Thursday, 30 December 2010

damn weather.

funny pictures - Cat Hit by Snow
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Yep. Feel like this right about now.

I miss skating outside. I miss sunshine. I miss ice cream. I miss not having numb fingers and toes.

Monday, 27 December 2010

equipment musings

Two posts in as many days, well aren't you lucky?

Last night as I was reviewing my haul of derby prezzies, I started thinking about my gear. My current set up is: riedell 195 boot with powerdyne triton plate (with some sure grip yellow cushions snuck on!), bones reds bearings, carrera toe stops and heartless creeper and breaker wheels.
A lot has changed since I first laced up a pair of skates way back in April: back then I thought skates were just skates. Y'know, big boots, huge toestops...I had no idea there was any variation. I felt the same way about my gear...a kneepad is just a kneepad, right?


The first thing I noticed was the boots: low cut, black speed boots. My rio rollers were like donkeys next to a thoroughbred racehorse when compared to those bad boys. And the speed boots had plates with trucks you could adjust! So you could turn! It was then I first heard the magic word: Riedell. Since roller skating has never been as popular in the UK as it is across the pond, I had never heard of this brand before, but basically riedell have been making skates since the dawn of (skating) time. They have one factory over in the USA and each boot is crafted to high standards. Unfortunately, this comes at a price. The mark up on Riedells over in the UK is pretty much scandalous, with the 'entry level' R3 still weighing in over the £100 mark. Not exactly within budget for most people, especially if they still want to work out whether they want to keep skating or not. And the sizing is strange - they are sold in 'men's sizes', so as a rule of thumb it's best to go down a size. They should feel a little too tight (like rock boots). I was pretty much ignorant of all of this when I bought my first pair of speed skates. I wanted R3's. Sadly, my size being pretty damn popular I couldn't find them anywhere. Being super impatient, I ended up ordering sure-grip rebels. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise: they came with nice toe stops (carreras) and decent wheels (black fugitives, which I still think are awesome 'all purpose' wheels.). I had a pretty good run on them...but I hated the boot. Really, really hated it. The high ankle wasn't for me, and I had been eyeing my coach's skates for a while: Riedell 195's. Beautiful, all-leather, and low cut around the ankle. I tried them on (with three pairs of socks as BB has bigger feet than me) and fell in love. Luckily for me, this coincided with getting my bond money back from my old house...guess what I ordered? I almost died of excitement when they arrived: they were so beautiful! I still remember my first session on them...they hated my feet. really, really hated them. My old rebels were cushy and such luck with these! By the end of the first session my feet were raw, with a lovely blister where the arch counter rubbed my feet. Yeowch! So, being the stubborn bugger I am I was determined to make them love me back. I started wearing them all the time, even around the house while watching TV or doing the washing up. I taped no end of gel pads to my arches and tried pretty much everything to prevent the dreaded arch blister forming. Slowly, they broke in and stopped hating my feet. I invested in some 'ezeefit booties' and have suffered no blisters since. The best boot for you is as much about your skating style as your budget. There are amazing skaters in my league who love their R3s and are awesome on them. Many like a high ankle, and the 125 and 265 are popular choices. Personally, I LOVE my 195's. I like the flexibility of the low ankle, and the fact they lace all the way to the toe allows for my wide feet. My boots should last me a good few years yet, but when they eventually die (not for a long, LONG time, fingers crossed) I will go for the same boot. There is more to derby skates than just riedell (bont, labeda, vanilla ect) but the craftsmanship you get is second to none. The only thing that could tempt me away from my 195's is the Vanilla Brass Knuckles...and that's simply because they are pretty!

So, we've covered the boot. Now for the things that make them go: wheels!
My first decent derby wheels were the black sure-grip fugitives (92a) that came with my rebels. Decent wheels, they're good for almost any surface: grippy without being slow and hard(ish) without sliding out on the corners. However, when I was brand new freshmeat (and was utterly rubbish) I wanted more grip. I wasn't confident enough for hard wheels, and ordered some sugars in the belief that they would help me feel more stable. When they arrived I was so excited to try them out...and was thoroughly disappointed that they made me feel like I was skating through mud. Fail. I'm the first to admit I'm a total gear geek, especially with wheels. I love to experiment, and it's taken me some time and extensive trial and error to work out what I want in a wheel. To my surprise, I like a harder wheel. I currently skate on a 90/94a combo, and prior to that I was on 94/96a. The 96a's were just a little too hard for me though, and I would slide out no end on corners. The 90a pushers seem to suit me fine, and I imagine I will go for a similar combo when I've worn these ones out. I also love, love LOVE narrow wheels. I'm not the most agile of skaters, but I find I feel more 'hoppy' on the narrow wheel...and it pretty much eliminates wheel clipping when skating in a tight pack. My advice to anyone looking for new wheels is experiment! Try new things, and see what works for you. Sadly, wheel collecting is an expensive hobby so don't be afraid to ask other girls in your league what they skate on, ask if you can loan them and give them a try.

