Monday, April 28, 2008

Flying Solo

What am I going to do with myself for 3 weeks?

That's how long Tim will be on vacation. It makes for not very interesting blog fodder. For example, the dialog goes like this:

Me to Self: OK, we're going to work on solo samba now, and I want to see some power this time!
Self to Me: Whatever you say!
Me to Self: OK! Let's go!
Body to Me and Self: The joke's on you both, these legs are in their mid-forties and we can only do so much ... not a lot to work with here.
Me and Self to Body: You're absolutely right. Let's go and get a latte.

This is not a very pretty picture. Clearly there isn't much impetus to work very hard on solo dance when one's partner decides to abandon ... uh, go on vacation. I just can't seem to get motivated. It's sort of like writer's block, and we all know how that turns out -- blogs about chewing gum and my wood obsession and such. Skater's block means that I have a lot I could work on but not much I really want to work on by myself. Worse, when I'm alone on the ice my mind often wanders to the dreaded F word ...

That's right ...


I tried some axels the other day, yes, in dance blades. Did a few spins too. I have to stop this because I know how easily I could get sucked in:

Me to Self: I'll just try one double flip. It used to be my best jump.
Self to Me: Well you know, that was about 30 years ago.
Body to Me and Self: Remember, if Tim comes home and we're in a cast you'll have to make up some lie about being hit by a car.
Me and Self to Body: Right you are. I think it's time to go and get a latte.

So maybe I'll just take up golf for 3 weeks. The sun is shining, it smells like spring, and I really love hitting small objects with sticks. I think it's just what I need -- another expensive and time-consuming hobby that I'm not good at. The grass is always greener.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wooden it be n' ice

It's Monday, so it must be time for the weekly update. We are using the remaining time we have before Tim goes on vacation for several weeks to make last minute improvements. While he's gone the things we've learned will "gel" from non-use and when he gets back we'll see a quantum leap forward. At least this is what we are hoping for. We've been without a coach for a couple of weeks also, and so we are hoping that all of the gel is still going in the right direction. (We all know that left to its own devices gel flows downhill.)

It's tough to have made so much improvement and then have Tim leave, but there are definite benefits to this. It will allow him to ship his boots to Klingbeil to have them rebuilt (they are totally falling apart inside) and also get his blades sharpened. That sharpening thing is key - it has been a full year since he sharpened them. Yes, I said a full year; he last got them sharpened right after the "rust fiasco" when we got home from Nationals last year. Remember that I am the sharpening queen and can't stand any hint of dullness, so this just drives me crazy. He claims dull blades make him a better skater, so I asked him this morning why not just skate on blocks of wood? That would also make him a better skater if he could pull it off. He could be the world's best "block of wood" skater, although not so hot an ice dancer, but perhaps edges are overrated.

But I digress. This is supposed to be the weekly update and not the weekly nagging. Our compulsory dance intros are getting pretty good now that we've practiced them a lot, and we usually start the dances on the first beat of measure 9, which is the goal. Occasionally we don't, for which we place the following blame: "the hip shake thing" when practicing the Samba and "the CD player must have skipped a few beats" when practicing the Viennese.

Speaking of wood, I am having the wood floors refinished at my house. This is a dusty, smelly and overly long process. We've been renovating our master bedroom/bathroom and office for what seems like about 6 years, but really since February. If all goes well Perry and I may actually be moving our furniture back into the bedroom early next week. But enough about wood.

Our expression on both dances has improved. Our timing has definitely improved. We're skating closer together and our tracking is better. We are learning to bend our knees at the same time and in the same way more often so that we are synchronized in our pushes, meaning more power. It's sometimes hard to keep these dances inside the barriers of the mini-rink at Lloyd Center. (This doesn't mean we're such powerful skaters but that we need to get on deeper edges. This might prove difficult for those who choose to skate on blocks of ... OK, I won't say it again.)

Best of all, today we tried some Blues choctaws - always the measure of how well or poorly we're doing. Once we applied the new things we've learned, they were effortless. An effortless Blues choctaw at 6 AM on a Monday morning really makes my entire week. I can only hope the choctaws gel permanently while Tim is on the slow boat to Barcelona. Wouldn't that be n' ice.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dream Off

There's always a captive audience in a mall rink. Above, a rowdy group of fashion models supervises our practice.

