Reset

One of the Lloyd Ladies took this of me today. I’m standing in my skates on the ice.

I can be just a bit of a control freak. And that almost caused my skating to go off the rails. Other things caused me to only skate a few times in the past six weeks as well, shin splints, an eye infection, a spree of nausea induced head aching, Even new shoes and a blister. But what was really causing a bigger problem was my control freakishness.

Here is an example: A popular thing for blind people to do is tandem bike. Often, you go to a blind people recreational event and there will be biker volunteers with their tandems for you to climb on back of and ride away on. Its cool. But not for me. I HATE tandem biking, because I am a control freak. I hate being on the back of the bike and feeling like I have no control over where it goes, what it does, how far it leans, etc. So, what do I do? I drive the tandem. I have the (very courageous) volunteer make tactile gestures on my back for left, right, break, etc. And I drive. Now, I’m not an idiot. I wouldn’t do this on a major street with a bunch of cars and stuff. I would only do this on a bike lane that is fairly unpopulated. But still. I think driving the tandem is fun, but not being the rear person. Even better is when I have been able to ride my own bike behind or beside a person riding a bike. But I can only do this on a really easy straight route.

So, doing my lesson with Anthony kind of felt like being on the back of a tandem bike. I felt like I was being driven around. Now, I just want to say here, if any one ever reads this who knows him, I don’t think Anthony did anything wrong. This is nothing to do with him, its all my psychosis. Its a level of not being used to skating with a partner, not being able to see while someone is pushing you around the rink at a speed you aren’t used to, not being able to confidently do the steps independently of him, and not being able to control the pain in my legs I have sometimes when with someone else. Its overwhelming and I was dreading skating. I did not want to dread skating.

But I also see where Anthony could really help me out eventually, so I think if I take these things one at a time, I could get to where I am not feeling like I am on the back of a tandem bike and having a control freakout. So, I think I am getting healed with my shin splints and the time off was good for that. I still did shin/ankle/leg exercises the whole time. I think if I could do most or all of the individual steps independently then I would feel more in control when skating with him. I could also have more confidence with the speed. Then the only thing left is just getting used to the whole not seeing and skating with someone else. I think when I learn the dances better, like where I should be on the ice (I mean they are pattern dances, this is not hard) that will help and then it will all come together.

So, I’m taking a coaching break. Anthony was all cool about it so its good. I returned to skating today after only skating like…twice in the last 6 weeks and got my mojo back. I had very little pain. I mainly only worked on forward stroking and some edge stuff. I’m ready to go back to my list of basic skills and start chopping away on them. And it was my birthday today, so my motto for the year is #48skategreat!

I know in the grand scheme, no one really cares that I skate and its just a frivolous little hobby of mine. But it has been “skate therapy” in some unexpected ways. Stuff like the above comes up, where my personal anxieties and issues come in and I have to decide to deal with them or quit. Its good to push through and work outside of your comfort zone (within reason.) But other stuff is getting worked through my head as well.

I was a caregiver for disabled people for around 28 years. Most notably, I was a primary caregiver for a quadriplegic family member for 22 years. It wore my down. It screwed with my mental and physical health, it was hard on my family, but it was no one’s fault. It just was a difficult situation. Near the end of my time, I would walk over there and feel like throwing up I had such burn out. I quit in late 2016 after finding hired replacements for myself. But it was a hard adjustment I still feel like I am going through. A year after I quit, a lot of things fell apart for this man and he ended up losing his apartment and is now living in a nursing facility, which is not ideal. I feel a lot of guilt over that.

