Monday, August 13, 2012

evolution vs toast

In my ongoing effort to improve my nutritional status so I can be the bestest roller derby-er I can be, despite my stunning lack of natural abilities (see nearly all previous posts) I have been looking into the ways that athletes and super healthy people fuel themselves.  One particular way has popped up more than its fair share and that is the paleolithic diet.  I know you've heard of it and if you haven't you've got access to Google, so I'm not going to describe it beyond saying that it involves no grains, just meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts.

Paleo has caught my eye because I know a half dozen people personally who have claimed that paleo eating and lifestyle has changed their lives.  And I've seen them undergo changes, becoming healthier, fitter and happier.  Paleo is like the magical unicorn of diets. 

Reading about it, there is some good guys (Robb Wolf seems pretty knowledgeable plus he says swear words) and some questionable science guys (Gary Taubes) but still, for the most part, I find myself in agreeance with the paleo sellers.  This would be the point that I, given my penchant for turning my whole life into a science experiment because I'm curious, interested and always eager to find things that help me be healthier, to yell giddy up and spend a few weeks re-learning how to eat. 

The reason why I'm hesitating to adopt this paleo diet is a set of arguments I waded through about fifteen years ago stuck to me and turned itself into a firm and clear ethical basis from which much of my identity and life is constructed.  I am vegan.  I like being vegan.  My children are vegan.  I don't want to eat animals.  When it's me vs. the mythical bunny on the hypothetical desert island I would Not Eat the Bunny.

I get that grains are not so good for our bodies.  I live that one out with wheat all the time.  I love toast.  I have gone so far in the recent past to say that I fucking love toast.  But toast doesn't fucking me.  Toast, which is so good, so tasty turns into an evil bitch in my stomach and makes me suffer for every bite.  Toast is a frenemy.  Good bye (*sob*) toast.

The paleo kicker is that it is impossible to construct a strictly paleo diet while also being vegan.  Legumes and grains form an important part of vegan nutrition, as they contain larger doses of protein than vegetables.  It is possible to construct a diet that is paleo-esque but includes some legumes and seeds like quinoa, amarath and hemp.   Brendan Brazier is one such vegan athlete guru and, I'll admit, I've been consuming his yellow pea/hemp/veggie magic powders for years.  (I've actually, I've come to crave the odd taste of Vega products, which I like to blend with a bit of banana and almond milk.)

I like Brazier.  I follow him on Facebook.  But Brazier's diet is not strictly paleo and, according to Wolf, I shall never get the benefits of becoming a slick, lean fat fuelled machine if I bastardize the paleo diet and sneak in some quinoa. 

This little vegan vs paleo debate has been tearing me up for a little while.  It's the worst of both worlds right now, since I can't figure out what to make for breakfast and my entire day goes to shit after that.  I mean, if I shouldn't eat toast or oatmeal or pancakes, then what the fuck do I eat?  Broccoli with my coffee?  That is not breakfast fuel, my friends. 

Then, this morning as I made oatmeal because I have to eat something, it occurred to me that perhaps I've had my head up my ass long enough.  Here is the thing with our culture: we have so much time, energy and resources that we can afford to self indulgently narrow our choices down and grow into neurotic dietary puritans.  I have unlimited food sources from all over the world, I do not have traditional foods prescribed nor do I live with religious tenents that dicate my lunch choice.  To decide that I will be vegan (and maintain with admittedly good health for fifteen years with the exception of two pregnancies) is a luxury of my time and place.  To decide to only eat like our paleo ancestors is another luxury item.  To sit here and dither over which one is best is even more self indulgent.  I am damn fucking lucky to have this choice.  So I will not suffer over it anymore.

I remember reading study that looked at all the paradoxical ways of eating, trending fads, diets, and longer term commitments, like Seventh Day Adventist vegetarians, that claimed to maintain health (and weight loss) with foods that conflicted with one another.  The South Beachers could lose weight and maintain based upon denying themselves foods that the Greeks eat daily (fat, fat and more fat).  We have the French paradox and the Chinese paradox and how can all these conflicting ways of eating still work to support healthy human life? 

The study concluded that all of the diets that did indeed improve human health had one common feature: large portions vegetables, particularly green leafies, as cornerstones to their menus.  A part of me wondering is that it's not so much the meat that makes paleo so successful, it's actually the inclusion of large servings of vegetables.

Another part of our evolving species is our big, heavy, pelvis busting brains.  See, if it's me vs the rabbit on the island, the knee jerk reaction of our species to a desperate situation is to kill something and eat it and, sure, I could do that.  I could go all paleo all over the bunny, eat the little prey, and go to sleep when the sun goes down.  Or, I could sit my ass down and think about it for a minute and it will probably occur to me to wonder, what the fuck is the bunny eating? 

