May 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
Adult Nationals was an unforgettable week, even if the two skates themselves were forgettable. This man-child made it into Salt Lake City with an hour to spare before his first event and by the time he left, he made it back to San Francisco International a few pounds heavier, sanity intact. He now has a longer list of skating friends and family to visit in the future, some clear goals heading into April 2016, and a 4th place medal to show for his effort. Sorry slugger, 4th place medals doesn’t get you sprinkles on your ice cream cone.
3rd person references and self-deprecating humor aside, let’s see if I can put into words how weird 2015 Adult Nationals got in Salt Lake City.
If it gets a little too weird or there’s too many words,
You’re Grounded, Young Man
Could you fault this Average Joe for sleeping in, making it to his 9:00AM PST flight to a layover in Phoenix before heading to Salt Lake City by 4:30 PM PST, all while saving 20 bucks?
The flight from San Francisco to Phoenix, AZ is easy breezy. Lunch and layover in Phoenix, AZ is easy breezy. Boarding for my aisle seat from Phoenix, AZ is easy breezy. Take-off from the runway is easy bree- let me stop you right there.
“Hi there, this is your captain speaking. Salt Lake City Airport is experiencing to 80 mph gust winds. Planes already in the vicinity have been in holding patterns for an hour and any flights still headed there are being redirected elsewhere. Thank you for your patience, folks.”
This guy… But wait, there’s more.
“Hey, uh, still your captain here. We know you’ve been waiting here in taxi for the past 20-30 minutes but Salt Lake City airport is closed for the evening. I deeply apologize for the inconvenience but we’re going to have to cancel your flight. We’re going to take this baby back around and take you folks back to the terminal.”
It turns out the canceled flight not only strands a competitive skater, but it also strands my Salt Lake roommate’s skating coach, whose competed internationally and a skating judge who was on track to judge in this past Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It’s like a start to a bad joke.
Now grounded in Phoenix, yours truly, coach Adrienne D. and judge Richard D. waited an hour in line at American Airlines customer service to find out that due to canceled flights – weather, you only get discount vouchers to coupons, no outright free stays in hotels or free food vouchers. 10 hour drive from Phoenix to Salt Lake City or stay in Phoenix for a night and tackle the insanity of the competition the next morning?
We decide to remain hooked on Phoenix and take the 10:30 AM flight to Salt Lake City the next morning. Exit row, Group 1 boarding, my possessions aren’t gate checked. That’s the good news, the dessert. Cool, give me the the veggies. It lands in Utah at 12:45 PM, 1 hour before my first event of the week. Sweet baby Jesus, that’s cutting it close. No practice ice, no time to feel the ice prior to the competition warm-up, only enough time to get dressed, do a warm-up on the floor.
Richard D. makes sure I wake up on time and get some breakfast in my system before the flight, and coach Adrienne makes sure Uber takes us from the airport to the University of Utah campus all in one piece.
First Event – Adult Bronze Men Freeskate 1/3
Reunited with my coach, Robin White, we execute our game plan in the warm-up. Where to start, where to place everything, where to finish, the nitty gritty. Jumps look good. Spins are a little shaky but multiple attempts later, they appear fine. Footwork sequence hasn’t let me down since I first nailed it in Belmont/San Francisco in January. My 5 minutes of ice time are done and I have to wait until it’s my turn, last of the entire event. Thank Michelle Kwan I’m not going first.
Each person ends up skating for a minute and 50 seconds but that goes by warp speed when your turn’s coming up. Some people can watch other people in their group skate, some people can’t. I’m watching, pacing back and forth. No one falls, this is a killer group I’m working against here.
The judges work on a 6.0 scoring system, so they’re not giving you point values for each and every single thing you do. They look at the whole performance, how you completed (or didn’t complete) your elements, the in-betweens, out-betweens. If they need a tiebreak, they’ll decide based on shirts and outfits.
Oh shit, it’s my turn.
The announcer doesn’t butcher my name in the introduction, sweet. The music officials have my music, bingo. Get my game face on, it’s showtime.
First spin goes well, first jump, the single salchow goes well, aww yes.
Transition into the first jump combination, the single lutz-single toe. He’s on his outside edge and…
I popped straight up and didn’t rotate and, splat, didn’t do the combination. Cool, let’s get set up for the next jump, a single flip and maybe another jump on the end since I didn’t do the first combo. Turns, turns a little too much and still tries to tap for the flip…
I fell again, and didn’t do the make-up combination, but gotta keep going. One combination left, a single loop-single loop. Left foot in front of the right foot, arms checked… AND I DIDN’T FALL. It also didn’t look pretty but whatever, here comes the bread-and-butter footwork.
Salt Lake City is 4200 feet above sea level. There’s, like, not a lot of oxygen up here. Two falls into the program, I’m late in my music, with about 15 seconds to go and complete my footwork sequence. My lungs and legs are feeling a burning sensation (you should get that checked out, bro), my body’s freaking out, and I’m mentally freaking out.