There are three reasons I am even able to skate now. One is because my kids are older and more independent, another is because my husband’s business is doing well and the work I do for him I can do on a very flexible schedule, and the third is because I am no longer a caregiver. While his life declined, mine got dramatically better. Our business got better because Nik and I were not so stressed out trying to take care of him and had more time to sleep and manage things. The kids are not so stressed either and we have more time and energy to hang with them, help them with school, etc.  I was able to focus more on my health, eat, sleep and exercise more. Everything got better for me while everything got worse for him. I still see him in the nursing home regularly and we still text and stuff. I still help him out with small tasks from time to time when I can and bring him things he needs. But it is a complex emotional trip. It became one of those “put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help another” things, and I know if we kept it up, our business might have failed and my health  may have more rapidly declined. And he is not helpless, much of his decline happened because of some poor choices on his part. But I see daily that it is all an awful system that he has to contend with as well that is just really really challenging to be successful in. Its just…sigh. In the last year I’ve been spending a lot of time working out stuff in my brain about the whole thing.

So, I try to keep skating as a happy place, an anxiety reducer and unclouded by controversy and drama. I want it to stay that way because it is important that I have something that can be that. I think this means that I have to take things very, very slow. No rushing into dance lessons, no rushing to gain skills when my muscles aren’t ready. I’m 48 and I can still skate. I’d like to keep it that way.

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Ten Day Absence Made the Heart Grow Fonder

I have a confession. I was so unmotivated and disappointed by the skate I did at Winterhawks on 5/25 that I just wanted to quit this whole thing. I was in constant pain, I look like shit. The Winterhawks people seem to barely tolerate my existence. I have a busy life which is filled with work, kids, a loving husband and friends. Why am I making more problems for myself when my whole point in this was to feel better. Here is some video from that session which i did not want to show, but why not? (Someday I will actually show improvement and this will be the sad “before”….I hope?)

Winterhawks 5-24-18 from Lisa Ferris on Vimeo.

So last week I did nothing. I did not skate for ten days. I think I might have done 1 Daily Burn and maybe a few walks and only worked out for like, 2:30 hours. Then, I remembered that I have two paid skating sessions left with the Hooky Club as well as an appointment with my new coach. I should keep the appointment, use my last two sessions, and see how it goes.

It went great! First of all, I think the ten days off helped my shin splints heal. I had almost NO pain today. I did not even take off my skates and they felt pretty good. It was really the first time that throughout the whole session, I didn’t have pain. I did feel a bit out of breath, but that was probably more to do with the fact that I literally did almost nothing for ten days physically.

OK, so coaching. My coach was a dancer, and he almost immediately launched in to teaching me the dutch waltz. Which we did in parts together with the Killian hold. Except for that one time I practiced with a precision team, this was the first time I skated with another human where I have to keep together with him. Now, He was giving me A LOT of support, and I’m sure I looked just as bad as that video if not worse. But! I felt the familiar edges, The muscle memory of some of those steps started kicking in, I don’t have the muscle and balance ability to hold those positions on my own, but with his support I was able to get the feel for them. It was challenging and fun.

And a bit scary. Speed has always been a problem, and although I am sure he was slowing way down for me, I was going his speed. Visually it was a bit overwhelming. I could not orient myself at that speed. Then he would say stuff like, “left foot toward the center or the wall” and I would be like, “I have no idea where I am in space and time, I don’t know where the wall is!” I think that will get better when I’m not so freaked out about thinking about what steps I am doing, keeping balanced, and going so fast. Although I could still see a bit of light and color, that was really skating blind. Everything was just whipping by in a blur that I could not cognitively/visually interpret.

So, if I skate with a partner, I suppose that would be the easiest way to accommodate this. As a kid, I knew that I could never compete because of figures. I couldn’t see them. I did test in freestyle a bit, but that was it. Back then, it never occurred to me to try pairs or ice dance. That was for older adults. And Ice Dance, well, it was for Russians! There was not ice dance in the US (I thought). Although clearly JoAnn Schneider Farris proves me wrong, she was totally ice dancing then with a whole US team at the Broadmoor. In my twenties, I wanted to learn ice dance but I could not find a coach or partner. Partners for women are rare, especially for ones who are already in their twenties and just starting. The adult competitive scene was just getting started then and was not developed as it is now.

