Wednesday, March 13, 2013

First Bout

I'm still here! Still plugging away.

I skated in my very first bout last week!
It was terrifying.

It's been a while since I've posted so let's catch up for a moment. I'm an awful player. I skate slowly (passed my skills test without the 25 in 5.) I fall constantly, often tripping others. I can't slice very well, meaning I can't move laterally across the track. In scrimmage I can see the opposing jammer, but I can't get over to her. Okay let's be honest. In scrimmage I can't see the opposing jammer. The second the whistle blows, I'm engulfed in a visual cacophony of women and wrist pads and helmets and skates. Strangely, the din of rolling wheels, grinding stops, and yelling teammates blends into white noise. I find myself skating in silence with my thoughts.

"Where's my team? There they are. How do I get back there? Crap. I'm turned around backwards. Got to turn back around. Oof! Get up. Okay. Now where's my team? Oh, good. They're right here. Now where's the jammer. Is she theirs or ours? Wait. Now where's my team? Oof! Get up. Okay. Now they're all the way up there? Lets go. Whoosh-who was that? Was I supposed to block her? Oh shit. I'm a goat again." This goes on for the full two minutes.

It gets frustrating, but I am VASTLY improved from where I was a few months ago. The coach and I decided it was time for me to be in a bout.

I spent the two days leading up to the bout in abject terror. I oscillated between eating everything in the fridge and not being able to eat at all. Whenever I stood still for a moment, people could see me shaking. What was I afraid of? I was worried about injuring someone with a random fall. I was afraid of getting too much play time and passing out or vomiting. I was scared of spending the whole time as a goat. Mainly I was terrified of embarrassing my family, who would be in the stands supporting me. My parents are so unconditionally supportive that I think it causes physical pain for them to watch me be bad at something. I would hate for my husband to see how bad I am after we both gave up so much time to this. I didn't think I could do it, and actually considered quitting derby before I would have to play.

I held on, though, and showed up on Saturday with my smoky eyes, knee socks, and hot pants. I forgot my glitter. I suited up and hit the track for warm up. Warm up was awful. I spent most of it on the floor. Ugh. My parents sat in the bleachers, video camera trained on me. Ugh. Between warm up and the start if the bout, I must have gone to pee about twelve times. Anyone who has tried to go to the bathroom while wearing skates, kneepads, tights, spandex and hot pants can tell you this is no small undertaking. I was so nervous. For some reason I had started to fear peeing in the track. (Plus - TMI -- my "lady time" had arrived. As if I wasn't self conscious enough.)

Then the most astounding thing happened. Our bench coach wrote my number on my arm. All the gear, the uniform, the socks, the skates -- none of it said, "you're an official derby chic now" like having those numbers on my shoulders.

Bout starts. Bench coach says I'm in the fourth jam. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to puke. One jam goes by, two, three. I'm up. I shoot out into the track, determined to be where I'm supposed to be when I'm supposed to be there. I hear yelling. We have too many girls on the track. I'm waved back to the bench. Ah. We have a girl in the penalty box so we need to play short one girl. I'm bumped.

This happens a couple more times. My turn comes up, we have a girl in the box or its a power jam, I get bumped. At first I'm relieved. I had been so scared about dragging the whole team down and about over exerting myself. I had told myself that I just wanted my "Rudy" moment. One jam would be plenty. As the timer for tge first half dwindles away, however, I become increasingly anxious to get our there. Let me do this! Do or die! If I don't play, I'll always be afraid. This is my chance, and its slipping away!

The bench coach taps me. It's my turn! Breathe. Breathe. I'm in the pack. The whistle sounds. Silence falls. I do not! Not at first. My team does have to slow up a bit because I cannot keep up with the sprint. I do take a couple of falls, but I do not spend the whole jam on the floor. I do not get trapped as a goat. At one point, I find myself leaning on the opposing jammer, pushing her against the outside line. I'm DOING SOMETHING! I may find out later that I was hurting rather than helping- that I am out of play or something. Right now I don't care, though. I'm in there! The jam ends. I'm obviously a new player, but I didn't make a fool of myself. As a bonus, I have another girl's number partially imprinted on my arm!

I play three more jams this bout. Most of my time is spent trying to keep up with my team. The jammer goes right by me because I just can't get over there. I wind up throwing a couple of elbows because my mind is screaming, "Get over there!" I'm reaching with my whole body, but my arms are the only parts of me that can move sideways! Luckily, I'm so ineffective with my fouls that nobody cares and I don't get a penalty.

I have one more highlight. Lining up, the opposing jammer is right behind me. I see her peg me as an easy mark. The whistle sounds. I don't let her by. She tries to go around and through me for a moment, but I don't give way. She backs up and finds somewhere else to get through. Yippee!

