Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pre-Bronze MITF and FS test in review

Yesterday was finally THE DAY. It was THE DAY that I finally took my Pre-Bronze MIF and FS test at my rink. I had basically been working on this test for a year, with the initial plan of testing back in April, but back then, decided I wasn't ready.  However, I had told myself that I would be ready for this test session, and I spent many months preparing for this test day.

For those of you who are not familiar with the testing process, you basically have have to pass skating tests to be able to compete.  Plus, certain competitions may allow you to "skate up" a level, depending on your passed tests, and their rules/regulations.  In USFS, you have two components to your test. There's the "Moves in the Field" (MIF) and then, if you pass that, there's the "Freeskate" (FS)portion.  The MIF consists of different patterns, which is used to demonstrate skating edges (based from the former "school figures" where figure skating gets its name), and the skater has to demonstrate those patterns with good control, power, and flow.  The FS portion is where the skater demonstrates jumps, spins, and footwork, like that is found in a regular competition program.  However, a skater must pass the MIF portion of the test before taking FS. All skaters start at the first level, then work their way up, with each test getting harder to pass as they progress.  For the adult skaters who are skating the adult levels, the first level is Pre-Bronze.  Then, there'ronze, Silver, Gold, then, from there, one can transfer to the remaining USFS levels, and even test all the way up to "Senior" (the highest level).

As for me, I honestly found the whole testing experience a VERY nerve wracking experience.  I generally do not perform skating tests well, because of the nerves.  I can handle performing on flute in front of hundred of people, but put me in front of one judge on the ice is a whole different story!  I know that this is because I'm not that experienced of a skater, and this whole testing thing is still very new for me. I had also been nervous about getting all of my moves down well in preparation for the test, which upped my anxiety level.

For both of my tests, I shared the ice with one other adult skater (which is common for early level testing) and we each had one judge.  We started our patterns at the opposite ends of the rink, and honestly, I'm VERY glad that I had practiced most of my patterns from both ends, knowing that this situation may happen.  The rink itself was very quiet, and there was no one in the stands.  So, I was able to pretty much hear everything that I was doing ...for better or for worse. I normally LOVE it when the rink is super quiet, which rarely happens.  I think there's A LOT of benefit to having quiet sessions where you can hear your edges, because I think hearing music a lot takes that listening ability away to some extent, thus we end up having one less sense to use with learning basic skating skills.  I feel like that skaters should not only be able to feel where their edges are on an element, but how that particular element sounds, and music often covers a lot of that up. There's just a certain calming quality about skating when one can hear their edges cutting into the ice, and I think that gets overlooked.

That being said, I would like to share with you about my morning with testing as a whole, as well as the thoughts that were going through my head as I was testing.  I will warn you that my thoughts were totally not sunshines and rainbows.  I was fighting through really nerves, and trying to think of some technique at the same time to try and remain at least somewhat focused.  This was INCREDIBLY hard for me to do, and I basically just ended up relying on my practice and training to get me through.  Based upon what I was thinking during my tests (especially my MIF), I am glad that my coach was not tough on me as I do enough of that onto myself.  I will have the results posted of my test sessions at the end of this email.

Here goes: the run down of my test session:
I got up around 7 a.m. as my test session was scheduled to start a few minutes before 10. I shower, have breakfast, and get my things together and arrive at the rink at 8:15 or so.  I put my things down, and see that there's a youth hockey game going on.  I'm already super nervous, but decided to do a few simple stretches, and run a few slow laps around the rink, while listening to "Bang Bang" by Arianna Grande.  I only ran about three laps or so, but I totally needed it to sorta get rid of that energy, while starting to get my body warmed up and breathing going.  "Bang Bang" has been my "go to" song lately to get moving, so that was the best thing for me to listen to at the time.

A few minutes later, I go back into the lobby to start stretching, and I tried including stretches for the whole body, but also focusing on the stretches for my spiral.  These included front splits and straddle. By this time, the hockey games are just about done, and more kids who are testing are arriving.  At about 8:45, I start changing into my dress and putting on my make up (ice is being zammed now).  I get out about 10-15 minutes later, and watch the first test taker for a few minutes.  Then, I decided it was best for me to keep moving, and try some off ice rotational jumps.  A few minutes later, my new coach arrives, and I decided to join her and her student into a stretching/warm up routine.  My coach also helps me with stretching my spiral, and by this point, I'm feeling as warmed up as I can probably get.

