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.