Mental Game

Sundays training was an interesting one. I had my first exam of my final year yesterday, and it was the one I was most worried about. Partly because it was on Maoist China, and I’m of the firm belief that no one really understands what happened – most of the official records are heavily locked down still, and even then, a lot of them are falsified or just simply not the full story, the people who lived through it barely seem to understand what went down and why, and a lot of the explanations for why things happened comes back to “because Mao wanted it”. And partly because it was our “special subject”; in my university, third year history students have to pick one module that goes super in depth into one topic, looking at primary sources and so on, so I had no idea what would be on it, or if I’d read enough to be able to answer any of the questions. I spent last week revising everything I could, but by Friday my brain was mush and I physically couldn’t read any more (no, really, I couldn’t read words), so I took the weekend off. Saturday, I hopped in a car with a few of my fellow skaters and went to High Wycombe for Big Bucks High Rollers’ B Team tournament ‘Diamonds are Forever’. That was super fun, and so interesting to watch! And Sunday, I went off to training.

My mind definitely wasn’t in it. There was a lot of focus on working on personal skills, rather than in partners or packs, and I think that allowed me to get too far into my own head. I started strong, but as the session went on I felt increasingly worse, and ended up having to take myself out to have a little sob in a corner. Luckily, I have wonderful team mates, who were full of hugs and encouraging words and were generally really comforting. Turns out they were right, I didn’t really have much to worry about and the exam went fine, but I couldn’t get out of my own head at that point in time, and everything I did was just reassuring me that I sucked at everything.

It’s funny what effect your brain can have on your physical performance – the more negative I felt about myself and the upcoming week, the more things went wrong for me. I couldn’t do an underpush (something I’ve always struggled with) and then my crossovers wouldn’t work at all, I couldn’t feel either push. My laterals were getting better, and then all of a sudden I could barely turn. Transitions got slower on my good side, and didn’t even exist on my bad one. That was around the time I burst into tears. It’s odd how, when you feel bad about yourself, your brain finds things to confirm that yep, you definitely suck.

However, now the stress cloud has cleared, I can see the positives. Something clicked Sunday that made my laterals so much better than they had been (I think that something is called weight distribution) and I ticked off positional blocking from my minimums. Which means all I need to get scrimmaging is my 25 laps. 3.25 to go!

Wheely Painful!

It’s a new year. I’ve been skating for six months now, but I, and the rest of my Recreational League group, have had a month off-skates, and it’s safe to say we are all a tiny bit rusty after the Christmas break. Slightly sluggish, due to all the food we’ve eaten in the holidays; wobbly on wheels again, having neglected them for a month; My muscles definitely enjoyed the break, a bit too much I think, judging by their reluctance to start working again. It’s remarkable how quickly you lose it all, the muscle memory, the endurance, but it’s also amazing how quickly you pick it back up.

ImagePictured: Me getting through the pace line. Zoooom!

I was dying to get back on my skates, as were all my fellow Reccies, so we rented the hall we normally practice in out for ourselves a week before our first session back to get back some of what had faded away. There are no words that can express how glad I am for that decision – We worked on skills on our own, and at the end attempted our 25 laps in 5 minutes with a track marked out by post-it notes (we’re innovative, us derby girls! For the curious, I managed 20.75 laps after falling twice and I am super proud), not at all as challenging as our normal training, but my muscles were aching after and my lungs didn’t recover until Wednesday! But it was so good to be back on wheels again, and it certainly made a difference next Sunday.

DSCF4243Pictured: New Rec Leaguers practising falls

On our first session back, we had more people than ever before – People we hadn’t seen for a few months, and a dozen brand new skaters! It was weird, seeing them all standing around looking terrified, it took me back to July when I was in the exact same situation. While they were taken through falling safely, off-skates to start off but on skates later, we went though the same thing ourselves, as well as backwards skating, laterals and transitions.¬†Refreshing the basics! I have to say, I don’t envy the new people. Falling drills suck so bad, especially when you haven’t yet got the muscles that they make you develop. Important, helpful in the long run, but painful!

DSCF4246
Pictured: Older Rec Leaguers, also practising falls!

This week, we went back over contact again. Lateral sweeping one person, then a wall, then sprinting out of a pack to lateral sweep one of the Vets. For those not in the know, lateral cuts are exactly what the name suggests – cutting across the track, from side to side. Lateral sweeping is, surprisingly, doing a lateral cut to push another skater off the track. My laterals aren’t great when I’m practising them, and I’m having to go over my form again because, while whatever I am doing gets me from side to side, it’s not very fast about it, and it is definitely not a lateral. Doing lateral sweeps, however, and I’m totally on point. You really do feel awesome when you manage to push another skater out of the way, especially when they’re a lot more experienced than you! We practiced apex jumping (jumping the inside corner of the track), which was daunting to think about but surprisingly not that hard to execute when you got to it, unless, like me, you occasionally forgot to jump. After that, we did a drill focusing on positioning and getting through the pack where as part of a team you either have to get to the front of the pack, or stop the other team doing that. That’s where things went slightly bad for me.

Snapshot_20140128_2Pictured: A recreation of my face when things went wrong for me

To be fair, they were worse for my team mate, who got an elbow to the face (She’s okay!) and fell to the floor, knocking over two other skaters, who also fell to the floor. Switch to me, innocently minding my own business, skating away from the scene of the incident, when suddenly my feet are no longer underneath me – one of the downed skaters accidentally kicked my skates out from under me as she fell, making me fall backwards onto by butt

Which landed on someone else’s wheel.

Definitely not pictured: my butt bruise.