Around 9:25 or so, we were told that the tests were moving a bit ahead of schedule (a good thing), so those of us in the next group could start getting our skates on.  I get my skates on, check in with one of the monitors, and then meet with the other skaters in my group just outside the door in the lobby. THEN, my previous coach comes in! He came down as a surprise to see me and his other students test!!! I was so glad to see him!!! I had only one lesson with my new coach at this point (just a few days ago, actually), so it was nice to have someone who really knows how I skate, and knows how much I have progressed just before I test.

A few minutes later, we go to just outside the rink door for our on-ice warm up. At this point, nerves are kicking in, and I could not watch the other skater who had to re-skate one of her elements. So, I kept my back to her, did some deep knee bends, and just tried to get myself together.

The warm-up
At a testing session, each group of skaters gets a five minute warm up period.  This period is meant to get your skates under you, and maybe to run through any last minute patterns that you and your coach want to go over.  I did about a 1/2 lap of stroking, then did the crossover pattern with my mohawk transition.  I also did a few forward edges, a few backward edges, then went back to the crossover pattern to try the transition pattern again, as I missed it the first time.  My backward crossovers were scratchy, which wasn't good.  However, in order to help me focus, I gave a brief thought to my "buddy" that I have a running forum, which gave me just a brief moment to breathe and sort of collect myself.  During the last minute, I ran through one round of the Waltz 8, just to make sure that I could 3-turn in both directions.  Then, we were called off the ice.  Reality hit me that I was going to be testing at any moment, as my friend and I were first in our group.  My previous coach tells me that he has faith in me with this test.  My friend and I gave each other a high five, then went out when we were told to do so.

Thoughts going to the judges table

1. Uh oh. This is it. I'm already shaking.  Judges are over there. Skate to them.
 *Side note: The skater always goes to the judge(s) first.  This is to verify information on your testing comments sheets, which they should have.  They may also explain any special accomodations that may be done, such as starting at opposite ends, if there's more than one skater on the ice.*

2. Thank goodness I have practiced most of my patterns using both ends.  Just my luck. I got the "opposite" end of the rink for this test. Oh well. Just go with it.  Trust your practice with this.

3. Oh !@$!! I'm about to start testing. Oh !@#$!! Okay. Find your starting point. You know how to start.There. T-position. Arms up. Breathe. Go.

Thoughts throughout the the test: Forward Perimeter Stroking (CC)
1. Dude, I'm shaking!
2. Did I just toe push on that corner?  Ugh. Keep going.
3. 1-2, 2-3, 3-2....
4. Judge's area straight at 3 O'clock. Keep looking up towards the wall! Arms! Chill! Get in the right position!
5. What the hell just happened with my free foot? Get back up there, foot! Dude, nerves, you're making me really shakey. 4-2..5-2..6-2...
6. Crossovers on the corner.  Better.
7. 1-2, 2-2...This is taking more effort than normal...
8. Keep looking up towards the wall!  No toe pushing!
9. 6-2...crossovers! Keep those arms steady!! Damn you nerves! Arms! They're not windmills!
10. Finish. T-stop. Arms out. Hold. down.

1. Breathe. T-position with right foot in front. Arms out. Go.
2. Whoa. That started a little faster than I expected. Did I just cut that corner a little soon. Hold that stroke a bit longer, just in case.
3. 2-2, 3-2....DON'T LOOK DOWN! Keep looking just above the Meijer sign.
4. Damn you nerves! QUIT MAKING ME SHAKE! Regroup. Regroup. Focus. Keep looking towards the wall. Keep counting. Look towards the wall. Keep going.
5. Crossovers ahead. Go.
6. Ugh. There's that slight scraping with my right foot. Come on! More step! I hope the judge doesn't hear this.
7. 1-2, 2-2, 3-2...judge coming up at 9 o'clock! DO NOT LOOK TOWARDS THE JUDGE!!! LOOK AHEAD!  See that wall? Keep looking towards that.
8. Crossovers now...okay.
9. Finish. T-stop. Arms out. Hold. Down.

Forward Outside Edges:
1. No...don't waste time by going down to your usual spot.  Your fellow adult skater is down there, Just do your thing at this end. You've done this before.
2. Push. Good.
3. 23456...223456
4. Nerves. I freaking hate you right now. Yo. Quit looking down so much. Stay on that edge. Arms, please cooperate.
5. 423456, 523456....done. Overall...not bad.

Forward Inside Edges
1. Ready. Go.
2. Steady....nerves, you're not helping
3. 223456, 323456. So far, I seem to be on an inside edge. Can the judge tell?
4. Almost done...
5. Phew. Done.

Back Outside Edges
1. This is your best backward edge. Give it a good push to start.
2. Damn...not quite as good of a push that you can do. That is the nerve's fault.  We'll make up for it on the other lobes.
3. Better!  Keep going. 223456...
4. Ugh...Nerves! I'm shaking! 323456...423456...
5. Hold that edge, Look towards the sholder. Extend, not spiral...hold.
6. Finish. T-stop. Arms out. Hold. Down.

