Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bobbe Shire RIP

Bobbe Shire coached over at the Gardens in Laurel, Maryland and was a well known Spin coach. Several times I wrestled with the urge to go see if I could book her for a few coaching sessions but hesitated because I didn't feel that my skating was good enough for such an advanced instructor. I missed my chance and ironically my name is George!  iCoahskating has made this iconic video of Bobbe coaching available for viewing free of charge, at least for now.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Well, yes, like most statements here on the Thin Ice blogspot, the title of this post is a bit of an overstatement.  More correctly, "the sun is cooling!" "the sun is cooling!";  But Chicken Little didn't say that so I'm using a small pinch of poetic license.  Our sun is approaching the end of an eleven year sun spot cycle.  Fewer spots apparently mean less solar flux and distinctly cooler temperatures in North America and Western Europe.  Maybe not enough to cause the Thames to freeze hard enough for Londoners to hold ice fairs, as was the case a few hundred years ago, but maybe enough to provide an up-tick in outdoor skating opportunities at a pond near you.  But don't take my word for it, I'm no expert.  Read about it here or it you prefer a more sensational version, read this one .

OK, enough science for one post.  More to the point--what's been happening with your old diarist since the last posting of blather?  For one thing I've been hard at work practicing the Cha-Cha and perfecting my wonky CC forward inside Mohawk. For another, ice dance Coach A. and I finally had an alignment of stars and respective schedules/agendas such that miracle of miracles--a coached lesson took place.  It was the first since the 25th of July and the first on my newly reopened home ice for the new skating season.

I soloed the Cha-Cha for her and she said that it looked pretty good.  I was more or less on the expected pattern and the end of the dance (a forward outside swing roll immediately followed by a tuck behind step and a forward inside swing roll) looked smoother and less hesitant than when we last worked on it.  So--practice does lead to improvement!

We then looked at my CC forward inside Mohawk.  It's still a work in progress but at least it is progressing.  And that's a good thing as we next worked on the Swing dance, which requires that tidy CC Mohawk.  After yesterday's lesson I now have a better understanding of pattern placement leading to that Mohawk and also where the immediate back edge and back swing roll which follow the turn should be.  Next we practiced with me skating the backwards skating steps of the dance and also the hand change that occurs at the Mohawk (see video above).  In the "guys rarely skate backwards department", I need to remember to open my shoulders during those back swing rolls so that they really swing around, rather than to make the upper body adjustment by bending my elbows when in partnered mode--that and a lot of other things!  My goal is to be as smooth as the guy in the video (some year).

Ice dance coach and her sister are zooming off to follow the eclipse next Monday and whether she'll be back in time for a Tuesday lesson is uncertain.  As for me I'm staying home and practicing all this stuff and maybe it's a good thing that the next lesson is up in the air--more time to digest yesterday's lesson and work on stuff.  Besides, you want totality?  Just get outta bed at 3 in the morning and look outside--same thing.  Dark is dark.  No, really, it is.  Don't argue with me.  Put your skates on and get to work. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

And so it begins

The 2017/18 skating season at Bowie Ice Arena finally got underway this past Saturday after replacing one compressor and repairing the cooling tower.  Better late than never.  As per usual, I was otherwise engaged on Saturday and so the beginning of my new season had to wait a day.  Better late than never.  At the start of a new season I like to look back, one last time, at the old year.  How many times did I skate?  What, if anything, was achieved for the money spent and time invested?  The number of times I skated is easy because I keep track of each session I skate by sticking the ice pass to the wall of my cube at work:

NB: my desk is rarely this tidy.  Thirteen columns x 9 rows = 117 times on the ice.  The lion's share took place on home ice, the remainder were at two other rinks  My high water mark is the 2014/15 season.
The last time I posted this picture was at the end of the 2014/15 season. I managed to skate 128 times that year.  The 2015/16 season was the one that included my recovery from a bad fall and so wasn't even half the total of the benchmark skating season.  In hindsight I should have posted that year's sticker wall.  Just returning to the ice was the major accomplishment.  But, as impressive (at least to me) as my great wall of ice passes may seem, if one divides the totals from either "good" year by 52 it comes out to less than three times per week.  Three times per week would require 156 outings on the ice. Three times a week for a guy who has to cram skating into his work schedule--can I sustain it?  Don't know, but something to aim at.
The 2017/18 season begins.  Will this little fellow find 155 friends before they melt the ice in June?
Along with "quantity" one must include "quality", i.e. whatever "progress" was made.  In my case, last season's major milestone was that I managed to stagger past a USFS judge well enough to complete my Prelim ice dances.  Goals for this year?  I keep them modest.  I'd like to pass the Cha Cha, which seems like a reasonable goal.  But what about the Swing Dance and the Fiesta Tango?  The goal here is to finally conquer my wonky CC forward inside Mohawk required of both dances and clean up my back edges so that the back chasse and back swing roll steps are good enough to at least practice those dances in their entirety.  If Coach A. thinks that they're test worthy by spring that will be icing on the cake. 

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?