Wow. What a week. Derby season officially started for the Brawlin’ Betties as we bouted against the Santa Cruz Derby Girls’ Harbor Hellcats last Saturday night. Aptly titled, “The Battle of the Saints,” the bout drama started building the week before with many threats being exchanged between us and, no, not the Hellcats, but the weather Gods at large.
Our normally mild and sunny seaside town had been experiencing a flurry of freezing temperatures, rain, hail and even tornado warnings the week leading up to the bout. Saturday was predicted to be no different. Operating at an entirely outside venue, this can be a problem. However, so many things had been set in motion (programs printed with Saturday’s date, rental chairs ordered, venue paid for, presale tickets completely sold out, visiting team travel reservations secured, just naming a few) that unnecessarily canceling an event is way more than a headache and a half.
So balls to supposed tornado-force wind, the decision was made to forge ahead and hope for the best. Pacts were made, prayers were waged, no-rain dances ensued and, perhaps most importantly, our very own Derby Pope (and if you don’t know Derby Pope, I suggest you go to Facebook and request a Friend Add toot sweet) was consulted on the matter.
Our Bench Coach, Danger Kitty, was granted audience with Derby Pope two days prior to bout time and tendered one question, “Your Eminence, what would God want in return for clear skies on Saturday afternoon?”
To which our Holiness replied, “The Derby Pope accepts cash and booze bribes. If your wish is granted God was happy.”
Still, the storm continued, dumping buckets of rain and hail. And even late into Friday night, as we gathered for a team-building and carb-loading potluck at P.S. I Shove You’s house, the street gutters turned to rushing river beds. Getting out of the car and hopping to the sidewalk, in and of itself, made one appreciate all the skating leaps and hops rehearsed at many o’ practices.
One cheese dip was lost as it slipped into the rushing gutter and sailed away into darkness. Though, lo’ and behold the cheese was recovered by light of a cell phone under a truck tire a half block away. Maybe God saw this devotion, or maybe Derby Pope was sufficiently gifted. No one really knows. Whatever happened, we all awoke Saturday morning to clear and sunny skies, providing enough time to dry the rink and develop a cocky attitude about our fortune. Facebook boasting started almost as soon as the sunrise.
However, by mid afternoon, enormous thunderheads formed over the mountains and chilling winds began to blow through town. Stories of snow in various parts of city and nearby urban areas started filtering in. Clearly, we were not off the hook. Already lipsticked and fishnetted by this point, we ignored the threat and let it be said a little denial runs A LONG way. Fans poured through the gates and took their seats.
Officials convened, merchandise was sold and beer flowed as looming clouds seemed to be barely wafting southward of us, leveling an errant rain drop here and there. Unwavering, our very own Booty Ninja flawlessly belted out the Star Spangled Banner, bringing tears to eyes. As the first jam started, snowing clouds were visible just a neighborhood away and as the first jam ended enough raindrops were falling that an official time out was called.
Our valiant announcer, Deuce Bagalow, expertly kept the crowd entertained with humorous derby banter, all-the-while promising the squall would pass – almost using the same method of Saturday Night Live’s Subliminal Message Man (if you’re too young and don’t understand, go ask your parents). For about 15 minutes, Deuce peppered her speech with “this squall will pass,” between words, in the middle of sentences, under her breath until the crowd wasn’t even consciously aware of it being said, and until, it did indeed pass. I will never knock mantras and positive affirmations again.
Around the rink, coaches pushed hunched over derby girls who, in turn, were mopping dry towels over the wet mess. Others jumped up with brooms and swept all rain remnants away. Girls raced onto the track, the jam whistle blew and we were back in business.
Before moving on to the after party, I noticed a photo frenzy taking place in one of the back corners of the rink. It struck me as unusual, as most of the post-bout photo fanfare takes place mid-rink. Upon investigation, I came across the raison d’être. Apparently actor Matt Damon was in the house. According to rink gossip (and judging by the black and blue T-shirt he was sporting), Matt has family connections to the Hellcats. However, and to the delight of our ladies, he humbly requested an autograph from our Head Coach, Dita, and our Team Captain, Viva Violence!
My guess? As in the words of Derby Pope, God was happy.
For more amazing photos of last Saturday’s bout, Battle of the Saints, visit Kenji Jacklio Fukudome’s online photo album of the event at: www.moshimoshikenji.com
Assessments have come and gone. And we now have a whole new derby schedule. I’m really trying to figure out where I belong, and sometimes wondering if I belong. For now, the schedule is one that doesn’t allow for much rink time for my group, which I feel is desperately needed in order to improve. For those of us still working on passing assessments, official skate time has been narrowed to two hours per week, down from the previous six. In addition, that same group of us have formed a ref team, are studying the game and sitting in refereeing scrimmages for the vets, all-the-while working toward passing the next round of assessments mid-year.
In the transition of it all, there seems to be a different feeling that has settled over my team. In fact, I even feel weird saying that – my team. I’m in this strange place of limbo. I’m out of boot camp, in a ref group and still working on passing assessments, but am I really a team member, or “part” of a team, or merely a wannabe? I don’t know. I do know I miss my girls from boot camp and the tight camaraderie we enjoyed practicing together several times a week.
