Take a knee

Two weekends ago I played in a most amazing roller derby tournament, Flat Track Fever. I skated in Calgary’s Olympic Oval, which was amazing and also got to watch some amazing skill in women’s, men’s, co-ed and junior bouts.

The Wednesday prior to the tourney, I got tangled and took and bad spill at practice. I went down on my butt with legs forward and my knees bent out, essentially making a W with my lower body when I fell. I found out later that the impact of the inside of my knees hitting the floor in that way, I sprained my LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) on my left leg, which is the ligament on the outside of the knee.

I sprained the Lateral Collateral Ligament

Thinking I could push through and fear of letting my team down, I went to the tournament and played in 2 games. I had fun but was always aware of the throbbing in my knee.

Fast forward to the week following; more throbbing, swelling and feeling that my knee was filling with fluid prompted me to visit a physiotherapist who diagnosed me with a ‘Grade 2’ sprain and now I’m off skates and have regular visits to therapists to try and fix me.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my initial injury and I’m still limping, I still have to ice it and simple tasks like getting in and out of a car make me groan like I’m 70. I’m terribly frustrated. I can’t imagine what skaters who have worse injuries than myself, like full tears or broken bones, have to go through.

Injury prevention is on my mind.

I found this great article – 6 Ways to Ruin Your Knees – where they talk to derby girl Iron Maiven who tore her ACL.

But thinking a little further beyond published articles about cross-training, stretching, resting, etc., I started to recall lower-body injuries that happened within my league or that I witnessed. A common theme started to surface.

Most of them happened when the skater fell on her butt.

In fresh meat, you’re taught the importance of keeping your balance forward and taking a knee(s) when you fall. You often learn that lesson quickly after the first sting of a tailbone bash. Also coaches are quick to remind new skaters to fall correctly if they witness a flailing fall to the posterior.

But after the fresh meat phase, basic reminders like ‘fall to your knees’ often don’t get spoken to the veteran skaters. Warmups involving single or double knee falls are often looked at as trite distractions until it’s time for drills and scrimmaging.

Dare I say veteran skaters become complacent to the importance of knee falls? I know I did.

Track action happens so fast that a fall to the butt is sometimes unavoidable. Hell, I’ve spontaneously fallen to my ass while at a stand still.

However it begs the question, after fresh meat training, are we doing enough to continue to make sure knee falls are instinctual?

If I ever get back on skates (and I realize I’m being dramatic but I’m super cranky that I’m not feeling any improvement in my knee today so bear with me) I plan on filling my free-skate time with shifting weight to my heels and lurching forward to avoid a potential ass-fall.

Bionic awesomeness!

I’d love to hear what you think… are you complacent with how you fall during a game? Do you think about it? When you fall improperly, do you take steps to improve so it doesn’t happen again or do you chalk it up to a one-time event under specific circumstances?

PS: Since writing this post I’ve had another visit with my physiotherapist. He took pity on me and fitted me with this sexy new leg brace which makes walking much more comfortable even though it looks massively hindering. I really want to make 6 Million Dollar Man sound affects when I walk now.

Na-na-na-na-naaahh

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Funny how things just suddenly ‘click’

Last night was probably the best practice ever! The funny thing is, I went into it not feeling up for it, and other girls expressed the same lethargic emotions.

The reason practice was so good? We suddenly started thinking during scrimmage.

Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t been skating around in circles like mindless freaks these last few months, but have you ever watched 5-year-olds play soccer? It’s essentially organized chaos, where everyone chases after the ball, limbs flailing and kids scoring on their own net, but still celebrating.

That’s how we kinda were, except replace ball with jammer.

But last night, something clicked.

Blockers were creating offensive holes for their jammers by taking out other blockers. Jammers were communicating for help, and getting it. Walls were being built and walls were being broken.

Holy shit… we were working as a team!

Everyone felt it. And it was great.

