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?

Running out of excuses…

Well, I’m on the list. 

So, now I have to get back up to speed on skates.  I’ve been up a couple of times in the garage, which is kind of a joke.  I just haven’t had the guts to go out “in public” and skate again. 

One of the derby girls Ruthie, works at my gym and has been so encouraging.  She keeps offering to come skate with me; and if I weren’t being such a wuss, I’d do it.

It sounds almost like an excuse, and I know that people are going to laugh at me about this; but, I think that I need to change out my wheels. 

The wheels on my skates are really slick.  I thought it was all in my imagination until I talked to Ruthie.  Slick wheels don’t grab onto the floor, making it harder to push off.  I’ve decided this is why it’s so hard to get any sort of momentum.

Well, that and the fact that I’m not nearly as good a skater in real life as I am in my head.

After talking to Ruthie the other day, she did say that I could get softer wheels.  Supposedly, real derby dames don’t like them, because they’re for outdoor skating.  But, they’re good to get started with.

For now, I think that I’m going to try them.  I am going to make a run out to Tempe, to a shop that specializes in derby gear.  It’s run by a couple of guys that skate in a men’s league.  They know their stuff, and according to Ruthie, are great at working with all levels of skater.  I’m hoping to get some pointers and one more reason to do this.

The elbow is back at 100%.  The only time it ever bothers me is when I rest my arm on the window of my car.

I’ve got to get this figured out.  The end of May is coming fast, and I have to be at least upright ON SKATES before I go to the first training sessions.  It’s put up or shut up time.

image credit

We can rebuild her!

Seven weeks, post-break. 

We can rebuild her!

There hasn’t been much to report over the past several weeks.  I’d been going to physical therapy a couple of times a week, right up until last Tuesday.  During my last therapy appointment, I complained of additional soreness on the spot above and over from my funny bone.  Increased stress, whether with exercises that I’ve been doing, pressure on the spot or ultra-sound in that area all caused my arm to really ache.

The weekend prior to that, I’d absent-mindedly picked up my little cousin, to put her in my lap.  She weighs about thirty pounds, and it wouldn’t be unusual for me to just swing her up.  The moment that I lifted her, I knew something wasn’t right.  From that point, my arm really hurt.

When I saw my PT, he decided to suspend therapy until I had been back to my doctor.  He was worried that perhaps there was a hairline fracture or something that had been missed with the initial x-rays.

Today, I went back for my follow-up with my doctor.  They took new x-rays, and thankfully, I was able to extend my arm and bend it so that they could get good pictures.  Dr. R. reviewed the films, and then came in to meet with me.  She spent a lot of time manipulating the elbow, checking strength and pressure points.

The good news is that there are no additional breaks, and the radial head fracture has healed nicely.  The pain that I have been feeling in my wrist and up through my arm is normal, and to be expected when there’s been trauma to the elbow.  The ligaments take longer to heal & recover.

She decided that the soreness on the inside of my elbow is probably due to tendonitis.  To deal with it, she ordered a steroid injection.  She left the room, and the nurse came in to set up for the shot.  I KNOW that shots aren’t a big deal; but, sitting there, waiting for the doctor to come back in, staring at the needle and the big bottle of numbing spray made me really anxious.  By the time the doctor came back in, and figured out the angle that she needed to have me in to do the injection, I was sweating…a LOT.  The only thing remotely comforting was the bottle of numbing spray.

The next thing that I knew, she was swabbing my arm with alcohol, pinching my arm and saying, “You’ll feel a poke, a pinch and then a burn.”

Um, hello???  What happened to the numbing spray?

It was over faster than it took me to type that, and yes…I’m a huge baby about shots; but, really.  I guess she figured if I’m tough enough for derby, I should be able to handle a little shot.

We talked about skating, and how I should proceed.  She wants me to see how the steroid does.  I can start PT again, and can do some training at the gym; but, she wants to see me in a month.  If things aren’t better by then, she’ll order an MRI.  If my elbow is improving, I can start skating again…WITH pads.

Good grief.  What a joke this has become!

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been up and down.  Part of me sees that things take longer to heal, and that I have to seriously consider the risks of derby.  And then, I see pictures on Facebook from the Desert Dolls sight, and I could kick myself for not being there for the January start.  The new class is a month in, and from what I can tell, having a great time.

I just have to get to the point where I can put my skates on again, get over the fear and try this again.

