Saturday, December 29, 2012

To Wax or Not To Wax, That is the Question.

Left skate, lace, candle; A still life Haiku question; Will it stay tightened?

I'm talking about skate laces not my hair.  Try as I might, my left skate in particular gets loose after about 30 minutes of skating.  This is most annoying as the 30 minute mark is just about the time that ancient leg muscles get warmed up.  I talked with the owner of our rink's Pro Shop about this (he's a hockey player) and he recommended waxing the laces with a little candle wax.  I've done a little google search snooping and there's a fair bit of posting both pro and con about waxing skate laces to keep them tight, but only in reference to hockey skates.  Is this a bad idea for figure skates?  It seems there's only one way to find out.  So your ever faithful diarist shall, for better or worse, test this idea to see if it's sound advice or a brain fart.  It seems counter-intuitive but who am I to question the council of professionals--at least until I've tried it?  Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hey Nonny Nonny and a Hot Cha-Cha!

There was a young skater named Hannah
Who slipped and fell on her fannah
     As she lay on her side
     More stars she espied
Than there are on the Star Spangled Bannah.

The above doggerel is apropos of nothing--just had to get it out of my system...

Today's Power Stroking session was an instructive one for your old Diarist. The first 10 minutes leaves one gasping for air but somehow life goes on.  I learned today that once I grasped the basic pattern of the drills that I wasn't the slowest skater on the ice--at least during the forward skating portion of the programme--I actually passed some of the youngsters, much to their chagrin.  The back skating drills were better than last time but there's still much room for improvement.  But unlike the afore mentioned Hannah, I didn't land on my fannah and in fact lived to fight another day...

At the end of the session Madam Director handed out entry forms for a Holiday Contest--the "Ugly Holday Sweater Day".  The skater that is deemed to have the ugliest holiday sweater will win a "great" prize.  This takes place on the 22nd of December (which just happens to be my BD).  Diaristwoman swears she doesn't have an appropriate sweater for this contest but I'll bet she knows peeps that do--I told her I don't want merely ugly.  I want truly hideous--extra points if the sweater has flashing mini lites.  I mean, it's my BD--I gotta win this!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Investment Step Time.

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.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Power Stroke Class

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.

Friday, December 7, 2012

St. Lucia goes to the ice rink

Although St. Lucia Day is actually on the 13th, the first half of the month of December is given over to St. Lucia here at Diarist HQ.  For those not of Swedish decent more about St. Lucia and her day can be found here.  Your diarist was pressed into service last Saturday to schlep an electronic keyboard, stand, bench, etc., etc. to/from the car and to do other important tasks such as standing guard over St. Lucia's and her attendant's shoes during the procession.  This particular procession was actually a two part event.  Part one took place at the Swedish Embassy (aka: House of Sweden) while part two took place a few steps away at the newly opened Washington Harbour Ice Rink.  The ice rink is a fountain in the summer months and was having it's grand opening as an out door ice rink that day.  The venue is in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington right by the Potomac River, just a stone's throw upstream from the Watergate Hotel and the Kennedy Center.

They claim this rink is larger than the open air rink at Rockefeller Center.  I don't know about that but at least it doesn't have that corny statue of Prometheus.  That's another one of those mysteries of figure skating--why did Rockefeller choose Prometheus as a symbol for an ice rink?  An odd choice since Prometheus gave mankind the gift of fire not ice...
Being a beast of burden for this outing, not only did I not get to watch my wife's Swedish Song Group (Svenska Sånggruppen) perform the Lucia thing but I also missed seeing the Bowie ISI mini-synchro team do their thing down at the rink.  So diarist-generated photos for this post are few.  However photos of the day's action can be seen here.  Those interested in viewing a typical St. Lucia procession can take a look at the one from last year at the Embassy (yes those are actual lighted candles on top of Lucia's head):

As for the ice rink, my take is that it's an OK venue for date nite but it was super crowded--at least last Saturday during the opening day.  On a crowded weekend evening don't expect to do more than slow, forward perimeter skating while holding your honey's hand (assuming (s)he is steady on blades).  Also, it's a bit spendy at $9.00 (plus $5.00 if you need to rent skates).  However for your nine bucks you get a wrist band and once banded you can skate from opening time at 10 am until 10pm, assuming your legs can go that long.  Oh, Geezer diarists, active military and little kids get two bucks off. Lessons are available (one of the coaches from Bowie moon-lights there).  Perhaps after the novelty wears off the skater density will drop a bit. The rink is surrounded by a number of pleasant bars and bistros where skaters can go to warm up over a suitable beverage/snack.  On a nice day or a not too chilly evening, the views of the Potomac while skating would be a plus.  There is at least one parking garage within easy walking distance of the rink.  For those not familiar with DC the address is 3000 K Street NW and the web site for more info is:

Finally--a pix of a Zamboni legitimately using its headlamps!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Decisions, decisions...

My last few outings to the rink have been fought with a number of "crash and burn" incidents.  Some of the falls have been minor annoyances but others have left their marks.  No new broken bones (yet) but some mornings, apres-skating, find your old diarist feeling every bit his age.  Most of the falls have come from biffed jump landings but one particularly nasty fall was the result of clicking blades together while doing alternating back crossovers down the long axis of the rink at speed.  All this has your diarist searching the archived posts on the skating forum for hip, knee, and tailbone crash pad recommendations.  It appears the best choices fall (haha) between Skating Safe's "Ultracrash" gel pad technology and the D3O pads marketed by Se_Ku.

