Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Derby Name

I cannot remember if I have blogged about this yet, but ... last week when talking to my mom, I came up with a great derby name for myself. Mom told me that my SIL Amy (who is really like a sister to me, but I still say SIL because it would be too weird if I called her my sister and then told someone she was married to and had kids with my brother ... we are from Oklahoma, not Arkansas. Kidding! Arkansas is awesome! Don't email me!)

ANYWAY!! Amy had this awesome grandmother, Dixie. Mom told me something about Dixie I had never known -- she was a derby girl back in (I'm guessing) the 50s. How amazing is that? I met Dixie, but at the time I didn't know anything about roller derby. I wish I could talk to her about it now; I'll bet she had some amazing stories. Dixie died not long after my niece Alena was born; Lanie's 7 now. So, too late to talk to Dixie about derby, dammit. (Sorry for the alliteration.)

Dixie's real name was Dixie Cullpepper (I don't know what her derby name was, or if they even had derby names then).

My proposed derby name: Dixie Skullpopper, in tribute to Dixie as well as to Amy, who is one of the most kick-ass women I know. I think I've mentioned this before, but derby names have to be unique -- you can't pick anything too similar to a name someone else has already registered. I searched the registry and no one has anything close to Dixie Skullpopper. So, fingers crossed that no one comes up with it before I pass minimum skills. :-) (It's not likely that anyone will ... but you never know ... and I'd hate to have to cut a bitch.) (Kidding!!! There's no cutting in derby. I'd have to hit the bitch.) (KIDDING!!! I would never hit someone outside of a bout. :-)

Derby practice last night

Well, after talking with Brick and Vicious, I decided to go to practice last night. They basically both told me that as long as I am doing my best, they are willing to pull me along until I get it. :-) And that's been true -- they were both awesome last night, encouraging me to keep pushing myself. I really don't want to disappoint them.

We started out with skating to warm up, and then we did what Bones calls "20 Minutes of Opportunity," and what I call "20 Minutes of Hell." Here's how it works: you sprint for a minute (meaning you skate around the track as fast as you can), and then you come into the middle and do an exercise for a minute. The first minute of sprinting was easy-ish. The first minute of exercise was tough -- squats. You don't know how long a minute is until you spend it doing something difficult that you can't stop doing until the minute is up. After that, it got tougher. One of the exercises was basically a skater version of jumping jacks. Start standing, go down on knees then on all fours, then get up, and go up on your toe stops with your arms up. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I was sure I couldn't do it but Brick told me to take it slowly (which I really should've thought of myself). I think I only managed three or four repeats, but that's OK.

But here's the good news: there is something in Derby that I am good at (or at least, I have a good foundation for learning how to do it for real). Guess what it is?

Yep, hitting. :-)

Last night we practiced hitting, first with a punching bag that St. Nick (I think; I'm not quite sure about everyone's names yet) held. Skate up, hit the bag (first with your shoulder, then your hip), skate on. I did pretty well, which was ... wonderful. Vicious gave me some pointers on how to use my shortness and chunkiness to basically turn myself into a little cannonball, and then hit up and into the other skater. I think I can do this.

Of course, next we did a pace line where we were supposed to weave in and out of everyone, hitting them as we did so. I hit one girl and *I* fell, and that was pretty much it for me in that exercise. :-) At least I fell more or less correctly.

After that I skated on my own while the team did more pace lines and pack drills and stuff that I'm just not ready for. It was OK; a little lonely, but way better than giving up and going home. I worked on falls a bit, and I think I can just about do the thing where the derby girls do a knee fall without stopping (it basically looks like a skating genuflect, for all you Catholics out there). I've also discovered I can do this thing where I skate along, then do sort of a circle thing and reverse direction to stop. Hard to describe, but I'm getting pretty decent at it.

I still have a ton to learn, and I still wish there were a group of total newbies that I could start with, but as long as the STDD girls don't feel like they are wasting their time working with me, I'll keep going to the Monday practices, and then going to as many open skates as I can manage for the rest of the week.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Open Skates

True to my word, in the last few days I have been to two open skates. On Friday, Charlie and I went to Oaks Park. That was *awesome*, because there were very few people (it was a school day). I tried out some of my derby moves -- falls, crossovers, duck-walk (that's where you do a sort of on-skates walk to build speed before you start skating), skateboarding (a way of going around turns where your inside foot stays on the floor, and you push off with your outside foot), and most importantly, trying to skate better: bending my knees more and using a more even stroke.

