Practice 21 – 23: Catch Up

School started back up two weeks ago and then we had house guests, all of which sums up to me falling behind on blogging. Sigh…

Highlights:

  • We practiced one-foot plows, which I did pretty well with. The best part was that we got to use contact with another skater to lean on them in a line. It was so fun to work together to try and get the plow stop right!
  • Crossovers are getting less scary! I can build up more speed with a crossover now and I’m way less wobbly.
  • We did another 25 in 5 practice and I’m up to 21 laps!
  • With regular plow stops I think I’m finally making a breakthrough. I realized it’s all about leaning back rather than forward. It helps so much with getting my heels to actually move out.

All in all, I feel like I’ve been seeing some really great progress. I no longer feel like bambi on ice, and I’m sort of at the same level as all of the other beginners now. One of my coaches actually used me as an example to the group to say how much progress I’ve made. “When Anna started she was Bambi, but now look at her!” It made me feel really good to know that others are able to see my progress, too. Another coach (the one that is sort of intimidating and never smiles) actually smiled and gave me a thumbs up when she saw me do a one-footed plow stop correctly. I feel like the whole Dollhouse is cheering me on!

Practice 21 – 23: Catch Up

Practice #20: Feel the Burn!

Last night was a Bank Track practice and my goal was to do everything actually on the back track instead of whimping out and using flat track for skills. It was also the first night for a new round of newbies, so many skaters were on their skates for the first time ever. I admired their ability to jump right into things on the bank track!

The biggest take away from practice last night? Ouch! My muscles!!! My legs haven’t been this sore since my first week of practice.

I’m getting better at skating laps around the bank track, so our first drill (warming up with laps) went okay for me. Afterwards, we practiced sticky feet, which I had never done on this track before, and they were so difficult! My muscles were screaming in agony (specifically my inner/outer thighs) as I tried to do my “bubble feet” to move forward. I was able to get some momentum on the straightaway, but around the curves I had to cheat a little and pick up my feet.

Next we worked on knee taps, which were also really difficult on the bank track. Even though I couldn’t successfully do this skill, our coach had some really good advice that I hope to keep in mind for the future. She said that you should always point your shoulders in the direction you want to go on the bank track so that you don’t end up sliding down the track due to gravity.

We also worked on rolling off the track and 180 turns, both of which have terrified me in the past. I first started out really small by rolling off the track from right next to the edge, and it wasn’t scary at all! In the past I thought that rolling off the track would make me lose my balance, but I think it’s actually easier than trying to step off the track, which is what I’ve done in the past. After we had a few minutes to practice rolling off the track, everyone lined up to try 180’s. Even though our coach said we could start at whatever elevation we felt most comfortable with, I saw to my dismay that everyone lined up at the very top of the track (which was still too intimidating to me), so instead I went to the other side of the track to practice on my own.

There was an assistant coach for our practice tonight to help with all of the newcomers, and she was able to help me and give me good advice for 180’s even though I wasn’t starting at the top of the track. I’m actually glad I did my own thing for this section of practice because I got a lot more tries in that if I had lined up with everyone else. By the end I was able to successfully roll off and do a 180 from halfway up the track. Next time I bet I can get all the way to the top — I’ll just keep going one more step up each time I try until I get there.

Last thing for the night was practicing plow stops. Our coaches helped me to realize that plowstops are a lot like sticky feet bubbles, and this helped me a lot! When we practiced two-footed plows I did okay. I didn’t build up much speed with them, but I was able to control my feet enough to come to a complete stop. The hardest part of the evening though (and the part that made my legs so sore) was one foot plows. We had to practice sticky feet without moving one of our feet, and it was so challenging! My right leg was on fire since all of my weight was on in while my left tried (unsuccessfully) to propel me forward. It helped me realize that I need to build a LOT more strength before I can successfully do this skill! Maybe if my legs forgive me today I can do some strength training.

Practice #20: Feel the Burn!

Derby Game: Southwest Showdown

Yesterday the Dollhouse hosted a “Southwest Showdown” for two teams visiting from Seattle and Arizona. Throughout the day all three teams played round-robin matches to lead up to the ultimate All Star bout in the evening.

