Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bout Day, x2

Today's my first away bout - my second bout EVER - and the nerves are kicking in like crazy.  It's just a mixer bout, with nothing at stake, but I don't know if that makes the derby jitters better or worse.  I don't know anything about what to expect - I've never seen this rink before, never met the host league, don't know who's in charge, don't know how they do things.  I don't even know what I'm going to wear!

OK, that last part should be easy.  I'm driving myself to the bout, so I can pick one outfit, and just pack all my other derby clothes in the car, in case I change my mind.  I'm also packing every spare wheel I own, and have lost track of how many extra laces are crammed into my skate bag.  I have two backup mouthguards - one fitted, one new - and I'm probably going to throw all my extra pads into the car.  Just in case.  And duct tape.  There's no such thing as too much duct tape.

Yeah, I have the pre-bout jitters. But I'm also really looking forward to it.  I think I had an epiphany of sorts regarding hip checks on Wednesday night, thanks to help from my friend Sick, and memories of Bonnie D. Stroir's summer camp.  Get low, stay low, hit hard, watch my elbows.  I probably can't bout with sponges tucked under my arms, but maybe I'll drive down there with them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Roller Derby Crafts

"Know Your Jammer" beanie from Knockdown Knits
When I started this blog, I thought I'd write a lot more about the crafts.  After all, I'm a crafty-type person, and Roller Derby just invites making things.  But I haven't been so good about doing that lately.  There are a lot of things I want to make for derby purposes, but I haven't gotten around to doing all of them.

I've been collecting ideas, though, in another place, and sharing them.  I have a Squidoo lens called "Roller Derby Crafts." If you visit it, you can see a huge - and growing - collection of craft project links that could be useful for the Roller Derby skater or fan.  It's going to grow as I find more stuff to do - or as I do more stuff, so I recommend visiting frequently!

Available at
Do you like my hat?  It's from Knockdown Knits, by Toni Carr, aka Joan of Dark of the Naptown Roller Girls.  This is a whole book of Roller Derby knitting patterns, and I love it. Since the author is a Derby Girl, she knows just what you'd want to knit for roller derby. The patterns range from really easy to a little bit complicated, and she's been careful to use yarn that should be fairly easy to find (in the U.S., anyway), and that's usually inexpensive. The "Know Your Jammer" hat (and its companion, "Know Your Pivot") is easier than it looks, because you knit it flat, and then seam it up when you're finished. It's made of bulky yarn, so you can knit one in a weekend and have it ready to wear to your next practice! Knockdown Knits is just one of the "Things To Make For Roller Derby" resources I feature on my Squidoo Site, so if I've convinced you that it's worth checking out (and it is - I love it!), come see the rest.

What's Squidoo?  It's an open, free platform that lets you create tightly focused pages - called "lenses" - to organize and share information about whatever interests you.  You can check out Squidoo here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Twenty-Five in Five

So, we didn't make it to Iowa City.  A winter storm rolled in, and everyone was worried about making the drive.  After one friend reported a 6-hour trip to Chicago (it's normally 3 or fewer), staying in seemed the prudent thing to do.

Tonight's practice brought a surprise - skating 100 laps, in blocks of 25.  The WFTDA Minimum Skills require that you be able to skate 25 laps in 5 minutes, but up until now that's been kind of overlooked as a "don't worry about that, we haven't all tested on that anyway" sort of thing.  Now that we're an apprentice league, it's something to take seriously.  I've been wanting to see how close I could come, and the A and B teams have been doing the 100 laps at practice, but I didn't want to go there and slow them down.  So, in theory, I should have welcomed the chance to try this tonight.  But theory doesn't leave you lying on the ground panting.

The good news:  At tryouts in March, it took me 1:10 to do 5 laps.  I made my first 5 in just under a minute tonight.  The bad news:  That was the last time I was anywhere close to being on pace.  I gave up trying to skate all 25 laps and just tried to skate as fast as I could, since no one could start their next set of laps until everyone was finished with the previous set - we'd still be there if they were waiting for me.  On the last set, I averaged just over 3 laps a minute - 17.5 laps in 5 minutes.

