Sunday, December 26, 2010

Skate World (i.e., "Lord of the Flies" on wheels)

Last week I had a stretch of 8 days in a row of skating. Yay! Still much work to be done on my crossover and booty blocking, sadly. Bruiser has been a big help, as has Ringer.

One of the days, we skated at Skate World in Springfield. It's a fine rink -- good floor, they serve Diet Coke at the snack bar. Unfortunately, the staff are all teenagers, and if the place has any rules, they sure don't seem to enforce them.

The day that we were there, a young woman (probably a teenager; she's too tall to be a kid) who is an excellent skater but kind of a jerk was making a game of skating a lap and deliberately falling right by the DJ booth. I could tell she's a regular, both because I've seen her there many times, and because the staff all seemed to know her. I guess that explains why she was able to LIE ON HER BACK, on the rink, TEXTING. She was mostly out of traffic, but not entirely (as I said, she's a very tall girl).

At that point, I was already sick of the total lack of rules at Skate World. I skated over to the DJ booth and asked the employee (who was *totally* looking right at the girl -- and I waited a few laps to make sure they weren't going to do something about her), "Are you seriously OK with her lying on the floor TEXTING?"

He muttered, "I can tell her to stop."

I said, in kind of a "mom" voice, "Does this place have ANY rules?"

His answer, "A few."

I gave him what I hope was a withering look, like, "How about enforcing them, then, idiot?" (I did *not* say that). They did make the girl get up, at least, and she didn't do anything else like that for the rest of that day.

Other stuff that went on there, that I completely disapprove of: a guy skating around carrying a toddler. And not just skating the kid off the rink, which would still be a bad idea, but skating around with the kid in his arms. That's really unsafe.

Oh, and then there are the kids who fall, are not injured at all, and still take several of my laps to get up -- because they are screwing around. All I can say about that is that if someone rolls over their fingers, it will be their own fault.

I'm not asking for a dictatorship. I don't need it to be like Oaks Park, where *I* have been told to slow down (I'm not that freaking fast). But even if you're pretty laissez-faire, it seems like a no-brainer to draw the line at LYING ON THE RINK FLOOR. Sheesh.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wet Floor = Bad Juju

On Monday night, the floor at the CDC was wet. It was like 55 degrees outside, and rainy, and there was just a lot of condensation on the floor. It was nasty. It wasn't like standing water that you could see and avoid. It was more like random slick spots where your wheels went sliding out from under you.

Pus and Kant led practice. In an effort to (mostly) avoid the wet areas, we were skating in an area about the size of my basement (well, if there were no furniture and you knocked down the interior walls). It was crazy. That's not in *any* way a diss on the twins. They made it work, admirably. But holy shitballs, I really hope we don't have to do it like that again.

I'd so much rather it were colder, and drier. It's much easier to put on more layers than it is to skate on a wet floor.

Feeling a Little Better

I think I'm starting to feel better about the fact that I didn't pass minimum skills. I think I'm ready to focus on the positive: I'm closer than ever (if you don't count April, which I am increasingly convinced as a fluke. Because seriously, I am a *much* better skater now than I was then.)

And it's Christmas break, and Charlie and I were already planning on doing a lot of rink skating during break. So, I will work work work on my crossover during those rink skates. (Any STDDs who want to join us, let me know!)

One thing that someone suggested to me on the Rollergirls Yahoo group was to find a mentor in my league. I would really like to do that. It's tough, though, because right now we are between seasons (and coming into the holidays), so a lot of the bout pool girls are not making such great attendance. (They're not required to right now. I'm not criticizing.)

So, hey, any bout pool girl reading this who thinks, "Ya know, I'd love to be Dixie's mentor," please let me know. :-)

Another really positive thing: on Saturday, when I was just devastated that I had not passed, I still never once said, "I'm done." Because I'm not done. And I will not be done, not until I die or break a hip or turn 80 or whatever. The fact that I have never even considered giving up (at least, not since the very beginning) says a lot.

I will pass minimum skills. And when I do, I *will* get a pair of shorts with the words "Fucking FINALLY" printed on the butt. :-)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not a Great Day

I didn't pass minimum skills. The three other skaters who seemed most likely to pass, did. There were several who didn't pass, so at least I'm not the only one this time. (I never wish for anyone else not to pass, but it sucks being the only one who doesn't.)

So, congratulations, Andi, Adrienne and Van Slam! You guys are awesome, and I'm truly happy for you.

Brick told me the things I failed on:

- Booty Blocking (no surprise there)
- Crossover (again, not a big surprise. She did say it's almost there, which was nice to hear.)
- Staying in derby form. Goddamnit. That one is a failure of concentration, because I *know* how to be in derby form.

Brick, bless her, also said that everything is looking better (hearing that really made me feel better), and that now it's time to work on agility and quick feet.

I couldn't agree more. If I can just get the stupid crossover (which I really have improved on a lot in the last few weeks) and the goddamn booty blocking (Brick says she has some ideas to help me with that), I may even be ready to re-test in a few weeks. We'll see. I am going to try to keep the lines of communication between me and Brick as open as she's willing for them to be (in other words, I don't want to be a pain in her butt), and check in with her in a few weeks and see how these skills are looking.

What I'm not doing, not ever: giving up.


Well, I won't know for sure whether I passed or not for a few days. The training committee has to meet and discuss. I'm sure if I do pass, it will be by a pretty narrow margin. I got paired with a very fast jammer for the booty blocking and it was all I could do to stay in front of her. Dude, I totally understand that booty blocking is a vital skill. I just wish I could have a slower jammer for the test, and then work my ass off at it after passing. Which, really, I'm going to do either way, pass or fail.

I'm also not sure they were happy with my hits, though I know I made my partner stumble a few times and I thought I was doing reasonably well. Not fabulously, not the hardest I've ever hit, but not terribly.

And then there's the crossover, which, who knows.

Anyway, at least I know I didn't hinder other skaters in the weaving paceline, I didn't have trouble adjusting my pace in the paceline (i.e., I didn't crash into anyone or have to go out of the line to avoid crashing), the jumps were no big deal whatsoever, and it's getting to the point where 25 laps in 5 minutes is not such a huge deal either. I'm pretty sure I did well on all the stops and falls ... pretty much all the individual stuff, actually, except maybe the crossover.


Like the man said, the waiting is the hardest part. Well, that and the booty blocking.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Minimum Skills is Tomorrow

So, I have to re-pass minimum skills. The assessment is tomorrow. There are a couple of girls in the intermediate group with me who I think will probably pass. I really, really don't want to get left behind again. I'm happy for my friends when they move up -- I really am! But it sucks not to get to move up too. And I'm so ready to skate with the bout pool, I think.

I don't think I was really ready in April when I passed minimum skills for the first time. But I'm a much stronger skater now than I was then. I mean, I'm nowhere near the level of the travel team girls, like Kant or Brick or Bones. But check this out:

- It has been *forever* since I've had to drop out of a drill. I mean, like, since before Rollercon. I just don't drop out anymore.

- On Saturday at practice, we skated for 5 minutes and counted laps, and I was able to do 27. Last night, we did it again, and I *fell* once, and still managed 26 laps. (We also did it in the reverse direction, and I was able to do 25.)

- That broom head that gave me so much trouble at my first minimum skills? I own that bitch now. Last night I just jumped it, twice, no big deal.

- I'm getting pretty good at pace lines. I used to hate them (because I was never fast enough to keep up). Now, I kind of love them.

The only things that are still giving me trouble are the booty blocking and the crossover. I think I'll be able to do well enough on the crossover, if I concentrate on staying low and leaning toward the inside.

Booty blocking is just really hard. I hope I can do it well enough to pass. I know I will not be doing it at the level that Brick does it, at this point. But if I can just do it *just* well enough ... it's a very important skill, I know. Whether I pass or not, it's something I will be working on A LOT in the next few weeks.

The nice thing for me is that if I don't pass now, since I passed before I have the option of asking for a re-test in a few weeks, if I'm pretty sure I'm ready to pass then. So at least, if I fail on just the booty blocking, I can work my ass off at that for a few weeks and then re-test in early January, instead of waiting until February (which is when the next full minimum skills test is likely to be).

Because the thing is ... there's more reason than ever to want to pass the damn test. Sick Town is going to have a B team this season!!!!! And if I can pass minimum skills, and start training with the bout pool, I think I have a pretty good chance of being good enough to be put on the roster for a B team bout.

I. Want. This. So. Bad!

I'm not as nervous as I was the first time I took minimum skills. I know what to expect, and I have a pretty good handle on what I'm good at and what I'm not as good at.

But oh man, it would be awesome to pass tomorrow ...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's Been a While ...

I keep thinking about posting, and not doing it. D'oh!

The big news is that Sick Town got the CDC (our warehouse practice space) back! I'm sure we will be booted out again come grass seed season (which this year happened in June), but I hope that until then we will have our very own practice space. It's cold as hell, it has no plumbing, but it's home!

The great thing about the CDC is that the floor is nice and grippy, so I can wear my hard wheels and skate fast. Last night we did time trials, and going the regular direction (which is counterclockwise), I was either right on or just slightly below pace. I made 5.5 laps in one minute, 10.5 in two minutes, and 14.75 in three minutes. On the three-minute skate, I got stuck behind a slower skater for a bit; I'm *not* blaming, but if I can avoid that, I should easily be able to shave off that last 15 seconds. (The standard is 5 laps a minute -- for minimum skills we have to do 25 laps in 5 minutes.)

We did this as a pyramid, and on the way down, we skated clockwise. I had no trouble at all making my laps skating clockwise, even though I was pretty tired by that point. I've said it before, but ... if only derby were done clockwise!! My crossover is *so* much better on that side. Oh well.

We're going to have a minimum skills assessment in the first or second week of December. I'm hoping for second -- more time to get ready. I think I will be able to pass most of the things I failed on last time. The only things I'm really worried about are booty blocking and the crossover. I'm nervous about the test, of course. It's funny -- I never got test anxiety in school. I wasn't even nervous about the SAT. But derby testing stresses me right out. I guess I have more confidence in my brain than in my body. :-)

Since it's been a year, roughly, since I started, I'm going to post later today about my progress and thoughts.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Scrimmage, baby!

