Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top 10 list: Getting back into running

I started running a couple of years ago on a whim.  The first several weeks I kept saying "I don't want to run any races!  I just want to run!"  I had some slow runner emotional baggage from high school I still needed to deal with.  It wasn't long before I was encouraged by the wonderful people of First Flight to sign up for a 5K.  I was incredibly nervous before that first race, but I finished just fine.  A few months later Jordan and I did a 10K, and I was thinking about going for a half marathon next, but then roller derby came along and it was an even bigger adventure.

I stopped running for a long time, for several reasons which I could have overcome but didn't.  I meant to start back up but needed a little nudge.  Then the other day my URGE teammate Torch invited us to join her in training for a half marathon!  Challenge accepted!  I ran yesterday for about 32 minutes and tonight for about 35.  I'm not sure of the distance.  It works better for me to work on continuously running a certain length of time first and then worry about distance a little later.  Maybe by the end of the week I'll try several miles on a measured track and see what my pace is like.  Anyway, here's my top ten list of reasons to run plus some little things that sweeten the deal for me.

10)  Running magically makes me eat better.  The days when I haven't left the house, nothing has gone well, and I am feeling stressed are days when I eat lots of candy and maybe also some naughty cereal.  (How can Reese's Puffs be so delicious?)  Crunchy chocolate calms me down.  But guess what--running does too!  Somehow when I come back from a run I don't even want to touch a candy bar.

9)  My clothes are going to fit again!  It's such an amazing feeling to slide into jeans that haven't fit very well in a long time.  Or haven't fit at all in a long time.

8)  Especially these shorts.  There is only one pair of bottoms that I really like wearing for derby and these are it.  (I'm on the right in the blue helmet, doing a booty bump 180 drill with Torch.)  These shorts were my yellow polka dot bikini, and when they started to not fit, it hurt my feelings.  My ordinary black running skirt just doesn't say "derby" to me.  But the shorts will fit again!  In fact, I don't know how much I weigh right now and I don't want to know.  I'm just going to let my derby shorts be my guide because the shorts don't lie.

Photo Credit:  Megabeth of the URGE

7)  A new challenge keeps me going.  But for me, it has to be about something more than just weight and size.  I can never predict how much weight I'll lose, and even when I've been in the best shape of my life and felt wonderful, I still found myself disappointed in the number on the scale.  Likewise, I was once rail thin but not really all that healthy.  Strong is the new skinny!  Having a half marathon somewhere on my horizon is an excellent motivator.

6)  Running is such good stress relief for me.  I'm kind of high-strung!

5)  I want to be able to walk up hills, chase my kids, and do other everyday things without getting winded.  It's an awesome benefit that I enjoyed before I took my long break from running and it tapered off.

4)  I want to step up my game for next season, and running is a big part of that.  I also want to work on my understanding of derby rules and strategy, core strength, and upper body strength (lots of work to do there for sure).  Attending practices and scrimmaging as much as possible are a given, of course.

3)  Music is what gets me out the door to run most of the time.  I can't stand listening to myself huff and puff while I run.  How does anyone run in silence?  Or worse, run while trying to talk to a chatterbox friend?  Gotta have the playlist!  My "Kick Asphalt" playlist, named for a race Jordan and I ran, is the perfect running companion.  Sometimes I run just to be alone with my playlist.  Is that bad?

2)  I love doing something as part of a team, or a group, or even just with a buddy.  It feels so much better than doing something alone!  And with roller derby, our team will reap the benefits together too.  Next season.

1)  Running allows me to zone out.  It's the only exercise I've found that does, and I think my affinity for running will always come back to that.  As an introverted, creative person who is also overstimulated daily and easily distracted, zone-out time is a necessity.  I figure out solutions to problems and come up with good ideas while running.

I'll try to post as many running updates as possible here, to keep myself on track.  Feeling good so far!

Do you run?  What would be on your top ten list?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Breaking through the frustration (there IS crying in derby)

Switchbacks drill.  Not a great video, but maybe it'll give you an idea.

We had our first bout of the season Saturday.  There was the invitational a couple of months ago, but this time we skated as a team.  I'll post more about it later, especially after I have photos to share, but right now I want to talk about something else.

Skating in this bout was motivating for me.  I spent most of the invitational feeling lost.  It was chaotic and confusing and I struggled with a couple of skills in particular.  Our coach apparently picked up on some things we needed to work on during that event, and some difficult practices followed.  For me, one of those skills was the 180 toe stop.  The 180 is important.  If you get pushed out of bounds, you need it to turn around quickly and jump back in the pack without making a track cut.  It's also important to be able to stop and/or turn around quickly to wall back up with your teammates once you've been separated.

