Having missed at least five (maybe six) opportunities to go ice skating with other people, and realizing that spring is fast approaching and the Emera Oval – where there is free public skating outside in downtown Halifax – is quickly beginning to melt (just check out the surrounding grassy field for an example of what the rest of the city looks like snow-wise right now), I had to contemplate the idea of just going over to the Oval by myself.
So finally, yesterday afternoon, my co-worker Sean convinced me to “go take a couple turns” and I sucked it up and went on my way back from work. The public skate didn’t start until 6:30 pm but technically it was on my way home (if I took the slow bus, #80, rather than the express bus) and I had my ice skates in the office just in case I ever decided to go for a skate. So I worked a little later than I was planning to and headed over around 6 pm. The one complication was that because I had all my stuff with me, I had to skate around with it. There aren’t any lockers – that I saw anyway – so I had my “mom bag” as some people like to call it (I just call it being prepared for everything) over my shoulder, trying to throw off my balance as I attempted to show Canada that Americans can skate also. I did, in fact, grow up ice skating in my backyard every winter back when Pennsylvania actually had winters. We used to put out a giant sheet of plastic, put boards up around the edge, fill it up with water, and let it freeze. We even had a mini zamboni that you could pull behind you as you skated that attached to the garden hose to make sure our rink was in top condition. And we had our awesome stereo system (i.e. boom box) blasting destiny’s child and other wonderful songs from the late 90’s (“Say my name”…good stuff).
There was an actual stereo system at the Oval playing some tunes (disappointingly no Destiny’s Child, but they had a few good ones in there), warming huts, skate rental (free just give them an ID to hold), free skate aids/trainers you could borrow (very similar to the white plastic chairs we used to let our neighbors and younger cousins push around while they learned to skate at our house), and a Beavertails snack shop. I don’t think I’ve mentioned them yet…pretty positive they are not gluten-free but in some ways I’m glad because they look pretty deadly…basically a giant pastry with lots of different delicious sugary/chocolately/gooey topping combinations.
I started off a bit wobbly, surprisingly after all the skating I’ve done in my life, and a bit nervous as well. But I also didn’t really want to fall when I was there all by myself (and consider myself pretty proficient at skating) and didn’t want to fall while I had my computer in a bag on my shoulder. After doing some laps I got my confidence back and was passing a bunch of people by the time I finally wrapped things up and left. I also had some pretty tired/sore ankles though by the time I was done. Growing up ice skating I knew that the tighter your skates are laced up, the better for support (and easier to skate, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it). My sisters and I used to have our dad (and mom, sometimes) tie up our skates for us until they were almost cutting off circulation to our feet. I imagine this is what it was like for people when they used to wear corsets.
So I think part of my problem was a limitation of my new ice skates (yes, now I am going to do a mini-review of ice skates). For Christmas last year, my parents got me a great new pair of “outdoor” figure skates from L.L. Bean. They are similar to regular figure skates but have a lot more padding and furriness to them rather than just the thin leather of the classic figure skates. The great thing about them is that your feet stay nice and toasty. You are basically wearing winter boots that are also ice skates. But the problem I noticed last night is that they are almost too cushion-y in that they give your ankles too much room to wiggle around because the cushion has some give to it. I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t notice this the last few times I wore these for skating – once was on artificial ice in a lab while they were unsharpened (dull blades are actually better for artificial ice versus sharp blades being better for real ice), and the other two times were skating slow on a tiny public rink and on the aforementioned Valentine’s Day 2012 on Nottingham Lake in Avon – so neither of which I was going very fast. But I also have not had my skates sharpened since last year, and was just wearing regular dress socks rather than wool socks, and, like I said, getting a little more speed than previous times I wore these skates. I’ll have to try again once I get them sharpened, wear better socks, and maybe without the computer unbalancing device but it may be a trade-off for having toasty toes. In any case, it was a great little workout and a fun thing to do on the way home from work so I left rosy-cheeked and happy. I think next year I will try to get over there more often and probably try to hit up some of the lunch time public skates as well.