Lake Placid Adult Skating Weekend 2018: Part Two

(You can find Part One here.)

So we’ve already established that I left the Lake Placid Adult Skating Weekend (LPASW herein) with a renewed love of the sport and a strong sense of community. But what about, y'know… the stuff I actually paid for?

The opportunity to skate in such a storied rink was worth the price of admission alone. Getting to roam the labyrinthine behind-the-scenes corridors of an Olympic arena and freely pass through “Athletes Only” doors made me absolutely giddy. Trundling my middling-skater ass across an icy surface that was loaded with reminders of the victories and epic moments and soaring emotions it hosted was humbling in a way that bordered on deferent. And getting to skate more than five hours a day (which is more ice time than I get in some weeks)? Ungh, I could do that every day and it still wouldn’t be enough! Lemme tell you how much it hurt to put Lake Placid in the rearview. Escaping the mundane day-to-day of adult life and just skating my heart out for a couple days was a perspective jolt I think I needed to finally, honestly reconsider my priorities.

I had no idea what to expect from LPASW. I’d read some previous attendees’ accounts and accolades, which was clearly enough to convince me to go, but I knew I wouldn’t REALLY understand what I was getting into until I got there. In a weekend full of first impressions and introductory experiences, I was surprised at how I never once felt overwhelmed—partly because of the outpouring of supportive friendliness and partly because everything was so easy to customize. As to that latter point, what I mean is that this is truly an individual-led experience. You could take as many or as few classes as you want. You could take as many private lessons as you can schedule or afford, or none at all. You can totally eschew paying for extra classes or lessons and just skate around Olympic ice for, like, eight hours. You could be as social or as focused as you want. I was definitely surprised at how easy it was to design my days around what I wanted to do and what I wanted from this experience.

What’s more, the classes were definitely made to be accessible to all levels. In something like Friday’s spin class, which was easily the most packed lesson I attended, we divided ourselves into spinning pros and newbies so the instructor could work with both halves according to their abilities and confidence. A lot of the other classes similarly aimed to reach skaters at all levels, though some were definitely more successful than others in that regard.

But let’s backtrack a bit, because chronology is helpful when everything blurs together in a whirlwind of squee. The whole weekend started Thursday night with a Meet and Greet for the LPASW attendees, which was a nice little social hour where we got to chat and mingle and meet some of the weekend’s instructors before a half-hour warmup and another 90 minutes of freestyle. The two instructors who led the warmup, Carly and Annmary, were amazing. I was still getting accustomed to the reality of this thing I’d been looking forward to for months actually happening and the rush of being on Olympic ice, so I was a little too awestruck to worry about much in the first place—but if I HAD been my usually frothy mess of anxiety, Carly and Annmary would have eased my fears on the spot. They were so welcoming and encouraging and willing to demonstrate things (like, I had no idea what a pancake position is since my sit spins are so not there yet, and Annmary showed me exactly how to do it) that it was so easy to instantly feel like I had a place among our motley crew.

And it was a testament to the variety of folks comprising the world of adult skating. The warmups were essentially learning how to use our whole bodies to skate and get moving, and it was hard to tell where everyone fell on the spectrum of skill when we’re all just dancing around the ice and letting the music guide us. There was everything from spry young’ns showing off their 20something agility to folks in their 60s leisurely getting their ice legs ready for the weekend. The mixture of ages and skill levels was, for me, right in that sweet spot between challenging and encouraging. I was worried that I’d be killing myself to keep up but the pacing of everything was preeeeetty perfect.

That’s not to say that LPASW was without its frustrations. Friday (the first day of classes) presented a wiiiiiide open freestyle rink, which was lovely (especially when whoever was controlling the music added some Les Miz to the mix)… and then classes were on shared ice with kids who were there to train hard. (Annmary actually did step in on our behalf like a feeaking boss, which resulted in having the ice all to ourselves on Saturday.) And there were two instructors I was not that wild about, one of whom spent one class working closely with everyone else and then barked something at me for, like, 15 seconds without showing me anything to help with an element I have been fighting to figure out for months (HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO HELP!?), and the other, I think, just didn’t really know how to connect with more recreational skaters. Obviously, none of it was enough to ruin my time there, but when so many other instructors were so proactive and willing to offer individual help, it was glaringly apparent when someone just didn’t provide that same level of effective instruction.

