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!