Saturday was another open, black-and-white scrimmage at Rose City. It was a real mixed bag for me. I'll tell the bad parts first, and then the good stuff.

- I drew a penalty for low blocking (we are not allowed to trip other players or to hit them below the knees) when I got knocked down and two or three other girls fell on me. Charlie called a low blocking major on me when I was still lying on the floor trying to figure out what had happened. I got mad (which is not cool). I got up and said, right to him and loud enough to be heard by anyone, "Bullshit!" Charlie then, quite rightly, added an additional one-minute penalty for misconduct.

It's totally unacceptable to swear at a referee like that. And the thing is, if it had been *any* other ref who had made the initial call on me, I might not have liked it, but I would have gone to the box without making any rude remarks, and then asked my teammates about the call later. That's what I should have done. When Charlie is refereeing, I need to be unimpeachable: I mean, if I commit fouls, I commit fouls (it's not like I do it on purpose). But deliberate, under-my-control stuff like mouthing off to the ref? No. Not cool, and I need to never do it again.

So, lesson learned.

I also spent a minute in the penalty box later on because I forgot to put my mouth guard in. D'oh! Well, that one just falls under "shit happens." The funny part is that if I had just quietly put it in, it's possible the refs wouldn't even have noticed. But I said, "Oh my god, mouth guard!" Yeah, no mistaking that. Oh well. :-)

The good and neutral stuff:

In my first jam, I was pivot, and my team were all newer girls -- fresh meat or rec skaters. I was actually doing a pretty good job as pivot at first and deploying some strategy, like when our jammer went to the box, I was getting my girls to speed up and try to make the pack go fast so it would be harder for the opposing jammer to score points.

Unfortunately, the other team at that point was all experienced girls (including one lady named Mercy who moved from Hawaii to Portland *to play for Rose City*). I was skating at the front of the pack, looking back (which is basically what I was supposed to be doing), and Mercy swooped in and laid my ass OUT with a sternum block (which is particularly impressive if you know that Mercy is like 6 feet tall and I'm 5'2" -- so for her to get low enough to legally sternum block me, she had to be *crazy* low).

And that's when I hit the floor and three girls piled up on me, and I went to the box. So, I had felt really good about what I was doing until that happened ... here I was, being all strategic and feeling like an effective pivot for the first time ever. Oh well, the fact that I went to the penalty box doesn't mean I wasn't doing some good strategic stuff (or at least, trying to) before it happened.

Other good stuff:

- When my friend Tyger Bomb (a RCR freshie who I'm sure will be drafted to a team soon) hit me, I counterblocked her! Tyger hits really hard, so that was a victory for me. :-)

- Bones said I was having no trouble keeping up with the packs. Typically, that is a problem for me -- I'm always one of the slower skaters on the track, it seems. But lately I am doing better on speed, and that's a wonderful thing: if I'm not having to bust ass just to go fast enough, I can focus on my form more.

Oh, and bummer news: Wetback is leaving Sick Town after this Saturday's bout. I guess she got tired of driving down from Portland (can't think why, ha ha) ... it's too bad, because she's an awesome player and coach, and I'll miss seeing her every week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Minimum Skills

In case anyone wonders, here's what I didn't pass on the last minimum skills:

  • 25 laps in 5 minutes. I did 21. I think I'm skating faster now, though.
  • Stride - pushes need to be out to the side, not straight behind you. I'm annoyed at myself for failing this one, because I totally know it.
  • Posture - Need to bend at the knees (approx. 90 degrees) and waist, and keep weight balanced over feet, especially during crossovers. Another one that I absolutely knew better than.
  • Pacing - Need to be able to speed up/slow down without causing hiccups in the line, without hindering other skaters. Yeah, I need to work on this one.
  • Weaving paceline - tripped other skaters while weaving; need to be able to maneuver through line without touching other skaters, while using good strides and posture; careful of large strides (i.e. kicking other skaters) and swinging arms (i.e. elbows). Still another thing I can totally do, but effed up on that test.
  • Crossovers - Must bring outside leg completely over the inside leg, not just in front of; bending more at the knees will help. I also wasn't getting any push from my inside leg.
  • Booty blocking - Very little contact; out of sync with the jammer's rhythm. This continues to bedevil me.
  • Hitting - Passed taking the hits, but giving hits must be a transfer of energy, not just contact. I think this was the biggest surprise, because I thought I had hit pretty hard. I guess not. I'm working on it now.

(I should mention: many of these critiques are copied and pasted from the email Bones sent me telling me what I didn't pass.)

Fortunately, a lot of those are things that if I concentrate on them, I can absolutely do right now. And my speed and endurance are continuing to improve (and will only get better once I go back to my body conditioning class at school next week). The crossovers and booty blocking will probably take the most work.

The good news: I totally passed the jumps, on my first try. They were no big deal. Which was a very big deal. :-)

Monday practice, and Skatemberfest

Monday night's practice was really interesting. We were at Benton County, with the reasonable concrete floor and small space. We started out with 40 laps as a pack, and I was able to stay at the front of the pack for the entire 40 without any assists. That was pretty cool. I was fairly wiped out when we finished, but still.

Later on in the practice, we did pyramid sprints. Here's the interesting part. I was in the slower group, and on the way up (1 lap, 2 laps, up to 7) I was the slowest in my group. We were skating counterclockwise, which is the normal direction for derby. On the way down, we switched to clockwise, and after the first set, I was the fastest of my group. I'm sure part of that is because the other girls were uncomfortable with skating clockwise, because all three of them are generally faster than I. But I was doing real crossovers -- pushing off with my inside leg and everything. I felt like I was practically horizontal on the turns (I'm sure I wasn't, but I'm sure I was a lot lower than usual). It was pretty amazing.

If only derby were done clockwise ...

But this definitely means I'm capable of it. I need to work on my left leg's flexibility and strength (because, see, when you're skating counterclockwise, your left leg is your inside leg and it's the one I'm having trouble pushing with). But if I can do it on one side, I can do it on the other. Or, I will be able to.

Our Skatemberfest bout was Saturday. That was one long-ass day for me. I got to the venue at 7 a.m., and except for a couple of hours, I was there until the end of the bout (which was about 9:30 p.m.) It was fun, though. Putting on a bout is such a team effort -- everyone pitches in to make it happen. Sick Town won, which was really exciting for me (it was the first time I've been at a bout where Sick Town has won, though I've seen some *amazing* play from my team).

Oh, and I got to skate in the rules demo at the beginning. Belle and I were the jammers. It was *so* fun. In all the pictures, we're smiling and laughing and just having a great time. You can tell how happy we are to be doing derby. If you look at the pictures of the team girls in the actual bout, you'll see a lot of that too -- the faces are almost always either determined and fierce, or grinning like Cheshire cats. I love it!

The bout, by the way, sold out!

Oh, and a big thank you to Atomic City for coming down from the tri-cities (eastern Washington) to bout us. At bouts, I always clap really loudly for the visiting team, because really ... we're all volunteers. We're all doing this for fun. It's cool of them to drive however many hours to come and play with us.

Anyway. Practice tonight! I'll most likely be with the beginners again, but that's OK. It's not like I've been demoted to beginner -- not at all. And it *is* a wonderful chance for me to work on my fundamentals. Truthfully, it'll probably get me ready to re-pass minimum skills much more than scrimmaging would (even though scrimmaging is awesome).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Outdoor Skating -- Woohoo!

Today, I skated outdoors with Belle and D-Train. Originally we were planning to just do the Willamette Park circuit a few times ... but then D got the idea to go out towards Philomath instead. It's more fun, and also we realized that we had enough people for it to count as a practice if we skated for two hours.

So we skated from Willamette Park to the bike path, and on the bike path out to like 63rd Street or so. We made it up the first hill. I have no doubt that if it had just been Belle and D, they would have gone all the way to Philomath. I felt like I was at about half of my endurance after getting up that hill, though, so we turned around. (They were both very sweet about it.)

When we go down a big hill on skates, we call it "bombing" the hill. Or at least, that's one way of going down. Bombing is when you just get low and enjoy the ride. (That's as opposed to snowplowing to control your speed, or going down backwards on your toe stops to *really* control your speed.)

I bombed the hill. And Oh. My. God ... it was such an awesome feeling. It was amazing. I wasn't scared at all, even though I was not doing anything to control my speed. It felt like flying. I'll bet we looked pretty cool, too -- three rollergirls zooming down a hill.

When we got back, we realized we needed to skate another 10 minutes or it wouldn't be two hours and wouldn't count as a practice (that matters more for D and Belle than it does for me, since I'm not scrimmage-eligible anyway, but at that point I felt like I'd come this far, I wanted it to count as a practice). So we ended up doing the Willamette circuit at the end. I was pretty tired by the time we started that. I figured it was a good idea to push myself past the point of "tired."

What a *great* way to start the day! I'm so glad I pushed myself. This today was definitely the farthest I have skated outdoors. Just the Willamette Park to 61st Street part was about 14 miles round trip, I think. (Google Maps seems to think so anyway.) And then the Willamette Park part probably added another two. So, yay us!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I'm sure I've mentioned Sick Town's rule that if you miss three weeks of practice, you have to re-pass minimum skills. I missed enough when I had pneumonia that I needed to re-pass. And then we all took a break for three weeks in July, so we all had to re-pass.

Tonight we had an all-league (well, except for the beginners) minimum skills assessment. I can't say for sure, but I *might* have passed if I had been able to skate 25 laps in 5 minutes. I skated 21 laps in 5 minutes. Not even close.

I used to be able to skate 25 in 5, when we were at the CDC (our warehouse). That was on better skating surfaces -- first grippy concrete, and then sport court. The surface at the fairgrounds sucks: slippery waxed concrete. I use my grippiest wheels on it, but of course they are also my slowest wheels. Using faster wheels isn't really an option. I am going to have to improve my speed on that floor, with those wheels.

We did the minimum skills assessment after scrimmaging (and I did a lot better than last week, so yay). But I'm not going to blame that for my inability to skate 25 in 5. Everyone else did it, and they all scrimmaged too.

I have to give myself a little credit, though: the 25 laps in 5 minutes was pretty early in the assessment, and I still put 100% effort into all of the remaining drills even though I knew I had not passed. I don't know if I passed everything, but I felt pretty good about everything. I even did the jump (and I'm fairly sure I passed that, at least). I did better on the booty-blocking, but I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't pass that part.

