What a difference a year makes.
Today’s one year since I won the gold medal in Adult Intro Interpretive at Stony on Ice. My first competition in 22 years. This year’s competition on March 26, 2017 didn’t go so well.
But I loved the vibe and the words. I could skate out my guilt and emotional poo-poo. Lighten the load.
While I nearly broke my ankle choreographing the program at home – on the ice was a different story. The competition was approaching, and there was something keeping me from the rink. Meetings, working, sick, or — please, can’t I skate under a coat of darkness?
Finally, the week before competition – after a much needed pep-talk from a skating mom – I attended two sessions, five hours. With pre-teens whizzing by me at top speed. Landing jumps I used to.
But “Demons” seemed too big for me, and I was out of practice time. Battered and bruised, I nursed my wounds. Panicking, because my program wasn’t finished. Oh, and I didn’t have a dress.
Saturday. Day before competition. Winnipeg. Outside a well-known skate shop. And … it’s close. I considered skating nude.
Enter Dance Plus. Thank you for saving me from skating nude. While I’m not sure the silky chocolate brown dress with a sequence Cafe au Lait sheer overlay suited “Demons,” I wanted that whimsical dress.
Dress, tights and sports bra. All good. Right? No, silly girl.
Morning of the competition, and a panic-stricken phone call to my mother.
“Mom! When I move, the front of my dress falls!”
“Hmm …” Why is my mother always calm during a crisis? This was a crisis! “Sounds like it’s too loose.”
“I can be there in–”
“Oh, Tammy, we’re just leaving for the cabin.” Then … silence. Because my mother remembers who she’s dealing with: a frantic Aries woman-child who has a competition in six hours with no homemaker skills. “Do you have a needle and thread?”
“I do?” Wait, was this mother saying, “Fend for yourself, Chickie.”
“Okay, here’s what you do … ”
” … and then bring it over one day, and we’ll alter it for next season. Okay?”
I sewed for half an hour and stabbed myself five times. The bloodstains are hidden with a pillow.
It seemed easier last year when I was released from the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. I choreographed a program to Sia’s “Breathe Me” in my head. It never saw practice ice. This year? Challenge after challenge, and not just on the ice.
I arrived in Stony Mountain, and I entered the changing rooms. Um, where’s Blah Blah? My competitor from last year. Oh, she broke her foot. There was another competitor in her place, but I prepared for Blah Blah. A rematch. Demons verses Dracula. The ice version of “Rocky II”. Okay, not quite. But it felt like when you ask someone to prom and then another person arrives at your house. It throws you for a loop.
Then people started to compliment my dress. Triggering “Tulip Syndrome.” Tulip Syndrome was established on April 2, 2016 when a competitor, oh, let’s call her Tamara, believed she would lose based solely on the other competitor’s dress.
As a result of Tulip Syndrome – and anxiety with a dash of panic – I started sucking back juice boxes, inhaling apple sauce and bananas. Don’t judge me. My legs were shaking while standing in the tunnel that led to the ice. My mouth dried, and I raced back to the changing room for water, only to return just in time – as the skaters were entering the arena.
The walk to the ice felt like a death march. I couldn’t smell the ice. I was loosing focus.
I stepped on the ice – and into a time machine. The Arborg arena, 1985. Real ice? Of course not. But what were all these bumps? Well, due to warm weather, ice was dropping from the ceiling. Leaving one to three-inch raised lumps. I almost fell doing a spiral. I could barely do anything but tip-toe and appear terrified. Did I mention I broke my elbow skating in 2004? I envisioned that happening again as the other skaters sashayed by me.
I was first out, but my skate was loose. Of course it was loose. I jumped off to retie, and they announced me. In the rules, the first skater in a flight is allowed sixty seconds to establish their starting position. However, hearing my name, not taking my position, not acknowledging the crowd – of five people including judges – knowing how Kurt Browning hates it when skaters don’t acknowledge the crowd – my mind wouldn’t slow down.
I remember standing by the boards and taking a massive breath. As I took my position, I teetered because of a bump. When I tried to reposition myself, my music started. Then I did what was supposed to be an Ina Bauer-like circle, and my blade caught a bump.
That’s when it happened. It looks hilarious on video. You can see my mind go blank.
For the first time in my so-called career, I forgot my performance. I was barely thirty-seconds in. I was exhausted. My knees ached. My dress was falling. My feet were falling asleep. I was trapped in a game of “Frogger,” dodging molehills. Finally, my music stopped, I bowed and skated off in tears. I forced myself to laugh with the other adults about something – no idea what – as I grabbed my guards and rushed down the tunnel.
I returned to the changing room, and I sucked back yet another juice box – don’t judge me – and thought about what went wrong. Was it my music? The program? My lack of preparation? The ice conditions.
Considering competitors in other categories after me were whipping off flying camels and double Salchows? No, the ice wasn’t a factor.
I lost the gold medal before I stepped on the ice. Dare I say, before I arrived or even entered Stony on Ice. I wasn’t in the mindset to compete. I didn’t believe I could accomplish what I did last year. I let outside forces interfere with my passion. And it showed.
Those two medals are hanging on the doorknob of my office. The gold from 2016, and the silver from this year. I joke that all I need is a Stony on Ice bronze, and I’ll have the entire set.
With two competitors, silver is last. But in adult competition, it’s never last. Fact is, we’re adults juggling careers, children, life, sport – all while wearing a brave, happy, happy face.
Maybe I’ll never be free of those demons. Maybe that’s the lesson. If I won, I would be closing the book and moving on.
Because, who dissects a win?
That’s why I’m happy with the silver lining.