We're supposed to start testing in the few weeks.  That 17.5 laps was skating clockwise, when I couldn't really manage crossovers, so I think proper technique will bring me up to 20 laps fairly easily.  That means just 5 more laps to squeeze in.  Why do I think that's going to be a lot harder than it sounds?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Long Time, No Post

Every one of my blogs has been neglected since forever.  It's time for some long overdue reform.

So, six months since my last post.  Six months of skating, of injury, of encouragement and discouragement, of frustration and thrill.  Lots of practice, a trip to watch WFTDA regionals, and a first sort-of bout.  Wondering if I should quit, and wondering how I ever lived without this.

If I start in July and try to catch up, I'll never get to now - I can't even remember what some of the half-started posts were supposed to be.  So I'll start now and work back in the slow times, and see where that takes me.

Tonight was a practice, part drill, part scrimmage - our first scrimmage since our Christmas/New Year's break.  The drill part started out awful - for some reason, members of the training committee have fallen in love with running as an off-skates warm-up, and I hate running.  Hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, with the chill of the deepest levels of Hell.  My speed and endurance are poor - the weakest in the league - to begin with.  But running - running makes everything worse.  After just a few strides my calves seize in pain, pain which lingers for the rest of the evening, and comes back to haunt me the next day.  I can't concentrate on anything else because I can almost hear my legs - and then my feet - screaming at me to stop.  Tonight was a little better than previous practices because I found a helpful article on running injuries, and spent much of the day following its advice about stretching to avoid them.  However, I also spent much of the day dreading the promised warm-up, so a practice that I'd been looking forward to began to loom over me as ominous as a court appearance once I saw the "bring tennis shoes" notice.

Of course, things one dreads are rarely as bad as expected, and that was the case tonight.  I managed to alternate brief periods of running with walking - perhaps managing 30 seconds at a stretch sometimes - and it didn't hurt too much afterwards.  The rest of the practice was a pleasure, as I partnered with one of my favorite skaters, and got to reinforce some skills from the Triple Threat Roller Derby Boot Camp I attended a couple weeks ago.  These boot camps are great, because skills that seemed like flashy tricks just months ago - quick transitions, or sideways skating - are becoming staples for everyone in the league as skaters bring back things they've learned.  Or, at least, as some skaters bring back things they've learned, but that's a different sort of post.

Tonight's scrimmage was great fun, although I can't tell if I'm improving or not.  I realized after the fact that I sort of drew a penalty at one point, when I tripped over a skater that I probably should have been able to dodge if I'd worked harder at it and been faster on my feet.  She went to the penalty box for it - so in a real bout, it would probably have been good for me to flop, but it seems sort of unethical.  Then again, I'm supposed to play within the rules - and as long as it doesn't look like I'm deliberately falling, it's OK.  I think.

Anyway, I think I tend to overthink things.  The scrimmaging was fun - and once it was over, they decided that one of our refs needed to jump in and jam, because he's been practicing with a men's derby league that's forming in Peoria.  This guy is fast, and incredible agile - but it turns out he falls pretty easily.  It also turned out that, with Team Zebra down one man (and already short-handed), a fast-paced jam can get pretty furious pretty quickly.  It was loads of fun, but I'm pretty sure we all would have wound up in the penalty box if there had been enough refs left to watch.  I still use my hands far too much, and really need to work on that - I can't just tap opposing blockers on the shoulder to try to gently move them out of my way.

I'm so excited about having the guys at practice, and the formation of a local men's league.  I think it will really raise the level of our game.  I'm happy that 21st-century roller derby started as a women's sport, and I love the feminist aspects of it.  I'm very happy that it hasn't taken on the "let's giggle at the silly men and suggest they couldn't do this because they have penises" aspect that so many female-dominant activity groups have.  But, having seen men's derby, I think having the guys around will keep us on our toes.  Practicing with them helps me overcome nervousness.  In one jam today, I - and I think all of us - were intellectually defeated the moment the other team's jammer took the track.  She's the best skater in the league, and we just knew she was going to get around us.  I was stuck in an outside position with a large swath of track to guard, and there was no question that she was going to own me - but I was so sure of that I might as well have sat down and let her skate circles around me.  I hope doing some practice against guys twice my size will help me be less afraid of my league mates.

Saturday should be my chance.  There's a co-ed open scrimmage in Iowa City, and a handful of us are planning to go.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Am I Doing?