The girls (many of which who are “my girls”) who have passed assessments have now moved on to being Prospects. This means they are training for the upcoming team tryouts. I wonder if this means they are more of a team member than me. And in all honesty, I don’t know if they feel any better off than I do. I watch them practice. In fact, I make a point of it. I figure if my actual skating time is limited, then I will dedicate myself to watching from the box and learning as much as I can.
But when I watch practice from the sidelines, a few things come into mind. One thing for sure is that I’m damn glad I didn’t pass assessments because plain and simple, I’m not ready to do what they’re doing now. But the thing is, I don’t even know, for that matter, if a lot of them feel ready. Some of what I have seen going on in practice highlights the rocky nature of this change we’re all experiencing.
Nothing brings up baggage for people more than change. So lately, when I walk into practice and notice an absence of conversation, shortened smiles and tenser attitudes, I remind myself change can be difficult for people. I try not to take it personally, when I feel slightly more division between veterans and newbies, a division that wasn’t as palpable during boot camp. I know a lot of the nuggets have been feeling weird about this but also think as the dust settles so will the uneasiness.
I completely recognize our coaches have definitely got their work cut out for them. They’re trying to make a “B” league team into an “A” league team, but clearly there’s a lot of work needed to get there. Then there’s this group of newbie Prospects flooding in that ideally will become the new “B” league team, but are nowhere near that level at this current point.
And then there’s this handful of pit bulls, like me, who have clenched on, jaws locked and are refusing to give up.
I think what I’m sensing is perhaps how overwhelmed the coaches feel, like a mother with too many mouths to feed. So with every email notice I get about practice time getting reduced, it’s not just the shaking of a leg designed to test just how determined my resolve is, but perhaps to see how hungry I am. So I’ve chosen to use this as another derby training skill. My mental endurance is getting fine-tuned. I’m smart enough to know that I’m only in the beginning of a long run. Before I even consider getting tired, I remind myself how capable I am of going longer with less to eat than everyone else. I’ve just got to get in the zone and find my happy place.
A while back, I could see this coming like a steam engine and wrote about it in my post called Rainy Days & Sister Wives. But now that it’s here, knowing about it ahead of time doesn’t make it feel any less awkward.
When a team is looking for its strength, and a way to define it, I think it’s important to remember strength comes from unexpected places. And not always from the girls who seem to effortlessly cruise through the rigors, but rather from the determined, thirsty wolves who circle the pack.
Amazing coaches are, well, amazing. I’ve spent years analyzing different coaching styles (including being pissed at a handful of idiots who have the nerve to call themselves coaches) as my son has navigated his way through a childhood of individual and team sports. With years of surfing, skateboarding and hockey under his belt, we’ve also cycled through seasons of baseball and football.
The worst coaches, if you’re lucky, show you how to do something and then expect you to just magically do it. However, the best coaches, have this innate ability to break any skill into a chain of micro actions/movements then pinpoint where in the chain you’re falling short. With creativity, compassion and encouragement they’re able to convey this, re-direct you and deliver an epiphany which, in turn, begins to deliver the correct body memory.
Whenever I’ve worked with my mentor, Lem, and her derby wife, Kiki, I feel like a lucky bitch to have landed in their hands. They are both in the gifted coach category. I’ve written about them before (I Got Kiki La Screw’d and I Liked It), when I was first attempting standing crossovers, so my Lem/Kiki love is nothing new. But last night I was filled with gratitude again.
I’ve been repeatedly working on my plow stop, many times to the point of frustration. I’d watched others do it successfully many times over and it appeared to me that it was all in the ankles, specifically getting them to pivot outward with a good amount of force.
Kiki checked me out and instantly sized me up. I’d been trying to model my plows after two of our team’s most awesome plow stoppers, Semper Fatale and our coach, Dita de los Muertos. They both also happen to be about four-inches shorter than me and weigh at least 160 lbs. less than me. What they do so awesomely simply wasn’t going to work for me. Kiki helped me understand how plows have more to do with core balance and weight distribution (THE most important part of all derby skills) and less to do with pivoting the ankles.
She showed me how to lower my center of gravity, sit into my plows while taking my legs into a wide stance and how, just as a matter of physics, this will bring me to a stop.
“If I told Cherry (tall, strong, beautiful, Amazon!) to stop like Dita and Semper,” explained Kiki, “she’d fall over. It’s that simple. The same goes for you. Stopping in that way isn’t going to work for you.”
So I got it. Pivoting the ankles out is more like icing on the cake. Lowering my center of gravity with a wide leg stance is like the cake itself and is tremendously helping to control my stop.
In addition, Miss Kiki broke down the movements of doing a two-foot weave, something else that has been eluding me. Again, my problem was using my knees instead of my core. Once I started fueling the move from my core (swaying my ribs from side to side and the rest followed), I picked up both speed and rhythm.