It was my first time volunteering for a game and I was a little nervous, but when I arrived for my shift at 6 I realized everything was pretty relaxed. I got to talk to some of the other volunteers for a while because most of the Derby players were off having a dinner break before the big game.

At 6:30, I went to my post and I was pleased to get the job as “Dollhouse Protector” (read: Dollhouse Bouncer). There I was, scrawny and lanky, sitting in a chair outside of a warehouse being a bouncer. I was pretty amused at my own mental image of the situation. In all seriousness though, my job was mostly to help direct people to the game since the Dollhouse location is sort of hard to find. I got good at spotting the “lost puppy look” from people holding phones and ticket vouchers, and it was fun to help them learn a few basic rules to the game as well as direct them to the event.

My volunteer shift ended at 7, and The Boyfriend and I went upstairs to buy our own tickets. The ticketbooth volunteers gave us our wristbands and told us that we lucked out — we got the last two bleacher seats! I was happy to hear that ticket sales sounded so promising, and the larger the crowd the more fun the event would be, too.

The game started shortly after and I was so excited! Because it was an All Star bout, players from all three teams (San Diego, Arizona, and Seattle) voted on their top players and then split them up onto Black and White teams. Some of the coaches I’ve had since I started skating would be playing, and I was so curious to see them in action.

Watching the game was amazingly fun. It seemed like each of the four quarters went by in the blink of an eye, and there were some really intense and awesome jams. All of the San Diego players did a great job, and I enjoyed getting to cheer on the players that I know from coaching. The game stayed incredibly close for the entire match, and even up until the last jam it seemed like either team could win, but in the end the team that was in the lead pulled ahead into lead jammer and immediately tapped to end the game.

I think what I enjoyed most about watching this game was seeing some of the blockers offensive and defensive strategies in play. Now that I know the rules of the game a little bit better, it was really cool to watch players try to block off part of the other team’s pack so that they were too far away and had to let the jammer pass. I can see myself being that sort of player when I get to start playing games, and it seems like a really fun way to play.

All in all, it was an awesome way to spend the evening and I loved getting to see some great players in their element. It reinvigorated me to keep practicing with intensity so that I can work my way out of Bootcamp and start playing! Maybe I’ll be able to go to Open Skate today and work on some crossovers and T-Stops!

Derby Game: Southwest Showdown

What to Do on a Rainy Day?

I was intending to practice on the local tennis courts today, but when I woke up and looked outside I saw the weather was rainy and gloomy. Letting out a sigh, I realized today wouldn’t be a day to skate.

Not wanting to completely abandon derby for the day, however, I searched the internet for some ideas. For the past few hours I’ve been deep into online Derby sources, so I thought I’d write about them!

  1. Watching WFTDA coverage of a Playoff game from 2014. I’ve never watched a flat track game before, so it was really interesting to see how the rules changed from bank track. It was also really cool to see such good skaters do their thing.
    1. WFTDA Roller Derby: 2014 Division 1 Playoffs, Sacramento: Gotham vs. Denver
  2. Just for fun I tried out “Roller Derby Testomatic,” which is a site that has multiple choice questions about Derby rules. There are so many rules (especially fouls!) for me to figure out, so it was fun to try.
    1. Roller Derby Testomatic
  3. Since I couldn’t get in a skating workout today and because I want to improve my crossovers, I found this workout video from TrebleMaker that focuses on the muscles needed to perform powerful crossovers.
    1. Crush Those Crossovers – Roller Derby Workout

And of course I perused TwoEvils to find good Derby Name ideas. After a heartbreaking realization that my dream name has already been taken (Pain Austen), it’s back to the drawing board!

What to Do on a Rainy Day?

Level 1 Testing: Flat Track

Today was testing for Level 1 on the flat track. I went in to testing with a goal of passing at least one skill. I know there’s still a lot of work to do before I’m ready for Level 2, but I know I’ve made progress so I hoped that would be quantifiable.

The good news? I didn’t pass one skill. I passed TWO!