I was lacking in the 180 department, despite having practiced it thousands of times.  That one skill had taunted me for the better part of a year.  After the invitational, Coach Chip started running a bunch of 180 drills.  Banana peels were hard enough. Then one night, which unfortunately happened to be my first night back after missing several practices due to an evil stomach bug, Chip told us to get on the track and pack up.  That's all of us, skating in several walls, close enough together that everyone can reach out and touch two people.  Chip would yell "switch!" and we would all turn around and stop at the same time, then pack up again skating the other direction.  It was pretty terrifying at first, but having someone skating a foot or two in front of you that you know is about to spin around and face you is an amazing incentive to improve your crappy 180.  I fell lots.  Also ran into my teammates a bunch of times.  Because of this and a couple other issues I was having, I went home crying once or twice because I am NEVER going to be good at this, why do I even try, sob sob sob.  It was a rough patch of practices for me and I sometimes dreaded going, which is part of the reason I haven't blogged for a while.  Luckily I had encouraging teammates.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep lacing up the skates when it feels like you've plateaued and aren't improving fast enough--or at all.  It could be a minor injury, a mental/emotional block, an area of physical strength that needs improvement, or just a general feeling of being the weakest link.  I've done them all.  I have been tempted to give up, but I remembered a bit of wisdom one of my favorite fitness role models, Alison of First Flight, passed along once:  Most people give up just when they are about to succeed.  You never know how close you are to breaking through and reaching your goal.

It only took a couple of weeks of the 180's in a pack drill scaring me half to death before I noticed my 180 didn't suck anymore!  The drill gradually went from terrifying to challenging to very nearly fun.  My 180 still isn't amazing, but it's functional, and I was so glad to have it in the bout Saturday.  I want to be a lot more useful than I was in the bout, and this has renewed my determination to improve.  I know there will be more frustrating practices and weepy rides home in my derby future, of course.  I'll get through it though, and I'm excited for practice tomorrow!

One more thing.  Yes, there IS crying in roller derby.  Sometimes lots of crying.  Don't believe the stickers and memes and garbage that try to tell you otherwise.  There's no reason to feel bad about crying.  Go ahead and let that pain and frustration out.  The important thing is that once you do, you get back on the track and try again.  Those nagging not-good-enough voices in your head are liars.  Your team wants you and wants to help you succeed.  Your body is amazing and will heal its minor injuries.  Doing things that scare you will make you braver.  It might take a while or it might be quick, but one day you'll notice that you're doing it and you'll amaze yourself.  The frustration doesn't last forever if you just keep pushing.  You never know how close you are to success, and trying again is the only thing that will get you there!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lucky Charmers vs. Fresh Peeps: My first bout experience

Oliver Wood:  Scared, Harry?
Harry:  A little.
Oliver:  That's alright.  I felt the same way before my first game.
Harry:  What happened?
Oliver:  I, uh, I don't really remember.  I took a bludger to the head two minutes in.  Woke up in hospital a week later.

~Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, just before Harry's first Quidditch game

This kept popping into my head in the weeks leading up to my first bout.  I didn't wake up in the hospital though, thankfully.  Ha ha.

A lot has happened since my last post about passing assessments.  To sum it up, I don't think I missed a single practice from that day until our March 30th Shamrock 'N Roller Derby invitational, as I was doing my best to prepare for my first real game.  This was a double header, first a fresh meat bout and then a vet bout, and our URGE skaters were mixed in with girls from various other teams.  Some of them traveled hundreds of miles to skate with us.  It was an exciting day, especially for me, Psycho Sis, and Lilli Smack, as it was our very first bout!

If you know me at all I'm sure you can imagine that I was freaking out for weeks over this.  When I signed up for derby I had no idea how I could ever be in a bout.  Just watching my first bout made me a little uncomfortable.  But I knew I wanted it--needed it--so I took it one practice at a time and just hoped and prayed I'd grow into it.  Over a summer, fall, and winter of practices, I mostly did, but as the days ticked off and fewer practices remained between me and the bout, I started to panic a little.  Finally, the last practice before our bout was finished and I realized the next time I laced up my skates it would be for competition.  I wasn't really worried about getting hurt; I was worried about being totally confused, awkward, and useless.  I was glad, at least, that this wasn't a regular season bout and that I'd be skating with other fresh meat.

Finally the big day arrived and I tried not to panic as we pulled up to the rink.  Luckily I had crafted some items to sell at our merch table and had to spend a few minutes helping to set that up.  It was nice to have a project to keep my mind busy at the last minute.  I padded up and stretched with Psycho Sis, whom I was glad to have on the Lucky Charmers team with me.  She suggested we just think of it as a practice and do our best as always.  Good idea.  We met our team, had equipment checks, and lined up on the bench.  

