Saturday, 11 May 2013


I've fallen into a slump. Skating doesn't interest me as much as it did before now. I don't know if it's because of the stress of doing another recital and eventually compete and test again, or because I feel I've reached a progress bottleneck. Probably both. Grad school stressing me out doesn't help either.

The stress factor seems stupid. I wanted to perform, compete, test, or at least I did back when I was still passionate about everything skating. Since I told my coach I wanted to do all of that, naturally we have these things lined up. The plan was that I might be doing a competition in September, so coach wants me to perform again at the recital in June to get more experience. And then I also wanted to do the bronze MITF test in September. The biggest problem now is my program. It's the same one as before, except that we've switched out the toe loop after the spiral to a flip (at my request), and the one foot spin to a scratch spin (at my protest). But after my last recital, I didn't do any part of my program for an entire month, and then for another two, three weeks, I only ran it without music. So now that coach is making me practice to music again, I can't. It's awful. I'm dreadfully behind time even though I feel more rushed than before, my scratch spin takes longer than the original one-foot spin, I can't do the back-power-3 into loop jump anymore, the back-3 scares the hell out of me, and for some reason, my stamina has gone down a lot, I am completely out of breath after one run-through. And on my last run-through, I had a gigantic unexpected fall, splat onto my butt (at least it was on the side where I have a butt pad), and even my insides felt shaken. I almost felt like just sitting there on the ice and shedding tears of self-pity. So because of my dismal performance, and my anxiety of how am I going to get this back to okay in a month, I feel less inclined to do it, meaning I don't want to practice. Yet the less I practice, the worse I get. And then the less I want to practice. And repeat.

As to the bottleneck, I just feel like I'm not making any progress. It could be that I'm still looking for that feeling during the first year of skating, where every other week I'd be exclaiming, oh! I can do a one-foot spin now! Or, oh I landed my first loop! I don't even remember the last time I said I learnt something new. I know everything gets harder so it will take longer to learn, but I feel like week after week, I've been working on the same things - sit spin, which is not getting any lower; camel spin, which is not getting past 1 rev, if any; back spin, which is not getting past even half a rev; waltz-loop, which sometimes decides to happen and sometimes doesn't, depending on, I don't know what, the stars?; and the lutz, which is just - weird. And so I don't want to practice.

I skate because I love it, because I want to have fun. So if it's becoming a pressure, that's not what I want. The thing I want to do the most now is to just take a break from skating, but that would be a bad idea, since after two weeks of not skating, all my muscles will have disappeared and I'd basically have to start again. I've had this experience once last year when I went home and didn't skate for three weeks. It was not good. So I can't take a break. I had a good long talk with my skating friend, and she said that I should lay off the performance/competition/test for now. But I feel bad suddenly turning my decision around and telling my coach that I don't want to do the recital anymore. My friend assured me that my coach (who is honestly the nicest coach at our rink) will understand. She said I need to ask coach to do more fun things during our lesson, instead of having to work on the program or the moves, especially with a deadline looming there. I'm going to take her advice and talk to coach at our next lesson, even though I'm still scared of what she might think. I hope everything works out and skating can go back to being something I look forward to.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Awesome coach

My coach is awesome! (my private coach, not the group coach, though she's awesome too)

So the story is that I'm working on my five-step mohawk for the bronze MITF, and I realize I'm doing the third step of the sequence for my left and right side differently! On one side I push onto the BO edge and keep the free leg forward, on the other side I extend the free leg to the back. I asked coach what that step is supposed to be and she said free leg is not specified, so either is fine. However, most people either do one or the other, and not a combination (ie. I'm odd). Coach said she wanted to guess on which side I do what. After thinking about it for a minute, she came up with the right answer! True, it is only a fifty-fifty decision, but she had actual reasoning behind the guess. She had based it off of the little things I always do and how one side of my body tends to do what.

I was quite impressed at hearing all this, I never realized that she pays so much attention to all the details of my skating, and remembers them all. I feel like she knows my skating much better than I do myself. I don't think I would have been able to come up with that answer.

I feel so lucky to have her as my coach. She knows what things should be stressed at what point in my skating skills progression. Some things that she didn't pick on before doesn't mean she's not doing her job and correcting me, it's just that at the level I was at before, there are far more important things to focus on. As I progress further, she'll start pointing out things that she now thinks I should be doing. Like right now, she keeps fussing about my check-out position, something that didn't matter as much back when my jumps were slow and small. She never used to say anything on my (lack of) toe point and extension and such, but now it's something she continuously brings up. I love how she totally knows what she's doing.