Today we went to Lebanon for the Saturday open skate. It was crazy -- there were three kids' birthday parties, which meant a lot of kids trying to skate and flailing around, and falling, and being generally unpredictable. I was proud of myself, though. There wasn't room to practice falls or anything like that, but I did some good endurance work. I skated all the way through several songs (not in a row, though I did get through "Party in the USA" and "Barbie Girl" in a row). My endurance problem is not a cardio issue; it's mostly because my shin muscles hurt when I skate. But I'm working on it. On the speed skate, I tried going full-out (Charlie kind of challenged me to, really), and I was able to do pretty well for a few laps. Next goal: to go full-out on the speed skate (which is one song -- basically to give the adults a chance to skate without having to contend with kids) and last the whole song.


Wednesday night was my second practice with Sick Town. The results were mixed, as far as I'm concerned:

Good: I can see that I'm making some progress. At my first practice, getting up from sitting on the floor (in skates) was scary and difficult. Now, I just get up, like it's nothing. I don't even need my hands. I can feel that I'm more comfortable on the skates.

Bad: My endurance is still pretty poor. There's no way I can keep up with the rest of the team. The girls who were new when I first started back in October are just about to move up to intermediate level. I simply cannot keep up with them. Wednesday night was a combined beginner/intermediate/advanced practice, because there were not enough people to make it worth doing separate practices. That was more or less a no-go for me. Vicious, the designated beginner trainer, worked with me separately, and I do *not* want to imply that she was anything less than professional about it. But I did have the sense that it was frustrating to her (after talking with her, I think this was in my head), to be saddled with a noob. She suggested that I keep going to the open skates (at the skating rinks) and said that some of the trainers at STDD were not going to be so keen on working with just one beginner. She said they hold the beginner classes on an as-needed basis. I left with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I could tell that I was improving; but on the other hand, I wasn't improving fast enough.

Insane: The new STDD practice space is an unheated warehouse in Millersburg. Wednesday night it was 20 degrees INSIDE the warehouse. There was a propane space heater that didn't do jack, even when you were right up against it. We wore layers. That was it, as far as protection from the cold. When we took off our knee pads, they *steamed*.

What I've decided: I'm going to go to as many open skates as I can manage, and I have asked Brick (STDD webmaster and my original point of contact) to let me know as soon as they have another crop of newbies, so I can join them. It's just too hard to be the only new person and feel like a big load. I haven't heard back from Brick, but I hope she doesn't think I'm a whiny-ass bitch, and that she understands that this is my way of sticking with it.

Edited to add: I talked to Brick and Vicious, and they were both very kind and encouraging and basically told me that all anyone expects of me is to do *my* best. So I'm going to go to the Monday practices, and still keep going to as many open skates as I can fit in. I *will* be a Derby girl someday, dammit!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Last weekend

Last weekend was lots of fun. On Friday, Charlie and I went up to Portland to see Storm Large's yearly show, "Storm's Holiday Ordeal." That was beyond awesome. Storm is just fucking amazing.

But what, you ask, does this have to do with Derby?

On our way to Portland, we stopped at Oaks Park (which a few of you may recognize as the place where, several years ago, I threw up on the Round-Up). Oaks Park is a small amusement park, and it also has a really excellent roller skating rink -- one of the few in the U.S. that still has a pipe organ, though when we were there they were just playing pop music CDs. The rink is huge, which is good since it was also very crowded.

I consider crowded open skates good opportunities for me to get used to skating in a pack. Of course, there are differences -- derby girls aren't likely to stop randomly, or sit down in the middle of the rink, or do any of the unpredictable things kids at the roller rink tend to do. On the other hand, the kids at the roller rink aren't deliberately trying to knock me down. So it evens out.

