Derby Recap: Week 7 (Which Feels Impossible)

This weekend went very differently than what I’d had planned. I knew it was going to be a derby-filled weekend: I had two bootcamps, Saturday training, and a private lesson all scheduled, and I was ready to be exhausted and happy.

My skating partner Jenna and I took a private lesson Friday with a world-class derby player. (LITERALLY world-class–she’s on Team USA!)  It was…interesting. I learned I’m not quite doing the box turn like I should, but I did learn how to correct my issues. In the long run its only going to help, but still, there is nothing quite like the feeling of your ego deflating. A necessary moment, but still unpleasant.

Saturday morning was a whole other hell, however. We did a run-through of the tryouts–two at a time on the track and we had to go through basic skating skills in front of “evaluators”. They sprung it on us and I went into my turn pretty damn nervous. I stumbled coming up out of the first skill into the timed laps, so that threw me off and I ended up botching quite a bit of the “tryout”. I was so frustrated my brain felt like it was on fire: I couldn’t concentrate long enough to do the skills I know how to do.  My mouth was dry and my heart was beating super fast, and I could feel my throat start to burn halfway through the drill. I knew what that meant, so when me and my partner Tasha were finished, I hightailed it off the track and skated to my bag. I knew that as long as I could get to my inhaler, I would be fine. Just a few more seconds, Wilson, and you’ll be fine…don’t panic. It’s…gonna…it’s gotta be here! Where the hell is it?!?! That was a very scary moment. A lot of people can’t understand how it burns, how the pain just kills any rational thought (or is that just me?) and the only thing you can manage to think of is the relief a cool spray of albuterol will bring.

Luckily Tasha had seen me get off and saw me freak out, and because she’s had asthma attacks before and knew what was happening, she knew what would help me the fastest. She helped me lie down on the cold concrete and worked on getting me to relax, because that’s the only way to “come down” if you don’t have a vasodilator. The whole event was excruciatingly painful, and it was even worse because I KNOW I put an inhaler in my derby bag, a brand new one just for that very purpose. I still haven’t found it.

After I could breathe again, I knew enough to be very disappointed.  There was a “jamming bootcamp” scheduled for that afternoon that I had been looking forward to for a long time. I debated it for a few hours, but my lungs and chest and throat were sore, and I knew if I tried to push myself again, I would end up with another attack and still no inhaler. Plus I was coughing pretty intensely, and I knew I really just needed to recover. Gelato and the couch were my best friends the rest of the day. I was just so frustrated because I haven’t had an asthma attack in years and I’ve been eating really well & pushing myself at the gym just so this wouldn’t be an issue in derby, and yet it kept me from doing the most bootcamp I was most looking forward to. My chiropractor (whose medical opinion I highly value) said he believes that it was more from the anxiety of the moment combined with the heightened number of allergens in the air than from a preventable cause. Little comfort as I lay coughing on my couch.

Luckily I was feeling much better Sunday and went to the “Blocking Bootcamp”. It was a lot more fun than I was expecting. I know in derby you play more than one position, which means eventually I’d have to suck it up and learn to be a good blocker, since I can’t be just a jammer. I learned a lot, and it’s so much easier to not think about your skating when you’re playing the game–the wheels just become part of your feet. And the more I learn about playing the game,  the deeper I get sucked into it. Skating is fun on it’s own, but when you can use the skill for something more, it’s deeply satisfying. We learned several blocks, how to be a wall with your teammates, how to take the rail (feels real badass), and how to take a girl to the rail yourself (feels even better!).

So even though I didn’t do so super great on my tryouts during class, I’m glad we did them on Saturday so that my first time wasn’t the tryouts themselves. And as disappointed as I was, it has given me a good idea of what I can spend the next 4 weeks working on, so that even when my brain turns off, my muscles can stay switched on. Between that and the blocking bootcamp, here’s what I know I need to work on:

1.) Fall recovery: building the muscle memory to fall correctly.
2.) Fast feet–moving up & down the track quickly, not sliding but my feet coming OFF the track
3.) A fast start from a stopped position–out of the jamming gate, and up from the floor.
4.) Executing a box turn confidently and correctly, with speed.

