Monday, October 24, 2011

Skate and Destroy recap

Roller derby ate my life.

Last week I bouted, NSO'd two games, helped benchmark a largish group of rookies who went on to play their games, and reffed for the first time ever.

I also managed a few hours of sleep, but only after I visited with some good friends and drank the requisite amount of wine to lead to intoxication.

Stitch Rip-Her whipping off of Cakes on the outside.  Photo by Richard Lowes.
The bootcamp was amazing.  Actually, the rookies were amazing.  They came to camp at 8 am Saturday morning, did dryland with Team Canada's Taz (I mention this specifically because Taz is relentlessly fit and does her manical best to make others so also), had various skating classes with some (from personal experience) tough coaches, and kept at it all day.  The next at 9 am, we had good number of them skating laps and going through their skills to benchmark.  And then they bouted!

I got the easy bit.  I skipped the dryland and drills and went straight to the track with the Gas City Rollers, to play a challenging and hit-y kind of game.

Lip Lash, who's age shall remain undisclosed at this moment but know that you should be bowing down at this woman's feet and telling her how bloody awesome she is, cuttin' in for a BANG!  Photo by Richard Lowes (aka, Mr. Lash).

Of all the Nightshades games I've played (everyone to date), this last one was my favorite.  First off, I had some friends in the crowd, who yelled out encouragements to violence and generalized threats.  Second, Gas City brought some talented and fierce players and it was absolute joy to be able to match them.  The game was close all the way through, and our team just managed to squeak ahead for the last couple of jams. 

Fatal Fantasy, Lady Laceration and Lacee Long-Stalkin walling up.  Photo by Richard Lowes.
I am incredibly proud of our ladies.  Not for winning.  Don't tell anyone, but I hardly think to look at the score during a game.  Sometime during the second half, when the bench starts getting a little intense, I remember to look up and check it out to see what everyone is talking about.  What I am proud of is that we do teamwork well and maintain a positive vibe, no matter how much the game heats up.   

We were a good match up for the Gas City Rollers even though our team foundations are quite dissimilar. Of course I can only know from observation (sometimes, very close), but Gas City Rollers seem like a team of jammers: fast, smart and lithe. My team is one of blockers. We also play smart, but we tend to take over a space and stick to one another like we have our own gravitational pulls.  When we work together, we can seriously get in the way. I have watched opposing jammers round the corner and see one of our back walls of gray up just up the track and their whole body slumps slightly. 

Thanks Gas City for an excellent game.  Can't wait for you to have another crack at us.

I mentioned up at the top that I'm blowing girls now too, but you'll have to wait for another post to hear that story.  I've got to rush off and get prepared for our recruitment night tonight.  I'm excited to meet some new skaters and see some of our freshies who are coming for a free skate.  Our new derby school starts in a couple of weeks and I'm eyeball deep in planning drills and finding coaches.  Btw, now is a good time to share any resources for derby drills or coaching - I could use all the knowledge I can get.  Or for reffing - that too!

I said roller derby ate my life.  Did I mention that I'm not too sad about it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

the third team... needs a beer

Hey, both of you, I'd like to invite you over to the sports blog, Any Sport Any Time, to read my post on RDRDA's Papa Razzo reffing the World Cup.

Referring is seriously hard work, no doubt about it, but refs are seldom in the spotlight like the players are.  It's hard to say exactly why.


It's one thing to argue, from a spectator's point of view, an invisible ref is a good ref, but us players know that this game wouldn't be nearly as much fun without them.

You should always thank the officials, refs and NSOs, after every game and practice.  Even if you think that some ref is a nasty piece of work and had it in for you the whole game, thank them.  They are there for the love of the sport, just like you, and every call they make is a chance for you to become a better player.

I'd like to start a trend of buying an official, ref or NSO, a beer after the game.  This Buy-An-Offical-A-Beer movement has nothing to do with my decision to learn the reffin' myself so I can help the men out when they get a chance to play - a rare occurance with men's roller derby in Canada.  But, if and when I get into some stripes and start pissin' off the players, I would like to mention that I'm particularly fond of pale ale.  Not 'light' beer, never making that fuckin' mistake.  Pale, damnit.

So, thank you to every ref that has taken the time to penalize my team.  We have become more aware and stronger players because of it. 

Papa Razzo by Christina Molendyk of Argent Dawn Photography

Friday, October 14, 2011

count 'em

Sometimes I have to sit back and marvel at what a bizarre place derby has taken me to in my personal life. 

Last night I was showing The Man the bruise on my ass, because that is what derby people do.  It takes about a week for my butt bruises to show.  My thigh bruises appear after four days, arms the day after.  I'm going to write a paper one day about the time delayed presentation of minor hematomas relative to location on the body.

