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 SĂ„nggruppen) 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!