At one point, as I was skating, a little kid was pretty close to me, so I put out my hand just to be ready to catch him if he crashed into me. The next thing I knew, a little boy was holding my hand! He said, "All aboard the Mickey express. That's my name!" and I'll admit it, my Grinchy heart grew three sizes that day. :-) I skated around the rink with Mickey, even taught him a couple of things about bending your knees and leaning forward, and then returned him to his parents. What can I say, I have a weakness for towheaded little boys. Can't think why. :-) (My nephews Liam and Evan are both adorable little blond boys. Well, Liam's 10 and almost as tall as I am ... but Evan's still an adorable little boy.)

It was a very good weekend. And if Storm does her Holiday Ordeal again next year, we're going. That's all there is to it.

So tired!

Great news: Sick Town now has its own space, a warehouse in Millersburg. I guess it's actually mixed news, because the warehouse has no heat (and in summer, no A/C), and no plumbing. We're getting a porta potty and we've been asked to be kind and poop at home. (Seriously.) :-)

The team owns a "portable" sport court. It's made up of 1-foot squares that snap together; there must be a zillion of those little squares. It took at least three trailer loads to bring all (most?) of the pieces to the warehouse today. I was on the "putting it together" team. From 2:45 until 6:15, I sat down for a total of less than one minute. We got a good amount of work done, especially toward the end when more people came to help. (I'm not complaining -- people have jobs. I totally understand!)

So next time I go to practice with the team, which will be a week from Wednesday (tomorrow is my last Wednesday night working late), it will be at the warehouse, on the sport court (which I'm told is a much better skating surface than the slick-ass concrete at the fairgrounds).

I'm glad I went to help out today; it made me feel much more like part of the group. Also, I'm just glad I was able to contribute. I may not be a great skater yet, but I can schlep plastic squares with the best of 'em.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What I've Been Up To

Yeah, it's been a while since I posted. This past Saturday, Charlie and I finally got back to open skate, after missing it two weeks in a row because we were sick. (And no, it wasn't the flu. Just a yucky cold/bronchitis.)

Saturday felt great. I was much more confident on my skates than I've been. A lady at the rink even complimented me -- she said, "You're very good." I was tempted to look behind me to make sure it was me she was talking to. :-)

In December, I plan to start going to team practices again -- probably Wednesdays only to start with, because those Monday endurance practices are really tough. But I need to go to them too, I know.

I still definitely have moments of doubt -- "What the hell was I thinking? I can't do this!" But skating on Saturday made me remember that I really want to do it.

Oh, and there was a wonderfully surreal moment late in the open skate. They played the Village People's "YMCA." That was a staple of the Saturday open skates at Roller City, which I went to as often as I could get my parents to take me. And of course, when the chorus rolls around, everyone does the arm movements for Y, M, C, A.

Well, naturally, when the song came on, I had to skate, and I had to do the arm movements. It was like stepping into the WABAC machine. I was 11 again.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Skating today

Charlie and I went skating today at the open skate in Lebanon. I'm feeling more in-control on my skates, which is a wonderful thing. I still have to build up some endurance. Cardio stamina is not a problem -- it's my stupid calf muscles that get tired out.

Charlie did a lot better too -- yay! I think he's starting to get comfortable on the skates.

The biggest challenge at open skate continues to be avoiding crashing into the little kids. At least adults generally skate forwards. With little kids, you never know what direction they are going to go. :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I only made it through the first 45 minutes of practice last night. I was OK skating laps, though that polished concrete floor has to be the worst surface I've ever skated on. It's incredibly slick. When I went down on the floor for stretching, I had a sharp pain in my right thigh. Uh-oh. Then when we were doing falling drills -- specifically the one where you go down on one knee -- my right leg was really complaining. I couldn't get up unless I scooted over to the exposed metal bracing along the walls and used my arms to pull myself up.

This was new; this pain wasn't part of the soreness I'd had all week.

The next practice I can go to is an open skate at the roller rink in Lebanon, on Saturday. I'm going. Fortunately, I've been told it has a wonderfully grippy floor, much better for skating than the floors at the fairgrounds. Between now and then, I am going to try to stretch my legs every day and hope this muscle spasm, or whatever it is, goes away.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Skate Names

In roller derby, most skaters have cool skate names -- if you've seen "Whip It," you're familiar with the concept. Some of the names in the movie include Smashley Simpson, Eva Destruction, Babe Ruthless, and so on. One of my favorite derby names that I've heard is Sandra Day O'Clobber. :-)

Derby names have to be unique -- there's a national registry, and if your desired name is the same as or even too similar to another skater's name, you can't use it.

