Thursday, July 29, 2010

enough rope to trip myself

Playing roller derby is dangerous.

But learning to play roller derby is really, really dangerous.

So many way to hurt yourself when you don't know what the hell you are doing.

Now, during a game, bruises, sprains, concussions, even broken bones are run of mill injuries.  It isn't particularly fun for anyone, but the players are aware of the risks and accept them as part of the game.  Nobody wants to get hurt, but no one is really surprised when they do either.

Injuries happen often during practice too.  Even if you took away the drills, jams, games, skill work, blocking, hitting, and racing around a small track at high speed, everyone there still has roller skates on.  I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but roller skates, all by themselves, are pretty damn unsafe.

Roller Skates = peril.

I first noticed this when I was ten years old as I went ass over teakettle and slammed all my body weight down on one of my hands bent backwards as I instinctively tried to protect my young tuckus.  My wrist, in protest, promptly broke and its bones attempted to exit my body through my skin.  My mother, also in on the protesting, took my subsequent hospitalization while awaiting surgery as an opportunity to stash my roller skates in the deepest, darkest corner of the basement, never to be seen again. 

Moms = no fun.

After my twenty four year hiatus from roller skating, these past six months of skating has afforded me many more reasons to declare roller skating hazardous to good health.  Without doing anything more than moving on skates, I know people who have taken off patches of skin, pulled muscles in their legs and groin, sprained ankles, damaged vertebrae, and broken their - guess which bone? - wrist.  Just skating. 

Add in derby drills.  Drills that do not include contact with other players.  Enter more abraded flesh, sprained ankles, more pulled and torn muscles, concussions, a broken coccygeal vertebrae, and an entire foot sheared from its host, holding on only by the sheer resiliency of the skin.  AND THESE ARE GOOD SKATERS!

You can up the stakes from here to add contact and such, but I think we'll just skip to the top of the roller derby danger scale and talk about the ultimate hazard:


Being a rookie, skating with a rookie, doesn't matter.  It's a treacherous situation and I would avoid it if I could.  I mean, if I wasn't a rookie.

Rookies know just enough about what they are doing to seriously hurt themselves and others.  Rookies are allowed to hit but do not do it well.  We get on the track with the quick and nimble veterans and then resemble nothing more than a moose on the highway you find just on the other side of the hill.  And if we're not speed bumps, we're like toddlers with mac trucks and we're not letting anyone know we can't control our our damn wheels because then they won't let us play.

Rookies running derby drills is, frankly, hilarious.  And scary.  I am saying this with all my love for my fellow newbs, but I never know if practice is going to make me laugh or cry.

Rookies = painful, yet funny.

Last week, for instance, Cherry Hatchett and I were practicing a little blocking when I punched her in the ass. 

I didn't mean to.  I was just trying to pick up some speed, pumping my arms, and her butt got in the way.  I am almost sure this hardly ever happens to veteran players.  Seems to me, an accidental ass punch screams rookie.

Of course, any razzing I got was cut short when a few minutes later, still running blocking drills, Banshee BarBrawler and Cherry Hatchett accidentally locked wheels and Hatchett got herself a giner shiner courtesy of Banshee's skate. 

Wheel lock = death.  

Wheel lock is bad.  When you lock wheels with another quad skater, all involved wheels instantly stop and both skaters are tossed in the air like a couple of rag dolls bouncing off a wood chipper.  Wheel lock is also classic rookie, since we tend to skate splay legged like baby deer taking its first steps.  Moving in close enough to hit somebody, we move our skates together, almost like we are trying to fit our wheels like a jigsaw puzzle.  I know veteran skaters do not do this as much because I spend a lot of time at practice being reminded to keep my feet closer to my body.

The resultant injury of the Banshee/Hatchett mash Incident is not limited to rookie roller girls, though.  In fact, if you look it up in the urban dictionary, you see roller derby mentioned outright.

Roller derby = giner shiner.

It's probably better that I am done with having kids anyway.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

mom's a bitch

Let's play a little imagery. Conjure up your typical contact sport of choice. Try football or rugby or hockey or whatever. See the players? All lined up on the playing field, ready to use their bodies as blunt instruments to hammer the other team into submission? See the posturing of competition, hear the muttering of threats. Can you smell the sweat?

Rrrrr, violence! Blood! Fans yelling, "Hit the bastard!"

Now, I want you to imagine the sweet sounds of a baby cooing. Picture a nursery of soft colours, fuzzy bears, and cuddly blankets. Wispy little baby hairs, curling over the delicate neck of a infant.