But, oh man, the classes that were great were freaking fantastic. It seemed like each day was a little more advanced than the day before, and the daily schedule built off earlier classes—like, the three-turn class was before the salchow class, and one of the skaters who enjoyed them both said that she was so happy she got to focus on her three-turns before working on a jump that relies so foundationally on them. I took as much as I could on Friday (all but one of the 10 they offered) and Saturday (seven of the 10) since I wasn’t sticking around for Sunday, and was genuinely impressed that my body cooperated the whole time. The classes covered so much: warmups, edges, turns, spins, jumps, spirals, stroking, carriage, pairs, rockers, twizzles, EVERYTHING. There were definitely a few classes that were beyond me (like rockers and twizzles), but even the classes I took that focused on the jumps and spins I’m still working on yielded actionable advice—and, seriously, I cannot emphasize how much all of us camp-goers were doling out advice (and compliments!) to each other to supplement the instructors’ lessons. And, just as the other adult skaters all seemed to revel in knowing that their insights were downright revelatory, the instructors I went out of my way to thank seemed sincerely touched when I told them how much they helped and taught me.

With Friday and Saturday being basically a whole lot of classes and freestyle time, they did blur together a little for me. But they each had their OMFG! THIS CLASS CHANGED MY LIFE! moments and standout classes, and I just wanna self-indulgently rave about the ones I loved the hardest for a bit.

*Salchows with Mary Catherine Spinelli: So this was my favorite class and Mary was my favorite instructor (and there were easily half a dozen coaches I was absolutely smitten with). It was also the first class that I actively loved, the first class I felt truly proud of myself in, and the first coach I was completely jazzed about. The enthusiasm, individual dedication, and encouragement Mary brought to the class, plus my affinity for salchows (even if it is my most inconsistent jump), was the most perfect storm of cohesive elements coming together for some of the most useful 20ish minutes I’ve ever spent working on anything ever. Mary made a few minor corrections to my posture and technique early on; by the end of class, she made me feel like a gottdamn champion. Loved loved LOVED this class, and Mary gives just the best hugs. If she’s doing LPASW next year, I am signing up for private lessons as soon as I see her because the biggest disappointment of this weekend was that she only taught one class.

*Edge Therapy with Alicia Walter: This was the first class on Saturday and it was the most Zen way I’ve ever started a day. Alicia was perfect for this because she was so chill, so encouraging, and so positive. I’m always looking to improve the basic stuff, and I’m realizing that I need to trust my edges more to be a better skater. This class was great at presenting new ways of thinking about routine elements. It also did a bang-up job demonstrating how interconnected our bodies are, and all the carriage and posture drills to help control our edges better really made me feel like I was improving my skating at a foundational level. I never had a warmup repertoire before, but this class taught me so many things I can do when I’m not sure what my body and brain need for a jump-start. Definitely one of the most unexpectedly enlightening classes I took.

*Toe Loops with Katrina Kroha: It’s hard to declare a favorite class and instructor because this class and Katrina were mighty incredible, too. I’ve always wondered if my home coaches have… not so much given up on certain things but more like accepted that my body has limits so they just let me slide—like, I’ve always assumed that I pre-rotate my toe loops but that both of my coaches just haven’t said anything about it for one reason or another (I swear, one day I’ll get some confidence). This class was so much of what I’ve needed! I learned how to refer to a basic outside pivot for proper position, what I need to be more confident in my RFI three-turns so I can build better momentum, and the finer points of a killer takeoff position. I thought I was struggling to put it all together when I hear someone say “Waaaait, let me see that again”—and there was Katrina telling me how good my toe loops are! I almost died on the spot, I swear. And she had me do it again when I asked her if I pre-rotate my jumps and how to fix that, and then told me there’s nothing to fix. Ungh, this was such a good class led by a great instructor!