That's too bad, because my first (and, I still think, best) idea for my own skate name was "Auntie Maim." No dice -- there's already a skater named "Annie Maim" and it's too similar.

Some of the other names Charlie and I thought up -- which are all already taken -- include Sara Whalin', Killary Clinton, Penny Pain and Punky Bruiser.

The names I am now considering, which don't appear to be taken:

- Queen of the Harpies
- Harriet Half-Nelson

I'll probably think of more before the time comes that I actually need one. :-)

Also, if any African-American derby girl out there needs a name, may I suggest "Michelle OSlamma"? It's not taken.

Owwwwww, again

I tried on my new skates a little while ago. They still feel good. I'm having more trouble with my left foot (which has an ingrown toenail on the big toe) than with my wide-ass right one. That's a good sign -- an ingrown toenail is a *lot* easier to deal with than a bunion.

But then ... I did something stupid. I tried to go up on both toe stops at the same time. Ooooh, bad idea. I fell on my ass -- and tried to break my fall with my hand. I'm fine, luckily. Not gonna try that move again, though. (As far as I know, it's not something you're supposed to do; I don't know why I even did it.)

Practice is tomorrow night. I'm nervous. Two and a half hours is a long time to exercise, even doing something relatively easy (which this is *so* totally not).

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Today we went to Emerald City Skates and I got myself some good quality skates -- for anyone who cares, they are Riedell Vixens, with Radar hybrid indoor-outdoor wheels. You can see the skates here. The great thing about the skates is that the laces go all the way to the toe, which gives me a lot of control over their width. They felt really good, and I felt much more secure on them than I did on the other skates. That's probably at least partly because I was on a carpeted floor, but still, it's a good sign.

I also invested in some 187 knee pads, which were mad expensive ($58, and that's a discounted price!). But knees are not something to play games with.

Monday's the next practice. I'm excited to try out my new skates!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I don't think my legs have ever been this sore.

My first roller derby practice was two days ago. It was also the first time I'd been on skates in at least three years. The practice was -- to my out-of-shape body and scaredy-cat mind -- brutal. I learned the derby position (knees bent, butt out, elbows in, head up). It was fun when Bones, the tiny little derby chick who taught the beginner class, said to stick your butt out. Easy for you to say, I thought. If my butt were that tiny, I'd walk around sticking it out all day. :-)

Bones was awesome, as were all of the Sick Town Derby Dames. It was a sea of unfamiliar faces, most (but not all!) of which were a good 5-15 years younger than mine. (I checked -- I'm not the oldest. Not that it would matter.)

At first, I was pretty scared on the skates. I brought my own, a pair of four-wheelers (that's the old fashioned kind -- roller derby does not use inline skates) that I picked up for $25 at Wal-Mart several years ago. Apparently I got what I paid for: an hour and a half into the two-and-a-half-hour practice, I had to take off the skates because they were absolutely killing my feet.

Until then, I had been getting more comfortable on my wheels. When I was 11 years old, I was absolutely obsessed with rollerskating. My parents bought me a pair of skates for Christmas, and I was inseparable from them. (The following spring, they upgraded me to a supercool pair of Boston Avenue Street Skates -- with silver sneakers with rainbows, instead of boots -- as a reward for bringing up my grade in religion class from a C to an A. Or maybe it was for improving my behavior grade from "needs improvement" to "satisfactory." I don't remember now.)

Anyway, I skated all the time -- indoors, outdoors, wherever I could. My best friend and I would "practice" falling at the roller rink -- not that we ever fell. I wasn't some brilliant skater; it was just easy.

It's not easy now. Now, my calves are sore, and I forget to bend my knees, and the floor is slippery and I'm afraid I'm going to fall. I have to get past that, because let's face it: if I do roller derby (and I really want to), I'm going to fall.

This weekend, I'm going down to the skate shop in Eugene (run by a derby girl who calls herself Babe Malicious), and get some good skates and good knee pads. I'll be 40 in a month -- I'm not taking chances with my knees. Better to spend $58 (!!) for good-quality pads than god-only-knows-how-much for knee surgery.

Given how fricking sore they are now, I think I can safely say: if I stick with this derby thing, I'm going to have some strong damn legs.