Twizzle, edges, three-turns, rocker, back power threes, figure skating word, figure skating word, figure skating word, oh shit music’s ending, have to cut it short (you lose points if your music ends and you… don’t). I’m done.
There’s sweepers, these little girls who skate around the ice for you and pick up the various goodie bags strewn on the ice while you acknowledge the crowd. I’m tired and attempt to stop a bag of chocolate from getting past me like a soccer goalie … and I whiff. Splat, swan dive on the ice.
Good first skate, I guess? I’ll take a fou- Wait, how did I get 4th place?
Second Event – Adult Bronze Dramatic 1
Ladies and dudes are grouped together. It’s pretty dresses on one side and … my plain shirt and tie. This event’s not really about who can jump or spin their way out of the building. It’s about who can show off their skating skills the most.
The announcer doesn’t butcher my name in the introduction, sweet. The music officials have my mus- no, they don’t have my music. The music officials misplaced everyone’s CDs, so let’s all look for our back-up copies. Turns out, I only have one back-up copy and I didn’t have it, my coach didn’t have it. Holy crap, I don’t have my laptop here to make an extra CD and I only have it on my phone. Duh, they can plug the auxiliary cord into the phone but… will they bend the rules, forget the principle like they forgot where they placed the music, and play the music off my phone?
The ice monitor, the dude who makes sure you’re there when you’re supposed to gets the green light for me to use my phone. Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight. Was I going to do it justice? First jump and second jump…
First and second spin…
Nope, didn’t spin in circles for long enough. Didn’t fall but the judges weren’t impressed.
5th place. Sounds about right.
Some takeaways from this weird week:
- Bring 10 copies of my competition music
- More conditioning doesn’t hurt… well, it hurts, but still have to do it
- Get more consistency on, you know, everything
- Expect the unexpected, especially with snow and sandstorms
I got exposed at this competition, not with any wardrobe malfunctions but with conditioning, foundation and technique. My goal for next year is the next level up, adult silver and work hard on and off the ice so I’m not the guy who brings a knife to a gunfight.
- To my roommates: Maureen and Brandy, you guys got from the hotel to the rink and back, with meals and laughs in between. Maureen, you made sure I wasn’t stranded alone in Phoenix and also made sure I survived Salt Lake City. I’m awesome? No. YOU are awesome.
- To Coach Adrienne: Thanks for making sure PHX to SLC went as smooth as it could go. Also, sorry for eating your pizza without asking.
- To my Skating Club of San Francisco friends and family: You ladies and dudes who see me skate in practice supported me while I skated up in Salt Lake City. I feel loved and each and everyone of you skated great.
- New members of my skating family: Glad I met you guys. Competed against you guys and now you guys are lifelong friends. Funny how that works.
April 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
National championship. Little less of this.
Little less of that.
Something more like this.
We’re ten days away from the 2015 USFS Adult National Championships in Salt Lake City, UT. If you told me six months ago this is where my coach and I would be, with two more chances to bring home championship gold, I would call you crazy. But things changed for the better, skates, skating skills, outlooks and mentalities. Here’s why I feel good about doing what Brian Boitano would do and becoming a figure skating champion.
It’s been three plus years since I got back into figure skating. It’s a love-hate relationship sprinkled with early morning practices, double runthroughs and her generally shaking her head throughout the practice. She’s put up with me skating to Monday Night Football, for God’s sake.
But coach Robin White’s confidence in me to do what she asks (jumps, jump combos, spins, edges, you know what I’m saying?) has rubbed off on me physically and mentally. Physically, in being able to do the moves. Mentally, in being sure of myself that I can do the moves. We joke a lot about this but I look like a figure skater. When I quit the sport, it won’t be because of her. The teamwork made the dream work.
Pacific Coast Sectionals. National semifinals. It got weird in North Las Vegas.
I skated. I fell. Yeah. I brought home two medals. Uh huh.
Most importantly though, at my first big adult competition, I felt like I belonged. A lot of folks from San Francisco came out, either because they were skating or were cheering on fellow San Francisco skaters. It felt good to show up and have good skates in front of my friends and second family. Ran into coach/skater/skating parent Natalie Shaby, who cheers on every Cal skater. Ran into people who worked the Union Square Holiday Ice Rink. Surreal but fun experience.
I got down to Pacific Rim and Phil Collins. Looking forward to doing it again.
As far back as a year ago, I had a crisis with figure skating.
Sure, I practiced a lot. Sure, I was jumping and spinning. I just didn’t really know why I was doing it. Ended up having a heart to heart conversation with coach Suzy Jackson, who molds figure skaters into Olympians.
Ended up being an hour long conversation talking about life, skating, then life again before the Suz came up with the magical solution: talk to your coach, your coach knows you best.
So I talked to my coach, and it took us awhile but we came up with some concrete goals to work towards. It seemed silly then to suggest that I’d be in a position to skate for championship gold but for the past year, I’ve been skating with a purpose. It doesn’t make waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning less stupid but I know the work I’m putting in is leading up to good things.
Whether that means gold medals or making lifelong friends before this season’s over, well, we’ll see. But… ¿por qué no los dos?