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.

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Sunday Week 4

I missed Friday bootcamp this week thanks to other commitments. It made me quite sad (I do believe I have started to develop an actual addiction to derby, at the moment training is on Friday and Sunday, so by the time I get to the following Thursday I’m suffering withdrawal!), but I diluted the effects by spending Sunday morning working on my gear. I purchased a set of 8 Sure Grip Zombies in 92a so I changed out my wheels and bearings. The 92a Zombies have a black anodised aluminium hub with black urethane, which to my inexperienced  fingertips already feels like a much higher quality wheel than the Atom Snaps did. I also checked over my pads and trimmed some loose threads from my wrist guards, and put fresh hockey tape on all my pads so the plastic shells don’t scratch the floors. I’ve only been skating for a month but I had worn through the 2-3 layers in some spots on the knee pads (which I guess shows how many knee falls I’ve been practicing, and how much more natural it is for me to drop my right knee than my left as it had more wear). I also caved and taped up the heel and toe areas of my skate boots. It felt like blasphemy to do that to my beautiful leather Bonts, but despite the toe protectors they had started to scuff, so I’d rather have tape than tears!

I arrived in time to NSO scrim again, this time I did line-up tracking. This meant making notes on who took the track each jam, who was jammer or pivot (and blockers of course), how many laps the jammer completed, and if people served penalties. It was especially exciting as the League had spent the afternoon doing skills testing, so a number of the White Stars we had been drilling with on Sunday nights had won their Yellow Star, and were participating in scrim for the first time!

Fang was away tonight, so Wicked ran our training. Because so many of the White Stars had tested up, we were a much smaller group than usual, with only a few of the White Stars and Old Meat still there to help us drill.

Warm up was laps, lunges and planks, then gear up! Somehow I had my gear on well before anyone else, so I got to try some laps on the new wheels all by myself for a couple of minutes before others started to join me. The Zombies are a mid-width wheel at 38mm which makes me feel much less clunky on the track as they don’t stick out from under my feet as much. Less width means less grip on turns (as there is less contact with the floor), but it also reduces the chance of wheel clipping in a pack and makes them slightly lighter (not that weight is an issue for me), and the metal hub means more power in your stride as it doesn’t flex and lose energy like nylon can. I really like them. It took a little bit of practice to get them to bite in a plow stop and so on, but overall it was a much quicker adjustment than I had when I first switched to outdoor to indoor wheels and cornering felt like running on polished wood in socks. The wheels cost me $160 plus postage but they’re definitely a successful purchase. I had less luck with the other part of my shopping spree: I also bought some Derby Skinz so I would have skating clothes that aren’t my bike pants (complete with padded bum), however despite the legs fitting perfectly I spent the entire night hiking them as they wanted to sit well below my hips and show everyone my knickers (so glad I wore a long top that night!). The high-waisted hotpants fitted better (although I’m still a little terrified that I now OWN hotpants), so I am now dithering whether to sell the leggings on and try a different size, or just add elastic to the waistband to make them stay up.

Then it was time for drills. Apparently I missed jumping on Friday night, so I don’t know what derby secrets Fang passed on but it seemed simple enough to me. We skated around the track and jumped on the whistle. I tried to time my jumps so I was always clearing a line on the basketball court, just so I had a marker to ensure I was actually lifting my skates completely off the ground and hopefully covering some distance too. Next up was duckfoot and toestop running. Both of these are techniques used to gain maximum speed in minimum distance, such as when taking off from the jammer line. Toestop running can only be used from a standing start, but it is also very effective for pushing against walls. Duck-foot running can be used from a standstill or when you’re already moving and want to pick up speed. For duckfeet, you turn your feet outwards and sprint forwards while digging in the inside edges of your skates, so all of your power translates into forward momentum rather than roll. You only want to do it for about 6 steps and then you move into skate stride, but that will take you up the straightaway and then you can skate around the apex. For toestop running, the same applies. Leaning forward, you sprint on your toestops for 5-6 steps, then move into a skate stride. You need to ensure the toestop hits the ground first, if your front wheel makes contact first then you’ll lose your footing. I find running on toestops really awkward so I find it hard to build up speed (I can walk on toestops, just not run), but I took to duckfeet like, well, a duck to water.

The next stop was to toestop/ duckfeet run from the jammer line to halfway up the straight, then stop before the No Return line (it could be any stop we felt comfortable doing, but it was supposed to be a stop not a fall). T-Ref, being the masochist he is, stood in the middle of the line so we definitely knew where it was. We did it in groups of 3 and I was at the front of the pack in the center. So being the sadist I am, I didn’t hold back. I sprinted as fast as I could to the halfway point, then threw myself into a plow stop….. and slid into T-Ref and knocked him over in front of everyone. Oops. But the next 4 or 5 turns I had, I took the center and stopped before the line (and T-Ref) every time. .

Apparently I also missed transitions and backwards skating on Friday. Transitions are when you move from skating forwards to skating backwards, or rather you continue moving in the same direction but change the direction in which you are facing. I’ve been using a transition/ turn as a stop during drills for a while now (ie. when we’re doing drills that require skating backwards and forwards across the gym rather than along the track, I will plow or T to slow myself, then as the last minute I will spin into a stop so I finish facing the right way for the next drill) so that wasn’t too scary at slow speeds, however skating backwards in a circle surrounded by people was a new experience. I don’t have the balance right for backwards skating yet so I was a bit stop-and-go, and it turns out skating backwards uses completely different muscles (it killed my calves, rather than power coming from my thighs), and my neck ached from trying to look over my shoulder the whole time so I wouldn’t run into anyone. I did find it interesting I found it easier to skate around the apex than along the straights.