*********

On a personal note…

I’m seeing huge improvements in my skill during scrimmaging. Finding holes as a jammer is coming easier for me now. Cutting the track and maneuvering through those holes with help from the team seem effortless.

As a blocker, I loved playing offense by taking out other blockers to create holes for my girl to go through. And I loved playing defense by building a wall with another gal and just getting in front of the other jammer. Being in the pack is getting way more fun as I understand the strategy more and more.

Other goals I met…

I fell correctly, every time. Even when I got pulled down from behind I shifted to my side as to not wreck my tail bone. My right hand, which is STILL on the mend, came away free from further injury.

I threw a full body, LEGAL hit. This is big for me, considering a few minutes prior to that I knocked someone in the face with an elbow, which means automatic major penalty and time in the box.

My endurance has vastly improved. I’m barely winded at the end of practice, which also tells me I need to push myself harder.

Win all around! Fuck I love this sport!

April 19 – Road Rash!

Met my derby gal pal Skunky for a quick roll at the riverbottom! (Fan her on Facebook under Skunky #42. She’d love to meet you!)

3.06 mi (4.92 km)

We rolled back to our vehicles and I decided I was still up for more so I headed back out by myself.

2.84 mi (4.56 km)

Total: 5.9 mi (9.48 km)

You know the ski saying of “accidents always happen on the last run of the day”?

Yup, totally true.

It was getting late into the evening and the paths were essentially deserted, so I decided to push my speed a bit more to find out how fast I could go.

Enter Deadman’s Curve

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. This corner is at the bottom of a hill, has about an 80 degree turn with the path slanted down in the opposite direction of the corner. My kids have wiped out there on their bikes (with training wheels) and I usually approach this corner with caution, but tonight I was feeling cocky.

I take the hill at full speed… I chicken out halfway down… try and stop… start tripping over my toe stop… I launch myself into the ditch to avoid a face-meets-pavement catastrophe… I land with a resounding “oooof” with my wrists and thighs taking most of the impact. My bailing-out skills aren’t perfect so my left thigh got a nice scrape of pavement. Had I been wearing pants I likely would have come away unscathed.

I looked up to find no one had witnessed my grace… damn. It would of been neat to know how that looked.

I picked the grass out of my wrist guards and socks, dusted off my shorts and continued on my way.

Today my right wrist and right shoulder are a little achy; my left thigh is barely bruised, but all-in-all I survived the hardest fall I’ve taken to date. I’m sure there will be more of that to come.

Deadman’s Curve… it’s on.

Hit me, dammit!

Writing this as I eat my after-practice Wendy’s burger. I seem to have built in that little tradition on Sundays.

I’m typing on my phone while watching hockey playoffs and wouldn’t you know it… Just lost my entire fucking post during an exciting moment. So here’s the short version.

Big moment for me; did some blocks; took some blocks; fell lots; never been better.

Ran some different drills tonight which was awesome. Plus I got to play jammer! But instead of 4 girls in the pack helping and 4 girls trying to stop me, we played ‘Everybody get the jammer.’

So I had to move through a group of 8 (I think that’s how many there were) all who were out to get me. Sliding through that many tightly-packed girls on a 5ft wide track was challenging, and a little intimidating, I admit.

I made it through once somewhat unscathed and tried to maneuver through an opening right in the middle of the pack on my second round. I got sandwiched pretty good and made it about halfway through the pack before I got shut down completely.

I feel really sorry for the other team’s jammers. I’m no expert, but I feel we’re pretty good for a first go. We can only get better from here.

Other notes…
Tried a new sock combination. Instead of 2 trouser socks I used a lightly padded sole ankle sock and a trouser sock. My feet felt way better.

While I’m really confident in my speed; I now realize I need to work on my core strength so if someone bumps me or knocks my skate, I’m not going down so easy. Situps. Ugh. It’s gotta be done.

Excited to hopefully start organizing some early morning outdoor workouts this week! All will be welcome to that, blades and skates, so watch our Deathbridge Derby Dames facebook group for announcements.