Ultracrash pads seem to use the same gel technology that one sees with Silopad ankle protectorsD3O appears to be sterner stuff with typical applications being bullet proof vests for law enforcement officers, protective gear for moto-cross riders, etc.  One of the drawbacks for male skaters attempting to use Ultracrash pads is that we generally don't wear tights and tights are important for holding the pads in place.

Ultracrash pads must be correctly placed and once positioned must be held in place for maximum protection.

Female skaters rely on tights to  keep the pads from moving.

The D3O pads on the other hand are available both as separate pads like the Ultracrash products or sewn into a pair of shorts.  Se_Ku lists men's extreme training shorts that have D3O pads sewn in to protect both sides of the hip trochanter region and a separate butt pad for protection of the coccyx..

Se_Ku's training shorts for men.
Neither product line is inexpensive (the training shorts are $205!) but both are cheaper than a hip replacement.  Both companies also offer knee pads at eye watering prices.  But, again, compared to the cost of a preventable injury they've got to be worth it.  So don't be too surprised if you see an old male geezer skater who looks like he's got a butt the size of a Metro bus .  This may not be the chicest look to go out on the rink but it has to be better than stuffing vast quantities of bubble-wrap down my shorts--and much better than an injury.  Does anyone have any other ideas or feedback on these products?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Trying to answer ice skating's persistant mysteries.

There are a couple of things I may never understand about this ice skating lark.  First off, why do Zamboni machines have headlights?  What's up with that?  Does it ever get dark 'n stormy inside your rink?  Mine neither.  And nope, no on-coming traffic either.  I may never figure it out.

Your basic Zamboni Model 540.  Why the headlights???  (I've discovered that the Wells Ice Rink in College Park offers Zamboni driving lessons--I may be unable to resist!)

The other thing, and I've got to come to grips with this one soon, is whether I'm destined to jump and spin CCW like 90% of the skating population or be one of those weirdos that go CW.  Right now I'm in that unenviable situation of jumping CCW but preferring to spin CW.   Both my first grade teacher (the Sainted Miss Monaghan) and Kelly, my current free style instructor very much want me to be a "righty".  Thanks to Miss Monaghan's insistance I write with my right hand rather than my left, which was my first choice as a primary schooler.  At about that time I also acquired the tendency to kick a ball with my right foot.  So, at age 66, with a dominant right arm and leg you would think that it's a forgone conclusion that I'm fully programed to go best in the CCW direction.  Not so!  My natural tendency seems to mark me as a CW kinda guy; for example both my CW forward outside and inside 3 turns as well as my CW Mohawk are much tidier than my CCW counterparts.   Kelly tried and tried to get me to do two-foot spins CCW and I can't get two clean revs try as I might.  However, in the meantime I've started doing Waltz jumps to the left and when I attempted one to the right it just didn't want to happen.  Being stubborn I tried another one to the right only to biff the landing.  My reward for that effort was a knot on my right knee about the size of a golf ball--almost as effective as Miss Monaghan's ruler.  The swelling has gone down but it still wakes me up at night.  Last Thursday Kelly watched my pathetic attempted spin and said "Well, maybe you should try it to the right after all."  I did and was immediately rewarded with a clean spin of 3 revs (6 revs are required to pass this little element).  For the moment it appears that I'm stuck in "confused and conflicted" mode. I hope my left and right brain hemispheres kiss and make up...I need a decision!  Soon!

Headlamps!  Really!

On other news fronts, diaristdaughter successfully passed her Pre-Alpha, Alpha and Beta ISI tests the other night.  She's on the road to Gamma--Woo Hoo!

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Some day, Orville, man too will fly"--in which your diarist reacquaints himself with aviation.

Last night was lesson night for your diarist and diaristdaughter.  Oh, and one other young fem about the same age as dd joined us.  Interestingly, adults other than the pair of us tend to come and go and to my way of thinking don't get their money's worth from a series of lessons.  But I guess that's their business and when they don't show dd and I get a semi-private lesson at a deep discount. 

Anyway, while Kelly was working with the two young lassies, your diarist was assigned to continue working on his consecutive back inside edges.  That quickly got boring and so I started thinking about the remaining unexplored elements in freestyle-one that need mastering to pass the test: specifically the waltz and the half-flip jumps.  For the non-skaters in the audience, both of these jumps are half rotational jumps.  The waltz jump is initiated from a forward outside edge like the related, but much more difficult Axel jump and lands on a back outside edge, while the half-flip takes off from a back inside edge, is toe-pick assisted and lands on a forward inside edge.

I have past experience with the waltz jump.  It was part of this level back in my early days on skates.  Envision for a moment one of those old cartoons on tv where the hero is contemplating a sinfully tempting act and has his angle-self on one shoulder and his devil-self on the other: 

Angel-self--You need to keep working on those back edges to the line.

Devil-self--Those are strictly bores-ville man!

AS--You should wait until Kelly can guide you; it's been a long time since you've jumped.

DS--What is this? The nanny state?! Go on--just do it, you've been there before.

AS--If you "biff" the landing this is gonna hurt.