Also, I discussed one of my major challenges with Lem – getting up from a fall without putting my hands on the ground. She’s given me a new off-skates homework assignment – practice sitting on the ground, getting on my knees and going to a standing position without using my hands on the ground. If needed in the beginning, use my hands on my thigh for leverage until I have enough strength to go hands-free.
This might seem like simple stuff but when you’re trying to integrate all these new skills, it’s easy to lose track of how to break each skill down into micro movements then paste them all back together again.
A little while back I wrote a list, my directive really, of all the derby skills I need to work on. I have a ways to go, but am making headway! The things I’m starting to accomplish, albeit in a rudimentary fashion:
- One-Knee Falls
- Two-Knee Falls
- One-Knee 180s
- Baseball Slides
- Plow Stops
- Two-Foot Weaves
- Hip Whips
My Inventory list of where I still need a lot of work:
- Getting up from falls – (as mentioned above) Need to develop more strength to stand up without using my hands.
- One-foot glides – Still don’t have the balance or confidence, but I believe the strength is there. I keep practicing standing on one foot when off skates.
- One-foot weave – See above.
- Crossovers – I can do this in a *very* minimal fashion around a corner. It’s not full and complete. I think I’ve got the concept, just need to go bigger and also figure out how to do it on a straight-away.
- Endurance – this is my biggest challenge. I still need to strengthen my cardio a LOT in order to go faster and go longer. I’m definitely improving, but just no where close to where I need to be.
I’ve got my work cut out for me!
I am proud of myself.
Eight weeks ago I started a journey I knew was way beyond my ability and because of that, it terrified me. I have never taken on a physical challenge like this and it was completely un-chartered territory.
I’m used to doing things I’m good at. This time, however, I put myself directly in the middle of my uncomfort zone, taking on something I knew, initially, I’d suck at. But there’s something about purposefully making yourself uneasy when you know something else greater waits for you on the other side. It builds character – and this time in a way I’ve never experienced. It created an internal sense of confidence which, step-by-step, made my world get bigger, better.
There were times I wanted out. I wanted to quit. I was anxious. I was fearful to the point of hating what I was doing and not knowing why I was continuing to do it. I felt like I didn’t belong and that I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. I felt like crap about myself for not performing well. I was mean to myself. Many times, I fell into the dark abyss of comparing my lacking ability to the better performance of others. There were times I was nearly throwing up during practice. There were times I was throwing up hours before practice. But, despite my doubts and pain, I continued on. Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate.
Then I started to hear a common thread emerge. I was reading a score of other fresh meat blogs. I was talking with my own (better performing) nugget compadres. And this thing I was feeling, the shadow side of my experience, was being echoed across the ethers. At first it confounded me to hear it coming from the mouths of those I deeply admire. From those who were inches away from making their endurance requirement of 25 laps in five minutes. From those who had beautiful crossovers. From those who skated wobble-free from the very first night of boot camp.
And then, within the cacophony of this newborn requiem, I recognized it. What I’ve rightly named as Nugget Syndrome: Whereby one’s sense of self confidence and self-esteem is rocked to the core by a new-found obsession which finds itself flying above the rooftops on a towering pedestal. The vastness between reality and the obsession is so great that only a psychic tantrum such as Nugget Syndrome can provide the fuel necessary to propel one’s self forward with enough vigor to reach toward the sky. Maybe van Gogh’s ear wasn’t simply the end of the line, yet the rocket juice he needed to reach a higher plane.
Once I realized this affliction, and its commonness, I got over myself in a big way. On the heels of Viva Violence, our team captain, telling me to STFU after an engulfing whine, I dropped the Syndrome in exchange for getting closer to my destiny. Don’t get me wrong, it served me well, as I imagine it does many others after the starting gun fires. But with all relationships, there comes a time to part ways and move forward with strength. I’m glad I recognized my moment when I did instead of choosing to get stuck with a partnership that had shot its wad. We all know those are only castles burning.
I chose to celebrate my accomplishments and pay homage from where I came. It doesn’t matter how small or big they are in comparison to others. They are mine. And they have given me entrée to a sense of self-respect I have not known before. I leave these eight weeks behind and open my arms to the next phase of my derby life. I will continue working toward passing my assessments and becoming a full-fledged, bouting member of our team.
Touching the stars, or even grasping for them, isn’t easy business or for the faint of heart. It’s a job for crazies, Amazons, warriors and badasses – like me.
Note to Self: When the DJ calls out Couples Skate, do not go for what you imagine to be a romantic glide around the rink with husband when said husband is even more of a rookie than you are – unless falling in a heap ontop of each other is part of the plan. Make no mistake, falling rookie husbands on skates go in the same category as drowning people. They *will* take you down in order to preserve themselves.
I have to give it to our girls. What to do on a rainy day when your home rink is outside and there’s no warehouse willing (yet) to adopt you? Most teams (all sports) would easily call a rain day and that would be that.
But not our ever-adaptive Betties. They rally in the 9th hour (and truth be told, it’s probably why they win most of their bouts).
Dino found a large conference room at UCSB, Semper brought a projector and Viva furnished a strength training/plyo derby workout vid, “Roller Derby Workout with the Heart Attacks.”