We have the same way of thinking about skating too, both very analytic and needing everything to be explained. My group coach has complained (for lack of a better word) many times about how I always want to over-think things when I should just let my body do it and feel it. But that's why she recommended my current coach when I asked her for recommendations, she knew we were alike lol.

I'm a lucky skater : )

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

In the harness

First time in the harness!

Our entire group class was super excited when coach announced that we're getting a go on the harness in group class! I've been itching to try it even though I don't really have anything to practice on it for, it's not like I'm doing axels or any doubles yet.

When she asked who wanted to go first, we were all a little hesitant. I said I'd love to try but I have no clue what I'm supposed to try with it. So coach suggested me to try an axel. So in addition to being in the harness for the first time, I also tried an axel for the first time!

Since I have never used the harness before (I didn't even know what I was supposed to do with it when she handed it to me lol), we went through a few basic things to get a feel, like jumping up and down on the spot, and jumping and rotating once on the spot. Then she got me to do a waltz jump from a standstill. Waltz jumps should be easy enough at this point, but not if you've never been on the harness! The fact that there was still a slight pull upwards when I'm about to land threw me off the landing timing completely, and I couldn't land at all. I want to say I fell, but since she was pulling on the harness, I sort of slowly dropped to the floor awkwardly instead. Waltz jump worked on the second try, so on to a waltz-loop. Again, that gradual drop to the ice, but two more tries and it was good enough.

We had about ten people to go in our class time of 45 min, so we each only had a few minutes to play. So fast forward to trying an axel! Of course I didn't even come close to landing one, but it was really fun. It was so liberating to not be scared at all and just throw myself up in the air. I have no clue how far in the rotation I managed to get, I wish I could have seen myself. According to coach though, I did really good (but she's always very lavishing with compliments though). Super fun group class!

I can't wait for the day when I really get to work on axels! But as I can't even do a backspin yet, there's probably still quite a while to go.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Next big obstacle


We officially started working on the bronze moves after my recital (must remember to still practice program sometime, I still need it for a future unknown competition). I've already learnt the forward and backward perimeter power stroking, and the power-3's. The 5-step mohawk I've tried and can do (but not well of course). So we spent our lesson checking the stuff that I know, teaching me the beginning and end steps, and then the newest addition - the circle-8! (I've yet to learn the back x-overs to back edge.)

Oh my, it is difficult.

Coach told me that no matter what, do not flap around as I will lose all of the little speed I have. Naturally, I flap. I can barely get up to three quarters of the circle, it's such a big circle! Coach basically has to "sail" me the last quarter, as in she literally pushes me forward while I'm on my one foot posture, so I can get back and move on to the next circle. When I practice by myself, I have to nudge myself along the ice with the free foot toe pick (cheat).

Tension and extension is what coach said. I feel like every single muscle in my body has to be working in this move, and I felt all weak afterwards the day that I practiced this a lot. It's a hard move to practice though. It takes up so much space right in the middle of everything, and it's slow, and you can't deter from the exact pattern to avoid people either. Since it's spring break right now and the rink is more crowded than usual, it's impossible to practice. How do people who aren't as lucky as I am for uncrowded freestyle sessions practice?

I don't have a very strong opinion on whether or not figures should still be around. All I know is that if it was still around, I would suck big time at it! Every one of these moves that require steadiness and exact tracings (waltz-8, forward/backward edges, and now the circle-8) I find the most difficult. Coach said "wait till you get to the backward circle-8's"! Sigh.

We're very tentatively aiming to do the bronze moves test in June. After seeing my circle-8's though, coach was like, hmmm June might be a problem. Oh well, I'll practice what I can, but if it's not good enough soon enough, taking the test in September is fine too. The circle-8 is definitely my biggest hurdle right now.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Watching adult sectionals

I know it's been a while, but I've been busy and writing about my recital was certainly higher priority (they were on the same weekend).

I went to watch my first ever competition at adult sectionals two weeks ago. Because of it's closeness to me this year, I had considered actually competing, but in the end decided not to, since coach and I didn't want my first performance experience to be at a big competition. I discovered one other reason why I'm glad I didn't go. I would have been in pre-bronze FS group (I) had I went, which was scheduled for 7:45 am!!! The rink is a 40-min drive from my place, so I'd probably have had to leave at 6 am! Not okay! I sincerely hope that when I compete in next year's sectionals (still somewhat in the region), I will be in bronze so it will be later in the day.