DS--it's just like a bunny hop with just a little rotation.

AS--Well, that and there is the small matter of landing and controlling that back outside edge...

DS--Aaaa, Shad-Uppp!

Now, I'm basically my momma's good boy but I'm always open to suggestion, so I went and tried a little exploratory jump; here's the drill--get up a bit of forward speed, head up, back straight, skating knee bent, nice outside forward edge, arms and free leg back; then swing through with the arms and free leg while at the same time springing up from the skating leg's bent knee. The rotational momentum set up by the forward outside edge should carry you around for the rotational part of the jump.  The landing demands a good checked position to control the rotation as one sets down on the free leg's back outside edge.  Got all that?  Good!

I was gratified that (1) I cleared the ice (by oh, maybe a couple inches--the take off is always the easy part) and (2) controlled the landing (the part that can get a bit fraught with bother).  Encouraged by my initial success I quickly did a half dozen more at ever increasing heights off the ice.  Kelly looked up in time to watch the last few and said "Well then, since you've got the waltz jump under control why not try the half flip?"  Why not indeed?  She talked me through the set up (my choice of entries, the back inside edge from either a left forward outside 3 or from a right forward inside Mohawk).  Since my left 3 is unreliable I opted for the Mohawk entry for this toe-pick assisted jump.  Long story short, I didn't like the feel of flow between making the turn and planting the toe pick and before I could resolve that the half hour of lesson time was up.  So the half-flip will have to wait until next week--or maybe the next public session when no one is looking (at least no one with a clip board).

AS:  if you'd continued to refine those back inside edges (or at least worked on your wonky left 3 turn) you could have probably pulled off that half-flip.  After all, it lands on an inside forward edge which you have under control.

DS: Aaaa, Shad-Uppp!

Although I got away with the waltz jump I think I'd better invest in some gel hip pads--it could be a long winter if I bust something (again)...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Getting reacquainted with an old friend

While perusing the titles of ice skating books on Amazon I stumbled across a familiar sounding title.  I clicked on the link and up popped the image below:  Robert S. Ogilvie's classic figure skating book Basic Ice Skating Skills.  Ogilvie, an instructor at the Ice Club of Baltimore wrote this book in the mid-1960s at the urging of the United States Figure Skating Association.  This book is perhaps the earliest example of a modern era "how to skate" book aimed at adults and marks the beginning of an outreach attempt that continues to this day.  The USFSA wisely recognized that figure skating was not the exclusive domain of competitive youth skaters but instead is a life sport that many ages can enjoy.  This is the very same book which was the assigned reading material for students taking figure skating classes back when I skated at the University of Delaware.  I’d lost (loaned and never got back) my copy from my student days and as soon as I saw this picture of the cover slob sentimentality kicked in and I clicked the "buy" button.  My “new” old book arrived yesterday and a quick turn of the pages reveals that while the hair and clothing styles have changed over the years, the ice and the elements executed upon it haven’t changed much.  All the basic stuff is there: how to get a good boot fit, how to get up from a fall, descriptions of all the common elements such as edges, spins, turns, and jumps.  There are even a couple of short chapters on compulsory figures (this was after all, back in the day) and ice dance.  All this for a cover price of $2.50!  Text books were much cheaper back when I was a boy.  OK, I paid $7.99 for my second copy of Ogilvie’s book, which included shipping from South Dakota, but even so I consider it a bargain and anticipate a good read over several evenings.  Maybe Ogilvie can do a better job of explaining how to get a good initial push for those pesky back inside edges I'm working on. The two current books I've been reading just aren't providing the mind spark that permits that leap from written word to performance on the ice. I wonder if he's still around?  A quick internet search suggests that the Ice Club of Baltimore is long gone, but perhaps it reinvented itself as the Figure Skating Club of Baltimore, which does have a web presence.  Does anyone in the blogosphere know the rest of the story?  If so, please chime in with a comment!

$2.50 for a large format paperback text book.  What price would you pay to buy back your youth?

Friday, October 12, 2012

"We've arrived at the Delta Quadrant, Captain..."

The ISI's delta patch
But I wanna tell ya, getting through that last spacial anomaly was hell...  I actually passed this little landmark a week ago but the rink office didn't have a patch on hand so I decided to wait until I could post a pix.  When I arrived for last night's lesson Kelly, the young woman currently stuck with being the instructor for the small collection of Thursday night adult groupies, handed it to me as I was going out on the ice.  Since delta level is the final level of the beginner series I suppose I should pause and take stock of the last few months.  Basically, after being away from the ice since the late 1970s and discounting the five months lost to a broken arm, your old diarist has gone from near zero charisma to delta level skating in roughly six months.  At this point I'm back to where I was in my University of Delaware days--working on Freestyle 1.  If I can stagger ahead and pass FS-1 I'll actually be a tad better than I was back then since I didn't get the chance to test out before leaving UDEL.  In some ways I think I'm already better now than then.  I may not be as flexible and have less strength now but I'm more attentive to instruction and am smoother on my blades compared to then.

