Monday, 19 February 2018

Getting Competitive

So, last post I mentioned I had a major piece of sharing news to share. Well today’s the day, I can officially say that I'm going to be competing in April!

I’m entering a competition run by a charity, Inclusive Skating. Go give them a like on Twitter by following @InclusiveSk8 and you’ll be able to follow the great work they’re doing. The charity runs competitions for skaters with an impairment, among other things, and they have a scoring system that means skaters with and without disabilities can compete together - I’m still learning how it works but it’s a great idea. Classified athletes get an impairment compensation added to their scores, and elements that normally wouldn’t be called by a technical panel now have a value.

Let me explain why I’m entering. My sight affects my safety on the ice as I don’t have full peripheral vision, and my balance and reaction times. So when I’m skating, if I, for example, do a 3 turn and get off balance, I’m more likely to hit the ice, as my eyes can’t get the message to my brain fast enough for me to correct. I find doing any rotational movements at speed harder, and it takes me longer to pick up skills because funnily enough, I’m not a visual learner! I’m also restricted in when I can skate as I don’t drive, and I’m not comfortable travelling to or from the rink at night, due to crossing roads etc.

So, in May last year, I entered our eink’s artistic competition. The winner from each category went on to a final event at another rink. I scored 18.5 out of 30, and came 5th out of 6 skaters. I believe the next skater scored around 23. The adults weren’t separated by level like the kids, so I was competing, with basic skills against people working on their Axel. For the first time at the rink, I noticed how my impairment affected skating. I noticed my disability, and felt different.

As an aside, I will say I skated in our rink’s group number at the final event - thank you amazing coaches for giving me that chance, and letting me tweak footwork slightly so I could keep up!

I wanted to compete but as an adult with an impairment I’m currently not at the right level to enter the same events my friends do. Inclusive Skating was on my radar, but I’m someone who tries not to let my eyesight issues define me, so I’d always said I’d see how I got on competing before I went down that road. After May, it became clear that actually, this was something that could really help me and give me the confidence to say, “yes I have a disability, but look what I can still do!” I spoke to my coach, and she agreed to help, although it’s all new to her, too!

Lots of my friends are entering another competition that runs the same week as the one I’m doing, and already I feel more a part of the community as I’ve got the same prep to do, the same nerves, and my friends are so supportive. They’re talking about trying to Skype before I skate, which just blows my mind. I was the kid no one wanted on their team in PE, and now I’ve got people who are cheering me on. One said, “we might not be able to be at the competition with you, but you’re not going alone, we’re there in spirit. You’ve got all of [rink name] behind you.” I skate at the best rink ever <3

Next week I’m going to a big rink to meet with a coach who will be attending the event, and once she’s had a look at my routine and clarified some things, the entry form will be sent off. This is really happening, isn’t it?!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

It's been a rollercoaster of a year, but I'm glad I went along for the ride

So once again, I totally forgot to update my blog. Not great, I admit, but I'm back now, and there is much to share.

So when I last wrote, we were getting ready for Christmas Show 2016. That was Alice in Wonderland, and quite frankly was the best way to get back into skating regularly, and make new friends at the rink. After that, around this time last year, I found out we were going to do an Easter gala show, and began attending Saturday rehearsals. The coach was one I'd not worked with before, I was the oldest skater by around 5 years and the lowest level.

I really felt out of my depth and like I would drag the group down, but do you know what? A nice chat with the coach, who explained that I actually wasn't so far behind the others, and I felt better. He even did something I thought was a little crazy, and gave me a step-out solo in one routine. He made it so that we each had one, and although it was the most terrifying thing I'd done to date, it was super fun.

I still skate with that group, every Saturday morning. In a year, my skating has come on in leaps and bounds, and my confidence has grown. In May 2017 we had an in house artistic competition, and I skated a little routine to "Singin' in the Rain", and scored 18.5 out of 30, which I was really pleased with. I also took part in a large group number at an inter-rink event in July, which pushed me to my limit skating wise, but was a fabulous experience, and if the option is there this year, I'll be auditioning again.

After that event, it was time to get back in to Christmas show rehearsals, from September onwards. This time it was Around the World in 80 Days, and I decided to audition for a main role. I didn't get one, and was pretty sad about that, but with hindsight, I'm glad! The guys who did had so many rehearsals and routines, I wouldn't have coped with it, at all. I was in 2 routines, and had a great time with my friends.