*Spirals & Connecting Moves with Annmary Bouchard: In the interest of full disclosure, both of the classes I took with Annmary were awesome and I loved her positive energy and seemingly endless patience. I thought this class would be more about literally connecting various moves (which is an issue I’m having right now, considering how hard I’ve been scratching between crossovers and three-turns whenever I practice power threes for the Bronze MITF test) and have never been so happy to be wrong. I had a devil of a time with left forward spirals when I was agonizing over my first MITF test so I was a little hesitant to submit myself to a class like this, but I am so glad I did! I love backward spirals, I ADORE attitude spirals (even if my back protests every inch of the way), I am warming up to edge spirals—and now I’m a big fan of catch-foot spirals, too. I caught myself absent-mindedly attempting one on my left foot and I was halfway down the ice before I realized that I was crushing a variant on the LF spiral. The hell kind of sorcery was going on there? We also learned a neat crossroll-into-held-inside-edge drill that I was digging hard. Seeing how much variety could be packed into one class was a fabulous crash-course introduction to many things I’ll be bugging my home coaches to work on.

*Basic Turns with Carly Jones: Like Annmary, I found Carly instantly likable from the very first night and got so much from both of the classes I took with her. But this class was one spectacular way to close out my time in Lake Placid. I have been agonizing over the Bronze MITF five-step mohawk, largely because I am so scared of doing high-speed mohawks while moving. After a few pointers from Carly, I was actually connecting the right steps with the left steps and making decent, half-circled progress down the ice. My three-turns are still solidly “meh” (but I did manage a few of the LFI ones that are the bane of my existence, so I’m glad I haven’t lost those from sheer neglect yet) but I did leave this class with a few pointers that are at least boosting my confidence and giving me hope that I’ll be able to do backward and double threes one of these days. But those mohawks, though. I actually did take a class dedicated entirely to all eight mohawks, but I think it was a little over my head; I did, ultimately, get the best lesson in turns here. And I did attempt a few power threes using what Carly taught me, and they were the least-scratchy ones I’ve ever executed. I started to feel confident in my flow and transitions, which is not something I could have said a week ago.

At one point, another skater asked me what my goals were for LPASW, and I actually didn’t know how to answer that on the spot: I’d been more excited about the sheer novelty of grownups-only ice time and the opportunity to dedicate myself to this sport without pesky distractions from adultlandia that I hadn’t even realty considered what I wanted to get from this adventure on a practical level. Of course, I wanted to learn from new perspectives. I wanted to work on, and ultimately strengthen, foundational elements. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone in every way possible and give myself up to the ice that I love. And I wanted to work on my problem areas, improve the skills I do have, and walk away feeling like I achieved something.

But I got so much more than that out of this weekend! I learned new ways to grind away at lingering frustrations. I learned that I’m actually a pretty good teacher (which is comforting, since my primary coach asked me to be an instructor at a kids' skating camp this summer). I learned what I need to work on. I learned that I really, honestly do thrive with daily ice time. I learned how to improve things that have been nagging at me for months (and, in some cases, practically a year). I learned that patience, carriage, and form are three major factors influencing how down I am about myself as a skater, and that once I stop rushing, the other two pieces tend to fall into place.

One of my favorite Instagram adult skaters asked me how I would rate LPASW on a scale of 1-10 and my knee-jerk answer was a solid 8.5. But I think the qualifier that matters most is that I started looking forward to next year as soon as I took my skates off for the last time. For my first year, I wanted to take it all in, do as much as I can, and still leave room for something new next year. I won't be leaving on Sunday, that's for sure, and I'll definitely be taking advantage of having a stellar coaching staff on hand for private lessons. I’ll have goals for the weekend itself, just like I already have goals for where I’d like to be and what I’d like to accomplish by the time I’m rolling in to Lake Placid next year. Having annual benchmarks serving as milestone markers and proof of progress is something I didn’t even know I needed, and I didn’t even realize that annual camps (and, eventually, competitions) could play that bonus role, too.

And for all my fears about breaking myself in spectacularly spastic was: I stepped onto the ice with my blade guards on exactly once. The fact that it didn't happen more than that is, I think, the biggest success of all.

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