Join me for a verse of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Is there a little cognitive dissidence between these two images? A bit jarring to go between two very different scenes?

Well, not if you've ever given birth.

Women do contact sports differently than men. I don't mean they aren't as rough or athletic because we know that's a pile of rhino loogies. I mean that women do not, actually physically can not, draw a line from where their motherhood ends and their sport begins.

Heck, given that there is often a bit of lag between the physical reality of a pregnancy and a mother's knowledge of its existence, there has some very young participants in sport. They're just lucky they aren't penalized for too many players on the track.

It is a common misconception that being maternal is the same as being fragile and weak. I have no idea why. Everyone know you don't fuck with a mother bear with cubs. Pregnancy is freakin' hard. Birth looks like a zombie gore flick. Living with an infant who feeds every 2-4 hours is like torture. Don't even get me started on toddlers. And it goes up to teenagers and twenty somethings that won't leave home. Frankly, the wimps get weeded out as early as morning sickness and only the strong survive. Children will eat you whole.

PhotobucketWhich bring me to moms and roller derby.

There are a whole lot of moms in roller derby.

And we all have childcare issues.

There is a young child, secured in a penalty box with a bucket of cars and sliced apples, at nearly every derby practice. Older children, veterans of the box, are getting their own skates and joining junior leagues. Coaches hold babies while their moms work on their blocking, children sneaking sips of sports drinks, children screaming from the bleachers, "Hit the bitch, mom!"

The hardest practices I ever skated were run by a woman in her third trimester. I highly recommend avoiding coaches who are bloated, hot, and pissed off in general. By the end of practice, the sidelines looked like a triage, with exhausted skaters laying about while fresh bruises develop into blue green tinted Rorschach ink blot tests.

PhotobucketThis is what I love about derby.  I don't have to chose between being loving and tough, nice and a bad ass, or being a mom and doing my own thing.  It all sort of works together.  The women I skate with are, no shit, the nicest and most generous people I have met.  They volunteer their time and expertise to help one another out, both on the track and way, way beyond and then go out into the community to do good there too.  And why shouldn't they be so bloody nice?  After skating like demons and hitting each other for a couple hours several times a week, they work out a lot of the rage and aggression that comes along with a human being at this day and age, especially when you've got a couple of little ones simultaneously stealing your heart and picking your ass.

And this is why there are a lot of moms in derby.  Derby resonates with a mom's soul.  Sometimes a mom just really needs to hit somebody. 

That's why they call her a mother.   

Friday, July 23, 2010

I am scary. Rwarrr!

Last night at practice I made a lady scream.


Because she thought I was going to hit her.

As it was, we were playing around with a bit of blocking, I was just going to give her a little nudge, maybe put a bit of pressure on her and steer her out of bounds. It seems, since I was sliding right at her with a grim look on my face (my only derby look as of yet) it, mistakenly, appeared as if I was about to launch my whole self at her and nail her ass to the floor.

I'd be okay with that, but it wasn't my intention.

No matter my motivates, the scream was like a flotation device for my drowning derby ego.

I am scary. Yes!   


Of course, after chickie unleashed her super sonic, ear drum busting shriek of death, I did feel like hitting her.  Instead of gently pushing her out of bounds, I did a freaky little nervous jump to the opposite side and yelled back, "What the fuck was that about?!" 

She scared me back.  Crap!

I am going to mention now that the screamer's name is Banshee Barbrawler, a quickly progressing freshie, and I'm now thinking that the scream is going to be one amazing secret weapon when she gets to bouting.

The banshee's scream foretells your death!  Beware the cry of the banshee!

Of course, she's sort of got the wrong side of the stick right now, having the scream come before she gets hit rather than right before she nails some other bitch, but, hey, this is why we have practice, right?  She's the banshee, I'm sure she'll get her shlick together soon enough.

All I know is that I am adding ear plugs to my skate bag as necessary protective equipment.

Still, if I die tonight, Banshee Barbrawler has some explaining to do.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

cross my skates and hope to fly

It comes as a surprise to my friends and family when I tell them that I am studying for my derby test.  Specifically, the WFTDA skills assessment.  Oddly enough, that they don't just let you strap on the some skates and go bashing around the track.  At least they don't if you want insurance.  Contact sports tend to actually quite anal about rules.  It's why derby resembles something between Mad Max's Thunderdome and a teaching hospital, with groups of NSOs (non-skating officals) hunched over clipboards, scribbling notes about every hit and taking names.    

