Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Almost back up and running

The photos that follow show different stages of repainting the rink's hockey lines, face-off dots and circles before building the new sheet of ice.  This is where the rink staff were roughly a month ago, before the cooling tower failure.  Current thinking is that the rink might reopen by this coming weekend.  Fingers crossed!  Meanwhile, Coach A. and I have a lesson planned for tonight's Free Style session over at Piney Orchard.  I haven't had a lesson since the end of April.  We'll see if I remember anything.  Let's review some notes from the last lesson: "TGIF".  Humm what's all that then?  Oh yes--I remember: "Toes Go In First"!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

For the want of a fan, the kingdom was lost

So close...  (photo credit:  Derek Rabold, BIA)
The above photo is what a newly formed sheet of ice looks like after a cooling tower failure.  Our rink has been closed for annual maintenance since the beginning of May.  It was due to reopen this coming Saturday.  The cause of the meltdown is hoped to be a relatively inexpensive fan.  But even it that's the case, it will take at minimum, an additional week to clean up, repaint all the hockey lines, dots, etc. and build the sheet again.  So, your old diarist is still in ice tourist mode.  Sigh...

Friday, June 9, 2017

A matter of alignment

Long suffering readers of this blog may recall that my skate tech and I have invested a fair amount of energy over the years tweaking the geometry of my left skate blade in an attempt to get me and my aged spine/hip/carcass in an alignment that had some hope of me being able to do things with my left leg that could be identified by the casual observer as "figure skating".  That all worked well until I climbed high enough up the ice dance ladder to need a decently controlled CC inside front Mohawk and solid, confidence inspiring left inside and outside edges.  Edges for back swing rolls, back progressives, back chassés; you get the point--anything requiring a solid back left edge. My blade alignment was not optimized for these new demands.  I was like an old car that had been driven carelessly down one too many pothole-filled roads.  After struggling with limited progress I decided that it was time for a change.  Perhaps as a skater, my left side was now strong enough to get by without the crutch of an abnormal blade setting.

Nearly useless factoid:  chasse, without the accent aigu, means casket or reliquary in French.  Hopefully an improving back chassé will keep me out of a "box" and if any "elevation" is required, then perhaps it will be up on the podium...

So, let us look at some before and after pictures of what transpired.

Before repositioning.  Note how far the front of the blade is "toed in".  Two years ago I complained that I couldn't hold a single-foot straight line flat on my left side without veering off on one edge or the other.  This extreme positioning cured that but did so at a terrible cost to my left foot elements.

It's hard to see, but the heel of the blade was also positioned well inboard.

After repositioning, the toe of the blade is now in a more "neutral" orientation.  Compare this photo with the first pix.  It might not seem like much of a change but trust me, this is big.

The heel of the blade was also moved more towards the center of the boot's heel.

He also added a shim under the outside edge of the front stanchion.  One can just see the white cross weave of the shim material peaking through the unoccupied screw holes.  After all these changes I expected my skates to feel rather alien but much to my relief, when he put me out on the ice for a test skate, they actually felt reassuring and familiar rather than evil and back-bitey.  And I could still skate a single foot flat as well as get over the outside edge on the left skate. After a brief consultation at the boards, the decision was made to stop where we were.  I got off the ice and he gave the blades a sharpening, which also they needed.  There was a FS session on the rink's schedule starting a half hour after I paid my bill.  I decided to stick around and get some ice time on my newly adjusted and sharpened blades.  It seemed like a better bet than launching into the thicket of cars which is homeward bound rush hour traffic on route 301.  Besides, with Coach A. off visiting relatives in another state, coupled with various rink maintenance closures I hadn't had any ice time in two weeks.   By the end of the session I knew that my left forward outside 3 and my CC forward inside Mohawk, while not perfect were much better controlled.  I even got a compliment from a coach with a free style pupil on the ice; she leaned in as I went by and said  "It's nice to see an ice dancer out  here for a change."  I was instantly gratified to hear that whatever it was that I was doing, when she happened to watch, was recognizable as "dance"!  How good is that?!  By the time I left, the rush hour traffic had rushed away and the drive home was peaceful.  Hopefully I'll be able to find some more ice time somewhere before my rink reopens on the 8th of July. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

HD Ice Halo: A preliminary report

Hello, and thank-you for attending today's briefing.   I've now worn my new Ice Halo HD during a pair of public sessions, and I must say that it certainly seems to be more comfortable than the standard model with the Velcro closure (ie: my head didn't ache and I wasn't fooling with the head gear at the mid-way point of the session in an attempt to make it feel better).  In fact, today I forgot to remove my green beanie until I was outside the rink at the end of the session, heading for the car.  I contrast, the standard version of the Ice Halo is the first thing I remove after getting off the ice--usually I can't wait to take it off.