It’s a new dawn… #postaweek2011

New dawn

Well.  Another trainer bites the dust.

We’ve been working with LC for two months, and things had been going really well.  I’ve seen some really impressive improvements in my strength, stamina and overall fitness.  We took measurements about a week and a half ago, and though the actual pounds on the scale had not changed much, my body fat percentage had improved by several points.

About a week ago, LC texted me on a Friday night.  He said that he had some bad news.  He’d been offered a position as Lieutenant with a police department in New Mexico.

I was so disappointed, and so was Ben.  LC has been really making headway in Ben’s training, too.  Though he’s small, Ben is playing center for his football team, and it’s largely due to the increase in his strength.

At our last session with LC, he suggested another trainer, Jill.  I’ve seen her at the gym, but I’ve never seen her actually work with any clients.  LC introduced us, and we talked a lot about how he works with Ben and I.

Jill watched our session, and said that she would be happy to work with us.

When we were finished, we hung around, talking to LC for a bit.  He encouraged us to continue working hard, and right before we left, he said, “By the way.  You’re ready.”  He meant that I’ve come far enough that he feels that I could go try out for derby at any time.

I still want to shoot for after the holidays.  I need to spend time actually skating!  I told him that I would let him know when I was trying out, and that I would keep him posted on my progress.

This morning was our first session with Jill.  I won’t lie.  It was very different, in that she focuses on things differently.  We did a lot of ab work and balance work.  It was tough, but I think that I will really like it.  I found myself wimping out a bit; but, it will get better.

When we got home, I got busy in the kitchen.  We’ve planned out meals for the week, so that we don’t have to rely on fast food.  Healthy lunches, healthy dinners.  Every little bit will make a difference.

All I can hear in my head is Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good!”

Here we go! #postaweek2011

THIS is what I’m talking about!

I had my first session with LC this morning.  Right off the bat, I knew things were going to be different.

He came in with a large duffel bag, a laptop case and books under his arm…very LARGE arms.  When he opened the bag, I could see all sorts of “stuff” – nutritional supplements, healthy snacks and more books, along with his own workout gear.

We spent the first half hour talking, taking measurements, and performing an overall assessment.  We were both surprised that this hadn’t been done before.  I do have to say…it’s one thing to know that you’re not in the best of shape by the way that your clothes fit.  it’s a whole other type of rude awakening to see it in numbers, on a piece of paper.  Even if I didn’t have derby as a goal I sure as hell need to so something for my overall appearance and health.

Once I’d gotten through the humiliation of that, and LC was very cool about it, we moved over to the open floor.  I love, love, LOVE that LC made a point to do some research even before meeting me.  He had talked to R, the derby girl at the gym, and asked her alot of questions.  She initially told him the same thing that she’d told me.  “I don’t know what she’s worried about.  She can do it now!”  He asked her about the drills they do and how long they spend at each practice and bout.  He also watched some videos online.

You have no idea how much I appreciate that.  I feel like he’s taking this as seriously as I am.

Over on the floor, the very first thing LC did was to pull out a Bosu Ball.  It’s like a big rubber ball that’s been cut in half.  You can stand on the round side, or on the flat side.  The purpose is to work on balance and strength.  It’s used in rehabilitation therapy, as well.  He had me up on the ball, and then brought over a large metal rod.  While keeping my balance, I had to raise the bar from down next to my body to shoulder level, arms extended.  Suddenly, you’re trying to maintain your balance, keep your core tight, raise this bar and breathe correctly…not easy.

Bosu Ball

We progressed through several variations, with dumbbells and kettlebells, and also worked on what I refer to as a circus platform.  You step up and down off of it, much like an elephant in the circus.

Circus Elephant

Pretty soon, thirty minutes had gone by.  It didn’t seem like we’d done much, but judging from the muscles I’m feeling this evening, and the amount that I sweated out, I know that what we did was effective.

LC wants to concentrate less on machines and more on strength, agility, and cardio.

Because of the type of movement that I will have to do, and the way that my weight will be distributed on a banked track, he can foresee what areas I need to concentrate on.

We also spent a lot of time talking about lifestyle, diet, etc.  One of my health goals is to improve my blood pressure.  he’s going to provide some suggestions for diet, not just for me, but for my whole family.

I am thrilled.  Suddenly, I feel a different kind of excitement, not just for derby, but for a new me.