Wash out

I’ve been putting this post off and avoiding this blog for several weeks.  I kept hoping that the situation would change before tonight; but, here we are.  Three months after sucking it up and hauling my cookies out onto the track, tonight is the skills testing night.

And, I’m not there.

Several weeks have passed since my urgent care visit.  My foot, though definitely better with no skating, is not back to where I can strap my skates on again.

The other night, while the home alone, I put my skates on.  I just rolled around a bit on what little tile we have.  The nagging pain that I’d experienced before sharply reintroduced itself.

I’ll admit it…I cried.

I don’t know what to feel.  Part of me is so disappointed to be missing the skills test…so disappointed that it almost chokes me.  As I follow the progress of my fellow Cherries on Facebook, I am jealous and I feel left out.

The other part of me – the scared, really bad skater part of me – is relieved.  Derby is hard.  It’s one of the most physically and emotionally demanding things that I’ve ever done.

Several of the trainers and other Cherries have encouraged me to try again with an upcoming group and that originally was my intention.

However, as the weeks go by, and my foot is not showing enough improvement, I’m worried that it will never cooperate.  It’s not like this was a new injury.  The only time that I can remember suffering a broken bone in my foot was in college.  That was almost twenty-five years ago.  Pressure is never going to improve with more skating.

So, if I can’t skate, what?

The league is always looking for non-skating officials (NSOs) and I could do that, but, that’s not why I started this whole thing in the first place.  I wanted to be a derby diva, crashing through the pack, not standing in the middle with a clipboard.

I am torn.

I’m going to have to think long and hard about this.  As my mother says, “When the mom goes down, it’s hard on the whole family.”  Is it really worth pretty certain additional damage to my foot to be scared out of my mind, yet exhilarated beyond belief?  There are still several things demanding attention, with family, work, the other hobbies that I’ve taken up.  Derby is a huge commitment, and I would need to invest a lot of myself to get better than I am.

Tonight, the Cherry Posse is skating their 25 laps in 5 minutes, running the obstacle course, jumping, falling, sliding and celebrating.

To my fellow Cherries, KICK ASS!  I am so proud of all of you!  To the trainers of our league, you are my heroes.  Even if I’m cheering you on from the cheap seats, I am your number one fan.

Daddy, We’re Down! #derby

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I’m feeling a little bit sick tonight.  I’m disappointed, and secretly, just a little bit relieved.  Last week, at Wednesday’s practice, we had our first scrimmage.  We were absolutely terrible; but, it was SO MUCH FUN!  THIS is what I’ve been waiting for!

We practiced skating in the pack and started with one jammer.  We’d take turns at pivot, wearing the striped “panty” on our helmets.  At first, we weren’t doing any hitting.  We had to start learning what we can and can’t do with our hands, and start figuring out what is legal…no back blocks, no tripping, etc.  It’s much harder than you would think.  Several of us took to skating with our hands clasped together like we were praying.

After several jams, the trainers lined us up around the track.  We were facing forward, each at a point around the track, with spenty of space in between.  The trainers started weaving in between us, alternating inside & outside.  As they came up next to each skater, they would throw a shoulder hit.  It was our job to take the hit and stay on our feet.  I quickly figured out that the lower I was, and the more I leaned into the hit, the less likely it would be for me to get knocked on my can!

Some trainers would just sort of lean into the skaters as they went by.  Some seemed to take a perverse pleasure in really knocking us.  After every hit, I would giggle like a fool.  I know it doesn’t sound like fun; but, it really was.

Once we’d all been battered around for several minutes, it was time to pair up and take turns at another 25 in 5.  Part of the skills test is to skate twenty-five laps in five minutes.  It doesn’t sound like much; but, you have to pace yourself, and you have to dig in and get your crossovers down.  Crossing over around the curves builds speed and creates momentum.  I went first, and my partner cheered me on, counting my laps.  I was skating hard, and really trying to concentrate; but, my right foot became more and more painful.  I wasn’t skating at anywhere close to 100% because, every time I tried to push with my right foot, pain would shoot across the top of my foot and my big toe started going numb.  By the time the five minute whistle blew, I’d only managed seventeen laps.