Nor did it slip out of place at any time during my warm-up, lesson, or apres-lesson practice. Full disclosure:  I don't do triple or double or even single jumps.  Jumping, on the part of your diarist, is strictly limited by SWMBO to half-rotational jumps--at the most (think Waltz jump and half-flip).  So, big impressive jumpers--your mileage may vary (but unless you're doing Surla Bonaly back flips, I doubt it).

Obviously, more wearings will be required before stepping up to the microphone to make a definitive statement, but  I think this is going to be a relatively short-lived trial, sort of like a medical intervention that's is so overwhelmingly positive during the early stages that the researchers are compelled to suspend the trial early for the ethical benefit of the placebo group.

The unresolved  $64 dollar $95 (well, that's Canadian, so roughly $70) question is: is it as safe as or, better yet, safer than the standard version?   I just don't know.

My ice dance coach immediately (and positively) commented on the sea foam green aspect.  "That color's coming back", she opined.  Alert the press: your old diarist (and big bands) are coming back.

So, at first blush we can tick off three out of five of the big questions: Comfort, (yes) Fit, (yes) and Style (yes!) are all in the plus column.

The unanswered questions of durability and safety are ones which are resolvable only by time for the former and misadventure for the latter.  As we say in the biological sciences, or when taste testing something yummy in a relative's kitchen, "while current results are highly promising, more research is required".

Of course, independent confirmation by other current standard edition Ice Halo wearers would strengthen these observations.  Any stepper-uppers in the on-deck circle?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sea Foam Green is the new Black.

Ice Halo has two versions of their head protective gear.  there's the standard model which comes as a flat strap with a Velcro closure that one wraps around one's head.  The Velcro permits size adjustment within a given range.  A newer model called the "HD" for the high(er) density foam material comes as circular or donut shape that one slips on like a ball cap.  The HD model requires slightly more careful head measurement prior to ordering.  I wondered if the HD would be more comfortable, less prone to slip and offer a tad more protection.  I posted these questions to  http://skatingforums.com and while I did get some feedback I didn't get a definitive answer since nobody owned both versions and so a direct comparison could not be made.  There was nothing in it but to bite the bullet and order one.  So I did.

The HD comes in a range of colors.  Being a child of the 1940s/50s I'm a sucker for Sea Foam Green.  As can be seen, the HD really isn't one-piece construction but rather two pieces joined in the middle on either side  I'm not sure how the sections are joined.  It would take a bit of deconstruction to find out.  Maybe my curiosity will overcome my resistance after it's not brand new.  For now that aspect will remain a little mystery.  Note that the back part of the HD kicks up slightly in the part which protects the back of the head.

The Ice Halo company really wants you to know which part is back and which side is up.  Like all things Canadian, this product is bi-lingual.  I can now spell Spandex in French--bonus!
One difference between the standard and HD models is that one can request the standard version with the company logo hidden away on the inside.  When you wear an HD you become a billboard for Ice Halo.  At least the logo button is discrete.
Standard (black) and HD ice halos.  The red band around the Velcro closure on the standard edition is an old ice rink wrist band which wasn't long enough to go around my wrist guards. In this photo the wrist band suggests that the Velcro has become worn.  In actuality, the Velcro, after two years of constant use, is as good as new.
I plan to wear the HD for the first time today when I have my next ice dance lesson.  One reason for buying the HD is to see if it is more comfortable to wear than the standard model.  If I get the Velcro closure snug enough to keep the original ice halo from slipping it tends to become uncomfortable mid-way through a two hour public.  Will the HD go the distance?  We shall see.  As for the relative merits of safety, it may be a while before I can report on that.  I have "crash tested" the standard model twice and both times the ice halo spared me another ride in an ambulance.  Hopefully the HD will be as good if not a tad better.  While I don't plan to go out of my way to "test" it, one never knows when the next head slamming fall will occur. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 1, 2017


Has anyone experienced this?

