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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Testing time

In case any of you are hanging in suspense, I won’t wait- I passed!!!  The Varsity White Star test criteria is here, and as of tomorrow night I will had a stylish sticker on my helmet to prove it.

Because it was the day immediately after a bout, normal Sunday training was cancelled, and instead we had the end-of-bootcamp White Star test. We did some warm-ups of our own as we waited for the clock to tick over, partly to prepare ourselves and partly just to control the nerves. Fang has us run a few laps, then divided us into four groups of 5 or so. We had Lil Miss Spanky as our test master. Last week I asked the Training Committee for a special allowance to do the push-up and plank component of the fitness test on my knees, which was granted thankfully as even in my days of soccer and competitive gymnastics I was never able to do push-ups on my toes! I could do 100 sit-ups in less than 2 minutes and do pull-ups and bar work, but not push ups, something about them just doesn’t work with my body. Anyway, we did the fitness test first as a group; side planks, front plank, push-ups and crunches, then a static squat and wall sit. I was a bit worried as I haven’t been practicing my wall sits as much as I should have, and side planks had only been announced recently as being on the test (the new test was officially approved and unveiled to everyone at the start of this month), but I incorporated the test into my work-out on Friday (including doing the squats and wall-sits for 45 seconds and planking for a minute, not just the 30sec required for passing the test) so I could be mentally prepared on the day with ‘Yes, I can do this!’ The fitness component passed acceptably with the help of Joebotron. Because we were planking on the wooden gym floor, a few of the Freshies had brought yoga mats with them to cushion elbows and also help with slippage. I had put my yoga mat by the back door to take with me, but forgot it all the same. Joe kindly put his mat out sideways so that he could share it with myself and Juleigh Noted, and so we planked in a lovely line with cushioned elbows.

Once we got skates on, we skated some warm-up laps and then got back into our groups and moved onto the skills component. For skills you get three attempts at everything, and Spanky had us doing everything twice to begin with just so we could be comfortable and not stress about doing it badly the first time out. Our group began with stops, skating the width of the gym and back one by one and doing a T Stop (both feet) and then a plow stop. Plow stops are definitely one of my strengths, and after I did mine across the gym Spanky said I already had full marks so it was up to me if I wanted to do another or not (hooray!). Next was knee taps (both knees), which replaced single knee falls on the test as they’re no longer in the WFTDA standards, and double-knee falls. I had made sure to do a few of each of these during my warm-up laps since I hadn’t been able to practice them for the last two weeks with the bung knee. My knee taps were OK, my double-knee falls weren’t super as the movement isn’t natural yet; I pause a little too long between the first and second knee coming down, and spin sideways as I do it.

Next up was stepping, which shows balance and control with your skates. We stepped sideways (both directions), and then forwards and backwards, all with minimal rolling. Then we got on the track and one by one we weaved through cones, then demonstrated sticky skating and stride (ie. Fluid, confident movements and using both feet to push on straightaways). As a group we demonstrated our ability to hold derby stance while skating, then individually glided on one foot for a straightaway and apex, before finishing by demonstrating crossovers.

We had a tense 10 minutes while the tests were marked (we were all feeding off each other’s nerves, not helped by the fact that my family had come to watch me), but Spanky soon came around to tell us all our result one by one. I literally jumped for joy when she said I had passed, which no doubt looked hilarious on skates. I asked her what I needed to improve on and she said planks and double knee falls, I got full points on everything else (each criteria has a possible score of 0-3, and you needed a minimum of 2 points on everything to pass). The double knee fall is no surprise, not sure what exactly I need to work on with planks, but since we only did the one I may have wobbled a bit or lost form.

Since testing was all done by 4:30 and we had the rink til 6, we did some more skating but without a formal training session everyone was a bit lost. So Jamme and I took some initiative and found some panties and declared a game of Stuck in the Mud, which lasted maybe 10 minutes before everyone was too hot and winded to continue haha. I was pleased though as it gave me a chance to show my family what I could do and why I loved derby. Since we pestered her with questions about the new Yellow Star test (as it will be upgraded to match the new White Star test we had just completed), Fang went through the skills requirements with us; grapevines and standing on one foot while stationary, the 10-in-2 (10 laps to pass, 11 for full marks), pushes and basic contact and so on.

We then did some pushing, I paired up with Joe and it was pretty amazing how much speed you could get from someone giving you a shove in the hips. Then we attempted the 10-in-2, and once again I was juuuuussst short of making the 10 on the whistle (only by a meter or two). I was very pleased; I was winded and my right arch was aching and the floor was super slick today, but I did crossovers almost the entire time and given in the last 30 seconds I almost fell over twice and glided the apex a couple of times and almost ran into some slower people, I think if I’m a bit fresher I should be able to make it. Plus of course I’m working on improving my endurance every session!

