Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Session Four: The Let Down

Well guess who missed another training session? Yeah, you know it, it was me bitches. This means that I have only one pass left. Go on, judge me!

Of course I had a good reason! I must say that in fact I had a really good reason. I didn't want to die. It's sort of a base emotion, the survival one, and after having had an accident one week before it was pretty strong. The weather decided to mess with my shit and have some sort of insanamaniac snow/ice storm. The roads were a skating rink covered by blowing snow and of course on and off white outs.

I did set out, I was very determined to not miss another session. I drove for some time. I witnessed numerous accidents all around me. Numerous. I did not get very far kilometre wise when I witnessed yet another accident, two cars spinning out on either side of the road because they were idiots and driving too fast (there were people PASSING!! wtf?).

I thought, you know what, I don't wanna die. I can still taste the fear of imagining missing my children's lives should things have taken a different turn a week ago. I turned around and went home.

It did not make me feel good to do this. I was NOT happy. I felt wimpy, weak. I do not like giving in to things. I am my own master. Except when I'm not. Clearly I am the weather's bitch. I am coming to terms with this reality. (It also shows me how I'm getting

The next training session is on Sunday, you can bet your asses I will be there, come hell or high water (though I REALLY hope those things just leave me alone.)

Roller Derby Basics

To keep things derbyish I thought I would take a moment to go over the basics of roller derby for those reading this with no derby background. The game is played on an oval shaped flat track (thusly the sport is now called Women's Flat Track Racing) with two teams who have a maximum of five players on the track at a time.

The five players consist of four blockers, (one of whom is a pivot blocker) and the jammer. Each jam lasts two minutes on the clock unless called to end by the lead jammer (explained below). There are two half hour periods with an intermission between them. There is a bar.

As I spoke of earlier the jammer is the quarter back of derby, she is the player who races around the track as many times as possible (deeking out the other teams blockers with the help of her own blockers) collecting points on the second and all following passes by passing the opposing team's players. A point is gained for each player passed.

Then there are a whole lot more complicated things. When the 'jam' (two minute bout) starts the first jammer to get past the group of blockers (the pack ) is called the lead jammer. Whoever becomes the lead jammer has the ability to call an end to the jam.

Why would this be important you may ask (or you may not, but shut up who asked you anyway). Well, this gives the lead the jammer the ability to keep the other jammer from grabbing points. So, when she has gone past the pack for the second or third time, the other jammer could very well not have passed any opposing players and when the lead jammer calls the game to an end (by putting both hands to hips and raising and back to hips) her team has banked good points and the other team has not.

Being the lead jammer has clear advantages. It is possible that neither jammer gets called as lead if no one has presented as clear leader in the first circuit around the track. In this case the jam comes to an end at the allotted two minute mark.

There is far more. I shall continue with this in my next post!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crashum Smashum

Well another derby practice has come and gone, and I missed it.
C'est what? How could you miss practice *littlestar? After all of your vigour and big talk?

Well, I do have a pretty good excuse, I cartwheeled my car three times and landed it in the middle of a field. You know, just for fun. Because, I had never done that and of course I have wondered what it would be like. And, now I know. It's mostly not a lot of fun because you don't know if your careening to your demise. I would not recommend it to my friends.

It is fairly disconcerting, flying in a car. As you're flying it occurs to you, you know, this is not right, usually I'm much more upright then this and my wallet doesn't hit me in the head as it is flung about the cabin. Luckily for me when all of its energy had been spent the Matrix I had been driving, catlike in its descent, landed on all four tyres.

It took me a while to find my phone after we landed. I unbuckled my belt and opened the car door and looked around. It was very confusing to be in the middle of a field. The road was strangely far away from me, and there was a fence between us. How peculiar. It took me a bit of time in the bright sunshine to discern from the marks in the snow what had occurred. The area of the fence I vaulted over had been slightly pushed down but was really only evident because of the marks on either side of it. Car vault.

I have always thought that being a stuntman would be a neat job. I still do.

I wrote to one of the lovely ladies who run the Freshmeat programme for TORD and let her know I would be missing the practice on doctors orders (SEE! I do listen sometimes!) and asked her to let me know what they went over. She was very sweet and let me know that they practiced snow plows (I already know how to do these) cross overs (good at right, not so good at left), T-stops (can't do that well) and one foot chase, which is when you pump with one foot while gliding on the other.

I don't know if I've really tried one foot chase since restarting my roller skating career. I think I may do it when I'm skating without knowing it has a name. I will have to try it out next session to make sure.