Back Inside Edges
1. Come on, give me a good push to start these edges.
2. Damn it, nerves! That push sucked!  Make it to the line, make it to the line...made it.
3. Did I just skate on the wrong foot? I hope not.  Okay, worst case scenario is that I would have to reskate it.  Keep going.
5. Ugh. Nausea.  Not what I need right now....
6. These lobes are feeling off....ugh
7. Finished.  Uh oh...crossover pattern next.

Crossover Pattern
2. First up. Forward crossovers. Ready. Go.
3. Push, Cross. Push.Cross....
4. First transition...could've used more lean. Oh well. Go.
5. There's that scraping of my left foot.  Come on. Lean! Step! Better!
6. Oh !@#$ Transition is coming up. Shut up. Do these crossovers first. Transition is later.
7. Transition time...oh boy....aim towards the the center. Swing. GET ON THE INSIDE EDGE! Okay...could've used more inside edge, but GO!! Okay, not the cleanest, but no turning back now.
9. Transition...extend leg...down...go!
10.  Better crossovers on this side.
11. Did I do the same amount of crossovers on each side? I have no idea.  I'm just going to assume I did.
12. Finish. Ugh.

Waltz 8
1. Finally! A pattern that I can do in my "normal" spot!  About time!
2. Whoops. Body started just started. 2,3(turn), 4-5-6..
3. Hold the edge. Look towards your sholder. Don't raise the hip..keep holding..ugh.nerves and nausea still going.
4. Whoa. That felt a bit tight around that spot. Hang on. Good. Back to center.
5. Right foot. Are my lobes somewhat even as this side felt more solid.
6. Back to center.
7. Second time. Left side. Repeat.
8. Back to center...stay steady....
9. Right side.
10. Last time. Repeat...back to center.
11. Finish! Spirals!

1. Last test. Hey! Can I start my spirals there? Oh wait. Crap. She's starting over there, and is waiting to her start her pattern. What do I do? Crap. I have to use the other end again...and I haven't practiced my spirals much there.  Okay body, just trust yourself here.  You can do this pattern, It's the same steps.

2. I hope I did the right amount of intro steps..

3. Nerves, whatever you do, KEEP.ME.UPRIGHT! DO NOT HAVE ME FACEPLANT!! ..Left leg up!!!  Hold it...balance....

4. Judge's area to the right at a 3 o'clock!  Look up and hold! Turn the foot out! Hold! Make it to the blue line! Phew! Change feet!

5. Hold it!  Nerves, now is NOT the time to make me shake!  You're making this HARD! HOLD! Point that foot! Dude! That's some MAJOR foot shaking!! Okay, down! You made it!

6. Finish. Arms out. down.  Turn towards judging area. ("Thank you!") D.O.N.E!!!! YOU.ARE.DONE!!!!  Get your butt off the ice!!!

I got off the ice, still in full force nerves, anxiety, and some nausea.  One of the first people I see is both my new coach and my previous coach, and both were happy with how I tested. I felt like keeling over from the nerves and anxiety at this point.  My other friend and I gave each other another high five for finishing (during the tests, I could also hear when she finished each pattern).  A few others told me that I did well, and I was able to finally breathe and take skates off, and had another hour to re-collect myself.

Freeskate Test
For this test, I was much less nervous, as a I had a chance to calm down from my moves test.  On this test, I had to do forward crossovers (good direction), backward crossovers (also good direction), two jumps of choice (waltz and salchow), two foot spin (3 revolutions, minimum), 1 foot spin (3 revolutions, minimum), and a spiral or lunge (I did a spiral).  Like the moves test, I shared the ice with another adult skater, and we each had a different judge.  We approached the judges, verified all of our testing info, and then were told which elements to do first. I was told to do my jumps. For what it is worth, I'll tell you my thoughts during that test.

Approaching the judge's table
1. Here I go again. I can handle this.
2. Is this the same judge? She looks familiar...oh well.
3. Okay. Here we go.

Waltz jump
1. Backward crossovers...push, cross, push, cross, push cross...step forward on the outside edge..ready...NOW!
2. Whew. Landed..not that big or high, but landed. Hold the KNOW this position. Good!

1. Please let this be decent. Please let this be decent....
2. Check. Hold...jump!
3. Ugh...too much lean...funky landing...just hang on. This can be re-skated if needed.
4. Back to the the judge. Crossovers are next. Go.