I feel pretty crappy tonight, but it's not like I fucked it up completely. I can get faster.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Practice tonight

Today, Charlie and I had to put our 15-year-old Corgi girl, Scout, to sleep. It had been a long time coming, but this weekend she declined sharply. This morning, we knew it was time.

I never considered not going to derby practice tonight, though -- at least not seriously. A good, hard workout sounded like a great idea to me. If I'm working my ass off to keep up with people who are in much better shape than I, I don't have time to feel sad.

Fortunately, tonight was endurance practice, run by Bones -- so a good, hard workout was exactly what we got. She used a practice that Suzy Hotrod (rock star jammer with the Gotham City derby team) taught at Rollercon. Oof. It was brutal, especially outdoors in 90-degree heat. I drank at least three liters of water (I finished off my big pink bottle halfway through, refilled it, and finished that off too).

I didn't have to drop out of anything (though I did wimp out of a follow-the-leader activity we did during a water break ... that was weeny of me, though there were lots of rocks and crap). But all of the drills? I kept up. Boosh!

I can't wait to see what fresh hell Bones has for us next Monday. ;-)

Scrimmage, bitches!

On Saturday, the Rose City Rollers (Portland's nationally-ranked derby team) held an open black-and-white scrimmage. It was $5, and open to any derby girl as long as she had WFTDA or USARS insurance. (So, basically, any girl who has been with a league long enough to have bought the insurance. I think probably everyone had passed minimum skills, but it wasn't a requirement.)

Since Sick Town has lost its warehouse, we've been scrambling for practice locations. So of course we jumped on the chance to go up and scrimmage at Rose City's hangar. I think there were nine of us who went.

At first, there were just enough girls on the white team and the black team (all of us Sick Town girls were on white) that we only had to play every other jam. Later, as more girls showed up, it got to the point where you'd get to play every third jam.

I got to skate with a lot of awesome girls, both from my league and from others (mostly RCR freshies, but there were some RCR team girls too, and a fair number of Cherry City (Salem) girls, Emerald City (Eugene) girls, and even a few from out of state.

I was able to keep up with the pack almost all the time!! It was harder when I fell and had to catch up, but even then, I managed. One *really* awesome thing was when the other team tried to trap me (this is a well-known derby strategy, to trap one opposing player so that your blockers and the trapped girl become the pack ... if the other opposing blockers are more than 20 feet ahead, they are then out of play and can't block your jammer). Well, they NEVER managed to trap me! I'm getting pretty good at spotting the holes and getting away ... which is good, because even though my speed is improving and will continue to improve, I'll never be the fastest girl on the track.

I think I'm having more of those wonderful moments where I feel like I know what I'm doing -- moments where I block someone effectively, escape a trap, hit someone out of bounds. I had a lot of those during the scrimmage on Saturday. (In the interest of honesty, I must also admit that I had a few boneheaded moments -- especially the one where I got up from having been knocked down, and tripped on my own skate and went down again. D'oh!)

Anyway, GOD that was fun. It was hot -- I think it got up to at least 97 on Saturday, and the hangar where Rose City practices and bouts is not air-conditioned (other than that, though, it's pretty awesome). But when I was skating, I didn't notice the heat. It was just fun.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Motha Frickin Sick Town!

Last night was my first Sick Town practice after the break. It felt *so* good to be back. Even better, I was able to keep up with just about everything. We ran through all of the skills in the minimum skills assessment, and the only things I didn't do at least somewhat successfully (no one was actually evaluating us) were the two-footed jump over an object (I jumped next to it), the booty blocking (but Bruiser gave me some tips and toward the end I think I really got it) and the 25 laps in 5 minutes. More on that one: I managed 24.5 laps. This was on the evil, slippery Linn County Fairgrounds floor, in my slowest wheels (Sure Grip Sugars, which are *awesome* on that surface -- there was no slip at all. I just need to get my speed up now). So I'm really considering 24.5 laps in 5 minutes a win. That's "shave off a little time and you've got it." Honestly, there were times I was coasting around the curves instead of doing crossovers, for some reason. Just changing that would probably fix the whole thing.

After we finished the skills, we did some scrimmage-y drills, and it was great. I didn't do fabulously well, but there were moments when I was effective at helping my jammer through the pack. That was cool. I didn't have much, if any, trouble keeping up with the pack (though I must admit that the pack was on the slow side). I'm having a little trouble understanding Sick Town's new wall-making strategy. Last night was the first time I had skated that way, and I don't think I "get it" yet. I hope we will get to do more scrimmage-type drills at practice, because honestly, they are a good way to work endurance and they are a lot more fun than skating laps. And the more I learn about strategy and how to be an effective blocker, the better prepared I will be when I am finally scrimmage-eligible.

One awesome thing: before Sick Town's break, I had been having a lot of fear while skating. I don't really know why. Part of it could have been that I was in the midst of changing antidepressants. I'm sure the fact that we had just lost our practice space and were skating on a lot of different surfaces didn't help either. But whatever the reason, I had become a big fraidy-cat on skates.

I think I have shaken that off. All of the solo outdoor skating I did during the break seems to have helped. When you're on your own, you kind of just have to push past the fear, or go home. Crossing streets and getting past scary obstacles like railroad tracks and these weird bumpy mats they have at the crosswalks in Corvallis probably helped too (it can't have hurt my agility, either).

Now I just have to work on control, speed and endurance ... and oh yeah, I have to repass minimum skills. Then I can scrimmage. Easy peasy, right? Right.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On the Way Home

I am sitting in the Las Vegas airport, which has free wifi. Hallelujah!

Here's my final thought on the overcrowding at Rollercon: the organizers knew the event was going to be at the Las Vegas Sports Center. They knew they would only have two tracks, and they knew the building wasn't that big. In short, they knew how many people they could accommodate, and they chose to sell about twice that many tickets.

Next year they either need to find a bigger venue, or limit the number of tickets sold (fat fucking chance).

Since I feel like I've done a lot of (justified) bitching about Rollercon, here are some good things about it:

- Hanging out with my Sick Town girls was fun.
- The open scrimmages were awesome, and I held my own in them, which is really awesome. (And I made Bones proud of me, which is *incredibly* awesome.)
- The two classes I managed to get into were good. I could have gotten into more if I hadn't let myself get so frustrated with the crowded conditions, but oh well.
- I met a lot of really cool derby people.
- I didn't get sunburned, by some miracle (more than once, I walked around in the scorching Vegas sun without wearing sunscreen).
- I never got a hangover (it's called moderation, darlings ... and it's a good thing).
- Thanks to all the walking I did, even though I didn't skate nearly as much as I thought I would, I got a TON of exercise.

I don't think Rollercon was a waste of my time and money, but I won't be back unless they do something about the overcrowding. Bigger venue, or a cap on ticket sales; but *something*.

And now, I just want to get home. I'm so, so, so tired!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Pretty Good Day

I had a pretty good day today. I was frustrated with the lines at Rollercon, so I took the day off and hung out with Claudia and her friend Sarah. We wandered around Vegas, went into the pawn shop from "Pawn Star" (which was not that exciting), swam at the Tropicana's pool and played midway games at Circus Circus. I did a LOT of walking today. My feet were already hurting by the time I went to the open scrimmage. But I don't get a lot of chances to scrimmage, so I didn't want to miss it. Besides, the open scrimmage started at 9 p.m., and that is the same time that the Black and Blue Ball started, so we figured (correctly) that the scrimmage would be more sparsely attended than usual. (There were still probably 50 people on each team.)

All seven Sick Town girls were there (and that is 1/3 of our league ... percentage-wise, we *must* be in the running for the league with the most of its members attending Rollercon). There were some other Oregon people too -- Earl Slick (ECRG ref and also a member of the Eugene men's derby team, the Concussion) and Sirius Smack (ECRG player), at least. I skated in four jams, and it was *awesome*. I was nervous about scrimmaging with men, but it turned out to be just fine. When I lined up for each jam, I told the opposing players that I'm pretty new and asked them not to kill me. They still hit me, which is good. But they didn't lay me out.

I got a "good hustle" from Sirius after we skated a jam as blocking partners. That was nice. After the scrimmage, Bones told me and Thrilla that we were both awesome in the scrimmage, and that she thinks when we skate with Sick Town we tend to be more passive, because we know our more experienced teammates will do what needs to be done. In an open scrimmage where you don't know the other people, you kind of have to do it yourself.

Making Bones proud of me? That's just an amazing feeling.

My legs are *so* sore. When I got up a little while ago to go to the bathroom, I was moving like an old person. I may be in pain tomorrow, but that scrimmage tonight was *totally* worth it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

One More Rollercon Post

On the first day, there was an open scrimmage at noon. In an open scrimmage, you wear a black or white shirt with your number on it, and you get in the black or white line. For each jam, the first four people from the blocker line and the next person in the jammer line go in.

There were a lot of people; I only got to skate in two jams. But it was fun. Unfortunately, there were not enough referees, so we didn't have outside pack refs. That means a lot of fouls got missed, including the moment when a girl from the white team totally elbowed me in the back (I wonder if that would be called as an elbow foul or a back-blocking foul).

Anyway, the really cool thing about the open scrimmage was that I went in with the same three blockers both times, and we worked as a team really well. In the first jam, we trapped a blocker from the white team with us -- meaning that we were the pack, and that the white blockers who were up bothering our jammer were out of play and had to back off. It was so cool! I learned that in Sick Town practice and then I got to do it.

And then in the second jam, my blocking partner and I worked together to form a wall and keep the white jammer back. OK, y'all, this is really basic stuff. But that's the level I'm at right now: the fact that I was able to use my head and block effectively instead of skating willy-nilly and desperately trying to keep up with the pack ... it's a victory. Kind of a big one. (I have had no trouble keeping up in anything I've done here ... that's been awesome.)

I have heard that the open scrimmages at night have gotten pretty rough; and they don't start until 9 p.m. I don't know if I will skate in any more, but that first one was pretty great.

Hanging with the Brat Pack

On Wednesday, I was bench captain for one of the challenge bouts at Rollercon (these are 30-minute bouts with preset teams that were organized in advance -- though there have been a lot of substitutions of players when people who were expected didn't show up). My bout was the Brat Pack (my team) vs. the Chocolate Chip Rookies.