This announcement should not come as a shock to any of you who are competitive ice dancers: We have changed our free dance music.

This early in the season I guess the correct response is "who cares??" I did make kind of a big deal about our choice of music with the "guess our music" contest, but that was just because I couldn't think of anything else to write about that week.

We still really like "Dream On," the music, but we don't like "Dream On," the free dance. We saw the first 45 seconds or so on video and went "bleah." That's how we felt when we were actually doing it on the ice too. Granted this is new choreography and we haven't given it much time to gel yet, but I think we can already tell that this won't be the best music choice for us. We felt the music just fine, but we were portraying it internally, which is the kiss of death when judges expect to be hit in the face with expression. And believe me, I LOVE hitting judges in the face!

They may say "oh, isn't that pretty," but they will have no idea what we are feeling out there, and the audience will be similarly bewildered, and they certainly won't join us in feeling the feeling. And that would be a "Dream On" nightmare.

Being hams, we are capable of over-the-top expression. So we think it's a better idea to do something that showcases that strength. We have some ideas but until we know for sure there will be no "guess our new music" contests. Looks like I'll have to find something else interesting to write about. (I've already sunk to a new low and written about GUM, so this could be quite a challenge.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why I can't skate and chew gum at the same time

My partner Tim chews gum on the ice. I am sure he does this out of courtesy since we are in close proximity, breathing hard, spewing sweat and snot and sometimes blood at each other. Bad breath would just be uncivilized on top of all that.

Me, on the other hand - I figure what the hell. I try to avoid garlic and onions most of the time and hope for the best. This is because when I was growing up my coach used to make us spit out our gum before getting on the ice, citing numerous cases of kids who fell while skating and choked to death on their gum, or gum that fell on the ice causing someone else to trip and break their neck. Years of hearing and believing these stories as an impressionable youth made it inconceivable for me to chew gum while skating.

I told Tim that he shouldn't chew gum on the ice because I feared for his safety, so he looked it up on the INTERNET and told me that it's impossible to choke to death on gum, and that these stories are all just urban legend. He said this with a lot of authority and a mouthful of sugar-free Trident, so of course I believed him. Based on his extensive research I'm OK with him chewing gum now, even though I don't chew it myself on the ice.

So yesterday when something gray-green and minty fresh went flying out of his mouth, and he caught it in his hand before it hit the ice without missing a beat, I had to stop and laugh. And since it's a slow news day here in skate land I guess I am blogging about gum today. Chew on!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Finding the Reality in Reality TV

I hate reality TV shows. In fact, I dislike most TV other than HGTV, which tantalizes me with all of the projects I could do to my own house if I had an infinite amount of time and money and owned power tools.

I do make one exception to the no reality show ban, because I am addicted to "Dancing With the Stars." The show is extremely popular so I am clearly not the only person addicted. More than the actual performances, I love when they show the hapless celebrities sweating it out, cursing and falling over in their high heels and short skirts in the studio as they learn their new routines in only 4 days. As we were doing our Samba intro over and over and over again this morning, running into each other and trying desperately to do that "hip shake thing" without looking like morons (oh yeah, it's a little harder on skates) -- I was comforted knowing that the celebrities on TV struggled with the same issues.

I may also be one of the few fans who uses the show to garner clever and inexpensive costume ideas for next season. If all goes as planned I'll be buying fake eyelashes and wearing two dayglo orange postage stamps on a string with a spray-on tan for our Samba and call it good. Bring on the body glue!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bittersweet thoughts on the eve of final rounds

Tomorrow is the day for final rounds for the Gold and Championship events at Adult Nationals. And even though Tim and I have been going about our business this week, practicing as usual, pretending not to notice, I have to confess: we really do wish we could be there competing in one or both of those final rounds tomorrow. It sucks to sit at home and watch the action on IceNetwork and hear about it from phone calls and text messages coming from the lucky skaters who are actually there.

For the last couple of weeks people at the rink have been wishing us good luck, and we've had to say "we aren't going." Yes, we've been working hard, but not for this. People seem surprised that we are sitting out this year because we've been working so hard.

Really, even without Tim's injury and our 6 month hiatus, we could not have gone to Lake Placid. He absolutely positively has to be physically present in Portland tomorrow, Saturday, final round day, because of a software installation at work. He must be available in case anything goes wrong and he has known that since shortly after he got back on the ice. So we knew all along there was no possible way we could compete this year.