Last but not least: always use protection. Derby is a contact sport, and good protective gear will stand you in good stead to avoid injury. My advice? As soon as you know derby is something you want to keep doing, invest in the best knee pads your money will buy. They ain't cheap, but a knee injury is not only super painful, it could even put a massive crimp on your derby career. If you're on the heavier side (like me), chances are when you go down you will go down HARD. I started off with cheap anarchy brand pads, which were just fine while I was learning to stay upright. But as soon as we started repetitive falling drills my knees were starting to hurt in a serious way. After reading various forums and reviews, I splurged £60 on some Smith's Scabs knee pads. The first time I wore them provided me with a steep learning curve: they stuck out so much they made crossovers three times as hard! Eventually I got used to it though, and now I couldn't even imagine wearing a small knee pad. I even have some super cushy gladiator gaskets to provide extra protection (and to keep my pads from sliding around when I hit the deck!). Here are my top knee pads that are worth splurging on if you plan to stay in derby (in no order):
1. Smith's Scabs. They may be sized a little weirdly (S/M and L/XL...and they run SMALL) but they fit around the knee beautifully and feel like falling on clouds. They also open at the back so you can put them on after the rest of your gear! However...they are on the long side, so if you have teeny tiny legs you may be better off with a shorter pads. The caps are also riveted to the pads, so less chance of losing a cap but more hassle to replace if you do break one. It's not happened to me yet, and fingers crossed it won't.
2. 187's. These are endorsed by Tony Hawk (even though they don't pay him to, he just really likes them!) and provide awesome protection. They are on the short side though, so probably best for shorter legged skaters.
3. Rector Fat Boys. These run small too, and again they are quite a long line pad. A few girls on the league have them (including our coach). They also stick out less than the scabs...and if they're good enough for Suzy Hotrod..!
4. Pro Designed. These are the daddy of all pads, and also come with the price tag to match. They are custom made to your measurements, so if you have weird sized legs they are guaranteed to fit you like a glove.

So, enough of my rambings...what gear do you guys love and why?

Trauma x

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Happy (derby) christmas!!!

So....very, VERY long time no post. Bad blogger *slaps wrist*. A helluva lot has happened since my last post, so I'll break it down in to bullet point format. I'm efficient like that.

1. The Tiger Bay Brawlers have their debut public bout on January 15th!! It's against Bristol, and needless to say I think the Brawlers will be pretty much wiping the floor with them. I am biased though...
2. The travel team squad for this bout was chosen at the start of December. I'm not on it. Kind of gutted, but in the weeks prior to selection I'd been so ill that I hadn't had much of a chance to skate. In my heart of hearts, I know I'm not ready just yet. It's not going to be long though - I plan to get my head down at training, work hard and earn my spot on the team. Before the year is out I would like to play in at least one travel team bout. Even if it takes me to the end of the year, that's what I'm working towards. Plus...the team that has been selected is a thing of beauty. Big hitters, fast jammers, smart players all round. I'm very proud to be part of such an amazing group of women.
3. I've passed my WFTDA minimum skills. Yes, the girl who would have a panic attack at the very thought of trying to skate on one foot HAS PASSED!
4. I've applied to be the 'Freshmeat Co-ordinator' of the league. I may not be the most amazing skater, but what I AM very good at is putting people at their ease. I'm a great people person (it's kind of an essential in nursing) and I enjoy nurturing others. I think I have it in me to bring out the best in people, and I love the thought of bringing out the best in our new skaters. These girls will form part of the future of our league, and I'd love to be a part of that.
5. The Brawlers have held two closed door bouts, team orange vs team black. My team, team black, won both times. Super proud!

So, with christmas almost over, what did derby santa bring you? I've had so much awesome stuff, up to and including some new American Apparel shorts and knee socks - I can never get enough of them! So, what did you get??

Derby love,

Trauma x

Thursday, 15 July 2010

the little derby girl that could...

Firstly, pictures of two of my favorite Derby ladies:

The AMAZING Beyonslay

Kitty Decapitate showing us all how it's done

I've been doing some thinking recently about my progress in the weird and wonderful world of derby. I've had some real bad attacks of what has been called 'the meh' (as coined by LRG's Vigour Mortis in a post on the LRG forum) recently, and there are times when I've felt so downhearted I've wondered why I'm putting myself through all this.

My problem is simple: my problem is,

I'm not (and have never been) a 'sporty' person: the only sport I liked at school was rugby, and after 12 the girls weren't allowed to play. Hockey was only ever played in the dead of winter, and who wants to try and grip a hockey stick with freezing cold hands?! No, sports lessons were not something I ever really enjoyed. This was not helped that by age of 14 I had discovered cigarettes, and sports lessons then became just another chance to smoke. I don't even have the advantage of previous skating experience to help me: I had a pair of skates but I was utterly terrified to use them outside of my kitchen. Everything I have learned since April I have learned from scratch, from moving forward and stopping to crossovers and transitions. There are some lucky people (and many of them in my team) who take skating naturally: one or two goes and they've got a skill down, and proceed to fly past me as I stumble my way ungracefully around the track. It's so, so frustrating because skating just doesn't come easily to me: I have to work, work and work at it all the time. And I'm slow. Don't get me wrong, I've never been the fastest or most agile...but I've always been able to hold my own and end up somewhere around the middle. On skates however, no doubt about it, I'm S-L-O-W, and it really gets me down (well, it adds to 'the meh' anyway!).

It also makes me think, where is my place? I'm not and never will be a super-lithe jammer like Kitty Decapitate, I'm far too heavy and not anywhere near agile enough. Nor am I a powerhouse of a super-blocker, like Beyonslay, I'm too small. I come somewhere about the middle, and this leaves me wondering where my skill (if any) lies.
But you know what? In spite of all this, and in spite of the little voice in my head that tells me I'm not good enough, I WILL do this. If there is just one thing I've worked out it is that I'm in love with roller derby, even if it doesn't love me back just yet. But it will, in time.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

...pump up the jam!

