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?