We didn't mention this to anybody until now, but for some reason I feel like it's "true confession" time tonight, the night before final rounds. For adults, work and family often take priority over skating. There's nothing we can do about that.

Tomorrow our practice will probably be a good one because we are excited to skate on the big ice at "Shiny Rink." Tomorrow we are going to do our best to forget what is going on a continent away, because if we thought about it we'd probably feel like taking the day off, because being in an ice rink might be depressing. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be sunny and beautiful, a perfect spring day. Tomorrow the 2009 season can finally, officially, begin for us.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Congratulations Chris B!

Terri & Chris, Adult Sectionals 2007

A loud CONGRATULATIONS to our friend Chris Borton who won the Silver Men III event at his first Adult Nationals today. And by an almost unanimous panel with tough competition!

Tim and I met Chris in Sun Valley at the adult weekend in 2006 and "adopted" him, even though he is a freestyle skater. We let that slide! In addition to being an extremely nice person, he is a wonderful role model for all adult skaters. Chris lives in Montana, 100 miles from the nearest rink, and drives several hours to skate in a freezing cold rink. The rink closes for several months in the summer, leaving him without ice. Despite this, Chris has persevered and has really become an awesome skater. I had the privilege of putting him on the ice at adult sectionals here in Portland and was so proud of his wonderful skate. I am sure he just blew everyone away today in Lake Placid.

Chris, we wish we could have been there to see you win that gold medal! We're so proud of you!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

So, what's on your turntable? Uh, iPod?

I hear many freestyle skaters and even non-skaters say that they might be interested in ice dancing, but they are turned off "by the music." The music, they say, "it sucks."

I really can't relate to this. I'm not sure what they are complaining about. In my car I have our compulsory dances, the Silver Samba and Viennese Waltz, on permaplay/infinite repeat. I rock out to these on the way to work each day. Also on the way to the rink. And the grocery store. Pretty much everywhere.
When the weather is balmy I roll down my windows in order to share this lovely music with everyone else. It's one of the few ways I actively promote ice dancing. Frequently I sing along. That's right, I said sing; the lyrics vary based on time of day, the state of traffic on the interstate and my current mood. Most are not suitable for publishing here.

Last year the Blues and Starlight Waltz made up the soundtrack for most of my activities of daily living. The kids groaned every time they got in the car and immediately put on their headphones. Which leads me to wonder what kind of garbage THEY are listening to.

The ringtone on my phone is "Once in Love With Amy." Before that, it was "Get Me To The Church On Time." I'm thinking of changing it to "Tie Me Kangaroo Down."

Wait a minute ... "Tie Me Kangaroo Down"? Is that really supposed to be a Rhumba? What were they thinking??? That sucks!

(No offense Marilu and Bob, it makes a great OD ... but a rhumba? Come on!!)

That reminds me - good luck to Marilu and Bob who are skating the Pre-Gold Dance Initial Round in Lake Placid tomorrow ... hey, text me those results ASAP, OK?

Weekly update

We haven't had a weekly update in a couple of weeks now, so I think it's about time. First off, Tim actually read this blog for the first time -- ever? Well no, but I think the first time since we returned from adult nationals a year ago. He described it as "quite comical" which I think is a good thing.

Next, we are making progress on choreography. That doesn't mean we can DO the choreography, but that we know what it is SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE, for about the first minute of our program. There is a big huge major difference between the two. The good news though is that we can do the first part of it and the rest is do-able; we are able to try to do it, which we do, over and over. It improves in some small way each time.

We had a lesson today on the big ice and worked on Silver Samba with a bit of Viennese Waltz too. Our coach made corrections and improvements which caused us to say things like "OMG, this is so much easier when we do it this way" and "wow, why didn't we think of doing this before?" Every time we do them they get better so that's a big plus. I guess that's why I'm willing to get up at 4:30 in the morning for this.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Portland Rocks

Our Home Ice circa 1969

I can't believe another Adult Nationals is almost upon us. Good luck to the Portland dance teams competing at Adult Nationals next week: Lauren & Mike (Centennial and Championship), Laura & Kiel (Championship), Julia & Jordan (Gold and Championship) and Marilu & Bob (Pre-gold). I also have to mention our friends Anna & Will (Championship) from Seattle, also representing the great Pacific Northwest.

We wish we could be there too. Have a rocking good time!