Since the last post I have moved house - yes, the blood, sweat and tears were worth it: I now have a lovley shiny new place to live which has a huuuuge garden with grass and trees and everything! Only downside? No internet connection as of yet. Which means I'm a bit behind on the ol' blogging. Ah well, I shall try and redeem myself today as I sit in the tranquility of Cathays library...

Last weekend BB went away to London to a jamming bootcamp and scrimmage with the London Roller Girls. The LRG are the UK's first and only WFTDA league in the UK, and they have earned this by playing other WFTDA leagues in the USA and generally working their collective asses off to become a super-league of awesomeness, to which we can all aspire. A few weeks ago Judge Redd, Jen Clawed Van Slamme, Peril Flynn and myself (yes, I want to try and start using our derby names!) ventured to London to watch an LRG bout called 'Smack to the Future', which featured the Steam Rollers taking on the mighty Suffra Jets. This was the first bout I had ever watched outside of the internet, and it made for some really interesting viewing. The sheer amount of work that had gone in to the event was staggering: everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in the league had a part to play, whether it was selling merch, marking the track, announcing, keeping score, timing the penalty box...well, you get the idea. From the rookies to the veterans, everyone pulled together. For example, Kamikaze Kitten: captain of the mighty all-star London Brawling (LRG's travel team) was on hand as a 'spills girl', wiping up any spilt drinks that might cause a hazard to the skaters.

Anyway, I digress. One thing that struck me as I watched the bout was that jammers DO NOT ALWAYS MAKE IT THROUGH THE PACK. In fact, there were several jams where the jammer got stuck behind some amazing blocking and couldn't make her first pass through the pack. And herein lies the lesson that BB started out with during Wednesday's training: you won't always make it through. Sometimes you will be stuck, jam after jam. It will be frustrating. You will be tired, sore, and annoyed. But you have to suck it up, get yourself together and get your ass back on the line to start again. Our first drill was a 'never ending jam', where we had about 10 blockers to 3 jammers. The blockers were allowed to booty block, but no contact. If the jammer couldn't make it through in the allotted time (2 minutes, just like a real jam), back they went on the line to do it again. And again. And again, until they got through. Oh crap, I thought. Jamming is not my strong point: I'm not agile and I lack confidence. The last few times I've jammed I've become trapped and not made it through. Needless the say, I was prepared to be jamming forever! As expected, on my first attempt I didn't get though. I was knocked out of bounds (and was given a whip by BB to get me back up to speed, thank you!) but just couldn't make it though before the 4 whistle blasts. So, back on the jammer line I went. But...instead of feeling sorry for myself, I was more determined than ever. At the sound of the jammer whistle, off I went. It took a little time, but I MADE IT THOUGH!! I was so proud of myself it was unreal. Yes, I know it's just a baby step on the great road of derby, but for me it was a great personal victory over my own self-doubt and fear. I can jam! Hurray!

The rest of the training session was utterly awesome - I don't know if maybe everyone had eaten their weetabix that morning or what, but everyone (and I mean everyone) had bought their A-game with them and really stepped it up. BB even put a lovely post on facebook saying how proud she was of us all. Our new ref Amy skated with us and helped to call penalties too, and she's getting good's so good to have her doing this as it's giving us a real understanding of how the rules work. I've read through the WFTDA rules and they boggled my mind, but using them during training is giving me a better idea of how they apply and when. I can't wait until we can start to scrimmage properly...I know it's a little while away yet, but now I'm getting more of a 'feel' for the game I'm hungry for more! Damn, this derby thing is addictive...

So, today is training day and we have our first 3 hour session...eeek! I'm pretty scared. After 2 hours I generally feel like my feet don't want to obey me any more and my thighs feel like they're on fire..I feel I may be crippled after this. Ah well, bring on the pain! I'm starting to feel more like a real rollergirl (and less like a pink-faced possum on wheels) every week.

Bring it on.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

feeling hot hot hot!

Well, I think we can officially say that summer has begun! The weather has been heating up, my hay fever is kicking in and work has become truly hellish as the windows create a greenhouse effect that causes me to be pretty much soaked in sweat from about 10 minutes in to my shift.

Yesterday I had a hellish day in the inferno, followed by a night out for my friend's homecoming party (and I still have the fake blood on my legs!). I had a few drinks, but nothing major and I was home not long after why oh why did I wake up today feeling like utter crap?!? Andy didn't fare much better, but neither of us could really pinpoint the source: we'd drunk, but not excessively and had lots of water too. Only difference was though that Andy didn't have to go to derby training at 4!

I was feeling rough right from the off: I managed to forget the first aid kit (again, jeez, what the hell is wrong with me?!?!) and as I laced my skates up I felt woozy and a bit sick. I warned BB that I wasn't feeling 100% so if I ended up sitting out not to be surprised! I got though the first hour ok...we did a whipping paceline which was fun, followed by an endurance drill that pretty much shredded my shins. So far so good. After a quick water break, we were back on the track for passive blocking drills (black vs white/coloured tops). At first I was ok, but after about 5 minutes I started to feel all the blood was draining out of my face. The room started to go a bit spinney so I took a knee and sat with my head between my legs trying not to pass out. Fettish thought maybe I was having a bit of a blood sugar dip so she got me a mars bar (thank you by the way!) and after that (and drinking loads of water) I felt a bit more human, but still shaky so I decided to sit out the rest of the second hour with Reeshi, who had bashed her head during the past drill. Watching the rest of our fellow Brawlers train was awesome, although pretty terrifying at times! BB was calling us for the many, many penalties being committed (there was tripping, grabbing, flailing, swimming to name a few) and for the last drill she created a mock up 'sin bin' that the girls had to sit in when called from the track - the time you serve for your penalty starts the second you hit the seat, so it's important to get to the sin bin as fast as you can, and you ALWAYS have to skate the outside of the track to get there. I have a funny feeling over the coming weeks I'm going to spending a fair bit of time in the bin until I can learn to control by bad habits...MUST.STOP.FLAILING!