Forward Crossovers (CCW)
1. Keep leaning, Push. Cross. Push. Cross. Good. Keep this up.
2. How many of these have I done?  Oh well, just go back to about where you started and call it good from there.

Backward Crossovers (CW)
1. Crap. I forgot. Which way am I going again?  *Starts to head in one direction*
2. Wait. That's my "bad" side. Start over there for your good side.
3. Push. Cross...Push. Cross....come on legs and edges, work with me here. You're scratching some..
4. Now, you're going! Better! Circle is a bit wide, but just go with it. MUCH smoother now...phew!
5. Finish. Back to the judge's table (spins)

Two Foot Spin
1. Ugh. Scratchy wind up...will have to correct this once and for all. Push...up...hold...other foot down...SPIN!!!
2. HANG ON!!!
3. Exit. Extend...
4. Now one foot.

1 Foot Spin
1. Wait whoa...this wind up is funky....hold hold hold...just step and fight for it...
2. Up...2 3....steady.....
3. Cross...ugh...not quite steady enough for scratch...just keep holding in this position...
4. Done. Exit
5. Back to the judge's area. (spiral)

1. This is NOT the MIF pattern. You can take an extra step if needed. You got this.
2. and....UP!! HOLD!! Keep extending!!  Hold..hold...hold...try to make it all the way across. Dang it foot, why do you shake so bad with pointing the toe?
3. Okay...all the way across is not going to happen. You got about 3/4 which is good enough.  Come down. Stop.
4. Turn towards judge ("Thank you!") *Slight bow from me. I respond "Thank you!" back.

I felt MUCH better coming off the ice this time around. I knew that salchow was my weakest element, but felt that everything else was pretty good as a whole.  My waltz jump felt small to me, but landed with a really nice landing position that I worked hard on, and I felt that everything else was definitely passing as well.  It also felt good that I didn't have nerves killing me.  A while later, I got the results from this test.  Both comments sheets are posted below for you to see.  All and all, testing is VERY hard for me, but I am glad that I challenged myself to do it!


Saturday, December 19, 2015

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

One of the chapters in my "skating book" has finally come to an end.  I had my last lesson with my coach on Wednesday, and last saw him on the ice (at least for a while) this morning.  My coach is leaving as he will be starting his masters in Nursing at DePaul University in Chicago.  I'm so grateful to have had a coach who was not afraid to take on the challenge of teaching an adult beginning FS level skater, who also happens to be a clockwise skater, who has been through my skating ups and downs, and not once has told me that my skating goals are not attainable.

I am excited about his future endeavors, and am excited about working with the new coach that is lined up for me, but he will be someone that I will never forget. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


IT FINALLY HAPPENED!!! I HAVE A SWING TO INSIDE MOHAWK TRANSITION!!!! Seriously, this transition has been a MAJOR roadblock for me since I started working on Pre-Bronze MITF this past year.  It's such a simple looking move, but for me, it has been a big source of frustration, fear, and tears.  I simply could not get onto the correct spot on my foot to allow for the transition to happen in my crossover patten, no matter which direction I went.  

Well, low and behold, it "clicked" yesterday.  I cannot describe how excited I am to have this happen! All it took was a simple change in my thought process as I'm doing the element.  I had been thinking "swing mohawk" as one element, and not dividing it into two parts.  So the other day, I just happened to think "swing" (get comfy on the inside edge) then "mohawk," and BAM! It worked!  I felt comfortable on the edge enough to put my foot down as I was in a good spot on my blade to allow it to happen. In the past, with thinking of the move as one whole chunk, I would freak out because I didn't have my balance on the proper edge, and I knew that if I went to put my foot down, I was going to fall, and that wasn't helping my fear factor at all.  My coach and I spent a lessons on this element, without much progress.  I have been so frustrated to the point of giving up on it, and have even cried over this.  It's like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and I feel MUCH more confident on this! Is it perfect? Of course not, but am I way beyond happy to have this type of progress? YES!!  Who knew that just breaking down the element a bit would make such a huge difference?  I wish that this happened sooner, rather than later, but this is something that I had to sort out for myself, even if it took me so long to do it.  

I know that there are other improvements to make on the crossover pattern, but I'm so much more confident now, so I can move forward with making the improvements, and be ready to test in January!

Monday, October 26, 2015

It's the fall semester!

Wow. It has really been a long time since I posted on here!