Shout out to my friend Joey, who gave me a pair of Sugai Reinforcing sweatpants. They are big and beautiful and fit perfectly over my derby gear, particularly my knee pads. Thanks!

Pretty sure I have to trim up my mouthguard. I keep coming away with a weird blister at the back of my mouth at the end of practice.

That’s all I got for now. Ball is starting for my kids which means running them to games 4x a week and less opportunity for evening skating. I’ll have to figure something out.

PS
If you’re a reader wanting to join derby, feel free to throw questions my way. Not only am I doing this to track my own progress, but to give others an idea of what the sport is about before deciding to get into it. Let’s be honest, derby gear is expensive. Some fear that if they get the gear and then realize they can’t take a hit (totally could happen; I was worried about that too) or can’t keep up with the pack, they will be stuck with some pretty awesome but pricey recreational skates.

This is going to take some dedication. Formal practice is once a week, but there is an expectation to do some endurance training on our own time. It’s not just about hitting girls, but a game of strategy, position and protecting your own girl every time the jammers round the track. It’s a pretty cool sport so far from what I’ve experienced! I havent played a bout yet and I’m no expert, but I welcome questions. 🙂

April 11 – First Official Practice (for real this time)

No specific thoughts about this session except… awesome! Maude put us through our paces and I loved every minute!

Drills we ran…

  • Weaving
  • Weaving with shoulder check
  • Weaving with hip check
  • One knee stops, both knees
  • One knee stops with 180 turn, both knees
  • T-Stops
  • Plow Stops
  • Toe Stops
  • Double knee fall
  • Superman slide fall
  • Baseball slide fall, both sides
  • Touching one knee to floor while in motion, both knees
  • Hops
  • Squat position while coasting around 1/2 the track
  • One foot glide while coasting around 1/2 the track, both feet
  • 5 one minute speed trials
  • Running on toe stops
  • Duck walking
  • Crossover walking
  • Looking inside, outside and behind while skating in a pack

I think that’s everything.

Considering our practice space (small) I can still feel myself gaining confidence to push my speed a little bit more. I only hit the wall once (because I couldn’t corner fast enough) and tripped over my skates once during the speed trials (but fell correctly, yay!). I’m really anxious to practice speed and my maneuverability through the pack, but I’m guessing that’s going to have to wait until we all can demonstrate proper control without injuring each other.

We also gathered all the silent auction items at this meeting. There’s some pretty cool stuff up for grabs so I hope everyone remembers to squirrel away some of their drinking money for the auction. My friend Des donated a pair of Olympic mittens (thanks Desi!!!!!) and I donated 3, 8×10 framed bridge prints (shameless plug for me). But other items range from a Zombie photo session, to a skate bag, to homemade jams & wine as well as snowboard gear! Thanks to all our sponsors who graciously donated!!! The support in the community has been really great.

Things on the agenda for this week…

  • Create video to show at the DDD Fundraiser on Saturday (do you have your tickets yet? Get them at Henotic or Blueprints)
  • Change my skates back to outdoor wheels (Wishful thinking? Snow has been forecast for the week)
  • START MY TAXES (ugh)
  • Finish up some design projects
  • Get ready for Auron’s birthday party (20 kids ugh)
  • Finish marking for the semester!!!!!
  • Continue keeping my ears open for a proper indoor venue to skate at

P.S.
I see I have some subscribers! Thank you for keeping tabs on me! And thank you also to my cyberfriend The Active Stick for linking me on her blog. I hope you all don’t stay quiet for too long. I love comments; even if it’s to say I suck. Hahahaha

**Edited to add
Forgot to add that this practice was the first time I’ve ever worn a mouth guard. Weird and gross all at once.

March 28 – first practice!

Boys and Girls Club – 2 hours

The floor felt slick after skating for so long outside, but after a couple slideouts we managed to ease our pushes and skated steady.

