Encouraged (perhaps "egged on" puts things more succinctly) by several of the rink instructors, your old diarist dropped in on the rink's Saturday morning Power Stroking Class this past weekend. This 45 minute class is designed to help figure skaters gain power and speed through skating drills which focus on footwork in both directions at a pace designed to crank up the heart rate. The skaters who make up the two dozen or so at our Power Stroking sessions are typically young (teens to early 30 somethings) and good (most are mid to upper level free-stylers; skaters lower than gamma level need not apply). The week before, I came over and watched and after wards the rink director invited me to drop in to see if I'd like it. And, so I did. I showed up bright and early and told the kids to be kind to me, an old, brittle recreational skater. They just laughed. One 30-ish woman who had, until I arrived, been the tail end Charlie was delighted to learn that she'd no longer be, to momentarily borrow from cycling parlance, the group's "lantern rouge".
The first take-home from this outing is that your diarist indeed was the oldest--and slowest skater out there. The second take-home was that although my forward swing rolls, cross rolls, cross overs, inside and outside edges, power pulls, etc. are good enough to hang with the young dogs, my back edges and cross overs plus (perhaps more importantly) the body-box/arm movements/muscle memory/brain processing speed required for fast alternating changes from one foot to the other--all while skating backwards in fast traffic need serious work. Don't even talk to me about back cross rolls or back power pulls--those tools simply aren't in my tool kit at present.
Part of my hesitancy was being unfamiliar with the patterns used for some of the drills. Going forward was OK since I could see the skaters ahead of me and could more or less follow the leader. Skating backwards at speed, on the other hand, is spooky enough without having to keep in mind where you are in a "peanut" pattern that weaves around the red dots on the rink, all while being passed closely (on both sides!) by faster, more powerful skaters. While I didn't crash and burn and didn't tangle with other skaters, I was slooow-o and had to "two foot" the back power pull and back cross roll drills. The other drill which gave me big trouble was the one requiring alternating forward three turns immediately followed by back cross overs.
So where does this baptism by fire leave the aging skater? Well, I figured since Madam Director didn't throw me off the ice at the end of the class that I may as well sign up for the next flight of Power Stroking sessions which kick off next Saturday. Two months from now some things won't change--I'll probably still be the oldest (and slowest) in the group; but other things will change--I will be one hell of a lot better in at least some of the back skating skills; either that or I'll be dead. I now better understand why the good free-stylers and coaches who occasionally drop in on a crowded Public Session are so fearless backwards in traffic--they've got right stuff in their tool kits.