So, just like last week I need more practice on my laterals, and generally build up my confidence a bit more. I've noticed recently that I feel miles behind so many of the other girls in my team. There are times during training I just want to cry, I get so frustrated with myself for not being to so something or for not doing it as well as the others. I know that practice makes perfect, and that I just need to keep plugging at it, but part of me worries that maybe this is it: this is as good as I can or will ever get. I've got some of the basics down, but there are so many things left to master...I look through the WFTDA minimum skills and feel like I'm very, very far away from passing it. Or even thinking about passing it.

Blah. I'm tired, over-heated and stressed out. A nice long bath and some sleep with give me perspective, and hopefully drag me away from the pity party I seem to have become stuck at.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

just keep moving...

I'm right slap bang in the middle of a house move at the moment, so it feels like I do nothing but sort through masses of junk, dust and dead spiders (there have been LOTS of those, especially since I moved the chest of draws out...there was two years worth of junk under there!). Oh, and skate. I've been doing my level best to attend every session, even when tired...Kat is generally pretty good at giving me a motivational prod to get me moving, and I'm always glad afterwards.

Training sessions seem to be falling in to two categories for me at the moment: there are the ones where everything seems to 'click' and I feel like I'm making progress, and there are the ones where I seem to have two left skates and end up frustrated and annoyed with myself because it's like being back at square one again!

Sunday's training session fell in to the first category: during drills I felt confident and did some pretty good booty blocking/plough stopping during our waterfall drill (which I loved!) and even managed a pretty decent jamming speed (well, for me...we have some super-fast girls in the team and I'm nowhere near them, but it was progress for me!). I got some praise from BB, although she did chide me for grabbing (a recurring sin, I'm working on it though!). I felt so good at the end of that session, like things were finally falling in to place.

Then came Wednesday's session, which was definitely category two. It all started out well enough: warm-up laps with BB calling out different instructions on the whistle, eg one knee taps, plough stops ect ect. Fine, fine, so far so good. Then came transition stops. That's ok too, I can do those...when going slowly. But oh no, we had to do them AT SPEED! Eeeeeek! It's fair to say I wussed out pretty badly on these, I kept slowing down from my skating pace to turn, and that's no good because in the long run I need to be able to do these FAST. We moved on then to two packs, all of us numbered one to four. When BB called out our number we would have to do falls/stops in the pack. If we made contact with another pack member we had to do 5 push ups in the middle of the track...I ended up there 3 times! In a game situation failing to fall small and flailing is a minor, so it's best we learn good habits now! After my this we then did a 'hammer and nail' - basically we got in to groups of 3, 2 blockers and 1 jammer. The blockers would then whip off one another to booty block the jammer. All very fun, but because I'm still working on my lateral movements I felt like I just wasn't getting in the jammer's way enough and they would just nip round me. For our cool downs BB has been getting us to skate backwards...I can sort of manage it for about 3 seconds, then I lose all momentum. I feel like I don't know what to do with my weight: does it go back? Forwards? I'm still none the wiser. Reeshi saw I was struggling and gave me some helpful pointers, but then I got a little over confident...and that's when my big comedy fall happened. As usual, I hadn't bent my knees enough so when the slip happened, my wheels went out from under me, my legs flailed and *SMACK* down I went. I managed to hit my ass, my upper back and my head all in one go...nice one, Jo. I rolled over and scrambled up pretty fast, but it really shook me. My head was hurting and my back definitely wasn't happy about the sudden trip to the floor. Lesson here? BEND YOUR KNEES!! ALWAYS!!

So, my goals this week:
1. LATERALS, LATERALS LATERALS. I will conquer these!
2. Transition stops at speed, without plough stopping first
3. Pack awareness: keeping my hands to myself and skating closer to the rest of my pack.
4. WFTDA rule-learning.
5. Move house without my head exploding from the stress!

There is a silver lining to this moving malarky though: one I get my bond back I plan to treat myself to awesome skates, and since Kat A Clysmic has already broken her nylon plates I'm going to get aluminum ones. Here are the bad boys I have my beady eye on:

In other news, we've pretty much sold out our fundraiser! This makes me very, very happy indeed. It looks to be an awesome night, so I will hopefully see some of you there!

Until next time...

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

catch up!

Again have neglected my blog. Bad Jo! But now I'm sat in bed on a day off with a cup of tea by my side (and my poor derby widow, who puts up with so much) I'm finally making the time to post.

Where to begin?

BB has been pushing us HARD in longer are we just learning the basic skating skills, we're having to use them in game-like situations (although no actual scrimmage yet, we're just about to start running contact drills though. More about this later). We've learnt to passive block, which is also known as a booty block. The reason for this is that you're basically getting your ass in the opposing player's way, and at times you're pretty much sitting in their lap! This requires a lot of confidence, good lateral motions and being able to look behind you every 3 seconds to see where the jammer/opposing blocker is. In spite of having the kind of booty that this sort of thing was made for, I still lack confidence when blocking: my laterals aren't up to scratch yet (for some reason I can go right with no problems, but my feet don't like going left!) and my confidence is still a work in progress.