To this end, there is a written test, of which, with all the derby rules and bizarre
tourette-like referee signals, is fiendish enough to qualify for
university completion exams.  I am just now printing out over fifty pages
of rules and regulations to study from.  Derby is not earth friendly. 
Derby stomps the earth under its polyurethane wheels.

Basic skating skills are also assessed, though, please understand, by 'basic' I mean advanced if you were talking your average night at the disco skater.  Before you are qualified to bout, you have to know how to skate derby (i.e. toilet squat position), stop, fall, sticky skate, skate backwards, jump obstacles (people), give and take hits, whip, and shwack of other skills that will hopefully minimize injuries, both your own person, other players, and the nice people sitting closest to the track screaming obscenities. 

The speed and endurance portion of the test requires you to skate twenty five laps in five minutes or less.  This is no small feat.  Derby is played on a relatively small oval shaped track.  The straight parts of the track are covered in just a couple of strides, and then you've got a sharp curve while you are going full speed on a slippery, polished surface.  My initial reaction to this curve back in January was to lock my feet into place, hold my breath, and lean into the turn, desperately trying not to skid sideways and break a hip.  By the time I came around to the straightaway, I had to fight to pick up speed again, then four seconds later I'd encounter the other side of track, lock my feet, hold my breath...

This was really lame.

What I wanted to do instead is to haul ass on the straightway, hit the curve and slingshot out the other side like a comet rounding a star.  I needed speed.  I needed style.  I needed to stop looking like I was on the track only by accident and as soon as I located the door to the washrooms I'd be out of there.

Key skill here: crossovers. Crossovers allow you to not only avoid slowing down on the corners, but actually pick up speed.  More stepping, with longer strides created by crossing one leg over in front of the other, creates a nifty rocket effect.  Not to be too dramatic here, but derby is impossible without this skill.

I spent many hours skating in parking lots and rinks trying to force my legs to not only move while I was turning a corner, but to lift my right leg up and in front of my left leg.  Unsuccessful attempts result in a sort of a jerky Charlie Chaplin dance and a string of cussing.  Picture me going around in the turnabout at my daughter's school for hours at a time, with a look of intense concentration, picking up my right leg ever couple of strides and slamming it down just a few inches away from it's original position in a failed attempt to crossover.  Now listen as I emit an endless stream of muttered self-talk that went along the lines of, "okay, now here we go, lift and over, lift and over, lift and - FUCK!  damnit, damnit, damnit!  Okay, here we go.."

I looked crazy. 

Well, crazier. But a few months of crazy has paid of.  My crossovers are now immaculate, thank you.


The coach said so. 

Since I'm spending a lot of time lately with other ladies who are going through the important task of learning crossovers, I'm going to share my own techniques.  Techniques other than looking insane and not caring.  But that helps too, if you care to try it.

Practice skating on one leg, both straight and taking curves, helps build stability.  Pushing your skates in front of one another while sticky skating in scallops helps your muscles grow accustomed to the movement without the danger of the lift over.  Marching back and forth sideways (without rolling), crossing the legs over and over and over is great practice for the movement.  And then do the jerky dance as much as you can by skating in a small figure 8 pattern, trying to lift and cross. 

Keep your knees bent and your focus on the distance, and not the jeering audience that always gathers when ever you feel vulnerable and silly. 

Fuck 'em.  You will learn this.

Derby skills seem to mostly be repetition and muscle memory.  The first time you try, you look foolish.  The second is usually no better.  But over time, with practice, things do come to the point where it becomes second nature.  Automatic.  (Insert favorite bike-riding or driving a standard cliche here.)  

Which is good, because you are going to need all your facilities during a game to pay attention to what the hoards of referees and clipboard people are yelling you.

hello again

Did you think I was dead?  Did you think that I wimped out and quit going to derby practice.  Did you think that I shamefully pretended to "lose" my quads because I couldn't face my utter lack of skill and style?  Did you think that maybe I was recovering in a hospital with half of my
face burned off in a hideous pace line accident? 

Did you think I would even know what a pace line is now? 

Well, actually, I do know what a pace line is.  I know about pace lines, goats, pain trains, lateral motion, push carts, pill boxes, pyramids, breakaways, relays, WFTDA, international registry, and circles of pain.Because. I. Live.  And I learned all about them in derby practices I have been attending since January.

I also want to announce that I have improved.  But I am still not great.