Testing started out really differently than I expected. Last time I tested we split into two groups and took turns demonstrating each skill for Level 1. This time, our coaches had us line up in a pace line and demonstrate skills while maintaining two arm’s lengths from the person in front of us. What?! I was thrown for a loop at first since this was an added challenge, but I realized that this would be a good way to practice skating with others. Any practice I can get, even on a testing day, is fine by me!

We started by skating the track and demonstrating derby stance and crossovers. Ugh. Crossovers! Still a challenge for me, but I was happy that I was at least able to cross my right foot a *little* bit. Then we switched directions. Usually we skate the track counterclockwise, but then we had to skate clockwise. It totally messed with my head because my brain has gotten so used to skating in one direction. I realized that although I’ve made a little progress with my right crossovers, my left ones are non-existent. Oops.

Then we worked on skating the track and using T-Stops to stop on the whistle. I knew that my left T-Stops wouldn’t go so well, but I was so frustrated because my right T-Stops were also so terrible tonight! For some reason I simply couldn’t do a T-Stop to save my life. I’m DETERMINED to get my T-Stops down, so I see a lot of tennis court practice in my near future.

Next we demonstrated one foot glides, and I was excited because this was one of the skills I thought I might be able to pass. My right glides went GREAT! I was able to glide halfway around the track, just like was asked of us. I know my left glides are a little weaker, but I was off to a good start until… someone sideswiped me with their own out-of-control turn and I had to put my foot down to keep my balance. I was a little frustrated, but I built up some momentum and tried again. Nearly the same thing happened again! Another skater fell right in front of me as I was completing my turn and I had to put my foot down again. For a third time I build up some speed and went for my one foot glide, making sure that no one else was around to thwart me again. I was so close to finishing my glide and then I lost my balance. In a spectacular THUD I slammed onto the track hip-first and bounced a little bit. I scrambled back up to keep skating, but I was a little disheartened because I thought I had just jeopardized passing this skill.

The surprise? When I asked at the end what I had passed, one foot glides was a resounding PASS! I was so pleased by this since I have worked on one foot glides a lot in the past month. It’s nice to see my work has paid off.

The other skill I passed was stepping in control (which basically meant that I didn’t roll away when I tried to side step on the track), which I felt pretty confident in.

All in all, testing was a good experience this time around. I know there are some skills I still need to work on:

  • T-Stops
  • Crossovers
  • Plow Stops

But I officially have some skills that I’ve demonstrated mastery in! Yes!

 

UPDATE:

This morning (after testing evening) I checked my email and got the following email from one of the coaches that was helping with testing last night.

“You rocked testing last night, you look stronger on your skates every practice. 1 foot glides, weaving, stepping in control, skating the track, all look good. As you get a little more confidence, your crossovers will improve. You can work on strengthening your legs to help improve your sticky feet (inner and outer thighs), Tstops, and knee taps.

You’re killin it!”

It was so nice to get a personalized message from her, especially since she did this for all 21 skaters that tested yesterday. I was happy to see that weaving and skating the track also looked good, since I thought those went pretty well yesterday. Now I guess I need to find some good inner and outer thigh exercises to help my weaker skills. To the internet!
Level 1 Testing: Flat Track

Practice #19: Transitions

Thursday’s practice was on Flat Track and I was excited to try out my newly practiced skills, thinking that we would run through the normal Level 1 skill drills (stops, one-foot glides, ect.). Boy was I wrong!

We had a new coach who is a really REALLY good derby player, and she started us off right away with transitions. My derby friend and I looked at each other, silently saying “Do you know what transitions are?” When the coach saw our puzzled faces, she gleamed and demonstrated a transition. She started by skating forward, and then in a blink she was turned around and skating backwards. Ohhhh… THAT’S a transition. I didn’t know there was an official name for it.

She gave us some advice to try called “Open and Close the Door” where you make your feet 180 degrees by imagining you are “opening a door” and then you “close the door” by moving your other foot back to meet the first. Much easier said than done!