As it turned out, there were plenty of vets for the vet bout but not enough fresh meat to fill two rosters.  This meant a few vets had to be added to the fresh meat teams.  Some of them were really talented vets.  Some of them ended up skating a lot, too.  In particular, there were a couple of awesome power blockers on the Fresh Peeps (yellow) team.  As such, mostly vets jammed on our team and it was challenging even for them.  It felt good, though, to have a few vets there to push, pull, and yell directions at us.  I need that very much and imagine I will for quite some time.

I had wondered and worried about what it would feel like on the track during a jam, and it was mostly what I expected.  Chaos.  Sort of an out-of-body experience.  I think it was in my very first jam that I remember thinking, damn, I feel like I'm on The Price is Right.  A few different people were yelling at us to do things that must have been plainly obvious, only it's a lot harder when you're the one thrown into the fray with everyone looking at you.  Over the boom of the announcer's play-by-play, the music, the shouting from the other team's bench, and the general chatter of spectators, it's hard to make out one set of directions and determine if it's the set you're supposed to follow.  I'm sure I'll get used to it, but this is why I was so glad to have vets on the track to help us.

It was also a relief to find that when you are called for a penalty, it is not easy to miss as the referee skates up and yells it right at you.  I had been worried I'd miss getting sent to the box and then get another penalty for insubordination.  Going to the penalty box was tricky and I'm glad we practiced it.  There are only three seats per team in the box, and one is reserved for the jammer.  If you, as one of four blockers, are sent to the box and the two blocker seats are already full, you must check in at the box and then be sent back into play until a blocker seat is vacated, at which time you must go back to the box to serve your penalty.  When I read these rules, I thought, good to know, but surely that's a freak occurrence.  Wrong!  It happened to me twice.  At least once I looked around as I was skating and found that I was the only blocker left on my team!

Photo Credit:  Kit Ruff.  I think this is just before I got called for blocking out of play.  This is all URGE girls--Juicy Dat on the left, Arson jamming, and me on the right.

I wasn't in that many jams and that was okay with me.  It was a lot to take in anyway!  I think the worst blooper from my first bout was accidentally getting in the way of my own jammer.  Blush.  I went to the box at least once for blocking while out of play after chasing the other team's jammer too far without realizing it.  There was another penalty I can't remember.  It might have been illegal blocking of some sort, perhaps back blocking or low blocking due to a fall.  There were times when I needed to stop or slow down and didn't do it fast enough.  I need to work on quicker stops and 180's.  One time when I needed to fall back but wasn't, one of the vets pulled me back by the waistband of my (stretchy) skirt.  Yoink!  It must have looked like something out of a Tom & Jerry cartoon.  Maybe I'll start wearing a belt.  Anyway, I tried my best, which is all I can do, and there were a couple of times when I felt I got something right.

My fresh meat teammates.  Third from the left in green is Psycho Sis, blocking Lilli Smack as she jams.  They both did great.  Also, the URGE's Cambo Breaker is right behind them, shadowing a ref.  Photo credit:  Kit Ruff.

As for my fresh meat teammates, Lilli Smack jammed remarkably well for the Fresh Peeps, scoring a bunch of points in her first bout.  Psycho Sis did a good job blocking for the Lucky Charmers and I kept thinking how well she was performing in this bizarre new atmosphere that you just have to experience to understand.  I think we were all sent to the box at one point or another, along with most of our vets.  In the end, the Fresh Peeps won, we congratulated each other, and watched the Cadbury Cream Hers and Blarney Stone Hers play the vet bout.  The Cadbury Cream Hers won.  Then we all crowded together for a photo, cleaned up the rink, and had a great time together at the after party.  Invitationals are fun!  I'm looking forward to doing it again.

This first bout was a messy, chaotic whirlwind for me and it took me several days to mentally recover.  I meant to write about it sooner but needed time to process it first.  I'm glad to have had the experience.  I had to have my first bout sometime, and I'm happy it was a fresh meat invitational.  During the bout, and especially in thinking about it once it was over, I gained a better understanding of how all those rules work in actual play.  Some of our drills make a lot more sense now, and practice somehow isn't nearly as overwhelming.  I feel better about hitting and blocking after experiencing a bout.  It'll be a while before I overcome the nerves and confusion, get enough experience, and learn enough to reach my full potential of usefulness in a bout.  I'm getting there, though.  It's not always easy, and it may not be pretty.  But I'm getting there.