So, what's plan?  How far up the freestyle ladder do I want to go?  Probably not very far.  I'm guessing that I'll top out at FS-1 or perhaps FS-2.  There are valuable skills in those levels to acquire such as inside pivots, cleaning up my back edges and learning the simpler dance step sequences.  The half rotational jumps encountered in the low level freestyle classes are probably about as much "aviation" as this old geezer needs to explore--I can't afford too many more broken bones and my initial goal was not to get to the point where I can throw down double Axels but rather to rejoin the ranks of creditable, graceful skaters who enjoy the ice and don't pose a hazard to others out for a bit of fun.

And to a degree I've achieved that goal: a few weeks ago I came off the ice during a busy weekend public session to tighten the laces on my skates.  The rink was heaving with several birthday party loads of small unpredicable kids, many pushing EZ-skater contraptions.  While I was busy with my laces one of the moms watching the kids (but not skating herself) said to me "I've been watching you--you're a good skater".  I looked up from my skates and replied "thanks, but you're confusing good with entertaining"--my skating is probably very entertaining to watch, particularly when I'm flirting with the ragged edge of disaster, which is oh, about 90% of the time.  Kinda like watching NASCAR and waiting for the next fiery crash.  I went on to point out that there were some ten year old girls currently out on the ice who indeed are good skaters and my goal, if I live long enough, is to maybe get almost as good as that!  Struggling to extract herself from what was probably becoming an awkward conversion, she said "well, you're, hmm, very stylish".  I thanked her and returned to the ice. Stylish! Me? Really?!  Having conquered my initial goal of being good enough not to do bodily harm to others out on the ice, let's see if I can "style" my way towards the next goal which is to get over FS-1 and then attempt to learn a few of the simpler ice dances.  It remains to be seen whether I'm musical enough to skate in time to music.  I hope so!  Anyway,  I've got a hell of a lot of patching, smoothing and cleaning up to do before that.  Seeya out there.     

Friday, September 28, 2012

A work in progress

Last night was the finale of the four lesson September mini-session at our rink.  While neither diaristdaughter or your old diarist advanced a level, we both improved from where we were back in August.  At this point I'm working towards the ISI's Delta level and can do all the elements in passable form if I'm fully warmed up.  That fully warmed up thing is not an option during group lessons.  You stretch a bit during the few minutes before your group is called onto the ice, the coach lets you have a minute or two to shake the sillies out of your legs while he looks at his clipboard and then it's show time. 

To pass Delta one must demonstrate proper form for inside and outside forward edges started from a T-position, do right and left forward inside 3 turns, do either a lunge or "shoot the duck", and finally show off your best bunny hop.  For the non-skaters in the audience, a "hop" is a non-rotational jump.  On a good day I can do all the above, but an honest assessment is that I can't yet do them at the drop of a hat with the flinty-eyed, take no prisoners elan required to pass.  To steal a line from Chief Dan George (from the movie Little Big Man) "Sometimes the magic happens and sometimes it doesn't".  I'm confident that with more practice and coaching the magic will happen by the end of the next series of lessons which kick off next Thursday.  Mike has conflicts during Thursdays in October and I similarly can't switch to the Saturday lesson time so we shall see what perspectives a new Thursday coaching personality will bring to the table over the next seven weeks.

Diaristdaughter meanwhile has made good progress towards moving from being an ice tourist to a creditable skater in just four lessons.  She can now snow-plow stop and swizzle like nobody's business and is taking those first hesitant forward crossover steps.  This puts her streets ahead of any number of peeps who make up the "target rich environment" which is a public session.  Quite an accomplishment for someone with just four lessons and a few practice sessions under the belt.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Raimo Ahti goes to the ice rink

Now that the weather is turning a tad cooler and my right hand grip has improved to the point where I can manage the right hand brake lever and shifter I decided to blow the cobwebs off of poor old Raimo see if cycling to the rink was a realistic option.  Readers of my other blog are already acquainted with Raimo, my Raleigh Team Professional Replica.  Others may read his story here.  Although my town, Bowie, Maryland is blessed with a hap-hazard collection of bike trails there are two major highways which stand between your diarist and the ice rink:  Route 50, a six lane inter-state and Route 197, a two-lane county road that also expands to six lanes at just the point where I'd need to cross it.  Fortunately the powers that be were forward sighted enough to provide a pair of strategically placed pedestrian bridges over those two roads.

Now I've lived in this town for almost 30 years but for one reason or another (too hot, don't want to arrive at the rink drenched in sweat, too cold, too wet, etc., etc. etc.) I've never explored those two bridges to see if they have stairs or the more cyclist-friendly ramps.  I don't plan to go by bike every time I head to the rink, but it does take one car off the road and the 30 or so minutes of riding should nicely warm up my legs by the time I get there.  By automobile the ice rink is 4.2 miles from my house.  I suspect by bicycle it will be a tad further as the bike trail tends to wander.  Can this trip be made without your diarist getting horribly lost or squashed under the wheels of a large SUV?  Let's find out.

I say, Guv'nor, which way to the ice rink?

There are several different ways to get to the closest branch of the bike path system but I decided to cut through the housing development and ride past Belair Mansion, the gem of the City's Museum system.

Quite an impressive brick pile for little ol' Bowie.

We want the branch going towards Bowie Town  Shopping Center. W. B. &A. stands for Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis.  This is part of an east coast "greenway" of rail-to-trail conversions which once completed is supposed to go to the moon an back.  You can read about it here.

