On The Edge... Again

The last time I skated regularly, you needed 2 pair of skates, a scribe and skated patch. Triple jumps were almost unheard of, so were Bielman spins. Twizzles were only done by ice dancers and Ronald Regan was just elected into office.


Fast Forward 32 years. Starting January 2, 2012, I am back on the ice doing something else that was unheard of .... Adult Figure Skating. We had "coffee club", which was like adult swim, but there was no opportunity for testing or competition.


How I Got Started Skating




After a 32 year hiatus from ice skating, I have decided to get back on the ice.

The past few years have been life changing for me. On my 50th birthday while sipping Prosecco on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean in Italy, the love of my life proposed to me. Getting married at age 50 posed all kinds of obstacles I never imagined. Trying on wedding gowns was something I never thought I would be doing again.

While planning the wedding in February 2010 I decided to go to the doctor for my annual "thumbs up" check up. My mammogram came back suspicious. After more imaging, biopsies, MRI's and consultations about my family history it was clear. I had breast cancer. My decision was difficult, but necessary. I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy and immediate reconstruction one week after my wedding on May 1, 2010. The cancer was very early stage, known as DCIS (which means it is still in the ducts) and fortunately for me that meant no chemotherapy before or after, just surgery. Nevertheless, this was no minor surgery. It involved removed all the breast tissue, sparing the skin tissue, but not the nipples, taking part of my latissimus dorsi muscle (from my upper back) and feeding it around my side under my arms to reconnect to my pectoral major muscle in front. This was to create a pocket to house the implants I would eventually have. The first surgery lasted 7 1/2 hours. Later that year in December I had my 2nd planned surgery which involved removing the temporary tissue expanders and replacing them with silicone implants.

Recovery from these surgeries has been challenging for me. I have been struggling to regain my range of motion,strength and flexibility and I still have a long way to go. As time goes on I can feel my body changing exponentially from all it's been through. Did I mention I am now peri-menopausal? What better way to cure a hot flash than to get on the ice!

My background as a figure skater started when I was about 9 years old. I attended a birthday party and we all went ice skating. I lived in Marin County and skated at Raydine's Ice Rink in Corte Madera. I must have really enjoyed it. We were all given a flyer to take home to our parents that offered group lessons and session times. It was 1968. Peggy Flemming had just won the gold medal. My divorcing parents agreed that it would be a good distraction. So off I went, once a week in group lessons. When the 4 weeks were over we took the Alpha Test. I earned a patch and wanted more. I took another round of group lessons and moved quickly into Beta, Gamma and Delta. Somewhere along the way my parents afforded me a pair of CCM figure skates. They came with blades already attached. They were terrible no doubt, but I didn't care. I was skating.

By the time I had the moves down for Delta Test I had finally realized that my CCM skates were not good enough. I looked around and saw most of the other skaters didn't have metal caps over their lacing holes, nor were their boots 1/2 way up their ankles. They also had something else I didn't have... A "PRO". Most of this is a blur to my now fading memory, but somehow and with much persuasion I must have convinced my parents that I needed better skates. My next pair of skates were a pair of used Hyde skates that had MK Silver Star blades. Better than before. Now I had to improve enough to convince them I needed private coaching. Again, this is a blur. I remember my coach very well. His name was Tony Howard. He wore snow boots and a big overcoat and a Russian style hat on his head. He was a very sweet man with rosy cheeks and he was very affectionate to his skaters (in a good way), but he used to tell me I skated like I was a "linebacker for the Rams" when I landed my jumps because I was always tense in the neck and shoulders! I was allowed to take one 15 or 20 minute lesson every two weeks and I was allowed to skate patch/freestyle sessions twice a week and public sessions on the weekends. I remember the evening public sessions while my rink played Lawrence Welk sounding waltz music to skate by. I remember borrowing someones scribe at patch because we could not afford one. I loved patch. I would secretly watch the high testers and spend my last 10 minutes working on serpentines and loops which were years ahead of my ability.

Skating as a child came to an end for me rather abruptly. I was going to my first competition. Well, actually it was a test. Probably Pre-Preliminary, but I somehow think it may have been Preliminary because I had to skate figures and then I had a short 1:15 program. I chose the music Exodus. My parents had the 33 album at home and I loved the dramatic feeling of it. I went out and skated my figures first and all went well. It wasn't perfect, but I think I passed. Something came over me while I was off the ice changing into my homemade dress my mother had sewn for my freestyle program. I got the jitters and chickened out. I am sure my coach must have been there, but I don't remember. I just remember ending my childhood skating with that memory.