Anyway, back to the competition. I really wanted to watch the group that I would have been in, but alas, 7:45 am is much too difficult. I got there in time for pre-bronze group III I think. The range of level in pre-bronze was pretty big. There were adults who could do good jumps and spins, but there were also some who didn't even seem very stable on the ice. Bronze was more interesting to watch but the jump in level from pre-bronze to bronze is huge! As is the difference between what's required on bronze tests and what's in the competition! Almost everyone had Lutzes (some pretty high and perfect), camel spins and combination spins. There was even one lady who did a cannonball spin and a change-foot sit spin! And another who did change-of-edge spirals!

This brings me to the topic of how I (used to) detest sandbagging. But after watching them, I sort of understand where it's coming from. I'm sure most of them go into competition with some desire to place. If everyone else is doing hard elements, it kind of leaves you no choice but to do that too. How else would it be possible to win? I feel like the fault comes from the lack of tighter restrictions on what you're not allowed to do (like flying spins and axels), but then, it's hard to draw the line on what should and shouldn't be appropriate at each level. So I guess sandbagging is just going to have to be an accepted matter of life. I know that I myself, assuming I can do them by then of course, would probably put in Lutzes and combo spins too. I wouldn't stand a chance otherwise, and I admit that I would like to place and get a nice medal.

The most important thing I took away from watching the competition, was that it doesn't matter if you fall! Yes of course it will damage your chances of winning, but it's not the end of the world. Skaters were falling left and right, but you just have to get right back up. Elite skaters fall often too (okay maybe not Yuna Kim). It's probably not possible to watch a competition and see no one fall at all. One of the best parts of being a figure skater is that you have the tenacity to get up and keep going till the end. Besides, everyone was so friendly and encouraging and the audience just cheered the skaters on. This thought helped me heaps when I did my recital the next day, it made me relax and enjoy my performance more.

I knew four skaters who were competing that day, two bronze, one silver and one gold, but I only know them slightly (fellow skaters at my rink). So besides saying hi and congratulating them on a nice program, I didn't really talk to anyone and was alone. They were with their friends and family, and it would probably have been awkward had I thrown myself upon them for companionship. So after sitting in the rink on cold, hard benches since 8:30 am, by around 1 pm I couldn't stand it anymore. I was sleepy, cold, rather lonely and my arms were quite tired from trying to clap and make sound while wearing gloves. And to be honest, I was getting a little bored. There's only so much that you can do in a program at those levels. I watched halfway through the silver groups and decided to leave. Which was a pity, because the gold ladies championships (qualifying) were later that afternoon, and I had been looking forward to that (also watching the skater I know). But she was around two hours later and I didn't want to wait that long, so I left.

Still, I'm very glad I went. For the half day I was there for, it was very cool watching an official competition for the first time. Hopefully, this time next year I will actually be in it!

Monday, 11 March 2013

First skating performance

My first ever skating performance was at our rink's seasonal recital yesterday evening. I was nervous, but honestly, not as much as I expected. Certainly a lot less than when I tested. When you test, one mistake (if it's minor) you get to reskate, one more mistake and you're gone. Whereas in a recital, honestly, so what if I fall? I've been trying to convince myself about this, and I think it helped that I went to watch adult sectionals the day before, where I saw people falling left and right, and everyone just cheers them on. I mean, nothing terrible is going to happen!

So anyway, I managed to get through skating a clean program. My back power-3 loop jump almost fell apart, but good thing I held it together. My sit spin was probably the world's highest sit spin, but hey I didn't put my foot down at all! My highest goal for the day was to not fall, so I totally achieved that.

Before the recital
So there I was at home getting ready when I encountered my first problem. I couldn't get my hair in a nice bun! I've done it quite a few times, but the last time was a few months ago, and my hair had gotten a lot longer, so now there was too much hair! The hair net thing for a bun wasn't large enough to hold all my hair, and I'd never understood the art of sticking in hair pins to secure the bun. I either poke my skull or the pin just comes back out. So I had to try several times before I barely managed to keep all the hair in, but it ended up to be a very protruding and silly looking bun. Well at least it's a bun. And I had to pray it wouldn't fall out since it didn't feel very secure despite the hair gel I'd used.

Lesson learnt: try out EVERYTHING a few days before your performance. Including putting on the make up, if you're like me who hardly puts on make up and had a serious mental blank on what I'm supposed to do first.