After a mile or so we come to the overpass which will convey us safely across busy Route 50.  On the weekends everybody and his brother are zooming down 50 to get to the Delaware and Maryland beaches.  This weekend was no exception.  I have no idea why they put that post in the middle of the path.  The path certainly isn't wide enough for a car and the post must be a PITA for riders of recumbent trikes.  Additionally, posts like that could spoil you whole day if you carelessly whang into one on the downhill run.

Looking at route 50 from the center of the overpass.  Why is it that Japanese car dealerships always have the largest American flag?  This one is fluttering proudly over a Toyota franchise.

Carrying on, the bike path dumps us onto Northview drive, the road which takes us to the rink.  But how will we get to the overpass that avoids our second obstacle, route 197?  When I google-mapped this route things got a teensy bit fuzzy concerning this point.  Something about cutting through a parking lot.  Hmm.

Ah Ha, after being forced to ride either on the pavements or the road, the bike path magically reappears at the perimeter of this parking area.

And there's our overpass.  No stairs to climb--yippee!

Time to start stomping on the peddles.
Traffic doesn't look too busy in this shot but I'm still glad to be cruising over route 197 and its attendant cars than darting among them.

Once past route 197, the bike path disappears but  Northview Drive calms down and is a leafy two lane street with heavily enforced speed restrictions due to the nearby school.  On a bike I don't have to worry about this little fellow or his twin brother on the other side of the road.
The yellow gate up ahead marks the entrance to Allen Pond Park.  The park is also the site of the ice rink.

Here we are.  Easy as pie.
The park backs up to this small pond.

The pleasant, shady setting offers a number of picnic areas complete with BBQ pits.

There are also play grounds and ball fields.
Paddle boats are available for a small fee.

There's a storm coming so I won't hang around and skate today (postscript: after I got home BIG thunderstorms rolled through Bowie and we lost electricity until the next morning).  Before I leave I'll look for a safe place to lock up Raimo.  This railing looks promising but what's that sign say?

No Bicycling!  I thought this was a progressive town!  I'll have to look into this since there's no bike rack near the rink.
So, bottom line, it can be done.  I'll investigate the bike security issue and also take a look at backpacks so that I can carry my skates and skating paraphernalia next time.  Raimo's bike computer had a dead battery so I didn't get an estimate of the distance, and because I stopped to take these pix I don't have an accurate sense of the amount of time the journey would take but I'm fairly certain that if I allowed a half hour's time that would be sufficient. Yes, there are a few hills along the path and although some are steep enough to sting the legs, all are mercifully short.  Besides, the idea is to warm 'em up before I lace 'em up!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Style is the consequence (and benefit) of efficiency.

It's said that men become philosophical with age, so I suppose I'll put on my "philosopher's hat" for this post.  The title for today is a slight paraphrase of a sentence that caught my eye as I leafed through Karin Künzle-Watson's book Ice Skating: Steps to Success.  Like most books of this type, this one while helpful, is no substitute for a good coach.  Still the sentiment resonates within me.  Basically it's another way of stating that well known axiom cherished by minimalists everywhere: "form follows function" or "less is more" (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe meet Karin Künzle-Watson, Karin, Mies) .  So, if I can just eliminate or at least minimize all the unnecessary movements and motions that are going on while I'm stroking and executing turns my skating will, by default, become stylish and economical.  No extra flourishes or gestures required--all this, of course, is easier said than done in the middle of a fast 3 turn!  So many things to keep track of--keep your head up, keep your knee bent, arms over the tracing, don't drop the free hip, don't allow the free leg to flop aimlessly about--the list seems endless.

I keep practicing forward outside 3s and forward inside Mohawks while working on forward inside 3s.  Annoyingly, it seems that although the inside 3s are now becoming more consistent, no doubt due to me concentrating on them, my recently conquered outside 3s and those Mohawks are slipping away without constant review.  Particularly in the CCW direction--I have a very nice CC forward outside 3; I can hold the back edge almost to a complete circle and the free leg obediently does what free legs are supposed to do.  But in the other direction I tend lose track of one or more of those things listed above, and as a consequence have to put the free foot down on the ice roughly 50% of the time!  If I ever need a "dropped" CCW forward outside 3, Boy Oh Boy, I've got a beauty...  Most aggravating!  In a perfect world things which are fixed would stay fixed!  Sadly, this is not not the way things operate on Planet George.  I keep wondering why I can't replicate the seemingly mindless control which I have somehow mysterious incorporated into muscle memory while going to the right, when attempting the mirror image maneuver in the other direction  Oh, I know, I know, it's all about time on the ice, "deliberate practice", etc. but it's still annoying! For the time being I'll just have to live with "half-stylish".  Next set of lessons start this Thursday.  Diaristdaugther has agreed to join in.  Might make a skater out of her yet.  More soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Better late than never.

Five months late but a pass is a pass.  My right wrist tells me I earned this one the hard way.
Yep I passed my Gamma test tonight rather than waiting 'til the last lesson on Thursday.  I figured I waited for the final Thursday the last time around (look what that got me) and I was fairly confident that I could pull it off so I asked Christine if she'd test me a session ahead of schedule.  She agreed (she's probably tired of watching my crappy left FO3).  Fortunately for me I was able to pull off a good one (well, good enough) when it counted.  The other elements behaved as well and voila, I'm a newly minted Gamma level skater. 

