Goal-setting for next season

We’re coming to the pointy end of the year, and as much as I’m going to miss derby during the 5 week summer break, I’m also looking forward to a bit of downtime. We’ve had a massive year with the League, with lots of home games, travel games and multiple tournaments including the first ever Australian Men’s competition last month, as well as being super-busy on the Executive front as we negotiated for a new venue and dealt with some membership turnover. Personally I have also had a rather insane last 6 months, with a lot of work travel and several management changes and I’m really looking forward to having a couple of weeks off work as well. The weather is getting hotter, and with all of the social and family events that happen at this time of year it’s useful to get those evenings back and to have a short respite from saying ‘I can’t, I have derby’.

That being said, the break doesn’t mean no skating and no derby family. The sudden influx of free time (since I normally train 10h/ 3-4 nights a week) means I’m more likely to go outdoor skating, something I have missed a lot since I started bouting and therefore training and travelling more. It’s also the season for BBQs and movie nights, and WFTDA have just released another rules update so it’s a good excuse for a rules party . Last summer over the break I made a WFTDA Rules drinking game to help us learn said rules, and practice drunkenly arguing with refs at the afterparty. It was a lot of fun, but 2 rules updates this year means I need to make an entirely new game if we want to do it again! (I also don’t recommend sitting next to the League’s head ref to play it, I got a lot of drinks that way. Unless that’s your goal for the game…)

Anyway, other than making a new version of the WFTDA Rules game, my goal for this summer is to get fitter and stronger. I’ve had a lot of injuries this year, most notably two separate triangular fibrocartilage complex tears (aka TFCC, both in my right wrist) which amounted to over 6 months in a brace, and a grade 2 tear from a sprained ankle which led to a week on crutches and 3 months on I’m only just getting the same strength back from before the accident (not there yet with flexibility, and the joint is still swollen). Add in a nasty case of the flu which knocked me around for a month after The Great Southern Slam in June and that’s almost the whole year spent broken. I still went to training as much as possible, and even around all the work travel I managed to scrape minimum attendance for the League (although not always for the team, though I tried), but I’ve really noticed the plateau in my performance. Yes, my skills have improved overall with more time on skates and more challenging training, but my fitness hasn’t kept up. My off-skates workouts have been pathetic to non-existent for most of the year other than my physio exercises (my main go-tos are weights or floor exercises, it’s hard to do either with a busted wrist or ankle), and it shows in my skating. I’m staring down the barrel of the 27-in-5 early next year and I desperately want to complete it. I have done it before, but that was before I did my wrist the second time and got the flu. The best I’ve managed since was 25.5, which was also only a few weeks after I’d busted my ankle which didn’t help either. So I know it’s achievable, I just need to get out there and do it! Kettlebells a couple of times a week, outdoor skating 1-2 times a week and some core and plyometrics work will set me on the right track, and if I can keep up the kettlebells once training starts up again in January all the better. Getting fitter will also reduce my chances of injury down the line, so that I don’t get stuck in another cycle of broken-so-I-can’t-exercise-so-I-break-myself-more again.

So, my derby goals for the summer (and the new year):

+Kettlebells 2-3 times a week (because they’re awesome!)

+Pass 27-in-5

+Skate the Western Basin of Lake Burley Griffin (my goal for this year was originally to skate the entire lake in one go, a distance of roughly 28km/ 17.5mi with a large number of hills, but that now seems unrealistic given my lack of fitness and outdoor skating. I’ve done the 5km Central Basin loop many times, so next up is the 16km West Basin!)

+Blog more regularly. It doesn’t have to be often, but I want to actually schedule this blog, make it less whim-based and get rid of those several-month-long gaps!

+Improve my rules knowledge

What are your big goals, and how do you intend to achieve them?

 

Edited to add: A few hours after I wrote this I saw my physio, and she gave my ankle the all-clear! I’ll still need to tape it for games or hiking, and keep up the exercises on a semi-regular basis to prevent further injuries, but overall it’s good enough that I don’t have any more appointments with her. Hooray!

Just derby things

It’s a long-standing joke in the derby community that we have a few traditions and quirks that, while normalized for us, may not be considered socially acceptable by others. Look up any ‘Sh!t Derby Girls Say’ video on youtube and you’ll find jokes aplenty about stinky pads, getting lower and finding more black/ white people. Cliche it may be, this observational-style humor strikes a chord with all of us simply because we know how ridiculous some of our behaviours and traditions are, which makes us love them even more. So, here are a few of the observations I have made over the last year or so that amused me, hopefully they’ll amuse you too. I present #justderbythings

bruises

perfume

tape

peas

Fighting through the layers of tights/ compression pants/ hotpants etc to have a nervous pee before a bout #justderbythings

Going through all the bout photos, only to realise you have derp-face in every single one #justderbythings

Finding the perfect bout photo, only to realise the flash made your pants see-through #justderbythings

Wearing hotpants/ leggings to social events because you came straight from training #justderbythings

And something that I know I say quite regularly:

cant

So have any of these happened to you? What amuses you about derby?