I love how our Betties get stuff done! There doesn’t seem to be any problem they can’t resolve. From little stuff (rained out practice dates) to big stuff (throwing an absolutely successful outdoor fundraiser in the middle of December). To me, these things truly highlight how well they function as a team.
I often wonder what it’s like for them to be training a group of nuggets that are sure to change the tight team dynamic they’ve lovingly cultivated and achieved. This doesn’t mean it will change for the worse. But NO doubt, the team will be a different team with new members. Makes me think of the show Sister Wives (yeah, that’s right, I’m not too proud to admit watching weirdo polygamist reality TV).
In the last season of Sister Wives, there are three wives who have all been married to the same dude for like the last 16 years, and they are all about to accept a new wife into the clan. This is because their husband has decided to take on another one. They all believe and get behind this concept, but it doesn’t mean that it comes without its bumps. They believe, in the end, an additional wife will make them stronger, better, more capable, and yeah, one more set of hands can really help out with their enormous workload (three wives, two incomes, one husband and, like, a kazillion kids).
So, like the new Sister Wife who is about to get married into the clan, I want the Betties to like me. I want them to accept me. But I also feel protective of what they’ve managed to achieve before I, and all the other nuggets, arrived. I want to tread lightly and integrate at a natural pace. It’s weird because as tough and capable they are as individuals and as a team, there’s also this beautiful fragility amongst them. I so totally want to get to the point where I can be a full-fledged member of this team, and allthewhile, I want their bubble to stay protected. Does that make any sense?
Meanwhile, Back to our Rainy Day Workout . . .
The Heart Attack girls (from the Roller Derby Workout vid) were a little on the corny side (gotta love the coordinated neon bright leotard getups with matching skate wheels and laces), with their tagline for the video being, “You don’t have to be a roller derby girl to be a knockout, but it doesn’t hurt to train like one.” Alrighty, lol.
But big time props to them for producing it and getting it out there. The exercises were pretty standard, but definitely do the trick on a rainy day. And the music was actually pretty good for a low-budge production.
The workout is led by five derby girls: Shiv, Biodiesel, Go-Go, Estro Jen, and Punk N’ Da Trunk. All these gals reign from the Angel City Derby Girls in L.A., however, (except for Shiv) all of which seem not to be with the ACDG any longer.
My favorite was Punk because she was like a jacked up Barbie version of our own coach, Dita de los Muertos. I kept imagining she was really Dita in costume, sarcastically making fun of Barbie-type derby girls. As I was leg lunging, I was day-dreaming about Dita walking in on the set and kicking this girl’s ass. Is that terrible? I know derby girls are super supportive of one another, even after battling it out in a tense bout – all friends at the end. But my mind kept wandering off as I concocted some twisted derby version of Westside Story where MAK and Dita would skate in and physically/psychologically decimate the workout Barbie girls. Off the wall? It’s okay, I don’t deny it.
OMG! Tuesday night’s practice was magic. Not only did we get to practice whips and knocking girls on their ass, I had so much fun doing it that I wasn’t even focusing on the fact I was skating. I made it through nearly the entire practice without having to sit down. I missed the last 10 minutes (wall of Violence), but was entirely proud of getting through the one hour and fifty minutes that it didn’t matter.
This is a milestone in SO many ways that I cannot stop smiling. First of all, it means that all the strength training and repetition is paying off. I am getting strong. It means instead of skating around the outside doing my modified versions of the skills, I was in the pack! I don’t want to give any wrong impressions here. There were no Ellen Page moments where suddenly I went from not knowing how to skate to being a badass Jammer. However, I was “my own hero,” and badass enough for me. Especially since I had spent the entire day throwing up and in bed but I rallied and got myself to practice. 😀
Blocking and knocking down was so much fun that, as my girl PTS Dee says, “these hips were made for blocking.” How to describe the satisfaction of throwing a booty and shoulder into a girl and watch her fly off course? It’s waaaaaaaay better than bowling. Misfit and Hiss were awesome coaches and very patient with me. And the excitement of looking over my shoulder for another victim while hearing LOC yell, “Come on Stacy! Knock one down!” was awesome. I can see/feel how this is only the baby beginnings of an addiction, the tip of the iceberg.
My husband (Scott), son (Cousteau) and I met Storm and Dee down in Ventura at Skating Plus on Wednesday night. Dee and I showed Storm some of the whips and pushing exercises she missed Tuesday. Though, it was a much milder version (we were still sore from the night before). Cousteau even got in the mix and practiced whips with Dee.
Scott got on skates for the first time since he was eight and rocked it for his first time. When I first got back on skates, I clung to his arm for two weeks straight before I could even stand on my own. Not Scott, even though Frankensteining his way around, he was up and on his own cruising around the track for two hours. I give credit to his skateboarding for giving him a giant beginner’s bump. I’m thrilled that he wants to become a derby ref as well as start playing some hockey. We’re an all-urethane family now.
These quotes were taken from a recent Huffington Post article. Love them!
