I am not a summer person

Today, being a Sunday, I went to training. I was pretty excited, because earlier this week it was announced that instead of having 2h of drills and 1h of scrim, we were going to split the time evenly from now on. Our league has grown so much over the past year, especially since we now have enough boys to have male scrim as well, that 1 hour simply wasn’t enough times for people to get more than a handful of jams each (I know I skated in only 3 or 4 last time). While it does cut into our Advanced Training time, scrim teaches us tactics, strategy and rules, as well as letting us put drills into practice.

Unfortunately, today was also 38*C for the entirely of training and scrim (over 100*F) and I don’t handle the heat well. I did the on-skates warm-up, then sat out on the first drill because I felt a bit off. Did the second drill (a variant on a weaving pace line, using whips and circling each skater), and I had to sit out again. It took me 45 minutes to cool down to a point where I no longer felt dizzy, by which point training was almost over and I knew I jumped back in it would just happen all over again anyway. I briefly considered scrimming (since the longest you’re on the track is usually 2 minutes at a time), but the heat has also been playing havoc with my fibromyalgia so I geared down and took the chance to NSO again. I was pretty sad to miss out on so much skate time as well as scrim, but I have also missed NSOing the last month since I qualified to actually scrim myself, so I tried to just enjoy it while I could.

We’re supposed to cool down midweek so hopefully Tuesday training will be more successful for me, although temperatures are forecast to rise again in time for next weekend :/


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…

Brace yourselves, Christmas is coming

For our final all-league session, we started a little differently: we warmed up with a few laps and then practiced stops, but with our skates untied. Doing crossovers was nervewracking for most, but it was one of the few times I was glad to have giant feet (more to stay in the boot!). I didn’t notice too much difference when doing plow and T stops, but when Red Hot Jillie Pepper had us all try hockey stops I felt a bit unstable. I tried them again once we laced up properly, it was much more comfortable but I don’t have the motion down yet (got 1 proper one out of 5 attempts, the rest were more like powerslides or C stops). For the rest of the session we worked on agility, especially lateral cuts and transitions. By the end we were doing multiple 180 turns, and I even managed a couple of 360’s before I got too dizzy (I’m too used to using tight turns as stops, so I need to work on being able to transition without slowing down/ stopping so much now). This was particularly useful given that smooth transitions in both directions were on the Yellow Star test in 5 days’ time.

Sunday was Testing and our Xmas break-up bbq. Unfortunately I didn’t quite pass my Yellow Star, but I was so damn close. At least it means I can retest just on the one bit I couldn’t do after we come back from Xmas break, instead of having to do the entire test again.

The one skill I was really worried about was balancing on one foot (on skates) for 30 seconds. Minimal roll is allowed, you’re supposed to stand still and by the holy Flying Spaghetti Monster it’s hard! I’ve been practicing at home and I could do a full minute here, but my kitchen floor has a touch more give in it than the wooden basketball court we practice on. I did briefly consider being a smart-arse and asking to do it on the carpeted section out the front of the hall (since the test doesn’t specify the surface you have to do it on), but it would have simply been me being a dick so I decided against it.

Anyway, we all lined up and did the various balancing skills: shuffle, quick feet, grapevine, and then it was time. I did my left foot first, and overbalanced about 10sec in. Then tried my right and I didn’t even make it that long. Jillie called out the halfway point and asked me why I was just standing there. I replied ‘Well I have to start again right?’ and she just looked at me and said ‘you can still practice right?’ Duh, too wrapped up in my own failure. We did a third one and a few of the others joined me for a retry and this time I managed the full 30 seconds on my left foot, hooray! Then I had to redo my right. Everyone else had completed it so it was just me, standing inside a circle of skaters, grimacing at a point on the wall as I flailed and wobbled and when my left foot slammed down just a split second after Jillie called time I couldn’t help it and I actually teared up with relief while everyone hugged and congratulated me.

Everything else went pretty smoothly. I got 5.5 laps for the 5-in-1 (and the floor was really slippery so I had trouble pushing around corners!) and one of the observers complimented my stride. My transitions on both sides were good (although it did take me a couple of attempts to make it smooth as we were doing it in limited space), my jumps weren’t perfect but they were good enough to pass, and we did the fastest pace-line I have ever participated in which was kind of amazing for weaving through.