With the test out of the way we spent the remaining twenty minutes working on Delta level stuff:  forward inside 3s, forward inside and outside edges, forward lunge and the dreaded bunny hop.  The bunny hop isn't a big deal and with a little work I can tidy up the required edges so that they begin and end on a line as required.  The challenges for me at this level will be the lunge (65 year old knees don't like to bend that much) and the inside 3 turns.  As per usual, I can do the FI3 to the right but the lefty is going to take a bit of time to refine.  There's one more lesson in this series and then a short September session of four lessons on Thursdays will be offered before the first series of the new year's lessons kick off in October.  It would be nice to knock out Delta by the end of September.  Can I do it?  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Splendid Reunion

As I was warming up prior to last night's lesson, a familiar face glided by and said "hello!"  It was Mike my coach from back in winter.  I hadn't seen him since I broke my arm and didn't expect to see him again until the fall series of lessons kicked off.  But there he was.  He'd come home from his vacation at Nags Head and was helping Christine with a skater-camp for kids.  With a little arm twisting he agreed to coach us three adults instead.

Now don't get me wrong, Christine is a good instructor but she and Mike observe different aspects of my so-called skating, and of course have difference solutions for dealing with the numerous problem areas.  A single comment from Christine got my pathetic hockey stop to report back for duty--an element which Mike and I had seen only fleeting success.

Just to put the shoe on the other foot (pun not intended), I took the opportunity to have Mike reassess the presumed alignment issue that Christine had posited during the last session.  Mike watched me glide on the left skate and said he thought the problem was more me dropping my right hip than the blade being out of kilter.  I made a conscious effort to keep the right hip under control and voila the curve to the right while gliding on the left skate disappeared. My CCW three turn and Mohawk also benefited from attention to keeping the right hip under control.  I guess I just don't like going left!  There are other issues as well:  I need to pay better attention to arm position in the CCW direction (the correct position just doesn't feel natural).  So much to think about and so many bad habits to unlearn while in the middle of a turn.  I'll be glad when the thinking part is converted to muscle memory so I can think about other stuff!  It turns out that Mike was just helping for the day and will probably not reappear until October.  All the same, it was nice to come under his tutelage once again.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fine Tuning

After two sessions, I've been on the receiving end of a number of Christine's observations and can report that my hockey stop is back and my left FO3 is improving as are both forward inside Mohawks.  Christine also pointed out that my left skate seems not to be tracking in a straight line when I glide with my hands at my side. This may explain why I tend to fall out of the back edge of that direction's three turn and have to put the free skate down almost immediately after making the turn.  Going to the right I can glide on the right back edge with the free skate off the ice until I run out of momentum.  I'll sleep on that observation and perhaps have the skate tech take a look.  Alignment issues or not, I appear to be on track to take my long postponed Gamma level test on the 23rd of this month.

Other news:  I've talked my daughter into skating a few public sessions with me and just maybe she'll sign up for lessons in the fall.  I keeping telling her that knowing how to stop is a good thing!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Skool Daz

After six exploratory sessions on the ice your diarist is back in class.  My coach, Mike, is on a summer vacation so I have a new instructor, Christine, at least for the duration of this compressed six lesson (two per week for three weeks) summer session.  Ah, summer session--the dreaded nightmare of every school kid.  I did one summer of purgatory back in the day, and after missing my summer of lazy fun decided never to fall behind my studies again.  This summer session is a bit different.  There's no one forcing me to get a passing mark other than myself, and the unpopulated summer time rink is a refreshing change from the crowded public and free style sessions which will once again be the norm in a few short weeks.

So, where do I stand after four months off the ice nursing a busted flipper?  Actually, not too bad.  If anything the time away from the glare of instruction has permitted me to practice and solidify a few things so I'm still on track with my original goal of clawing myself back to a credible skater inside a calendar year.  The goal for this session is to test and pass the gamma requirements.  My FO3s are for the most part testable and the 7 step mohawk combo is getting there.  The only element that has disappeared is my hockey stop which to be honest was a bit on the pathetic side on a good day.  We shall see.

One of the GREAT things about this summer session is that lessons are combined  with a lightly attended public session, starting at 5 pm. The adult lesson doesn't start until 5:30 but we can still go on the ice and warm up!  This, at least for me, is BIG!  After 30 minutes my legs were warmed up enough to not be a total klutz in the lesson.  Christine was a bit distracted in as much as she'd just returned from the beach that day and no doubt wished she was still there!  But distracted or not she got us doing different things, some of which I cottoned onto fairly quickly and others that I'm still trying to get my head around.  One of the maneuvers was a collision avoidance skill that rings a distance bell in my head and suspiciously appears to be the introduction for learning two foot spins.  You skate along and pretend that a kid with an EZ-skater suddenly darts in front of you.  Your reaction is to not mow him down (which he nodoubt richly deserves) but instead join your hands over your head and do a sharp two foot turn (your choice of direction). The combination of the sharp turn and linking your hands and then pulling them in the direction of the turn causes the skater to immediately round up and spin, more or less in place, for a revolution or two.