I will be returning to the track this Saturday for practice but I may be pushing a bit less hard then usual due to my still somewhat dodgy body situation. I am trying things out tentatively but have noticed that my muscles fatigue very quickly right now. It still hasn't even been a week since the accident so this seems like fairly normal muscle behaviour to me.

I may in fact find that I suddenly feel horrible a week from now, I'm told that happens now and again with accidents. I'm hoping that it won't be the case for me. It will take a little while for my body to bounce back though, from being shuffled about as it was in the cartwheel. I hope to continue good recovery and will take to the track with vigour.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Session Two: The Hurting

After seeing the game on Saturday I was even more excited to go to the next training session  in hopes of one day looking as cool on a pair of skates as the roller girls had. It is very important to have goals!

In the first training session I had acquired a blister on one of my feet, where the tongue of my boot rubbed on the front of my ankle. I hadn’t actually noticed while skating but as soon as I undid my skates it started to hurt; funny how that is. One of the roller girls had sent out some helpful tips specifically about foot lesions and blisters and how to do deal with them when skating again the next week. Very helpful.

It was suggested to first put a blister pad around the blister (or in my case open wound!) then bandaid and then tape around the ankle so the tongue of the skate slides over it more easily. I knew I would be skating no matter what but I hoped that it still didn’t hurt so much which all the layers never mind about rubbing more skin off.

I bandaided up and brought the tape with me and taped over my sock. The rigging seemed to work very well for me and I felt no pain from the blister the whole night. When I took the tape off at home there was as new blister formed but it didn’t hurt at all so I consider it a win.

There were a lot less ladies at this second session which was in keeping with what I had been told about the rate of dropouts. There were eighty to start and I would say that there were about twenty less for session two.

I also noticed that there were a few women who were in attendance but not on skates. I have to imagine they had been hurt but didn’t want to miss; but, to note, they could all walk around just fine (not even limping) so I don’t get why they couldn’t get on skates. If you can’t take a bit of pain then I think you’re in the wrong sport.

As I skated around the track for warm up my legs felt a bit funny. There was a muscle at the top of my right thigh that felt… strange. The first drill was knee drops, not my favourite but needs improvement so I threw myself into it. Then, BOING! It was like that muscle, the funny one, stopped laughing and started screaming. Either that or some invisible person was stabbing me in the leg. (Why would they do that?)

I knew the drill wasn’t going to go on forever so I switched to dropping on my left leg. Not to be left out the same muscle in my left leg also decided to get angry, though not quite as angry as the right leg. So, I stuck with my left leg for drops, which I am not as good at so it forced me to become better. Painfully. That was NOT a good drill. But, what doesn’t kill ya’…

The next drills were about learning the plough stop. I was excited to learn a new stop until halfway through the drill I realized that this is really how I already stop I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. I had been wondering why I couldn’t  do it faster, but learned that in fact it is not a quick stop, so I felt like less of a failure.

In learning this stop we did a drill of push out and pull ins to learn the technique necessary. That is, we widened our legs out and forward to meet and then pulled them back in and together, making a sort of circle in totality.

There really are many things in this world that look so easy when other people do them aren’t they? This is one of them. I did really like this exercise though, you could feel your inner thigh muscles growing stronger with each movement. This will be one I will absolutely add to my exercise regime. (The one I haven’t started yet but have REALLY been thinking about.)

I have been really impressed thus far with the roller girls who are there doing the training and TORD's Freshmeat programme in general. I have no basis for comparison of course, but I feel like I'm getting a really good deal. Each session there have been at least five roller girls there doing demos and skating around helping. This is a really big deal considering the number of women as well as the varied skating levels.

Some of the ladies are really just starting on skates and obviously can use more one on one, hands-on time, and they get it. This is pretty cool considering you're not really paying to be taught to skate, it's just part of the deal for joining derby. I mean, I guess it makes sense (and having to pay more money would have impeded me from joining, the skates on their own cost SO much), and they do need skaters and most people don't already have that skill, but still - I recognise that we pay for our kids to attend progammes like this to learn new skills. It's pretty neat that if you are really interested in this sport and want to take part in it they take you in and teach you how so you can participate. It's so communal, what's not to love.

We also did glides on a single leg which is easy peasy for me to do on my left leg and for some reason was hard on my right. I guess I couldn’t balance as well as usual because I was having intense pain in my thigh, but it still seemed odd to me. It’s different muscles so it made me wonder if I may be having bearing issues of some kind. I will have to learn more about this as  I have been informed that it’s a big deal, there will have to be a an exciting post about bearings at some point. Oh what intrigue there is in store for you.

