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.