Lets talk gear

Good gear does not make you a good skater, but it does help you perform to your potential. Derby gear is also expensive (like most fun things!), so you should take care of it. You want it to last as long as possible, and be in the best condition so you can get the most out of it.

To this end, I regularly check my skates for wear. Boots and laces scuff and tear, toestops and wheel-nuts come loose over time, pivot cups crack, and in the worst case plates and trucks can bend or break. Plus there’s the grunge; hair wrapped around axles, dust in bearings, crap stuck to wheels. Regular skate maintenance will keep your gear at its best for longer, which means you can skate to your best ability, and not bleed cash all over the floor every time you take a hit.

First thing every skater should do is invest in a skate tool. I got a Powerdyne Y tool (see photos below), other people swear by elephant tools. Either way, it will allow you to adjust your kingpin and axle nuts, and your toestop nut if you have one. You should also change out your bushings/ cushions straight away, the ones that come with most stock skates are rubbish. The cushion is the little rubber bit that sits between your truck and your kingpin. Think of it as a spring, it compresses and allows your truck to move, which means your skate can turn without lifting your wheels. The ones that come with stocks skates are usually very hard which means that you feel nice and stable when you’re standing up, but you may as well be trying to turn a semi-trailer if you try to use your edges to turn! Cushions are less than $20 a set and the hardnesses can be mixed which makes it the quickest and easiest way to customize your skates.  I suggest you start with a medium hardness and once you’re stable and ready for more, try mixing soft and medium, then go down to entirely soft if you desire.

Once you’ve been skating for a while, you’ll need to clean your bearings. Depending on how clean your venue is (and how often your skate), you should do it every 3-6 months. You can’t really clean bearings ‘too often’ so don’t worry that you’re going to damage them! Otherwise, if you notice that your wheels aren’t spinning freely, or if you hear a grinding noise when you skate, then you’re due for a clean. There are heaps of tutorials out there so I won’t go through the whole process, but it really is simple. A bearing puller will make the process a whole lot faster and easier, but you can remove bearings from wheels using a screwdriver or something similar if need be. You’ll need a solvent (there are specialty ones on the market but I just use metho), a lubricant (again, plenty available but I just use sewing machine oil) and something such as a sewing pin to remove the bearing shields. Pop them all out, wipe them down, give your bearings a good shake in a jar of solvent, make sure they dry, give them a dab of lube and pop the shields back in place (note- if you bend or damage a shield, throw it away. Forcing a bent shield back into place will interfere with your roll and possibly damage the bearing. The shields are just to prevent dust, if you turn it around so the open side is facing inside the wheel it will have the same effect).

Here on the left you can see my grime-coated outdoor bearings and wheels as I was removing the shields (along with my Y-tool and bearing puller). On the right are shiny and clean bearings and wheels. The wheels I just wiped over with warm water and soap, if they’re super-coated then you can use a toothbrush or scourer to get the ick off.

Pulling bearings Shiny and clean

 

I also took my first foray into plate mounting. I was lucky enough to win a voucher for skate gear from Roller Derby Australia earlier this year, and immediately used it to upgrade my plate. When I first started I elected to get a good boot (Bont Hybrid) which came with a nylon plate. The fibreglass sole of the Bont compensated somewhat, but at my weight I had concerns about using a nylon plate, especially as I was starting to scrim and getting close to bouting level. After loads of research, I decided on SureGrip Avengers. The lightness of the magnesium gives me no advantage over the aluminum since I’m a giant who doesn’t sprint, but the mag was easier to acquire so that’s what I chose.  They arrived in the post on the same day as my Wizards of Aus shirt, so I was a very excited derbygirl.

 

New plates

I watched and read every tutorial I could find about mounting, measured, measured again, and panicked until I couldn’t put off drilling holes any longer. I elected for a sport mount- not as aggressive as a short forward, but still slightly in from the heel making you carry your weight forward as well as meaning closer axles for a smaller turning circle. Here you can see my marked centre line and where I wanted the front axle to sit, as well as the collection of nuts, bolts, trucks, stops and tools that appeared as I dismantled my old plates.