This practice was our media debut. Reporters from the BJ and Print programs at the college as well as the Lethbridge Herald were there to give us some very appreciated PR. I admit we looked pretty awesome in our homemade team shirts.

We warmed up around the gym floor which is in much need of replacement. Pieces of the wood flooring were coming up and we had to pylon off the areas where the floor was missing completely. But it’s the only indoor venue we’ve found so far that will let us skate and that we can afford.

Maude took us through some drills while Epic talked to the media. It was great to skate in a pack and have the camaraderie of the team.

Stuff we practiced

Crossovers – both directions

Leaning turns

Sticky skating (propelling without lifting skates from the floor)

Skating in a pack

Leaning into each other

Weaving in and out of skaters in a line

Booty blocks

Stopping
– t stop
– knee stop
– plow stop

Falls
– knee fall
– baseball slide fall
– superman slide fall
– then getting up within 3 seconds

Walking on our toes (running on your toe stops is how you get a fast start)

Tried a little bit of running crossovers, but with the floor so slick and the venue so small, I wasn’t quite comfortable with that. I’ll try that again outside where I have more room to lose control.

Looking at footage of myself skating I can see I’m skating really knock-kneed. It’s an old habit from my running days and partially due to the fact my legs are just built weird. My running coach tried hard to fix me in high school, but I was unmotivated and frankly didn’t care. I’d really like to break myself of that habit but if that’s the way my body is built then I may have to live with it. Des has been great in helping me open up my stance, but I think I’m falling into old habits as I gain speed.

Sad we won’t have another official practice till after Easter. Back to skating outside!

**edited to add… I got to check off some of the training benchmarks today. I know I’m not expert at some of them, but at least I know I can kinda do them.

Training Benchmarks

Time to get serious I suppose… I’ll be updating this as I complete benchmarks. Can’t do a lot of these until I’m on a proper track. Can’t wait to get started!

1 Basic Skating Skills
The skater must demonstrate proficiency in the following areas:

[ x ] Skating Posture

[ x ] Bends at knees and hips with shoulders back
[ x ] Swings arms fluidly

[ x ] Stride

[ x ] Has steady, confident, fluid strides
[ x ] Uses both feet to push forward on straight-aways

[ x ] Crossovers

[ x ] Performs smooth crossovers while skating at a brisk pace going into and coming out of turns
[ x ] Uses both feet to push during crossovers

[ x ] Speed and Endurance

[ x ] Skates 25 Laps around regulation track within five minutes (based on WFTDA regulation track)

[ x ] Stops
Skater must come to a complete stop from a brisk pace, using proper form and without losing her balance. Must be able to complete both stops effectively.

[ ] T-Stop
[ x ] Plow Stop

[ x ] Other skills

[ x ] Performs one-foot glides with each foot for the length of the straightaway with good balance.

[ x ] Skater must be in derby stance with one foot completely off the floor
[ x ] Skater maintains sufficient speed and does not flail limbs

[ x ] Has the ability to propel self while keeping all eight wheels on the floor
[ x ] Can move easily and fluidly from one side of the skating lane to the other
[ x ] Can perform smooth quick cuts, crossing the track at least three times on each straight-away and twice on each turn

2 Falls
Skater must perform the following falls safely, correctly, and naturally.

[ x ] Single Knee Falls

[ x ] Left
[ x ] Right
[ x ] Recovers from each fall without using hands to get up
[ x ] Skater is able to return to active skating within two seconds

[ x ] Double Knee Falls

[ ] Skater is able to return to active skating within two seconds

[ x ] Figure 4/Baseball Slide

[ x ] Both legs stay on or near the ground during the fall
[ x ] Skater is able to return to active skating within three seconds

[ x ] Degree Turn Single Knee Fall

[ x ] Exhibits control to complete the fall in exact opposite direction
[ x ] Skater is able to return to active skating within two seconds

[ x ] Four point fall

[ x ] Hands are kept in front of the body, fingers closed into fists
[ x ] Skater is able to return to active skating within two seconds

3 Balance/Agility
Skater must demonstrate the ability to perform the following tasks without losing her balance or falling.
[ x ] Stepping from a standstill

[ x ] Forward and Backward
[ x ] Side to side in both directions

[ x ] Squatting
Skater achieves a 90 to 120 degree angle at the knee during each squat. Feet and knees are hip width or wider. Eyes look forward, chest is out and back is flat.