“Unemployed? Fat? A lawyer? Rich housewife? Who cares? We all smell the same at the end of practice. It’s a “no judgment zone” where everyone can let their freak flag fly.”
~ Blonde Phantom, 47, Providence Roller Derby
“I never want to be that woman who lets fear keep her from doing new things or the things she really wants to do. I tell people “It’s not a tragedy to die doing what you love to do. The tragedy is dying never having done what you always wanted to do.”
~ Vi Suvius, 50, Ventura County Derby Darlins
“There will be nursing homes filled with cranky old women who don’t want to be babied and will hip check anyone trying to force them to do something.”
~ Patti Wackin, 40, Kansas City Roller Warriors
“Derby gives women a place where they belong, especially women who don’t fit in anywhere else. I have always been a take-charge kind of woman and usually felt like a fish out of water in traditional woman’s groups, but I have always felt accepted for myself among derby women.”
~ Batterin’ Gram, 56, Minnesota Roller Girls
“My opponents don’t care how old I am, and I don’t care how old they are. If I’m a blocker, I’m gonna hit you. If I’m a jammer, I’m gonna fight my way through the pack to score on you.”
~ Kona Krusher, 49, Fort Wayne Derby Girls
“I wonder, with so many thousands of women across the world playing this sport now, how will this change the fabric of society down the road? I can’t wait to find out. This is so tangibly and dramatically different from any other phase of the women’s movement so far”
~ Cat O’Mighty, 51, Central Mass Roller Derby
“I wish I’d had roller derby in my 20s, rather than step aerobics.”
~ Stone Cold Jane Austen, 43, CoMo Derby Dames
“Seriously, there is no finer feeling than sweeping some girl off her skates with a solid hipcheck. Sounds crazy, but I love getting hit, too, short of being carried off the track. The day Madame Magenta knocked me flying into the inside oval, I was thrilled for her. ‘Nice hit, grasshopper!’”
~ Flash Hottie, 55, Windy City Rollers
I’ve had to take my own path with Boot Camp. It’s been hard watching everyone progress so much faster than me. But I’ve decided not to feel bad about this. I decided this a while ago actually. It only makes me feel like crap and it does nothing to move me forward.
So what does this mean? I go to practice, I watch the instruction carefully – committing it to memory for later use, and then I find my own versions of practicing/learning those skills. Sometimes I stick to the wall. Sometimes I sit down while everyone else is still going strong. Sometimes I skate around the outside, singing in my head, “Buffalo gals go ‘round the outside.”
I often have to separate myself from the group to do these things. And I’ll admit, it unpacks some old baggage I have left from the time in my life where I had to watch life go by instead of being able to jump in and fully participate.
When I weighed 450 lbs., watching life go by was what I did all the time, and I did it with profound sadness. But I also did it with resolve and intent that nobody pitied me. I’m sure some pitied me anyway, but I never opened the door or invited it in.
However, in some ways, I still find myself there – feeling like I’m watching as life goes by; as radically different as my life and access to freedom is now. I’m sure a small amount of other nuggets feel a sense of pride because of me. By comparison, they can feel good about a day’s work because they tell themselves they pushed their limits and never sat out on the sidelines. They, in whatever small or big way, accomplished their newly assigned skill instead of watching it be accomplished.
When I catch wind of this happening, I fantasize about increasing some skinny bitch’s body size 2 ½ times and imagining how she would feel weighing 280 lbs., trying to accomplish what I’ve been accomplishing. I can tell you this much; When I get out there and do what I do for two hours, it’s fucking exhausting, no matter how little it looks like I’m doing in comparison to everyone else. And, then, compared to how my life used to be – it’s a breeze.
But from the ABSOLUTE vast majority of everybody, I feel sheeeeeeeer, overwhelming love and support. I can hear and feel my teammates all rooting for me – the Betties, the refs, the NSOs, the other nuggets. And it’s awesome. I can’t even tell you how much it means to me or how awesome it is.
So I keep showing up. I keep using everyday as a chance to build strength in one way or another. I keep getting on my skates and beating back the fear of maiming myself. I keep promising myself it will get better, that it will get easier and more freedom is right around the corner. And I dream, every single goddamn night – until I’m exhausted sometimes – about flying around the track like it’s in my blood.
Boot Camp tonight. The rink will be open early so I’m going to try and get some extra practice in. What we’ve learned so far:
- Butt Falls
- 1-Knee Falls
- 2-Knee Falls
- 1-Knee 180
- Baseball Slide
- Figure 4s
- Sticky Feet
- 1-Foot Glides
- T Stops
- Plow Stops
- Derby Step
- Derby Hop
- Cross Overs
I’ll be starting at the top and going over these skills one at a time until I get them right.
This won’t all happen tonight, obvi. But as I go forward, this is my list. Last night I did a plyometric exercise for about an hour and a half. This morning I braved the 40-degrees outside and went down to Los Banos for a swim. It was actually a beautiful morning – crisp and sunny, though cold as shit. One thing about swimming when it’s cold out; Getting in the normally very cold water, not so bad – a 25-degree improvement.