Taking my skate off and putting a shoe on was miserable, and by the time I woke up the next day, I could barely hobble.  I decided to go to urgent care, to see if they could see anything.  They ran some xrays, and I got to look at them with the PA.  We talked about how long the foot had been bothering me, and I counted back to about two weeks prior…that’s when I’d first started noticing twinges across the top of the foot.  She couldn’t see anything that looked like a fracture; but, she did see some strange shadowing right where I was complaining of pain.  She said that a radiologist would read the xrays and that they’d get back to me.  They wrapped me up in an ace bandage & advised me to stay off of the foot as much as possible.  Later that afternoon, they called to tell me that there was no new fracture, only that I’d “aggravated an old fracture.”  What?  I’d never known that I’d actually broken my foot.  The first week of college, I’d been running around in the quad barefoot, and did hurt my foot.  I never saw a doctor…just babied it for a while.  I eventually forgot about it…and, it’s not like that was so recent.  That was twenty-five years ago!

I spent all weekend, trying to stay off of the foot as much as possible, and keeping ice on it.  It’s not getting any better and I’m afraid that I’m running out of time to get the required skills down to be able to pass the test.

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I decided that I need to let my foot heal completely, and then try again with the next round of Cherries in September.  It turns out theat there will be several of us going through the training again.  One girl suffered broken ribs after a bad fall at the church wehere we can practice…another dislocated several of her lower vertebrae thanks to a nasty fall at scrimmage last week.  There are a couple more that had injuries early in the Cherries session and they feel like they need some extra time to work on skills.  I emailed the head of our league, to make sure that I would be able to try again, and she couldn’t have been nicer.

I’m disappointed that I won’t be on a team come September; but, I know myself…I want to do this right, and I want to be able to pass the skills test.  I don’t want to risk making my foot worse before I strap on my skates again.  The hardest part is over…putting those skates on the first time was SO scary.  I did it, and now I know that I can do it.  I will do it.

So, for now, we’re down; but, stay tuned.  This Derby Girl Wannabe is still determined to kick ass on the track!

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The time in between…

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  The Cherries were off this past week, thanks to the holiday and shortened hours at the Castle, where we train.

On Thursday, a couple of the trainers and several of the Cherries met up at a pub for some bonding time.  It was a good opportunity to let our hair down and get to know each other.  I spent a lot of time talking to UR Mom, one of our trainers from the Joon Cleavers team.

I had the chance to ask her questions about being on a team and some of the differences in the teams.  There are different philosophies, depending on the captains.  We talked about how derby is suddenly getting hot.  Many women are joining for reasons other than the desire to compete in a sport.  Some are lured by the crazy derby names and what is perceived as the “bad girl” persona associated with derby.  Some join to make friends and some join just to lose weight.

I can say that after six weeks of some of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever faced, I am in this for the sport itself.  I look forward to getting past the skills tests and to being on an actual team.  I like the idea of the game itself, and competing.  The distressing part is that I don’t have the physicality yet needed to get to that point.  I struggle with some of the skills that we have been learning.  Others come easily to me.

I told Mom that I worry that I can’t get past the tests to be able to be drafted.

Perhaps I put too much pressure on myself.  I spend too much time thinking about it. 

I wish that our practices were spread out through the week.  With so many days in between, it’s easy to psyche myself out.  I start doubting myself and begin talking myself out of going.  It’s the same with going to the gym.  If I were smart, I’d go to the gym early in the morning, before work.  Having all day to think about all of the things I’d rather be doing – most of which involve pajamas and a remote control – allows phantom aches and pains to creep in.

Once I’ve been, though, it’s hard to imagine what I was so worried about. 

In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to start doing more contact drills…blocking, hitting, etc.  I’m looking forward to that, as I think I will do better with things that approximate actual bout situations.

Also, I’ve submitted a name change.  On the Fourth of July, I watched “Gone With the Wind.”  Belle Wattling is a minor character, but that’s a great name.  I really think that Belle Throttling is going to work better than Showmee de Monet.  Showmee is too long, and too many people don’t get it.  It doesn’t quite suit me.  We tend to call each other by our derby names during practice.  Belle will be easier for the team to pick up.

This week, I resolve to get in at least one extra practice day, go to the gym as scheduled, do my crunches each day and stay out of my head!

Wipeout!

Ooo! That’s a beauty!

Behold…my first, official derby bruises!  They don’t hurt, and they certainly won’t be the last ones I sport.  Probably the best part, though, is that I feel like I earned them.  Each bruise or floor burn represents getting out and doing something that scares me.  They are reminders that I’m challenging myself and getting better with each attempt.