 

Mounting plates Plate mounting in progress

 

After much swearing from both myself and my husband, I had a newly mounted set of Bonts on Mag Avengers. They didn’t take too long to get used to. I fell on my butt a few times when I tried to rock back on my heels on the first day, but my lateral cuts are now much better and I no longer fear snapping my plate when doing agility and jumping drills. Not to waste the old nylon Pilot plate though, I bought a cheap pair of soccer boots, shaved off the cleats and mounted them for use as outdoor skates. Now I don’t have to change my wheels when I hit up the footpaths midweek, win-win! Because it’s a long, 10* plate it’s actually perfect for outdoors as it’s very stable. I just won’t be taking them to the skatepark any time soon!

  new mount Outdoor skates

Finally, the most simple thing you can do to look after your gear is to air it out between sessions. Don’t leave your gear bag in the car all week. Other than your mouthguard melting during summer (no really, it happens), and being a prime target for thieves, you should air your gear out whenever possible. The only thing worse than damp, sweaty pads, is putting on pads that are still damp several days later. And now they smell. Because your sweat and dead skin cells have created a bacteria wonderland that you’re now going to rub all over yourself (and teammates) for several hours multiple times a week. No thanks! The damp can also affect the leather and metal components of your skates over time, so when you get home from practice unzip that bag, pull out your skates, and let your pads dry! You should also wash them semi-regularly too, either every couple of months or when people complain about the smell: whichever comes first! You can do it by hand in a laundry tub, or put them in a delicates bag or pillowcase in your washing machine (do up all the velcro first!). A good slosh of vinegar will kill those pesky bacteria, as will a nice dose of UV if you dry them in the sunshine afterwards. Don’t make a habit of leaving your gear in the sun though, prolonged exposure will break down plastics and rubber which will make your pads much less padded.

If in doubt, get lower!

Almost 3 months since my last update, bad blogger! Some of you may remember me celebrating passing my Orange Star test in March, which mean that I was considered bout-ready and eligible for team selection in my league. It also meant an extra training night each week as there is a specific team session on Fridays. Anyhow, I attended one of these sessions and was promptly bedridden with the flu for a week. I’ve also had some major upheavals in my non-derby life, especially at work, which have all contributed to a lack of blogging.

So what have I been up to? Well…

  • I’ve been attending training on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays most weeks
  • I also go to Men’s team training on Thursdays when I can (they have invited some of the female Orange stars to attend and boost numbers for the time being, as it’s hard to run some drills with >10 people!)
  • We’ve had a new intake of Fresh Meat and I’ve been helping with their training on Sunday evenings
  • Saw my first live international derby game: Grave Danger from Seattle came out to Australia in April and I saw them play 2 games in Sydney and 1 in Canberra against SRDL and CRDL
  • Upgraded my skate plate and did a bunch of skate maintenance- I took photos, so there will be an entry about this eventually!
  • Reffed some scrim and NSO’d a WFTDA-sanctioned bout
  • Attended a bootcamp run by S2D2
  • Participated in an Open Scrim with my League (and my potluck team made me captain!)
  • Skated in a 2 day tournament with a potluck team (my first official bout! Plus 2 more!)
  • Helped organise another home bout
  • Skated in my first home bout as a DisHonour Roller, and won!
  • Watched some amazing derby in general, starting with the Mens Roller Derby World Cup in March and including yesterday’s 5×5 game between VDL and WIRD: we tied at 157 each and had to go to an overtime jam for tiebreaker! A powerjam against us saw WIRD win by just 4 points, it was a nailbiter.

To cap all this off, as of last week I am now the Vice President of my league. While I’m relatively new to derby still (10 months since I started Fresh Meat, so less than a year! Some times it feels like I’ve always been a derby girl, sometimes I feel like I’ve barely finished Freshies and how can anyone actually let me skate??), I’ve been involved with Committees and Not For Profits in various shapes and forms for close to a decade and have spent the last 8 months on subcommittees in the league already. Still, I appreciate the vote of confidence from my league, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Progress is as progress does

Today my everything hurts. I’m aching all over thanks to my fibromyalgia, but it’s the pain of victory and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yesterday, I successfully completed my Orange Star test, which in my league means that I am considered to be ’bouting level’, and I am now eligible for team selection for any of our public bouts. It also means I can now attend boot camps and open scrims with other leagues as I have passed the WFTDA minimum standards*. And best of all, I now get to attend the Super Secret (not really) team training sessions. So not only do I get more time on skates (always a plus in my mind) with an extra night’s training each week, the team training sessions are specifically designed to teach teamwork, strategy and plays. I am ridiculously excited about this. The little glimpses of progress I’ve experienced at scrim are only the beginning and I can’t wait to learn more about playing the game itself.

