Derby Recap: Week 2 (In Which Our Heroine Is A Bad-Ass)

I did good. I did SO good. I’ve never walked away from a practice feeling so confident and hardcore. This is a whole different ballgame than the Level 1 class. There is a major difference between Level 1 & Level 2–the first was simply learning skating while Level 2 is about applying those skills to the game of roller derby.

First up was a pace line, which we’d done before in Level 1 training. It’s fairly straightforward–skate in a line at the same pace. The girl in front peels off and skates around to catch up with the back of the line. The first highlight of the day came when my turn came. I took off and Lacy, my trainer, yelled out “Yeah Ashley, use those quads!” And then once I’d caught up to the line the girl in front of me, a longtime vet of flat-track derby turned to me and said, “That was awesome!”. It felt so good–I’ve been working out really hard at the gym on my quads & hamstrings, so it was complete validation that all that hard work is paying off.

After the pace line, we took it a step further and did a snake drill, which is essentially a pace line, except that instead of simply catching up to the back of the line, you weave through each girl in the line–high to low, high to low–until you’ve reached the front, then you tear ass around again to the back. My stomach was cramping badly as I waited for my turn–I’d eaten a bigger breakfast than was smart, and was so nervous. In Level 1 class, we didn’t do much close-quarter skating–it was learning how to handle ourselves on the track, so I wasn’t too sure about how I could handle moving so closely to so many people.

When my turn came around, I peeled off and caught up quickly. Catching up to the back of the line, I entered “the zone”–I was completely zeroed in on what I needed to do. I wasn’t thinking about what my feet were doing, if I was going to fall, if I could do it–I WAS doing it. It was simply incredible. I felt quick, agile, and powerful. And when I came around the back, the other trainer Polly yelled out to me “Ashley, that was fantastic!” I cannot tell you how proud I was–how big my smile was. It was just unreal. And then at my place at the back of the line, my stomach finally quit cramping up. I was so relieved and I couldn’t believe I’d done it–it had all happened, almost without my knowledge! At that moment, I felt like being a jammer wasn’t such a remote possibility.

We did pack work after that–practicing staying together as a pack, working on skating in very close quarters to each other, maintaining a pace. I will admit, I wasn’t nearly as strong here–I would grab at the girl so close in front of me. Luckily we stopped and learned how to “catch” the girl in front of us without throwing off her balance–a way to re-establish and slow ourselves and not trip up the pack. We also worked on clicking our skates together and not falling when making contact, since that’s going to happen in any bout. Most of my issues with pack-skating stem from my boots still not being completely broken in, so my feet (especially the right one) go numb after twenty minutes. As you might imagine, it’s rather hard to skate on numb feet. Luckily we moved on from pack-skating to learning whips!

I’d never done a whip before, but I went into it thinking it wouldn’t be difficult. And I was right! Of course it certainly helped that I had such a good whip partner in Callie, an experienced flat-track veteran from California, new to Austin & banked-track. We got up on that track and tore it up! It was so  fun–that extra burst of speed was invigorating, and I didn’t feel out of control once. And whipping a girl isn’t nearly as hard as you’d think it would be-there’s a great deal of momentum and adrenaline helping you. This drill only reinforced my belief that I’m more of an intuitive skater than technical–i just knew what to do, how my arm should feel, what my feet should do, how my balance needed to compensate. It was very validating. We did a whip drill afterwards that didn’t quite go as planned, but that’s what 8 more weeks of training is for.

After practice I was leaving when Lacy, my trainer, stopped to ask me what I thought of class that day. I admire her so much–she is a skillful skater and an excellent teacher–but I worry about over-questioning and annoying her with my chatter, so I generally try not to initiate conversation unless it’s a legitimate question. We talked a bit about what I enjoyed doing in class, and the progress I’d made since Level 1. The best part of the whole day was when she told me I definitely belonged in Level 2 and that I’d done well. I left feeling so unbelievably happy.

My mother definitely helped me to put things in perspective–on the weeks when I’m not having as bonzer a day to remember that I have done well, that I can do this. I know I’m definitely going to need to remember that in the next few weeks. And I’ve really been thinking about what Lacy said last week–we are there for ourselves, not to impress or disappoint them. It kept me focused and engaged throughout training yesterday, which I know contributed to my success. So however much work I put into it, that’s how much I’m going to get out of it. Going into it with the mindset that I should work hard in order to better myself overall is much healthier than trying to impress the trainers. Sure, their opinion matters and it felt amazing to hear their encouragement, but at the end of the day I was more proud that I had done things I wasn’t sure I could do. This week was the first time I felt that I could actually play the game instead of just circling the track, and that’s a damn good feeling. 

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