Last week, the Cherry Posse had one long practice Wednesday night, rather than two shorter practices over two days.  The league was holding tryouts for their new traveling team, and needed the rink on Thursday.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was worried.  Regular practices run an hour and a half.  By the end of that time, not only am I soaked with sweat, but, I’m also exhausted.  A three-hour run would be tough.

I was also nervous, because I felt that there were some things that I was falling behind on.

Credit is due to our awesome trainers.  They knew to plan well, and structured the practice so that we were changing things up constantly and taking water breaks about every ten minutes.

While it was tough, I’m happy (proud!) to say that I was able to keep up and improved on some skills that I’d been having trouble with.

The last thing we did was to establish a baseline for one of our skills test.  We have to be able to skate twenty-five laps in five minutes.

The trick to building up speed is to really use crossovers as you go around the ends of the rink.  Though I used to do them without a thought on ice skates, I’ve had a rough time with them on roller skates.  Heavy roller skates and big , bulky kneepads make the movements more difficult; and, I’ve not really trusted myself to be able to go that fast.

We partnered up with a teammate and one person skated first while the partner counted laps.  I paired with MoMo, a tall blond with a great attitude.  She was awesome!  She managed twenty laps and made it look so easy.

Then, it was my turn.  As I got going, I built up some speed and really tried to focus on picking up my feet, staying low and turning into the curves.  I got a rhythm going and suddenly, I was crossing over.

Our teammates were cheering us on, and a couple of the trainers could see that I was picking my foot up and placing it correctly for the crossover.  They started calling, “You’ve got it!  Good job!”

With that, I my focus evaporated, and I was just barreling around the corners, out of control.  The next thing that I knew, I was sliding sideways.  I crashed into the long wall, laughing, but frustrated.  This was slowing me down!

I shook my head and got to my feet.  I wasn’t hurt… I just needed to get back into the rhythm.

I definitely lost time with the fall…I lost one or two laps’ worth.  When the whistle blew, I was rounding the corner on my fourteenth lap.  From an endurance standpoint, I was fine.  I just need to get faster.  I’d love to be one of those already at twenty laps; but, considering where I started, I know that I will only get better.

Below are some pictures of my “brain bucket.”  I messed around with a silver marker.  The trainers asked us to put our names on our helmets, so that they don’t have to refer to us as “Hey, YOU!”  When I get drafted to a particular team, I’ll upgrade to a helmet that is coordinated to our team colors.  For now, it’s got a “Desert Rose,” inspired by M.A. Brotherton.

Showmee de Monet

Desert Rose, inspired by M. Brotherton

Lucky #5…why not three of them?

Showmee de Monet

I’m four days into Cherries training.  Last Wednesday night, as I packed up my gear and headed to practice, I had a few butterflies.  I know that the trainers and the other Cherries would be nothing but encouraging; but, as is always the case, fear of the unknown can paralyze you if you let it.  I practiced lots of deep breathing, distracting myself on the ride to the Castle, blared loud music…anything I could come up with to just suck it up and get down to it.

Last weekend, the Desert Dolls had a booth at Phoenix ComicCon.  They picked up several new recruits, some of whom have never skated.  They joined us on Thursday night for their first practice…scared, unsure of what to expect and some even wobblier than me.

Suddenly, I was no longer the slowest, weakest or most hesitant.  I was the one high-fiving girls and encouraging them.

Don’t get me wrong…I still have a very long way to go before I’m smacking into anybody; but, the last two nights of practice were better than the two before, and a huge boost to my confidence.

In addition, I’m making friends with the other Cherries and the trainers.  The league’s founder set up a Facebook group specific to our Cherries training set.  We are setting up time to meet outside of practice, to work on skating other nights of the week.  One skater, upon hearing that I want to swap out my wheels, offered and then showed up with extras that she’s not using.

Some girls already have derby names picked out.  I’ve been kicking around several options, checking them against the international registry.

I thought about the fact that my ultra-conservative boss refers to me as his “favorite little Bolshevik,” thanks to my liberal tendencies.  I toyed with variations of that and emailed my mother.  She suggested “Belle Shevik” and I added “Bomber.”  I also considered “Belle Throttling” after Belle Wattling, in “Gone With the Wind.” 

The one that I’ve submitted to the league is a play on my ancestry.  I’m related to Claude Monet on my grandfather’s side.  I fancy myself a sort of artist, so I came up with “Showmee de Monet.” 

I kind of like that…I think that I’ll sit with it for a while.

I did it…but, I almost didn’t!

