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.


Bouts and scrims

Saturday Feb 15th was bout day! I was pretty pleased on a number of fronts, starting with the fact that I actually came up with the bout name! Our theme this year is Grimm’s fairy tales, and I pitched the Events Committee with ‘Snow Bite: Will YOU go into the woods?’. It was pretty awesome to see it turned into this amazing artwork and poster:

Snow Bite Feb 15th

I was helping coordinate the event again, and after a slow start I ended up with a great roster of Volunteers who helped the event run super smooth. A special shout-out goes to my long-suffering derby widow who showed up with me several hours before the event even started to help me move tables and yell at people, and then sat out on the foyer selling tickets for half the bout! I thankfully got to see most of the second half which was lucky, because the finish was nailbiting! We’ve played Blue Mountains a couple of times before and they trounced us last year, so it was pretty thrilling to be tied with only minutes to go and finally win by 20 points. Especially when we had 5 players playing their debut home bout, and one of them got to finish the night with the powerjam that won the bout for us! There’s more details on the official VDL page here.

While at the bout I also picked up these beauties which had just come in with a league group order. The scrim tank is reversible (white on one side, black on the other, with my name and number printed on both), and the armbands are heavy duty non-roll elastic with my number printed and sewn on. They’re actually really comfortable to wear, they’re made by Spank Alley who are one of my league’s fabulous sponsors this year.

Rabid scrim tank

I proudly wore them to training on Sunday, and of course I then took a bad fall in my first jam in scrim and twisted my knee *sigh* It’s not serious but it kept me out for the rest of the session.

But at least that was the second half of the session. Because it was the day after a bout, we had a shorter all-league training session first. Because of lucky coincidence, we had a guest trainer for the day. Copter was one of the original members of VDL, he’s since moved to Brisbane and now skates for Brisbane City Rollers’ men’s team The Scartel. He’s also been chosen for Team Australia and will be competing in the first ever Men”s Roller Derby World Cup in Birmingham next month as part of the Wizards of Aus. You can donate to the team’s travel costs here if you’re interested.

Anyhow, Copter took us through a great session on transitions and backwards skating. This is the second time Copter has guest-coached us and for all its brevity and mixed-levels  it was a fantastic session. We worked on doing transitions in multiple directions at speed, on skating and stopping backwards, on using transitions for blocking and finally having a partner guide you and control your speed while you were travelling backwards (it’s the most bizarre feeling, especially when trying to corner!). Copter is an absolute sweetheart who hits like a truck and it was a pleasure to train with him again, if you get the chance I highly recommend it! You can also become a fan on Facebook, just search for ‘Copter #173’. He joined our boys for scrim as well and they had a fantastic match.

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!

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.

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.


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.

We all have to start somewhere

I started at VDL’s “Super Speshy Freshie Seshy’s”. Sunday, Tuesday and Sunday evenings this last week, I have donned skates at a local indoor basketball court and learnt to stop, fall and stand correctly, with a taster how-to on hitting and target zones in the final session.

The first Sunday I really had no idea what to expect. I have been reading obsessively about derby since I started researching skates before my big purchase in late July. But reading about practice and watching youtube videos isn’t the same, especially when most of the content is created by people who have been involved in derby for at least a year already, and are already drafted to teams and bouting.

I walked into the gym right on time, just as someone screamed for everyone to start running laps. First mistake: i had worn some crappy ballet slip-ons on the assumption I would be immediately taking them off to put my skates on. Instead, I slipped and slid around the wooden floor as the shoes continually flapped and fell off, before I gave up and just went in my socks. I made it 1.5 laps before I dropped back to a walk, I haven’t run for anything other than a bus since I fucked my knee at age 12. We then did push-ups and crunches (which I’m OK at), and planks and wall-sits (not so great). The group then split into White Stars and ‘old freshies’ who has been training for a couple of months already, and the new Freshies like myself who were there for the first time. A quick talk about ‘what is derby/ VDL’ and it was finally time to gear up and see what we had! There were a few people that had only partial or no gear at all so loaners were found, and there were one or two each evening that had obviously never skated at all before! VDL were super supportive about this, with loaner gear and a buddy or two for the complete noobs on top of the 1-3 official Freshmeat trainers.