The other skill BB has had us working on is jamming. For those not in the know, the jammers are the point scorers in derby, and are marked out by having a star on their helmet covers. They score by passing the hip of each opposing player (who are trying to block them/knock them over!). To be a first class jammer you have to be lithe, agile and above all, FAST. Oh dear. I'm really not any of those things, and I know for a fact that I am one of the slowest skaters in my group. Every time I start to go fast I get the fear, and allow my momentum to slow me down. During a decent practice we ran a '4 wide' drill, which was a pace line where we were, well, four skaters wide. When BB blew the whistle the line at the back had to jam through the rest of the pace line and get to the front, and then the next line would go and so on. I think it's fair to say I absolutely, unequivocally SUCKED at this drill! For a start, every time I was my turn on the outside of my line (where you had to sprint) I would end up going to fast, losing control and ending up outside the track. I think my poor team spent more time looking for me than anything else, every time they turned around I had vanished! And then when it was time to jam...well, lets just say I didn't. Kat, Hayley and Leanne all attacked the situation with gusto, making it through to the front (or at last getting through the first few lines) while I got stuck behind the first line like an absolute lemon. I was too scared to take any opening I saw, and Donna, who was defending the inside line of the track, made sure I couldn't go anywhere! BB even took pity on me and tried to 'drill some holes' for me to pass through, but even then I was too scared and too slow to go anywhere. Honestly, the whole thing almost had me in tears and I started to wonder if I will ever be good enough. I told BB how disheartened I felt, and she gave me some sage advice - she feels what I need is confidence, and this takes time and practice. Apparently, my actual skating is ok...what's holding my back is my brain! This is just something that takes time and determination to overcome. On a more positive note, we ran another jamming drill in our last training session, and although I did cut track once and flail a little bit (grabbing an opposing player in the pack in the process, oops!) I MADE IT THOUGH THE PACK! Without getting stuck! This is a first for me, and has boosted my confidence no end.

So, there is still a long way to go...but I think I can make it. I'm going to set myself goals for each week, and work on getting them down. This week I am going to get lower (bend my knees!!) and go faster, and keep working on my laterals (mostly going left...). I let y'all know how I get on.

Until next time...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Time flies...

Long time, no update. Ooooops! But time does fly in the world of derby when you're having so much fun!

Where do I start?

Since my last update, we've acquired a new coach: Tui Lyon, aka BB Bombshell from the Victorian Roller Derby League in Oz. A statuesque amazon of a woman, she looks like she was born to play derby. She's over here in sunny (!) Wales with her man for a few months, and has been kind enough to come and help whip our fresh meat asses in to shape. And by gods, she is GOOD. Watching her you'd find it hard to believe she wasn't born with a pair of skates attached to her feet: it looks so effortless and natural! However, she has assured us that there was a time when she was a wobbly learner and fell over all the time. It's so heartening - I look at her and think with enough time and practice, what will be me someday.

On to the training...

We had one last session on the swamp that is Fitzalan high, and Sian took the opportunity to introduce us to pylometric exercises. Oh my, the PAAAAIN! They involve lots of squats, jumps and other moves to help develop strength and muscle tone in vital areas (thighs, ass etc). I had gone to the session straight from work so I was already pretty the end of the session my legs felt pretty much dead. The next day I struggled to walk! I wasn't the only one though, which is good. The more I skate, the more I will develop these muscles and the better I will skate. My theory, anyway.

During our sessions on Channel View (and it's ice rink floor of death) BB has been teaching us the derby skills we will need to pass our minimum skills: crossovers, derby stance, laterals, etc. I'm noticing improvement in my skating every week - things I was too scared to even try a few weeks ago I'm starting to get down. I'm not afraid to push myself, and every time I fall (and I do!) I get back up and keep going. There are a few things that are still eluding me though: crossovers, plough stops and laterals. And I know that I just DON'T BEND MY KNEES ENOUGH. That is my worst derby crime and the reason that the last couple of times I've wiped out I've ended up on my hip/ass and not on my knees. It's something I really need to keep working on. My crossovers are coming on though - yesterday I managed one or two around the corners without getting the fear. I know it'll come with time and practice. There are some things I am good at T-stops are pretty good and I can transition (go from front to back) quite well. Kat and I have been working on my transition stops in our dining room and we seem to be getting it down. It helps so much to have someone watch what you're doing and give you feedback - in my case, it mostly consists of 'BEND YOUR KNEES!'. It's the key to so many things in derby...

Finally, on to kit - BB gave us a really useful talk on skates, wheels and pads. I had a bit of a windfall last week (well, money back from my ex) so I invested in a pair of Smiths Scabs knee pads. I'd noticed my knees were really, really hurting after doing falls in my anarchy pads and did a bit of research (and posting on forums) I decided to upgrade. They seem to work very well for me - I'm pretty tall and they're quite long line. They're taking a bit of getting used to for crossovers though as they're so bulky compared to my old means having to lift my leg over further, which is scary! Hopefully this will just teach me to do deeper crossovers and make me a better skater in the long run.