Testing itself went better than I thought it would.  We get three attempts on every item, and I only had to use all three twice. First was the 360 transition. which I can do perfectly fine in practice, but I overthought it and stumbled on the first one, then didn’t give myself enough recovery time before attempting the second so it wasn’t smooth either. I also ended up using three for obstacle avoidance. We test this by having the testee skate at the back of a pack of 8 skaters. On the trainer’s mark, the pack all go down and the testee needs to make their way around/ through/ over the downed skaters. For full marks, you need to show multiple methods of avoidance such as hops, jumps, using toestops and/ or stepping. I had done attempt number one and only shown stepping, so I was about to do attempt number two and I had shifted all my weight onto one foot to hop over someone, when a downed skater threw out an arm and hit my foot, which stopped dead. Suddenly I was still moving forward, and there were too many bodies and limbs on the floor to try and get my other foot back down and so I faceplanted into a pile of bodies and copped a skate to the boob. Ouch. Cue tears and wheezing as I tried to get my breath back, but thankfully everyone else was OK. I sat out for a couple of minutes and then completed the section successfully (hooray!). The hitting section went better than I had hoped, as one of our friendly merby boys (Thuggernaut) volunteered to be our test partner and I’ve trained with him a lot since we’re of a similar size and build. Due to track availability we had to to the fitness section last again which hurt a bit, but it’s done now and that’s all the matters. I was very please that I was still able to complete the push-ups section, it’s been 2 months since I last did push-ups or much upper body stuff at all thanks to the TFCC tear in my wrist.

After testing, I sat in on the last bit of ref training and discussed the rules updates released by WFTDA on the 1st, and then we had our usual training. By the time that was over, I was stuffed. My feet were cramping like they haven’t done in months (probably in part by my having spent 8h walking around an expo the day before), and I was feeling a bit shaky due to the combination of both physical and mental exhaustion after testing, so I decided it would be safer for me to opt out of scrim. Instead, I tried my hand at reffing which was interesting. I need to study my hand signals! I took an OPR (Outside Pack Ref) position, and once I figured out how handovers and sight-lines worked, it was fun. And I learnt a lot of about gameplay as well because I got to watch up close and from so many different angles, although most of the penalties I did spot I was too slow and someone else beat me to the call. Learning is fun! Now I just have out figure out how I can ref and play scrim at the same time, I want to do all the things!

 

*Clarification: A leaguemate reminded me that since we’re not a WFTDA league (we like having the boys around), our testing doesn’t 100% align with the WFTDA Minimum Skills. So while I have completed all the mins at various points, I haven’t actually been tested on a couple of facets such as the 27-in-5. Mostly because it takes so damn long to test in large groups :p

Of scrimmages and kings

So after I passed my Yellow Star and was approved for scrimmage back in January I promised an entry about scrim, but never delivered. Well I didn’t forget, I just didn’t have a whole lot to say up until now. The past month-ish I’ve felt a bit off my game, firstly because of the hot weather which rendered me incapable of skating, then I came down with a cold, and then a couple of weeks ago I finally lined up for scrim again only to twist my knee in the first jam. Thanks to all these factors, the times when I was on skates I felt rather disconnected and frustrated because I was having trouble making my body do what I could visualize and it felt like I wasn’t making any progress.

My first two scrims were a blur. I only got to play 2-3 jams in each and the first one definitely set the scene for me: standing on the track, feeling like a deer in the headlights, the whistle blows and then people are shoving and yelling and it was all I could do to not yell back ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!’. Drills have rules and objectives, being out on the track proper really highlighted, for me, how much I still had to learn about tactics and strategy. I didn’t know any of the hand-signals our Benchie was using, I didn’t know which jammers were likely to want assists and which preferred to break walls on their own, and I definitely didn’t know the names of any of the plays the vets were running! At one point I was passed the pivot panty and about crapped bricks because while I have no issue being loud or leading the group, I felt like I didn’t know enough to take charge! But I think I did OK, I asked the jammer what she wanted and then I kept my wall together.