Right now, we're about to kick into Easter rehearsal mode, but I've not got any real idea of what we're doing yet.

There is some other news I have to share, but I'm going to do that in a separate post, as it's quite a detailed story.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Big Update Post - Still here, still skating

OK, first of all I want to apologise for the lack of updates. Life just got completely crazy, and the blog fell by the wayside a little. I've had lots happen, and I'm proud to say I'm now back skating again. I'll get to that in a little bit though, because there's so much to talk about. 

So, I last updated in April 2014, in the July of that year I got a new job, after much searching, and was also studying part time and doing a voluntary placement. Skating took a back seat, and I really didn't skate at all apart from once in the November of 2014. So, the job hit issues in around February 2015, and I decided on a whim, to apply to Camp America - I didn't think I'd get in but I needed to do something to get out of my current work rut. 

Amazingly, on April 1st, 2015, I got an email from a camp offering me a position, after an initial Skype interview a couple of weeks before. I was amazed, things like this never happen to me, and the next few months were a blur, as I prepared to fly out on June 20th that year. 

I was in the States until the end of August, working for 7 weeks then travelling for 2, and I got to see some amazing places. Highlights include going whitewater rafting in Ocoee, Tennessee, partying all night in Nashville, visiting Memphis and Graceland, and spending a day at Universal Studios in Orlando, plus 4 days in NYC before flying home.

So, after that I embarked on more studying, and in January of this year, got a new job. It wasn't what I really wanted, but it was OK for earning money while studying. Unfortunately, when they learned I was looking for work related to my studies, the company and manager began making my life pretty unpleasant, and on October 26th this year, we parted company. I'm now looking for work again, but I'm going to register with various agencies to try and get temporary work as a teaching assistant (the thing I studied to do after coming back from America). So I'm not too worried. 

So now on to the skating part of the blog. While I was in the States, my coach left the rink, so back in August I started lessons with a new coach, who is awesome. Skating is about where it was in 2014, although my inside 3's and mohawks have gone MIA, so currently trying to get those back. The big news is...

I'm skating in the rink's Christmas show again! It's kind of bittersweet, as the last time I did a show, I was dealing with a major bereavement and that was my escape. Now I'm making lots of new memories, and I am in a much better place mentally now, than I was then. I have my costume, a gorgeous pink velvet dress from a company called Bunty Sportswear - go check them out, Ruth, the owner is amazing and will answer any questions you might have. The dress with me in it though, needs some work, so I'm on a major weight loss campaign - 6 weeks to show day! 

So, I'm gonna wrap up here, I'll post another update next week, after my next show rehearsals! Thanks for reading!å

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Making the Right Decisions...

OK, firstly, apologies for the lack of updates, been kind of busy. So, updates first of all. The break in process for these new skates, has actually been OK! I've given up wearing them around the house, and just skate in them as I normally would, and they're now almost there. I also figured out why my laces were too short - I wasn't tightening them enough in other areas, once I started doing that, I could easily tie my bow. 

Skating wise, we're finally making progress on inside 3's! I can do them away from the wall, and now with very, very limited input from my coach. I need to keep practicing this, but she thinks another few weeks and they'll be passed. On Tuesday we started working on my landing position - holding a backwards outside edge, as this is part of Skate UK level 8, which I'll soon be working on. I can do this relatively well with a push away from the wall, just need to work on holding it from backwards crossovers. I need to do it on both feet, so that will be interesting on my non-dominant side. 

So, you might have noticed there was no talk of my upcoming competition in all of that. Well, the thing is... I pulled out. Due to no other adults skating the spin, jump, spiral category, I would've had to skate with the 11-15 year olds. My spin was basically non-existant, and in the new boots, so was my 3 jump. So I spoke to my coach, told her I didn't feel up to competing this time, and she was lovely, said we could work on getting all the elements really strong, and compete next time the rink holds a competition.

I did go along to watch, and take part in an exhibition number with the adult dance group (not my best skate, I wasn't able to make many rehearsals - lesson learnt there). It was really cool watching everyone, cheering and seeing how things worked. I will definitely be doing the next one, I may even be at the level where I can skate a program, which would be quite cool. I did make the right call about pulling out, though, as the other competitors were really good, with quite high jumps and good, solid spins. I would've looked a fool. 

Another really cool thing was, a couple of weeks ago, I met my skating friend for the first time since Christmas, and her 3 week old baby boy! He's adorable, and she's itching to get back on the ice. She's coming to the rink on Tuesday, as she's got a relative to watch her son, so it will be nice to skate with her again :)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Got my new skates... Let the Break In Commence!