Everyone’s got a story about their first butt bruise, so it was inevitable, but I underestimated how much of a big deal it actually is. I have the most impressive bruise forming in a great shade of purple, and it’s super painful, especially if you do something like, say, forget it happened and flop into a seat, or try to do sit ups (note to self – give sit ups a miss until this thing heals!). It makes my favourite thing (sitting down!) the most uncomfortable thing to do. Occasionally it starts throbbing – who knew a bruise could throb?!

I’m being overdramatic, of course, for the sake of entertainment. It’s not that bad most of the time, just mildly inconvenient. I’m dreading the possibility of falling on it again, I might cry if that happens, but hopefully it’ll be healed by this time next week! Overall, I’m super glad to be back to training again, and looking forward to the following weeks – We’re going to start testing for our minimum skills assessments so we can start to scrimmage, I’m taking my niece to a roller disco for her birthday, and on the 8th we’re off to Leeds for a bootcamp with Australia’s top team, Victorian Roller Derby League!

An Introduction to Derby Diaries

This post is going to be an introduction to what I hope will be weekly posts on how my training sessions have gone (Or, if I’m unable to get to training, which may be likely when I’m back at university, what I’ve done otherwise!) I was also going to post a summary of my experience so far but I realised this will pretty much cover it, so it’s a handy way of bringing you all up to date with where I am!

At the time of writing this, I’ve had four proper training sessions with Kent Roller Girls’ Recreational League, and I’m absolutely loving it. I have never been an exercise person – I get bored with it easily. The only thing I’ve been remotely interested in is dance, and even then it was still a very casual thing, I wasn’t too bothered about going to classes and I didn’t feel any drive to get any better. Roller derby is completely different. I’d read so many articles, blog entries and such about how addictive it is, and I’m starting to believe it because most of the time, on most days, I’m thinking about derby. I’m either looking forward to practice or I’m at it. I’m constantly looking for an opportunity to get on my skates. For the first time, I’ve found something I really want to do and be good at, and I’m determined to do it!

Why Roller Derby?

I’ve never been a sporty person and I have the worst balance of anyone I know – Riding a bike is comparable to a death-defying feat and my last memory of doing so ends with crashing into a neighbour’s hedge. We can absolutely forget about ice skating, too. I can’t achieve anything past a slow crawl with blades on my feet. For this reason, when I told my friends and family I wanted roller skates, each of them responded with what I can only describe as the most concerned look I’ve ever received.

I fell in love with roller skating after my university friends took me to Rollerworld in Colchester for my 20th birthday. There I realised that, while I fell over (a lot, and in pretty hilarious fashion), this was something I could actually do and I was enjoying. I could get myself moving, at a reasonably fast pace. And the next day when all my limbs were aching, I realised that I’d been exercising and working hard without even realising.

It’s clich√©, but roller derby came after watching Whip It (which seems to be the way a lot of people are coming to the sport). It looked exciting and interesting, and after the film I watched a few bouts online, and I wanted in. It looked so hardcore, the women looked so awesome, and best of all it looked like something that no one would expect me to do in my life. So, naturally, I wanted to do it. I was also attracted by the fact that roller girls weren’t all slim and “athletic build” – They looked like me, and it looked like something that I could actually do without being looked down on for my body shape. I got in contact with Kent Roller Girls, and since I’ve started training with them I’ve found myself absolutely in love with all of it.

Best Thing So Far

The people are absolutely fantastic. Every week, the league members have something nice to say to us, they’ve got advice for us to help us develop things, and they’ve got praise when we’re doing something right or when we’ve improved from last week. No question is ever too stupid and no request ever seems to be too much – I spent half of last week’s session asking one lady to help me with my equipment because I was losing feeling in my feet and my toe stop was coming loose and my kneepads were moving and bruising my knees every week. She relaced my boots, tightened the knut on my toe stop and even gave me her pads to try out. I’ve never been in such a supportive environment and it’s definitely one of the things that keeps me coming back every week.

Another thing is, I can feel and see my improvement. Every week, getting up from a fall doesn’t take me so long, doing lemons doesn’t hurt so much, I don’t sweat quite as much (don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of it coming from a lot of places I didn’t know could even sweat, but now I don’t look so much like I’ve just had a shower in the stuff), I can do more laps without aching and getting tired. Being able to mark improvement in such a way is great for me, and it feels so good to know I’m getting somewhere. I know that’s going to plateau at some point, but for now it’s one of the best things in my life every week

And finally, it’s so fun. Even when I’ve done so many knee taps I feel like I’ll puke if I have to get up from another, or I’ve just wiped myself out and slid halfway across the hall on my side because I tried to do a crossover and got my wheels caught, I find myself grinning about it and coming away excited for next week to do it all again.

Worst Thing So Far

THE PAIN!! I never thought it’d be easy. I read up on it enough to know that things are going to be agony for a while. That still didn’t prepare me for the amount of pain I’ve been in. I’m well known for, on top of having poor balance, having a remarkably low pain threshold. It’s slowly getting better – this week, I’ve got aching ankles, a sore knee (I think stems from a deeper problem because I’d had that since last practice, in which I’d fallen awkwardly) and severely aching hips from…trying to do a crossover and sending myself sliding across the hall because I tripped over my own wheels. Twice.

The first week, though, was the absolute worst. Every part of my body ached like I’d been submitted to some sort of torture. On the Monday after practice I ended up in floods of tears because the toilet was upstairs and to get up the stairs and minimize my pain to just discomfort took me 5-10 minutes each way. On the Tuesday, I had a summer school I was mentoring at, and even my supervisors were laughing at the way I was walking. I’d only regained full, comfortable use of all limbs by Saturday, and I was looking at potentially putting myself through it all again the very next day.

Strangely enough, none of that put me off my decision to take it up.