Fast forward to age 18. I am living on my own. Now working and living near the Costa Mesa Ice Chalet, I decide to try again. This time I buy someones used Harlick's with Phantom blades.   They were custom made, but not for me, for the previous owner and didn't fit perfectly. Who cared? They were Harlick's with Phantom Blades!  I was in heaven. I hired a coach named Jon (prounced Yon) and he got me working on all my single jumps and attempting the axel I never landed as a kid. The same year I moved back to the Bay Area and I skated briefly in Hayward at the Ice Palace.  Later that year I moved again to Monterey CA in 1980. There was a rink in Marina, near Ft. Ord.  I skated from time to time during the afternoon or evening public sessions only and I hired a coach 1-2 times a month. I can't seem to remember his name.  

So low and behold.... one night at a public session I miraculously land the evil axel jump. Not once, but 10 times. I had to be sure. Was it cheated? Did I really do it? Each time I landed it I was grinning from ear to ear. Some secret unlocked within me and there it was. I couldn't wait until the next day to show my coach. Of course the next day, what had happened the night before was all a dream. There was no axel. There were numerous attempts and loads of frustration. My coach told me this happens all the time and not to worry. It would come back. After the lesson I continued trying and trying. I was so frustrated and getting really fatigued. You can probably figure out what comes next. Take off, jump, turning off axis ... landing twisted and blowing out my right knee. Getting up was not an option. The knee immediately swelled to the size of a grapefruit and it was on fire. Someone helped me off the ice and I called a friend and she took me to Monterey Peninsula Hospital. Dr. Richard Dauphne (who is still practicing as of 2013) attended to me and I was scheduled for was was then "ground breaking" arthroscopic surgery to remove the torn meniscus.
The surgery went really well, but I did not do enough rehabilitation exercises to properly build up the strength I needed before returning to the ice. Six months later I was back under the knife for another arthroscocpic procedure to remove all the left over meniscus completely and have what's called a lateral release done. Something to do with stabilizing my patella (knee cap) that was moving. Another abrupt end to skating. Shortly thereafter my skates were stolen out of my trunk and I forgot all about skating until about 5 years ago.  

Round three. I am now 52 years old. I own a pair of someones used Reidel boots with MK Professional blades that I bought on Ebay . They don't fit. I wear a size 9 1/2 street shoe. I have bunions. I have a trick arch with a strange muscle in my foot, narrow heels and really wide ball. But I have been trying to skate a few times a year just for exercise. My friend Sheila skates. She used to be an ice dancer and she and I skate for recreation from time to time. Recently on a road trip to California, I was visiting a friend who lives in Santa Cruz. My planned route home was going to take me through "the peninsula" of the bay area which are all the towns between San Jose and San Francisco along highway 101. While I lay awake on my last night in Santa Cruz I got to thinking about where I might stop for gas, food, reminiscing, etc. As I made a mental map of Palo Alto, Redwood City, Belmont ... I suddenly thought about San Carlos. Then my mental map screamed at me SAN CARLOS ..... aka Mecca for skating boots. Home of the Harlick factory. I tossed and turned and fell asleep. In the morning I called the Harlick office and inquired about getting a fitting. I was sure it would be impossible to get fitted while I was in town, but I thought I could stop by and view the boot options then have someone up north in Spokane where I live measure me. "When are you passing through town?" they asked. "Today" I replied. She then told me there was a cancellation that very afternoon at 1:30 that very afternoon. No time for consideration, I said YES.


The process of sitting in the lobby of Harlick and getting fitted for my first pair of custom skating boots (made especially for me) ever was so exciting. Fortunately I have two friends who both skate and can appreciate the glory I was feeling. There was also quite a bit of guilt as well. I knew I was going to be spending a lot of money. Phil was wonderful. He took his time and measured parts of my feet I didn't think were possible to measure. I must have been there nearly an hour. Afterwards he gave me a quick tour of the factory. Some really good things really are MADE IN AMERICA !!! I decided since I was going all out for new boots that I could not shame them with used blades, so I ordered up new MK Phantom blades as well. I could have gotten a lesser advanced blade, but I had skated on these before and loved them. He would have place me in MK Pro's, but I had my heart set on the Phantoms.

As of the writing of this preface, I am still waiting for my boots and blades to arrive. It should be soon. It's been about 7 weeks since I ordered them.

Since I returned from my California road trip to Spokane Washington where I live, I have found regular ice time at my local rink, Eagles-Ice-Arena. There is a wonderful daytime public session I can skate without having to join the club. The ice time is inexpensive and there are mostly adults who skate during this time (and very few I might add .... shhhhhhhh). I found a coach, Berkley Villard who has begun giving me short weekly private lessons and with any luck I will be improving my skating very soon. I may even subject myself to the rigors of "testing" and "competition". All of this to be decided by my KNEE!