Transitions were pretty tough for me, and she said that if we wanted to practice skating backwards we could do that, too. I tried and tried and was barely moving until she came over and gave me some really good advice. She recommended pushing with my toes to do my backwards sticky feet (make “bubbles”) so that my weight was on my toes instead of my heels. It made so much sense when I thought of it that way! Just as I thought I was getting the hang of moving backwards, though, she called us over to line up.

Unknowingly, I was volunteered with two other bootcampers to demonstrate a turnaround toe stop. We had to skate to a cone, do a transition, and then use our toe stops to stop. Slowly I skated to the cone, came to a dead stop, turned around on my skates with a dorky smile on my face, and put my toe stop down in mock triumph. Everyone laughed and then it was time for everyone to line up and try.

Throughout the drill I had trouble opening my feet into a 180 degree position, which was really the biggest hindrance to successfully doing a transition. I did work on turning my head to look where I was going though, which I think was good practice.

The last drill we did for practice was an exciting one — toe stop runs and duck runs. These are two things a skater can do to quickly build up speed, and I’ve seen a lot of the advanced skaters do the toe stop run when they start their 25 in 5. It was kind of scary to try since it was basically like trying to run in high heels and then jump onto wheels, but I gave it my best shot and did okay! Our coach told me that I was doing well, and I felt like I was on par with everyone else even though the skill was new. The duck runs were fun, too, and I hope I can practice both more in the future so I can use them with my 25 in 5 next time.

All in all a good practice. I’m a little excited because the next practice I am able to go to on Tuesday is going to be Flat Track testing! I’m curious to see if I will be able to pass any skills this time around. Maybe Derby Stance and one foot glides? We’ll see!

 

Practice #19: Transitions

Practices #16 – 18: Catch Up

I’m *STILL* getting over the world’s most annoying cold. I missed two days of work a few weeks ago, and a persistent cough kept me away from Derby again for a few weeks. Hopefully now that I’ve had an injury and a cold under my belt I won’t miss as many practices anymore!

I went back to practice on Monday, and man oh man it’s been eventful! I’m going to do a quick recap of the awesome events that have transpired since then.

 

Monday Night: Flat Track with Dish

Monday night we had a coach that was new to me (Dish), and I recognized her as the owner of the Skate Shop where I bought all of my gear. Right away I could tell she was going to push me to try new things, but I also felt really supported.

She began practice by telling us the two rules to live by during practice:

  1. Don’t look down
  2. Keep your eyes on where you want to go, not right in front of you

As simple as this advice seems, I actually found it to be really REALLY useful. I think that even though I’ve always known to keep my eyes up I’ve never been very good at it. Tonight, I really tried to keep this advice in mind and it paid off! (More on that in a minute)

Something that has been difficult me since Day 1 is one foot glides/standing on one foot in skates. During this practice Dish had us really focus on our “edges” (what we call the sides of our skates), and this is something I’ve never really been able to get. In the past when I tried one foot glides I’d either loose my balance or run into the edge of the track because I couldn’t figure out how to turn with my bearings.

Monday night all of that changed. I’m not sure exactly what made it “click,” but all of a sudden I found that if I moved my knee and leaned in a direction while gliding on my left foot, I moved that way! It was so cool!! No longer did I need to stop when I reached a turn — I was able to turn with it.

The last metaphorical hurdle I overcame on Monday was right foot glides. I’ve been plagued for WEEKS by the fact that I can glide on my left foot but not my right. Keeping our coach’s new advice in mind, I tried my right foot glide while I kept looking up, and it worked! I was able to glide!

I stayed for 40 minutes practicing after bootcamp was dismissed because I was so excited to keep trying glides and playing with my edges.

 

Tuesday Night: Bank Track

Much like one foot glides, the Banked Track has plagued me since I started skating in January. Somehow it seemed to be so easy to everyone else, and yet to me it was this impossible slanty monstrosity. Remembering my last bank track practice where I actually was able to do a few successful laps, however, I was determined to try my best this night.