There was still 20 minutes left on the clock after that, but I was pooped and needed to take my sister to the airport, so I geared down. All up, this was a seriously excellent weekend of derby 😀

First night with the big kids!

Now that bootcamp is over, we’re now allowed to join in with the all-league training on Tuesday nights.

We get the court at 7:30 sharp, so we all arrived 10 minutes early and geared up with everything  except skates. Once the court was free we did laps (I walked, my knee is feeling a lot better and I was trying it without the brace tonight, but I also didn’t want to push it too early), then made a circle and played Duck Duck Goose. It’s been a looong time since I played Duck Duck Goose and it took me a bit to remember the rules haha. I’m not a sprinter on my best day, so when I was tagged my hobbling-run was something to behold, but it was another Freshie (Oblivia/ Honey Badger) who tagged me and she took pity and let me catch her. And Refnarok tried to play cat and mouse when I tagged him haha. I sat out the second round though.

We then did some on-skates warm-ups; One-foot glide while rolling/ stretching other ankle, calf stretch on back wheels, kicking forward and back, glute stretch (raised leg across opposite knee), swinging arms in circles, then stretching arms/ shoulders down your center back and across front. The challenge of keeping balance while swinging arms and legs and skating on one foot was definitely interesting, and made even more so by the sheer number of people on the track!

For the first drill we tried to form a pace line, but there were too many people (a total of 58 on skates, our circle was as big as the track!). Today was blocking 101,  so instead we did shoulder checks (practicing squatting then popping up in a ‘J’ movement while skating forward) then hip checks (a short, sharp and explosive movement, maybe with a stomp as you move in close). Some of the Yellow and Orange stars practiced against each other as they skated around, the rest of us tried against the pads (kindly held by B-Rad and Terrorsmackdal), or just on our own to practice the explosive movement and keeping balance.

Next up, was a 2-blocker drill, with a third skater as a jammer trying to get through/ around the 2 blockers while they wall, truck-and-trailer, juke etc to keep her back. I jammed against a couple of more experienced skaters so I pushed myself a bit (jammers were meant to ‘play dumb’ since it’s a blocker drill) and managed to get past them a couple of times. Miss MeOww gave me some tips with my derby stance while we waited in the line for another go, then I blocked with her against UltraViolence.

We were going to practice C-turns (for zig-zagging the track) but one of the Freshies (Alakazam) had a bad fall so we cut it short. It was a hot, muggy evening and the floor was slippery, it was the second stack of the evening, Spac Cadet had slipped early on but had come out OK. Ally unfortunately now has a fractured ankle, which makes 3 broken bomes since I started 😦

We also did jammer vs wall-of-4. This drill concentrates on teamwork and being aware of your surroundings and communicating it to your wall, all while holding the inside (and outside!) lines. There was lots of wheel-clipping! I blocked first then jammed, loads of fun. Cin-Switch (one of our refs) pulled me aside after I jammed to say good job, but to watch my target zones; because I’m so broad, when engaging a smaller skater it’s easy for me to accidentally hit in an illegal area as well and get pulled up on a back-block.

And just like that the night was over. Lots of people meant lots of waiting for drills, but it was super-fun and a great learning experience. Plus the queues gave us Freshies a chance to talk to the experienced skaters and sponge as much knowledge as possible! My biggest lesson for the night is that I need to do more squats and lunges, so I can get lower and stay low in derby stance and make a more effective wall with my shorter team-mates.

Sunday week 8

I pussied out on laps again, but joined in on side and walking lunges for warm-up. Once on skates I continued warming up by practicing stops and one-foot glides while waiting for everyone else to finish gearing up.

We started the night with the 5-in-1. I’m still short, this time was ‘4 and 7/8ths’ according to my counter. Which means I haven’t improved since last time, but on the other hand I’m still in a knee brace and the floor was super slippery today so overall I’m pretty happy. My endurance is improving every time and I’ll get it soon I’m sure.

Next up were wall and jammer drills. We learnt how to trap a goat (a wall of 4 waterfalling in around a jammer or opposing blocker and forcing/ hitting them off the track), and how to push and be pushed as a jammer or a part of the wall.

We played Queen of the Rink again, woohoo! I got to watch it last weekend but joining is is an entirely different matter! The point of the game is to be the last skater standing, all legal contact is allowed. I lasted well into the second half of the game, but then I was gettig tired and so I overbalanced and took myself out when I laid a big hit on Oblivia.