My job was supposed to be to manage the lineups, but we didn't really have set lineups; people just came off the track and got back in line, and we had a few girls jamming. I did take responsibility for making sure we had a jammer and a pivot for every jam, and for encouraging girls to go in and jam if they wanted to try it -- this was not a win-at-all-costs situation. (We did win, though, which was cool! I honestly think we had the better team -- we had some good teamwork and we played much cleaner. They spent a lot more time in the penalty box than we did.)

If I am ever actually going to be a bench captain, like for Sick Town, I will probably have to get control of my mouth. There were times when the other team fouled my players and I was yelling, "Low blocking! She low blocked her!!" Maybe a bench captain shouldn't do that ... I'm not sure. (The girl did totally, egregiously low block my player. I mean, it was blatant.

Anyway, it was cool that my team won, and it was really cool to see them working together. It was fun. Ironically, the reason I didn't skate in this challenge bout was that I felt I wasn't up to the level of the other ladies (some of them have already bouted) ... but there were girls on both teams who are not as strong skaters as I. If I had had my gear there, I could have skated. Oh well. :-)

Greetings from the Sauna!

Here I am in Las Vegas. I have been here since Tuesday, but the Tropicana doesn't have free wi-fi, and schlepping my laptop the five or six blocks to the McDonald's on the strip is enough of a hassle that I have only done it twice. That's where I am now, enjoying the air conditioning and the Diet Coke.

I'll be honest: Rollercon kind of bites. Hanging with my derby girls is fun (and Boxxx finally got into town early this morning, so it's about to get even more fun). I'm not as much of a party-er as, well, pretty much everyone else, but I'm trying not to be a stick in the mud. Last night we went to the Hooters pool (the Tropicana's pool closes at 7 p.m., which is LAME), then to the Riedell (skate manufacturer) party, and then I was ready to call it a night ... so I skipped the Vagine Regime's Pants Off Dance Off party.

The problem is that everything is so fricking crowded. There are like 1700 people attending Rollercon. We have to be butting up against the maximum occupancy number for the Las Vegas Sports Center. It's crowded and hot and sweaty.

Rollercon has pretty much completely outgrown the Sports Center. There is only room for two tracks (and these are not full-size tracks either). So at any given time there are two skate classes going on, and they are supposed to be capped at 80 skaters (which is still too many for the space, in my opinion).

Yesterday we lined up at NOON to get tickets for the 4 p.m. skate classes. They gave out the tickets at 2 p.m. They only gave out 75 tickets (we got some; we were maybe 30th in line). But then when the class (Blocking Jammers Hate, taught by Suzy Hotrod -- more on that in a minute) started, there were at least 150 people on the track. It would not surprise me at all if it was more like 200. There were a few drills that we were all able to do, but not nearly all of them. A lot of it was Suzy teaching something, and then telling us to practice it at home. It's not her fault; there was simply no way for everyone to do everything.

Theoretically, the Sports Center is air-conditioned. That doesn't mean it was at all comfortable.

I'm pretty irritated (and I'm not the only one) about the training situation here. Seriously, they need to find a place to hold Rollercon that can accommodate all these people. I don't know if I would go again, anyway, but if it's in Vegas I will certainly not be back.

OK, Suzy Hotrod. I think she is my new girly-crush. :-) She's an amazing skater, and a really good teacher. She's funny and no-nonsense and awesome. We learned some cool new drills. I suppose the biggest thing I learned -- and this is pretty basic -- is "back, back, back, up." She had us call that out as we skated in two GINORMOUS packs. So basically, you're looking back over your shoulder for three beats, then ahead for one. Repeat. The reason that's cool is that usually when I am blocking I'm not sure where to look, and I'm trying to look behind me and still skate and it's just awkward as hell. Having a rhythm for it will help me.

At one point Suzy used me and another girl to demonstrate breaking up a wall (we were the wall). We were both in our best derby stances, nice and low, and Suzy said, "Be honest, would you really be that low in a practice?" We laughed and gave her a bit better opportunity to break through us, and she said, "Thanks for being the teacher's pets though." I'm not doing it justice -- it was really adorable. And Suzy, I'll be your teacher's pet anytime. :-)

With the lines and the crowds and all, I honestly don't know if I will get into another training session. I'm taking today off -- I'm going to hang out with Claudia a little later. (I woke up way earlier than I needed to.) Tomorrow there are no skating sessions I'm interested in; I will try to get into one on Sunday.

It's ridiculous: I'm at goddamn Rollercon, and I have geared up TWICE. That's it. I miss Sick Town. Brick is planning a practice for Saturday morning and honestly I would rather go to it than to another Rollercon event. Is that crazy?

This post is getting away from me, so I'm going to stop, and tell you all about the challenge bout I bench coached in another post.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rollercon, Day One

I'm trying to type this on my phone, because the wifi here at the Tropicana costs $12.99 a day. They can eat a pile of dicks if they think I am paying that.

I don't think Vegas is a place I would choose to go if it were not for some event. It's like a pizza: hot and cheesy. I don't mind cheesy ... sometimes I even like it. But Vegas is so very, very touristy.

No skating today. We checked in for Rollercon, then hit the pool (which, lamely, closes at 7 p.m.) and then the bars. Coyote Ugly was fun for a whilre (but very, very noisy). That ended up being the only place we drank, which is just as well. We do want to skate tomorrow, not stay at the hotel with hangovers.

Tomorrow Rollercon starts for real.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Outdoor Skating!

Today I skated the Corvallis-Philomath bike path again. I started downtown, by the post office, and made it all the way to Country Club Road (so, about a total of six or seven miles, round trip). It really is a great path for skating. I'm getting more confident about the street crossings, too; I just step past the yellow bumpy mats instead of getting freaked out by them.

The really big hills start after 53rd Street, I think. I must have been just about there. Next time, maybe I will keep going at least through the first hill. It would be really cool if, by the end of the summer, I could make it all the way to Philomath and back. Should be do-able, I think.

I met two girls who were skating on inline skates, and I told them about Sick Town and encouraged them to come to our next practice. I hope they'll come check it out, because they were very nice and they were both pretty good skaters. I don't think switching from inline to quad should be too difficult. (I find quad skates much easier to skate in, myself.)

I should really go do some laundry, so I will have clothing to take to Rollercon. :-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't Drink and Blog

Well, do as I say, not as I do, because I am sipping a white sangria as I write this.

I skated at Willamette Park today. I only managed two laps, but that's still a lot of skating. I'm not sure exactly how long the main path is, but it feels pretty long. I wanted to quit after the first lap (low-energy day, I guess), but I didn't. So there's that, at least.

Tonight was the bout committee meeting for Sick Town's next two home bouts (which are in September and October). I volunteered to be door manager, which should be a job I can handle. I was very careful *not* to volunteer to be bout coordinator. Been there, done that (although when I did it, it was at the theater and it was called "director").

Wow, in less than a week I will be at Rollercon!! Holy shitballs. I will have my laptop, so y'all can expect some exciting (and, I hope, non-whiny) updates from the 'con.

Tomorrow night, Sick Town is skating at the Corvallis Knights game! Woot!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I've probably mentioned this already, but the Sick Town training committee has decided that just passing minimum skills and passing the written rules test no longer automatically means that you are eligible to scrimmage. Now, the training committee decides when you can scrimmage.

I'd guess a lot of that is about safety (though some of it may be endurance and speed too -- being able to skate 25 laps in 5 minutes doesn't necessarily mean you can maintain that pace for more than 5 minutes, for example). So although initially when they announced this change, I was like, "Oh crap, another hoop to jump through," I'm cool with it now. Honestly, if the committee doesn't think I'm ready to scrimmage, I trust their judgment.

The good news is that I told Bones (head of training) that my goal is to be scrimmage-eligible by the end of the year, and she thinks that's totally attainable. Yay! We're going to talk at Rollercon (I suggested drinks and knitting :-) ... but her vote of confidence makes me feel a lot better.

Meanwhile, I'll still go to the scrimmage part of the Wednesday practices. I want to learn to referee too -- NOT instead of playing, but as something else I can do. It was fun tracking penalties at the junior derby tournament, but refereeing would have been more fun. :-) So until I'm eligible to scrimmage, I can help ref the scrimmages and then join in the practice afterward. (I think the non-team practices will be separate now ... )

I think I'm getting past some of my skating fear: hallelujah! All the outdoor skating I've been doing helps.

OK, time to go finish dyeing my hair (Sick Town blue! For reals! Well, just the bangs, but still. :-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Arm Workout

Today Brick got a call from the people who took over the warehouse from us -- they needed us to move our sport court out of there ASAP. So that's how I spent this evening -- moving (I'm guessing) 8000 square feet's worth of plastic flooring.

Because I was doing it with Sick Town girls, it was actually fun. I hadn't seen any of them in a couple of weeks, since we haven't had practice. That's hard, being away from practice and from friends you're used to seeing three or four times a week.

So now, our sport court is stored at JalaPainYo's house, and the rest of our stuff is farmed out in various garages in Corvallis and Albany. In August, we'll start practicing again, probably at the Linn County Fairgrounds. It'll be good to get back! I have a lot to work on; I would like to be scrimmage-eligible before the end of the year (I think that is a very realistic goal). Rollercon will be good, and then the body conditioning and pilates classes I'm taking in the fall should help a lot too.

This will be a derby-full week: Wednesday we have the bout committee meeting (volunteers are very much invited), Thursday we are the guests of honor at the Corvallis Knights baseball game, and this weekend Sick Town has a camping trip planned. Should be fun!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Eat, Sleep, Skate

So far, I'm doing really well with my goal to skate almost every day during Sick Town's break. Friday, I skated on a bike path that runs from 35th to 53rd Streets through some OSU farmland (it's the one with the covered bridge). It's a nice, wide asphalt path. There's a fair amount of debris, but it's pretty good for skating. I did two "laps" (35th to 53rd and back), which works out to about eight miles. Not too bad. There's a pretty good hill at the 53rd Street end -- steep enough to hurt going up, and to be fun coming down, but not steep enough to be at all scary.