Finally I was set to go, and off to the rink I went to skate and warm up on the afternoon public session. The lady was nice enough to let me just pay a kid's entrance fee seeing as there was only an hour left, and she knew I just wanted to warm up for the recital. Sunday afternoon public session was jam packed with little kids half my height, several of them dressed up and obviously warming up for the recital. Since I was dressed up and was practicing my stuff, at least four kids came to me with adoring eyes asking questions like: Are you here for a competition? Can I see your dress? (I had a jacket on) Can you show me a spin? How do you do that?

I didn't want to admit it at this point for fear of jinxing things, but I actually felt really good when I was warming up! Which is totally weird since I'd caught a cold the previous night, had a very sore throat and was super sleepy. I think I was running on adrenaline, because after the recital I almost fell asleep right at dinner. My jumps were high, my spins were centered, everything just felt so good I didn't know if I needed to keep practicing but then risk getting tired out. But time passed by quickly enough, and soon, the recital was going to start.

Rink recital begins
I was in the fourth group, 45 minutes after the beginning. I was quite complacently watching everyone else, and my coach had to come looking for me as I didn't realize I should go get ready so soon. We went to get warm in the warm room, and coach asked me what I'd planned on doing for the warm up. This was what really started my nerves, because I hadn't really planned anything, I was just going to do whatever I felt like. So I had to say, oh I'm going to do my jumps and spins (which really did not say much), but she seemed satisfied with that.

Time for warm-up ice. Jackets off, gloves off, water bottle down, step out on the ice as soon as the previous skater left, since we have no time to lose. I skated around, doing whatever came to mind, but I really wanted to stop skating, because there was no background music, and my blades WERE SO LOUD! I'm sure everyone in the audience must have heard me scratching on everything. I was lucky and had another adult skater in my group (even though he is rather peculiar), as everyone else before us seemed to be under 15, including some very small tots. I was first to skate after the warm-up, so coach told me to stop and rest when they announced "one more minute".

It was time.

My first performance
I'd never practiced getting out there and presenting (yet another lesson learnt, practice this!). I'd thought about it in my head, about what posture I'm going to glide out in. So I stepped out, with my thought-of pose, but this is when I realized that, wait, I only have a very short distance to go before I get to where my beginning pose is! I ended up simultaneously trying to hold the presenting posture but also trying to do a T-stop. Well that didn't work out too well. I stumbled slightly and also overshot my position since I didn't break properly. I had to wiggle back, and then because I was so flustered, I did the wrong foot for my beginning pose!! Good thing I realized this before the music started and switched back. For my vanity, I've cut this part out of the video ha ha.

After this messy entrance, I was a little scattered. My body automatically started doing what it should do as the music played, but I was a bit slow. After a while, I realize I was getting through pretty fine and started to calm down. It was quite fun really! I managed to do everything I was supposed to, even though I was a little tentative and therefore slow, and my jumps were not very big (the waltz jump at least can be lot higher). But both my spins were centered! And my leg was almost straight on the spiral! And I successfully did my back-power-3 loop jump! (although that one was a close shave) And I finished on time!

I don't think I remembered to smile though. I reminded myself at the beginning, and at the ending pose and the curtseys, but during the program, I was just on autopilot mode. I was so glad it was over, but I am so glad that I did it too : ) I'm pretty happy with my first performance, and here it is:

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Look down, look down, don't look them in the eye

No actually, don't. I am supposed to look at the audience. I just couldn't resist throwing that line in from Les Mis.

So anyway, this came about from Coach J reminding me to look up. This was a bit of surprise to me, as I've never had the bad habit of looking down at the ice. What I didn't realize was, I wasn't quite looking up either. I was probably gazing at a 15 degree angle down from eye level, when I should be looking at the audience. This gets particularly obvious when I'm about to enter some element that's difficult for me, then I also get this glazed over look on my face because I'm thinking.

Another thing I do when I'm thinking is that I drop all effort on keeping up a good posture. In the middle of my program, I land a jump, then turn around, take a few push-off steps then go into a shallow LFO spiral (shallow only because I can't really do edge spirals yet). This spiral is unfortunately one of my difficult elements (spirals used to be my good element, what happened?) So after the jump landing with nice checking arms, I promptly drop my arms and go into thinking mode. Coach now wants me to have default thinking mode with arms up. My brain can't handle so many things at once!

It's now the one week countdown to my recital! I've been doing full run-throughs and I think they're ok. At least I can get through it, though I'm not sure how well I actually look. I haven't had a chance to ask someone to video me doing the whole program, I really should do that this week. Sit spins aren't 100 % okay yet, but it's in the program now. I'd rather risk putting my foot down in a sit spin than to be doing a two-foot spin in my program. Oooooh only one week left!