In a nutshell, I am still skating, and continue to make progress.  I can't remember if I had posted this before, but I had thought about testing my Pre-Bronze MITF back in the spring.  Although I had been working really hard on the test, I decided to not test as I was honestly not prepared for it.  The most difficult pattern for me is the crossovers, simply because I really struggle with the inside swing mohawk transition that is suppose to occur between the forward and backward crossovers.  Although I remember initially being really upset with this decision, I'm glad that I decided to not test. I know that the test is "only" pass/re-try, but I want to pass the test well, and not just barely squeak by. I had learned my lesson the previous year about testing something that I'm honestly not ready for, and I don't care to repeat the experience. That being said, I am looking at testing later this semester (December or so), and THIS time, I will be ready. I backed out of the test once,and I don't want to do that again.  I am also planning on testing my Pre-Bronze Freeskate, as my coach said that I would be ready for that as well.

So..this summer...I was able to skate a few days a week at my rink, as it was FINALLY open for the summer!!! Yay!!  There, I started re-focusing on my MITF as well as learning back three turns, a sit spin, and back scratch spin.  I also found out that my coach is going to be leaving in December, so I only have a few more months with him.  I'm going to really miss him as he's the coach that I've had the lonest (since I was in ISI FS 1, basically).  I'm suppose to be transitioning to a new coach as of January, but I 'm not ready for that transition yet! I want to hang onto my coach forever!  However, I am also happy for him as he got accepted into a good graduate school, and will still be able to put me onto the ice for competitions in the Chicago area, so it's not like he will be gone-gone.

My other big news is this...NEW SKATES!!!!! I've been having a lot of problems with my old skates (Jackson Classiques), so this summer, I decided to finally get fitted for a new pair. A week ago Saturday, I was finally able to pick up my new skates, and so far I LOVE them.  When I got measured, I was told that my (now old) skates were a size and half too big length wise, and didn't at all fit me around my foot. I have about an A width heel and ankle, but am much wider towards the ball of the foot (and even have a slight bunion, most likely due to my skates).  So now, instead of being in an 8 1/2, I'm now in a 7 in a Jackson Premiere. My blade is also completely different. My previous blade was a Ultima Mirage, which is okay for beginner skate.  My new blade is a 9 3/4 inch Protoge.  I was really excited, but nervous about the new skates because of the fear of the skates being really stiff and adjusting to the new blades. Honestly, as a whole, these skates are breaking in VERY nicely!  I've had a few minor issues with my right ankle area, but it's nothing that undoing the skate for a few minutes, or re-adjusting the tongue can't resolve, and these are to be expected. I did have one fall over my toe picks, but it wasn't bad.

I first skated in my skates the next day, and I will admit that I could hardly do anything in them.  I felt like I was in someone's else's skates and my feet were like "Whoa...this isn't right."  Seriously, all I could do at first was swizzles and one foot glides.  However, after about 30 minutes or so, I was able to try crossovers.  Since then, I've progressed extremely quickly to my "normal" footwork/edges. My coach has already seen major improvements with my skating, and we're working towards re-adjusting to the new skates. I'm already back to spinning, although that is a bit of challenge as I have to re-find my "sweet spot," so that will take some additional. Part of that will be from really riding my right outside edge (remember that I'm a clockwise/leftie skater), but I'm expecting that to kick in the not-so-distant future.  As a whole, I cannot stress the importance of having good, supportive skates and blades, regardless of your skating level.  They really do make a difference!  I know that I'm feeling MUCH more safe with skating in these skates, as my foot is pretty much on lock down, so it won't shift, have my heel come up, not get loose on me, you name it.  My previous skates were actually very dangerous for me to skate in, so I'm so glad that I finally have something that works well.  These skates and blades should last me up to axel or possibly beginning doubles (if I get that far).

In addition to the new skates, I will be skating two completely new programs this year. I was able to choose the music, and, for the first time, cut the music myself. I had to scrap my original plan of skating to one piece ("Beethoven's 5 Secrets by the Piano Guys) as my coach and I couldn't come up with a good cut.  However, I came across the soundtrack to "Dangerous Beauty" on youtube, by just looking up "figure skating music."  This year, I am planning on skating ISI Bronze again, but also giving a dramatic a try.  The nice thing about a dramatic program is that I can use elements up to FS 4, so it's a good way for me to keep challenging myself, yet not stress over not having all of my FS 4 elements.  For my Bronze program, I'll be skating to "Veronica and Marco," and for my dramatic, I will be skating to "Imprisonment."  The later is going to be especially challenging as it's very dark, and so it will be my job to portray that mood...something that I have never done.  However, I think this will be good, as it will force me outside of my "box."

That's about it for now.  I will try to add updates more often, so just bear with me!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Enough is enough!!!

Rant ahead, just FYI, but I"m feeling the need to post this as a figure skater who is trying to find that balance of being healthy, without going overboard.....