Since I last skated seriously, skating has changed dramatically. Figures are gone. They have been replaced by something called Moves In The Field. As I get better at blogging, I will try to link that to a real definition from USFSA.

I will try to chronical my workouts and skating practice, but I may throw in something entirely non-related.

18 comments:

  1. Too funny! I skate at Belmont! You drove right past ;) When I left skating they still had figures and then they were gone...and now I'm finding out more than I ever wanted to know about MITF. My FIL skated hockey for years at Eagles. I've only skated there once or twice. My Spokane days were my non-skating years.

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  2. Hello...I saw your post on Bygone Rinks......my first competition was at Raydine's and Tony Howard at the age of 82 teaches for me 4 days a week at the Oakland Ice Center. He is an amazing man.

    Best,
    David

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  3. Are you serious? He is still coaching? I was in the Bay Area a few months ago. I had my boots punched out at Harlick's then skated at Belmont. A few days later I skated at Dublin and a few days later I skated at Vacaville with plans to go to the Ice Palace before flying out of Oakland that evening, but my cell phone died and I spent about 1 1/2 hr at Verizon and didn't have time to hit both rinks that day.

    I'm sure he won't remember me, but please tell him hello from Diane Siegel. Does he teach on club ice only in the mornings?

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  4. I am working on my Silver MIF right now, hoping to pass in January also. You look much more fluid than I think I do. I did not skate when young, just started this in my mid-40s as a wall-clutcher. I generally moan about how much easier this would be for me if I'd skated as a child, but your story puts things in perspective. Good luck to you! - Elizabeth

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  5. I too skated at Raydines and took lessons from Tony. Hadn't skated in 35+ years, but I too had a breast cancer experience, which has led me back to skating. Although I can still whip around in my dreams, it's not like getting back on a bike and picking up where you left off. Quite humbling, but still provides me that inner calmness that I can only get from skating.

    Hoping to run into Tony at the Oakland Ice rink some time this week to give him a BIG bear hug. God bless that man and his patience...

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    1. When did you skate at Raydine's? How long did you skate and how long have you been back to skating?

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  6. I came across your skating blog today and wanted to tell you how inspirational you are. I'm an adult skater on the east coast and just wanted to say hello!

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  7. Thank you for your comments. I've been off the ice for a while, but plan to return to a regular schedule next month. Going to Adult Nationals this year as a spectator in preparation for 2014!

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    1. I hope to compete next year at Adult Nationals too... hope to see you there!

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  8. I'm glad I found your blog Diane, you certainly are an inspiration to other adult skaters!

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  9. You are sweet. I started documenting my skating to see my own progress, I was pretty amazed that I have gotten such an interest from others.. happy landings!

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  10. I was an extremely competitive figure skater, quitting while competing in qualifying competitions heading for the 2002 Olympics. I haven't been on the ice since 1999. I am about to embark on an adventure getting back on the ice. I hope I can get back even 1/4 of what I was capable to do. I want to give lessons. Fingers crossed!

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    1. That was only 12 short years ago ... you will be back doing triples in no time! Good luck. Happy Landings

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  11. I was an extremely competitive figure skater, working towards the 2002 Olympics. A fellow skater won...Sarah. I have been off the ice for 15 years and am about to embark on the journey of getting back on the ice. I just hope I can eventually get back even a 1/4 of what I knew. I would like to give lessons. Fingers crossed!

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  12. I adore your blog Diane! I skated when young too, although I never convinced my parents to give me lessons, then I took some lessons myself around my early twenties for a short time. I stopped skating for 10 or more years and recently (in March) had my old Reidell's overhauled for my changed feet and went back out on the ice, also after having had cancer (lung). Is there something about that? I think so. I also did the flying trapeze but that was definitely a one time thing. I'll stick to my absolute love of skating. I'm taking mostly group lessons now and just passed my ISI Delta (I know, it's for kids right?) but was excited and started working on pre-bronze elements.

    Watching your video's is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing publicly!

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  13. Hi Diane,
    I just started skating after being mostly self-taught as a kid... so has been almost 35 years. I look forward to reading your blog. I have just started lessons again with Tony Howard in Oakland. He is a great teacher! Thanks for sharing your experiences. Inspiring!
    Lisa

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  14. Wow ... Fantastic that you are getting back into it. Please tell Tony hello ... We have been communicating recently. I hope to be able to come see him in the near future.

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