Saturday, Charlie and I were NSOs (non-skating officials) for a junior derby tournament in Eugene. Some of those girls (whose ages I would guess range from 12 to 18) are *amazing* skaters. I didn't know what to expect going into it; I had never seen junior derby before. It's the same as adult derby, except that the girls are younger. They use the same rules as we do (WFTDA rules) and it's just as much a full-contact sport.

Since it was a double-elimination tournament, every team got to skate at least two 30-minute bouts. Charlie and I were supposed to work all 10 bouts, but Stat Brat (ECRG's awesome NSO and, I assume, statistician) took over for me for one so I could have a break. If she hadn't spelled me for a bout, I would have been on my feet pretty much non-stop from 11 until 6:30. That's what Charlie did. It was exhausting. Fun, but exhausting. The refs and other NSOs we worked with were awesome. And there were Voodoo Doughnuts in the refs' room. I had two and then made myself switch to granola bars and trail mix when I wanted a snack. :-)

Today, Charlie and I went and skated on the Periwinkle bike path here in Albany. It's not a great skating path -- it's concrete, and in some spots it's in pretty poor condition. It's also not a very long path, and there's one point where you have to cross the street and if you're coming from the west, you can't see the road (thanks to the vegetation) and it's a fairly sharp little hill leading down to the street. Yikes!

So, I don't know if I will skate there again. It's probably worth the drive to Corvallis to skate at Willamette Park or the OSU path instead.

I'm certainly not getting as much of a workout as I get at derby practice, but at least when I go to Rollercon (in just over a week, holy shitballs!), I won't have been off my skates for two weeks.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More skating!

Yesterday, I skated outside on my own. That's a first. Fortunately, it went well (I had my phone, too, so if I had hurt myself I could have called someone). My original plan was to skate on the path along the riverside in downtown Corvallis, but that path is not so great for skating. It is concrete, with grooves every six feet or so (which I didn't like but wasn't awful), and some areas with multiple grooves about six inches apart (these sucked). Also, there are areas that are brick, and that is not fun to skate on.

Fortunately, that path merges with the asphalt bike path that runs from Corvallis to Philomath (come on, guys, isn't it about time the path was extended to Albany?) I decided to try it instead. I had not skated on it since about 1997 (when I tried it on Rollerblades and ended up in tears because I just couldn't handle it). Sick Town uses it for advanced-level outdoor skating, but I figured I could just try it and if it was too tough for me I could turn around. (Besides, I know that path well enough to know that the really tough hills are farther out than I was likely to go, out toward Philomath.)

I skated as far as 26th Street and back, twice. It was a good workout, but nothing I couldn't handle. I bombed the hills, no problem. (Well, I did snowplow some to control my speed.) There was a lot of debris on the path, but that was easier than the grooves in the concrete.

Today, Charlie and I went up to Oaks Park for their evening open skate. It was fun (still hot, but not as bad as Saturday). The music wasn't what I would have chosen -- mostly 1980s R&B (I think). I didn't recognize that many songs.

One cool thing is that there were a lot of derby people. If there had been someone from Emerald City (Eugene), then every league from the Oregon I-5 corridor would have been represented. G.I. Jess was there from Southern Oregon (nice girl; she started about when I did. I hope next time we meet it will be in a bout!); a girl whose name I've forgotten was there from Cherry City (though she has moved to Portland and is thinking about trying out for Rose City's fresh meat). There were some RCR hopefuls (good luck ladies!) and several guys from the Portland Men's Derby team. I chatted with a couple of them. They're nice guys. I still don't fully get the point of men's derby (but that is just because I really love women's sports. I don't 100% get the point of men's *basketball*. :-)

What's really neat is that they tried to recruit Charlie! He has come a long way as a skater. We stopped by their practice (in Rose City's practice space, a hangar on the Oaks Park property) after we were done skating. Charlie's not interested in joining (which is fine with me!), but it was cool to see someone else being tormented with falling drills and shopping carts. :-)

Rose City has an awesome practice space, BTW. I'm jealous.

Tomorrow I will probably give my legs a break, but Friday I'm going to skate outside again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Outdoor Skate

This morning I got up early (well, early for me, especially in summer) and skated with Belle at Willamette Park. It was fun! I think I've mentioned before what a sweetie Belle is -- she's just awesome to hang out with. We did three "laps" (out to the first hill, because I wasn't up for trying hills today, and back); it was a good workout, though not as taxing as a derby practice.

It's nice and cool today, overcast and about 75 degrees (I guess). Great skating weather!

Oh, and it seems that every time I go to Corvallis, I see something cool. Last practice, on my way home I saw a guy riding a unicycle and juggling three basketballs. Today, when we were in one of the woodsy areas along the path, a COYOTE ran out about 15 feet ahead of us and bounded across the path and into the woods on the other side. A fricking coyote!!

We also saw a bunch of adorable little yellow finches, and two (separate) Corgis.

So, I had a really fun time. Thanks Belle!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Skating at Oaks Park

Yesterday, Charlie and I went to the afternoon open skate at Oaks Park. I've mentioned Oaks before, so let me just quickly say: it's a great rink. Wonderful, huge hardwood floor, very grippy. I wore my fastest wheels (my Cannibals, with the 91 durometer and very little grip).

The skating was awesome. It had been long enough since we skated at Oaks that the last time, I was barely able to skate all the way through one or two songs. I was still having shin pain, plus my endurance just generally sucked.

Well, the shin pain is pretty much gone (!!) and has been for a while, and although my endurance still sucks compared to most of the other girls in the league, it is much, much better than it was. We were there for two and a half hours, and I skated the entire time, except the two times we took breaks to get something to drink (this was absolutely necessary).

Turns out, the Oaks Park rink does not have air conditioning. It wasn't awful, but it was definitely not comfortably cool. If we hadn't stopped to drink, we would have been dehydrated (before our second break, I kept one-more-songing myself, and I was starting to feel dehydrated by the time I stopped). We brought clothes to change into, because we were planning to go to the movies after skating ... and when I took my skating clothes off they were soaking wet. Not dripping, at least; but definitely saturated.

The rink was moderately crowded, but I'm past being freaked out by that. It was fun skating around people. I was one of the fastest skaters there (and let me tell you, being the fastest skater is not a common experience for me!). I wasn't asshole-fast, just Dixie-fast. So, a moderate derby pace.

I tried some new things too. I concentrated on skating low, and sometimes especially low -- there's a drill we've been doing at practice lately where we rest our elbows on our knees and someone pushes us around (for two minutes at a time, which is excruciating!). I tried skating like that. It's different ... I'm not sure I found the right balance, but I could do it. I even tried shooting the duck (crouching low and putting one leg out in front, straight) and cutting side-to-side while doing that. And on the curves, I tried holding the inner line and sticking my booty out over the line without putting my skates over it. Roller derby: the sport where a big booty can be a real advantage!

During the reverse skate, I made myself do crossovers ... and I think I FINALLY got the push thing! See, when I do a crossover in the regular direction, I'm now getting enough of a crossover that I'm not losing all my momentum by coasting around the turns. But I'm not pushing off with my back foot to get *power* out of the crossover. Well, in the reverse direction, I can do that now. Or at least I did yesterday.

Now if I could just figure out how to do it with my left leg ...

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Wow, it's been three weeks since I posted. Sorry, internet!! I will try to do better.

I am still working on getting my mojo (i.e., endurance and speed) back. I have had some great practices, and then there have been some where I had to drop out of a lot of drills and felt crappy about it. Fortunately, tonight was a good one (though it was hard -- really hard).

Sick Town has lost its practice space -- the warehouse we called the CDC. We lost it just after the rookie rumble scrimmage with the Rose City girls -- which I was allowed to skate in at the last minute, thanks to Sick Town not having enough skaters. That was a *lot* of fun. I had some moments where I felt like a useful blocker, too. Not all the time, but enough glimmers to give me hope. (There was one jam in particular where I was stuck at the back of the pack when the Rose City jammer was coming up. I kept hitting her out of bounds, repeatedly. For a little while, I was a huge pain in that jammer's ass. That was awesome!)

Anyway, we have been nomads since the last week of June. That has meant a lot of practices at the Linn County Fairgrounds (which has a nice big room with a concrete floor; unfortunately, that floor is waxed and polished to a pretty shine, which means it is slick as hell and not that great to skate on). We've also had several outdoor practices, at various basketball courts and school play yards in the area.

I'm not complaining. Brick and the rest of the trainers have done a fantastic job of finding us places to practice. But the constant switching of skating surfaces means that I have to re-adjust every practice, and I'm experiencing a lot of fear while skating. (Some of that may also be because I am in the throes of changing anti-depressants.) I really just have to get over it and trust my skills. I wonder how much better a skater I could be if I could just get rid of the fear. I think it would be a leap, for me, skill-wise.

Tonight we skated at the Benton County Fairgrounds, which is right near Bald Hill (a park? with lovely wide asphalt bike trails). It was 95 degrees out, and we started with an outdoor skate up the first real hill of the path. It is a gradual slope, but a very noticeable one; I would guess it's maybe 30 degrees (but I didn't have a giant protractor with me, so I could be wrong).

Skating up it the first time was really tough. Bones said skating uphill is a great way to practice the proper derby stride (which is to skate with your legs pushing straight out to the side, not back). I made it, though I was the last one to get to the top. We talked for a bit about how to skate down (bend your knees, weight on your heels, stagger your feet, keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, if you have to ditch into the grass just fall, don't try to stay up), and then it was time to do it. Bones and Toxic (the two team members who were skating with us -- well, Toxic isn't a team member now because she was out for a long time with an injury, but she is certainly as knowledgeable as a team member) went first. I told Belle and Shelley that I'd better not go last, or I was afraid I wouldn't go at all. So I went next.

Holy shit, y'all, that was scary. I was snowplowing with my feet to try to control my speed, but at some point I realized that I wasn't really making much difference that way so I just let go and went fast. Really fast. It would have been fun if I hadn't been so scared! I rolled almost all the way back to the start of the trail (which was a little ways; I don't know how far).

We talked a bit and then we went back up to do it again. If going up the hill the first time was tough, going up the second time was a bastard. I stopped halfway through (hmm, I was able to stop on a hill without rolling back -- that's kinda cool) and seriously considered giving up. I kept going, and somehow I got to the top of the hill. (It's Bones, y'all. I really should hire her to be my personal motivator for everything.)