Sometimes, I get really tired of people comparing themselves to me in terms of them wanting to lose weight, eating healthier, not being physically active (considering that I run, figure skate, and do gymnastics), etc. For those of who have known me for a long time know that I've always been on the thin side. Sure, I might be lucky, blessed, have good genes, or what have you for having a thin build, but hearing stuff like this on a regular basis from this person is making me feel very self conscious, and I'm not liking it. I especially don't like that she's making comments that two of my arms could fit into one of her shirt sleeves, and the like. I have told her that being thin isn't everything, that she is fine the way she already is, if she wants to make changes to be healthier, then she should start small, and go from there, etc. However, I'm still getting all of these "I'm fat" related comments, and her comparing herself to me for being thin, which is making me feel very self-conscious. I've had my own (minor) body issues to deal with, and I'm still trying to have a good balance with my diet, although my willpower to not having junk food lately is MUCH lower...don't know if that's a good thing or brain goes "It's JUNK!," yet my body goes "But it tastes so good!" Sheesh. 

Bottom line, I may have to speak up and tell her to stop using me as a reference for her weight woes, because it's making me feel really uncomfortable. I really wish that she would just accept herself for who she is and what she has,quit complaining, and make the changes herself if she wants to get healthier. I can't do the work for her, and am willing to give her encouragement/support in her healthier endeavors, but she has to take the first steps (whatever those may be), and stop comparing herself to me. 

Enough is enough!!!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

There's a first for everything....

Competition season is upon us here at the U of I, and I did my first competition of the season last Saturday at Homewood-Flossmoor.  The competition got off to a super late start due to the sound system malfunctioning, but was able to catch up and be on time again.  As a whole, my events (ISI Bronze solo, compulsories, and FS 3 interpretive) went well, and it was a good competition overall.  I met two other adult skaters there, and I got the chance to cheer on one of them as they competed right before me.  The other adult skaters were Gold and Silver level.  The gold level skater and I happened to meet earlier that day, and she told me that she had remembered me from last year, and I inspired HER to compete again this year.  I was very honored and humbled by this, and that alone was enough to make my day in skating. It just reminded that I may never know who's watching me, and may be inspired to skate for the first time, or return to skating/competing.

 Results wise, I got a first place finish "against the book" both my solo and interpretive skate.  For my interpretive skate, I was given "Fireball" by Pitbull, which I'm thankfully familiar with.  Interpretive was actually pretty fun! I honestly didn't really know what to in the first half of the song (about 30 seconds or so), but there was a big downbeat a bit later, and suddenly, you couldn't help but basically dance to it.  I basically focused on footwork type of stuff, and I hope that I get better with interpretive skating, I can just really go things and really play things up to the audience.  However as a whole, I came off the ice feeling that I had done well, and was told by several other people (mostly from my rink) that I did well.

Also, at this competition, I faced a first for me....falling in competition.  I'm sure it was bound to happen to me at some point, and that some point was during my compulsory portion.  For my compulsories, I was required to perform my change foot spin, dance step sequence for FS 3, and a salchow.  I fell on my salchow, which was my last element of the routine.  I'm not quite sure what I did wrong, but my feeling is that I was too tilted when I took off, throwing off my balance when I went to land, and I couldn't hold onto it.  Too be honest, I was disappointed about that jump, and I knew that fall was going to cost me.  I know that I was skating against the book, and I have been struggling with that jump a little bit lately, but for the most part, it's been pretty consistent for me. I was suppose to get my falls out of the way up to the competition, not the other way around.  So, for me to have that fall when I've been working so hard to do well, was disappointing.  The rest of the routine had also gone pretty well too!  I pretty much nailed my change foot, although I was on my toe just a little bit at the end of the backspin (could've swore I heard my coach yell "nice!"), and my dance step was alright...could've stayed more steady on my outside mohawk so that it looked more like a mohawk than a bracket (and a bad bracket at that), but was other wise good.  I was especially happy with the change foot as those have FINALLY kicked in.

However, looking back at that fall, what I told myself a bit later on in the day was that fall was ONLY a fall...nothing else. I did not disappoint my coach, the audience as a whole, or even the judges.  They marked me down because of a technicality with my skating, that's it. As a matter of fact, my coach was super proud of me going out there and competing, and doing well as a whole.  It takes A LOT of courage to go out there and compete, especially as an adult, and doubly so when you're in a competition with mostly kids/teenagers.  So knowing that, I am glad I competed, and have hopes to do another competition later this spring if finances will allow.

As for back at the home rink, my rink has changed hands from ISI to USFS.  This change has been a change in the making since I started skating, and has finally come through.  I'm not entirely sure why we changed hands, but I hope that this will draw really good coaches to our rink, so that we can continue to increase the quality of good skaters at competitions.

