Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Above - great example of breaking at the waist by me (not Doug)

Non-skater alert: long, boring, technical skating rant follows … your time may be better spent elsewhere.

Notable skating coach quotes over the years:

• “Don’t break at the waist!”
• “Tuck your butt under!”
• “Don’t stick your butt out!”
• “Stand up straight!”

I have a big skater butt and it does stick out and I also have a swayback which makes it look worse than it is. The swayback probably developed by my body over time to provide additional acetabular coverage to the tops of my naked femurs. Blah blah blah, I’ve said all this before. But I never really connected all the dots in my mind until now.

Outside to outside Mohawks, especially closed Mohawks, have always been challenging for me. I would start to turn and instantly break at the waist, despite superhuman attempts not to. I was then “stuck” and couldn’t turn at all. Because what happens when you break forward at the waist? Well, your hips close up, of course. So if your hips are already closed and you break at the waist there is no way you are going to turn. But in the past somehow finally I was able to learn a way to do them just by sheer force of will and muscling through, although I did bail out a lot when with a partner because in a dance hold I couldn’t maneuver myself into a position to force the turn. I never knew if they were going to work or not.

This caused years and years of frustration for me and coaches who’ve thrown up their hands and said it’s “all in my head.” This is why it took me years to learn one step in the Rocker Foxtrot so I could finally test it, a step that a decent skater like me should be able to do in their sleep and a step that less capable skaters without hip problems can do without even thinking about. Talk about beating yourself up.

Breaking forward was the only way I could find to get my feet together before turning without extreme pain/grinding/popping/locking up in my hip. Not knowing I was dysplastic, I thought this pain was caused by being out of shape and not working hard enough; I also just blamed it on “closed hips.” Although I didn’t realize it at the time, breaking forward was my way of keeping the ball of my femur covered during the turn. If I hadn’t been bent forward the hip joint could have popped out of the socket and probably did a couple of times. This was all pre-surgery. Now post-surgery I am weaker and less able to muscle my way through things so these turns are currently impossible.

Recently Judge L and Coach John both watched me and said “your foot is plenty turned out” and they are right based on what can be seen. This apparent turnout is coming from the knee, not the hip. When I extend the free leg to the back my leg looks turned out almost normally because I fake it from the knee down. But when I bring it in to the T position to turn, the foot may look turned out, but the hip itself is actually turned in and jammed against the acetabular rim. This is painful and feels “stuck” (a word I’ve used to describe these Mohawks since I first learned them back in the dark ages, to which coaches replied, “stretch more” and “work harder” and “don’t break at the waist”).

Now that the dysplasia has been surgically corrected, bringing my free leg in with the foot turned out and not breaking forward at the waist doesn’t force the hip joint out of the socket, but it does force the ball of my hip forward against the front rim of the acetabulum and it grinds to a halt there, thus the “jammed” feeling. Post surgery it’s the same problem with a slightly different cause. It’s not lack of femoral coverage now, but impingement against the newly-oriented acetabulum. Plus, my muscles are trained to do this the “old way.” I hear and feel the crackling and the tendons snapping. My tight psoas tries to pull my pelvis forward against my will. I can feel the pain in the iliac crest, glute, adductors and hip flexors, and as a grinding within the joint itself as the ball hits the rim.

I’ve done this off the ice a lot lately trying to build up my ability. Those muscles that bring the leg in and turn it out and keep my pelvis from tipping were damaged during surgery and have never been used this way before due to years of compensation.

Armed with knowledge, will I be able to re-train my body? There’s no risk of my hip coming out of the socket now. Perhaps I won’t have to bend at the waist if I can re-train my muscles and somehow maneuver the ball of the joint to the side so it doesn’t jam up against the rim of the socket. I don’t know. We’ll see if this German Shepherd can learn a new trick.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Good, the BAID, and the Ugly

I know some of you (ahem, Larry) are waiting with baided breath to hear all about the past weekend. And so, without further delay, here goes:

I am sore. The end.

Those of you who are not ice dancers can stop reading now. Those of you who are ice dancers or masochists can read on for the gory details.

Last time I went to BAID, two years ago, I had been diagnosed with dysplasia a couple of months earlier and thought my skating life was coming to an end. I was waiting for my first appointment with Dr. Mayo which would be at the end of October, and was still thinking a PAO was out of the question. I was skating with a lot of pain. My partner Tim came to the dance weekend too and I took him through his Starlight Waltz test so that we were finally qualified to skate the Gold Dance event at Adult Nationals. For fun, I tested my Standard Silver Samba with a coach in the Bay Area (after about an hour of practice with him). It was a rather crazy idea to "throw it out there" but I was able to pass it.

