Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons from the Rink

Today, I went ice-skating for the first time in almost 27 years. The last time I went was January 1985, at the Eastland Mall in Charlotte NC (back when it wasn't such a scary place, from what I hear). In the lowest level of the mall was an ice rink. My cousin went a good bit, but it was our first time ever. My brother made one trip around, and came back to our relative and said, "Mary, thank you for paying for me to skate, but I think I'll stay over here with you." As for me, I was younger but heavier than I am now, and also way more fearful. I'm not sure why - usually, youth is full of reckless abandon, but I was a way more calculating soul back then. Guess I'm like Benjamin Button, born old and getting younger with each year......

I made my way around that day, very haltingly and unsure. My cousin glided by fairly easily. There was a young girl there that day who was in the center of the rink and she was probably in competitive skating -- she was that good. Great, even more reason for me to not even be out there, because I was a total flop. Epic fail. I stayed on the ice just putzing around, and then we were ready to go. I was never so glad to pull skates off in my life. Roller skating - totally different. Not that I was any more athletic on concrete or wood compared to ice, but I had four wheels under my feet instead of a blade in the center.

Since then, as most of you know, things are a bit different in my life. And today was the opening for a new venture in downtown Greenville: a seasonal ice-skating rink! We have a year-round rink on the eastside of Greenville at one of the county rec facilities, but I have never gone there to skate. In downtown, just next to City Hall and in front of the Courtyard by Marriott, they have constructed "UBS Ice on Main" running from today until January 8.

I knew about the rink, but I didn't think much about it until something struck me while watching TV this morning. And it hit me: GO SKATING! I was planning to get in a workout anyway today, and as much as I enjoy my gym, I thought this might be a good way to burn off some of the feasting from yesterday. (Lesson One: shake things up!)

So I drove over, parked in the garage and walked about a block to the rink. Paid the fee (which included skate rental) and after lacing up the skates proceeded to go to the rink. I stood there for a couple of minutes because DUH... I had laced up on the steps near the entrance and would have to walk on the blades across brickwork. Doofus me. After a few seconds, this nice gentleman who works there said, "Ma'am, I'll help you to the rubber mats." Once I got to the mats, next to the rink, things were much easier! (So Lesson Two: know your surroundings).

I got out on the ice and things were already better than there were in 1985. One, I'm older and no longer care whether or not I look stupid out there. And two, I have better balance and stronger legs than I did then. So right away, +2 in my favor! The first lap around was wobbly, but then I began to do much better. And then better, and better. I got more confident, and while I wasn't doing stunts, I wasn't always hanging on to the sides of the rink either. I learned to maneuver around those who were standing still. (Lesson Three: Crawl, then walk, then....)

Now, at one point, we all had to get off the ice. It had gotten very grooved, with plenty of shaved ice especially along the outer edges. So we all took a break while they cleared the shaved ice and brought out the Zamboni. It gave us all a chance to tighten our laces, check our skates, and just be patient while the rink went through some needed repairs (Lesson Four: Take time for repairs now to save trouble later).

So with ice restored, I got back out there.... WOW! Much better! Smoother surface, easier gliding, and things were going good. I got to Turn Four (so to speak) and ..... I ended up on my left leg, knee down, and circling. I did a full 360 on my left knee. Well, what else could I do at that point except throw my arms up in a Victory formation and go, "Tada!!" Wipeout #1! (Lesson Five: Pride goeth before a fall. Literally, in this case!)

While out on the ice, I felt like my skates just weren't quite right. They were a smidge too big. Unfortunately, they don't have half-sizes at the skate rental shack, so I had to go down a whole size. And re-establish myself on the ice .... learn to rebalance, regroup and get going again! And so I did ... not sure that the shoe change made that much of a difference but sometimes a perceived advantage is all it takes. (Lesson Six: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!)

After about another 20 minutes, my feet were starting to ache just a little. So I figured one more trip around, and then that would be it. And so it was. But I wasn't ready to leave downtown just yet. So I figured why not walk the few blocks up to the Hyatt (the start of the downtown revitalization area all those years back), and walk my way back down to the garage. It had been quite some time since I'd really walked downtown Greenville, and I couldn't believe how many new things had opened in just a few months. Amazing!

After a couple of stops (Barkery Bistro and Mast General Store), it was definitely time for me to head out..... but I can't wait to go back to the rink! Planning to take my godkids this weekend, and have some more fun! If you are in Upstate SC and are looking for something fun to do, check them out online for the times and additional information. You won't be sorry!

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