We are omnivores.  We sustain our lives on all sorts of foods.  We eat from the sky, the ground, the sea, and we cook it all in the sun, hot springs and in lava pits.  We carry around super computers in our skulls.  The choices we have is our predicament, they make us crazy, but they are also our way off of crazy island and all the hypothetical scenarios that are not going to happen to this prairie living girl.

I don't know if being vegan is the ultimate healthy sort of way.  I can't say that paleo is either.  I know that eating a shit ton of vegetables is a good thing and that I must painfully, with great sorrow, end my love affair with toast.  I also know that I've got a lot of other things to do with my life than sit around tinkering with my diet. 

I'm not sick.  I do have energy and health.  I am also pretty lazy and can afford to be lazy.  It's much more fun to read books (with swear words) about my self indulgent food choices and endlessly tweak my lifestyle than to go do something that matters.

So, I'm going to go do some shit, eat some veggies for lunch and fail to worry about it.  And then I'm going to get ready in my specialized clothing designed by modern day scientists to maximize my movement potential while drawing sweat away from my body and hunt down an opposing jammer deer while helping my jammer gather up some points in roller derby practice.

It is what I am evolved to do.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

action items

I find derby hard.

I am not a natural skater.  It is a lot of work for me, physically and mentally.

I am not a natural athlete.  I don't think of my body very much and prefer to keep my mileage low.  Given time on my own, I will crawl into a ball and use only my arms to hold a book.  Well, maybe the occasional walk to the kitchen to make more tea.

When I was in high school, I had a friend tell me that he could see me spending my adult years laying on a couch, yelling at my kids to fetch mommy more bon bons. 

So, despite this derby thing being terrifically difficult, I think I'm doing pretty good.  Difficult is do-able.

But to make difficult do-able, I need to take care of the things I can at home with my body so that do not merely survive a hard, ass kicking practice in the heat but actually learn a few things too.  Surviving isn't enough.  I want to excel.  I have to work extra hard in the rest of my life in order to make the time and effort I put in at practice count.

Which means I have to be thoughful when I care for myself nutritionally.  I must workout outside of practice.  I must treat myself as the athlete I aspire to be.  At least I can have that covered so that my sucking at derby won't be further exaggerated by poor diet and lack of muscles.

Still.  I'm not perfect.  And when I slip, I fall down much further than I expect.

My birthday, bless it, past recently and suddenly there was cake and a celebratory Chinese dinner and, omg, ice cream and chocolate bars for treats.  Going to the movies instead of working out.  Old habits never quite disappear and it doesn't take much to have them take over again, eroding a lot of hard work.

Then the carb cravings ramped up and I started having toast for breakfast instead of the preferable hemp protein and almond smoothie.  And then toast for snack before bed and a glass of wine instead of mint tea.  And then cake for lunch.  And more toast.

I love toast.  I fucking love toast.  And bon bons.  Kids, bring mommy her bon bons!

But toast and wine and bon bons do not love me.  They make it harder for me to do the things I want to do.  Toast makes my middle swell and look like I'm hiding a beach ball in my jersey.  And wine gives me cankles to match my swollen belly.  And bon bons make me angry and tired.  And when I feel down, it seems so. much. easier. to go get another piece of cake than to make a salad.  All that chopping and stuff... ugh.

I've read in several places that it is better to never have another cookie again than to reward oneself for good nutritional choices with a once a week cookie treat.  It seems our bodies will, after a few days without a narcotic substance (and sugar, wheat and all the delicious white stuff is) kind of forget about it.  Your body will crave what you give it.  But a little bit of the super sweet stuff is like a super stimulator and even a tiny amount will overload your craving center, until all you can do is think about getting just one more cookie.

Or piece of toast.

(Hmmm... toast...)

They also say it is best to have a balance of foods.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and all nuts and protein powder and no dark chocolate Aero bars makes Malady a sad bore.  But I don't really do balance well.  Toast is a gateway to large bars of chocolate and entire bottles of wine.  There is sweet stuff that I can have a little bit of and not want more.  Like fruit.  Good stuff, feels great to eat a bit, won't go crazy about it, you know?

I don't believe I can do balance well.  Not at this stage of the game anyway.

So how do I drag myself back out of this pit and start behaving like an athlete again?


The above was written last night right before a two and half hour travel team practice, including an off skates warm up with a run and three rounds of 5 pull ups, 10 tuck jumps, 15 bicycle crunches, 20 inverted push ups, 25 box jumps.

3(5+10+15+20+25) = 225 reasons not eat another fucking bon bon ever again.

Working out and practice always improves my nutritional choices for 24 hours afterwards, because I remember how hard it is to move around all this poundage plus a ball of (vegan) ginger beef in my belly.  Athlete, do what?

Action item #1: Workout at least once every 24 hours.

Workouts don't need to all be super stair running and plyometric intervals.  Some days, just going to the playground with the kids gets my heart racing for half an hour or more.  And getting myself to more practices is just helpful all around.


