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.
May 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s taken a year since graduating college to secure part-time work and full-time jumps and spins on the ice. During the year when I was unemployed though, going on Facebook was overwhelming when friends were getting job or scholarship offers. Was I the only person in my graduating class without a job or an acceptance letter from a good law school? Was I the only person not landing a single axel, let alone triples? What would Brian Boitano do?
Those first few months leading up to graduation and the first six months after, friends certainly should announce good news regarding the start of their work careers.
Whether that means accepting a two-year Teach for America commitment in another part of the United States, a research assistant position at a leading trauma hospital or academic institution, a scholarship offer to a top law school in New Haven, or getting a job offer somewhere in downtown San Francisco, friends have earned the right to have their hard work acknowledged.
As a person who has worked before, I could relate to friends now that they are working or on their way to higher education. It was cool being surrounded by people with nothing but upside. I went through the motions of wishing congratulations, despite the fact that it underscored my abundance of insecurities and lack of a job.
I got jealous but I understood that the spotlight at the moment was for my friends, not me. On one hand, congratulations to all my friends. On the other, are they going to leave me behind?
I See Them Rolling, I’m Hating
A number of rejections from potential positions compound the frustration from not having a job. Combine that with my friends’ successes and I’m contemplating about this extended state of wtf-is-going-on I’m in.
Will I lose my friends because they’re accomplishing more than me? Will I be looked down upon because I cannot get on their level? Why is it that I cannot get on their level?
I also got around to questioning why I was still figure skating. I reached plateaus in what I’m learning and took lengthy breaks from the sport. Meanwhile, skaters I know pass tests with ease, make easy money through coaching, landing difficult jumps and other technical elements. Figure skating got less fun for awhile when I’m repeating figure skating first grade.
Coming to Terms With Failures, Etc.
Really though, it’s what I make of these failures that really turned it around for me. This mental change wasn’t for anyone else but myself.
While I do not have a job at the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, or McKenna Long & Aldridge, those experiences applying and talking with individuals at each office have allowed me to secure future interviews, especially the one I just completed with Berry Appleman & Leiden. I did not have instant success looking for jobs or getting the right LSAT score to stay in California, but the success is coming along now.
Rejection from jobs, relationships, and basketball (HIBBERT TURNED AWAY BY LEBRON, HAVE MERCY) sucks, and I let myself stew over it a few months too long before doing something about it. I elaborated on useful skills I have for potential jobs on my resume. I got confident talking about why I’m a great fit for potential jobs. I chose to work part-time in the meantime while looking for my start in the legal industry. I got serious about skating after jury duty and got back to the basics.
It was an extended exercise in persistence, talking out these emotions of jealousy, and eventually getting out of the post-college malaise I had been in. You know, as long as I didn’t rashly act upon that jealousy, my prospects are looking bright. That wasn’t the case going into early 2013, but I’m glad that I’m currently doing well for myself.
Also, why am I getting mad at teammates and skating club members who have skated for the majority of their lives? The skaters have practically come out of their mothers’ wombs and hit the ground skating. Those skaters have put in the time and hard work that the sport requires of them, and that earns my respect. I’m about to get that lutz and move on to trickier things in skating. That’s what Brian Boitano would do, right? I also enjoy covering intercollegiate skating here at Cal Berkeley.
Jealousy is just another emotion but don’t be mad that people around you are succeeding. Be happy for them, ask them for help when you need it, and open up so more people know when you succeed. Stay driven, work hard, and get a little lucky. Your success is written in the stars, a million miles away. Speaking of getting a little lucky, take it away, Pretty Rick A.
March 7, 2013 § 5 Comments
Fancy name for something every serious skater does for their skates: maintaining the sharpness of their blades. Money is money though, and when you hear there’s a 7 dollar option compared to the 30 dollar option, you’re going with the 7 dollar option every single time, right?
Pro Shop Sharpening
- 7 dollars at Oakland Ice Rink’s pro shop, plus you get your skates back right away.
- 12 dollars at Yerba Buena (San Francisco) Ice Rink’s pro shop, have to leave your skates at the shop overnight.
You save money but you run the risk of employees taking too much metal off of the blade, dramatically decreasing the longevity of the blade before you have to purchase new blades, which run anywhere from 100 to 500 dollars. Along with taking too much metal, you might not find out until it’s too late when the sharpening is uneven, which can be the case when the employee pays too much attention to one side of the blade more than the other. You may have a hard time skating around the rink, doing patterns around the ice, or even jumping and spinning because your skates weren’t evenly sharpened. Combine uneven, slippery edges and a shorter blade lifespan and you may increase the risk of injury.
Also, not all blades are the same. This treatment of your skating blades might be fine if you’re starting out with some stock blades. If you have something like Paramount or Gold Seal blades that you just recently spent 400 to 500 bucks on, you’re not looking forward to shitty treatment of your blades and having to buy another pair of expensive blades soon.
Not Sharpening Them At All
- I’m feeling lazy
- I have midterms
- I haven’t beaten this level of Candy Crush yet, so hold on one second
- Santa Rosa is soooooooooooo far
- Novato is soooooooooooo far
- Berkeley is soooooooooooo far
- I don’t have any money (and proceed to go out and have a few drinks with friends)
Whatever reason it is that’s keeping you from getting your skate sharpened, that’s perfectly fine. But after about 50 to 60 hours of ice time spent doing jumps, spins and footwork across the ice, your figure skating blades are akin to butter knives (which would make great displays for a Vector/Cutco representative). It’s less so about injuries here and more about the bad habits you either pick up and/or revert to when you don’t have a feel of your edges.