Desert Dolls Roller Derby League Cherry Posse

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King

It’s official!  I am a member of the Desert Dolls Roller Derby League’s Cherry Posse.

And, it almost didn’t happen.

This has been a goal of mine for almost a year.  After attending my first bout last summer, I decided that I wanted to try it.  Committing myself online meant that I couldn’t back down.  I am notorious for starting things and quickly abandoning them afer being distracted by something else.

Last year, I joined a gym, started working out with a trainer and talked about derby…a LOT.  I didn’t spend much time (read, “ANY”) on skates, not really considering how tough that might actually be.  It would be like riding a bike, right?

I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night.  I didn’t know what to expect the next day; but, the knowledge that the time was finally here made my heart race and my stomach roll.

The first order of business was orientation.  The league’s founder, Evol Star, talked about the league’s history and handed out thick packets.  There are a lot of forms and assorted bits of administration involved in signing up for derby.  We had to provide proof of insurance in about four different places.

The Cherry trainers introduced themselves and spent time going through the handbook.

Finally, it was all done but the skating.

Here it was…my moment to be exposed as a fraud.  As I changed into my shorts and Beatles tee-shirt, I started to panic.  Who was I kidding?  All around me, the other Cherries were putting on their pads and lacing up their skates.  I quickly discovered that my pads were woefully inadequate.  I had gotten a cheap set, with wrist guards, elbow and knee pads last year.  Mine were made for recreational skaters, not suitable for the much more intense protection needed for derby.

I got one skate on, and couldn’t force myself to put the second one on.

The other Cherries all headed for the floor, and there I sat…sweating and near hysteria.  One of the trainers, Temper Tantrum, came over and asked me if I wanted to be in the group photo.  I couldn’t muster the courage to get out there that quickly.  She nodded, and told me to take my time.

After a couple of minutes, I gathered myself up and dug through the bag of spare pads the league keeps on-hand.  I found some “real” knee pads and strapped them on.

I gradually worked my way over to the rink.  Evol Star and another skater, Honey Badger, were there watching.  Evol Star asked me if I was ready, and I told her that I didn’t know if I could do this.  She told me to take my time…she even said that if I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to go out.  She was giving me permission to quit.  Then, she had to leave.

As I stood there, Honey Badger came over and started talking.  She told me that I needed to go at my own pace and not compare myself to anyone else there.  Several of the Cherries were skaters who had either skated with other leagues, or had taken a leave of absence and come back.  League rules stated that they had to go through the Cherries class, regardless of their ability.  I looked again at the Cherries now in lines, learning T-stops.  I could see girls who were clearly not new to derby; but, I could also see girls who were wobbly and hesitant.

Temper Tantrum checked on me again.  She suggested that I just come out onto the floor and skate along one side of the rink.

Honey Badger opened the gate for me and said, “You’ve GOT this, Brandee!”

For the next hour, I skated up and down the long side of the rink as the other Cherries moved on to knee drops.  At that point, I was more concerned with staying on my feet than I was throwing myself on the floor on purpose!

Toward the end of practice, Temper Tantrum skated with me.  She pointed out that my actual skating form is good, and that I’m much more steady than she would have thought, given my reluctance to get out onto the floor.  She told me that they’ve had girls that had to hold onto the wall the whole way around when they first started.

Each of the trainers made a point to come up to me after practice and each said that they hoped that I wasn’t discouraged and that I’d be back the next night.

When I got to my car, I collapsed into the driver’s seat and sat there for a couple of minutes.  As I started the engine, I burst into tears of relief, release and complete joy.  I had done it…sort of!

Last night, as I laced up my skates for round two, I was determined to get out onto the floor right away and to try every single thing that the rest of the Cherries did.  Several trainers congratulated me and said that they were glad that I had shown up.

I skated laps, worked on T-stops (these continue to confound me) and then got stuck on knee drops.

A knee drop is simply a way of stopping.  It’s a controlled fall.  As you skate, you drop one knee down, like you’re doing a lunge.  You slide to a stop on your knee pad.

As often happens, I was over thinking it.  Two trainers pulled me out of line and took me down to the far end of the floor.  I wasn’t the only one having a tough time; but, they could see that I was stuck in my head.  They talked me through it, and suddenly, I drop and get myself back up without putting my hands on the floor.  This is a must, as you don’t want your hands down where they can get rolled over.