This morning I went to the post office which happens to be located beside a walk in medical clinic.  Nothing like a load of sick people to encourage you to pass by the pasta and chop that salad.  And then run some stairs for bone health.

Motivation is a funny thing.  When there is an immediate consequence, say touching a hot stove, you learn quickly and easily not to do things that harm you.  When consequence comes hours, weeks, or years later, we forget that things can be harmful for us.

The trick is to mentally invoke a consequence that may not happen for years in order to motivate your behavior now.  Green things are good for me, sugar things are not, and as I age my diet and habits of movements will increasingly show themselves. 

Action item #2: Remind myself frequently of the consequence of good health. 

For me this means a lot of people watching, something I like to do anyway.  Check out people's carts in the grocery store then try to gauge their relative health.  Hang out where people work out.  Go the the mall for fresh veggie juice while checking out the food court.  Get really, really (quietly) judgmental about people.


What this all boils down to is choices.  I am not lacking information about nutrition, I know what is good for me.  I know what makes me feel like an awesome kung fu ninja and what makes me feel like I've been dropped in the pit of despair and I'm too fat to scale the walls back out again.  I'm not dumb.  But I do make poor choices sometimes.

Action item #3: Remove the choice.

Bye bye leftover birthday cake.  Later bon bons.  Ciao loaf of bread.  Heelllllllo greens.


There are many, many other small actions I can take to encourage better choices if I'm going to remain an athlete as I cruise into middle age.  But, for me, these are the big ones.  I know these ones have overriden my poor habits from the past and that a week or two of good choices will dimish my cravings and tendency to sloth greatly.  These three actions are my lifestyle equivalent of being a jammer up against a strong front wall, knowing that if she can just stay upright and keep pushing then eventually either the wall will break or she'll push them out of play. 

Then she'll be free to run.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

There is a difference between knowing better and doing better


Though they've been sounding like maracas for months and one wheel, when you gave it a spin, would grind to a halt after two rotations, I changed these out just yesterday.  I have no excuse for my neglience, though I'm certain my legs are stronger for the extra work they've had to do just to push me around the track.  I will say, however, new bearings make me feel like a new person. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

why I'm a bad blogger and 9 super points of wisdom

It has been noted recently that I am a terrifically negligent derby blogger. Sorry. If it makes you feel better, I am also negligent in almost every area of my life. I would explain it's because I spoon fed derby my brain as well as all my time but if you are here, reading a derby blog, you probably already understand the life consuming derby blob well enough.

But, I'm busy, you know? With derby. Which is why I can't write about derby, because I'm too busy making derby happen. That involves way way more than just going to practices and games. See, as the new pad smell of derby finally faded, I woke up from my fresh meat puppy love to find myself neck deep in committees, meetings, and an administrative To Do list longer than the pack definition. In the past, my inability to say no has gotten me in more trouble than a fruit fly in a glass of Merlot and now it has caused my kids and my league mates have equal shares in my ass. I am a slave to derby.

(Which, on a side note, is funny since though I have managed to thus far avoid any derby nuptials, I have somehow acquired a derby pimp and a subsequent obligation my team's fundraising sub-committee. Come to think of it, I may actually already have a derby wife and that wife is derby itself, much in the way nuns are married to god. Alms to the poor travel team?)

I am no longer fresh meat. I am no longer rancid meat. I am somewhere adrift between colonization of maggots and being far gone enough to grow lettuce. I no longer can talk about the experience of being new, feeling awkward and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. I feel pretty at home on the track now. My fishnets have been replaced by Lyra and practices that make the edges of my vision go dark are my new comfort zone. I run stairs and do cross fit for fitness and fun. My derby crush has turned out to be a keeper and we've set up house.

Thus, to gain some closure on and finally bid adieu to my minty fresh derby self as I finally admit I am no longer a blushing novice, I shall present to sum of the wisdom I have learned as my two year benchmark anniversary approaches in this next month.

(Get ready to be blown away by my sage council.)

1. Attitude counts.

2. Yes, it's hard. Get over it.

3. You are very thirsty but you probably won't die. Finish the drill. You can always give just a little bit more.

4. It never gets easier, you merely encounter new obstacles at greater heights as you progress. You have to find a different way to measure success than easy vs. hard.

5. Do not compare yourself to other skaters in a negative way. Everyone has their own hurdles and triumphs. You don't know what they've been through. If they're better than you, they've most likely worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices. Do not be jealous, honour their achievements. If they are not as good as you, do not feel superior because in no time they'll improve enough to knock your ass down. Cheer them on as they get better and they will become a valuable teammate one day.

6. Dryland and off skates exercises will help you make significant improvements on skates. It sucks, but there it is.

7. What you put in your body matters. Eat well all the time, not too much, and make sure you eat a little snack right after practice.

