This skating lark must be getting serious because I've found myself adjusting my work schedule at the lab to exploit freestyle pickup sessions at rinks near where I work. I'm pretty much blessed with a number of rinks to pick and choose from in addition to the rink where I take group lessons (Bowie Ice Arena in Bowie, Maryland). Along with my "home" ice there are the following rinks within 20 minutes of either the lab or home: The Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, the John McMullen Hockey Arena (part of the Naval Academy) in Annapolis and the Herbert Wells Ice Rink in College Park. This last rink is roughly 5 miles from the lab and although it is a small, semi-enclosed rink (one wall is open to the great outdoors) which gives up the ghost on the first of April, it currently offers a number of freestyle pickup sessions which kick off toward the end of the day. Additionally, since Wells is owned and operated by the county park system the rates are a good bit cheaper than at the other rinks. This makes it popular with students at the nearby University of Maryland which in turn makes public sessions a bit crowed. However the freestyle sessions are largely overlooked. By coming to work an hour earlier than usual I've realized that I can skip out in time to make the 4pm FS session on Tuesdays and get in good practice time at half the cost of going to the shorter (45 minutes vs an hour) afternoon session at Bowie.
And, so, today I did. I arrived at the rink about a quarter 'til four--plenty of time to lace up my boots and organize my thoughts. The ice had just been zambonied (might be a word) and I was the only skater at the rink. The place was deserted. Just me and the girl taking money. Am I happy or what?! I paid the girl my six bucks for the hour session and after getting my boots on I rushed over to the rink barrier door, opened it up and paused for a moment to survey the smooth, pristine ice with not a single mark on it. It was my domain to be shared, at least for the moment, with nobody else. I could scarcely believe my luck! I stepped out onto the ice with a confident powerful glide and--promptly fell flat on my butt. The minute my skates touched the ice I knew something wasn't right--but what? After hitting the deck I scrambled to get up (hopefully before anyone else arrived to observe my fall from grace). But try as I might, I couldn't get my feet under me. I finally stopped cursing and looked down at my skates in an attempt to sort out what the hell was going on and that's when I discovered that in my haste to get out on that beautiful unsullied ice I'd-completely-forgotten-to-remove-my-plastic-blade-guards.
Let me tell you something: those plastic blade guards are slicker than snot on a glass doorknob. I removed the guards and staggered to my haunches. I'd lost a bit of skin on the side of my right arm which I think had snagged the edge of the door frame in the barrier I'd stepped through but other than the skinned arm and an aching right hip (and a bruised ego) I seemed OK and as a bonus there was no blood on the ice. Mercifully no one had observed this little fiasco--or at least I think no one did. After all it was just me and the cashier and if she was watching she did a masterful job of averting her eyes and not busting out in an uncontrolled belly laugh as I collected my "gravitas" and hoisted myself up with perhaps a shred or two of dignity still intact!
Now I could bleat about how the hip I'd landed on hurt, etc. etc. but let us instead dot an "i" and cross a "t" from my previous post about Katz straps. The pair I'd ordered had arrived and indeed they seem to work as advertised by permitting a bit of give at the top of the boot if one decides to not lace the top hooks. I've skated with the straps twice now and the previously mentioned lace bite symptoms I'd experienced on my right foot have disappeared. Is it my imagination? Is it due to the boots breaking in (I now have about 8 hours of skating time in these boots--not much in the grant scheme of things; I'm still not pushing them past an hour's wearing time). Or is this due to the straps? I have no way of knowing with any certainty but after spending $12.53 I'm sticking with the notion that the benefit is due to the straps. Your mileage may vary.
So, back to the ice. I practiced forward 3 turns and Mohawks in my weak direction and yes they seem to be improving. I hope to make a suitable impression on Mike at this Thursday's lesson (with my skating, not with my new found expertize in the blade guard dept.--there are some things a coach simply doesn't need to know). I also worked a bit with power pulls. I managed to get the blade work part of the pull to go OK but need to get the free leg up a bit higher.
Little by little more skaters arrived, mostly small kids and their coach working on an upcoming show program. A few other adult skaters joined in and worked on various skills but the ice was never crowded. My intuition tells me that all the college kids were at happy hour. By the end of the session it seemed that my progress, like a tide, had come in and then left. I decided to stop when my strong side turns started to get wonky and the boots and my ankle bones started having an increasingly quarrelsome discussion. Too bad the Katz straps do nothing for that. We'll see on Thursday what if anything this practice session has added to my skating skill set other than a scraped arm and a sore hip. I'm going to take a magic marker and write "Remove before Flight" on those guards...