Bones and I talked about how I didn't need to be scared, and that I have the skill to handle skating down that hill. She went down last, and I was next to last, so Bones was right behind me going down the hill, and kind of coached me through it. That was helpful. I was much more confident the second time, and had more fun.

The original plan was to do the hill 3 or 4 times, but by the time we finished the second time it was 7:30 and time to go do the indoor part of our practice. I'll admit I was relieved not to have to climb that hill a third time. :-)

It was hotter inside than out. The Benton County Fairgrounds' buildings are not air conditioned. (The floor there is awesome for skating though. Much grippier concrete than at the LinnCo fairgrounds.) My big accomplishments for the second half of the practice were (a) that I didn't have to drop out of any drills, and (b) that I got through it even though it was hotter than ass in there.

Oh, and Bones said I had really good form on my T-stops. That was cool. :-)

So now, Sick Town is taking a break for the rest of July. I am going to do my best to still skate at least three times a week during the break. Saturday, Charlie and I are going to Oaks Park (wonderful, huge rink); Monday, Belle and I are going to skate at Willamette Park early, before it gets hot.

I'm now wearing jeans three sizes smaller than when I started derby, by the way. How awesome is that?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Derby Horoscope Nails It

I don't really believe in horoscopes, but mine from the new issue of "Five on Five" (WFTDA's official derby magazine) is spot on:

Scorpio: Practice, practice, practice! You have been feeling tired and out of sync on the track, but getting back to basics will bring back the confidence you have been lacking. Your level of play will be elevated once you tackle this mental block.

I *have* been feeling tired and out of sync on the track. My endurance is in the toilet, I pulled a groin muscle falling at practice on Monday, and the last couple of practices were just miserable for me. And of course there's last Saturday's setback, which doesn't help a bit.

I think I just need to focus on the basics -- stance, stride, stopping (let's see if I can get a few more S-words in here). OK, so I didn't re-pass minimum skills -- yet. BFD. It's not like that was the one thing keeping me from being put on the team. I'm a ways away from being good enough for that yet ... so there's no reason for me not to just focus on improving my skills, and stop comparing myself to others. As long as I'm doing *my* best, and pushing myself, it will be good enough.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A minor setback

Well, today I tried to do my re-test on minimum skills. It's a little more involved than I had expected -- it's not just the individual stuff, but the pair and pack stuff too. Also, some of the individual stuff is not required (stops and falls, mainly).

I had some trouble with the jump but managed to do it. I need to make myself jump every time I put on skates. I also had to re-do receiving push assists -- the first time, I was too straight up and down. That annoys the hell out of me (at myself), because I *know* better than that.

But the thing that I just *could not* pull off, and that kept me from passing today, was positional blocking (aka booty blocking). I just couldn't get in front of Brick or Bones (they both tried it with me. They definitely did everything they could to give me a chance to get it right). And when I was in front of them I couldn't stop fast enough. Or didn't, really. I mean, I know how to stop.

I think part of it is that my endurance is suffering. Three weeks away from practice, plus pneumonia, will really mess up your endurance. So that is one thing I will keep working at. The other thing is just the footwork. Oh, and apparently I'm still flailing my arms around too much, which, dammit! Another thing I totally know better than to do, but I'm still doing it.

Well, I'm not going to beat myself up (any further). The good news is that there was a lot of stuff that was just no problem for me at all. I can try again next Saturday; between now and then, I can work on footwork and positional blocking, and make myself jump at every practice. I. Will. Get. There.

Meanwhile, this doesn't take away the fact that I have passed minimum skills. (I'm having a bit of cognitive dissonance on that subject ...) This is just something I have to do before I'm eligible to scrimmage. And I will.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Monday night practice

Last night was ... interesting. Let's say interesting. :-)

Bones ran the practice, which means it was a killer. I love Bones, but I'm half-convinced she is trying to kill me. :-) Just kidding -- hard workouts are awesome, especially when you're finished and you can say, "Wow, I did all of that!"

I couldn't 100% keep up with everything, but I never dropped out. There was a drill where we were skating in a pace line and the front two girls would sprint and lap the pace line (and then lap it twice, then three times, then twice, then once). The theme of last night was "pyramids." Well, my sprinting last night sucked ass (I'm just never going to be the fastest girl in the league, plus my endurance is down thanks to the pneumonia and the resulting lack of exercise). So I never did manage to lap the pace line more than once, but I kept up with the pace line the entire time, so that's something.

I also had no trouble keeping up with the pack during the 30 laps in 6 minutes, so that was awesome. I even helped a new girl, Kimberly, who was having trouble. Later on, I was in a group with Kimberly (who is tall, slim and athletic) and Bones (small but tough as nails) for shopping carts. That's where everyone gets in a single-file line, in derby position, hands on the hips of the girl in front of you, and the person in back pushes everyone. Bones and Kimberly together probably weigh ... gosh, I don't know, but less than 250 pounds, for sure. It should not have been difficult for me to push them. At least, not as difficult as it was. I was *dying*. And then when I was pulling them ... oh sweet Jebus, I wanted to fall down.

I got through it, which, yay me.

Later, during our league meeting, Brick was giving a rundown on how a skate works, what you can adjust and how, etc. Kimberly handed Brick one of her skates to demonstrate on. I picked up the other one, and when I pick up a skate, the first thing I do is give the wheels a spin. I don't know why, but I do. Even before Brick said anything, I told Kimberly, "Oh, honey, your wheels are too tight." They wouldn't spin; I could barely get them to turn. I don't know who sold her those skates, but they really should have loosened the nuts for her. (Brick did.)

We were all amazed and impressed that Kimberly managed to keep up with the pack (with help but still!!!) and the rest of the drills, when her wheels were so tight. Basically, she was driving with the parking brake on.

That explains why it was so hard to push and pull her, and it also explains why I was able to outpace her in most of the drills. *That* won't be happening again anytime soon. Kim is going to *love* her skates next time she tries them, I'll bet!

Unfortunately, Brick had some bad news for us at the meeting. During practice, the owner of the warehouse where we practice came by to talk to her. He had found a renter who wanted to use the building as a warehouse. The thing about that is that it's usually done on a month-to-month basis: a grass-seed company might rent the warehouse for a few months, for example. But whereas we're paying $800 a month, the warehouse renter will pay quite a lot more than that (I don't know exactly how much). So our deal with the owner was always that if they found a regular renter, we had to be out in seven days.

So, we have to be out in seven days. That means we have to tear up our sport court, and move it, and find someplace to store all of our stuff: sport court, chairs, skates, pads, other equipment, etc. More importantly, though, it means we have to find a new place to practice, and the sooner the better. We can probably go back to the Linn County Fairgrounds, which is not ideal (the polished concrete floor is very slick) but is OK. But that -- in my opinion, and I do not in any way speak for the league -- is just a stopgap. We need our own space, so we can have a full practice schedule. I guess I got spoiled in the seven months practicing in the warehouse. I mean, it wasn't perfect by any means: no heat, no insulation, no plumbing, and God only knows how hot it would have gotten in the summer. But it was *ours*. We paid our $800 and we could have practices every single day if we wanted. Sigh.

I know it will work out. I hope it does, because honestly, derby is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. And I don't want to do it anywhere else. I'm a Sick Town girl, dammit!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm Back!

I took most of the month of May off from derby, and I *hated* it. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am usually pretty fanatical about going to practice. Conventional Sick Town wisdom is that two practices a week will maintain your skills, but if you want to improve, you should go to three or four. I took that advice to heart, and I believe that is why I passed minimum skills as quickly as I did (and sooner than anyone expected me to).

I had pneumonia, though, and even if I had felt up to skating, it would have been extremely selfish to go to practice and spread my germs to the rest of the league. So I stayed home.

I finally went back to practice on May 26. The good news is that I went to the rink the Saturday before that (RIP, Lebanon Sk8 Center), and *finally* got the goddamn crossover down!! My crossover is not perfect -- Brick says I am straightening my back leg too soon/too much, and I need to work on that. But it is a real crossover, at last!!

I've been able to keep up at the practices I've been to since I went back. We've started doing 30 laps in six minutes at the start of every practice (that's 12-second laps, the same pace as the 25 laps in five minutes that is required for minimum skills). We do it as a pack, which I *vastly* prefer to doing it as a pace line ... but so far, I haven't needed any help! No whips, no self-assists, no pushes, nothing!! I can't even tell y'all how good that feels.

I borrowed Claudia's (Lux's ... it's really hard to get used to calling the girls who were beginners with me by their derby names, but I will!) yellow Fugitive Mids wheels again. I had tried them on the concrete floor and found that they slowed me down -- they were too grippy on that surface, I guess. On the sport court, they are *awesome*. They are narrower than my other wheels, which means (I guess?) that they are better for side-to-side footwork. They are a 93 durometer (hardness), which means they're fast; and they are nice and grippy, which means they don't slide out from under me on the turns. Love!! I bought my own set yesterday. Any derby girl reading this, if you skate on sport court, you should try these wheels.

Hmm, what else? Oh!! This is cool -- I passed the written test, which is part of minimum skills. I only missed two -- you can miss six and still pass. Yay!!

One frustrating thing: apparently it's a Sick Town rule that if you miss three weeks of practice, you have to re-take the individual parts of the minimum skills assessment before you are eligible to scrimmage. Bones assured me that it's no big deal, and that it takes about five minutes (when she first said it, I was envisioning having to go through the entire min skills assessment in July, and the thought of that made my heart sink). I think I'm pretty much ready to do that. The only thing I'm nervous about at all is the jump, but if I did it in April I should be able to do it now.

Last night Sick Town had a bout against the Church of Sk8in (which is one of the Emerald City Roller Girls teams). It was *awesome.* The Sick Town girls skated fabulously, and showed some really nice teamwork. The score was close all along, and at the end of the bout it was TIED, so they had to go into overtime. Here's how overtime works: it's a two-minute jam, with no lead jammer (the lead jammer can call off the jam at any time; if there's no lead jammer, the jam goes the full two minutes). The jammers start scoring on their first pass through the pack (normally it's on the second).