8. Even when the reffing blows (it always does), the other team is douchey (they always are), and your teammates are all in the penalty box (as always), you can not blame anyone but yourself for a bad game. It's up to you to be able to meet all these challenges and still succeed.

9. Find some balance between derby and life. But don't ask me how to do it because I don't fucking know.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

And if the world doesn't like it, they can just kiss it

Last weekend Chinook City hosted Flat Track Fever, a tournament with thirteen women's teams, four men's teams and a shwack of co-ed pick up games.  This was my first derby tournament and I think that, as with many firsts, it'll always be a bit special to me.

A few interesting things happened.  My team took first place, cementing our ranking in Canada (number three, behind Terminal City and the New Skids).  Exciting for me, I actually played quite a bit and got hoards of compliments for generally being a bad ass blocker and pivot type person.  I discovered that while its taken me this week to feel like my spine is back into alignment after being bashed around all weekend, despite my advanced age (I'll confess, thirty-six!) I do indeed have the energy for a three day tournament and would have very much liked to play the final game instead of having it forfeited to us.  I also may have developed a slight taste for crushing the spirits of the opposition (see forfeited last game).

But, that is not what I'm going to talk about right now.  Instead, I'd like to talk about my bare ass and its sudden appearance during my first game of the weekend on the straightaway right before turn one and on Derby News Network, who through Canuck TV had their camera pointed right at me. 

No, don't bother going to search the archives, the game is gone, thank goodness.

Here is what happened.  My mate Timber, brilliant rookie that is she, is all busy blocking hanging on to my jersey truck and trailer fashion, when she goes down.  She must of also had a hold of my leggings and undies because, whoop, there they go too.  I suddenly feel a discomforting breeze, my teammates and GPRDA get a quick reason to say no to crack and by the time we hit turn two I've stopped cussing at Timber and we're all back to business. 

As you can imagine, I've had quite a few thoughts about my first and hopefully only public depantsing.  First off, it's time to retire my lucky leggings I've been wearing since I first put on skates.  If derby continues to get more hands on (between teammates anyway) then tighter clothes with reinforced seams will be the only way to go if there is a crowd anywhere near me.

Next, as I've found while actively blocking, only a small portion of experience actually makes it to the long term storage memory banks.  Most of my time on the track is a set of snap shots and I rarely can remember more than brief moments of any jam.  My theory is that the short term memory is overloaded during play, between worrying about the positions of ten players (especially me), what the coach and bench is saying, what the up to seven referees are calling (I always pay attention to the calls, whether directed at me or not), playing offense and defense, running multiple strategies at once time and having to keep turning left ON WHEELS while hitting, being hit and picking my arse up off the floor or dodging someone else's fallen arse.  You can't really blame a brain for forgetting some of the fine details.  At this level of stimulus, loading sequential events into long term storage is fine detail.  Hence the snapshot memory effect and the inability to remember that spectacular jammer knock out I made everyone keeps going on about.

But I haven't forgotten mooning the world.  That was notable enough for long term memory storage, listed under Things to Remember and Feel Really Silly About When Trying To Fall Asleep.

The biggest lesson of this all only made itself known several days later, though, when I was almost publicly depantsed again.  This time it was at my daughter's school and my four year old son tugged on my jeans to get my attention and I almost showed the entire first grade class what kind of bruise one can get when one kicks their own ass while wearing a roller skate.

That is when it dawned on me: my body shrank!

I have been in derby for two years and have averaged about five pounds heavier all the way through than when I started.  My body has changed and some repositioning has happened (and rather attractive bulging in some spots - I'm ridiculously in love with my own calves right now) but generally I haven't gotten any smaller.  The past few months, however, our league has pushed up the intensity of our practices up a couple notches, added some off skates training and has been focusing on cardio endurance.  In addition, I laid off the sweets, starchy foods and alcohol while preparing for this tournament.  And somehow I've managed to lose two entire pant sizes without noticing.

Fuck yeah!

To be honest, I don't take any real steps to try to control my weight.  I haven't cared enough to put in the effort of calorie counting and, heaven forbid, actual calorie restriction (*shutter*).  I think being smaller would be nice but only because it would allow me to move faster with less effort.  Generally I focus on eating well and enjoying life and don't sweat the cookies.  The physical activity I do is to become more fit for my sport.  And I play my sport to keep my body healthy.  Not just healthy, but thriving.

I didn't start roller derby to become more fit (I'm not actually sure anymore why I started, just something about wanting to hit bitches) but over time, as I've discovered how good it feels to be able to move my body freely and get up off the floor without grunting with the effort like Aughra from The Dark Crystal, I've grown to appreciate how playing this sport is positively affecting my health, both now and in the future.  I see women my age who move like they are fifty and I see fifty year old women who move like they are seventy.  I have no intention of sliding down the slope towards old age, moving more slowly and awkwardly, getting more brittle and hunched.  I want to continue to play and wrestle with my kids, be able to work out intensely without having to spend a week recovering, have the energy and fitness to accomplish my goals.  Roller derby not only points me in the right direction but gives me a push too.