As the title suggests, I finally took possession of my new skates. I got a phonecall early in the week to say they were ready, and my friend also got a call saying hers had come in, so off we went back to Sheffield to pick them up. 

We did one final check of the fit, and I was told I was on a permanent mount, so could spin and jump as much as I wanted - woohoo! I really didn't want a third trip, or to have to get out the cordless screwdriver to add more screws later. They'd sharpened them for me too, to a 3/8ths grind, which was cool. I also got myself some new soakers - tie-dye ones with a reinforced bottom. 

So, after we were done in the shop, we went out onto the ice to test out or new purchases. I absolutely loved my skates - there are some sore spots, but I'm not moving around in the boot anymore, and feel really secure. Only problem was, it was a busy public, with a lot of hockey skaters whizzing around so I daren't do anything more than some lemons (swizzles) crossovers and inside edges. They all felt great though, I didn't go over my toepicks and I didn't have any trouble adjusting to a shorter blade. 

I can't wait til Tuesday, when I'll be back on my home ice, and can REALLY start testing these babies out! 

But, of course, every silver lining has a cloud, and I've got to break them in first. I had a really easy time with my Jacksons, one sore spot where the boot cut into my calf, and some pinched toes, and that was it. Break in was a piece of cake. The Edeas actually fit me correctly, so I guess this will be my first REAL experience of breaking in figure skates. 

So far, after skating in them yesterday, I've been wearing them in the house for 15-20 minutes at a time. I really need some more skating tights, as they were what I wore to get fitted for the skates, and everything else I have is either too thick, or too thin. I have, however, found and ordered 2 pairs of skating knee-highs from Mondor, so that'll help me with things to wear.

I have heard all kinds of crazy ways to break in skates - heating them in the oven, using a hairdryer on them, among other things. I plan to simply wear them while watching TV, and skate in them as much as I can. It'll take time, but it's the only way I know. 

I do think I need longer laces though, I can barely tie a bow in these, and find it easier to simply tie off the ends in a double knot, but I'm not sure if that's OK? Anyone got any idea on that? I'll pick up some laces tonight when I go and watch the ice hockey, and try them out this week, just to be safe. 

Not much has happened skating wise, coach was away this week so I went for a practice and met up with a couple of skating friends. We had great fun holding hands and doing synchronised spirals (it was a quiet session). I also wore my skating dress on the ice for the first time, and it felt great. 

So that's my week, here's to an easy break in period for the skates and some skating progress! 

PS: To the girl doing waltz jumps on the busy public yesterday: not a good plan. You also nearly took me out by launching yourself backwards into a spin entry. Look, it's public. Save the spins for a patch session, alright?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Adventures in Skate Shopping

OK, so I've had a pretty exciting week, lots happening. Let's get the skating out of the way first, as the other stuff will take a little while to get through.

Waltz jump is coming along nicely, and I've actually done the entire entry and jump sequence a few times now, without holding my coach's hand - woohoo! There are still things that we need to fix, like the fact that I'm sometimes not landing on the back outside edge, and not really landing or taking off from my toe pick - have you seen the picks on a Jackson Mystique? They're very small - I find it hard to get onto them properly for anything!

The one foot spin is, at the moment, the problem child, the work in progress, call it what you will. It's the one element for this spin, jump, spiral competition that isn't where I want it to be. I can do the entry, and I feel really confident with the entry, but the actual spin? Not happening very well yet. I think it's being on one leg that's the scary part. Anyway, hopefully we'll get there before April 26th - competition day!!

The spiral, I actually really enjoy! I need a little bit more height, but my skating leg and free leg are both doing the right thing, so that's good. Inside 3's are still an issue, which is not so good, but I'm sure I'll get there. I will, of course, blog about the competition, and hopefully be posting photos or video, if I can get someone to take them of me. 

So, that's the skating, now the good stuff. A couple of months back, I noticed some space in my boots that wasn't there before - I've been losing weight so not too surprising some has come off my feet. Anyway, it got to the point where I no longer felt secure in my skates, and was wearing two pairs of socks to compensate. 

A friend of mine also needed new skates, and offered me the chance to go with her to a very reputable skate shop, who fitted her and her son for their skates from day one of them being on the ice. I jumped at the chance, and we headed there yesterday.