So now, I just figured I would learn solo dance because that has developed a lot in adult in the past twenty years. But now I recently found out that at the lower levels, you can dance with your coach as partner. Hmmmm, maybe this is the way to get past my speed problem. Dancing with your coach is expensive, as you have to pay all the expenses instead of splitting them, but it might be something to think about.

My husband, Nik, said he wants to learn ice dance with me. And although he CAN skate–he is Swedish Canadian so he was practically born with skates on–he is totally blind so would not be able to serve that role as guide. We could do it, and we might just for fun. But the bigger problem is that he really doesn’t get how much work and dedication it takes and he doesn’t have the time when ice is available. Besides, my plot to get him on the water in his own sport seems to be working. He is really liking rowing. (Here is a video of him on the dragon boat. He is the very last rower in the boat in the forefront that is moving ahead.)

So, I think I have recovered from my funk. And I think it might have been a good thing to take the time off. I had been skating in pain for over two months. Maybe things just needed time to heal. So, this week the plan is to skate today and Thursday, Finish up the last of my “Daily Burn: True Beginner 8 week program” which has taken me significantly longer than 8 weeks, and work up to heading back to the gym. This week and next week have lots of end of school year obligations and event for the kids and then we have dragon boat races on the weekend to go to! (He trains for 6 weeks and he already gets to race in a top-tier boat! I spend 12 weeks just trying to get my skates to feel ok. Ice Skating is a hard sport, you guys.)

Progress Report!

Here is a new thing I am trying. I forget what to work on when I’m on the ice. I have an app that shows descriptions of the skills in the Adult Basic Series. I transferred those to a google spreadsheet which is more accessible to me. So, I’ll keep a running list of my progress there. I’m not quite sure how it will work to share the document, so experimenting here. But at least I have it for myself now!

Progress Report

Weekly Wrap-Up 9/Goals Week 10

Last week was a week with a lot of sickish days. I only got one skate in and exercised 5 days total. I also had a light rail delay problem so it made it harder to get to the rink and back in a reasonable amount of time. Mornings are hard for me because I always wake up feeling nauseous, headachy, and unable to eat much. Often I have to work out the night’s worth of toxins or whatnot that your kidney’s usually filter. I take a medication in the morning that gets that process started, but it can take a few hours for it to work. One of the main reasons I decided I probably needed to work from home was because of this issue. Its hard to get up and work by 8:00am when you know you are going to be barfy, yet hungry and want to pee every five minutes for the first 2-3 hours of your day. Skating is not particularly early (I usually leave around 8:20ish) but it is a challenge those first few hours. I remember when I skated at 6:00am!

So, Monday just wasn’t happening. I did skate Thursday for the first time with the superfeet inserts in. I think they helped! Before I was dealing with plantar cramping and shin splints. This time it was only shin splints. An improvement! Also, by the time the group lesson rolled around (we had a sub) my skates felt pretty good. The sub had us doing a bit of simple synchro, which was fun. She wanted to know if we were doing the “Fourth of July Show” and they said that there were too many new people (raises hand), but she had us doing some line skating anyway.

I once joined a synchro team for a practice when I could skate well. I thought it would be easy because I watched them and I could do every thing they did. However, its a whole different ball game when you have to skate at a pace and timing not your own. Also being connected to people feels weird and it feels like you are getting pulled in different directions at once. I must not have liked it too much because I never joined the team. I had a new appreciation for how hard it is, though.

I really, really wanted to skate Friday at Valley, but my kids had a field trip and there would be no one to watch my littlest guy. And he doesn’t like to skate. : ( But then I did off ice training at home and I could tell my legs were really tired so it was probably for the best. I’m not yet ready to skate without a day or so in between.

I was sick the entire day yesterday. Very bad headache and then just dizzy and low BP all day. It always amazes me that I can go skate for two hours one day and then I can’t walk to the bathroom without looking like an 90 year old woman the next. I had to take breaks! Ugh! I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it today to the rink, but I did. I felt really nauseous on the way to the train but it got better on the ride.