After the bout, the girls congratulate me on being a "vertical skater." It feels great, but on the other hand I think it's easy to be impressed when the bar is set so low. On the other hand, I did better than expected and that's all I can ask. I feel awesome! I've done it!

I can't express how good I feel now that I've been in a bout.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Roller Derby Minimum Skills Test Coming Up Again

Squeeeeee! Also, aaaaugh!

A couple of other girls are going to be eligible soon, so it looks like there will be another test within a couple of weeks. I already told the coach I want in on it. No more putting it off.

I'm glad I've waited this long, though. I've had a lot of fear, negativity and uncertainty to battle. I went through a stretch where I hated going to practice, a stretch where I was defeated and depressed, and a stretch where I felt like an outsider. I now feel very much like a member of the team, look forward to practice every week, and am scared but excited to try new things. It would have sucked to have passed the test and started scrimmaging with those horrible attitudes. I would have hated every second of it. Now I'm chomping at the bit to scrimmage. I'm really looking forward to being a full-fledged derby player

I'm so scared that I won't pass. Can I do all the skills on the test? Yes. Can I skate 25 laps? Yeppers. Can I do it in 5 minutes? Close enough. Can I do it without vomiting? Nope.

Getting sick has become a regular part of my roller derby experience. Looking back, I remember as a teenager I would get sick when I exercised too hard especially if it was sudden, if i didn't warm up or went suddenly from walking to running. This is what's happening now. I can skate the entire two hours, working my ass off, sweating, pushing, needing many Aleve the next day, and I'm fine. Ask me to sprint, however, and the drill ends with me racing off to the toilet. Hopefully this will go away as I become more used to the exercise. It's just another step in my road to increasing my stamina and health.

Today I get sick right away. Our warm up is sprinting. We are to go for two minutes, counting our laps. I'm so excited. I will need to do ten laps in two minutes, no leniency, to pass skills. I'm elated to have this chance to test myself.

Elation turns to anger as I feel the nausea rising around lap five. I tell myself not to slow down. Slowing doesn't help. It doesn't make me less likely to puke. It just makes me slower.

I slow down.

Anger turns into misery as the two minutes end and I didn't even make 8 laps. Then I go vomit. I was so sure I'd be able to pass skills. Now it doesn't look like much of a possibility. I cry a bit during stretches. What am I going to do?

The husband and I have this agreement. I need to take skills the next time it is available, and I need to pass. If I don't pass, I will have to quit. Derby is taking a lot of my time and attention, taking time away from my family, causing the husband to have to take off work while I attend an event or get X-rays. It's true I really have other things (income generating things) that are getting less attention than they need right now, while I devote time and attention to derby. There's a lot of pressure on this test. There are no re-takes for me. I pass this, or I fail derby.

If I do not pass, I plan to devote time to skating, cardio workouts, and strength training. I plan to lose weight. I plan to be 30 lbs lighter and skills test ready by the time the holidays are over, so I can return to Derby. Is this realistic? I don't know. The truth is, if I had been dedicated to losing weight and consistently exercising while I've been in derby, I wouldn't be facing this now. There is no doubt in my mind that I would be passed and playing if I had taken my own advice about off skates workouts. This is important to me, though. Plus it may be easier to keep to a routine if I'm not battling twisted joints and minor injuries. In any case, if I must quit, I'm going to consider it a trial separation. If I can be test ready by mid January, I will join back up. If I fall into laziness and mid January finds my skates gathering dust and my waistline expanding, I will ditch my gear and say my final farewell.

Now is not the time to think about that. Now is the time to concentrate on passing next week.

I have a strategy. I will skate around my block once a day (weather permitting) between now and then. Once around my block is about a mile, so it's equal to 25 laps. I won't time myself but will alternate sprinting with rest, increasing the sprint times. If I cannot skate, I will jog on my treadmill. I will do some strength training- at least planks, wall-sits and calf raises every day. I will drink 64 ounces of water daily.

On test day, I will eat lightly but I will eat. I will go for a leisurely skate before practice to get pre-warmed up. At the test, I will place trash cans next to the track. No matter how much I think I am GOING to throw up, I will not slow down or leave the track. I do not have to anticipate or find the restroom; the cans will be right there if I need them. I will sprint all out for ten laps. If I need to puke after that, I will. But I need to make that first ten in two minutes. Then, even if I have to stop to vomit, I WILL skate all 25 laps. If it takes me an hour, if I have to vomit every other lap, if I start falling every third stride, I will at least finish the task.

That's the plan.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Freshies! Don't Buy Roller Skates!

No offense, but you don't know what you're doing.

Since coming to terms with the fact that my skates are a bit too big, I've spoken with many of my teammates about skate fit. It turns out an alarming number of them spent a painful couple of years cinched into skates that were too small or sloshing around in ones that were too big. It didn't ruin their derby, but it did make things difficult and uncomfortable. It is possible to start a successful derby career in ill-fitting skates, but why do that to yourself?