This Sunday past though, things finally slotted into place. We only had 8 skaters a side for girls jams, and some of them were also doubling for co-ed jams so a lot of people were playing back to back, and it was a fast game. When we got a chance between jams, our side’s Captain explained some of the concepts behind the strategies she was calling which made it much easier to follow her on-track instructions because now we had context for our actions. So we tried running the pack (speeding up so the jammer has to work extra hard to lap you), breaking up the pack (hanging back until no pack is called and your jammer is let through, but you have to be careful not to get destruction of pack penalties), and of course just walling up and blocking. I managed to hit the opposing jammer out a few times which felt AMAZING, as well as generally slowing her down. Once I was on the inside line and she got by me while I was distracted by our jammer in distress, but I didn’t let it happen again. I even jammed, twice! I’m not very fast, but my size does allow me to push a wall pretty well (unless Jillie Pepper or some of the boys are on the other end, then I’m usually in trouble). The first time I put that panty on, I got lead jammer! The jam was called off almost immediately due to a downed skater so I didn’t have to do anything with it, but still… lead jammer😀 The second time it took almost a full lap for me to fight my way through the pack and the opposing jammer called it off before I could score, but it was definitely a learning experience which I enjoyed. I won’t be busting to jam every time, but now I’m not scared of sticking the panty on when it’s passed to me. And best of all, after the full 1.5h I was one of only a handful of skaters that hadn’t committed a single penalty! My first scrims I served box time for cuts and a false start, so that was a good feeling to know that I had stayed in bounds, hit legally and generally behaved myself.

In just a few short days I will be trying for my Orange Star which would rank me as ’bout ready’. Tonight’s training session covered most of the test thankfully so I’m feeling pretty good about it, now I just need to do it on the day! I’m getting together with my testing buddies for a super-not-secret training session on Friday night as prep because it’s really hard to practice blocking without a partner, or figure out why a move won’t work without an observer, so together we can do all these things. On the one hand I know I can do all the test items, on the other I don’t want to get my hopes up or count my chickens before they’ve hatched. So this week is going to be a delicate balance of confidence without getting cocky or getting upset if things don’t go perfectly on Sunday. 

Either way, Sunday will mean scrim, which will be extra-interesting as WFTDA released an update to the rules this morning, which include reducing penalties to 30 seconds and reducing the number of ways in which you can be called for a cut. The League hasn’t made an official decision if we will begin training with the new rules immediately, but it seems likely as we want as much time to adapt to the changes as possible before our next bout(s).

Bouts and scrims

Saturday Feb 15th was bout day! I was pretty pleased on a number of fronts, starting with the fact that I actually came up with the bout name! Our theme this year is Grimm’s fairy tales, and I pitched the Events Committee with ‘Snow Bite: Will YOU go into the woods?’. It was pretty awesome to see it turned into this amazing artwork and poster:

Snow Bite Feb 15th

I was helping coordinate the event again, and after a slow start I ended up with a great roster of Volunteers who helped the event run super smooth. A special shout-out goes to my long-suffering derby widow who showed up with me several hours before the event even started to help me move tables and yell at people, and then sat out on the foyer selling tickets for half the bout! I thankfully got to see most of the second half which was lucky, because the finish was nailbiting! We’ve played Blue Mountains a couple of times before and they trounced us last year, so it was pretty thrilling to be tied with only minutes to go and finally win by 20 points. Especially when we had 5 players playing their debut home bout, and one of them got to finish the night with the powerjam that won the bout for us! There’s more details on the official VDL page here.

While at the bout I also picked up these beauties which had just come in with a league group order. The scrim tank is reversible (white on one side, black on the other, with my name and number printed on both), and the armbands are heavy duty non-roll elastic with my number printed and sewn on. They’re actually really comfortable to wear, they’re made by Spank Alley who are one of my league’s fabulous sponsors this year.

Rabid scrim tank

I proudly wore them to training on Sunday, and of course I then took a bad fall in my first jam in scrim and twisted my knee *sigh* It’s not serious but it kept me out for the rest of the session.

But at least that was the second half of the session. Because it was the day after a bout, we had a shorter all-league training session first. Because of lucky coincidence, we had a guest trainer for the day. Copter was one of the original members of VDL, he’s since moved to Brisbane and now skates for Brisbane City Rollers’ men’s team The Scartel. He’s also been chosen for Team Australia and will be competing in the first ever Men”s Roller Derby World Cup in Birmingham next month as part of the Wizards of Aus. You can donate to the team’s travel costs here if you’re interested.

Anyhow, Copter took us through a great session on transitions and backwards skating. This is the second time Copter has guest-coached us and for all its brevity and mixed-levels  it was a fantastic session. We worked on doing transitions in multiple directions at speed, on skating and stopping backwards, on using transitions for blocking and finally having a partner guide you and control your speed while you were travelling backwards (it’s the most bizarre feeling, especially when trying to corner!). Copter is an absolute sweetheart who hits like a truck and it was a pleasure to train with him again, if you get the chance I highly recommend it! You can also become a fan on Facebook, just search for ‘Copter #173’. He joined our boys for scrim as well and they had a fantastic match.