Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Banner Week

Last week due to a rare confluence of a Monday holiday, the weather and work scheduling I was able to skate six days in a row.  Six days in a row--yep, it met the definition of a "banner week"--it was Ridiculously Great.  Looking back I'm amazed that my legs didn't feel gassed after about the third session.

This is how it all went down:  Monday was the MLK holiday.  I told myself that if I was ever going to get anywhere with the first three pattern dances I really, really needed to tow my butt out of bed and get myself to the 9 am public.  I had this very same talk with myself when I took vacation over the Christmas holidays but couldn't make myself do it.

Now I have skated this session a time or two before.  The thing is, I'm not a morning person.  Neither am I a nite-owl.  I'm sort of a middle of the day person.  I tend to peak and be the most agreeable around lunch time.  But as most of us know opportunity doesn't care about all that, so it was up with the lark.  I arrived at the rink at 8:30 full of good intentions about doing thirty minutes worth of gentle stretches and off-ice warm up "stuff".  I was the only car in the frigid, wind-swept parking lot.  The minutes ticked by inside my rapidly cooling car and I was beginning to wonder if the morning session had been cancelled when finally one of the rink managers drove in.  So much for 30 minutes of warm up.  Got in there, got skates on, got on the ice. My warm up consisted of perimeter stroking.  I was the only skater for at least a half an hour--glorious if a bit stiff.  I practiced the Dutch Waltz, the Canasta Tango and the Rhythm  Blues.  I had my iPod racked and stacked with coach-supplied dance music and actually started to get a feel for the dances once my legs started to cooperate. Not only that, but I surprised myself by getting the lobes of the dances more or less where the diagrams indicated they should be.  It was nice not having ice tourists cutting me off and busting the pattern.  Timing?  Forgetaboutit.  Timing will come later.  Right now I just let the music push me around the rink.

Monday night we had a snow storm.  Schools announced closure before the first flake drifted down.  In the morning the Fed Gov also closed.  Sweeeeet!  Much too treacherous to drive to the lab.  As an aside, when I started working thirty years ago the only thing that would cause OPM to throw its collect hands to Heaven was maybe a bridge collapse, and even that would probably only get you a couple hour delay.  Happily, we live in kinder, gentler times with grid-lock traffic density (on a good day).  Now days, just the tiniest bit of snow is all it takes to bollix the DC beltway and feeder roads from one end to the other.  Far be it from me to turn down manna from Heaven.  I hit the 9 am session for the second day.

Wednesday dawned and DC area bellwether indicators (including the much watched Crème de la Crème preschool) as well as the Fed Gov announced a 2 hour delayed opening. What's a diarist to do but go ice skating?  Again, the session was practically deserted.  I got in lots of dance practice.

Thursday night was my normally scheduled freestyle group lesson.  Friday I managed to get to the late afternoon public.

Saturday, my sixth day on the ice, rolled around and I went to my regularly scheduled ice dance lesson, now held during a 9 to 9:45 am Freestyle pickup (the 9 am ice thing is getting pretty routine--not that I'm liking it any better).  Coach K., who's Saturdays begin at a different rink in the darkness of 6 am, and thus, has limited sympathy about the subject of early rising said "go warm up and then show me where you're at."  After a couple laps of perimeter stroking I punched the iPod and solo skated the Dutch Waltz and the Canasta Tango.  After completing a couple passes of each dance I skated over to her.  She said "Obviously you've gotten in some practice.  Not only could I tell that you were actually skating pattern dances, I didn't even have to guess which ones."  High praise indeed.

We spent the rest of the lesson tweaking the Canasta Tango and then worked on the Rhythm Blues.  Immediately she pointed out that I was starting the step-behinds on the wrong foot (no wonder I was having trouble starting the next pass of the pattern!).  So, I had to invest valuable time unlearning a bad habit, making sure that I was on a RFI edge for the first one.  An extra step has sneaked in at the last progressive, but then I'm just coming to grips with this dance.

On the seventh day he rested.  What can I say?  I'm becoming a skate snob.  I could have continued my streak and skated Sunday afternoon, but crowded publics just don't do it for me anymore.  As noted in an earlier post, I've vowed not to skate the weekend public sessions until the crowd density goes down.  Maybe by March? 

In summary, it amazes me the amount of progress one can make if one has access to lots of uncluttered ice time.  The current week will be the opposite.  I did manage to skate yesterday afternoon but that's probably it until my next dance lesson this coming Saturday so progress will go back to slow and steady mode.

As I laced up yesterday, I was recounting the above saga with another skater whom I hadn't seen since back in December.  One of the coaches (not mine) overheard and said, "Yep, he did skate all those sessions and I can vouch for it."  She then looked at me and said "You should think about competing."

Oh Dear, Oh Dear.

Competition.  That's for young people not brittle old recreational skaters.  As I sit here and type this I have to confess I like the idea, but my skating needs a hell of a lot more work before anything remotely resembling "competition" is in the cards.  Besides that, I'd need a partner.  My bride, aka: the ever enchanting diaristwoman, flatly refuses to get out on the ice with me, indicating that she's much too young to spend the rest of her life in traction.  Testing, yes.  Competition?  Really?  Maybe if I lay down and take a few deep breathes the sensation will pass...


  1. You should go for it! WIth the male/female ratio in figure skating being what it is I don't think you'll have trouble finding a partner. :)

    But it's too bad your wife won't try it. My husband and I are learning to skate together and having a lot of fun with it.

  2. Thanks Ruth. Although there's a strong interest in freestyle, we don't have much of a dance culture at my rink. Years ago apparently there were group lessons for dance but those died off. I asked our skating director several times about restarting group dance and she didn't think that there would be enough interest to warrant the assignment of a coach, a block of time for the lessons, etc. I finally decided that the only way I was going to discover if I had the required musicality and skating skills for dance was to hire a private coach and get on with it. I'm kinda hoping that if others see me doing patterns that wider interest will be sparked. We shall see. Under the ISI format I think I can compete solo at least for the first few dances. I don't know if USFSA permits solo competitors or not. I personally think that one misses quite a lot if one doesn't partner. Skills, for example, involving pair unison are never developed.

  3. PS, Ruth, nice youtube video of your daughter and her partner at the East Coast Sectionals! Some day I might be able to skate half as well as they do.