I don't know what I'd do without derby.  Certainly other activities for grown ups haven't held much appeal.  I am highly unmotivated to push myself to go to the gym and left to my own devices, I will use my child free gym time to bunk off for a latte and read a book.  I need someone to guide me and remind me to keep pushing.  As for yoga, running, wall climbing and fitness classes, they all lack that opportunity for crushing the spirits of the opposition I am growing quite fond of.  Plus you hardly ever get to hit a bitch without the involvement of the authorities when doing mat work.  And warrior pose, my friends, is false advertising.

All of this insight into my own derby motivations started with that one brief, airy moment when Timber decided that if she was going down, she wasn't going down alone.  Which means that while I may be a bit embarrassed, I'm not really sorry about showing my bum to the world.  In fact, given all the good that has come along with with that one itty bitty depantsing, I was thinking about making it my signature move.

Friday, March 23, 2012

RollerGirl Boom wheel review by Princess Sticky Skates


I ordered RollerGirl's new Boom wheels that are advertised to be narrowest, grippiest, lightest wheels ever.  I can tell you that they certainly are light but that's about all I can say since they went directly on the girl child's skates without even a test run for mama.

I don't know who in their right mind spends almost twice on wheels for a child's skates than the skates cost in the first place but I can tell you if happen to go to practices five days a week, have a spouse in derby, a brother in derby, a child bitching and whining because you haven't gotten time to organize that junior program yet and can't move for gear bags and hockey trees then you probably aren't in your right mind anyway.

This probably explains why I have a seven year old wheel nut.  She somehow got the idea that upgrading her gear will make her a better skater and seeing as my custom speed boots arrived just last month I can't really tell her different while maintaining a straight face. 

(I do love my new skates but ow ow ow breaking in speed boots!)

The girl has become a bit obsessive about wheels.  When she meets someone at the arena the first thing she does is look down to see how they roll.  She'll stand on the side making mental notes comparing a skater's wheels to their agility, speed and overall coolness.  While watching Shaggy try to make a get away on roller skates in an episode of old school Scooby Doo - after criticising Shaggy's lack of safety gear and calling a low block when he took out the baddie at ankle height - she rewound the tape so she could get a better look at his wheels because, as she said, 'He wasn't very good but he was sure going fast!'

When her grandmother asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she said the only thing she wants is new wheels.  Which caused a certain amount of amusing confusion and then pity when it was clarified that she was talking about roller skate wheels.

Our derby-ness as a family tends to spread out and down the family tree.  Not so much upwards.

Generally, good gear takes you far but practice takes you further.  In Princess Sticky Skates' case (yes, she has a derby name), however, the wheels do make a difference.  Her recreational skates, after two years of wear, are just starting to fit her feet but the wheels that came with them have basically disintegrated.  She's still about a year from being able to fit in really real derby skates.  Neither of us can wait.

RollerGirl Boom wheels are just a hair bigger than the original wheels that came on the girl's skates, if that gives you an idea of how little they are.  Earlier, just to see if changing the wheels was even possible on her skates, I tried on a set of Radar Flat Outs that happened to kicking around the arena.  The wheels fit the axle, but, given that Flat Outs are fairly wide, her skates looked like one of those expo monster trucks with the giant wheels that drive over and crush stacks of cars while shooting flames out their tail pipes.  While she looked adorably tuff and very derby girl (I wanted to get her a t-shirt that said, 'I may be little but I have big wheels'), the girl child complained that she had to skate like she was riding a horse or else she'd trip over her own feet and I switched them back off again.

As it turns out, RollerGirl just released their Boom wheels right when I was looking for the slimmest, lightest wheels I could find.  And they have pink cores which sealed the deal.  They arrived last week to much rejoicing and seven year old shouts of happiness, 'It's like Christmas, but better!'

I still don't know how I feel about having such sweet (pricey) little wheels on my kid's skates but the temptation to challenge somebody else to race derby orphans with me is awfully strong.  Because in her new little wheels she sure is fast.

So what does Princess Sticky Skates think of her new wheels?  Obviously, after so much deliberation and focus she has a great deal of insight on the performance of the RollerGirl Boom wheels.  I asked her just today to give me the low down.

PSS says,

They're really, really good.  I like them.  Can I go watch my show now? 

And there you have it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The thing about roller derby...

... is that it's not just about roller derby.

Derby is a community.  Of the type in which members live close enough to each other that they are practically sitting in each other laps, where everyone knows every one's business, and nobody can do anything with tongues wagging.  Except that the living closely is more metaphorical in derby, although we do often sit on each other's laps.

