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!

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.

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!