I also have my new skates! Sure Grip Rebels with Fugitive wheels ^_^ I love them, although they took a bit of getting used to after so long in my Rios. I've decided to get some new wheels soon - channel view is so slippy I'm going to get some grippier ones. Sure Grip Sugars seem to be the best choice, and if the new floor we're going to be skating on in Coleg Glan Hafran is better I can mix them with my fugitives and have them as pushers.

So, until next time derby fans...over and out.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

a whole new meaning to 'sticky skating' and a night on the ice rink

So, since I last posted two derby training sessions have come and gone, on two very, very different types of floor.

The first was on Friday, in Fitzalan High School. After a small amount of getting lost, we were in the vast sports hall and getting ready to roll. Then we tried laps - oh no! None of us had any idea of the type floor in the hall, and unfortunately for us it was soft, sprung wood. Between my skates (cheap and grippy) and the floor (soft and also grippy) it was akin to trying to skate through treacle! It was damn hard work doing laps - even a slight let up in effort meant you stopped dead. I even managed to walk in my skates (a very weird feeling). However, the super-sticky floor had some advantages - it allowed us to practice some techniques and footwork that I've not been feeling too confident on. Falls were a little trickier, but my main problem was I still felt that I lacked control and ended up sprawling on the floor a little. I did manage a vaguely respectable crossover though, and I left the session feeling positive that I'd made some progress.

Today were in channel view, which has the slippiest floor known to man - it's more like an ice rink, and after Friday it was a real shock to the system! It took me a while to get in to my stride, and I felt my confidence wain once more. Chloe, who was leading the session, asked all the least confident skaters to form a group (which I lovingly nicknamed 'team special mittens') and run through a few exercises. During the weaving/pace line exercise I kept being told to slow down, which made me think that I should have had a bit more faith in my abilities and joined the faster girls. Ah well, a lesson learned for next week. We also went through falling drills, and I was paired up with the lovely Sian who gave me some good feedback and gave me some ideas of things to work on (not looking down, staying low in derby stance ect). By the end of the drills I felt I had made progress, maybe just baby steps, but steps forward none the less. The only drill that terrified me tonight was the last exercise - a form of the trolley dolly where one person faced the other way. Oh. My. God. The idea was to get us used to the feeling of going backwards. Now, over the last week or so I've been trying to go backwards in the safety of my dining room and getting about 3cm before I was gripped with fear. Tonight I was paired up with a girl far more confident than myself, and whipped along at a fast pace as I held on tight, trying not to look down. I managed not to fall on my ass, so I learned something - perhaps sometimes the best way to learn is to throw yourself in at the deep end.

Friday, 7 May 2010

you get what you pay for

I'm 3/4 of the way through my annual leave from work, and it has to be said this has probably been the least productive time off I've had in ages! Things like tidying my room and making a start on packing/going through all my junk before I move have all taken a back sleep to lazing, sleeping and skating. To be fair, it's been massivley enjoyable - I can't remember the last time I just did nothing but relax and enjoy myself!

So, on to the skating. This time off means I can attend all 3 weekly sessions, which is awesome. The week I was due back in work I had been put down to work on every single day of training! Luckily, one of my friends came to my rescue and swapped, so I'm only missing wednesday's still annoying, but at least I'm not missing any of the derby-specific training. I'll have to make sure I skate plenty on my days off and after work to try and make up for it.

This week's Wednesday veledrome session was a personal success for me- after falling there last week I was feeling deeply apprihensive about going there again. For some reason I'm far more scared to fall outdoors than in, and it doesn't help that so far the team are down two ladies with broken ankles! I know from my time on the ward that it's all about how you fall, I've seen people that came off motorbokes and in to walls escape with minor injuries, and someone that tripped over their cat need to have major surgery...still, I was very hesitant to begin with and skated slowly until I could calm my nerves. After about 10 minutes, I was feeling good and hitting my stride. I did notice though that I have this wierd habit of dragging my left foot a little- this is something I need to work on! Also, I've been finding it hard to corner, although I do wonder if that's more to do with how tight the trucks are on my rios. Sian, one of the founding brawlers, let me try on her R3's with amazing kryptonics wheels...and oh my, what a difference! At first it was terrifying (so much more 'slippery' feeling than the rios) but they are so much lighter and responsive. I took them for a spin on the straight, and they felt AMAZING...I found cornering a breeze, and I even managed a T-stop (I've failed every time I try to do these outdoors in my rios, they're too bloody heavy!). Skating in my rios after that felt like trying to skate in treacle.

This has gotten me pretty fired up to get some new skates, and more to the point some derby-specific skates. Nothing too fancy, but good enough to get me though this fresh meat stage until I'm ready for scrimmaging (about 8/12 months I reckon). Only problem? Ordering decent derby skates in the UK is a NIGHMARE. Riedell and sure-grips are like bloody gold dust. After much internal debate and internet trawling, I decided to buy some sure-grip rebels. They are more expensive than the R3, but I figured by the time I'd upgraded the wheels from the bog-standard ones the R3 comes with I would have spent the same amount, if not more. The rebel comes with decent wheels that should do me well until I can splash out on sugar hybrids :) Sadly, the place I've ordered them from is out of stock until next week, which means another week at least of skating on my rios...gah I'm so impatient!

On a more positive note, my quad is a hell of a lot better now. The extra stretches I've been doing seem to have made a lot of difference! I've not tested them out with any falls on skates (just off skates in my dining room) but as long as I remember to stretch out well tonight I should be able to throw myself in to the falling drills tonight...pun very much intended!

Let the good times roll...

