Sunday, October 2, 2016

Yep, I'm still alive (and skating!)

I haven't posted in a while.  Mary, over at the Fit and Fed blog, got so bored she started reading the posts on my sailing blog spot--how bad is that?  Babbette over at the Ice Doesn't Care wondered if I was still skating.  Now this is better than when Jaston Williams, in the role of church lady Vera Carp, gives a long absent parishioner a startled glance and blurts out "I was told you were dead!"  "Now I don't know who told me that but I'm sooo glad they're wrong!"

 The short answer is yes I'm still kickin'--but with my dodgy history of busted arms and cracked heads the question is justified--and thanks for asking!

The longer answer is that I've been in the trenches all summer.  You know the drill:  take a coached lesson, go practice, repeat.  Glacial progress with nothing particularly juicy and delicious to blog about.  My goal is to finally test the two remaining pre-bronze dances before year's end, but those judges are sooo picky.

Coach A. tells me, week after week, to bend my knees more, and to pay attention to extension of the free leg.  Who hasn't heard that a few million times?  Aside:  Coach A. is a lovely young woman, about the age of my daughter.  I give her full marks for working overtime to make the same comments such as "bend your knees and ankles more" seem like new revelations heard for the very first time.  I'm sure internally she's thinking "for the love of God, man, just bend your knees."  Or, "Please, just once show me that your joints are actually capable of articulation ."

So this past Friday at the late afternoon public session I worked on just those two items.  I won't bore you with my attempts to remember to extend my free leg and point the toe of the boot (esp, the left leg), but I will weigh in on the subject of knee/ankle bend.

Without mirrors it's hard to see whether or not you're actually bending your knees and ankles while keeping your back straight.  The plexi above the boards can reveal only so much as you sneak a peek.  So, I decided to bend grotesquely, as in more than usual, while doing swing rolls and progressives.  Down, down, down.  Finally I could feel my ankles against the tongues of the boots.  The first thing I noticed was that progressives became smoother.  After a few more laps I realized that if I got down deep enough in my knees and ankles to feel the tongue of my boots this posture forced me back on my blades, away from the toe picks.

No doubt most of you reading that last sentence are thinking "well Dumbo, what took so long?"

Sometimes the big Ah-Ha moments in skating as well as life come from self experimentation.  But before I get too comfortable with this nugget of serendipity I'll run it by Coach A.  She'll probably nod in agreement but then tell me that I additionally need to keep my back straight(er) or some such.  Or worse, she'll tell me while the basic concept is OK I'll need to unlearn it so that I can do it in a more contorted but correct fashion.  Axel Paulsen may have gotten away with teaching himself to jump on speed skates in the 1870s but in this day and age, self taught "keepers", at least in my experience, are few and far between.

Oh, one other thing she's been working on with me is that groups of moves which fall under the category of "presentation moves".  You know, those fancy little flourishes at the beginnings and ends of dances.  She tells me that just because the music ends abruptly I shouldn't quit the dance abruptly.  Instead she wants us to glide, hand in hand on one foot towards the judges.   Additionally, I'm supposed to smile at the judges.  "No, that's not a smile, that's a grimance." All this grooming and good manners stuff reminds me of an old New Yorker cartoon which featured an after hours janitor answering a telephone with the punchline "Mrs. Farthingale's Charm School--what the hell you want?"

Anyway, that's what I've been doing on my summer vacation.  To rehash, goals for the remainder of the year include getting the Dutch Waltz and the Rhythm Blues successfully in my rear view mirror.  Since my coach is starting to nit pick over relatively small items like presentation moves, these goals might actually happen!

I'll leave you with this short youtube clip which introduces the topic of posture, knee bend, etc.  One thing that I found interesting in this clip is a dance called the Novice Foxtrot (about at the 3 min mark of the video).  Although the progressives are being done on a  4 beat count they seem short changed a couple beats by the immediacy of the following swing roll.  I've tried this and while it's a "feel good" kinda thing, it doesn't directly feed into any of the dances I'm working on.  If nothing else you can enjoy (or not) the plumy Brit accent of the moderator!  And mind that posture!



  1. Delighted and relieved to hear you are skating and OK!

  2. Thanks Accordion3. I guess the summer heat dazed me enough that I didn't realize how long it had been since I last posted!

  3. George, so happy to see your post. You have captured the sense of "glacial progress" so well--I can definitely relate! Your translation of Coach A's comments made me laugh out loud. But lest you call yourself "Dumbo" one too many times, I had a revelation like this a couple of weeks ago when I was watching some other folks ice dance. I realized that because there is a heel on the skate, you actually have to bend the ankle in ways that feel different from when you're just standing on the floor on flat feet. It actually feels like I'm bending waaaay more when I'm actually just barely in adequate position. The tongue of the boot is a good mark (my coach says to aim for the laces). Thanks for the video and happy bending!

  4. Hi Jo! Yep,hopefully small but important refinements will help me pass those dances next time around.

  5. ah, bend your knees. The derby equivalent of, get low! Yes, I know this well.

  6. Every sport seems to have it's iconic phrase...

  7. It does take such a long time to polish each dance! It's good that you realize how much you are doing for your skating skills in the process. And no, I don't think we're ever going to stop hearing 'bend your knees!" Nice video you found, and a plummy narration indeed!

  8. Hi Mary! Glad you enjoyed the video. I keep watching it and try to remember to get down deeply in the knees!