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 🙂
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…
Monday the 30th of September was a public holiday here in Canberra (Families and Communities Day), so a bunch of us took advantage of a beautiful spring day and did the 5km Bridge to Bridge loop around the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin. Outdoor skating was a nice change, I haven’t had much of a chance to do any since I started training regularly with the league (winter means it’s dark too early after work, and the weekends vanish before my eyes! Plus changing out wheels is a pain and wears out the threading on the nuts, I look forward to the day when I will have dedicated pair of outdoor skates!). The path around the lake is lovely, smooth and wide in most places. There is no handrail which is a little nervewracking for new skaters, but skating clockwise keeps you to the left (away from the water) for the most part and the path is approximately 3m wide so it’s a good gap. The most difficult parts of the skate involve the two bridges. Commonwealth bridge has a steepish hill on either side (moderate on foot, considerable on skates!), going up needs a bit of speed and a lot of power and then getting down is a very good motivation to practice your plow stops! Kings bridge is much flatter, but the challenge lies in the particularly irritating pattern of gaps between the concrete slabs (they’re too close together to be able to step over them in a balanced stride, and the gaps are quite wide which reverberate through your skate when you roll over them) and it ends with a crossing on a busy road. There was about a dozen of us, and it was a nice chance to talk to some of the more experienced League members. Because we haven’t been rated to attend all-league training yet, we’ve really only met the Freshie trainers and the last intake of Freshies/ White Stars.
I also had the week off on leave, so I wanted to get as much skating in as I could. In a fortuitous turn of events, Doc’d Marx and Jamme Slamister hired a basketball court at ANU for themselves and their three kids to do some practice for an hour and put out a shout on Facebook for anyone to join them. I ended up being the only one to take them up on this, but it was lots of fun. Chasing energetic young boys is great cardio, I got to practice my crossovers on a much emptier track than usual (feeling much more confident now!), and we looked at Star Test skills such as weaving, jumping and knee taps, as well as truck and trailer and some tag-based games. I also enjoyed the opportunity to experience skating on a different surface. The Woden courts where we train each week are coated wood, but it is an older building so they are rather dusty and a section has been water-damaged which has made it all ripply. The ANU court was also coated wood but appeared much newer and felt slicker. I almost lost my footing on the corners a few times, especially when trying to turn sharply. But it made me really think about my balance which I think helped me with my crossovers. By the end of the 90 minutes my arches were on fire, my thighs were aching and I was exhausted (my body was definitely questioning the wisdom of going skating 4 times in 5 days!) but I really enjoyed it.
I had been hearing about this ‘roller derby’ thing for a while. I saw ‘Whip It’ when it first came out, had read a bit about it online, and had been asked by numerous people over the years if I was ‘into roller derby’, because I ‘look like the type’ (whatever that means). But I am also the type of person who is stupid busy all the time and so between full-time uni, 2 jobs, volunteer work and another full-time hobby I just never actually did anything about my curiosity. Until about 2 months ago, when I finally attended my first bout and I was instantly hooked. A little supportive pushing from my husband and a few weeks later I was wobbling around a local carpark on shiny new quad skates.
While I had dabbled in iceskating and had a pair of rollerblades gathering dust in the spare room, I hadn’t truly skated for 20+ years. Not since I received purple figure skates for my 7th birthday and didn’t take them off for 3 days, and the next town over had a roller rink where every kid I know had at least one birthday party before it shut down in my teens. Remarkably, my body seems to have remembered mostly how it goes. My balance needs improvement (being over 6′ and clumsy, the ground is very far away at times), and my endurance is crap, but that’s what practice is for.
So for the last week, I have dipped my toe into derby. These days I’m based in Canberra, Australia, which has two local leagues: Canberra Roller Derby League (CRDL), and Varsity Derby League (VDL). From my digging around online, CRDL is the more established league, with 4 home teams and a longer history. VDL was started in 2011 because there were more potential skaters than CRDL could cope with, it has 2 home teams and from what I can tell this year’s Fresh Meat intake has almost doubled their membership. CRDL only has one intake a year, this year it was in February, I found out about it only the day before registration and instantly went ‘I can’t afford it/ I don’t have enough time/ I don’t even own skates!’, but since then a lot of thinking has ensued. While CRDL is the more established league (including being a current WFTDA Apprentice), and training is closer to my house (always an important consideration I know), I decided I didn’t want to wait another 6 months before I would even be able to check it out (and CRDL demands dues paid upfront before you walk in the door). Last week, VDL has its third and final Fresh Meat intake which included 3 ‘freebie’ sessions where we got to learn stops and run a few drills and meet some of the skaters. I definitely approve of ‘try before you buy’, however I’m also hooked. Freshie Bootcamp starts on Friday and I am so excited.
So the purpose of this blog is for me to write about my adventures as I hopefully progress from ‘Fresh Meat’ into a lean, mean skating machine.