A couple seasons ago I started going to a few Sabres games a year with three co-workers of mine. We all have varying levels of interest and knowledge in the team, I think, but it's always a good time. I love going to games with Mark but sometimes it's nice to just sit back and hang with the girls.
A couple of months back Kathy, one of these co-workers, stopped me in the cafeteria and said, "I know you like hockey obviously but do you play?" I told her that yeah, I've played a little, never on a competitive team but just kind of goofing around. So she told me that her sister-in-law had started playing and they were thinking about trying to start up a team this winter, would I be interested? At this point I said, "Wait, are we talking about floor hockey?" No, ice hockey. I told Kathy I don't really ice skate (I can count on one hand the number of times I've worn ice skates AND the number of minutes I've spent on my feet while wearing them). Kathy assured me that most of the women they were planning on talking to either don't skate or skate but don't play hockey and that I wouldn't be the only beginner. So I told her I'd think about it.
The truth is, ever since I moved to Buffalo I've bemoaned the fact that I didn't grow up somewhere where kids play hockey because I think I would've really liked it and I think (she said with all humility) that I would've been pretty good once I got the skating part down. In other sports I had good hands, decent vision, a high tolerance for pain, and a good-sized mean streak. And I've really missed playing on some kind of sports team. Our church has a women's softball team but I could never work that out. For a couple of years we were without a car so I couldn't get anywhere that wasn't either on the bus route or within biking distance and then I was working a part-time job in addition to my real job and it was too hard to schedule time off. But I kept coming back to the fact that hello, I can't ice-skate. Who learns to ice-skate at 30 and then starts playing hockey?
One afternoon a few weeks later I was hanging out at work, waiting for a dentist appointment. I jumped on the computer to check out some blogs and went to pull up Sabres Edge. Since I don't have it bookmarked at work - technically it's the teacher's computer and I don't really have any free time during the school day anyway - I went into the blog section of TBN and holy crow, they have a lot of different blogs. I had no idea. I flipped through a few of them and instantly got sucked into Journey to the Finish Line. JTTFL is written by sports writer Amy Moritz and it's about her training for her first triathlon. When Amy started she couldn't really swim especially in open water. I also can't really swim - I'm fine in a pool but if I were drowning I'd probably be in trouble and I'm terrified of swimming in large bodies of water - so that really connected with me. I've been slowly making my way through the archives of the blog (I had actually started an email to someone at TBN to ask how to access blog entries that have rolled off the front page when I suddenly noticed the word ARCHIVE in bold capital letters on the sidebar) and I've really enjoyed it a lot. So I decided, what the heck? Why not learn to ice-skate and play hockey? So that's what I'm going to do.
I thought about taking a 5 week session of lessons that a local rink was doing this summer but I decided to put it off because of my ankle. Now I seem to have found a happy medium between not pushing it enough and pushing it too much and I can really feel it getting stronger but back in May I was still a mess. Any time I tried to balance on my bad foot for more than a few seconds I started to fall and that didn't strike me as very helpful for ice-skating. So I'm going to check back and see when their next session begins and for now I'm just working on getting back in shape a bit. I put on a ton o' weight during my time on IR - I mean, I've never been a skinny gal and I'm fine with that but we're talking way past my comfort level - and more importantly my endurance is for crap. During the two year period we didn't have a car I biked all over the place but you'd never know it watching me on a bike right now.
The other thing I'm working on is that I'm now really scared of falling. Like totally freaked out. I used to go down on my bike at least once a week and I just jumped right up, brushed off the dirt, and checked for blood. I've noticed that I'm definitely a lot tenser when riding, pretty much all the time. I guess torquing your ankle 45 degrees, an ambulance ride, emergency surgery, and four months off your feet and out of work followed by three months of discomfort will do that to a person sometimes though. I had all the regular scrapes and bruises that your average kid gets growing up along with the occasional broken/jammed finger and once a little fluid under a kneecap. But I managed to escape my childhood and athletic career without any major injuries and the whole expereince has been a little more traumatic than I was expecting it to be even months later. I know I'm actually probably more likely to get hurt if I'm running around all anxious and tensed up so that's something I'm going to have to deal with.
In the end the injury was part of the impetus to actually try skating/hockey out too though. When I went to my final check-up I had one last set of x-rays done and when the surgeon came in to discuss them with me he said, "I was just looking at your original x-rays. I had forgotten how bad it was when you first came in. You really did a number on yourself." I told him yeah, i was really freaked out at the time and he put me through some stretches - point your toe, pull your toe toward you, draw a circle with your big toe etc. As he did that he said, "Yeah, you're really lucky. If you'd gotten this same injury 40, 30 years ago we probably would've just handed you a cane and sent you on your way. You would've lost all mobility in that ankle." It's pretty amazing what modern medicine can do so I figure I may as well take advantage of my luck, you know?
Why am I telling you this? I dunno. Partly because I think putting it out there will help me actually follow through. Partly because I'll probably talk about it occasionally once I officially start up and you'll be all caught up with what's going on. Partly because it's my blog and you'll read what I tell you to read :P
So... I know some of you out there skate and/or play. Any advice for an old beginner? Things you found particularly challenging? Tips that really helped you out? Things it might be helpful to work on before I even step on the ice? This is going to be totally easy, right? Right? ... Hello?