Strength, strength, strength. The more I can build, the better off I’ll be.
I had a couple of good falls last Saturday during our beach skate adventure. The first fall was textbook but still yielded a large ass bruising. The second fall was out of control and sent my knee bending in an akward and painful way. I’ve been paying for it ever since. I’d much rather deal with a bruised ass, than a weak-feeling ligment in my knee that sends sharp pains when I bend it the wrong way. So tonight’s practice: a knee brace plus butt falls, 1-knee falls and 2-knee falls.
Derby is my physical metaphor. I’m 45 and have some demons to beat down. Bring it.
I fucking suck.
“You don’t become a rollergirl, really, you realize that you are one already.”
~ Ginger Snap, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
I love that our Boot Camp is including cross training. Our past two practices have both been off-skates. Saturday was strength building and plyometric exercises. This is a main focus for me.
The other day I came home discouraged again at my (lacking) level of ability. My husband said something simple that put it in perspective. I love how men can do that. He told me that everything I’m doing is about building strength, not skills. He said that while everyone else may be skill building, I’m using these skills as a way to build strength. He also pointed out there’s no way that I can build skills until I first have the strength to do it. Duh.
I can will myself to complete these new skills all I want but for now it’s like telling someone to lie on a table and levitate. I can want it really badly, but it won’t come together until my body is capable of it. So I will try and get strong without damaging myself and keep body memory notes of these skills close to my chest, until I’m ready to pounce.
Last night we met in the windy cold at Elings park for our 7 p.m. practice. We reviewed derby rules then did tennis shoe derby drills. We have A LOT of nuggets and these are some die-hard gals. Freeway traffic was snarled due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the wind was blowing, it was butt-ass cold and the grass was still wet from rain an hour before. I was curious as to how many people were actually going to show up for practice. Amazingly, I think we had nearly 40 (of our approximately 50) nuggets there.
We formed two parallel lines then took turns moving down the line in small groups practicing blocking skills. Tough. A Bettie was usually placed in back as the Jammer and two nuggets had to move down the 50-foot line trying to prevent her from passing. Afterward, we practiced a solid 20 minutes of body checking. Slamming into a partner while keeping balance, or conversely, getting slammed while keeping balanced. At this point it makes my mind reel as to how to do this successfully on skates. One day at a time. Breathe.
Needless to say, I am bruised and sore today. I sucked at blocking down the line, but I’m pretty good at body checking. Doing the bump in my disco queen past helped out, just had to throw a little more force with that hip. My back feels fucked up today but it was fun. I was paired with Semper Fatale, who is probably half my size. That girl has some strength because she mostly managed to stay planted when I hip checked her.
I need to focus on core strength building and battling my self-esteem. This is where my work is.
P.S. The Betties have matched us up with our mentors and I’m STOKED!!!! My mentor is Lem. I love her.
I’m totally falling in love with my Betties. I admit, this might be Stockholm Syndrome setting in, but it doesn’t really matter. Every single one of these girls has an amazingly quick wit and they all like to play rough. I think I’ve found my tribe. No withering violets here. Thank God. I get so tired of feeling choked out by the ethos of political correctness and everyone being so nice all the time.
The Betties play such a good game of “You’re so Fat,” it makes normal “Your Mama” jokes look like toddler time. One of the milder examples from the other night – Dita to another Bettie: “You left your bra at my house so I’ve been using as a bag for my bowling balls.” =) But Miss One-Liner Dita has a depth of character simmering beneath the surface that some might miss unless they looked more closely. She’s funny as hell and the girlfriend you want to sit in the back of the class with, but know that whatever hasn’t killed her has made her stronger.
MAK, at the last Bettie bout of the season, got so pissed at the refs she led the crowd in an un-rhyming chant that only she could pull off, bringing people to their feet and shouting along to, “Get your dick out of her ass and read the fucking RU-LE book. Get your dick out of her ass and read the fucking RU-LE book.” 100% derby. There is a Bettie Code to keep games family-friendly, but shit slips out now and then. MAK is incredibly sharp, doesn’t miss a beat and what you see is what you get. No apologies. ♥
Viva – She looks like everything Gwen Stefani strives to be with the most beautiful face and fullest red lips. Humble and sweet with a FIERCE competitor inside and amazeballs of steal. She’s tiny and gets knocked around but is incredibly tough. Pair that with the fact she’s a doctoral candidate at UCSB in mechanical engineering. Quantum computing time travel shit. She’s my baby Einstein. ♥
Lem – All Betties, I’m learning, specialize in the concept of paradox. Lem is another fierce competitor but also has the soul of a baby kitten. Lem will be the one helping your great-grandmother across the street and bringing cookies when you’re down (albeit with an ulterior motive to get just a little more homemade matzo ball soup out of someone’s mom), while simultaneously fending off body checks with the ability to only spill a drop or two of coffee. She jokes about herself being like an awkward baby giraffe, but truth be told she’s a fluid example of grace rolled into beauty — mind, body and soul.