The rest of the time she had us practicing forward three turns but with a preliminary forward stroke before the turn. This I was OK with. Then she introduced a Mohawk with a back crossover step that seemed easy enough but totally baffled me. The lesson ended before I could figure it out.  Our lesson was over at 6 pm but the public session went on until 6:30 and they didn't chase us off so we got a bonus 60 minutes of skating time before the Zamboni came out and the session ended.  Now this session was immediately followed by another 2 hour public starting at 6:45.  I had earlier promised my daughter that I'd stick around so that she and I could skate together.  This meant that the total ice time for me last night was three and a half hours.  I practiced edges and turns at ever increasing speeds and left the ice feeling good, tired and more that ready for a steadying glass of red wine.  However, this extended time on the ice came back to haunt me when I woke up about 2 am with throbbing shoulders.  I'd noticed over the past few sessions on the ice that my left shoulder in particular was waking me up at night and I vaguely wondered if I'd pinched a nerve or something.  Last night the light bulb in my brain finally went on and I realized that the pain which I was experiencing was more likely due to the increasingly forceful upper body checking I'd been doing while practicing those turns over and over.  Hopefully this will go away before the next lesson on Thursday.  The other thing I noticed after last night's session was that even with bunga pads on my ankles, my boots had figured out a new way to bless me with annoying skin abrasions on the outside of both ankles just above the ankle bone.  And here I'd thought I'd had the boot fit thing checked off the list.  I'll have to come up with a solution before Thursday 'cause I doubt that I'll grow new skin in time.

Lastly, I tested my fancy wrist guards last night during a fall at low speed and can report that they seem to do the job. The small plastic pads in the palm area of the guards do in fact permit you to scrub off energy by sliding along the ice rather than to concentrate that momentum with a more abrupt halt. Am I smiling or what?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ah! I'm Back.

There's no place like home (ice).

I know, I know, in today's subject line I'm stealing a favorite bon mot from NRP's famous Click 'n Clack, the tappet brothers.  I'll go apologize during the intermission before the "third half" of this post...   Today, Friday the 13th of July marks exactly four months since I broke my right radius.  Last night I took my skates back to the rink's pro shop to have the blades sharpened and to get a couple of areas in the boots punched out that have been persistently annoying.  After dropping off my skates, I poked my head in the rink and the new ice looked inviting.  This morning I brought my newly received Flexmeter wrist guards to PT for show n tell.  My PT lady like them, so that's encouraging.  This afternoon there's a public session from 5:00 to 6:45.   It's time to go find out how much I've gone backwards.  I don't plan to do much beyond perimeter skating.  We'll see.


OK, it's now 7:40 pm and I'm back from the rink.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well my reintegration back on the ice went.  After warming up I couldn't resist trying that 7 step Mohawk combo that brought me down and while it still sucks in one direction at least I didn't fall--so I can't report on how well the wrist guards are (yet).  That's a good thing since I'm still not completely pain free in my right arm.  After perimeter skating for 30 minutes I practiced inside and outside edges on one of the blue lines.  Insides are not too bad but outside edges will need some remedial work!  Oh, and for a public session the rink was blissful empty.  I think there were maybe 6 people max and at times I had the ice to myself.  Not a bad way to ease back in.  After I came off the ice I tramped directly into the pro shop, still wearing my skates, and told the guy who'd punched out my boots and sharpened the blades that he'd done a great job!  I told him to remember what he'd done when sharpening because I'll want them done the same way each time!  A couple more sessions and I'll be ready to dig out my coach's phone number.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wrist Guards

The east coast experienced wide spread electrical outages after last Friday's storms.  Some areas have yet to have power restored.  The City of Bowie lost power for four days.  On the first of July, the local ice rink was supposed to reopen after being shut since the beginning of May for annual maintenance, however reopening day has been delayed until the 7th of the month.  In the meantime I've been waffling between various designs of wrist guards.  I want actual protection when I return to the ice rather than the illusion of protection.  After seeking comments on  the skating forum and showing various print-outs from the internet to my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist, I've put in an order with Snowboard Secrets for Flexmeter all season wrist guards.

Hopefully these will prevent me from immediately re-injuring my wrists and arms!
The flexmeter all season guards aren't cheap but they do come highly recommended by several skaters on the skating forum and pass muster with my surgeon and PT lady.  Hopefully they won't be too bulky, but bulky is way better than another broken arm.  I haven't received them yet but I should have them by the first part of next week.  Stay tuned.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Synthetic Ice?

Good Morning, Campers.  Your diarist has been vacationing "down" on the Jersey shore.  Don't ask me why people say that they're going "down" to the shore when mostly they arrive from the west or in my case the south.  It's sort of like people in Boston saying that they're going "down east" when they travel to coastal Maine.

Be that as it may, although I've done no skating since the last post, I have done some dinghy racing which you can read about here if you're interested.  I've also gotten in a fair share of lazing in a beach chair reading the local paper (the Atlantic City Press) and yesterday's issue had a newsy news article in the C section of the paper entitled "Wildwood proposes synthetic ice skating rink".  I read this article with great interest.  Wildwood is a shore community about an hour south of where I vacation in Brigantine, New Jersey.  Anyway, the city of Wildwood is looking into building a synthetic ice rink which according to the article would be outdoors and open all year long.  You can read the article on-line.