Because you don’t have control over your edges, you’re going to slip on anything that requires a quick change from forwards to backwards (three-turns, salchow, rockers, counters, brackets, etc.). On any edge jumps such as a loop or a lutz, you may start overcompensating with your upper body, trying to force the rotations in order to make up for your lost edges. That’s fine and dandy but when you set aside the excuses and get around to having someone sharpen your skates, those bad habits are hard to drop. The upper body overcompensation on those jumps? You’ll be off-balance, bent over at the waist, tilting at the waist, and doing something funny with your shoulders, which will throw off your center of gravity. That makes it much harder to save the landing of the jump, let alone show that you’re confidently landing the jump and transitioning off to something else.
So who would you recommend in Northern California, smartypants?
I’d recommend Salt Lake City Olympian, 4-time US Championships pewter medalist Charles Sinek. At 25 dollars, Charles offers precision sharpening for any and all blades, free skate or ice dancing at his Berkeley home. The only problem? Accessibility. Unless you talk to, take lessons in Oakland from his wife, ice dancing partner and fellow Salt Lake City Olympian Beata Handra or run into either of them at Thursday Morning Coffee Club in San Francisco, chances are that you need to introduce yourself or get one of Beata’s students to introduce you to the two. At the very least, when you know either one of them, you feel relieved when you don’t have to travel to the North Bay or spend money FedEx shipping your skates to Novato. Also, they’re the ones to make Rockerz Skate Guards and sponsor US Championships and Cal Figure Skating competitors. Championship caliber skaters and ice dancers on the Cal Figure Skating team can vouch for the high quality job that Charles does on their blades.
Next best option is Warren Glass of Sharpening Solutions, where I have my blades sharpened. Whether you let Warren know that you’re making the drive out to Novato, dropping off the skates at Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa, or FedEx shipping your skates, Warren comes up clutch. It was previously 25 but it’s gone up to 30 dollars, not including any toll or FedEx shipping costs.
First time you correspond with Warren, he’ll want to know what level you skate at. If you can’t immediately say the level, he can still get an idea if you tell him what jumps and spins you have down pat. Warren is familiar with the figure skating vocabulary and event spends some time skating as well. He takes off minimal amounts of metal from the blades and is open to any feedback about how the sharpening feels. If you take your skates to his Novato workshop, Warren gets the sharpening job done efficiently and quickly. If you shipped your skates, he’ll send them back out the same day. Keep an open mind and give Warren a shot. He wants to help you follow your figure skating dreams, as free of any injuries and shitty habits as possible.
December 19, 2012 § 4 Comments
Stretching is often secondary to everyone’s workouts (do you lift, bro? do you skate, bro?). Stretching takes a back seat when you try to imitate Brian Boitano, landing three salchows and a triple lutz while blindfolded.
But before you make the gender mistake and say that stretching is a girl thing to do, realize ligament/muscle tears and other possible serious injuries are equal opportunity. They do not discriminate amongst genders or body type. If you do not stretch before or after your workout or stretch improperly, you run the chance of getting injured.
Why Is Stretching Important?
Working out hurts so good unless you tear something. Stretching helps alleviate some of that pain. Holding each stretch for at least 15-30 seconds will help increase range of motion and flexibility, important in a sport that requires a demanding amount of flexibility. Stretches help improve circulation, decrease muscle tension and muscle soreness and increase the amount of time spent relaxing and visualizing what just happened during practice.
Let’s see what you did during practice:
- Off-ice to get the cardio going, running around the rink.
- Plyometric drills (double-leg bounding, alternating steps) to work on jumping power
- Jump rope to end off-ice to work on coordination, agility and mental fortitude while fatigued.
By the time you got on the ice, you worked on things like:
- Stroking patterns/skating around the ice.
- Jumps, getting full extension in the air, doing proper take-offs, getting max air, max extension on toe taps for flips and toe loops and finishing with proper checkouts.
- Proper arm coordination during those jumps.
- Spins. F**k spins so much.
The all-around explosive movements during practice required being on the balls of your feet, placing a lot of stress on your calves. Stroking around the ice, getting around the ice happens only when you generate the power from the glutes, adductors, quadriceps, iliotibial band and calves work in conjunction. Those jumps, from entrance to take-off and checkout, require all the already mentioned muscle groups before, but also your abs and lower back to keep the jumps compact. Spins? Abs, calves to keep the spin tight and centered.
Whether you stretch up standing, on the ground, against the wall or the boards surrounding the ice, try to get in the stretching while your muscles are still warm from the earlier workout. If you can’t afford a massage therapist, foam roller and the use of your body weight are pretty good for massaging sore muscles like calves and IT bands. Flexibility stretches can help stretch out the quads, adductors, glutes and hamstrings, which will also help reduce muscle tension that often aggravates the lower back. Don’t simply stretch one side and not the other just because one side is easier. Stretch both sides out. Here are some yoga positions to stretch out tight hips or lower back. You will thank yourself later.