Kiki is a powerhouse, through and through, and looks like Gina Gershon only with a beautiful mane of red hair. My guess – she is one of the most loyal of friends you’ll ever meet. She stands for zero bullshit and is a multi-tasker extraordinaire. She is an amazing architect (literally) and runs her own business. She keeps her vulnerabilities close to her chest but has these incredible eyes that can’t hide her depth.
Stay tuned for more! Coming up in Girl Crush, Part Two – Roxie, Deuce, Booty, Danger, Vino, Loc & Hiss!
This evening marked the first night I’ve been at an indoor roller rink since I was 16. And another milestone for me tonight: skating in a large crowd. Even though it may not seem like a big deal – skating when you’re a rookie, surrounded by people, is not easy. It’s fucking nerve-wracking. Especially when I see a five-year-old who looks like he’s on skates for the first time cut me off and me, knowing full-well there’s not a thing I can do to prevent a crash disaster at my current skill level. “Live long and prosper, dude,” was seriously the only thought going through my mind.
But as the sk8 Gods would have it, tragedy was avoided several times throughout the night and it felt gooooood to be back in a roller rink with music pumping. Next time I bring the glitter lip gloss.
We ran into Miss Hiss and Kitten. It was comforting to see some familiar faces and know at least two people weren’t going to laugh (outwardly) at me for being the *only* person in full combat gear.
I still had trouble skating right at the beginning from the rush of adrenaline/fear. But that thankfully faded after a little bit. Getting over that, and adjusting to the dizzy factor strobe lighting can cause, I did okay.
Here are some video highlights. Drum roll please . . . . . . . . this is the first official video of me skating – ever. Video wasn’t the trend de rigeur when I was a teenager, so here’s history in the making. =)
Only had an hour to practice tonight but it was productive! My son has been coming Thursday nights and coaching me. He’s really good at it. When I hear his words of encouragement along with his tough “you can do this” attitude, I’m seeing myself mirrored back at me. I can see all the years of encouragement I’ve poured into him, pouring right back into me. An awesome circle of life.
Tonight he got me to attempt T-Stops again. I didn’t want to but he pushed it. In a very baby way, I am getting it! I can actually put my right skate behind my left at a 90 degree angle and skid myself to a stop – without breaking a leg. Yaaaaaay! No where near snow plows or tomahawks, though.
I also had my first not-on-purpose fall tonight. Skated right into some small metal screw (I can really understand that elephant/mouse fear thing), and that was it. Going down. At first I was all over the place, Gumby style. Then without even thinking about it, body memory took over and threw that left knee down into a deep lunge, skidding me to a (somewhat) graceful stop. Another small achievement!
I repeated the cross-over exercise I did with Kiki Tuesday night and practiced derby hops holding onto the wall (rest in a crouched position on toe stops, leap up, skates off the ground, landing again in a crouched position). I made sure to shock-absorb into a low crouch and maximize the strength building in my thighs (ouch).
It’s hard to comprehend that I’ve only been doing this for a week and a half. Wow. I’ve made it my life for right now and it seems like so much more than a week. Tonight I started seeing the first tiny results of strength building and how it’s beginning to work for me. =D.
“Every forest branch moves differently in the breeze, but as they sway they connect at the roots.”
~ جلالالدین محمد رومی “(Rumi), 13th-century Persian poet
Wow. Hmm. Where to start? Some surprises. Turns out being a Bettie Nugget is more challenging than I thought – and probably not how you’re thinking. It was never lost on me that this would be one of the biggest physical endeavors I’ve taken on. That was crystal clear from the start.
There are few things I’ve noticed setting these rookie girls apart from a lot of other girls I know. A few things that tell me we’ve got some bonding commonalities.
- We all have something to prove. In each of us there is a demon getting beaten down.
- As my new friend Simone stated, we all have a badass lurking inside. Some of us have let it be suppressed by bad relationships, motherhood, a tough economy or just the drone of daily life. Regardless of the reason, these girls all have an inner badass and it’s like a fire ready to be stoked.
- We all have a high tolerance for pain.
- We all secretly fantasize about wearing fishnets, slutty derby outfits and the ass we’re developing that will show these things off.
If those aren’t the ingredients for lifelong friendship, I don’t know what is.
I’m getting used to being in pain all the time and to swearing every time I get up, sit down, roll over or smile. But I do have a confession. The pain I have in my ass from falling on it 40 times in a row Tuesday night has put the fear of God in me.
A couple days ago I was sitting on my yoga ball, hoping to stretch out some very angry muscles. I was standing up and sitting down while talking to my son. Apparently the ball had rolled away after I had stood up a couple times. I went to sit down and had crouched to the point of knowingness that nothing was underneath to catch me.
My blood ran cold. So much so (and what I imagine looked cartoon-like), I propelled my body directly up and forward, grabbing precariously onto the eight-foot tall bookshelf next to me. Clinging to it with my fingers, I threw myself forward onto the ground. My ass hurts so much that I would much rather plow my face into the hardwood floor and be pummeled by a falling bookshelf than I would want to fall on my butt again.