Now, two years later, I am in a different body and not going to throw anything out there and my definition of crazy has changed considerably. On Friday night I was feeling very good and energetic and skated most of the three hours of social dancing while dressed as a lion tamer, complete with bullwhip, as part of the "circus" theme.

I attempted dances with partners for the first time, including a Tango (could do all but the mohawk, so frustrating), a Willow (with Coach Peter, so the "gold version" of this dance), a Viennese, a Paso, a Samba (solo), a European, a Cha Cha Congelado, and various lower dances. I skipped the usual suspects that are just plain un-doable (Fiesta, Blues, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Rocker, Kilian, Starlight, Arge). Coach John gave me a fabulous 5 minute "mini lesson" on my outside to outside forward and backward mohawks which seem impossible right now, and I had an epiphany (more on that in a future post). I skated a lot and when I went to bed that night I was surprised that I didn't have any more pain than usual. I thought I might be miraculously cured.

Fast forward to the next morning when I woke feeling beat up and run over. I went to the morning seminar which involves more standing around than skating, thank God, and did the lower level seminar (canasta and hickory) and not the higher level seminar (blues and quickstep). I rather regretted being in the lower group because it was too easy, but the higher group would have been impossible in my stiff and sore state. I was dying to work on blues and quickstep since they are two dances I can't do right now, but in any case didn't want to get in the way of the better skaters who can legitimately do them.

In the afternoon I managed 2 dances during the four-hour session, and I think one of them was a Dutch Waltz in which I could not make the pattern very big so people were passing us, and another was something like a swing dance (but I don't remember, it's all a painful blur). I was limping pretty significantly and went to the evening party, where I parked my butt in a chair to watch the ballroom dancing.

Sunday was better. I spent the first part of the morning judging the test session and getting very cold. I then sat in the sun to thaw a bit before venturing out for the last hour of skating. I was in medium pain (better than Saturday) but decided to just push through it. I did a fabulous Dutch Waltz with Mike (He didn't hold back and while I could barely hold the edges I grit my teeth and stayed on my feet) and a great European with Coach Jimmy (he didn't hold back either and I was able to stay with him). It felt good to make myself push through and I while I didn't do any difficult dances, I tried to make the easier dances look good - head up, extended free leg, edges as deep as I can do with my minimal quad strength. It was the best I could do and I was happy with it.

All in all, I did better than I thought I could on Friday, was surprised at how much it took out of me on Saturday, and surprised myself again on Sunday with how well I could do things if I used all my effort.

I am taking today off. Tomorrow I go back to the rink to work on what I learned from Coach John on Friday night. The 5 minutes he gave me were, as always, full of wisdom. I need to work hard on what he told me and perhaps there will be hope for the mohawks and choctaws. I will describe my epiphany in a future post, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pass the NSAIDs ... it's time for BAID

Just a few more days until the Bay Area Ice Dance Weekend. This will be my first social dance weekend since surgery, and I haven't done much partnered dancing other than with Coach I and Tim. Dancing socially can be hazardous because just like a box of chocolates, "you never know what you are going to get." There is a range of ability and you are changing partners for each dance. Everyone has different technique, so synching up is the challenge.

My goal is to dance as many dances as I can safely do with any competent partner. I will be up front about my limitations of course. There are many dances that I can do competently "except for one step" (usually the highlight step). So I will only do those with partners who either know me well or don't mind some cheating going on stepwise. Or I might solo them.

I will have to pace myself since my muscles still tire easily. There will be 3 hours of skating on Friday night and about 8 on Saturday (there is no way I can do 8hours - I will do the 2 hours of seminar which involves some standing around, and maybe 2 more hours of social dance). Saturday night is a party with ballroom dancing, and with enough Ibuprofen and/or wine I may be able to do a bit of it. Sunday I am judging their test session so not skating, or at least not skating much, and that is fine because by then my legs will be shot to hell. They will just have to prop me up in the hockey box with a clipboard and I should be OK!

If I survive this dance weekend it bodes well for trying a couple of new ones next season. I've been promising to go back to Motown for many, many years, so we'll see if that's possible.