I finished reading the JoAnne Schneider Farris book called “A Skating Life” on this trip. I have been reading skating stuff on my hour long train rides. I’m going to make a post about that book, but not today. This book took me weeks and weeks. I’m going to miss it, I will have to find something new for the train now.

Today, I worked on forward outside edges, two foot turns, stroking, and forward and back 1/2 swizzles on a circle (prepping the muscles to work on crossovers.) Here is the deal, it took forever to warm up and get the pain out of my legs, I still take small skate breaks where I take the skates off for a few minutes, but it IS getting better (with the boots) and I am getting better. Its just slow, slow, slow. Every single time I skate I improve, but its incremental. About the time my feet/legs really start feeling good, they are tired out, so its a balance. I’m hoping with some work on stamina and taking breaks in between skate sessions, I will shorten my warm-up time and lengthen my “good to skate” time.

It is extremely hard to set goals when you are dealing with chronic illness. I did not meet all of my goals last week, but I am happy with what I was able to do. It has become a day-by-day thing and my main goal is to keep going. #keepgettingup as they say. There are days that are a total bust, like yesterday. I barely made it outside where my kids had planned a picnic. It even got moved from the park down the street to my backyard. There are days when you can’t do all you want to do, but you can modify it and do something. And then there are days when you defy your own expectations, like Thursday when I was able to find a different bus to take, walk an extra 1/2 mile, do the group lesson (with synchro!) work a bit on edges, walk an extra 1/2 mile to find yet a different bus, come home and stay awake all afternoon and get other stuff done. So, the goal is to be able to see the differences between these days and take them as they come.

I’ve been so focused on skating, I think I am driving everyone nuts, but it does help my anxiety if nothing else then my giving me different anxiety. And this is sort of a grateful anxiety if that even makes sense, because–I don’t HAVE to do any of this. I’m lucky that I can worry about boot break-in or whether I’m improving my edge quality and all that type of thing. Its a relief a lot of times to just worry about this kind of stuff that really has hardly any consequence to anyone else but myself. I’m working it out.

Peaking Around a Corner?

…As in, maybe turning a corner a little.

I started this project about six weeks ago and have been skating 7 times. All this time, the skating itself has been kind of boring because it was just lousy and pain-ridden forward skating around and around and around. Not too exciting. Most of this time has been dealing with foot pain, equipment problems, fatigue, and getting used to rink dimensions and  sensory overload and how to manage it, and finding good ice time. As far as the skating itself, I haven’t seen any improvements.

But I’m starting to. My boots are still not foot paradise, but they improve greatly after just about ten minutes or less. I am no longer skating with an hour of severe foot pain followed by days of mild to moderate lingering pain. I have sore muscles in my legs, but that pain is not that big of deal to me and I know it will improve.

I had a long way to go to get my skills back. But I can see improvements in my basic stroking and have been able to work on Basic Skills stuff. I can feel my right side getting stronger.

Ice time is ok for now. The Lloyd Ladies (and men) are all pleasant and I have enjoyed meeting them. I had my first group lesson with them yesterday and there are some minor kinks to work out with being able to follow along with the lesson, but it was good to be in it. Lessons help push you further than sometimes you would have pushed yourself that day. I need to arrange for someone to tell me when it starts and when its “my turn” because I can’t tell otherwise. I also had too many helpers. They were all well-meaning, but if 4 people are surrounding me trying to tell me what is going on, I have no chance of hearing/seeing ANYTHING. I need just one person so I’m going to have to kindly manage some of my overabundance of help!