Coming Soon: Session Three – will the coughing have ended…? Stay tuned to find out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Game Time!

Well, what an exciting weekend I've had, filled with athletic, shiny bottomed, leggy girls in fishnets. Not too bad, not too bad at all.

I arrived to sign in for my volunteering as a Non-Skating Official, or NSO at the Hangar for 5 o'clock. Lot's of stuff was already going on and there were a fair number of volunteers already about. The track had already been laid and and the refs were in the back corner in the midst of their start up meeting.

I found someone at the door to sign up with who pointed me to the NSO area. I had to wait for a little bit but I didn't mind, there were lots of people about, and I got to have an awkward conversation with an awkward sort of fellow. Who doesn't love awkward conversations.

We had our NSO meeting in the back corner with the refs. There was a lot of information thrown at us by Penny Whistle the head referee. She assured us (when seeing the deer in head lights faces) that the freshmeat NSOs were not expected to fully understand all she was saying but needed to start taking it all in.

I don't know if ya'll know this, but there are like, a lot of rules in this game.  I have already been reading the manual so this wasn't my first introduction, but it was dense reading and I sure didn't remember as much as I had hoped. There were so many different types of penalties and I sat on the bleachers hoping I wouldn't have to track penalties. I didn't. Luckily I was paired with a nice girl I'll call  Sparky and given the job they called Lineups.

Lineups meant that Sparky and I were to track a team each, and write down (on our sheets which we were given with clipboards and pencils) for each jam, the numbers of each of the girls who held each position (that would be pivot, blockers and jammer). This didn't sound hard.

We were also to keep track of the opposing teams jammer and how many times she went around the track (there were little numbers to circle on the side of the sheet for this). Okay, a bit weird to have to watch the other teams gal, but okay, I can do this. Also we were to keep track of when players entered and exited for a penalty, and which lap of the opposing teams jammer it was when this occurred. Ummmm... yeah.

We were told to stand by the hangar door, by the benches, so we could see the girls backs as they stood waiting for the start of the jam. Sparky and I went to check out our allotted area as we had time to kill before the game started. Of coures I wanted to really understand what the heck we were doing so I read all of the small print at the bottom of our charts and tried to figure out exactly how it was were supposed to represent all of this information in all of the columns and boxes set out before me.

 I didn't want to look like a weenie. This is why I must fully understand everything. I went and asked the other refs questions, they were uber helpful, super approachable, very patiently explanatory. Seriously awesome vibe those guys had; professional, organised and friendly. So we figured our shit out and felt comfortable enough to relax until game time. We watched the junior girls rugby rehearse their demonstration of how the game is played, which was really cool and very well done. If they decide to some of those girls could grow up to be killer roller girls.

Then the players came out, first one team then the other, skating around the track to warm up. It seemed to me they were skating around for too long to just warm up, though it was neat watching them do their little drills and whatnot, snaking together and weaving in and out expertly.

Through all of this people had been streaming in. I sort of didn't notice having had eyes peeled to my sheets and then the track (trying to figure out how the hell I was supposed to see the bloody numbers on their backs! High definition colouring my ass.) and then when I looked about, Ta-da! Lots of people.

My derby girlfriend Trish, who has a broken collarbone (Ouch!) was there and it felt so nice to meet someone I knew! Hahaha.. I'm so easy to please. Also Trish pointed out to Sparky and I that we had our sheets reversed (as they were prelabeled with teams names) for the teams we were tracking. That was really helpful.

It  is such a neat feeling that you get at sporting events, that ready to be excited feeling tingling in the air; everyone is sizzling waiting for the opportunity to exude emotions, cheering or booing or shouting or clapping. A place where you are allowed to feel out loud. Emote! It's really great.

I smile a lot and look at people, just, you know, cause I do. People need more smiles in their lives. Anyway, in the world, a lot of times people don't smile back, they are confused to have a stranger smile at them and aren't sure what they are supposed to feel. At the roller derby game I got lots of smiles back. It was really neat. I loved the crowd that was there. Sparky said to me at one point during the game, "Isn't it like, you would just be friends with anyone here? They're all so cool looking? But not like, they think they're cool, just like, nice to know."

I couldn't have agreed more. And, I must say, to all of my girl loving girlfriends and boy loving boyfriends, attend the games! It was queer central. I loved that too. I think it was part of what gave it such an awesome vibe, a place where being you, whoever you are is just completely fine. I love it when there is no normal.