Hear me now. Most people will recommend you not buy skates "until you know for sure you will stick with derby." This is good advice, but if you are joining roller derby then you are probably the type of person who will be more determined to buy expensive skates when told this. I am not assuming you will fail. I assume you will work hard, love derby, play for years, and have a Facebook fan page with thousands of followers. I am still telling you not to buy.

In an ideal world, your league will have an impressive collection of discarded skates you can borrow. Although you may feel dorky in the borrowed skates, I think you should spend a few months using them. Spend 2-3 weeks in a pair that feels good. Then go up or down a half size, or choose a different style of skate and wear those for a few weeks. See what the difference is. Get a feel for what you like and what you don't like. When you know the feeling of well fitting skates, it will be easier to make the right decision when buying.

Now it's time to leave fairy tale land.

You and I both know that if you can afford new skates (and perhaps even if you really can't) that you are not about to use the loaners for the next 3-6 months. Here's the second best option. Find a skate shop with EXTREMELY knowledgeable and helpful employees, and take a senior team member with you. Most of your teammates love skate shopping and will be glad to go with you. They will use it as an opportunity to buy themselves some new wheels. With their help, you can find the right skate for you. Please note: a knowledgeable skate shop owner will probably try to dissuade a freshie from buying skates. They see a lot lot of girls trying to return scuffed skates after a month. Don't be offended.

I know not everyone has access to a good skate shop. Also, you may not feel comfortable asking someone to come with you. At the very least, you should ask everyone's opinions before you go to buy skates. Pick a couple of people who seem to really know equipment and ask them about the fit of your loaners. Ask everyone what kind/size skates they have, what they had in the past, and why they chose that. Everyone loves talking about their skates! Some will talk your ear off. Try to find someone with similar feet to yours, and find out what they wear. Derby players know everything about their feet. If you have wide or narrow feet, tall feet or flat arches, weird toes, weak ankles, etc., someone on your team will have the same thing and will tell you how that affected their skate decision.

The girls will also be full of hints about lacing, insoles, socks, wheels, toe stops, and toe guards. They will know if your league has a discount arrangement anywhere. Some girls may have a special store or person who puts together custom skate packages.

My final piece of advice is to not get carried away by all the fancy options. I needed aluminum plates instead of nylon because of my size, but I did not need the leather boots I insisted upon having. This is your first pair if derby skates, not your last. You will be falling, sliding, and generally tearing up the skates for a while. As Fresh Meat, you will be harder on these skates than you probably will be on any other pair of skates in your life. You don't want to cringe at every scrape.

Your league probably has a particular skate that they generally recommend for new girls. With us, it's the Reidell R3. It's a great skate. It has nylon plates and vinyl boots which makes it relatively economical, yet it is a well-made, well-fitting skate that will serve you well. Ask if your league recommends this skate or a similar one.

Do NOT research some skates online, go to the sports shop, find a great, expensive skate, try on a pair or two, and buy a pair that "feels okay."

Learn from me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Skate in Slippery Socks

True story.

Practice is buckets of fun today. We do some blocking drills, and we do continuous jammer again. At this point I clearly have a reputation for being hard to knock down. :)

Today I'm not. I fall during warm -up; I fall when anyone comes near me; I fall when I try to speed up or to slow down.  Something's up.  I feel like my skates are wobbling every which direction.

At first I think my wheels have come loose.  I check them, find one a bit loose and tighten it, but that doesn't appear to be the problem and it certainly doesn't help.  My skates wobble.  My ankles buckle.  I hit the floor again and again.  I am the sole cause of at least three pile-ups, feeling four or more girls fall over top of me as I ball up as small as possible.

Finally I realize what is happening.  My skates are not going all over the place; my feet are.  You see, my skates are a teensy bit too big.  My wonderful, beautiful, EXPENSIVE skates that are my best friends and worst enemies, are too roomy.  I have developed my ways to compensate for this.  I tighten the laces around my toes so tight that my little piddies fall asleep during warm-up.  I have extra cushion insoles.  I wear neoprene booties that add traction and keep my heels in place.  I wear thick socks.

Today I lost my head.  I selected a very adorable, very thin, very slippery pair of plaid socks.  I don't know what I was thinking or why it took me so long to realize the issue.  Once I figure out what is happening, it is obvious.  Whenever I move my skates sideways, to push off or to change direction or to stop, my feet slide sideways to the edge of the skate, turning my ankle and dropping me to the floor.  When I'm skating, my feet slide every which way inside my boots, making it much harder work and throwing me off balance.

Someday little things like this won't throw me off so much.  The other girls skate with no socks sometimes, on blisters and swollen feet, without toenails.  For now, however, I must accept that a little thing like socks can totally ruin my game.

Everyone has their 'off' days, and I've located a cause for some of mine.  I have a blast, though, even with all the falls.