Close communities are beautiful.  They cushion its members against depression, loneliness and lack of after parties.  They give us families that we can rely on to lend us a lace for our skates or a truck to help us move.  Communities all pull together to get something accomplished and share in the rewards.  There is a lovely feeling in having a group of people who share your goals and passions, that they will be there for you with the unerring regularity of practices and games.

Communities can also be cruel.  Their existence depends on conformity and of its members adding value to the community. Those who do not contribute, fit in or happen to break any of the many written or unwritten rules face consequences.  The worst of which is being ostracized or banished.  

Derby, in particular, is a community that grows not out of necessity and the need for basic survival, but out of passion.  Derby doesn't need to be, but we'll move heaven and hell to make it happen.

Derby isn't just the skaters for the skaters.  It isn't.  Derby happens because all the work that is done off skates by skaters and non-skaters alike.  Officials, league boards and committees, volunteers, fans, and hours and hours of leg work in planning, talking to municipal authorities, paying bills, researching, teaching, promoting, designing flyers, posters, tickets and uniforms, talking to other leagues, setting up bouts, coaches, venues, merchandising, fundraisers and even more talking and planning trying to work out what the community wants and how to do it.  And fielding endless questions and complaints from a world that wants this enormous cultural phenomena that is flat track roller derby brought to them, conveniently packaged and sanitized for the masses.  All. From. Volunteers.

Skaters do much of this work.  We have to, of course, otherwise we would not be skaters.  But to say that skaters are volunteers is fudging over the detail that skaters actually pay to skate in addition to all the unpaid work they do for their leagues and derby in general.  In addition to athletic training.  In addition to having lives and families. (Who, incidentally, tend to get dragged into the derby vortex.  In my league we now have skating husbands, skating wives, skating sisters and brothers, skating mamas, skating dads and skating children.)

Still, there is no way the skaters can do it all. 

It's mindboggling the time and resources that are put into this sport.  The know-how that has been shared, the thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours, the generosity and competition and love and hurt feelings and some extremely tenacious people who have been put down only to rise up again even stronger.  And being a community of passion rather than necessity, its all been done loudly, firmly, and with as many mistakes as triumphs.

I just want to say thank you to my fellow skaters, the officials, the volunteers, and the fans.  This community has given more than a sport, more than exercise and a reason to live healthy.  It's given me some great friends, some tentative love for my own body, self respect and more paperwork and meetings than I had ever imagined I might find in my lifetime.  I've shed a lot of tears but I've also, somehow, become someone I might possibly admire.

Go me.  And go you, dear derby community.  You're amazing.

Because roller derby is about much more than just roller derby.

Monday, February 27, 2012

first scrimmage

Tomorrow our newly benchmarked players will be playing in the Minty Fresh rookie scrimmage.  First time playing. 

I remember my first scrimmage.  It was a little bit epic.  For me anyway.  At least these rookies won't have the national media there filming them (and scratching the piss out their backs while they flail and fall).  At least I hope not.  I can't promise anything.

Photo by Anthony Canada

I can, however, promise the presence of camera.  Nobody goes out in fishnets anymore without getting their picture taken. 

(It seems a little funny to me that I'm still fixated on fishnets being the mandatory derby girl uniform when I hardly ever wear fishnets.  Usually I wear athletic shorts or opaque tights.  Seems this stereotype is pretty deeply ingrained.  Perhaps it's time to start thinking about changing it, at least in my own mind.)

I was going to call one last practice before the scrimmage to make sure our rookies understand some of the finer details of play that may trip them up on game day.  Like skating counter clockwise to go to the penalty box.  I realize that they may know this stuff intellectually but I know, from sad and sometimes embarrassing experience, that your intellect doesn't get much of a say when you are playing. 

It's your body that is in control.  Your body will do what it's been trained to do.  But when it encounters a situation where it has no training or previous experience - like the first trip to the penalty box - it turns to a confused and adrenaline fueled mind who can't think properly and only says, 'Just Go!  What the fuck?!  Skate!'

This mind is capable of making some devastating yet surprisingly funny errors during a game.

But.  No last practice.  Time to play.  So, rookies, what should you know for your first really real scrimmage?

Dear rookies, in general:

Stay with your colour.  Pair up, work together, talk.

Photo by Richard Lowes

Watch that line.

If the jammer gets past you, go get her.  If she's too far gone, look back because, hey whaddyaknow, here she comes again!  Get her.

Each jam is just one of many.  As Gunpowder Gertie says, think of what you did good and what you did bad, then erase the bad and take that good stuff out again.

Get a goal for the game and remind yourself of it.  Is your goal to protect that line as if it was your baby?  To tag the jammer at least once every time she comes through?

Keep your head on a swivel and maintain your derby stance.  Bitches will hit you.  Be prepared.