The games began with a great caller on the mic, and it was, well it was wild. I mean, for me and Sparky it was a little bit insane. Because when the game starts there is no stopping. We had to write all of this information for EACH jam, and the players switch between each jam never mind what has been going on with penalties and whatnot.

So each jam ends with skaters skating off after having been visible for less then two minutes while new skaters come on and stand ready for moments before the whistle blows for the next jam to begin and then skating commences again. And of course, you have to be able to SEE them, to actually read the numbers which is a whole other thing. So, the first half of the game there may, possibly, be some errors in our sheets.

The second half went much better, Sparky had given me a tip about what to look at first, helped me. We helped each other with noticing girls going in and out of the penalty box and it went much smoother.

The hardest part for Sparky and I was not getting excited and cheering for the game. GAWD! There were so many AMAZING plays where we were hiding behind our boards saying, holy shit! can you believe she got that! We weren't exactly poker faces but nary a cheer escaped our lips.

Did I mention how many hot girls were there? I think I did a queer callout above, but seriously, there were like, SO many hot girls there. Players and otherwise. I don't know if it was hot girl day or something, but wow.

The roller girls were just awesome. The easiest to notice are of course the showy ones, the jammers - the quarterbacks of derby. Those girls can move, and do, really fast. Of course they are massively helped along and controlled by what the blockers are doing holding back the other jammer and letting their own through faster. The coaches have plays written out on cards that they show their players as they're sitting on the bench waiting for their turn up.

There is a lot going on here my friends. A lot going on. I can't wait to learn more. I have to return to the manual now, having had this experience and try and learn some more about what the hell was going on with the refs and all their hand signals. I want to understand it all (see above about not being a weenie).

Coming Soon: Session Two : The Hurting

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Whee! I can go fast!


I was SO excited to go to the first training session. When I got there I scored a righteous parking spot beside the front door which made me feel like it was going to be an awesome night. I was not disappointed.

There were a lot of girls there; I found out later there are eighty of us freshies, compared to a more normal intake of fifty. As I went through the first session I was thinking about the insiders info I had regarding the programme which was that more then half of the freshies drop out by around the halfway point and that by the end there are usually less then a quarter left who actually take the test. This was from my derby girlfriend's experience going through anyway, and I actually heard another girl telling the same story from her own derby girlfriend.

Thinking about this made me look at every girl in a sort of different way, assessing whether she would go all the way or be one of the many drop outs. (And, of course, thinking about how that applies to me.) I don't have a hard time seeing a lot of  the girls dropping out. Not because they are bad people or stupid or unable (although they could be, who knows) but because they aren't really sure about it to begin with and they have a sort of leisurely attitude about the whole thing, like it's sort of a fun outing rather then taking part in a sport, where in the end you have to be good enough for a team to want you. There are also the girls who, it's easy to see, are not going to be dropping out unless made to. They are serious and motivated, on the track right away after signing in versus dilly dallying around and chatting with friends.

There was a bit of line standing to sign in, as I said, there were eighty of us, so I met some line friends as I had done on the intake day. All the girls were really friendly though some were certainly more serious then others. I met another Baltic babe with whom I connected culturally who has the same cheekbones as me and smiles a lot. There were women there aged nineteen to fifty of all shapes and sizes, from pixie to giant. As usual I gravitated towards the red heads. I don't even know how I do that it just happens

The Mouthguard Mistake

I forgot to boil and mould my mouthguard to me. D-uh. What a wiener. I still had to use my mouthguard though because it's the rules, which truthfully I'm pretty behind because I don't really want any uneccesary concussions or chipped teeth. I mean, really, who does. It was pretty annoying though having my mouthguard in my mouth in all it's bigness and not mouldedness. Don't do this. Remember to boil and fit yours before you're first lesson.

I did however get some good tips about the whole moulding thing, and plan to cut the back half inch off each side before boiling and moulding so that it doesn't cause such a gag reflex. My other derby girlfriend (who plays for a different league) showed me these really cool things from Protech which I think I will be purchasing in the future for a more comfortable mouthguard experience.


After signing in I eagerly went over to the track and joined the girls who were already skating around. This is the part I had been nervous about, how I would do compared to the other girls. Turns out I'm pretty okay for going in. I'm certainly not the best skater on the track, though the best skaters were roller girls already, from other leagues. But, under them in skill, there were the girls who clearly were good skaters before, maybe on roller skates or maybe on ice skates, perhaps hadn't done it in a while, but it was all coming back quickly. I was just behind those girls on the track. I would follow them and try and keep up, deeking in and out of the slower skaters, trying to figure out how to slow down faster and with more control, trying to remember how to take the curves faster. I was loving it.