There are some ladies who are primed for derby - whether they be athletic, a former hockey player, a fantastic skater, or even just really pissed off about something - and go from their first practice to their first bout in 3 to  6 months.  I am not one of those kind.  I am the kind of derby player that struggles with every single damn skill.  I am the kind that intuitively does the exact opposite of what she is supposed to do.  I'm not even particularly angry. I am the kind that masks her constant identity crisis and feelings of inadequacy behind a smile every practice.

Still, Go Me! for tenacity.  I'd like to catch you all up on what's been happening since I was last here.  It'll be a fun story, with everything from torn muscles and herniated discs (though not everything is derby related).  There is derby name angst.  I also get to tell you how and why I have turned into a league tramp.

But I can't right now because I am about to head off to practice. 

See you soon :)


derby practice #2 - track rash, bruises, still sucking

originally posted January 2010

Okay, mixed reviews here.  Second practice was not as hard as the first.  I got only 20 minutes or so of skating in this past week because it's been pissing down like god's been on a bender.  (Rollergirl says no skating in the rain.  No!) 

Thus, I still sucked pretty hard at the skating.  But I only had maybe four major crazy falls instead of five - one less jaw relocating smash on the ground better!  I did get my first track rash and a nice bruise seems to be developing around it.  Of course, it's on my elbow so it looks more like somebody grabbed my arm a bit too hard, maybe as they were hauling my ass into derby practice.  Since I really didn't want to go and hurt my face anymore this week.

Stupid winter and stupid tooth.  I have an extraction for the tooth booked on Tuesday, but I've really got nothing I can do about the rain.  Maybe get some full spectrum light bulbs to sit under?  I can't help but note that Alberta, though she may be cold, is at least got some sun every once in awhile.  Yes, it creates snow blindness, but, still, you could find a sunny window and drink your tea while you decide there is no way you are going out in the butt freezing weather. 

This other weird thing is happening where I'm coming to remember all my childhood sporty demons.  The whole picked last for the team, panic and throw the football at somebody's head when they try to tackle me, stuck out far in the outfield behind 3rd base and still missing the freaking ball the one chance I get the whole game.  I am strike out, get tired, bad attitude, smoke cigarettes and claim I have cramps gym girl and now, somehow on the wrong side of 30, I've got to find my inner-jock while mastering an extreme sport.  On wheels.

Somebody tell me what the fuck I'm doing again?

So, before my free trail with Typepad runs out, I'm trying to decide if I shall go on with this blog.  I shall, no matter what, go on with the roller derby.  But, just warning, if this page disappears, don't fret.  I've just decided to keep my derby lameness to myself.

on the subject of pain

originally posted January 2010

If the weather doesn't change soon, I shall suck as bad at practice on Sunday as I did the previous week.  We've been rained in, with no place to practice skating.  Which is just as well, since my my activity level has ground nearly to a halt with an obnoxious tooth infection.  One of my molars had a cavity that had been filled last year, but now turns out to have still had some bacteria in it.  This past weekend, the bacteria has just begun attacking the root.  During an emergency visit to a dentist yesterday I was told that it was not, as I was previously convinced, the fault of the mouthguard I fitted Saturday evening.  Tonight, while Princess Sticky Skates skated up and down the hallway, I took a bath.

Hopefully, by the time the antibiotics do their thing the rain will have stopped for a day or so.  Long enough for the pavement to have dried up anyway.  Until then, I've been amusing myself reading other derby blogs.  If you go out looking, I suggest starting with the Queen of the Rink.  And now I will take myself away to whimper a bit more about my lame-ass rotten tooth.  This isn't doing much for my derby cred. 

wheel love

originally posted January 2010

Ladies, if you want your family to support an activity that takes you away from home, take up roller derby.  The kids are fairly excited about this skating turn of events.  Princess Sticky Skates, of course, got her own set of skates and is thrilled to have something to do with just me, without her brother. 

The Man keeps asking when I'm getting the fishnets and mentioned something about a 'derby bra'.  When I asked what a 'derby bra' is exactly - I was showing him how I skate with my hands clasped in front of me to avoid 'chicken arms' at the time - but he refused to elaborate, claiming that I would just blog it if he told me. 


I think it's just enough to say that The Man is excited too.

Young Birdie is showing his own particular form of support: he has fallen completely, irrationally in love with roller skates.  He can spend a ridiculous amount of time polishing and shining my wheels. I'm trying to pretend it's all about me, but I think he's just engaging in a bit of masturbatory wheel love. 


