My skate went well! It was the biggest competition I’d skated in and my most technical program yet, with harder jumps and spins as well as my favorite pretty elements like spiral and Ina Bauer. Usually I have no one to compete with at local events or one other skater in my group: here I was in a group of eleven.
My husband and I flew down Thursday morning and drove straight to meet the coach who would ‘put me on the ice’ for the competition. Connecting beforehand with this coach, who I’d met previously, and having him agree to help me out made me feel more confident about skating the event. I’m used to having a coach with me to give advice during the warmup, tell me to breathe, and share the experience.
The coach gave me a lesson. He watched my program, advised me on where the judges would likely be sitting and how to gear my performance to them, and helped me improve my sit spin and show off my jump landings.
Friday morning I skated at the rink in Pasadena where the competition would be held. Luckily I was able to skate on their regular freestyle ice so I could play my music a couple of times and get used to skating my program on that ice surface. A few other competitors at the same freestyle included a skater from my own rink and a lovely ice dance couple who appeared to be in their sixties. Their program included beautiful lifts and got looks and admiration from the other skaters. I skipped the official practice ice later in the day, figuring I’d had my skate.
On Saturday, competition day, I made it to the rink for 6:30 a.m. practice ice. It was a bit of a zoo but I was able to get my feet under me and warm up my elements, then returned to the hotel to stretch, put on makeup, and get back to the rink by nine to meet my coach.
He did visual training with me, pointing out where on the ice each of my elements would be. We discussed whether I should start my program at the opposite end of the rink than I was used to in order to show off certain elements better to the judges. I explained that I’d tried that during the freestyle session the previous day and gotten lost in the middle of my program, and we agreed that in that case, it wasn’t worth trying to change my starting point now.
I had drawn the first skate after the second warmup group. Being first after the warmup had resulted in a bad skate for me before, so we talked through how to manage it. You have to cut your warmup a bit short to avoid being too tired for the performance. Luckily the warmup was scheduled to be six minutes, relatively long, and we agreed that I’d stop skating when they announced one minute left.
We went outside where he helped me stretch and go through my program off ice. He left to help his other skater and my husband stayed with me while I stretched a little more and moved to stay warm until it was time to put on my skates.
My warmup went well except that my flip-toe-toe combination was a little rough. I skated over to my coach and asked him whether I should do it again, but just then was the one-minute warning and time for me to rest. He kept me company until I was announced.
I had been nervous all week, but now I told myself, hey, you wanted to do this, now you are here, better put yourself out there and go for it. I thought of the maintenance guy at my rink who had said, “I heard you are going to California? Kick some butt!” I skated out on the big, clean ice as the door was pushed shut behind me, then held a long edge with a smile on my face, skating past the photographers and the five judges on my right to my starting spot and into my pose. My music started and the program flowed.
My first jump, a loop-loop combination, felt easy, as did my flip, and my first spin was centered and long. I found myself able to breathe and stretch as my coach at home had wanted, giving a little more in my spiral, attitude, and Ina Bauer. My second flip was rough and I double-footed the landing, a deduction, but still managed to tack on the two toe loops. I was skating slowly at the beginning of my footwork but eked out a wobbly double twizzle on one foot in front of the judges, then a better one on the other. I picked up speed and did well with the rest of my footwork, finishing my program with a decent back spiral, toe steps, and a (not very centered) scratch spin.
My coach helped me off the ice, praising my skate. He said that I hadn’t seemed nervous like his other adults, that I’d gone out and just skated my program like one of his little kids. He told me that based on what he’d seen so far, he thought I would be in the top four skaters.
As it turned out I ended up placing 5th out of 11 skaters in the 41 to 50 age group of Bronze Ladies free skate. I was ranked 2nd by two judges, 5th by one, and 7th by two, resulting under the complicated old 6.0 system in 5th place. My coach told me that everyone who placed ahead of me had a lutz jump, which is worth a lot of points, and the winner (his other skater) had two lutzes. I can do a lutz but one of my coaches at home had taken it out of my program the previous week because it wasn’t consistent.
I was happy with my skate and my placement. My coach told me I’d had the best skating skills in the group (that encompasses things like edge quality). And I was pleased with myself for getting out there at a big competition for the first time. Almost a week later, I’m still feeling pretty mellow and pleased!