I only have two and half days to be boot camp ready again. And those two and half days will have to also include doing chores in my skates every day for at least an hour, a half hour (or hopefully more) of core exercises every day (my thighs and center need some serious strengthening), a swimming workout and two mornings of skating along the beach.
We went over so many new skills yesterday, my head is spinning. In and out leg moves, single leg move curves, hip rotations, single leg skating, dreaded T-Stops and snow plow stops. And of course, we finished up with what I’m now calling The Wall of Violence – a crushing core workout led by Viva Violence. Passing the skills assessment and making the team seem like a far way off. Sigh.
Returned for more punishment tonight, though, believe it or not it wasn’t that bad. The Betties have their own, non-nugget, practice time on Thursday evening and I came by to skate around the outside edges and get some extra practice in. About five other rookie girls showed up. It’s funny how when you go through something grueling together it creates a special camaraderie. I totally admire these women out there daring to do what I’m daring to do. Who knows what’s propelling us each forward in this sadistic goal?
And I can’t say enough how amazing and encouraging the Betties coaches have been. I think I love them. Each and every one.
I skated faster tonight than I have since I was 17. I dream about skating every night. Sometimes I’m falling and getting hurt, other times I’m flying around the track. I feel sick about going to Saturday’s practice, but also sickly excited. I just hope my ass can take it.
Last night was the first night of Bettie Boot Camp, my local roller derby’s eight-week hell session. Holy Mother of Fuck. I am so sore today that I cannot sit down or stand up with out swearing that mantra. Just know this, it washes over me and gives me a much needed momentary sense of peace.
Also, know this. I was probably the worst “nugget” there. (Nugget is the affectionate term we’re given during this hell session.) I have barely gotten to the point over the past two weeks where I could skate on my own. Last night, skating on my own was the easy part.
Shortly after warming up we formed two large circles (there were about 50 nuggets there) and proceeded to practice falling on our ass – 40 times. Fall. Stand. Fall. Stand. The standing part is supposed to happen without putting your hands on the ground. Yeah, right.
After this, I was pretty much toast. Everyone went on to practice lunge steps (knee to ground) across the track, then one-knee falls, two knee falls, baseball slides, figure 4 butt falls, rock star slides (picture David Lee Roth sliding on two knees across the stage, arms extended to the heavens with skates on). When I ran out of gas, I did my own versions of the above, which was mostly skating forward in a low, crouched position.
The Betties were all there in full force and were *amazing* coaches. They were definitely tough, but so kind and so encouraging. I love them already for teaching me how to get strong. Posted on the Brawlin’ Betties Facebook page today:
“Full of awe at the sight of so many amazing women pushing themselves to be stronger! It means so much to be a Bettie!!”
About half way through, feeling like I was going to throw up, I contemplated leaving the rink. Oddly enough, I kept looking up at the spectators and even though my son was not there, I swear I kept seeing his little face in the crowd. This gave me the inspiration to keep going.
I did end up leaving the rink 15 minutes early because I honestly didn’t feel like my legs could hold me up any longer. The rest of the group finished up with a punishing core workout: abdominal crunches, bicycles, side lifts, sustained push-up position lifts, etc. Two hours in total. All with skates on.
Today, besides the pain, my main battle has been with my psyche. Even though I know last night was an enormous accomplishment for me personally, it is verrrrrry hard to not feel like shit about myself because everyone else did so much better than I did.
But everyone else there hasn’t been fighting for their life for the past several years. Like me, they have not just lost 175 lbs. and are not returning to health from a life that used to be riddled with heart problems, pulmonary problems and Diabetes. Because of this, I tell myself to be proud.
So I’ve been skating for about two weeks now prepping for boot camp – trying to get my balance and coordination back (jury’s still out on that). Do you remember what toddlers look like when learning how to walk – you know how they do that Frankenstein thing (arms outstretched, tottering from foot to foot)? Well, pretty much that’s me on skates these past couple of weeks.
However, I *have* managed not to fall and eat dirt (or concrete) which is pretty amazing given the above description.
So today, I’m picking my 6th grade son up early from school and we’re walking out in a hurry. And of course, I come full speed into contact with a fricken’ crack in the sidewalk. Yep. I not only got a running start, actually got airborne for a second, slid for about three feet once hitting the ground and did indeed do a full face plant into concrete.
This of course couldn’t be done in any fashion of privacy. Nope. It had to be done in front of a entire class of, oh say, about 40 jr. high students all lining up for PE class. The (male) teacher comes running over asking if I’m okay (dress around my waist, spit coming out the corner of my mouth). I jump up determined to NOT be the center of attention in my moment of grace, make some joke about paying more attention to his lecture than to what I was doing, smiled my most charismatic (spit-dripping) smile and walked away without limping and with as much pride as I could muster.
My adorable son, who I’m sure was horrified in his own right (how embarrassing to have your mom biff it like that in front of a bunch of peers), jumps in with a comment, loud enough for the whole blacktop to hear and aimed to help me save face, says, “I guess being a roller derby girl is what makes you so tough mom.”
So there you have it, a girl who can’t navigate cracks in the sidewalk is contemplating being a derby girl. Oh lord.