Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Skate Upgrades!

I have been lagging with my writing and have in fact had three sessions since last I wrote. Not only have I learned a whole lot more about roller derby but I have also greatly increased my knowledge of my skates. 

Even though there is more skating session info and other stuff to talk about I first have to tell you about my skates. I got new bushings!! Do you know what a bushing is? I just learned. I do recall hearing them spoken about as well as my trucks, and knowing it had something to do with the bottom of my skates but that's about it. But now I know for real. You can too! Check out the diagram here (you have to scroll down a little) if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, it is really good and makes it simple to see all the bits on the bottom. 

The whole assembly with the bushings (numbers 4 and 6 in the diagram) is called the truck so loosening the nut at the end is having looser trucks. I also learned that there are different hardnesses of bushings, so not only had my trucks been tightened tightly I had the hardest bushings possible (I switched to medium softness). So with the hard bushings there had been very little give of the boot on top of the wheels, leaning to either side didn't really make the skate turn just start to tip over. This is also why (I can tell now) I had an easier time with plow stops then some others. With looser trucks and softer bushings plows are now more work for me. 

The reason getting new bushings on my skates, and loosening my trucks a bit, was such a big deal for me was how it has allowed me to weave on one skate. This is a skill I will need to pass my WFTDA test (I have mentioned it before) and had hoped that hardware changes would help. Guess what? They did! 

When I went to Cardinal skate shop (if you recall, earlier I didn't purchase items there and felt bad) the girls who were working there (who turned out to be Bambi and Dust Bunny of the Gores) were super helpful. Dust Bunny actually showed me how to take my skates apart and put new bearings in the wheels, put in new bushings, loosen my trucks and change my wheels (to the red outdoor wheels I purchased). I feel like a pro! Also I couldn't help myself I bought a pair of those cute bootie shorts with the skeleton hands on the ass. 

I had already been skating outdoors on my indoor wheels. I went to the skate park near us where I take the kids to ride their bikes (it has ramps and stuff that they like to use). The ground is asphalt and somewhat littered with broken bottle bits and crap. I did end up getting used to it with my indoor wheels on, but it took a while. It came down to little steps, better footwork. I figured that was a good way to get better at that, nothing motivates like the the fear of falling on broken glass.

At any rate, I was hoping it would be a bit better with outdoor wheels on and of course I wanted to know what the softer bushings and looser trucks felt like. I reminded myself that I would have to tighten my trucks no matter what initially as the new bushings squished in a bit. I had a new skate tool now too to do this with. See, pro! 

So when we got home we stopped for bikes and off we went to the skate park. It was SO exciting in how different it felt. When I first got on my skates I felt like I was on jello, they are bouncy and squishy now. Of course being on the bumpy asphalt made me have to get used to the new squishiness fairly quickly, again the fear of broken glass was a good motivator.

I was very excited to try and skate on one foot and do some weaving but I had to skate around in circles getting used to the new feel for a while before I could do that. Eventually it was feeling more normal and I tried the weaving on one foot and I could do it! Not to say I was a super pro and perfect at it, but I can do it. I still need lots more practice to be super good at it but the difference in how I can move my skates by the pressure in my foot is crazy! As you can tell this excites me a great deal.

I have many more things to talk about (cool derby websites, the upcoming test, a derby moniker for me etc.) but I think I will leave you with this for now. I am going to re-watch Doctor Who episodes to try and spot The Silent. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


Well, I was pulled out of the country there for a bit due to familial issues and property dealings. I had a visit with the old country, which for me is Latvia. I wonder if they have roller derby? I suspect not but I had no time to find out as I was busy, busy, busy!

But the day after I got back it was time for derby practice once again and I was ready to go! It had been two weeks since I was on skates and though I have been trying to do extra squats and whatnot none of it compares to actual on-skate time.

We were hosted for training by the Death Track Dolls and they were absolutely delightful. We were working on hits and whips, both a lot of fun. I found it interesting that the way they split us was by asking those who felt they were a bit more advanced to go to one side of the hangar and those who didn't to go to the other side. It wasn't an even split but it worked okay.

 It was interesting to note how many of the actually advanced skaters went into the less advanced group, and then there was me, smack dab in advanced knowing it might be the case that I oughtn't to be there. But, how else are ya' gonna get better! I have high a bar, I hope one day to actually be able to reach it!

So first my group did whips, we tried the inside whip and the outside whip. I found these a lot of fun and really not too hard do. They are very intuitive. Inside whip grab girl, who is coming up on the inside, with your outside arm, whip forward. Outside whip, grab girl, coming on your outside, with your outside arm and fling her (that one is super fun!). I initially wasn't grabbing my partners arm too well for the outside whip but with a little insight from the Dolls and my partner it was all good. Whips are fun! You get to go even faster then normal.

The hits were fun too but actually a bit harder then I had expected. That is, hitting in the best way possible required more of a fine tuned hip raising motion then I had really thought about. I hadn't considered the fact that you're really trying to get under the girl you're hip checking.

The Dolls told us to watch the youtube clip of Beyonslay doing some great hip checking. So of course I went and watched the video (good stuff stuff is at :44). Here she is doing it again to a different jammer. She is AWESOME at getting under her opponent and depositing them on the sidelines, certainly someone I will try and emulate in my hip checking.

The last thing we did was play a game they called Last Chick Standing. I'm sure you can guess the idea. We had to practices our hits and try to stay standing while others did the same. If we went out of bounds or got put down we were out of the game. I actually did pretty well at this, took some girls down and lasted till close to the end.

 I know that all of the girls were not hitting with all their might though, nor was I. You can't help but monitor what you're doing with the girls who you know are less capable skaters, it just feels nasty. I mean, you hit them, but I don't think most of us were using all of our strength on each other, I know I wasn't. I still don't know what it will be like when I use all of my might, I will have to be surer on my skates to release most power I can.

Of course, I did feel a bit wobblier then I would have liked on my skates this session. I know that I have not had enough time on them lately. I have been doing some exercises, like this great one from the great Hard Knox Roller Derby Fitness site to try and improve my ability. As well, I actually have been watching youTube videos roller skate instruction and derby. This has also been very enlightening, but no comparison to time on skates. I am waiting with bated breath for summer to come so I can skate outside and get better faster.

Speaking of the videos, I really like this one and this one, which show how to turn from skating backwards to forwards specifically, but also really helps with the turning stop and whatnot (which I STILL can't do properly, though I am getting closer). Also this one here for the sideways skating skill that is SO important for a lot of things that I can't do!

I have been practicing the ballet first position, feet pointed out sideways from body, an awful lot lately, cause doing that in skates is not as easy as bare feet where your feet stick to the floor a bit and hold you. In skates you roll, shocking as that may be. My knees are not used to stretching in that direction either so practice, practice, practice.

Clearly being able to have yourself with your feet, knees and hips in first position is very important to derby and good roller skating. I have to be able to more comfortably flip my skates around into different positions and, of course, I still can't do the steering around pylons on only one skate. Need to get that one still too. Lots more to know that's for darned sure.

So, more skate time required, I need to start improving more. Plateaus can be annoying, but I shall keep on keeping on.

It's game time on Saturday, I shall be trying out a new NSO posting as Outside Whiteboard. I am frightened, I do not know the ref hand signals well enough. Learning is FUN!