So, I'm showing The Man my ass and I tell him that I got the bruise during last weeks scrimmage when my jammer went through the pack on the apex, giving me a not so gentle shove/punch out of the way.  It was then that I had one of those moments of cognitive dissidence when I suddenly had a hard time believing what I was saying.  I just thought that when I was an adult I'd spend the time in the evening talking to my partner about more, well, adult things.  Politics or symphony music or taxes or something.  Not showing him the bruise on my ass I got playing a game.  On roller skates.  I suddenly felt weird and insecure about my status as a grown-up.

But then I started to feel weirder that The Man didn't feel weird about this.  So I broke down the story of my ass bruise for him in more detail.  I said, "Gingerdead Man, that's his name, punched me in the ass.  On roller skates.  Honey, some dude punched me in the ass hard enough to leave a bruise.  What do you think about that?"

I thought it worth at least a raise of an eyebrow, but apparently not.  What kind of relationship is this?!  The Man only said, with suspicious eagerness, "Yeah.  So, you got one on the other side?  Want me to check?"


I guess I'm just at a point in my life where it's actually mundane to have a guy punch me in the ass.  Obviously, it wasn't my first time.  All sorts of strange contact is made on and off the track among derby people.  Last night at practice, for instance, Runaway Pain (yep, that's her name), felt compelled to bump her pelvis into my ass repeatedly into me to clarify a rule during a ref discussion.  And then she did it again for fun.  In fact, it happens frequently enough that it's not really worth talking about.  This is what maturity looks like to me.  The closer I get to forty, the more frequently I get punched in the ass and dry humped by people I don't know well enough to be able to look them up in the phone book. 

I'm not complaining.  Better to be forty and bruised than forty and bored.  But I'm not enjoying the bruises and pain with fetish-like glee, either.  And I will say that if The Man came home after a night of having his ass punched, his groin stomped and his booty blocked, he'd have a hell of a lot to say about it and I wouldn't be allowed to just say, 'yeah,' and turn back to an episode of Glee.  I would definitely have to pull out the ice packs and sooth his battered and bruised... ego.

Fact is, when it comes to getting out there and putting my ass on the line (literally), I've got more balls than The Man.  Yes, that's weird, by the numbers alone.  This is normal here.  Is it grown-up?  Probably not.  Is it hurting anyone but me?  Well, yes, but they asked for it.

So, yes it is a bit weird how me, as a mature woman, chooses to spend her evenings.  Weird and wonderful.  Not so much for old school type people anyway.  Have I mentioned that The Man also isn't concerned that his brother hits me?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

runs with stupid

In line with my ongoing efforts to improve my fitness, I've recently began running.  Well, run/walking, or, some days, walk/running.  I've been alternating days between a shorter run of interval sprints and a longer, slow jog. 

Never haven been much of a sprinter, I'm finding the fast days really challenging.  I think it has something to do with the length of my legs.  They're too gangly, messages take too much time to travel the length.  By the time my feet get the notice to speed up, the thighs are already well into the run and my feet end up desperately trying to make sense of the sudden violent assault by asphalt.  Think of a long train that begins to accelerate from the front engine where each subsequent car is jerked into motion.  Not tremendously graceful or comfortable start up.  And then think of that extended train trying to come to a sudden stop, with the back cars shoving up on the front until the whole shebang comes to a painful screeching halt, fifty feet past where the cow stood on the tracks.  This is me doing sprints. 

I've been marking out my sprinting distances using power line poles placed just far enough apart to seriously wind me.  The method is to sprint one length and walk two (briskly).  That is two whole lengths to dread the inevitable arrival of the fourth pole that indicates it's time to sprint again.  To any casual observer, I must look like I suffer from some muscle spasm condition, tragically triggered by proximity to power poles, which causes me to awkwardly race forward a whole fifty feet before I am able to regain control.

But those are the good days.

The slow days are especially trying.  Not more tiring, per se, though I do do a pretty good job of wearing myself however slow I go.  Still, once I hit my pace, which is an admittedly slow trot that is the school zone version of a run, I can pretty much go forever.  On these days I take a leisurely, lung-straining trot around the neighborhood and end up at the outdoor fitness park where I proceed to make my quads scream.  It's actually quite idyllic, in a sweaty way.  Well, most of it.

The problem, my friends, is that I can't run in a straight line.  I'm forever falling off the curb or just barely grazing a tree.  I seem to have the spatial awareness and grace of a berserker robot.  It's not only dangerous to be suddenly taken out at the thigh by a low hedge three feet off the sidewalk into some body's yard or to run directly into the grill of a parked car, it's also embarrassing. Especially since I have spent significant amount of time practicing track awareness.  It's one thing to be knocked over by another player while playing derby, but to find myself ass over teakettle because I veered into some one's garbage can is another thing entirely.   