Monday, 3 May 2010

growing pains

Yesterday was my first full-on intensive derby training session with the Brawlers. Carly, aka Biertrix from Rainy City Rollergirls. It was two hours of in-depth, non-stop training and my thighs certainly feel it today!

Within minutes of arriving, she gave us 5 minutes to kit up and start doing laps. Anyone who wasn't on the floor after 5 minutes had to do the plank in the middle of the hall for 30 seconds. Eeeeep! Then followed laps, stretches and then drills. The first drills were falls, and my left quad hadn't quite healed from Wednesday's fall. I tried to fall on the other knee, but just kept sprawling. I didn't feel I was able to do it safely, so after a quick word with Biertrix (who advised me to sit out the falls and stretch) I moved to the sidelines. Unfortunately, this was the point where I started to berate myself for not being good enough. I'm such a perfectionist, I always want to be the best. I want to get to the standard where I can play on the team, and I want to be worthy of rollergirl name. It's not enough for me just to think of a name: I actually want to feel like I've earned it. Of course, there is only one way I can earn it, and that is with my blood, sweat and tears. It's like sitting in front of a piano when you can play 'twinkle twinkle little star' and suddenly expecting to be able to play a Beethoven concerto: it's just doesn't work that way. It took me a while to stop feeling sorry for myself, but this morning I've come to the conclusion I was just being too damn hard on myself.

So, no more moping. Instead, I've come up with a list of things to do:

1. Strengthen my legs. Biertrix gave me some good pointers for exercises I can do to give me better strength in my quads. Not only will this mean I will be able to skate faster, but it will also minimise the chance of me pulling my quad again. I also need to remember to stretch, stretch and stretch some more.
2. Practice falls OFF SKATES in dining room (it has lovely laminate flooring). I want to be able to get my technique down and get it so that my falls are controlled and safe. The reason I hurt myself falling at the velodrome is because falls are not second-nature to me at the moment. I still over-think, tense, and end up hurting myself. This is something I really, really need to work on.
3. Work on my balance. Part of the basic skills is that you have to be able to skate on one leg for the length of the track, alternate legs. I read on the LRG forum that standing on one leg in your skates on a carpeted floor is a good way to train yourself until you feel confident enough to do it while moving.
4. Crossovers. I'm finding it frustrating that I lose speed when cornering, but I get THE FEAR every time I try and do a crossover and end up doing some weird hybrid thing. I'm going to start walking my crossovers until it doesn't feel weird to put one leg right in front of the other.

For those that are still feeling disheartened, Kitty Decapitate from LRG has these words of wisdom:

Friday, 30 April 2010


Ok, the names to decide between are: Scarlett O'Slaybelle, Nina Hate, Anna Cleavers, Joanna Bitchslap or Cheri Von Scarring. Cast your votes!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

what's in a name?

I'm resting my leg today, and good lord I am SO BORED! Last night I was so sore I could hardly bend my leg, walking upstairs was a real mission and trying to get my leg in to bed took both hands and a lot of effort. Sleep seems to have done the trick though, it's far better today...just a twinge now really. There is a real silver lining to all this: the only reason the fall hurt is because I fell awkwardly on it and pulled a muscle. I didn't hurt my knees or wrists in the slightest (yay for my pads!). This means that if I had fallen correctly it would have been totally painless, therefore there is no reason to be afraid of falling!

So, while I've got my leg propped up and have nothing but time on my hands I'm going to start thinking about a derby name. The name is an important part of being a derby girl: it's a unique persona, and no two are the same. This alter-ego is who you are on the track, and allows you to leave Jane the housewife/mother/daughter/employee behind and kick some serious ass. All this being said, I'm struggling to think of anything punchy enough. So far I have:

Cheri Von Scarring
Nina Hate (in tribute to my favorite alt pin-up and clothing designer, Nina Kate of Jane Doe latex)
Anna Cleavers (a bit like Ann of Cleaves...just popped in to my head while I was at the gym one day)

What do you guys think?

I know the number I want though- 86. I work on A6 and it sounds similar (and it's a trauma ward, how appropriate!)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Love hurts. So does derby.

Well, I'm sat in my living room with my leg up and an ice pack on my quad. I've told myself over and over that I need to be prepared to fall and get right back up again. This evening, that theory was put to the test.

Ok, first: the velodrome.

It is an awesome, AWESOME place to skate! The tarmac on the main stretch is lovely and smooth, and the roundabout is perfect for practicing cross-overs. The banked track on the side looks scary, but I've decided that by the end of the summer I WILL conquer it! Sian managed to skate quite a bit of it and I was very, very impressed. I was skating quite confidently, just getting my pace up when I hit a bit of rough ground. I didn't fall, and thought 'phew, that was close!'. Then I hit the second rough patch, and went down like a sack of spuds. I know falling is an inevitable part of skating, but I managed to fall awkwardly and somehow pull my left leg underneath me, pulling my quadriceps in the process. OW! I got back up and tried to skate it off, but it hurt too much so I got myself on to the grass and rested it. I can't feel too sorry for myself though: one of the Brawlers managed to go over on her ankle and had to be carted off on a wheel chair - hope she's ok, it's the first official injury! Although I was gutted I missed out on skating time, I did get to chat to some of the other girls and I have to say they're all absolutely lovely. There is a plan in the pipeline for a trip to London to watch the London Rollergirls, which will be cool and mean we can spend time bonding (drinking)!

