The last few days before Sectionals were more stressful than I’d imagined. Problems with my rental car, navigating LA traffic and just keeping all my items with me as I moved from place to place were a bit much on top of last-minute preparations for the competition.
The skating, at least, went well. Coach Gary helped me out both last year and this with Sectionals: we’d met previously at a LA rink and he was already bringing skaters to the competitions. On Thursday he gave me a lesson at Toyota Sports Center.
Toyota is a high-powered place. Frank Carroll, coach to many champions including Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek, coaches there. Carroll had two skaters in Sochi: Gracie Gold, the 18 y.o. US champion who placed 4th in ladies, and Denis Ten, who competes for Kazakhstan and won bronze in men’s.
I had a good lesson with Gary. He had watched a video of my program and brought a well-organized list of the elements he wanted to see and go over. We worked on my jumps and spins and I ran through the program with music twice. He told me that when I relax my jumps are nice and high. (I know it’s all the other times I need to work on, times when I get disorganized and just sort of fling myself into the air without the proper timing or arm movements.)
My first run-through was great but on the second one, during my practice time, I started double-footing my jump landings. Gary warned me that if I did that at the competition it would cost me, so don’t do that.
He helped me with my sit spin-back scratch spin combination which is still pretty unreliable. He told me to concentrate, when I change feet to begin the back spin, on stepping onto the ball of my foot and staying there. To get the feeling of the correct spot he had me skate backward on the foot that I back spin on and ride onto the toe, scratching the toe pick into the ice. He also told me to press down my little toe. That’s the position he wants me to keep in the back spin. I tend to balance too far back on my blade instead.
Gary hoped I would not be intimidated by the high-level freestylers skating on the session when I would have my lesson, and luckily I was not. It wasn’t too different from the freestyle sessions at one of the rinks I skate at which has many competitive skaters. I only had one ‘moment,’ after my lesson, when I went to the CD player wanting to have my music played again. I saw a coach sitting there and thought of asking him if he would pop in my music for me, took a closer look and realized it was Frank Carroll! He looked rather impassive, as he does on TV, and was wearing a Kazakhstan Olympic Team jacket. I chickened out and asked coach Gary to start my music again.
After my lesson I packed up at my friend’s house and went to pick up my husband at LAX. I thought I was starting to finesse things since I’d figured out how to drive from my friend’s house to downtown LA without getting on the freeway. Ha! I ended up in a massive DUI dragnet traffic jam instead that made me hours late to pick up my husband. I made an ill-advised pit-stop dash into LAX which resulted in me being the one waiting at the curb as my husband had to move the car along and circled around the airport again!
We drove to Ontario where the competition would be held and at 10 we finally got into our hotel. On Friday I had an official practice ice. My lutz was being balky, fortunately a skater from my rink who is also a coach was there and was able to give me advice to get it back on track. I left my almost-new fleece jacket and a pair of Norwegian knitted gloves that were a gift from my exchange student at the rink after my practice. I realized my mistake right away, but they were gone and I never saw them again.
After a lot of running around and looking I resigned myself to buying cheap replacements– not that easy to find winter clothing in March in LA, but I picked up a vest on clearance at Kohl’s that evening. Returning to our hotel and settling into bed around midnight, I asked my husband to check that my competition dress was in the closet. Eeek! It was still at my friend’s house in LA. Earning lots of husbandly brownie points (I’m forever in his debt) my husband drove to LA to retrieve it, getting back to our hotel at 2:45 a.m.
To be continued……