My Not-So-Secret Skating Life

Skating is something I’ve always done for myself, not to please anyone else. As a result, not too many people know about it…until now.

I grew up as a competitive equestrian eventer, doing the show circuit, 4H, Pony Club, and 3 phase eventing and while I enjoyed it at the time, it wasn’t something I would have chosen for myself. It was my mother’s dream.

My dream was to figure skate. Unfortunately, I discovered skating too late and I was born to non-skating parents. I was 12 before I started begging my parents to take me to the rink (which was not conveniently close) and finally started the Basic Skills classes at SUNY Brockport. In the 80’s, starting to skate at age 12, I was already washed up. I could never hope to do anything competitively, even if I had natural talent–which I did not. I only had passion. All of the 12 year olds were already doubling their jumps and had years of figure practice, so I relegated myself to skating in our back horse pasture that would flood each winter and I’d spend the first 30 minutes “warming up” by shoveling the snow and grass that would poke through the ice. Hoping that there hadn’t been a warm lake effect wind the night before because that causes ripples. I bought a discarded library book for 25 cents published in the 50’s and taught myself everything I could about skating.

Fast forward to the college years. I went to RIT and they had a rink. I was determined to work there in order to gain more ice time. I spent nearly 40 hours a week skating (even if it was just going round and round in typical rink guard fashion) in addition to a full load of classes and interning at a local design firm. I was in heaven! Then there came an opportunity to take skating as a gym class, well I took it as many times as I could to fulfill my credits, then audited it for a year. Ironically, the teacher was the same instructor who had gotten me started so many years ago with the Basic Skills program! It was like picking up where we left off. I was probably the equivalent level of “Freestyle 1”. By the time I finished college I was probably the equivalent level of “Freestyle 4”- I was able to single all my jumps, including the Axel, but I didn’t really know much footwork or finer elements, just the tricks :) I was never tested at any of these levels, I just compared myself to what was required if I were to test. Then, tragedy struck. After landing the Axel 10 or so times, I fell. HARD. I remember just sitting on the ice and not wanting to get up. I’m not a wuss either, I’ve been thrown by horses all my life and get back on again, sometimes even with cracked ribs, but I just sat there icing my bum. I had broken my tailbone. The last 3 vertebrate on my coccyx now formed a 90 degree angle inward. And the thing is, there’s nothing you can do about a broken tailbone except wait for it to heal. It took over 2 years before I could stand to ride in a car for any distance or make it through an entire movie at a theatre. And I never did another Axel jump again, I was 19.

Well, life goes on and I married, got a job, had kids and moved around a lot. Over the years I’d skate from time to time if we lived within an hour of a rink. It usually worked out to be once every 5 years or so. I would usually attempt a wobbly waltz jump or an ugly spin and call it a day. I always regretted not doing anything about my skating. During this time the skating industry was going through some major changes. Figures would eventually be replaced with Moves In The Field and triple jumps were to be standard for elite level skaters.

Fast forward to 2011. We now live in California and have 3 rinks within 20 minutes of our house. I only rarely took advantage of this. I’m in my late 30’s, I know I break, I’m out of shape and my confidence is shattered. I found every excuse in the book for not going and skating even though I know its my passion and I’ve never had so many opportunities to skate before. Finally in December of 2011 (9 months after we moved here!) I decided to live my life with no regrets and started going to the rink while the kids were at school 2 or 3 times a week. I was so out of shape I could barely make it 15 minutes before I thought I would collapse. This would not do. So in January I joined a boot camp to get me in shape. 4 days a week for 6 weeks and I could skate for an hour and a half without being winded! As you know, this was about the time I took our daughter out of public school, so she started skating with me. (Its not her passion)

So in February 2012 I hired a coach. My goal was to get back to the skills I knew 20 years ago. She was skeptical, but found that I learned quickly and even though some of my skills were mistaught she worked with me to get me doing things ‘the right way’. One thing to note, my original instructor was left handed and so I learned to spin and jump clockwise, which is very rare in skaters as the standard is counterclockwise. Through my coach I found out that now there is an Adult level of testing available and Adult competitions that I can participate in. This didn’t exist in the 80’s or 90’s. This got me thinking that maybe I could realize my dream of competitive skating, so we changed tactics and I started learning what I needed to test the first level: Adult Pre-Bronze.  The thing with leveled tests is that you have to start at the bottom and pass your way up; for me that meant learning some baby jumps I never had to before. I had to learn how to do a Half-Lutz, and a Toe Loop and an Upright Spin (which differs from the scratch spin in that you don’t cross your free leg, you bring it up like a stork). There were also new terms associated with the Moves in the Field requirements that I needed to learn. I also skate with hip, coccyx and knee protection every day!

Just when I thought I was ready to test I found out how political skating is in San Francisco. Much to my disappointment, adults skaters take a back seat to the young up-and-comings and will frequently be bumped to the end of the list for testing dates. I would’ve been pushed out to October to test. About this time our family decided that living in CA was way too expensive and we wanted to travel so we planned to leave at the end of June. This was not working out.

Since we would be staying temporarily with my parents in FL, it made sense that I track down a rink in FL. The closest rink would end up being at least 2 hours away in any direction. :(  Oh well, I was in the best shape of my adult life and I decided it was worth it, so I signed up with the Tampa Bay Skating Club, signed up for the next test session and entered my first competition! Which meant I had 4 weeks to develop a Pre-Bronze program with my coach before I left CA. Wow.

Now that we’re in Florida, Designerd and I drive to Tampa twice a week so I can practice. I no longer have a coach so I rely on all the training I got in the last 5 months and keep working on what I’ve learned. My test and competition that I signed up for months ago are less than a week away.

Today I participated in my first skating event. An exhibition skate of my Pre-Bronze program at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy’s Summer Recital. It was so much fun and I didn’t have any nerves until I stepped out onto the ice. Then my mind went blank. Thank goodness for muscle memory, my body took over as soon as the music started. I didn’t fall, I didn’t omit anything and I had no wardrobe malfunctions. I’d say it was a success! I was hoping to watch the video that Designerd took of it but it turns out you can max out the 32 gigs of space on your iphone and it doesn’t inform you of such…so it recorded but didn’t save my performance. Oh well, he has a week to clear things off so it doesn’t happen for the test and competition ;) But my dad was snapping photos so I do have a couple to share…hopefully you’ll agree I’ve improved a little bit since I was 12.

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