Speaking of coaches, I'm in the process of changing of changing coaches.  My current coach, Jeremy, is graduating this spring, and will not be staying here for graduate school.  I respect his decision to go someplace else, and want the absolute best for him, but am very sad that he is moving on.  His leaving is one of the sad things that I don't like about our rink...coaches coming and going every few years due to them being college students.  However, what I am liking is that Jeremy is taking the initiative in finding a new coach for me.  Unfortunately, I'm not able to skate much this next week or so, due lack of finances, but I have a lesson scheduled with a potential coach, Michelle, in about two weeks.  I don't know too much about her, but she has come from one of the top skating training centers in country (even did boarding school there), and sounds like she has quite a bit of competing and coaching experience under her belt.  She would also be able to put me onto the ice for both ISI and USFS, which is a bonus.

My other personal choice is Max Liu, who use to teach Gracie Gold.  I know first hand that he's an excellent coach, and has flat out said that he enjoys working with adult skaters (major plus in my book).  I have seen him coach other students at our rink, so I know he can be tough.  However, I also know that he's also very good because of his emphasis on technique, which I sometimes feel like a lot of our coaches lack with their teaching, in order to "push" students through levels.  Then, when it comes to competition, the student doesn't generally do as well because of it.

My plan with both of these potential coaches is to take a few lessons with each, and Jeremy wants to be involved by observng/"co-teaching" the lessons.  That way, he can have some additional imput about who he thinks would be a better fit for me.  Ultimately, it'll be my decision on who I want to be my coach, but this way, we can discuss the positives and negatives together.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Semester in Review

Wow. I've been horrible about posting things this semester!  Hopefully, I will post a bit more once the new year starts.  So, for those of you who may have missed it, here's my semester in review. You final will be at the end of this post. *wink wink* :)

As usual, my rink closed for the summer in early May.  I literally spent the entire summer working at summer day camps in town, and doing TONS of off ice training.  I took off ice private lessons all summer with my current coach, and took an off ice class.  One of the coaches teaching the class also happens to be a clockwise skater, so naturally, I was often paired up with her when working on jumps.  I even worked on some off ice axels, and had some VERY good goes with it.  However, I started having issues with my left hip.  I kept landing too hard in general, so I was having some muscle pain, even with landing on waltz jumps.  It wasn't anything serious, but it was something that my coach and I definitely took a look at, and worked on fixing.  So far, knock on wood, things have seemed to have healed, and I haven't had problems since.

In addition to my off ice private lessons and classes, I was still running and took up weight lifting at my gym.  The later was due to my off ice lessons since we were using weights at my coach's gym where he was living at the time.  Weight lifting has kicked my butt, plain and simple.  However, I made progress, and was able to start increasing the weights for my squats and bench press.  In addition, I was also in a pool a few days a week since I was with summer camp kids, and would work on in-water jumping when I was able to do so, which proved to be a lot of fun since I have no fear of going under if I messed up.  I also worked on jumps from off a diving board, and even tried my hand at an in-water climbing wall.  I didn't do so well with that since the knobs were really hard on my feet, and it takes a ton of upper body strength, but I can't say that I didn't try. :)

Throughout the summer, I was able to skate a few times at different rinks, which was really good for me, as I could totally feel how much stronger I was getting as a result of my off ice work.  Plus, I felt like I didn't totally lose my skills from this past year since I was able to skate more often.  My rink FINALLY re-opened in mid-September, and I was soon able to start weekly lessons with my current coach.

Skate America!!!

In October, I got the chance of a life time to see Skate America in Hoffman Estates (one of Chicago area suburbs), and I served as an ice monitor for the practice sessions.  Basically, I would let the skaters off and on the ice.  This was such an amazing experience to see the skaters and their coaches up close, and was just amazed at watching these skaters fly around the rink with seemingly no fear of falling.  I also learned a few things, as well as gaining a few words of wisdom from being arms length away from some of these skaters and their coaches:

1. The competitors are normal human beings, and many of them are SUPER nice! They are also human beings knowing that many of them get super nervous before going onto the ice.
2. Even top notch competitors utilize basic skating skill drills in their practices. This includes bunny hops, basic stroking, and waltz jumps.
3. The top notch coaches will STILL correct their skaters on basic positions...head up, bent knees, pull-in, etc.
4. To see a major skating event for free...VOLUNTEER! It's a great way to see the events, be an active part of the skating community, and to see/hear top notch skaters up close!
5. Pairs skaters use a spray on adhesive on their hands to prevent slippage during lifts. I had never thought about that!
6. Skaters do need positive reinforcement from their coaches.  I heard Jason Brown say something about his triple axel that he was uncertain about.  His coach was literally right by me, and what was her response? "Trust it." I totally needed to hear that.
7.  What I need to remind myself now because of #6 with my own skating: Go for it. Risk it. Trust it. 8. Jason Brown really is SUPER nice! He is totally this happy go lucky guy that just makes makes me smile when I watch him skate.
9.  Arena food is super crappy and majorly expensive.  Another perk to being a volunteer is having MUCH better food choices back stage.
10. Watching these types of competitions live will make you work that much harder when you get back to the rink.  You know that you will never be at the level that these skaters are at as an adult skater, but you will work your butt off that much harder to work on the skills that you have your current skating level.