[ x ] Squats and coasts through the entire straightaway and turn
[ x ] Squats and propels self on straightaways and around turns

[ x ] Hopping

[ x ] Hops over an object at least 3 inches in height without touching the object or losing
balance while skating at a moderate pace

[ x ] Skater’s feet must leave the ground simultaneously, then land simultaneously

[ x ] Skater hops from one foot to the other while moving forward

[ x ] Focus

[ x ] Can look left, right, and behind quickly and unexpectedly while maintaining regular skating stride at a moderate pace

[ x ] Weaving

[ x ] Maneuvers through 10 cones placed six feet apart, covering both straight-aways and turns

4 Skating With Others
Skater must demonstrate the ability to perform the following skills legally and safely while skating at a moderate pace.

[ x ] Whips

[ x ] Giving whips

[ x ] Giving inside whip
[ x ] Giving outside whip

[ x ] Receiving whips

[ ] Receiving inside whip
[ x ] Receiving outside whip

[ x ] Hip whips

[ x ] Giving hip whips
[ x ] Receiving hip whips

[ x ] Pushes

[ x ] Giving pushes
[ x ] Receiving pushes

[ x ] Pacing

[ x ] Skater adjusts to the variable speeds (decrease/increase) of a paceline, while maintaining an arms length distance between herself and the skaters in front of and behind her without falling, tripping, overtaking or running into another skater.

[ x ] Weaving Around Moving Obstacles

[ x ] Demonstrates weaving through a single-file line of moving skaters who are each an arm’s length apart.

[ x ] Unexpected Obstacles

[ x ] Skating within a pack of at least four other skaters who fall in front of the skater at various unexpected times. Skater must deal with the fallen skaters by avoiding or safely falling without hurting self or the fallen skater, and without causing an unnecessary hazard for any of the pack skaters.

[ x ] Leaning

[ x ] Skates while leaning shoulder to shoulder with another skater while maintaining an upright position and propulsion without tripping, falling, or becoming unsteady.

[ x ] Bumping

[ x ] Maintains or recovers balance, without falling, while being bumped into and having wheels bumped by other skaters.

5 Blocking
Skater must demonstrate the ability to perform the following skills legally and safely while skating at a moderate pace.

[ x ] Taking Hits

[ x ] Responds safely (without flailing or grabbing other skaters, if falling, she falls safely, accurately, and small, without sprawling unnecessarily, and with 2 to 4 second recoveries) to repeated heavy hip checks and shoulder checks.
[ x ] Demonstrates the above in a pack situation, without causing an unnecessary hazard for pack skaters.

[ x ] Positional Blocking/Frontal Blocking/Stall Blocking

[ x ] Performs with good posture and without loss of balance or focus

[ x ] Checks
Performs checks with legal body parts delivered within legal blocking zones with moderate to heavy force while skating at a brisk pace.

[ x ] Hip checks

[ x ] Left hip
[ x ] Right hip

[ x ] Shoulder checks

[ x ] Left shoulder
[ x ] Right shoulder

Training day and contact has been made

I managed to skate over 9 kms today without winding myself and only suffered one fall… stupid pine cone on the path. Luckily I fell onto grass rolled out of it without injury. Rocks and debris are my biggest obstacles right now, so practicing technique will have to wait until the paths are cleaner.

Attended my first meeting tonight as well. I felt a little out of place because these gals have been working on getting this going for a while. But I’m eager to help and pretty fucking excited to throw my energy into something new, actually. Funding raising, a benefit and practice is the priority right now. They’re letting me in so I gotta remember to pay my club dues.