Our coach, luckily, had us practice a lot with our stride on the bank track, and I was so proud of myself that I was up there on the slanted slope with the rest of the skaters! In the past I felt too remedial to do most of the activities on the bank and instead stuck to the flat inside track, but this was the first practice where I completed everything on the bank!

At one point we partnered up and did a “modified timed trial” where we tried to get 5 laps in 1 minute (instead of 25 laps in 5 minutes), and I told my partner I’d be happy if I got between 2 and 3 laps since I still am pretty wobbly on the bank. The timer started and I started zooming around the track. It’s amazing how much speed you can build up on the bank! It was fun, even though every once in a while I realized how fast I was going and got a little nervous.

I was zooming along just fine until I felt myself loose my balance. Uh oh. I tried with all my might to catch myself, but in a spectacular fall, I slammed into the track with a THUD and slid down to the center. Grr!! I immediately got back up to keep skating during the timed trial, but in my haste my skates slipped back out from under me, wasting even more precious time. I finally got back up (and my fellow bootcampers were cheering me on) and finished my timed trial. The final count? 2 1/2 laps. Not anywhere near where I need to be, but considering I wasn’t even able to skate one lap around the bank a short while ago I’ll take it!

The only part that I opted off the bank track for was crossovers. My coach nodded to me that it was okay to try these on the flat track since I still had never done a successful crossover, and I started slowly trying to cross my right foot over my left. This is still the scariest thing for me to practice because it’s how I hurt my knee a month ago, but I figured babysteps would build my confidence. My coach kept encouraging me and when she blew the whistle for everyone to huddle up, she told me to go around one more curve and really cross my foot over my left, and I did it! She told me the only thing I needed to work on was picking up my left foot, but I was so happy with the progress I made!

The last part of practice was the most fun, by FAR. We played a game called “Drill Master.” Two Bootcampers wore the Jammer Panties and were “It.” It was basically freeze tag on the bank track! When you got tagged, you had to do a four-point-fall and wait for two people to “sandwich” you with their own four-point-falls. People were sliding down the bank track and falling over each other everywhere! It was hilarious and a really fun game. I enjoyed practicing my falls on the bank track as well as sliding down to help my fellow skaters get unfrozen. All in all, a great way to end practice!

 

Wednesday Afternoon: Tennis Court Practice

Today there is no official Derby practice, so I took the opportunity to practice on the tennis courts near my house. I’m on Spring Break right now, which leaves me a lot of free time to skate — it’s awesome!

At the tennis court I really wanted to work on two things today that have been bugging me: crossovers and T Stops.

I did a few warm up laps and then slowly started trying to put my right foot in front of my left… it was so scary! Eventually something clicked in my brain and I was able to cross my right foot over my left *AND* pick up my left foot afterwards! It was an honest to goodness proper crossover! And it was so fun!!! I can see now why everyone enjoys crossovers. It’s a cool movement to do, and it also helps keep momentum up on the curves. Admittedly I was doing my crossovers pretty slowly, but tomorrow I’m hoping to get to Derby early so I can try my crossovers on the flat track. (Part of the scary part on the tennis courts is that they are slightly sloped so I build up a lot more speed that I’d like to going on one side of the court.)

Next I tried skating loops (while continuing to practice crossovers) and stopping with T Stops (with my right foot coming up behind my left). They started out pretty rough, but I actually let out a whoop of excitement when I finally came to a full stop and didn’t feel wobbly. The best part was that I was actually skating with a bit of speed, too! (There may or may not have been a touch-down style victory dance.)

I kept practicing my crossovers and t stops, ecstatic that I could see myself improving rapidly, and I really REALLY hope that my extra practice pays off tomorrow. At the very end I tried a few t stops with the other foot, but I realized that those need a LOTTTT of work. Sigh… I suppose that’s for a tennis court practice some other day!

 

Summary

All in all, I feel like something has “clicked” for me this week in skating. I think I’m finally getting the hang on being on wheels, so now I can really focus on perfecting the Level 1 skills. How exciting will it be to pass into Level 2? I’m hoping I’ll be ready in a few months (maybe by my birthday in October? That’d be awesome!)

Practices #16 – 18: Catch Up