Adult figure skating – I learn to jump, and I break my tailbone.

The Picky Eater took up ice skating late in life. Very late in life. She picks up here where she left off last year, talking about her adventures in advancing up the figure skating ladder. You can find the beginning here, or learn about her attempts at learning to spin here.

Excitement Level: No excitement, just terror
Rink Temperature: It gets colder the longer I lie on the ice
Number of Falls: It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality

My coach announces that our class is going to start learning jumps. Apparently it is not enough to slide around a sheet of ice on two thin blades of metal. Someone, and I’d like to know who, came up with the idea that you should build up speed and launch yourself into the air. Over ice.

pole-vault

Why stop at jumping? Why not pole vault on the ice too?

I always assumed that any jumping would be done at much higher levels, and I’m only a level 7/8. I am barely qualified to STAY on the ice, let alone try to leave it by jumping. But my coach is taking no excuses. Did I also mention that my coach is a big fan of “learn by doing”?

I watch as my coach goes down the line, picking up children and lifting them through the jump. As subtly as possible, I keep moving to the end of the line. Eventually though, I find my coach and I standing face to face, having a bit of a wild west-type showdown. We both know she can’t lift me through the jump. We both know that I am just going to have to go for it on my own. And we both know that I am looking to run away, but can’t run on skates.

I’d give you the details of where it all went wrong, but all I remember is kicking hard and then a lot of pain. According to spectators, I looked exactly like a cartoon character dramatically slipping on a banana.banana_slip

I don’t know about you, but when I fall down spectacularly and publicly, I would pretty much like to get up and act like nothing ever happened. And I’d really appreciate it if everyone could go along with me on that. But instead, the ice is suddenly swarming with coaches, students, hockey players, people from the front office, and people I’ve never seen before, and apparently they all brought friends.

“I’m fine,” I tell everyone. This is my standard answer. I could be missing half my skull and I would still tell everyone that I was fine. “It looked really bad,” people helpfully tell me.

I both heard and felt my tailbone break when I landed, but I choose to believe that words are powerful, and that if I keep repeating how fine I am, the words will somehow heal the broken nub at end of my spine.

Another mob of people greet me as I hobble off the ice. (Geez, how many people does this building hold?) They want me to know two things: that I’ll be okay, and that it looked really bad.

I won’t let fear get the best of me. I’ll be back on the ice again, trying it again. But not for the next two weeks. I get to spend that time sitting on an inflatable donut, telling co-workers how fine I am.

Top 10 Reasons I took up Adult Figure Skating

After seeing me on the ice, but before seeing me fall badly, people often ask me why I took up figure skating so late in life. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know:top ten

10.   Why did you take up figure skating?

I decided I hadn’t broken enough bones by doing other sports and this would be a great way to speed right through that process.

Also, standing on a treadmill in a gym, watching a little green blip make circles just wasn’t cutting it for me. I thought there had to be a more fun way to exercise. And I was right!

9.       Why now, so late in life?

Well, I’m not going to get any better looking, daintier, or shorter, so I figured I should get started right away. Besides, is there a rule that you can only try new things before age 12? I didn’t get that memo.

8.       Are you going to wear one of those costumes with the sequins and the skirt?

Heavens no! Well, actually, probably yes. But I’m going to make a costume that doesn’t look nearly so gaudy and ridiculous. I am obviously the first person ever to say this.

7.       Why don’t you take up something more suited to you, like tennis?

I know that’s you grandma. We talked about this.

6.       Do you get to hang out with cute hockey players?

I’m not sure. I can’t actually see any of them. They are covered head to toe in some kind of wearable track and field-style crash pad and they all have helmets and face protectors. Also, judging by the shouts I hear, they are all named either “Smitty” or “Dude.”

5.       Ice skating doesn’t actually look as hard as you make it sound.

You know nothing about skating. Also, that’s not a question.

4.       Do you have a coach? Does he or she yell at you?

Yes and yes.

3.       Aren’t you embarrassed to take lessons with children?

Embarrassed? No. Mortified? Yes. But it’s great for pushing yourself. I can’t really say, “This move is too difficult” when I am surrounded by six year olds who can do it.

2.       What’s the hardest skill you’ve worked on?

All of them. Sadly, I am completely serious about that. Skating backwards was incredibly hard and scary until I got used to it. Skating on one foot was incredibly hard and scary until I got used to it. Every new skill I have tried so far has always been the hardest thing I’ve done yet. I’m still waiting for the day that something comes easy. Gosh, that would be nice.

Edward_Cullen1.       Why do you stay with it?

Because I can’t help it! Because I love it!

Adult figure skating is that dangerous boy with the long, dark hair falling into his eyes. You know he’s not good for you. You know you’re going to get hurt. Your friends all think you’re crazy and before the whole thing is done, it will probably empty your bank account. But you do it anyway and you love every minute of it.

Dear darling ice skating, they just don’t understand you the way I understand you.

My first day as a Level 5 Adult figure skater – Backward Crossovers are an even crueler death.

penguin-slap-o

I know the kids in my class are plotting this.

Excitement level: Through the roof
Rink temperature: Glacial
Number of falls: Surprisingly few

I was so excited to graduate to Level 5 I could barely contain myself. There are eight beginner levels, and I am now officially closer to being a real figure skater than I am to being a living joke on two blades of metal.

I spoke too soon though, because the instructor tells us we are now going to learn backward crossovers. Oh, I think not. I’ve been down the crossover road before, and it ended with a lot of sprained wrists, bruises and a devastatingly low sense of self worth.

I pretend to re-lace my skate while I watch my classmates take tumble after backwards tumble. The kids in this class appear to be slightly older, maybe nine or ten, but they continue the great tradition of staring at me like I am the Swamp Monster from whatever cartoon kids watch these days. (Do kids still watch cartoons?)

One of the boy students is a hockey player and with his pads and gear on, I can somewhat hide behind him. He falls as often as I do, so I try to jump up quickly and then stare down at him while he’s still on the ice. I think this makes it look like he’s the only one who fell.

I can’t help but to notice that I really am getting better. Not at the skating, but at the falling-and-getting-up-so-quickly-no one-sees part. That’s a marketable life skill. I can use that anywhere – the office, the grocery store, you name it. “Oh my god! Did you just fall down the stairs?” “What are you talking about? I’m standing right here in front of you. How can both those things be true?”

I think it’s probably time to make peace with something I have figured out about my new sport. Mastering a skill on the ice will usually involve falling on the ice. If I want to keep learning, I’m going to keep falling.

But I’m falling at a Level 5 now. Let’s not forget that.