Before beginning they lined us up military style and slowly went down the line checking us out, our gear that is, to make sure we were outfitted properly and safely. I almost passed inspection until she got to the toe stops, one of mine was loose! How embarrassing! I could have sworn I checked those last night, but good that it was caught, that could have caused a nasty fall.

Then we were called in for the beginning of lessons. The lessons were a bit annoying again because of sound. That is, we couldn't really hear the lady giving the lesson very well. The information was great but the main teaching rollergirl was a quiet talker to begin with, and she just didn't know how to make her voice go big ( I could have taught her to engage her diaphragm but that's another story for another blog). So, that was a bit annoying now and again throughout the night. They did better when they realised it made sense to pull us all into a group for her to speak and then spread us back out to actual go through the drills.

There were so many of us that they had to split us into two groups to run through the drills, first to one wall and then back, which really worked out fine because it gave the other group time to practice their short game. By short game I mean their small tight moves, stopping, turning, moving slowly and controlled. It is where I am the most noticeably lacking right now.


The first drill we did was to fall on our knees. AAGH! I knew it was coming and I don't know why but I had been a bit nervous about it which is not like me at all. I think it's because my knees bother me a bit now (I'm getting old!) and the thought of just dropping on them sort of made me... nervous. Of course I had my brand spanking new new knee pads on so I knew all should be fine.

Trust the knee pads *littlestar, trust the knee pads. When my turn came I dragged one foot behind me on my toe liked the instructor had said (thank god I had gotten those cute toe guards) and dropped onto that knee and then sloppily dropped to my other knee and then fell to my hands. It wasn't ballet. I had to work hard on my second and third tries not to put my hands down as I fell, as we had been instructed (so as not to have fingers crushed by other skaters) which was difficult. Also, getting up without putting my hands down was less easy then it looked when they did it, but I did start to get it on the way back to the starting line.

Next we did shifting weight on our skates. This was fun because we got to skate around the track and the rollergirl instructors stood on the outside or skated along with people and gave them instruction. I thought that was really, really neat. There were clearly some people who had never skated before and for whom it was all new, and these people had instructors skate with them and help them along. Also we who could already skate and were going around were reminded to keep our eyes up (gosh, that's important isn't it? Why is it so hard to do all the time!), keep our legs bent and stay low ( I need to work on this BIG time) and if we fall to fall small and roll into the middle or the outside of the track as fast as possible. Makes sense obviously but not always so easy to do, luckily falling occurred so we could practice. I had one large fall in this drill when I was coming up behind a girl who was a bit slower and  I thought she was going to make the curve well but it turned out she was wobbly and then I didn't want to hit her but she was turning into me and then I went down. Totally grabbed her boob on the way down to..woops. Sorry about that! Hahahaha... unintentional boob grab, it's a UBG, hazard of the sport. Probably why so many guys like to watch it... well, that and all the jiggling babes boobs, butt and thigh.

We had a sit in lesson on the edges of the skate that was followed up with a PDF from the instructor. I'll have to read that, but I think I get the theory. It's just the being able to access whichever edge it is you mean to be using that I'm not so in tune with yet. Yet another thing I will be having to learn.

Which brings us to T-stops. Dragging one of your legs behind you with your foot perpendicular to your leading, straight forward facing, foot. It makes a fart noise when you're doing it right, as the edges of your wheels rub against the ground. I wasn't so good with these and require practice. I need to learn more stops! This one was a bit hard particularly because the instructor said it's the furthest edge of the furthest wheel on the ground, not the inside edge of the furthest wheel, which seems easier. Further testing and practice required for me for this for sure. Luckily I do have a way of stopping now, by plowing my skates and sort of turning into them, like I'm skiing. It works fairly well, and I'm imagining it must be one of the ways to stop, it just isn't very fast, or at least, I don't know how to do it fast.

Practice went a little bit late, but it started a bit late with all the signing in and giving out of insurance cards and whatnot. We did a quick stretch after led by one of the helpful instructors which was really great. My muscles weren't hurting at the end of the session and I was feeling like a million bucks! (Though I knew something was gonna hurt the next day!) I knew I would love it and I did. It is so excellent when things work out that way!

Coming Soon: Volunteering at my First Game