That turns out to be a hard question to answer in scrimmage.  "Pretty crappy" is accurate, but makes people worry.  "Just fine" seems more than a little cocky, even if it's reassuring.

At Monday's practice, the first for the new Fresh Meat class, one of the veteran skaters gave a nice little welcome talk at the end of practice.  She invited all the new skaters to look around, told them to think of everyone in the room as family, and said that while you don't always get along perfectly, these are the people you stick with, and these are the people you go to when you need help.  These are also the people you call when you get discouraged - and some days I wonder if I need to put the whole league on speed dial.

This was my second scrimmage, and it didn't go much better than the first.  I'm making stupid mistakes, and just don't know what to do in a lot of situations.  What do I do, for example, when I'm supposed to hold the inside line, but I'm up against a blocker who's twice my size?  I tried sneaking around her once, and got to spend a minute in the penalty box for track cutting, a stupid mistake that I shouldn't have made and that hurt my team.

I had one jam of glory tonight when I realized that I could best help my jammer by stopping skating, letting her and the other team's blockers move completely out of the engagement zone, so she could go free.  The truly delightful part was that they followed her forward on lap after lap - so I didn't have to hit anyone; I just had to slow down.  I felt pretty smart, or at least like I'd refrained from being stupid, and it was a delightful way to close the first half.

I also had my first time as jammer tonight, and that was an unmitigated disaster.  Grand slams for the other team, every lap.  I don't even know how many points were scored on me, but I suspect I undid most or all of the good jammer's work from the first half.  There were four good blockers trying to help me - literally trying to pull me through the pack - and I just couldn't do anything with it.  Never made my initial pass.  And that was the end of the second half.  We lost, I think by about 20 points.

It's really hard to avoid getting discouraged.  Even with the new Fresh Meat just starting, I think I still hold the Worst Skater in the League title, by just about any metric.  I know that I can't expect to do everything well, but I'd really like to do something well.  At this point, my internal pep talks are back to "they'll tell you if you're wasting people's time and they want you to quit," and "you'll know you're working too hard if you faint or puke."  Not exactly a rip-roaring battle cry, but at least I'm not using "not in the face! not in the face!" just yet.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bouts and Rumors of Bouts

It is hard to not be troubled.  Excited, but troubled.

After a roller skating drought, suddenly there are more bouts about than we can shake a stick at.  Not that we're allowed to shake sticks - more bouts than you can shake a pool noodle at, perhaps.  This is all very exciting except for the fact that, the more I get involved with derby, the more completely terrifying it is.

Bout #1 - MissFits All Stars @ Soy City on September 30.  A great big dose of Not My Problem, except that it comes immediately after

Bout #2 - Some sort of tournament in Bloomington on September 24.  Since I'm now on the PR committee this will mean work for me, right at the beginning of the school year.  More importantly, in my own mind I have this pegged as a potential first bout for me to actually SKATE, since a tournament sounds like it will need a lot of skaters, and that will be about six months from starting practice, which is how things worked with the last batch of recruits.  I hope the upcoming Soy City bout doesn't draw away all the roller derby excitement.

Bout #3 - MissFits AllStars @ Chocolate City Cherry Bombers on August 27.  Another bout I don't have to worry about.  Maybe I'll even NSO this one, since I think that would give me a giant Derby blowout before the semester starts.

Bout #4 - MissFits @ DarkRiver on August 13.  Unfortunately, this is also MissFits night at the Corn Crib, so we're splitting the talent for a big event.

Bout #5 - I don't have to do anything but sit on my butt (or jump up and cheer a lot) for this one.  My friend Kate, the person who led me to the MissFits, is skating in her First Bout Ever with the Twin City Derby Girls on August 6.  It was just over a year ago that she skated for the first time in her life.  That's what I love most about roller derby - that it's so new, so there are doors open for everyone.  And I know I'm going to love seeing Kate skate.

Bout #6 - MissFits home inter-league bout to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters on July 23.  Details are still sketchy, but it's going to have a Monster theme - so I get to put my PR brain to work coming up with Monstrous ideas for us, for the audience, and for the kids.  The more fun everyone has, the better.