The night was finished with a game of Stuck in the Mud. My knee wouldn’t let me free anyone (as you have to crawl through their legs, too much bending!), but at least I was only tagged the once. I just used it as an opportunity to work on my endurance and evasion skills.

Tonight I recieved from Oblivia for our mutually assured destruction in Queen of the Rink, and also from Darth Evader for giving him enough hockey tape at the start of the night to hold his pants up haha.

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.

Friday bootcamp week 8

It’s the final countdown bootcamp! The last 2 months have just flown by, and it’s been amazing to watch the progression of some of the girls who had literally never skated before in their lives who are now zooming around the track and doing knee falls and crossovers like pros.

Thanks to my twisted knee I skipped running laps, since running hurts at the best of times anyway! The rest of warm up consisted of a group plank counting to 100 (everyone planking in a circle- I did it on my knees- and counting off a number one by one. There was some hilarity as some people counted fast, some counted reeeeallllyyy sloooowwwllllyyyyyy and some were concentrating so hard on planking they forgot it was their turn). Then we turned around and did 15 group sit-ups- arms across the shoulders of the person next to you and everyone down and up! Our timing got more and more out as we went on so it looked more like a mexican wave haha.

Skates time! As a safety precaution I had a knee brace on my back leg, which is a heavy duty beauty made of thick neoprene with an inch-wide steel bone on either side of the knee. The bone is hinged in the middle, and the entire thing does up with several layers of velcro. I immediately fell off chair trying to stand up in skates (I hadn’t compensated for the brace and so my foot was not centered under my weight as I stood. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt). I did some laps and as always I practiced crossovers while warming up. The extra layer of neoprene on my left knee made it harder to clear my kneepads as I crossed. I found that I couldn’t go too fast and it felt like I had less power than usual in my stride, but my knee felt OK albeit a little tender.

First drill was stopping on the whistle. I did fine with the plow and T stops (although it look me a little longer to stop than usual), but next up was single and double knee falls. I tried one single knee fall on each side, but it seriously hurt and I then had trouble getting up off the ground thanks to the knee brace, so I sat out for that and the knee taps.

Next was truck and trailer. First we pushed in pairs, then pulled in groups of 4. I had less speed than usual, but the actual drill caused me no issues other than making my lower back ache from having to hold derby stance for so long (which normally happens anyway, but this time I had a lower tolerance than usual thanks to the knee).

Then we did some hitting practice. The drill was for shoulder and hip checks, first standing on skates and then rolling. I sat out for this one as knew it would be just my luck to fall/ get knocked down and make my knee worse. Plus it took me twice as long to get up again which didn’t seem like a good idea when it was so crowded on the track. But once Fang and B-Rad got out the football pads I had a go at hitting them (yay!).

The rep team finished practice and we took over the full track. First up we tried the 10-in-2 (how many laps you can do in 2 minutes). I got 9 despite my knee so I was pretty happy. My crossovers weren’t great thanks to my knee and I didn’t have any ‘push’, but it’s a start.

We finished off the night with a mini roller disco. Fang plugged in the boom box and turned up some tunes, and we tried to do the Nutbush in skates (I wasn’t up to dancing on toestops so I did it Fast Feet- very untidy!). The others set up some jumps, I did some one-foot-gliding and had a little sit-down to rest my knee in the middle. We also had yet another injury- Blacklight Bettie took a stack and has unfortunately been diagnosed with a broken elbow 😦

Then it was Final Freshie Lurby.  Tonight consisted of lots of ‘so glad I signed up /met you people/ etc’, there was all the love for the awesome new friends we’ve made.

Sunday week 7

No skates this week 😦 I did Tough Mudder on Saturday in Sydney, which is a 20km obstacle course. I unfortunately did not finish the course, I landed badly coming off an obstacle at the 5km mark and twisted my knee. I struggled on to about the 9km mark before the rest of my team convinced me that I should stop. I stayed in Sydney for the night to catch up with friends, and thanks to high winds on the trip home I was late to training (not that I could have skated anyway, between my knee and I wouldn’t have been safe on skates since I was also exhausted from the event and travelling and not sleeping well).

Anyhow, I went along to training anyway so I could bask in Fang’s wisdom 🙂 I arrived in time to watch everyone play a few jams of sock derby (freaking hilarious), and there was some practicing of walls and also doing the partner-push on skates. It was super weird not joining in drills, my feet were so itchy to get on skates! But I did get to chat a bit to Rebecca (the girl who broke her ankle during the very first boot camp session but decided that derby is so awesome she still wants to join up).