Friday, November 25, 2016

Fifty on Ice: Time for a New Challenge

I don't think I saw this one coming, but it's almost here.  In a couple of weeks, I'm going to turn 50. Since it's going to happen with or without my consent (the only other option being far less desirable), I think I'd like to make the best of it, and try to use the half-century year marker as an incentive to step it up on a hobby that's become a big part of my life: figure skating. While I was co-leading a hike this fall with the Saint Michael's College Adventure Sports Program, one of the participants told me about a man who decided to use each year of his life to see how far he could get on mastering a specific sport or skill.  That idea sounded great to me, so I'm borrowing it.

So here's my goal for the 50th year of my existence: to become a better figure skater. More specifically, from December 10, 2016 to December 10, 2017 I am going to commit to steadily and consistently working on my skating, and to weekly tracking of what happens when I do.

I should note at the onset two things: first, I am not a highly skilled figure skater and second, I have no illusions that I will become one.  I did a lot of pond skating as a kid and some more intermittently on rinks as an adult.  About three years ago I started taking adult lessons consistently and learned some humbling lessons:

  • There are some skills that are way easier to learn as a kid.  Figure skating is one of them.
  • Adults skaters (especially this one) are scared of falling.  Kids are like rubber bands when they fall.  Adults (like me anyway) are whatever analogy encompasses brittleness and easy bruising.
  • To be an adult figure skating is to learn patience.  Tons and tons of patience. One of the classes I am taking is an old-school figures class, where we basically skate on one foot to trace figure eight patterns (or some variant of them).  It took me almost the entire year last year to learn to do the first outside and inside forward eight pattern.  This year, I'm working on doing it backwards, and I strongly doubt I'll get it before the year is over.
  • On the plus side, the satisfaction of learning or mastering a skill is timeless. It may definitely be frustrating that it takes so long to learn skating skills, but it is simply great to be able to do something I couldn't do a year ago.
This is what "patch" figures class looks like -- tracing circles that are hard to see over and over to learn how to skate on the "edges" of the skating blade.  Here, I'm practicing a forward pattern and behind me from friend Jackye is doing a much more difficult backward one.

I have three different teachers (in the skating world they're coaches) who are helping me along this path.  Martha teaches two adult classes I am in, an advanced adult group class on Wednesday mornings and a figures adult group class on Tuesday morning.  Russ is my ice dance coach and we have a lesson in Waterbury (about half an hour away) on Friday mornings, and finally, Melody is my free skate and moves-in-the-field coach who I work with once a week around the other lessons. I usually skate at the Leddy Park Rink, in the New North End of Burlington, and have a group of fellow adult skaters -- some who had illustrious earlier skating careers, some like me, who chose to delve deeper later in life -- who I skate with in early morning lessons and practices.  Ice dancing is with Russ who teaches with his fellow coach and wife, Vera, at the Waterbury Rink. Occasionally I make use of two other nearby rinks, the Cairns Arena in South Burlington, and the Gutterson Rink at the University of Vermont.

Each year my home rink, Leddy Park, organizes a Holiday Ice Show and a late spring show.  For the last few years our adult skating group has participated with a number for the show.  This is from December 2015; this year's will be a take-off from the Blues Brothers.
And here's our Beauty School Dropout (from m the show Grease) spring 2016 number.  I'm sitting in the middle between two much better skaters, Jennifer and Jackye, and my coach Melody, was Frenchie, with Alan (who began ice skating after he retired)

Something I learned from the year 2010 when I resolved to try 52 new things in a year, is that keeping track of them regularly and publicly (via this blog) was a great way to keep me accountable, excited and feeling like I was making progress.  So, I'm trying it again.

Here are the specific goals I have for the time between my 50th and 51st birthdays:
  • To pass the next  (Pre-Bronze Level) three ice dances in the US Figure Skating sequence: Swing Dance, Cha Cha and Fiesta Tango
  • To pass my Pre-Bronze Free Skate test
  • To be able to skate three of the six elements of the Silver Moves in the Field test
  • To learn and perform my first solo freestyle program
A grainy pic from my first ice dance exam.  I've passed tests on the three easiest ice dances so far: Dutch Waltz, Canasta Tango and Rhythm Blues.  The next three are harder, and  incorporate skills like skating with a partner backwards and switching from backward to forward  (and back again) during the dance.

A couple years ago I would have had no idea what most of the words in the above list of goals even meant, which is kind of amusing to me. I probably also means that my boyfriend Jon is right and I am becoming ever more entangled in the little sub-culture that is adult figure skating.  But I think it might be interesting to explain it as I track it, for anyone who, like me, finds exploring the ins and outs of other subcultures interesting.

So, the plan is to post a weekly update, and do a quarterly check-in on how the four goals listed above are going. I try to go skating at least four days a week, and am hoping it increase that in the coming year, so if there are people who've been needing a nudge to get your skates out, or join an adult class, or try it for the very first time, this is your invitation.  I hope to see you at the rink (or help you get there). If you want to come skating let me know!

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