Time for a hot bath, deep heat and rest. No skating until Sunday (which sucks) but Sunday is the day we train with Kelly from Rainy City Rollergirls, which is going to be amazing! As long as my leg is better by then, I'll be happy.

...ladies and gentlemen, welcome to thunderdome..I mean, velodrome!

Since my last post, I have done two things: 1)I went to see 'Whip It' at the cinema and 2) I've been skating every day for at least 30 minutes, in an attempt to get my confidence up and get rid of the wobbles that have been plaguing me.

So first, the film. I really enjoyed it, although I did think it was a film I would have LOVED had a been a few years younger. The derby action was fun, fast and furious (although any fighting would quickly get you sent to the penalty box, which didn't seem to happen much in the film!) and Juliette Lewis was a great nemesis in the form of Iron Maven. I did irk me slightly that Bliss only fell about twice, and was then whizzing around the track- nothing like real life! However, I don't think anyone would want to watch endless falling and wobbling as Bliss learns to skate- and it would make the film too damn long.

As for the skating...I've noticed a little improvement in my confidence. It no longer takes me 10 minutes of fear and wobbling before I feel ok on 8 wheels, and I can now move slightly faster than your average hedgehog. Tonight though, it all gets in to an entirely new world of terror- the Brawler girls are skating at the velodrome. For those not in the know, the velodrome is huge. Like quarter of a mile every lap huge. Since my preferred method of stopping is still hugging the wall, this fills me with dread. I figure I have two choices: a) put my knee pads to the test and fall like a lady or b) bail out in to the grass (at least that will be softer, although definitely less dignified!). I will post later and let you know how it goes...

On a positive note, Sunday's training is going to be lead by one of the ladies from Manchester's own Rainy City Rollergirls...I'm so very, very excited! It'll be great to be taught by a pro who has played in bouts...and also remembers what it's like to be a bambi on rollerskates. I've been looking at the riedell website today, and I now how extreme skate envy. Think I know how I'm going to be spending my bond cheque...

Monday, 26 April 2010

The 'C' word

No, not that C word...get your minds out of the gutter! The word I mean is 'confidence'. This seems to be thing thing I am most lacking in at the moment.

In the past week or so I have probably spent more time on skates than I have ever done before (including as a child!). This has been quite a shock to the system after years of playing it safe on my own two feet. I've also attended two proper training sessions (indoors, on nice smooth surfaces); one with the Cardiff Dragon Dolls, and one with the Tiger Bay Brawlers.

At the Dolls training, I was quite literally thrown in at the deep end- falls were run through quickly, followed by drills of them over and over. My poor newbie knees didn't know what hit them! However, after a few goes I got the hang of it and even started to enjoy throwing myself to the floor with abandon. Even getting back up wasn't as hard as I'd imagined. Then came the laps, with tasks (single knee fall, skate on one leg, crossovers ect ect) and by then I felt fairly ok on 8 wheels, and was very disappointed when the hour was up. I didn't realise just how hard I had been working until I took off my pads- sweaty knees and elbows galore!

In contrast, the Brawler ladies held a longer two hour session, which covered not only the basics of skating, but the basics of derby too. Even though I knew most of it from internet trawling and generally reading/watching anything derby related I could get my hands on, it was still nice to have a run through of all the rules. There was an emphasis on how everyone would be learning together, and developing our skating skills with the aim of getting the minimum requirements set out by the WFTDA (and believe me, it's a pretty extensive list). One look at the booklet I was given (they were that organized!) and I felt fear in my throat: will I ever be good enough for this? The answer is yes, yes I will. I will practice, practice, practice until skating feels as natural to me as walking. Until I'm not afraid to fall down, and get right back up again. I've promised myself I'm going to do at least 30 mins a day on my skates. Even if it's just going around the dining room in my house, or the tennis courts by Maindy pool (even if they do have the worst surface in the world to skate on- rough as hell and covered in stones/twigs/bottle caps/broken glass). It's the only way I'm going to get confident, and before I even start to think about technical ability this is what I need to achieve.

and so it begins...

Hello and welcome! My name is Jo, and I'm a newbie skater in the wonderful world of roller derby. I've started this blog for a few reasons: 1)I want to keep track of my progress over the coming weeks and months, 2) I want a place I can talk about derby, and express my thoughts and views and 3)I want some day for a newbie to look at this and find it a useful resource, whether it be ideas for training drills or to take comfort in the fact that we all started out looking like Bambi on ice!

So first, what is Derby? And why, as a nurse working on a busy trauma ward have I decided to join a sport that means I will probably end up spending time in work as a patient?!
Wikipedia (ah, the font of all knowledge) describes roller derby as 'an Amerian-invented contact sport—and historically, a form of sports entertainment—based on formation roller skating around an oval track, with points scored as certain players lap members of an opposing team.' On the face of it, yes, that's about it. But look closely, for modern derby is a lot more complex than the derby of the 50's. gives you a better idea of what the game is, and saves you from having to read my waffling for the better part of a page.

So, on to my next point: why do I want to do this? Well, the long and short of it is that it looks like a hell of a lot of fun! For a nation that loves our contact sports, we've been suprisingly slow on the uptake. This is possibly because roller skating is not quite as popular here as in America - most towns over the pond have public skating rinks, whereas finding a place in Cardiff that will let you train is a bit more tricky as most sports halls worry about the damage to the floor from the skates. And frankly, it's also going to be a good way to get rid of pent-up aggression, make new friends and seriously kick some ass.