It's over an hour away, so I really hoped they could help. I called in advance and told them a little about myself, my level, what I was looking for etc. They were really helpful on the phone, so I was looking forward to the trip.

After the drive, we walked in, and WOW! Dresses as far as the eye could see, Zuca's all round the walls, a wall of gloves, another of guards and soakers. Boots everywhere, a blade cabinet, a little corner for hockey skates (the main hockey part of the shop was in another building) and lots of space to try things on and walk around. 

First I got them to check what sharpening was on my current blades - apparently I could easily drop down a couple of increments, so I might do that with the new blades. Then I said I needed some new skates, explained why, and the real fun began. The lovely man who was helping us looked at my boots and said that the Freestyles and other higher level skates I was thinking of were out - I had barely broken the ankles in on the Mystiques. He then took out my insoles and commented that the boots were way too big for me - I had a lot of space at the end of the insole. 

Now, this is where I found out some stuff - when I bought my skates, I asked for a UK size 6, my shoe size. The shop I went to, sold me this, as far as I was aware. No, they did not. They sold me a size 6 1/2, and while that may have fitted OK when I was my heaviest weight, as I shrunk, and my feet changed, they became worse. Nice skate fitter man commented that he was very surprised at the condition of my skates. Boots that are too big will apparently break down quickly, and can even lead to injury, so really, I've been quite lucky. 

So, we decided we'd start at a UK size 5, and go from there. I tried the Edea Overture, in boot only form, and it actually fit, right there and then, better than my Jacksons did. No painful bits - pressure, but not pain, particularly in the ankles and my little toes. I was asked to lace them up, and the fit was checked - you can barely get a finger down the back of the boots when they're laced, and they felt very supportive. I was told to keep them on while he helped my friend with her skate buying, and then we'd see if I wanted/needed to try anything else, although he said we'd be hard pressed to find a better fit than that. 

It took a LONG time to find skates for my friend - she's got very unusual feet. She doesn't care if her skates are ladies or mens, so in the end she got a pair of Jackson Marquis on order. 

I decided I was VERY happy with the fit of the Edeas, and chose to have them teamed up with some Coronation Ace blades. My blades will be 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Hey! What's going on?!

I know, I know, I've left you all for ages without an update again. I'm sorry! So, what's been happening in the wonderful world of skating? 

Well, two rather big things have happened. I've put my name down for a spin, jump, spiral competition at the rink. Yep, I couldn't believe it but I found the courage to fill out the forms and submit the entry fee to my coach. We are having two events: one is for people who are on Skate UK, like me, and working on the higher levels. We have to do a waltz jump (from backwards crossover entry), one foot spin (from proper entry) and spiral. Then for those who are on Skate UK Star, they can do a 1min 30 routine to music. It's going to be interesting to watch everyone, I'm really only doing it for fun, so don't mind where I place, if I'm honest. 

The only problem is, the entries have now closed, and I'm the only one around my age competing, so I suspect I'm going to have to skate up with the 30+ crowd. I don't mind that really, I'd rather skate with older adults than with the kids - they're seriously good and would wipe the floor with me!

So, the other big thing? I bought a dress :) Just a plain, keyhole back skating dress in kingfisher blue. I love it, and can't wait to wear it for the competition. The only dilemma I have is: over the boot, or footed tights? I have a pair of each. 

Alright, enough of that stuff, on to the skating. We've taken a break from inside 3 turns in my lessons, to focus on the competition elements. The spiral is going really well, only attempted for the first time on Tuesday, but my coach says it's great already, just needs a little more height. The one foot spin? Scary, scary times. I'm fine with the entry, but having only ever spun on two feet (not very well, either), I'm not 100% sure where my weight needs to be or how to stop myself. But again, coach isn't too worried, we've got time to work on it. The waltz jump is going well, starting to do more of the entry sequence without having my hand held. I got some new wrist guards yesterday so now feel better equipped to go and practice the jump without my coach. 

Our dance group is also going well, we're working on a routine for competition day to "Puttin' On the Ritz" and boy, is it fast! I'm pretty much OK with everything, except the box step, and the sheer speed of everything else! I will need to start attending Wednesday night dance again for a while, to work on it with all of the skaters present. Hopefully my friend who helped me out with getting home from rehearsals for the Christmas show, can help me out this time. I also need to find a 1920's Charleston dress, as that's our theme... 

So, until the next time I skate, I hope you all skate safe, enjoy your skating and have an awesome time on the ice :)