The group shot.  I'm in the back row, fourth from the left in the green shirt.  A huge thanks to Kit Ruff for the photos, because they are awesome and because my husband was running the scoreboard and serving as head NSO and didn't get to take any pictures at all!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Assessment Reflections: Impossible things

"Sometimes I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast...  Six impossible things.  Count them, Alice.  One, there's a potion that can make you shrink.  Two, and a cake that can make you grow.  Three, animals can talk.  Four, cats can disappear.  Five, there's a place called Wonderland.  Six, I can slay the Jabberwocky."     ~Alice in Wonderland, 2010

The big night for our fresh meat skaters finally arrived last night!  The rink was full of nervous concentration as we performed techniques we know by heart, as well as some that might still stump us.  It took over two hours, and the hardest part for me was wondering how I was doing that whole time.  Seven of us tested and we didn't get the results until after practice.  It was a long ride home.  While I knew I had performed well in most areas, I wasn't sure I'd done every single thing well enough.  Finally I found out that I did pass, along with three of my teammates.  I am still re-reading the announcement to be sure it's true.

I've been at this eight months.  Eight.  Almost as long as it takes to have a baby, and for me, having a baby was probably easier.  (Not raising a baby; just having one.)  The journey so far has been fun but emotional, scary at times, and I've discovered a side of myself that I didn't know was there.  Now that I have reached this first summit, I'm ready to push harder.  I need to improve my long-known weak points of hitting, blocking, and understanding strategy.  I'm skating in our fresh meat invitational on March 30th, and from there I'll be preparing for my first real bout.  Onward and upward.

When I look back at where I started, I know more than ever that I needed derby.  We all need to believe impossible things about ourselves.  I never thought of myself as an athlete, and I wasn't "born with skates on" like several of the girls on our team, either.  I have always struggled with sports.  Dodgeball, softball, basketball, volleyball--you name it, I couldn't play it.  I was so terrified of high school gym class that I signed up for Junior ROTC just to escape it.  The feeling that I was confused and clumsy at sports sank deep into my bones and after high school, opportunities to disprove that feeling seemed to vanish.  

And then, finally, I found roller derby.  I was at best a mediocre, very occasional rink skater.  Me, weave through that pace line?  No way.  Hip checks?  Are you kidding?  That's a death-defying stunt.  Skate close together in a pack?  Do a 180 and pop up on my toe stops?  Skate 25 laps in five minutes when I've never moved that fast outside of a motor vehicle?  Let someone sling me, push me, hit me while zooming around with eight wheels strapped to my feet?  Impossible.  Never going to happen.

But somehow it did.  And if I have all of that in me, what else is in there that I don't know about?  There's this race called The Bear that I someday want to run.  You begin at the bottom of a mountain and finish at the top.  It's five miles completely uphill.  At first it was a far-off, far-fetched item on my bucket list.  So far, I've never run anything even close to that.  I wondered if I might do my best and still get picked up by the van that comes for stragglers.  Now I look at it and think, pshaw, if I train for it I know I can kick that race's butt.  And someday I will.

We are blind to so much of our own potential.  I'll be forever thankful that derby helped me uncover some of mine.  With all the skulls and crossbones, racy nicknames, and tiny shorts, it took me a while to recognize roller derby for the Godbreeze it is.  I think of all the wonderful women who have helped and encouraged me, and the new ladies fighting their way through and discovering new sides of themselves.  I see my daughters watching me do what I dream of and absorbing it into their hearts and I know I was meant to be part of this.  Without a shred of irony, thank God for roller derby.

P.S.  A photo from last weekend of all-star Columbia Quad Squad jammer Mel Anoma.  The grinning, excited little girl?  Her newest fan, R.L. Bustya, future jammer.  She is also my five-year-old daughter, Suzi.  Maybe she'll change her mind and take on a challenge other than skating, and that'll be fine with me.  Whatever she does, I want her to always know there's no end to her potential.  She is amazing and capable and she can reach out and claim her dreams, with force if necessary.  That's roller derby.

Thursday, February 14, 2013



I've been with the U.R.G.E. for over 3 years now. This is my 3rd season as Head Coach. I fell in love with derby while living in Jacksonville, Fl. After I saw my first bout I was hooked. When I moved back to SC I created a facebook account and saw that one of my old friends was on a team in the area. After missing several bouts I finally agreed to come out to a practice and help. I'm not going to lie, one thing I loved about derby was the tattooed, rock n' roll ladies. Any reason that I could hang out with them was all I needed. So for the first practices I showed up and hung out creepily in the corner trying to learn the game. They needed help with refs and I wasn't about to just jump in there and start making penalty calls. Over time I learned the game and started incorporating myself more into practices.