The final score -- I don't remember the specific numbers, but the Church won by two points. I'd have loved it even more if Sick Town had won by two points, but it was just a great, exciting bout. I was so proud of my team!!

The second bout of the evening, Andromedolls vs. Flat Track Furies, was much less fun. I think the Dolls won by 150 points. It's just not as entertaining when the score's not close. I'm not -- not in any way -- suggesting that the scores should be manipulated to maximize the entertainment value. Roller derby is a legitimate sport and bullshit like that would severely damage its legitimacy. But when you're playing another team from your own league, and you have an insurmountable lead, maybe you could start sending out blockers to jam (for example). That has the added benefit of being fun for the blockers. :-)

Eh, I'm not criticizing the Dolls. I think they're an awesome team -- in fact, I'm wearing an Andromedolls t-shirt as I write this.

My goals for this week:
- Make it to four practices (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday)
- Re-take whatever part of minimum skills I have to re-take to be scrimmage-eligible (because attendance-wise, I will be eligible next week!)
- Keep working on the crossover
- Be able to keep up in all the drills
- Keep working on stopping (as a blocker, I need to be able to stop on a dime, and I'm not there yet)

One last thing. On Thursday night we had a rink skate at the CDC (we always do that for the practice before a bout). It was fun -- just Brick, and a bunch of newer girls and a couple of refs (Bambi and Isaac -- aka Charlie). At one point I was sprinting to catch Thrilla (Tami -- one of the girls who started with me, and the only one of us who has been drafted to the team so far), and I hit *something* and went flying into a faceplant (I almost pulled off a four-point fall, but not quite). Charlie called it a six-point, because ... wait for it ... I landed on my boobs, arms and knees. OMG, it hurt. My arms and chest are still sore. The annoying thing is that I have my first derby bruise, and I can't post a picture of it (because it's on my boob). D'oh!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Feeling Better

I'm going to make a confession: I did *not* want to go to derby practice today. Last night was rough -- I couldn't keep up with the pace line, I fell and was afraid I'd busted my bad ankle (it turned out that it was OK), basically I felt totally useless.

Today, I really didn't want to go. But I knew that this was one of those situations where the thing that you don't want to do is exactly the thing that you must do. So I went. And it. Was. Awesome.

First, there was a new girl, and Boxxx left me to help her gear up. Helping out new skaters is something I really like to do, so that put me in a good mood to start with. And then, the team had a guest trainer (Rex Havoc, from Emerald City Roller Girls -- very nice lady, and one hell of a skater), and I was watching on the sidelines while they did drills ... and Brick came over and explained what was going on, which I really appreciated. And then ... oh, this is silly, but when they did the team cheer at the end, they called me over to be included in it. What can I say, small stuff like that can really make a difference.

Oh, but it gets better. :-)

I was the only newly-advanced girl at practice, which meant that I got Bones all to myself. All of our trainers are awesome, but there's something about Bones ... she can really motivate me. Maybe it's because she was my very first trainer, at my first practice. I don't know. Anyway, after stretching, she said we were going to do 25 laps in 5 minutes. Verbally, I said, "OK." Mentally, I said, "Oh shit."

Yes, I have done 25 laps in 5 minutes before, or else I would not have passed min skills. But I had never done it on the sport court before.

Well, friends, I skated 25 laps in 5 minutes today. On the motherfricking sport court. Booooooooya!!

After that, we did 24 minutes of opportunity (sprint a minute, do a drill for a minute, repeat). God, that hurt. And then we did a lot of stuff focused on crossovers, which continue to be difficult for me -- but the stuff we did today really helped. Thanks Bonesy!!!

Ooh, and then we did shopping carts (pushing Bones around the track is so easy compared to pushing two or three girls), and then we did off-skates conditioning, which was tough but felt really good too. I'm getting better at wall sits -- they don't even start to hurt really until about the 40 second mark.

I have a lot of work to do, but I left practice today feeling like I will be able to do it. That is the best thing that's happened to me all week.

Oh, and I never, ever want to go a week without skating again. It's amazing how much endurance you can lose in a short time. I was already fanatical about attending practice, but now I'm going to be downright fundamentalist about it. :-)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This too shall pass.

Last night was rough. I'm not going to lie. I keep this blog positive -- this is not a place to say ugly things about other people (and honestly I don't have anything ugly to say about anyone anyway!). But I'm going to be honest about myself, warts and all.

First, I'm still struggling with the sport court, though I think I am starting to get used to it. The new wheels I bought seem to help. I've lost some speed (they are grippier wheels, which means slower -- I've gone from a 93 durometer (the hardness of the wheels -- higher number equals harder wheel) to an 88, which is what many of the girls use on the sport court. Anyway, I have to work harder to go the same speed I was going on the 93s, *but* I'm more confident because my wheels aren't sliding around.

Last night was the first time I had skated in a WEEK. That wasn't my choice -- I would *never* choose to miss a week of practices. But there was pudding wrestling on Friday, and then Saturday and Monday I was sick. I had, at least, gone to class and done cardio on Friday and Wednesday, but still. Ugh. Couch potato week.

I never, ever want to take a week off from skating again. I had been getting to the point where my shins didn't hurt much even when I very first skated. Well, last night, those mofos *hurt*, and between that and the fact that I was struggling for speed *and* the fact that I was probably not completely over being sick ... I had to drop out of the pace lines. I couldn't even sustain skating around the inside track. It *sucked*.

They are cracking down on the requirements for scrimmaging -- you have to have passed minimim skills (check), you have to have passed the written rules test (not yet), and you have to have been to two practices a week since passing minimum skills (nope -- it hasn't been two weeks yet). So I didn't get to scrimmage, but honestly, that's fine. At this point in my progress, after not skating for a week, I probably *shouldn't* scrimmage.

So I was an inside pack ref instead, skating around the inside of the track and calling penalties. It was very, very educational. Any derby girl reading this, if you think the referees' job is easy, you should try refereeing at a scrimmage or two. First, skating around the inside of the track is not that easy. Keeping up with the pack wouldn't have been hard, except that there were three or four other people also skating that narrow little lane, plus skaters sometimes getting pushed to the inside, and it just gets very crowded. And then you have to watch for rules violations (mostly elbowing, back-blocking and cutting the track), and make snap judgments on whether it was a minor or major violation ... It's hard. I already had respect for the referees, but being on that side of the line has given me a new understanding.

So anyway ... after the scrimmage, the team had a long talk that Tami and I were not included in ... so we were over with the refs. And then at one point they called Tami over. Except the acoustics in that place are terrible, so I thought they were calling us both over, and I went too. I thought they were just calling us over like, "OK, time to get on with practice."

Yeah, no. They were inviting Tami to join the travel team. So I stood there like a dork for a few seconds, and then skated back over to the refs. It was pretty embarrassing. At least, thank goodness, I didn't say anything -- because it would be just like me to open my big dumb mouth and say something dumb in a situation like that. So, points to me: what I should have said was nothing, and what I said was nothing.

Hey, I am really happy for Tami. And it's not like we were both in competition for a spot on the team and it went to her. I'm *not* ready, and I know that. I knew other girls who passed minimum skills with me would get put on the team sooner than I would (if I am at all). I just didn't think it would happen so soon. But it is what it is, and it just means I have to work harder and get myself scrimmage-eligible, and then hopefully bout-ready.

Mostly, though, I was just really embarrassed. Wetback (love her, though I'm still not 100% comfortable calling her that) came out and talked with me, and that was cool because for one thing I needed to talk, and for another, at least one person knew I was just embarrassed, not mad that I wasn't put on the team. Hell, as I write this now I know I'm making too big a deal of the embarrassment. It was just a rough damn night.

Anyway, after I talked with Wetback, I went back in and joined the drill that was going on, and got through it and kept up with the pack (with assists, but that's OK). I finished the practice, when what I wanted to do most in the world was go home. I'm going to give myself some credit for that. Staying and finishing the practice was absolutely the right thing to do, but it was also hard. And I did it. So, good on me.

On Tuesday, I had a one-on-one coaching session with Wetback, which was awesome. She helped me set some goals (I will post them in a separate post). Even though last night kind of sucked, I am still totally committed to working toward my goals. I don't know if I will ever be on the travel team -- that is not in my control. But I *will* be a good enough skater to be on the team.

One more thing. I weigh myself on Thursday mornings. I wasn't enthusiastic about that this morning -- I had skated *once* since my last weigh-in, and had only worked out twice, and hadn't been all that careful about what I had eaten. But I made myself do it. I figured, if I had just maintained, I would be happy. And if I had gained, well, that would fit the theme of the week: suckiness.

I lost a pound.


So here's the plan. I'm going to shake last night off, hope I didn't behave like an a-hole at practice (I'm pretty sure I didn't), and get to work on my goals. And never, ever miss practice again!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Me as Jammer

Here's a picture of me from last night's scrimmage, playing jammer.

Last night was mixed, for sure. At the beginning of practice, the team did a 27-laps-in-5-minutes pace line, and I couldn't keep up, so I dropped out and skated around the outside of the track. That was the wrong thing to do, I guess. Next time I can't keep up with a pace line, I will skate around the inside of the track instead. That way I'm still more engaged with the drill, and I can re-join if I manage to get up to speed.

I know 27 laps in 5 minutes isn't that much faster than 25 laps in 5 minutes. I know I have to be able to skate at that pace if I want to skate in bouts. (Obviously, there's not much that I want more!)

For some girls, passing minimum skills probably means they are pretty much ready to bout. It doesn't mean that for me. I don't think many people really expected me to pass. That's OK, I didn't either. I knew it was going to be a near thing either way. What that means is that it may take me longer to get up to the level I need to be at for bouting (which is above the level I needed to be at to pass min skills). I hope the trainers will be able to be patient, as long as I'm giving 100%.

A month ago I couldn't do 25 laps in 5 minutes, and now I can. That's something, right? I think it is. I think it means that if I keep pushing, and keep going to four practices a week plus doing cardio outside of practice, I will get to where I need to be.

OK, some good things:

- Last night we newly-advanced girls got to scrimmage (we had thought we weren't going to). It was fun, though of course I did a few dumb things. I need to find a way to be fearless on the track. I need to find a way to think, "OK, Kant is going to hit me. Fuck it, I'm going to hit her back," instead of "Oh shit, Kant is going to hit me!!! Run away!!!!!"