To practice stopping and control we played a variant of What’s the Time Mr Wolf. We all lined up alone one end of the gym, and one person stood up the far end. When their back was turned we had to skate towards them, but when they turned around if they saw anyone moving they could send that person back to the start. I got close a few times (the first time, I managed to tag the Wolf, but my hand landed a spilt-second after Jamme tagged him). I won the last game because the girl who was the Wolf was only turning for a few seconds at a time, so after I got fairly close I started just stepping. This meant I was able to gain ground without rolling, so I could ‘freeze’ every time the Wolf turned around.

We practiced hitting (shoulder and hip checks) again in a kneeling position. I’m guessing it’s to get us used to hitting legal target zones, as well as to take a hit (and getting bruises) ourselves. It’s fun, but the balance dynamics on knees are very different to standing, let alone on skates so I am looking forward to taking the next step there.

Then it was time to stand up and get skating again. We practiced walls and waterfalls; skating in formation and then having the inside person peel off to the outside while the wall moves up to hold the inside line. We finished off the night with a game of Stuck in the Mud. I started with the panty and pushed myself hard to tag as many people as I could, so much fun.

I also received lurby from my Waterfall team and my hitting partner, a great end to the night.

Boot camp week 2

Fridays and Sunday nights are quickly becoming my favourite parts of the week. Once again we warmed up and started on the single basketball court while the Rep team used the track. Warm up consisted of laps, lunges, a  30sec wall-sit, a 30sec plank, and then we practiced derby stance by holding a squat over a chair; you had to ‘sit’ low enough in stance to just hover above the seat without actually touching it. I made the guy next to me laugh by grumbling about hobbit-chairs, but I did it, although my thighs then needed some time to recover afterwards!

Then we got to learn some new drills, hooray! The first one was called ‘If You Can Dodge a Wrench’ and was designed for agility and fast feet. In a small group, you form a circle (3-4m across) with one person in the center. The outside people then take turns trying to hit the person in the middle with a ball (or, for extra motivation, a wadded-up stinky scrim shirt) while the person in the circle tries to juke, weave and shuffle out of the way without falling over or skating out of the circle. We didn’t have a ball so we used the small cones marking out our temporary track. You’re only supposed to use 1 ball (or cone), but we got a bit excited and ended up picking up nearby leftover cones and ended up with 5 or so at one point, which was entertaining but mostly just proved our inability to throw with any sort of accuracy rather than the agility of the people in the circle. Still, highly entertaining and only a couple of falls as everyone took a turn!

Second new drill was for endurance titled Hurry Up Bitch. The idea is that you partner up; one person skates laps while the other does some sort of exercise i the middle of the track. The sooner they finish their laps, the sooner you get to stop doing whatever the exercise is (and you swap over), hence the title. Normally it’s done with a set number of laps (20, 10, 5), but ince we’re Freshies ranging from complete beginner to ‘OK’, we went by time instead. First, 30 seconds of laps/ planking, then 1 minutes of laps/ push-ups, then 1 minutes of laps/ hip raises. The hip raise was interesting, especially with a few kilos of skate attached to your feet: you lie on your back, legs straight up in the air, and use your lower abdominal to lift your hips/ butt off the group without swinging your legs.

I am also pleased to report that my ability to slalom was not a complete fluke, and I was able to repeat it easily as we did laps. I need to build up the muscle to allow me to do it for longer periods of time, but that’s true of pretty much everything related to derby. Finally, we all got numbered and took turns practicing our ‘pivot voices’ as we skated laps. It was interesting, we called in various orders (forwards, backwards, evens, odds etc) and so because people were concentrating on listening for their turn instead of worrying what their feet were doing, everyone actually sped up and we had no falls.

Finally the track was clear so we started practicing crossovers. Fang, Wicked and T-Ref gave us a great demo about what the upper body should be doing (inside shoulder drops, outside shoulder comes forward, chest turns inwards and you look past the corner a full 90*) which gave me a breakthrough moment. While concentrating on my upper body I did a full lap of the track with perfect crossovers, and then immediately went ‘Holy shit I did a crossover!’, overthought it on the next apex and stacked it in right front of the rep team who were packing up their stuff *facepalm* Fail. Bright side though, I fell in a baseball slide which we haven’t actually been taught yet (?). Thank you Youtube tutorials.

We finished the evening with a game of Hotdog Tag. We had two people as ‘It’, and when tagged you do a knee fall (when safe) and lie on the track face-down until two more people join you as your ‘bun’ to set you free. Lots of fun and a great way to practice knee falls, obstacle avoidance and getting up quickly. I was pretty tired by this point so some of my falls were a bit messy (spinning around or falling forward), but I didn’t actually run into anyway which is always a plus. I had someone skid into me while doing a knee fall and they tripped and landed fully on top of me, which thankfully we just hilarious rather than painful. Final warm-down was laps anti-derby which, after 2 hours of training in the right direction, just felt so weird.