I long for fast-paced big ice, but I don’t need it yet. If/When I do, I will relook at my rink options or add to the Lloyd Ladies. But for now, Lloyd Ladies are fine. I’m a bit concerned about Lloyd Ice, though. Now that I’ve walked through the mall with my son, Naim, I realized that the mall is not dead, but is “sick.” Its got really only one anchor store, which is Macy’s, and Macy’s is struggling. Several vacant spaces exist throughout the mall. And now with the other rink closing soon, what will become of it. Seriously, they should take one of the big vacant stores and make two big standard sheets of ice on it. And then try to get a fitness club in there as well. Think of all the people that would bring in to the stores! But, for now, I’m hoping Lloyd holds out for me and the others who skate there and/or someone can work out a new rink or two in this town. Calling Tonya Harding! Did your movie make you any money, Tonya? Can you invest it into a new rink? I’ll come! I’ll bring my friends!

But I digress…

My biggest challenge so far has been scheduling and fatigue issues. Even there, I see a little bit of improvement, although its not worked out, yet. I read up on exercise fatigue, kidney disease and fatigue, etc. I realized that I developed a low RBC and had to take epoetin shots the last time I was skating heavily. But it also was a time when I had kidney stones and went through 4 kidney surgeries in a matter of 8 months, so that was probably the more likely cause. (And I don’t remember falling asleep immediately after skating back then, just overwhelming tiredness all the time, but I skated when I could still.) So, I get blood work about every 2 to 3 months and I will check my RBC next time, but I’m leaning more towards this being exercise fatigue. I’m thinking of dropping pilates for the time being, but then just yesterday after I skated, I was tired and not fully functional, but I could get a few tasks done in the afternoon and I did not fall asleep, so maybe there is improvement already. I tried to drink more water during skating, have a small snack immediately after, and some of the other tips that they say can help exercise fatigue, but its not like I’m brand new to exercise, either. So its still a bit up in the air, as is scheduling to both get everything else done and to not overdo it to the point of being dysfunctional. It might kind of be a day-by-day or week-by-week thing for awhile.

I sometimes have tiredness and “oh, god, do I really want to get my ass out of here to skate?” feelings in the morning, but once I get there, I’m fine. I no longer feel anxious about the skating itself, although I’ve struggled with guilt and anxiety over sleeping too much, being gone too much, not getting as much done at home. But hopefully I can get rid of that. There is something nostalgic about walking through Holiday Park and a mall by myself with my dog and skating bag to the rink. It brings back so many memories of my single, child-free days. I am getting kind of protective over that time, and it does help with my overall day-to-day anxiety and enjoyment of life. I’d be on the ice every day if I could, but for now, I am just happy to start feeling the skating high that comes with a level of comfort and confidence on the ice.

Little Victories

So here are some of my first few minutes on the new skates:

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First Skate in Edeas from Lisa Ferris on Vimeo.

Now, I understand that this is completely and objectively unimpressive, but for me, it represents several minor victories.

Backing up, I ended up needing counseling over these boots! Not psychological counseling, but boot expertise. I had been wearing them around the house and they were just KILL.ING.ME. So much foot pain! And I was completely depressed and thought I had made a terrible decision and blah, blah, blah.

So, I talked with an online pro tech guy, who schooled me about the difference with Edeas and what everyone gets wrong about lacing their skates. He said I was lacing them too tight and that I was causing potentially permanent damage to my foot. But, I argued, when I lace them loose, I can’t even walk in them! I’m wobbling all around like a newbie on rentals! He says the problem is with my weakling, wobbling ankles, not the skates. And if I would just lace the skates right, eventually I would be able to stand in them and skate in them comfortably as my ankles and legs got stronger.

This corresponded, interestingly enough, with a guy I met at Valley last week. His daughter came up to me to ask about my guide dog, and I ended up getting into this whole conversation with him about speed skates. He was wearing speed skates, and I had never really seen them before. Maybe I knew the they did not come above the ankles??? But this is the kind of detail I can’t see on TV. So he totally let me check out his skates by touching them and he was explaining them to me, the very, very long blades, the “slap” part where the blades disconnect from the back heal, and the low, shoe-like boot. I was all, “how do you STAND in them?” I pretty much thought skates had to put your ankles in a head-lock of death to work and that is just the way it was. He said that you just do after a while. Your ankles get strong enough to support regular skating on them. They would not be good for jumps, where you need to land with a lot of support, but you can skate without ankle support.