This time we did the fitness component at the end, so we had been skating for a good 90 minutes before doing planks, push-ups, wall-sits and static squats. This is where I ran into difficulty, I just couldn’t get the sit-ups. There are a variety of excuses; I was tired, I thought it was crunches –or- sit-ups so I have only trained for crunches because they’re better for my back, I was being marked by a skater I haven’t trained with offskates before so she has some different ideas of about form to me (I had to redo my plank as well because she didn’t like the way I had my feet)… but in the end it comes down to my own lack of preparation and fitness; it was a fitness test and I didn’t have it. However, since it’s the only part I did not complete, I can retest on just the sit-ups after we come back from break. This means I have 6 weeks to train for 20 sit-ups and then I will be able to scrim. Hooray!

In some ways it’s actually a good thing, as it’s an added motivation to keep my fitness up over the Christmas break. Between the heat, the food and the lack of routine when on holidays, I find time seems to slip away and it’s suddenly been days or even a week between workouts. Instead, this year I’m looking at starting the 100 Push-Up and 200 Sit-Up Challenges, as well as some kettlebell sessions and hopefully some outdoor skating if it’s not too hot. And since there are a whole 3 weekends without derby training to fill the hours, I’m thinking it’s time for some derby socialising instead: BBQ, drinks and derby rules quizzes!

Coming to the pointy end of the year

So earlier this week I found out that my mum has been reading my blog. Hi mum!

In the ongoing saga of my foot pain, I have wasted a bunch of money trying various kinds of inserts that didn’t really work. I found one that was useful for outdoor skating, but once I got to derby (skating around and around in a circle really is more fun than it sounds, promise!) I had to take them out after about 10 minutes because it was starting to hurt too much. I have however found some success with sports tape. I tape up my arch, put one loop over the top of my foot, and extend to my heel/ ankle if I need to. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it does help enough that I’m going to continue using it, despite the PITA that is tape residue and the pain of removing bits of skin and hair every time I have to take it off afterwards. I now need to buy more tape. And possibly more socks, as now any socks worn for derby are also getting filled with sticky tape residue.

I did a definite 5-in-1 last weekend. We did a 10-in-2 and this time I made sure to count properly. When they called 1 minute I was at 5.3, and in 2 minutes I hit 10.5 laps. I was so ridiculously happy with this result. I spent the 2 minutes just concentrating on my stride, one foot in front of the other, push around the corners and it paid off. I’m faster than I think I am! I have to admit I was getting very frustrated with the fact that I was consistently missing out by 1m every time when the whistle blew 1 minute, but now my crossovers are much smoother, my skills have improved so I no longer slide around corners, and my endurance has improved as well. I’m not a sprinter, but I can apparently hold my top speed for the full 5 minutes of the 27-in-5 which to me is far more valuable. I was overheated and puffed when I finished my laps, but I recovered fairly quickly and was ready for the next drill.

That being said, I am having some troubles with the weather. It’s now officially summer, and our practice area is essentially a big tin shed. It has a couple of louvers and a side door for some crossbreeze (if available), and a fan in the roof (but if it’s on you can’t hear people talking unless they yell), but for the most part it is hot and still and gets pretty stuffy pretty quickly, especially on all-league nights when there are 40+ skaters trying to make the most of their track time. I am a winter person and don’t deal with the heat well; exercising in a hot still room is my idea of torture, so I actually like having big groups where we have to wait for turns between drills (particularly when I can sit down and take my helmet off for a couple of minutes). I’m rather dreading January/ start of Feb when it will be properly hot (high 30’s to 40ish *C). But at least Canberra isn’t particularly humid, that would probably kill me.

There is just over a week left of our 11 month season. One more Sunday and Tuesday session, then testing and a break-up BBQ the following Sunday. I will be going for Yellow Star and I have my fingers, toes, legs and everything else crossed. I have applied to the Training Committee for permission to do push-ups/ planks on my knees again, it should be OK since I have a precedent from I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch blah blah blah. I’m relatively confident, there are just a couple of ones that I really need to hope for some good luck. My transitions are still a bit one sided (I can do them in both directions, but when I need to do right turn/ left foot I have to slow down and think about it, if I’m on autopilot I always go left turn), and I’m having some trouble with the balancing component. I can do a one-foot glide for 30 seconds, but apparently I can’t stand still on one foot for that long. Or at least, not on skates on a hard floor. But I’m building up. I can do it in shoes or in skates on carpet, and I’ve been practicing in breaks between drills etc and I’m getting better and better. I just hope that I’m ready in time for next weekend. The rest of them, well, it’s pretty easy to balls up taking/ receiving a hit, or go down after a wheel clip, but I know I can recover from all these things, I just have to hope I can do it when it counts.