If the ref calls you off, don't stand there and make the wtf?? sign and say, 'Me?!'.  Just go.  You may right, maybe not, but in the game the ref is always right.  Plus also when you're standing there arguing, somebody will hit you.  Just go.

Jammers, notice if you have lead jam or not.  If you do, consider calling it when strategically advantageous.  Like when your whole bench is screaming at you, 'Call it!  Damnit, call it!'

Remember, this is fun. Focus on your job but don't become overwhelmed.  Mistakes are inevitable and the best lessons come from the times you fuck up.  Just think of how privileged you to be beginning and have all sorts of beautiful mistakes ahead of you.  So many brilliant learning opportunities.  Don't waste them by beating yourself up.


Bring water and another type of beverage.  When you get nervous you may also get dry mouth, no matter how much you hydrated.  A bit of juice will help that out.

You'll have to pee even though you just went.  Sometimes it's best to ignore that.  It's nerves and it'll go away soon enough.

Wear what you are comfortable in even if it's not the shiniest, fishnettiest clothes you own.  Try out your boutfit before the day.  Nothing worse than a wedgie when you're jamming.

 Eat.  But not too much.  In some ways, games are not as physically demanding as practices, since you aren't skating continous, but those bursts of mad action alternating with sitting down is still exhausting.  Have fuel.  But not so much that you can't move.

Go and thank every single referee and NSO you can find after the bout.  Do this every single game, scrimmage and invitational you play your entire derby career.  They were all there for you.  Demonstrate your appreciation.

Photo by Richard Lowes

However, if you are really pissed off at a ref, give them a big ol' hug afterwards.  Whiffy and sweaty derby girls are pretty gross to anyone who is only slightly sweaty.  Revenge is best served stinky and smeary.

And thank the photographers and buy them a beer if you see them at the afterparty.  They are so invaluable to keeping our spirits up and documenting the growth and individuals involved in this phenomenal sport.  Don't hug them until after you've showered.

Say something nice to your teammates when they come in from a jam, even if it was a total bomb.  Bring your bench up, stay positive, and you'll all end up winning, no matter what the scoreboard says.

Photo by Anthony Canada

After the game, before you go to sleep, make a list of all the things you did good.  You will most likely forget almost everything that happened during the scrimmage.  Most of my games are a few sketchy blurs of action, sort of like a dream half remembered.  Before the memory fades, write down the high points and keep the list safe.  You'll want to come back to this before you play again and after not so great practices when you are feeling down. 

Remember, most of all, you are already doing something completely amazing, even if you spend the whole game falling on your ass.  For every derby skater breaking new ground in their scrimmage there is a million of women who wish they were brave as you.  Own that.

And kick some ass.

I'm proud of you all.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

scrimmage: refs vs. everybody

I think, if I had to choose, I would pick scrimmages as my all time favorite derby thing to do.

Really real bouts can get pretty intense and practices are just that.  I like the middle road.  Scrimmages you can have a little fun, push yourself to try out something new, and hit your friends.

Stitch Rip-Her at the pivot line.
All photos by the excellent and generous Richard Lowes.

In our practice space we have very little clearance between the edge of a full size track and the boards.  For safety reasons, we've marked out a track that is 80% of the official size, giving us a little bit of room on the sides.

What that means is that we have two tracks laid out, one full size and another that is just as wide as a full track but the corners are sharper.

You'd think that we'd be better at not cutting the inside line when it's a whole three feet further in than normal, but it doesn't always work out that way.

Black lines are the full track, yellow is the 80%. 
For the officials, the center can become a little bit squishy.

Refs travel in packs too.
And the outside, well, it helps to be a good jumper.

As an inside pack ref, every time a jam ref goes by waving the hand sign for 'not lead jammer' you can get several thwaps across the hips.  We're all in very close.

Skating in bounds minor.
This past scrimmage - because scrimmages are fun! - it was decided that the refs would get to play a line at the last jam before the half and the last jam of the game.   All of the refs in our league are also players and believeyoume, as much as I enjoy reffing, it's still tough to watch all your buddies playing while you're on the inside, taking care of business. 

Fatal on the jammer line.
So, just before half time, five of us put away our whistles, pulled out our mouth guards, and hopped onto the track.  A few skaters were pulled in for there first attempts at reffing (scrimmages are all about learning).  We probably should of did a quick jersey change, but there I will say there are a few advantages to having the other team feel a bit uncomfortable about hitting you.

Mind fuck.

Below is my favorite photo from the night.  That's Jester holding back the jammer and everyone else while I'm... I think I'm about to do something.  Something brilliant.  Yes, let's just go with that.

Attaboy Jester!

A big thanks to all the skaters who let the refs have their brief moments on the track.  Getting to ref, play a little, and actually knocking Lexi on her ass, it was a great night.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fatal's doll

Hello!  I'm still alive!  I am... busy.  Really, I'm at the arena six days a week either practicing, running a practice or in a meeting.  Too busy doing to really talk about it.  Which is how it goes with the sport that devours lives.