I skated the mid-afternoon public yesterday.  The ice was just crowded enough that you could only sneak in a complete dance pattern every now and then--which by it's self is not that unusual.  So anyway I retreated to a corner to work on stuff that one does in the corner (Mohawks, 3-turns, a few back swing rolls,  alternating back chasses down the red line, etc.).  After a while I noticed that I had two kids shadowing me: I'd do a Mohawk and they'd attempt to do one,  I'd do a 3-turn, they'd attempt to mimic it in an untutored kid kinda way.  It was a little humorous but at the same time a little frustrating because they were right. on. my. heel! Often only about a blade length or two away.  The ice was heavily rutted from the hockey match that preceded the public and I was a little concerned that if I caught an edge I'd flatten a kid!  I skated away from them to the opposite end of the rink and set up camp in one of those corners.  Quick as a flash, my two little disciples were right there!  I decided to skate laps doing alternating forward progressives in the hopes that I could wear 'em out or at least make them bored, but nope, they trailed along hot on my tail like sea gulls following a fishing boat.  My strategy didn't work--well actually it did--they wore me out!  I got off the ice a half hour early.  They were too funny but I hope I never see 'em again!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cross Forward / Tuck Behind (Cha Cha Cha)

Skating refinements seem to come when I least expect them.  Case in point is the somewhat tricky right cross-in-front step, immediately followed by a left tuck-behind which in turn feeds directly into a CCW forward inside swing roll at the tail end of the Cha Cha.  Knowledgeable students of pattern ice dancing already appreciate that the cross in front step is optional.  Following the time honored K.I.S.S. system, that's the way Coach A. had me approach this segment of the dance. The notion being that it would be easier for a geezer skater to master.  Easy, Ha!  Easy for Meryl and Charlie.  For your old diarist?  Meh, not so much.

It didn't matter whether I skated solo or partnered.  Coming off that big swooping CCW swing roll with lots of speed  and then putting that left skate down on the ice was distinctly hit or miss.  During practice I could pull it off maybe 75 percent of the time.  The other 25 percent?  Can you say "Bawk, buc-buc, Chicken?

Scrolling back in time to a lesson a week earlier:  Coach A. queued up the next song on her smart phone.  We pushed off, more or less in time, onto the four intro steps of the dance.  We safely negotiated the opening strokes, the chasse and wide-step and plowed our way past the BK and slalom steps.  Psychologically I knew that tuck behind was out there, waiting for me.

We steamed down the ice with Doris Day ironically crooning "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" over the blue-tooth speaker on Coach A's left arm.  After the swing roll I slid my left skate down the inside of my right boot and was promptly rewarded with the sound and feel of a toe pick attempting to augur in as the blade touched the ice on too acute an angle. Whoa Lordly! Somehow I managed to reverse my foot and we stayed sunny side up.  Visions of Monty Python flashed before my eyes--no, not his entire life, just the bit about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.  I did want to blurt out "Run Away!  Run Away!"   Did Doris know something I didn't?  There just had to be a better way.

The following Saturday found me at a lightly populated Public session. After looking at the Cha Cha pattern diagram I decided to try the cross in front step which leads to the tuck behind.  It's basically a forward cross roll and who doesn't like doing those?  Cross rolls are a feel good kinda element for me.  They're part of my warm-up routine.  I figured that the tuck behind might feel less spooky if both skates where already on the ice.  I gave it a go and much to my surprise the tuck was easier to pull off if one does the cross in front step before hand.  I confirmed this over and over.  Ha!  A minor breakthrough.

Last night we had another lesson.  I soloed my new found proficiency and after she nodded in approval we quickly got into partnered mode and skated the dance against every Cha Cha tune she had on her phone--Doris included.  She told me that if I made the proceeding swing roll a bit swingier (might be a word) the cross forward and tuck behind would be even easier because my direction of travel wouldn't be so  flat. 

So, I've mastered technicalities of all the steps.  Now I'm down to her nit-picking on style issues: think about free leg extension, think about toe point, think about keeping your feet closer together--she was quick to point out that not every step of the dance is a wide step--just one. 

Our club has a test session in mid-May.  The filing deadline is the 2nd.  Not much time to tidy things up.  We discussed whether or not I should test and she said "Well, you could put it out there and see what happens.  It would be good experience. "   The translation of that statement from coach-speak to English is "If you don't have a total brain freeze in the middle of the dance and if the judge is blind you might get lucky.  Otherwise it's good but expensive experience."  I think I'll wait and let her nit-pick polish me a bit more.