I am looking forward to the Xmas break, but I am also sad that I will have a whole month of no training. I intend to combat my derby withdrawals with a liberal application of outdoor skating, but it’s not the same. It does also amuse/ terrify me that potentially a whole bunch of us will grade up the Yellow Star next weekend, which means that we are ‘scrim-ready’, and then have a month off between then and our first scrim. Of course, being approved to scrim doesn’t mean you HAVE to scrim, but I know some personality-types who are unable to say no to such an opportunity.

Lessons learned (there’s always another one)

So there have been 5 training sessions since my last update, but thanks to some computer issues I have lost all of my carefully-typed notes from each of them. Oh well, it’s about time I started speaking both more generally and more specifically anyway.

I’ve been having a lot of issues with foot pain, most notably arch pain when I skate. Things like crossovers, plow stops, toestop work and juking/ jumping bring it on much more quickly than anything else. My feet are always sore after training, but it’s usually bearable for the most part. A couple of Sundays ago, for some reason within 15 minutes of having my skates on my feet were cramping and screaming like I had done a 4h marathon and I ended up having to sit out most of the session (I kept trying to participate in the drills that didn’t involve jumping, juking or toestops because I’m a stubborn bitch, but it would invariably end with me sitting down for the next 5 minutes trying not to cry too much so I eventually geared down and watched for the last bit). I skipped the following Tuesday all-league training because my feet still hurt and I just felt generally exhausted and sore. I already use double laces, which is the most common solution for foot pain (ie. one loose lace across the ball of my foot and the arch, and a second lace for the top 2 holes so I can tension it and ensure my heel doesn’t slip). So now I am on a mission to solve this issue before it gets any worse or potentially turns into something serious. If I can’t spend long periods of skates then that will affect my endurance training, if I can’t do juking or toestops then that will affect my skill progression, and I don’t like the idea of either of those things! First step is i have bought a variety of orthotic and arch support inserts and I am trying them one by one for different lengths of time doing different things. I am trying to go outdoor skating once a week so I can get extra time on wheels, and so I am trying them there so it doesn’t impact on my regular training (since the first insert I tried actually made it worse and had to be taken out almost immediately, I don’t want to be cutting in and out of drill to adjust my skates constantly when I can just go down to the lake and entertain myself on a different day).

What probably didn’t help is that I had forgotten to change over my wheels on that particular Sunday. I had met Demo for a quick spin at the lake on the Saturday and left my outdoor wheels on, and went ‘bugger it, I normally slide on corners anyway so I’ll just see how I go on outdoors today’. I haven’t skated indoor on outdoors since my first week at boot camp! It’s true I didn’t slip on corners, but the extra effort required to get any speed or stop correctly would have been one of the triggers for my foot pain. I also tried the 5-in-1 and lost half a lap (got 4.5, normally 4.95)). True, I was tired and in pain, but that’s true for 80% of the time I’ve done 5-in-1’s anyway.

The new Yellow Star test has been approved by the VDL training committee, and they have made a special testing date for us right before the League shuts down over Christmas so we don’t have to wait until the end of the next training cycle in Feb/ March to test again if we feel ready now. The new test has a very similar fitness component to the White Star test we did last month, but is a step up on skills. There are a couple of points I really need to work on (balancing on one foot on skates without rolling and the 5-in-1 being the main two I have not yet accomplished), but I feel fairly confident otherwise. I’m going to ask Training Committee for the push-up exemption again though, as I am still completely unable to even hold a push-up position on my toes. Fingers crossed! Testing is on Dec 15, followed by the Xmas break-up party, which means we have 4 weeks to go. It sounds more scary when you realise that that actually means we only have 2 White Star training sessions to focus on the test skills, because this weekend is a bout weekend so this Sunday training is a free skate and Sunday 15th is testing only.

