So, I haven’t posted about my adult skating for a while. Guess it’s time for an update. 🙂
The last time I wrote about my skating, I had passed my first USFSA tests: Pre-Preliminary Moves in the Field and Pre-Preliminary Freestyle. I took those tests in October 2015. Last month, I started my second round of tests, passing Preliminary Moves in the Field on February 24.
It took longer than I expected to move from Pre-Pre to Preliminary! When you’re an adult skater, it seems like real life & responsibilities are always getting in the way. 🙂 Holidays and school vacations interrupt the practice schedule. In August, my rink closed for a hockey camp. In September, I switched boots due to a skin irritation and lost about 2 months breaking in the new boots. Excuses? I’ve got plenty of them. 🙂
But, despite the obstacles, I plugged away at practicing my Preliminary Moves in the Field over the past year or so. This set of Moves was not too difficult to learn. However, there’s a big difference between being able to skate a Move pattern and actually doing it well enough to pass a test confidently. Quality and correctness of execution are what you’re aiming for.
It took a lot of work to get my Preliminary Moves up to test level; but I can honestly say I really enjoyed the time I spent practicing them. Many of the Preliminary Moves are skills that you use throughout your skating: Crossovers, three-turns, spirals. So, practicing these Moves until they were in good shape helped me build confidence overall. As you learn to do the Moves at higher speeds and with better execution, your confidence just grows and grows.
I hit my high point with the Preliminary Moves about 1 month before the actual test. The speed and quality had improved so much, and I was feeling really good about them!
Then I came down with 2 fairly severe colds. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so confident any more. It really is not easy skating when you’re ill! Skating is such a full-body experience; and plus, there’s always a fairly high element of risk as well (because, well, it’s ice). Skating when you’re sick can feel a bit dangerous. The colds that I contracted—one of them turned into a sinus/chest infection–cut my normal energy level in half. Every move was an effort, and I just felt uneasy. I couldn’t skate as fast as I had been, because I felt like I didn’t have full control and might fall. The Moves that had seemed so strong suddenly started feeling feeble. But my test was scheduled for Feb. 24, so I had to push through.
In the midst of this period, I asked my coach Amy Vecchio to take some videos of me doing the Preliminary Moves, so I’d have a record of it. Watching yourself skating on video is so humbling! All you see are the form breaks and areas you need to improve. And, worst of all … everything looks so much slower than it feels in real life!
Here are the videos of my Preliminary Moves. I’ll give a brief description of how each Move progressed during practice.
Preliminary 1: Forward/Backward Crossovers
I’m fortunate that I learned crossovers years ago, when I took private lessons as a kid. So, this Move didn’t involve any new skills. However, the challenge is that you have to skate each set of crossovers on a defined, rather small circle. You’re also supposed to do them with as much speed and power as possible. I’d been used to doing crossovers free-form—basically, anywhere I wanted to, and not on a tight circle. So, having to confine the crossovers to the circle felt weird. I was also nervous about speed. You gain so much speed when you’re doing crossovers, especially back crossovers. It’s almost exponential: each additional crossover just gets you going faster and faster. I found it hair-raising trying to deal with the speed while still keeping the circle pattern. It’s easy to fall doing crossovers like this—one touch of the toepick, one blade crossed too close, and you’re down. I fell several times on this Move, so it was on my mind. Also, the edge changes between the different types of crossovers felt hairy, due to the speed. I never felt fully in control of this pattern. But it did improve over time.
Preliminary 2: Consecutive Outside/Inside Spirals
Again, I was fortunate to learn basic spirals as a kid. So, nothing about this pattern was new to me. But that didn’t mean it was easy. There are 2 difficulties: 1) In this Move, you’re covering the entire length of the ice twice, so you need stamina and strength just to keep the Move going. You have to practice the spirals repeatedly to build that up. 2) You need flexibility to get decent (at least 90-degree) extension. And flexibility has never been my strong suit. I had to do stretches every other day for 10-15 minutes to build up flexibility for this pattern. Overall, this Move was, for me, one of the easiest on the test. Of course, my spiral positions leave a lot to be desired, compared to a top skater’s. But, as my coach says, spirals can always be improved; they’re never perfect. 🙂
Preliminary 3: Forward Power Three-Turns
This Move was probably the most challenging for me. It involves doing three-turns and back crossovers with as much speed & power as you can manage, and you have to do the pattern on both feet (i.e., both sides of the body). Also, as with the spirals, you cover the whole length of the ice twice. It took time to build stamina for this Move; plus, the twisting motion made my back ache at first. I had never done three-turns so fast before; just getting comfortable with the speed and depth of edge took a while. Another issue: I don’t have a great sense of placement with my three-turns; they tend to be “early.” So this pattern was a challenge. But it also became rather fun to practice, once I got the hang of it.