Basically, this event was the skating "pick me up" that I desperately needed, so I was able to return to the rink a few days later with the renewed energy.  I started attacking my program more for my rink's fall exhibition skate, and was even attacking my Pre-Bronze MITF more.  Since I was able to attack my program more, I did a successful first performance skate of the season with my program that I'm planning on using for skating competitions this winter/spring.  My coach and I re-choreographed my jazz number ("In the Mood" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra), which is my ISI Bronze program.  My program wasn't perfect, but I was happy with how I skated during the actual exhibition, and my coach was also extremely proud of me.

At this point, I'm working on really cleaning up that program for the Homewood-Flossmoor Polar Ice competition in January.  I'm also working really hard onto finally getting that "devil" change foot spin as it's still not happening.  THAT has been frustrating to the point of tears for me, however I have gotten it a few times, so I think a lot of it is mental at this point.  I just hope that I will have two clean change foots for in my program and one in my compulsories.  I'm not really worried about any of the other elements, but I have to get that change foot to happen. I'm trying hard to be patient with it, and have done a fully rotated change foot spin here and there, so I know that they're hiding in the ice, so I just have to keep working on finding them.

This fall, I also continued with off ice training with my coach, and ran a local 5k at the end of September called the "Woman's Fitness Run," which the local running club hosted.  There were approximately 80 runners, and I came in 32nd overall with a time of 30:30, and place 11th in my age group.  At first, I was not happy with how I did since I started off way too fast, almost got too hot, and just about ended up walking from tiring out.  However, looking back, I actually did really well, and I have hopes to place in the top 10 for my age group next year.

In addition, I also ran a 5k back in August.  It was the "pie run" which was my first ever 5k from the year before.  Although this race is not timed, I finished the race in 23 minutes and change, which averaged to about an 8:25 mile, and I finished third overall.  I was actually the lead female runner for 3/4 of the race.  Since it was a "pie run" pie was served at the water stops along with water.  Knowing that there's no way that I can run and eat pie without getting sick, I skipped the water stops (I had my own with me), which saved me on time, and probably helped me keep my lead.

Unfortunately, I have not been running much as of recently, but am hoping to get back into it as I'm planning on running in the half marathon again here in April, which will take time to train for.  However, I am taking an adult beginning gymnastics class at a local gym, and it is SO.MUCH.FUN!!  It's expensive about ($130 for 8 weeks), but is totally worth it, and it is GREAT for off ice training.  This is because gymnastics is all focused on flexibility, balance, and strength, which is all done by your own body.  I am planning on keeping up with the gymnastics, and actually even have hopes to compete in my first adult meet in march. I might be doing "low level" skills, but someone's gotta show people that you can start gymnastics in adulthood, so it might as well be me. Like ISI FS levels, there are 10 levels to gymnastics, with level 10 being the hardest.  Most of my skills are around a level 3 at this point, although I do not have a strong bridge, due to lack of shoulder and back flexibility, plus the needed arm strength.  It is something that I'm working on, because I have hopes to make progress to harder maneuvers from there.  So far, I think my favorite events are vault, beam, floor, and bars (although that may change), and it's been extremely good for me as I've got very little fear with working on my elements, so I'm able to attack them more.  This is because if I screw up, I land on much softer surfaces.  I have even been finding myself pounding out stress with landing on those mats, so it's been very great for me mentally as well.  I actually wish I had more of that "let me at it" attitude on the ice.  However, there's a big difference with my fear of falling because ice doesn't have any give if you crash...unfortunately.

So yeah...that's what I have for this semester.  Since I"m officially on Christmas break from work, my plan is to skate a lot, do some skating for the sheer fun of it, and focus on off ice training again.  I may have to see about setting up some type of schedule for myself, as it is extremely easy for me to overdo things and wear myself out in the process.  However, I'm determined to continue to improve with my skating, and am also so grateful that I've also found gymnastics to love as well.  :)

That's it for now.  I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season, and happy skating!