4:30 am: The Blackberry alarm goes off, jerking me out of my slumber. I scramble to turn it off before it wakes my boyfriend. I groan a little, sore from the off-ice training the afternoon before and lack of sleep. In the kitchen I can hear the bubble and crackling of the coffee brewing (thank goodness for coffee pots on timers). I roll out of bed, tripping over the ever-present cat underfoot, quietly slipping out of the room to get ready.
5:00 am: Breakfast consumed, vitamins swallowed. Armed with food for the day, coffee in sippy cup, clothes to change into and my skate bag, I venture out into the silence and calm of the dark early morning. Everything is still, nothing stirring except for the birds who sing a greeting to the day. I hurry to my car, eager to get to the rink and see what the day brings me. I am alone on the road for the most part, just me and my thoughts.
5:20 am: I pull into the parking lot — mostly empty except for the cars of a few dedicated parents who bring their children to 5am hockey practice. I trot into the rink, claiming my spot in the lobby. I start my warm-up: light jog, some jump exercises and stretching. As I lace up my skates, a transformation occurs. Mentally I change into a skater. Thoughts of what I need to work on and corrections I have been given are broken up by motivational phrases. I stride into the ice area ready to show that ice surface who is boss.
5:34 am: I glide onto the ice, feeling the smooth surface thus far untouched by skates underneath my blades. I set down the ever-present Propel, Kleenex box and music on the sideboard. I have the ice to myself. Just the way I like it. I don’t bother to turn on music. I prefer the comforting sound of my blades crunching the ice. I stroke around the ice a couple of times to warm up, feeling my muscles protest after the beating they took the afternoon before. I plunge into my Moves in the Field (MIF). For the next 45 minutes it is crossovers, mowhawks, 3-turns, slips and brackets. Then, spin time! Scratch spin, back spin, sit spin, sit-back sit, sit to pancake (fail!), sit to broken leg (much better), camel spin, camel – sit, camel-change-camel (fail!), layback (dizzy yet?). Jump warm-up: all single jumps in succession, no stopping. Waltz, salchow, toe loop, loop, flip, lutz, loop-loop, salchow-half loop- filp(tired yet?). Then program run-through. Meanwhile, a couple of clothing layers have been shed, half a bottle of Propel consumed, and a good 20 kleenex used.
6:45 am: My favorite part of practice: what I call “jumpfest.” For the next 15 minutes I focus on new jumps. First up: axel. Over and over focusing on cleaning up my body position in the air. Then onto the double salchow. I prep: 1) I step forward, 2) I finish the 3-turn, remembering to pause and not rush, 3) my right leg kicks through while I’m mentally reminding myself to ‘kick the door’ and not move my left arm from in front of me, 4) I am up in the air and I pull everything tight while remembering to shift my weight to my right side. And I land. On my leg! On one leg! On the correct one leg! I hear my coach scream out from across the ice “That’s it!” A huge grin stretches across my face. A grin big enough to rival the Cheshire cat. I shout “yes!” and throw my fist in the air in triumph. The feeling of accomplishment is sweet. Thinking ‘that was fun!’ I promptly set up to do it again. It is not as good as the first one, but still there. I do a couple more good ones and then they start to fall apart. My legs feel like rubber and are begging me to stop. I can tell I am tired. By now it’s 7am and the zamboni is threatening to chase me off the ice. I gather up my stuff and walk into the lobby to take off my skates. Another mother congratulates me. I grin and thank her, blushing slightly, but glowing with accomplishment and satisfaction. Not bad for about two months work of work. I go through my stretches, still mentally feeling what it was like to finally get a double salchow. Such a great feeling. I can’t wait to do them again.
7:20 am: I skip out to my car a little lighter on my feet than when I arrived. Today I feel invincible, ready to take on an hour commute to work, an 8 hour day, an hour home, 30 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of weights and stretching, then preparing for the next day to collapse into bed by 10pm if I’m lucky. It has all been worth it for that one moment. Those moments are what we work for, strive for, and cherish dearly.