Preliminary 4: Alternating Forward Three-Turns
Although this Move looks simple, it was the hardest for me to learn. You start by doing a forward outside three-turn on your right foot, ending on a right back inside edge. Then you step directly onto a left outside edge to do the next three-turn. And repeat on the other side. In the beginning, I literally could not do the transition of inside edge on one foot, to outside edge on the other foot. It was like my hips weren’t open enough to turn my legs the way I needed to. I had to practice & practice for a month or two until finally I could do the step. That was the key. Once I got that transition, the Move was okay.
Preliminary 5: Forward Circle Eights
This Move is like a traditional figure, where you’re tracing 4 circles on the ice (2 on each side). It wasn’t too difficult to learn, and it was fun to do. The biggest challenge was getting control of my arms. You have to change your arm positions several times during the figure, and I tended to swing my arms too much, which then pulled my body off the axis/lean it needed to be on. I could skate this figure soon after learning it, but it took a lot of practice before I could really do it well, with controlled arms and body line.
Preliminary 6: Alternating Backward Crossovers to Backward Outside Edges
This Move was the easiest on the test for me. All it involves is doing back crossovers and gliding on backward edges, and I’ve known how to do that since I was a kid. But in a sense, it was almost too easy. I had something of a mental block trying to remember the steps for the Move, because I felt like there should be something more, something harder, to it. Eventually I got it, but then I’d laze through it to some extent. My coach kept telling me to skate faster, bend my knees more. Although it was the easiest pattern for me, the comments I got for it on the test were actually less positive than the comments I got for some of the harder Moves! Strange how that works sometimes.
When test day came, I was still recovering from the second cold/sinus infection and was not at full strength. Still, I wanted to get out there and at least try the test. Fortunately, I was much less nervous during the 6-minute warmup than I was the first time I tested.
I felt okay at the start of the test. The first couple Moves went fairly well. The third pattern (power 3-turns) felt a bit dicey: I couldn’t really tell if my 3-turns were too early or not. I felt the nerves building as I started Move 4. Then I had a brain blankout! As I began the Move, I suddenly felt like I was doing it the wrong way, so I stopped after one turn and restarted, then restarted again! Finally I got through it. But by now, nerves were definitely taking over. I felt shaky inside as I did the last 2 Moves. I really tried to bend my knees on the final one; but they didn’t cooperate too well.
I felt very glad when the test was over. And I was proud of myself for trying it, even if I didn’t pass. But, yay–when I got the judge’s score sheet, I did pass! My scores were average, and I knew that I had skated all these Moves much better before in practice. But, who cares?? I passed! I was so happy! My year of (intermittent) practice had paid off—yay!! As U.S. pairs skater Tim LeDuc has said, the best part of a figure skating competition (or test) is after you’ve skated and you know that you’ve done well (or well enough). Seldom have I seen such shiny, happy faces as those of figure skaters after they’ve passed a test. 🙂 It’s a great feeling!
Now that I’ve passed Preliminary Moves, it’s time to buckle down and get my Preliminary Free Skating program in order. That’s my next hurdle! The program was choreographed a year ago, but I haven’t made great progress with it because I haven’t felt confident in the elements. One nice thing about Moves in the Field is that, as long as you keep practicing them, they seem to improve fairly steadily. Free skating elements are a different story for me. Some days they’re up, some days they’re down. But, I’ll try to make free skating my main focus for the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, I’ll also work on learning my Pre-Juvenile Moves. Another day, another challenge!! 🙂