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!


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.

The wonders of incidental exercise

Let me tell you a secret. I hate working out.

Yeah OK, that’s not much of a secret. And to contradict it, I actually quite enjoy exercise. I just find it difficult to stick to a proper routine, which is one of the reasons derby has been very useful for me: someone else has set the routine, I just have to show up (and my overdeveloped sense of responsibility means that I DO show up, including a couple of times when I probably shouldn’t have due to illness or injury). Unfortunately the fact that I skate 2-3 times a week has made it much easier to make excuses about doing off-skates work outs when I have been sick, or tired, or it’s been too hot, or my knee/ wrist/ other has been playing up. After 6 months, I have reached the point where I am holding myself back: derby has done wonders for my fitness so far, but if I work more on my off skates fitness I know I will improve my on-track performance much faster (and better prevent the unequal development that comes from only ever skating hard and turning left).

One of the best things I have done is developed the habit of incidental exercise. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is put the kettle on and shuffle to the bathroom. But while I wait for the coffee to brew, I try and do at least 20 sit-ups or push-ups. Like so many people these days, I spend most of my day slumped in front of a computer. Other than getting up regularly to make cups of tea or fill my water bottle, I try and keep moving whenever I can. My posture is pretty crap, so I try and remember to engage my core and sit up straight. Under my desk, I do ankle exercises (either rolling a ball around with my foot, clenching my toes, or holding my foot up in the air and tracing out the letters of the alphabet). When I go to the bathroom, I do 10 squats or lunges before I head back to my desk. When I’m waiting for the printer, I do 1-foot calf raises. When I microwave my lunch, I do wall-sits (with added bonus that the microwave is a timer!). Unfortunately my current workplace doesn’t have anywhere I can do floor exercises, otherwise I would do crunches, push-ups and planks as well because they’re the sort of thing that benefits more from being done for a short period of time multiple time a day than for a long period of time 3 times a week.

This exercise ‘routine’ meant that I lost surprisingly little condition over the month break which pleased me. As of today, I have started riding my bicycle to work again, and tomorrow I will start doing kettlebells as soon as I get home since I will still be in my cycling gear (when I was busing/ driving, I’d get home and be starving and getting changed was just too much effort compared to shoveling food in my face). Tonight is a derby night so I skipped the kettlebells this afternoon. Skating outdoors, especially up hills, is also different to what we normally do in drills which is great.

So have a think about how you can work exercise into your daily life, even if you don’t have time for a full workout. While it’s no replacement for regular cardio if you’re wanting to develop heart-lung fitness, every bit counts!

Break? What break?

Training started up again a couple of weeks ago on the 12th. I rocked up, banged out my 20 sit-ups once the appropriate member of the Training Committee arrived, and boom I was a Yellow Star. I geared up with the other new Yellows and we attended the Advanced Training session and had our first scrim. It was exciting and a little scary, but I will talk more about that later.

Over the break, I tried to get as much time on skates as I could (between work, family commitments and the weather). We started the week of Xmas with a bunch of us meeting at the local uni’s sports complex for a roll around. The floor there is much nicer and better cared for than our usual training nevue, and this time I didn’t find it as slippery as I did the 1st time I skated there a few months previously (one of the benefits of practice and improving!). We had 15 or 20 people, but being a loose collective of VDL, CRDL and social skaters we were all sort of doing our own thing instead of practicing any drills or playing games. Skating in circles does kinda wear thin after a couple of hours. But I worked on my transitions and chased Jamme and Doc’s small children around and had a good chat with folks so yay 🙂

skating at ANU

I also had a number of trips outdoors. Down the lake of course, but I also discovered the awesomeness that is the Mt Stromlo Criterion. It’s a super-smooth asphalt track  with a gentle incline in a 1.2km loop build for cycling. The slope isn’t very steep, but it’s a couple of hundred meters long (each ‘end’ is raised and it dips in the middle) so it’s great for endurance as well as practicing plow stops or lateral cuts on the downslope. I managed to do a loop in 4:26 (works out to an average speed of 16km/h or 24-in-5) so next time I go back I’m going to trial Runkeeper or similar to see what my speed is going downhill (I got speed wobbles!) and to track progress as I practice and build up my endurance (skating uphill and into the wind is a serious slog!). It also has a nice square bit in the middle about the right size for a derby track to practice crossovers on the flat(tish).


I actually had another skate at the lake only yesterday and discovered a taste of what autumn holds for skaters. Good juking/ footwork practice!


This weekend I will unfortunately miss practice, but it’s OK because it’s in the name of derby! There’s a friendly on in Woolongong which a bunch of VDL players have signed up for. 1 day. 5 bouts ( 90min 3-period co-ed game / full length women-only / 5-on-5-for-5 all-male demo bout / full length Tall vs Tough coed game /20 min reverse direction mini-bout), and a mix of players from both Canberra and a number of Sydney/ NSW leagues forming draw teams. Because so many of our skaters are participating in the friendly, scrim won’t be on this week anyway. So instead, I will watch a buttload of derby and learn as much as I can! And I might go for another outdoor skate since it’s a long weekend…

Once around and back again

VDL new recruits at the Carillon 19Oct2013

VDL new recruits at the Carillon 19Oct2013

On Saturday we met up for another Bridge-to-Bridge skate. This time I organised it- after missing the previous Sunday I wanted to get some extra skating time in, and I also thought that genetle, low-impact exercise was the best thing to help my knee heal. I out a shout-out on Facebook and soon enough I had offers of company from (lr-) Joebotron, Thuggernaut, Space Cadet, Sap’er and Jamme Slamister. We met up at 10am and were soon underway!

It was a beautiful clear day, warm without being hot, and there was some sort of bicycle event on by the lake as well so it was busy without being too congested. We didn’t get particularly fast as we wanted to stay together as a group and also all the other foot traffic, but we managed the 5.2km loop in about 45 minutes, including the hills and the road crossing. Once we got back to the carpark we just kept talking and chatting and after about 10 minutes went- hey, none of us are in a hurry to get home, lets do it again! Jamme had to head off for family commitments, but the 5 of us went for another lap which we completed in about 35 minutes this time since people were now more comfortable with the terrain and being outdoors. I was pleased how well my knee handled it, although I did have to plead for a 5 minute break in the final 3rd of the 2nd lap as the joint was starting to ache.  We had a couple of interesting stacks from Joe and Slap’er coming down one of the inclines, but other than a bit of grazing they were fine.