Speaking of being alive, or, rather the opposite, I just wanted to show you the stuffed doll I made for my teammate Fatal Fantasy.  Fatal is a player and ref.  The doll's dress is based upon one her ref jerseys.


Cut track!


I even managed to make a little pair of roller skates to go on her.


If you are interested in reading more (and seeing the skeleton doll without her clothes on), you can visit my other blog (the one known as 'the blog of mine people actually read') and check it out.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

hitting class in the school of smashy smashy

Have I mentioned that I teach at the school of smashy-smashy?  I am our league's fresh meat coordinator and as such our newest skaters, poor souls, are subject weekly to my idea of derby.  Or at least my idea of who should be teaching derby.  I am eternally grateful to our guest coaches who have ventured into our fresh meat class and shared what they know.  You make the fresh meat, and their coordinator, very happy. 

I'm just putting the final touches on a practice for our fresh meat that will introduce hip and shoulder hits.  It will be the first time this group of fresh meat will be hitting each other and I feel about as nervous as someone who has just washed and shined their brand new truck and is about to drive it home down a dusty, loose gravel road

I hope they don't get chipped and dented.  It would seriously reduce their resale value.

I have written about some of my proto-hitting during my fresh meat time and I can say with all honesty, learning how to hit is funny as fucking hell.  I think the humour value of contact sports is greatly under appreciated.  There is accidental boob jabs, ass punches, and, of course, the couldn't-hit-the-side-of-the-barn misses that send the failed hitter three feet past their intended target with a clattery bounce off the floor while a gleeful hittee waves their arms and nyah-nyahs while casual bystanders point and laugh.  And that's just what your coaches will do while demonstrating.  Wait until you get your turn.  Good times!

Of course, even with all the giggles, the first hits are a little nerve wracking.  For everybody.  For those of us who do not have athletic backgrounds but do possess a well imprinted sense of personal space, those first tentative bumps with the hips is as much of a psychological break through as a physical action.  It takes awhile to be comfortable with it.  Even longer to start hitting like you mean it.

While planning this fresh meat practice, the various bits about hitting and hitters I have figured out over the past couple of years has been floating through my helmet holder.  Beyond the actual technique, there are couple of themes have jumped out at me and I wish that someone might of told me or some of the rookies I've met before we've gone and hurt or embarrassed ourselves. 

To my freshies, who are about to chip their paint jobs and put a couple of dings in their fenders this Tuesday, hitting is about effective game play, not beating the crap out of somebody.  When you hit, you are attempting to control an opposing player.  There are several ways to move somebody to where you want them to be - either out of your way, off the track entirely or to someplace where you can control their speed and movements - and hitting is only one option from many.  Learn to use hitting as a tool to further your team's goals and game play, not as a show stopper.

Hitting comes from your belly.  It's not about throwing everything you've got at someone else shoulder first.  It's not throwing at all.  Aggression is awesome, but throwing yourself means either getting an elbows' penalty when you try to right yourself, biffing it when you make contact (or, worse, fail to) and maybe even hurting yourself as well.  Control should be maintained, your balance in check, and that comes from a strong core and being able to shift your weight in ways to effectively counter your leaning motion.  I know this because I seriously need to work on it.  We'll figure this one out together.     

Most of all, do not believe, that as a big tough derby girl, your job is to take a hit.  I've heard it said so many times by new players, that the most important thing is not making the big hit but being able to get up after someone hits you. 

No, no, no! 

Yes, it's important to know what to do when someone checks you, but if you are getting knocked down over and over again during a scrimmage or game, you need to work on your track awareness, number one, and two, omg, move your ass!  Do not stand there and 'take a hit'.  You are not an effective player if you constantly tensing yourself into a ball, absorbing impacts, or rolling around on the ground.  Get out of the way and do your goddamn job!  Blockers, block!  Either counter check and get yourself to where you need to be or avoid the hit entirely and get yourself to where you need to be.  If you are a jammer, being hit and knocked down slows you down and wears you out.  Don't take the hit!  Run!

Just sayin'.

As for the actual hitting part of hitting, we'll go through that on Tuesday.  Just keep in mind, as with all derby skills, those we teach in fresh meat and beyond seem to exist in isolation and it's easy to lose track of why we are learning a particular skill or movement, forgetting that there is a grand scheme.  All these falls and stops, pushing, leaning, and getting low (stance!) are skills that you are going to use in a game one day.  Keep that overall goal in mind and aim to develop safe and effective skills and not worry about whether you are doing things picture perfect or exactly the same way one of your derby heros do. 

It's going to be fun and maybe a bit messy.  Hopefully no one will have to visit the body shop after.  I know you are all ready for it.  I just hope I am.