My skill level has gotten to a point where any further progress will require what I'll call an investment step: a period of time working on a lot of uninspiring stuff that serves as the foundation for more obvious improvement. Sort of like the activation energy required for an thermodynamically unfavorable chemical reaction to take place. Makes me wish that there was a figure skating "enzyme" that would magically lower the amount of energy required to push an aging skater up that activation hill. Unfortunately, there's not. Just mind numbing practice of uninspiring stuff. Stuff like back edges, back crossovers, back power pulls, etc.
Although technically I'm supposed to be working on jumps and spins during my Thursday free style lessons, I've parked those for the time being so that I can concentrate on refining the back skating skills that feature prominently in my Saturday Power Stroking class. Working on them during a 30 minute lesson is one thing, finding suitable conditions to practice them is another thing altogether. As most of you know, practicing back skating skills is v. difficult during a busy Public but today I was able to get away from the lab early enough to take advantage of a relatively quiet mid-day session with only a half dozen or so skaters at any given time. For the first half hour it was just me and two pre-teenage girls who are part of the Bowie ISI skating team. Since they are good skaters doing fairly predictable things I was able to literally turn my back on them and devote a large part of the two hours to practicing uninspiring backwards stuff. I also saw and quizzed Madam Director about that peanut pattern she's fond of for Saturday's Power Stroke class to make sure I understood it. Once I had that clear in my head I practiced rounding the red dots, both while skating forwards and backwards, in preparation for tomorrow's session.
The upshot of today's practice is that (a) I now know the pattern used for most of the drills in the Power Stroke session, (b) my back alternating crossovers are much smoother and less scratchy, and (c) I managed to get a tentative back power pull going on my right foot by starting off with back wiggles and then lifting my left foot off the ice. I can only hold it for a few pulls before having to put the foot down to regain balance and speed by resuming back wiggles but it's a start. Hopefully with a little more experimentation the left foot will also report for duty and eventually I might even be able to gain rather than lose speed while doings these! I also briefly experimented with back swing rolls but those need much more work before being used in anger. On Thursday Coach Mike demonstrated back cross rolls but those will have to wait until I'm more confident about stepping behind with the free foot and putting that new back outside edge down on the ice. I'm just happy to have a few tiny improvements before tomorrow's session with the hot young kids.