{Oh, you are some fine wheels!  Do you like it when I stroke you like this?}

Can you see him fifteen years in the future out on the driveway with his first motorcycle?


highlights of first derby practice

originally posted January 2010

Wheee!  I am back from my very first roller derby practice ever!  You are so lucky they never managed to perfect the smell-o-vision technology because I worked hard and I am sweaty!

A quick review of what I learned in practice about derby and about myself:

* Roller derby doesn't believe in personal space.  It's going to be a battle to fight thirty years of bubble socialization.

* I am round, therefore I roll.  And roll.  And maybe come to a stop when the friction of my helmet against the rink floor overcomes my momentum.

* The easiest way to stop is to fall down.  The easiest way to stop someone else is to make them fall down.

* Fear is worse than doing. 

* I am a superb obstacle.  One day I shall use my talent for good.

* Being whipped is a fantastic feeling.

* My wheels are like skating in treacle.  When Roller Girl, the Vancouver company I bought my skates from, told me they were giving me 'slow' wheels I was all happy, but now I can't friggin' keep up. 

* Derby ladies are about the nicest bunch of bitches ever.

I will check in tomorrow when the endorphins wear off and the pain and muscle stiffness set in.  Right now, though, I can't wait for next practice!

do not chew your mouthguard

originally posted January 2010

On the way to taking the kids to an indoor playground today, I popped by the sports store to buy a mouthguard for, what my daughter refers to as my 'Derby lessons'.

The brand recommended to me was Shock Doctor, who do up a number of rather intense mouthguards, with strange 'boil bite' logos and instructions full of bold, all capitals writing saying things like PROTECTION and DURABILITY and GREATLY DIMINISHED.

When I opened it up, I discovered my mouthguard came with cooking directions.  The low down is that their mouthguards are made with a heavy duty rubber and some strange gel stuff where you put your teeth in.  The idea is that the fit is so tight that you will not lose any teeth, unless the impact is strong enough to actually knock all your teeth out at once.  I'm fairly divided on whether this is a good thing or not.

After looking through the directions of boiling water and taking the water off for x number of seconds, then putting in the guard for EXACTLY so many seconds, then running under tap water for 1 whole second (I remembered that one) and then popping your toasty hot rubber guard in your mouth and chomping down.  There is a reason why they say they provide protection for the fearless.

It actually went well, and though The Man says I've got a bit of a gorilla thing going on, I'll take it along to practice and see if it does what it's supposed to do.  The brilliant thing about the whole gel/rubber concoction is that I can re-boil it if the fit isn't quite right.  Super fun.

I did go to Shock Doctor's website, though, because I wanted to learn about the gel bit of the mouthguard.  I was not enlightened on that point, but I did get an eye load of sweaty guys bouncing around, looking all serious.  Shock Doctor sponsors various sporting events and players and lists it's 'sports' as motosports,soccer, baseball and softball, autosports, lacross, martial arts and boxing, football and hockey.  It looks like they have some really nice knee and elbow pads, and I did spend an entertaining moment in the cups and supporters (jsyk, it's got both nothing and everything to do with trophies).  I did not run across any pictures of women nor any mention of roller derby.

So, I sent off an email to Shock Doctor to ask about why they do not list roller derby players as potential clientele.  I'm fairly certain, as they were the only decent looking brand in the chain sporting store, that they are often purchased by derby ladies.  Then again, what do I know.  I'm new.  If you are a derby lady, what's your favorite mouthguard brand?

for those about to roll

originally posted January 2010

Salute I have been making inquires, both professional and personal, into the world of roller derby and talking to roller girls who head up derby leagues in British Columbia and Alberta.  My experience thus far has been that it is populated by friendly, generous women who really want to kick my ass.

I should say, they want me to get good enough on my skates so that I have an ass worth kicking.

I am three weeks past the date I received my first pair of roller skates in the post since I was ten years old.  I am less than 48 hours away from very first roller derby practice.  I am over thirty, sort of squishy, and not athletic. 

It is truly to their credit to the roller girls I have met over the past few weeks that they have helped me feel comfortable enough to think that I may be one day good enough to have my ass kicked.

It makes me feel special, it does. 

My mission, should I chose to blog it, is to learn to roller skate, learn to derby, learn to wear fishnets and stripey socks.

I`m inviting you all to come along as I learn about the world of roller derby.  Hopefully you can laugh with me and taunt me gently, keep me motivated and keep me humble.  I would not want the fishnets to go to my head.