The team has gone through many changes and I've seen a lot of them. After losing the coach that was in place when I first started there was a period without a coach and we had skater run practices. When it came time to bout we borrowed a coach from the area. When he showed up he knew nothing about the girls. So, with my knowledge that I had about the team from being at every practice I helped him create a line-up. After creating the line-up the suggestion was made that I help pass out the helmet covers. The bout was a success and we beat Rogue in NC.

Showing competence in passing out the helmet covers and creating line-ups in the heat of the moment put me in the position to start doing it all by myself. There have been bouts where I've been the sole bench coach pulling double duty in the effort to win games. Sometimes we've been successful and sometimes we have not. Other times we've extended the invitation to experienced people in the derby community to come and help us out.

I have coach invitationals and helped with other derby teams in the area. I always enjoy the thrill of the bout and having a reason to get to yell at people. I get mad at situations and not people. I am passionate about the game, and yes I want to win while having fun doing it. I am very competitive and want to see my team win. I don't like blow-outs and I love to be a part of a close game. I enjoy derby!

I have seen my roster change a lot over the years and I am very excited about the group of skaters and volunteers I have this season. Just this week I was filled with a joy that made me glad to have stuck it out through all of the times that have frustrated me. Not everything you hear about me is true. If you want to form an opinion of me talk to me first. I am very transparent and I'll let you know how things happen. If I'm in the wrong I have no problem admitting it even if I don't like it, although it doesn't happen often.

I am blue through and through. I will go down fighting with this team. There is nothing more that I want to see than a winning season year after year. I will stand by every skater on my team, and I know that they have been underestimated for far too long. And yes, you can get better by skating for this team. I've seen it happen. I am pushing them and they are pushing back and before you know we'll be taking a victory lap around a rink near you soon.

Banana peels: Working on derby skills at home

I've mentioned several times my struggle with 180 toe stops, or switchbacks.  I could do them, but I could only do them to the right and only if I wasn't going too fast.  I was working on it, but it was coming along slowly--especially learning to do them in the other direction.  Then Monday at practice we spent a while on a "banana peel" drill.  In this drill, you skate in two lines side-by-side and when you get to the front, you do a 180 and jump in the back of the line again.  You can probably see how, done correctly, this drill would resemble a banana being peeled.  But for me, it was aptly named because I felt like a cartoon character slipping on a banana peel over and over again.  I kept falling, and by the time I got caught up, several people behind me in line had already gone and it was my turn again.  It was a huge mess!

I knew I needed to work on this, so Tuesday night after the kids were asleep I put on my skates and did 180 toe stops in the living room while we watched Doctor Who.  Had to sweep a bit first.

Our laminate floor is an easy and forgiving surface to skate on.  I was even able to figure out 180 toe stops to the left, which had stumped me completely at the rink!  More than an hour and hundreds of 180's later, I realized the mistakes I had been making, improved my technique, and made these turns a bit more automatic for me.

Because my floor at home is so easy to skate on, and because I can only get up so much speed between my couch and the sliding glass door, I went to practice early to try it at the rink.  There was definitely progress!  We did the banana peel drill again, and this time I wasn't a cartoon character slipping on banana peels!  Turns out it's a fun drill.

I still need to work on this, especially turning to the left, but working on it at home really helped me jump ahead from one practice to the next.  I'm already thinking of what I can work on at home next.  My freshmeat teammate Clip Her mentioned a roller derby workout DVD that I think looks fun!  I need to be better about doing squats, planks, and leg lifts with skates on a regular basis, and I can do those things while watching TV.  I already knew that just skating around while doing chores could improve balance, and I definitely need to spend some time reading rules and derby blogs and watching bout footage.  Other than that, the main thing I need to work on is blocking/hitting.

Hmm.  Jordan might have some bruises later.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Don't blink

The Doctor Who sticker I ordered for my helmet, designed by the-other-mike on Redbubble

My helmet is still naked!  I have one sticker already, sent to me by a Facebook friend, that I still need to put on there.  Other than that, I just hadn't found anything that resonated with me, and I haven't yet been in a bout to collect the sticker of another team.  There are many cute and funny derby girl stickers, but everyone has those and I wanted something sort of unique.  Today I found some "don't blink" stickers online.  It's a reference to one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes.  I ordered several different designs to choose from.  Can't wait to get them!

At Monday's practice, I finally skated my 25 in 5:00 again!  4:55 to be exact.  It was a happy, happy night for me.  I'm also learning to skate backwards, after all these months.  The other fresh meat girls and I are getting close to our first official assessments, so I'm doing my best to make every practice count!