going to plan.  I'd just finished the group lesson and walked from the rink barrier into the lobby to pay for an hour of freestyle time.  In my haste to pay for ice time I forgot to put on my hard guards as I walked the short distance from the ice to the rental counter where the ice time sign on sheet is kept.  This memory lapse was to soon prove important.  After paying, I walked back to a bench so that I could retie my boots and be ready as soon as the gate reopened.  As I walked I kept hearing a faint clicking noise.  The penny finally dropped--the noise was coming from my left skate.  I sat down and grabbed the heel of the blade.  Yep, it was loose.  The guy behind the counter had a Phillips head screw driver but even thought he's a beefy guy he couldn't get the slop out of the blade.  I looked through the lobby windows and the Zamboni was half way through resurfacing.  In a few minutes the clock would start ticking on my expensive hour of freestyle time!  I hobbled into the pro-shop and luckily my favorite skate tech had just finished sharpening a pair of skates.  Without having to remove my boots he was able to take a battery powered drill-driver and tighten the offending screws in the heels of both blades.  After thanking him profusely I quickly got out on the ice, wondering if my blades had shifted position during this little episode.  Fortunately they hadn't.  The upshot was that I missed a few minutes of ice time but it could have been a lot worse.

There are a couple of take homes from this little cautionary tale: (1) although my hearing has diminished over the years it's reassuring to know that I can still heard the faint warning signals of impending doom (!);  (2) more importantly, along with keeping track of the hours between blade sharpening, I need to be a little more attentive to inspecting the screws which hold the major parts of my equipage together so that I don't emulate the horseman in the old rhyme "for the want of a nail the kingdom was lost".   When was the last time you reached down and gave your blades a good yank?

Oh, and how did the first ice dance lesson of the new season go?  As I suspected, my partner and I have become quite rusty during the two month hiatus when our rink was closed for annual maintenance.  Having said that it felt good to be back in the harness.  Our coach didn't apply the lash too severely and I predict that we'll make good progress this new season!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Recently discovered on the Blog-o-sphere

I'm always trolling for new and interesting Blogspots related to figure skating and ice dance.  If you're interested in ice dance I recommend the "Ice Dance Analysts".  I've added that blog to the "blogs I follow" list at the right of this page.  They don't post daily, but each post which I've read is very comprehensive.  A taste of that blog's content can be sampled here.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Skating at the beach

Diaristfamily spent the last two weeks at the beach near Atlantic City, New Jersey.  We were visited by the niece from Georgia who rekindled my interest in skating some three or so years ago.  With that in mind, I brought my skates along so we could slip over to the Atlantic City division of the Flyers Skate Zone. 

It was a beautiful beach day.  I hoped the public session would be empty and it was.

First off, unlike many of the other rinks which I patronize, the Skate Zone doesn't cut any slack in terms of fees for either youth or geezers.  You wanna skate?  That'll be $8 bucks and $3 bucks if you need skates.  Freestyle sessions are $12 bucks/hour. Second point: this rink, like Piney Orchard in Maryland, tends to dim the interior lighting to barely adequate.  This is a pet peeve of mine.  I like to see my tracings on the ice.  Having said that, saving energy in a facility that gobbles electricity is understandable.  After all, this is summer and my hopes for an empty rink were realized.  The day niece and I skated there were the two of us, a single speed skater and three boyz on hockey skates.  Yep, six skaters.  The boyz soon engaged in a high speed game of tag but were not a bother.  The speed skater was very predictable.  However he was given to makingodd grunting noises at irregular intervals which gave the sensation of attending a tennis match at Wimbledon--that is if Wimbledon tennis was played inside a dimly lighted cave.

The rental skates rubbed little Miss enough that she decided to go to the beach on the second opportunity a few days later.  On that occasion there were more skaters but still a nice low density with a couple of coaches and private students, another adult figure skater, a hand full of boyz and my friend on speed skates.  All the folks I interacted with were very friendly and after just two visits I think I could easily integrate into the local figure skate crowd.  Nice to have a home away from home.

The AC Flyers Skate Zone is located at 501 North Albany Ave, Atlantic City.  If you vacation at one of the south Jersey beach resorts and decide to bring your skates along keep in mind that like many rinks, this one does shut down for annual maintenance.  This rink's down time occurs during the last three weeks of July.

The rink is within sight of the casinos if that's your thing.

Across the parking lot one sees the "Sand Castle" Stadium.  This, like the ice rink was built on what once was Bader Field, a small air strip.  The Sand Castle once hosted minor league baseball but closed a few years ago.  Last summer the facilities were spruced up for a Dave Matthews concert.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Whirling dervish

Whirling dervish?  Not me.  I'm still struggling with my forward single foot spin.  I have what is known on the skating forum as a "Sarah Palin spin" (on a clear day it travels all the way from here to Russia).  It's so bad that a junior competitive skater mistook it and congratulated me for having a great twizzle.

I was over a Piney Orchard, Thursday afternoon, and after another frustrating day of getting no better with the single foot spin, the tempting thought occurred that perhaps I should play to my strengths rather than my weaknesses.  Problem with that approach is that if I start experimenting with twizzles I'll probably (a). never center a spin properly for the rest of my life and (b). I may not learn enough to twizzle either.  But who am I to kick temptation in the mouth?  Sweet pipes, play on!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bowie to get a new two-sheet rink

I've been attending city council meetings, not because I hang on every word from our local pols, but rather to lend support for a new ice arena in my home town.  Of course there have been several groups representing competing interests, all vying for council's ear and the limited funding which the town can muster.   These groups had agendas  supporting facilities ranging from an aquatic center, to more outdoor turf facilities,  to gymnasiums with basketball/volley ball courts, etc.  And yes, there were also groups against all of the above if taxes were to go up.  When it came down to a vote this past Tuesday evening, the council went 6 to 1 in favor of a multi-sports complex which includes a new two-sheet ice arena.

Hopefully once the new arena is functional there will be more opportunity for adult figure skaters during early evening hours when most working adults can actually use the ice.  For example it would be nice to have sessions specifically for ice dance.  Currently, ice dance lessons and practice take place during public sessions or free style sessions.  Neither are optimal, especially during the crowded holiday season or the run up to late winter/early spring competitions.  Another benefit of a two-sheet arena is that we should be able to avoid the dreaded two month annual maintenance closure that we currently endure each spring.  One sheet or the other should always be up.   

I am glad that the supporters of the new ice rink thought things through and didn't over reach by asking for a three-sheet arena.  The only facility near us with more than two sheets of ice is struggling financially, even with a strong hockey presence, and as a result one hears constant complaints about poor ice quality and other obvious cost cutting measures while at the same time charging over the odds.  I think we can support two sheets.  Three doesn't appear to be economically feasible--at least not in this area.

Anyway, you can read all about it here: 

Ironically,  by the time the new arena opens I'll probably be retired and thus will have the time flexibility to skate whenever it's convenient.  I have to keep reminding myself it isn't always about me!

Friday, May 9, 2014

So, you think you're strong and flexible? Get a load of this.

While not ice skaters, the Ross sisters certainly display a full range of motion that many figure skaters will envy.  My entire body hurts after just one viewing! The real action begins at about the one minute mark of this four minute clip.  A diarist "tip of the hat" to skating friend, S. for directing my attention to the video clip above.  I had not heard of this trio before.