It's taken me awhile to figure out why I can't run straight.  When I walk I hardly every trip over things (barring small children, who are sneaky and move like tiny ninjas and deserve whatever they get) and am generally not clumsy.  I also sprint while staying to the center of the path and have yet to run into one of my power pole markers.  So why, at medium speed, do I run like I'm chasing a fly around the room?

I had a hint one day when I was once again tripping down a curb, worried that I was going to sprain my ankle and fuck up derby, when I noticed that my head was cranked right around and I was looking in the exact opposite direction that I was running.  As I correcting my course back on the sidewalk, I noted that I glanced over my left shoulder, and then my right, and back over my left.  And all the way down the block, left, right, left, right.  I never looked ahead of me at all.  Practically running blind.

This seemed familiar, all this head turning.  Almost like my head was... on a... swivel...

Where have I heard that before?

Ha!  This mid-pace run takes about the same effort as maintaining pack speed.  Derby instinct kicks in and I put my head on a swivel.  It's the same derby instinct that causes me to throw my hip towards any person that leans into me suddenly.  Generally, on the track, I don't crash into trees or parked cars, but I have been known to run into a person or two.  What saves me when playing is that I'm looking all over the place, keeping my eye on everybody.  On a run, not much is going on, and I space out into my zen place.  I'm not terribly motivated to look all around and the head swivel goes on auto-pilot.  I just do what I've been drilled to do.  Left, stride, stride, right, stride, stride, left, stride, stride, parked car - crash!

If chances of collision is going to continue being high while running, perhaps I should be wearing my pads and  helmet. I certainly could use the knee pads and ankle support from my shin guards.  That would also help my 'neighborhood character' reputation that has been rapidly growing since I've started running. Because walking out of my house three or four days a week wearing booty shorts and carrying a bag big and heavy enough to hide a body in isn't enough.

After being almost exclusively involved in derby for awhile, trying new activities is about as disconcerning as switching from driving a standard to an automatic transmission.  I find a part of me hovering over the metaphorical missing gear shift and clutch, thinking I should be doing more.  I realize how intense derby is, not just physically, but mentally, and how much of me is engaged in the game.  Running may be good for my body, but the lack of mental focus has me running into the street, apparently looking for ways to hurt myself. 

Or maybe I just need a buddy or three to jog along with, who can wall up with me and keep me on the right path.  Just heaven help any race walker who tries to pass us.     

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

break is over, time to get back to the fun

Tonight was my first practice since the end of August.  Our league has been on a break of sorts while we made improvements to our skating space.  Now we have, oh, two and a half weeks until our next game.  Some observations:

My ass fell

Sometime during the break my booty drooped.  While it takes a bit to build up muscle, it goes to hell quickly when you stop using it.  I knew it was happening, but when I put on my practice shorts I realized I had a major butt slide going on. 

It hurts picking my ass back up again

Roller skating really does use muscles that remain hidden and underutilized (with the exception of long distance swimmers and strippers).  I have sore muscles right now just from skating.  My thighs, my calves, my poor droopy ass, all of it hurts.  This is something I haven't felt since I started derby and I am going to keep it in mind at the next fresh meat practice I run.  Freshies don't need as much resistance training as more experienced players to make leaps and bounds in improvments.  Just coming to practice is a major muscle workout.  Roller derby changes you.  And change, even good change, can be painful. 

Garsh, I really missed this shit

Until tonight I was unsure if I wanted to play in the next game.  I've got my hands full planning our fresh meat program and would like to learn the reffing now too, so I thought I'd maybe take a little break from being an active player.  I figured it might be nice to not be over-obligated and not have to make so many practices.  But, getting out on the track tonight I remembered all the things I love about this sport: skating, being pushy, getting knocked down and getting back up even stronger. 

Almost two years ago I was so close to letting my fear stop me from going to my very first practice.  I thought I was too out of shape (I was).  I thought I was too timid (I was and I still am sometimes).  I thought I was too old (yep there too, and getting even more so).  I thought that they were going to laugh at me (they did, but they let me skate anyway).  But with that first time I realized that perhaps I am not made for this sport physically, I am mentally.  Got tenacity and lack the good sense to stay down?  Welcome to roller derby!  The muscles and endurance will eventually catch up.  I've really been damn lucky to have all the opportunities to play that I have so far.

And, hot damn, scrimmage tomorrow night!

My fallen arse and me will probably get kicked pretty badly, but I'm feeling pretty grateful to just be able to play.  No injuries, no hang ups.  The only thing keeping me back is myself and my own sore butt.  But, I've been getting good at stepping out of my own way and juking my fears.  Derby has both showed me that I have a streak of determination and strengthened it with practice.  Right now, what scares me more than having derby take up too much of my life is having my ass stay down and refuse to get up.  Literally and literally.