But I can end this entry on a high note. Despite the fact that I have not officially completed a 5-in-1 yet (I’m always just that meter short when the whistle blows), last night at League we did the 27-in-5. It hurt like a bitch, but I was able to maintain a constant speed for the entire 5 minutes and managed to scrape in 28 laps! I was stuffed afterwards, but I was so happy! I put this down to two things: 1) it was pissing down rain, and the humidity makes the floor sticky so I was able to crossover through corners (and in fact around the whole track!) without slipping, and 2) the 5-in-1 is a sprint so the speed of your take-off is critical, whereas the 27-in-5 it’s about being able to build and maintain speed for the whole period of time. I’m also pretty sure I did actually make 5 laps when she called 1 minute, but since I was concentrating more on not running into people and staying in bounds instead of counting, I can’t swear to be 100% on that.

Tuesday week 10

Tonight was my second time at all-league training, which again had 50-odd people turn up.

I arrived to see everyone gearing up (I had thought I was still 5 minutes early… oh well!) so I got on skates and warmed-up with laps. We then assembled and the new Whites Stars got called up one by one to receive their (silver) star stickers on their helmets. HOORAY!!!

Tonight’s focus was stops and recovery (ie. keeping your balance). First drill was “Partner up with ‘someone you haven’t skated with before/ isn’t your level” to do some stopping practice. Jillie demonstrated all the different stops for us (so many!!! Half of which I hadn’t heard of before and most of them required transitions), and I paired with Afro Violet. We talked a bit and I attempted some C and Tomahawk stops, but it was hard with so many people on the track constantly stopping and starting so I often just defaulted to a plow. We then split up into small teams and did a relay across the gym; sprint to halfway, stop (any stop), sprint to end, stop, knee fall/ tap and sprint back to the beginning to tag the next person. The first time I just did plow stops, the second I tried a C/ hockey stop but I fell over on the first one :/ Stayed upright on the second but it was messy.

Next drill was blocking/ recycling in pairs. I teamed up with one of the roller soccer guys and we took turns knocking each other out of bounds then skating backwards to force them to re-enter the track further back. I’m getting better at blocking, especially just getting in the way and leaning on people, but I’m not very fast or agile at the recycling part. I got in a few good hits and blocks, but my partner was much faster on the recycle than I was. Like everything else; MORE PRACTICE! After that we practiced hopping over the line on the whistle (in bounds, out of bounds, in bounds!) which we probably should have done first but oh well.

We did another relay drill, back in same teams to make it quicker. We had two people acting as markers at 1/3 and 2/3 of the way across the gym. Skate up to overtake one, oh no your outside foot has crossed the track line and is out of bounds! Lift inside foot to go completely out, recycle and repeat on second person. It was interesting, but also confusing because we had too many people to actually do it on the track which mean there were no actual lines on the ground to work with.

We had a game of Assholes and Angels with a handful of Assholes for the big groups, including myself. I always forget that I can shove/ do things that are outside rules of play in this game, so I wasn’t a particularly effective Asshole the first time around. But I ended up with the panty again in the second half of the game and it was on. Lots of fun, and I only fell over once (when I was not being an Asshole, T-Ref laid a big push on me at the same time as I was hit by two other people, one pushing in the opposite direction and the other already falling and they took out my legs).

Since we already had panties on we then played a team version of Queen of the Rink, Panties vs None. I got out about halfway through in the first game (but I had already knocked out a couple of people so I was happy), and for the second game I got called on a cut when I was too busy trying to recover my balance after taking a hit to look where I was going. None won the first round and Panties won the second so hooray!

Next up was blocking and walls. Groups of 5; wall of 3 in front, wall of 2 behind. We skated two laps, the front wall controled speed and movement, the second wall copied and followed while keeping in close. Unfortunately as my group came back in to line up for another go, /er stacked it while stopping (hit the join in the floor badly) and twisted her ankle 😦

Last drill of the night was the Gauntlet. Half a dozen or so people stand between the Jammer and Pivot line, and everyone else skates laps and then jukes between them. Depending on level of difficulty the blockers can have their feet stuck to the floor, use or not use their arms as obstacles, or can move within the designated area. I skated a few laps which was fun, then swapped out with someone as a blocker and got to lean, hit and generally make life difficult for people. I liked that much more 😀

No Lurby tonight, but we did have a few announcements from the team captain Beverley Bonecrusher with thanks yous for everyone who helped run the bout, and announcements for best Blocker, Jammer and MVP from the game.