This, apparently, is what you are supposed to do with the Edeas. Be like Maya Usova, said the skate pro guy. Apparently she wouldn’t even lace her skates up the hooks so she had more foot freedom. You are supposed to keep the toes loose, the bend of the ankle tight but not strangled, and the hooks loose.

Okay.

Well, I was too chicken to do it at first, and I went around the whole rink with my feet hurting so bad, I couldn’t get off and unlace them fast enough. Then I decided to be brave. I laced them like they said, I walked to the ice as wobbly as a person wearing broken down rentals. And I skated! And that is what you see above. It feels quite weird, I can’t hardly pick up my feet. But I can tell that if I work on it, I will develop the muscles to do it. It started hurting different muscles after a while. Like my shins and quadriceps. But it was the kind of pain like, I’m sore because I haven’t used these muscles in awhile, not like I’m going to get gangrene. It was a pain I could handle. I can tell it puts me in a deeper knee bend in the skates, which is good for everything.

The blades weren’t that hard to get used to…yet. I mean, I’m not doing anything. So they aren’t really being tested. I can tell that they are different. I was trying 3-turns and Mohawks on the wall and I could tell that they are much more maneuverable than my old blades. So glad I’m going to relearn on these from the beginning now.

Another minor victory was that I was very sick that day and I went out anyway and still completed my goals. When you have a chronic illness, this is a constant management issue. How much do you push yourself when you feel lousy? I grew up thinking I was lazy and useless and I skipped a lot of school, so I have this constant thing in my head that if I don’t meet a commitment or show up for something it is because I am being lazy and taking the easy way out. But, then one day a long time ago, I was in my office job in such kidney pain from chronic kidney stones I was awaiting one of many surgeries on, and I was laying on my office floor doing work because it was the only position I could stand. And I thought, all those people who called me lazy NEVER went to work like this, and I do regularly. So screw them.

It was still a balance that was hard to find. I have always had orthostatic hypotension. Most of the time, its not a big deal. I manage it without anyone noticing several times a day, every day. But sometimes, when I have other stuff going on, it gets pretty bad. Once, I was in a meeting (with important outsider types) and I got up and was so dizzy and about to pass out that I slammed into a wall. Just a few minutes later, I was fine. But my co workers (after making sure I was ok) were really upset with me. They were saying how bad it looked and how I looked drunk and how I need to be responsible and stay home if I am that sick. But orthostatic hypotension is not really being ‘sick” I argued, its just a few minutes out of my day where I need to take a few seconds of  extra time. But you LOOK really sick, they said. Oh. So that is what counts. Got it.

Its hard to balance how you look, how you feel, what you could do in a different, less socially acceptable  position (laying down) or with a flexible schedule and short breaks. Its hard to be really honest with yourself and know when to push and when to stay home as to not get any worse. Its hard to commit to people when you don’t know from day to day if you will be able to meet the commitment. This is probably why I’ve arranged my life so that my schedule is very flexible and I can work from home and take on projects that I know I can do as they come up.

But sometimes I wonder, since I’ve been fortunate enough to make this flexible schedule for myself if I still can push through or if I’ve gotten too soft. I want to keep that muscle of being able to push through. And on this day, I did. I had hardly slept because I had a really bad headache to the point where I was nauseous, but I got up and went anyway, and it was difficult, but I accomplished my goal of getting over my fear of these skates.

Skating is a metaphor for pushing myself socially, physically, and emotionally outside of my comfort zone. And this was a day I did all of those things. Funnily enough, 2 other people there were breaking in new skates, too. I was having a really tough time communicating with them because the sicker I feel, the worse I see and hear, but we did manage to bond a bit over our silly little boot crises.

I have a lot of work ahead to build the muscles to get used to these boots, but this was a major hurdle, with a lot of tiny victories.