A synthetic ice rink brings a number of questions to mind:  What's the surface made of?  Will they come out and resurface the synthetic ice ever couple hours with a synthetic Zamboni machine? Is synthetic ice slipperier than real ice?  And most importantly will your diarist break synthetic bones if he touches blades or catches an edge?

But seriously folks, has anyone out in the blogosphere experienced skating on such a surface?  What's it like on a nice, hot and sticky afternoon in say, August?!  The thought of all that kinda makes my head swim!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Week 12 report: Physical Therapy isn't a doodle.

After four weeks of PT I can report a little progress.  At the first session my therapist measured my grip strength; undamaged, semi-dominant left hand 90#; recovering, used to be dominant right hand 15#).  Initial wrist extension was left wrist: 55 degrees, right wrist: 10 degrees.  She measured other angles of articulation (flexion, supination, pronation) but I can't recall the numbers. 

I asked her if she thought I'd be able to get back most of the range of motion compared to my left hand.  She thought about this for a minute and replied "Well, if you were actually flexible and had say 80 or 90 degrees of extension before injury you'd probably not get it all back, but since you're about as flexible as a freakin' brick 55 degrees shouldn't be out of the range of possibility."  So there you have it--a silver lining!

I see her once a week and she gives me new torture routines exercises and keeps track of grip strength and range of motion.  Today I'm up to 35# of grip strength and 35 degrees on the extension measurement.  Today's measurements for supination, pronation and flexion  were 35 degrees, 65 degrees and 45 degrees, respectively. 

For those interested in brushing up on their anatomical terms of motion Wikipedia has a nice explanation here

Today she also pointed out that the swelling in my right arm has gone down enough so that I have wrinkles again--who knew wrinkles were something to look forward to?  Another silver lining! 

The new exercises for this week include "wall push-ups".  Imagine standing about a foot away from a wall, placing the palms of your hands about at head level and then leaning into and pushing away from the wall.  If that sounds easy it's because you don't have a healing but still tender broken arm!  You can make this exercise increasingly more difficult by moving your palms lower in relation to your body (for example shoulder level rather than head level; chest level rather than shoulder level etc.).  It will probably be several weeks before I can once again do regular push-ups from the floor.
I have a boat race coming up on the 16th of June.  By then I'm hoping to have a bit more grip strength or else holding on to the main sheet during long starboard legs up-wind will be iffy.  Also I'm hoping for light wind!   I'm packing the boat, we shall see.

Bowie Ice Arena will be back on line in July (they melt the ice for two months every year for maintenance)--we'll see about that as well.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Week nine: the short cast comes off and a final word on the subject of home made cast sheaths.

I was supposed to get the cast off earlier than this, but my surgeon had a family emergency and so my appointment was put off a week (groan).  So nine weeks to the day of me breaking my arm, the second cast came off and I'm now sporting a removable brace.

Jeremy is the med-tech who fashioned my green cast and it turns out he was also the one who got to cut it off.  Jeremy is an ice hockey player so at least I had another skater working on my behalf.  The tool he's approaching me with is a medical grade version of the Fein multimaster I have in the garage!

He first scribed a line the length of the top of the cast.

And then did the same along the underside.  After several passes on both the top and bottom the saw was through the hard shell of the cast but not through the heavy knit cloth glove which protected my skin from the rough fiberglass surfaces of the cast.

He next popped the cast open by working along the saw cuts with this spreader tool.  Squeezing the handles causes the head of the tool to expand which in turn widens the saw kerf.

Finally a quick bit of work with the scissors on the under lying mesh glove and the cast comes off.

Here's my new friend.  Black is always in fashion.  This brace has a thin, removable steel strip running the length of the lower side.  Yes, my arm is emaciated and was covered with scaly dead skin.  Sorry, no pix of that.  Interestingly, my wrist and hand are still somewhat swollen after nine weeks.  I have perhaps a tenth of the movement and flexibility of my opposite hand at this point and movement is still painful.  My surgeon gave me a prescription for several weeks of physical therapy and after getting the new brace I stopped at their part of the office to schedule my first session.

I noticed that they have a picture of Edvard Munch's "the Scream" hanging on the wall.  Clearly the PT techs enjoy their work. (Ve haf vays to make you flexible, old man.)

Lastly, the blurry photo above  is a belated final comment on the subject of shielding a cast while showering.  We needed to help the in-laws and this entailed spending  a few nights with them.  Earlier in the day I reminded myself to pack my store-bought cast sheath but of course I forgot to do so in the heat of packing.  The next morning I discovered my omission and figured I'd have to drop back and use plastic wrap as I did at the beginning of this adventure.  However my mother-in-law is an industrious and inventive woman and instead of giving me plastic wrap and packing tape, rooted around in the kitchen cupboards and produced the two gallon size zip lock bag and rubber bands which you see on my arm in the photo above.  This bag (10 inches by 18 inches) completely covered my cast and worked just as well as the purpose made product.  The rubber bands do a good job of sealing the open end of the bag and eliminate the tedium of one-handed manipulation of tape.  Keep this trick in mind if (a). you are as forgetful as I am, or (b). your local druggist doesn't  stock cast sheaths.  The only drawback of the two gallon bag is that it doesn't provide the mitten-like thumb of the sheath and is a tad more awkward in use but that's a small disadvantage which is completely out weighed by not having to make an early morning trip to the drugstore before showering!