Now seems like a good time to talk gear. I am currently rocking Bont leather hybrids, Pilot plates and Suregrip Aerobic outdoor wheels. I have toesavers but I think I also need to hockey-tape my boots as I now have scuffs around them! Kneepads are Ridden handmade skateboarding pads, the only ones in the shop that fit me. They were pricey, but always cheaper than knee surgery!. Wrists, elbows and helmet are Protech, mouthguard is Sisu. I am 6’1-ish and currently 135kg (eek! I lost 20kg last year, then moved states, started a new job and quit smoking, which all amounted to putting 15kg back on). In the next 6 months I intend to replace my plate (the Pilot is a quality nylon plate, but it’s still nylon. I want an Invader or XK4 DA45 aluminium plate) and hope to start building a wheel collection soon.

First night we did some warm-up laps then practiced gliding on one foot. We learnt plow and T-stops, and single and double knee falls. As part of my normal exercise routine I have been doing squats a lot lately which were definitely helpful, but apparently I need to start doing more lunges. Single and double knee ‘falls’ involve lowering yourself into a slide in a lunge position rather than actually falling, and after only a couple of reps my quads were screaming for mercy.

Tuesday was All-League Training, leaving us Freshies the ‘leftover’ parts of the court to practice and watch in awe while the more experienced skaters ran drills. This time warm-up consisted of running laps (I wore proper shoes and managed 2.5 this time, hooray!), lunges and sumo-squats for the length of the court and some agility moves. We practiced gliding and stops again, and added ‘sticky skating’ (propelling yourself forward without lifting your feet off the floor) and ‘truck and trailer’ maneuvers (where you skate in pairs, taking turns to push or pull another skater while they glide). I changed out my hard ‘came with my skates’ bushings for soft Powerdyne reds right before the training so I made sure to do some extra warm-up laps to get used to them. I definitely noticed a difference, it was easier to turn and made my plow stops much more comfortable.

The final Freshie Seshy on Sunday was more of the same. Warm-up was more lunges, grapevinves, push-ups, crunches and planks. I made another gear change, this time changing my outdoor wheels for the indoor Atom Snaps which came with my set-up. They’re 91a which is really the minimum I should be using for the coated wood floor, but I have to say I didn’t like them much. I’m guessing it’s the nylon hubs flexing under my weight because they felt both soft and slippery at the same time (although my inexperience would also be a factor). Once my car rego is paid off I’m planning on getting some Hyper Shamans or SureGrip Zombies instead. Anyhow, more test laps (I found it much harder to do the one-foot gliding with the indoor wheels, one of the reasons I didn’t like them. The slipping on corners I can put down more to my lack of practice), more sticky skating and more stops. My one-knee falls are already looking better, I’m getting the form but I still need to build up muscle strength to do them consistently. Double-knee falls on the other hand are shocking, I’m either falling forward (means my stance is wrong and my core is weak) or turning as I fall (meaning I’m not keeping my knee straight). Practice practice practice! The two highlights of the night were Sock Derby (ie. playing a jam with everything except skates on, it was ridiculously fun), and another Truck and Trailer drill, but this time with a White Star. Freshies were corralled and White Stars were all told to find a Freshie. A girl skated up to me and went ‘You look about my size, come on’. Sure enough, relatively similar height and weight and we made a good team. She had been training for about 3 months. We skated around the track, taking turns pushed and pulling each other as the whistles blew, weaving through the other pairs as we overtook most of the others. It was pretty awesome, and we even managed to avoid being taken down by the pair that stacked directly in front of us in a spectacular fashion. It was only 5 minutes or so but I wasn’t holding back so my legs and my lower back were soon in agony and I was getting puffed and I had to apologise to my partner because I needed a break. No sooner had I stopped than the drill was called. I’m pretty sure it’s because they saw me sit down and suddenly remember they had Freshies, because we all immediately got a pep talk about how derby uses muscles you’re not used to and it will get better as we practice.

And so now I am waiting for the email with all the details to official join the league. For the next 8 weeks it’s Freshmeat Bootcamp on Friday’s followed by the Freshies and Whitestars training on Sundays. Once Bootcamp is over we get to join the Tuesday All-League sessions and test for our own White Star levels. My exercise regime this year has been mostly ‘do what I feel like when I feel like’  (a mix of cycling, weights and bodyweight stuff) but now I really need to step it up a notch and get a proper off-skates routine going.