All through the practice, one of the league photographers, Daddy Skittles, snapped picture after picture.  Each time I came around a curve, within his view, I’d get a goofy grin on my face.  Hopefully, pictures will show me working hard, sweating enough to look like I’ve been dunked in a pool and having the time of my life.

We ended practice with a game of freeze tag.  One person was “It,” and if you were tagged, you would do a knee drop and stay down until unfrozen.  As I played, I started to build up some speed and was able to drop when tagged.

We did some ending stretches and then were sent on our way.

This time, I was euphoric.  I can see a path…practice will only help me get better.  My time in the gym has paid off handsomely in that I’m a bit stiff today; but, I’m not sore or hobbling around like I would have been eight or ten months ago.

I have a long way to go before I’m bashing my way through a pack or jamming.  Today, though, I can actually see myself doing this.  I would even like to set another goal of becoming a trainer.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.

You’ve Got Mail

There it sits.  It hit my inbox last night.

The call to arms…the announcement for the first sign up/practice for the Cherries with the Desert Dolls Roller Derby League.

Next Wednesday, all of this talking will be done, and it will be time for me to walk the walk…or skate the skate, as it were.

I knew to expect it sometime toward the end of the month.  I’ve been excited about it; and, I’ve been dreading it, too.  Against my better judgement, I’ve continued to talk about it, write about it, and think about derby non-stop.  I started working with a trainer at the gym late last year, so that I could get into some sort of shape to be able to try out.

After spending all day with derby on the brain, and a stomach in knots, Dave, Ben and I headed to the gym.  My trainer, Jill, was excited to hear that the date had been set, and took Ben and I out onto the floor.  She came up with some new exercises to try, geared toward helping with balance and agility.

One of the first ones she wanted me to do was an easy one.  I was to stand facing a pedestal.  It was a small one…only about a foot high.  She wanted me to jump up onto the stand, landing as lightly as I could with both feet.  Suddenly, the fear that had been clawing at the edges of my psyche all of this time over derby ripped through and I got stuck.  I couldn’t make my feet move off of the floor.  I started sweating, and tried to will myself to do it.

I knew that it wasn’t going to tip over.  I’ve watched people do the same exact thing.  Ben can jump up onto the higher ones with no hesitation.  In my mind, I kept picturing a guy that we’d seen jumping several months ago.  He’d been jumping up onto one of the stands that was much higher…maybe four feet high.  Suddenly, he missed, and hit his shin on the way down.  He hit so hard that it raised a huge knot immediately, and he couldn’t get up off of the floor.  The pain was incredible and they had to half-carry him out.

Jill could see that I was having a hard time, and wanted to move on to something else.  She’s good at adapting to my skill level, while still pushing me.

I took a deep breath and jumped up.  I did it!

She had me do it nine more times, and it took a lot of mental scolding, telling myself that there was no reason I couldn’t do it.  If I had just done it, rather than stand there thinking about it, I would have been fine.

This is a lesson that I am going to have to remember.  It’s like that line in Bull Durham:

Tim Robbins & Kevin Costner in Bull Durham

“You just got lesson number one.  Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.”

About a week ago, I found a group on Facebook, called Derby Over 40.  I started reading the posts and I was blown away.  like so many other people who I’ve “met” online, this community is full of some truly inspirational people.

Suddenly, I have a place where I can pose a serious question and, rather than the “Rah!  Rah!  You can do it!” responses (which are great in their own way) I get honest, thoughtful advice, tips, reassurance and support.

Posting that I am feeling absolutely terrified because I was never a great skater as a kid, because I haven’t been on skates in years and years and because the first time I put on skates in years, I ended up with a broken elbow earned countless comments about how many had never skated at all before derby, or who went to their first practice with their skates in the box they’d come in.

I got links to YouTube videos and all sorts of tips.  My favorite was, “Don’t look at the floor.  It’s not going anywhere and if you watch it, you’ll end up kissing it!”

I’m a little distressed at how many broken bones people have had; but, they all healed and went right back to skating.

The best part is that every single person in this group is over the age of forty.  Many didn’t even start derby until after forty.  Time and again,  I saw, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number!”

With one kid graduating from high school on Tuesday, and the other getting promoted from eighth grade on Thursday next week, I’ve got plenty of reasons to try to forget my age and try something new…just in time for my 44th birthday on the 28th!

P.S.  Once I get my derby name, I’ll get to update my signature.  I have some ideas; but, they have to be cleared through the Derby Name Register.  Stay tuned!