So, those are the bouts we all know about.  BUT we're all being nagged like crazy to get our insurance paperwork in soon, "just in case something comes up."  It seems we've been doing a lot of mixers and scrimmages lately, so I wonder if something's coming up before the end of summer.  Right now there's no local roller derby for the entire month of August, and I just can't imagine that being a good idea.  Soooo.....

So I've started working on a little list, sort of a condensed training schedule, to get me ready to bout, or at least ready to fill in with an extra body on the floor, ASAP.  First are some goals, which I will make nice and public so I'll have to keep them:

  1.  Pass the basic skills test by June 20.  No more screwing around on these stops; it's time to make 'em work.
  2.  Skate outdoors - preferably in the heat of the day - at least 3x/week
  3. Do squats and lunges to improve my derby stance 4x/week
  4. Begin Plyometric exercises by July 1
 I hope it's a realistic but ambitious plan.  Because, just in case anything should come up, I want to be ready to go.  My insurance paperwork is in.  Even if I don't wind up skating in some sort of August Mystery Bout, following this plan will leave me in much better shape in September, so it can't be a bad idea.

Then there's the rest of the roller derby to-do list:

  1. Make cute little swirly skirt - with pockets
  2. Make nifty bag, probably with my skull print fabric, to hold my tools
  3. Order new toestops and wheels ASAP
  4. Buy more fishnets
It's not enough to skate like a derby girl - I have to look the part!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Falling Down

I'm in the gray shirt, on the right, behind the woman in purple.
So, October.  I tried out for Roller Derby.

For a couple of precious days, it was really exciting.  I psyched myself up to do it, even though I hadn't skated since grade school, even though I was out of shape, and even though I didn't own a single thing with skulls on it.  The tryout announcement said "no experience needed," so I decided to go with that, and not be intimidated by the skills tests I was reading online.  I checked with the organizers, and they seemed friendly enough.  I even checked with Ravelry's roller derby about the no-skulls thing, and received reassurance.

It's hard to see in the pictures, but the Dr. Seuss "One Fish Two Fish" T-shirt was the most ironic bad-ass thing I owned.  I believe I broke out the pink cammo "Boot Camp for Socks" for the other night.  Oh, yeah, I was ready for this.....

That first night - an optional practice - was surprising and educational and scary and fun.  When I showed up at the door I was welcomed, rather than being greeted with confusion or some sort of "are you sure you want to be here?  Did you know this is roller derby?" remark.  I remembered how to skate, which wasn't a given.  And best of all, I learned how to stop on skates - something I'd never learned in all my years of occasional recreational roller, ice, and inline skating.  (Bumping into a wall usually worked.  For the inline skates, I always wore knee pads and just looked for grass to fall on, or a fence to grab.)  So I got my $7 worth out of the evening regardless of how the tryouts went, as stopping moving forward is definitely a useful skill!

I had a little bit of hope for the second night.  I sort of got the skills - not well, but I made a brave attempt.  I was touched by the willingness of the skaters to work with us, individually, on the various skills, and the general level of friendliness.  I was stunned by the nerve of people who would stand on a slick gym floor and say "OK, skate towards me, then stop."   And I had fun.  I was tired and flagging by the end of the night, but I had fun.  I thought that maybe, just maybe, I had a chance - if determination, nonprofit work, or a sports history background could substitute for skating skill.

As it turned out, the MissFits preferred skating skill.  I didn't make the team.  Friends and family (most of the family, anyway) cried out in facebook disappointment on my behalf.  But I wasn't really surprised, since there were obviously many better skaters than me.  I was just really, really sad.   The more I learned about derby, the more I wanted to do it.  And now I couldn't.

The e-mail encouraged me to come to future tryouts, and suggested I volunteer with the team in the meantime.  I thought that sounded fun, so made tentative plans.  A few days later I was at a local restaurant and heard someone say "hey, weren't you at roller derby tryouts?"   One of the servers turned out to be one of the skaters, who said, "did you get that bruise from skating?  cool!"  (I did, but only because I was screwing around trying to stand on my toes and fell backwards into a metal staircase.  But that story isn't as cool.)  I have never in my life felt so absolutely cool as I did at that moment - to be recognized from roller be recognized by a derby skater after tryouts.  The friend with me thought it was great.  And after something like that, how could I possibly give up trying?