Wait, I was going to say something good. :-)

OK, last night during the scrimmage, in the last jam, I was the jammer for my team. They sent out all of us new girls, plus a couple of OGs to fill out the teams. I managed to get through the pack three times!! That means I would have scored ... well, I don't know, possibly as many as 12 points for my team, I think. That's pretty damn cool.

- I lost two pounds last week. I have been losing weight thanks to derby, but I didn't really start tracking my weight until a few weeks ago.

- I'm not giving up. Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome to the Big League

I knew that passing minimum skills was just the start of a lot of hard work and training. But knowing that in my mind and knowing in my legs, ass, and the rest of my body were two different things.

Last night's practice was tough. It was my first time on the sport court (a plastic flooring surface that can be put down and removed). The sport court is slicker than the concrete we usually skate on (though not as much so as I was afraid). It is definitely going to take some getting used to.

The harder thing, though, was keeping up. I trained and worked *hard* to be able to skate 12-second laps (and to sustain that pace for at least five minutes at a time). But the trainers *warned* us that the pace the travel team goes for is more like 9 or 10 seconds. Still, hearing that and trying to skate it? Two different things.

But hey, a month ago I couldn't skate a 12-second lap, or at least I couldn't skate 25 of them in a row. I'll get there! That's what all this cardio I'm doing outside of practice is for.

And no one is pulling the hits anymore. The travel team girls have started hitting us at 100%. I took a lot of hard hits last night. The first one to knock me down was Boxxx, with a shoulder hit. Maybe I wasn't low enough, because I wouldn't have thought a shoulder hit should take me down like that. Hurt like hell, absolutely ... but knock me down? I don't know. Boxxx is a powerful hitter, for sure. But I probably also was not low enough.

I don't want to imply that Boxxx was the only one to knock me down last night -- far from it. :-)

We did a lot of scrimmage-y drills, which is awesome: we worked on breaking up walls, pushing our blocker partner into the jammer, and other stuff like that. Boxxx did something really awesome on one repetition of one of the drills when she was paired up with me and Emily (Belle Tolls ... gotta remember to call her by her derby name now that she has one). Belle and I both just passed min skills. We were blocking, and Boxxx was the jammer getting past us. Rather than just zip past us, which we all know Boxxx could totally have done, she worked at our level and helped us learn how to do the exercise. Thank you Boxxx!!!! (It's not that the other girls weren't doing that too ... but Boxxx was especially awesome.)

I spent a lot of last night feeling like a total idiot. A *slow* idiot. I have so much to learn. I'll get there, right?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Minimum Skills

As I said earlier, I passed. This is a huge, ginormous big deal. I really didn't think I was going to pass. In fact, as of January or February, if you had asked me, I would have said it would probably take me at least until the end of 2010 to pass minimum skills.

Today's min skills assessment (let's abbreviate it to MSA from now on), for me, was a story of pluck, determination, and crying like a little bitch. I cried when I thought I was not going to pass. I sobbed when I passed. The tears flowed. Sigh. Well, if I ever get to be a trainer, I hope I will be as nice and understanding as Bones, Cruel Anne and Boxxx were today when some intermediate girl cries on my shoulder.


The things I thought were going to trip me up were skating 25 laps in 5 minutes, doing a crossover (this is the most efficient way to maintain speed while going around the curves at the ends of the track; you cross your outside leg over the inside leg, and push off toward the outside with the inside leg), and the two-footed jump over a three-inch-tall object.

What *did* trip me up was receiving a push assist, zigzagging from one side of the track to the other, and the motherfricking jump.

The push was pure dumbness on my part. My legs were too straight, and I wobbled when my partner pushed me. That's very unsafe: if someone is giving you a strong push from behind (on your behind), you need to be in the proper position (knees bent, butt out) or you could fall and get hurt.

The zigzagging was another silly mistake: I was skating too fast, and that meant I wasn't getting enough zigs and zags in. I needed three per straightaway and two per curve, and I wasn't getting them.

But the 25 laps in 5 minutes? I was able to do it, just fine. They let me stay to the inside of the track rather than be in the pace line, and I was able to keep up with (and even pass part of) the line. That was *awesome*.

As for the crossover ... I have been doing derby for six months now. I have lost count of the number of people who have tried to teach me to do a crossover (and given me excellent advice on it). Somehow, it just finally clicked today -- RIGHT when I needed it to. Bones said she had never seen me do a crossover before today. I think that's because I really hadn't done one. When we were starting to do crossovers for evaluation, she said "Exaggerate them." Somehow, exaggerating the movement with my outside (right) foot just made the movement of the inside (left) foot click into place for me. I did it!!! (Now I have to practice it *a lot*, because -- surprise, surprise -- it works the muscles in a new way.)

When Bones told me I passed the crossover part, I was absolutely thrilled.

Unfortunately, though, by that point I had already failed the two-footed jump. We were jumping over the head of a push-broom. We had to skate up to it and jump with both feet, landing with both feet at the same time on the other side of it. We had to clear it completely. Until today, the only object I had managed to jump over, two-footed, was a child's toy baseball bat -- probably 1" off the ground.

I knew it was possible that I would be able to do the jump. It's one of those things that you can go from "I can't" to "Holy shit, I did it" pretty quickly. But the fact that I had never done it yet was pretty scary.

We each got two tries. The first try, I cleared it but my feet didn't land at the same time. The second try, I didn't clear it (I grazed it, enough to knock it out of position but fortunately not enough to cause me to wipe out). After everyone had jumped, Bones let me try one more time. This time, I cleared it and then fell on my ass.

I felt pretty miserable after that, but I had already decided that even if I knew for sure I had failed, I would finish the MSA as strongly as I could. I may cry in front of these girls, but I will *not* give up.

We got through the rest of the MSA (and I did everything else successfully!). Afterward, the trainers came to each of us individually and offered us the chance to try again on the skills we had not passed. I think if someone had not passed a *lot* of skills, they would probably just be told they had not passed the MSA. I don't know what the cutoff is; I just know that it's at least 3.

I re-did the "receiving a push" test. No problem, once I remembered to stay in proper derby form. I re-did the zig-zagging and made it. And then there was the jump.

Bones went off to watch someone else re-do some skills, and left me alone with the broom head. I must have tried 7 or 8 times to jump that damned thing, and each time I ended up doing a one-foot jump (in other words, my feet did not hit the other side at the same time). Not good enough, at all.

The other intermediate girls who had finished testing were watching me and shouting encouragement. I don't know what clicked in my brain, but I jumped -- and cleared it, and my skates landed at the same time. The girls cheered. I screamed, "I did it!" And then I looked over at the trainers and realized not one of them had been looking. Not. One.

I skated over to Cruel Anne, and at this point I was crying. I said, "I did it, but no one was watching." God bless Cruel Anne. She said, "So do it again!"

I did. I did!!! That time Bonesy was watching. She said I had to do it one more time, because it's important that we be able to repeat the skills. Perfectly reasonable. And if I did it twice, I should be able to do it three times.

I was. I did it!!!!!!

And with that, I passed minimum skills. And ... yes ... burst into tears. Of course.

The awesome thing is that all seven of us intermediate girls who were taking the MSA passed. (So did the two travel team members who were doing their annual re-certification, but that was kind of a foregone conclusion.)

I was really lucky to have such a great group of intermediates to train with. We've motivated each other, encouraged each other, and really bonded as a group. It's been great, and now we all get to move up to advanced together. Yay, us!!!

I am also so thankful to the travel team girls for all of the encouragement they have given me, and to the fabulous trainers for never giving up on me.

This is just the beginning of a lot of hard work. I'm excited as hell to get started!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I passed!!!!!!

I will write much more on this later, but right now I need to get ready to go to Eugene for a bout (no, I'm not playing ... that will still take some time). WOOOHOOOOOOO!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Roller derby saved my soul

Minimum skills assessment is tomorrow. In a little over 26 hours, I will be tested on the skills I have learned since I started derby back in October. I don't know if I will pass: if I do, it will be a near thing. If I don't, I'm very confident that I will pass in July.

In the last few weeks, I've massively improved my speed and endurance. It's not what I'd call *easy*, but I can totally do 5 laps in a minute now. And all I have to do to make 25 laps in 5 minutes is sustain that pace for 5 minutes. I'm either there, or almost there. Today in body conditioning class, as a warmup I got on an elliptical machine and did 5 minutes at my personal maximum -- working as hard as I possibly could. Again, I can't say it was *easy* (if it had been, it wouldn't have been my max!), but I was able to do it. (And then I did another 40 minutes on cardio, which meant maintining a heart rate of about 140.)

Anyway. So the speed and endurance are coming, and if I keep working as hard as I am at practice and in my class, it's safe to assume I'll get better.

I would say it's possible that I will make 25 laps in 5 minutes tomorrow. If not, I'll come pretty close. Even if it's the very first thing, and I don't make it (which means I will not pass min skills), I am going to go through the entire skills assessment (of course).

My two biggest stumbling blocks right now are crossovers (which I think I'm now starting to understand ... I will just have to spend the next however many practices training my legs to do it) and jumping over a 3-inch-tall object. On the jump, my barrier is plain, simple, and frustrating as hell: fear. I can jump high enough to clear a three-inch-tall object. I've done it. But I'm afraid. It's scary. So I need to work on that too, a lot. I'm going to try to do it tomorrow. I just have to get past the fear, and it could happen tomorrow. If not, then not.

Whatever happens tomorrow, I will be at practice on Monday, ready to work my ass off. Because really, whether I pass or not, I will have a lot of work to do. Passing minimum skills is the *start* of a whole lot of training, not the end. And if I don't pass, then I will want to put on the afterburners and train my ASS off for July (my next chance at min skills).

Last summer, I directed a play ("The Cover of Life") that was about women and their dreams. Not the kind of dreams you have when you're asleep, but your dreams for your future. At the time, I thought, "What is my dream?" and I didn't really have one. I was doing fine: I had a husband who loved me and whom I loved (and still do!), a job I liked, and good friends and family. But I didn't really have a *dream*.

I've found one now, and it's roller derby.

So, yeah, if I don't pass min skills tomorrow, that will kind of suck, but in the long run it won't matter. I *will* pass.