So, plenty to work on, but enough time I feel it’s manageable. As long as I can keep my mental game intact when I mess up, I think I have a shot. It’s gonna happen, because no one can skate perfectly all the time, so it’s important to be able to shake it off and move on. I’m not quite sure how to “work” on that, but as the time approaches, I’m going to be doing a lot more meditation and calming exercises. And tons of lunges.


In Which Our Heroine Is Embarrassed.

You know what the problem with taking risks is?

Sometimes they don’t pay off.

I took a chance and wrote about how I had finally found this house, “MY” house, and I knew it was meant for me and I wanted it and it was mine.

Except that it wasn’t.

Because they didn’t accept my (perfect) offer. My agent suspects a cash offer, which will always win out over a financed one–the seller can close in just a few days.

It was heartbreaking, which sounds dramatic, because, let’s be honest: it’s only a house.  And I understand that there are much worse things in life than not getting the house you want.  Except that it wasn’t just a house: it was the prayer that my life could be changed. So many goals and dreams are on hold, just waiting for the chance to become reality, waiting for the space. So when I read that sad sad email, I felt so drained. That’s the problem with expectations, with putting yourself out there. So many motivational speakers (and a few of my favorite bloggers) like to talk about seizing chances and opportunities and MAKING your dreams a reality, “only you have the power”, blah blah blah. Except that in this world, you cannot force someone to help you with the things you cannot do on your own. I could not force the sellers to accept my offer, I cannot force the perfect house onto the market, and I cannot force my savings account to grow quicker (paychecks only come twice a month, slice). You just have to take a shot at it and put yourself out there and hope it pays off.

Perhaps “risk” isn’t the right word for it, though. Because honestly, what did I have to lose? Only my pride, really. This is the FIFTH offer I’ve put out there, and still, no house to show for it. I’m embarrassed that I blogged about this place and was rejected. I hate telling my agent to write an offer for somewhere, because each time I’ve done it, it hasn’t worked out and I’m beginning to feel like the girl who will say ‘yes’ to anything. But, I didn’t lose any money, and the time wasn’t really wasted. My heart is a little bruised, but it’ll bounce back.

So here I am, back at square one, still looking. I “know” that the right house will come along, that it’ll be the right time and everything will work out. Everyone tells me this, and for the most part I believe them. It’s simply hard to relinquish the hold you have on the dream of something.

I know I’m not alone in this: there are people who have spent years trying to make their dreams come true: a spouse, a family, a job, a degree, equal rights–dreams that have yet to come to fruition. Dreams on hold, or worse: dreams that died. It’s a condition of our humanity, that we do not always get what we want. (Yes, I’m singing it too) But that does not stop us from hoping, does not stop us from fighting and working and praying. I believe it’ll happen for me one day, I believe I have to keep working and searching for it. But today, it sucks. I can accept that, live in this moment that just sucks, and then move forward. It’s the not-giving-up that’s most important.

This weekend, I’ll keep scouring the internets. In between derby bootcamps, I’ll bore Jon with listings, and bug Shane (agent) about when we can go see a house. I’ll write another post on another house, and one day, this blog can record what it’s like to pass an inspection, close on a house, and begin the process of moving in and creating a peaceful space around myself.

Until then, I’ll try to keep this place clean.

In Which Our Heroine Talks About Something Other Than Derby

A post or two ago I mentioned that I was still looking for a house. I’ve been debating whether or not to renew writing about my house-hunting experiences, since I felt so foolish a few months ago when I couldn’t manage to pick a decent house. But today, I figured that so what? That’s part of the journey!

I gave up looking after the second house’s inspection fell through, because I was a) frustrated & disappointed and b) I needed to purchase a vehicle, and I only had money for a truck OR a down payment, but not both. So I bought my truck, and tried to forget how very frustrated 400 square feet can be. I ate my way through the holidays, and struggled to find peace amongst the growing clutter of my house. My truck was definitely the better purchase, but my heart still longs for a place of peace and growth.

This is going to sound absurd and a very silly first-world problem, but honestly my cats drove me back to searching for a house of my own. Well that, and the ever-increasing desire to grow my own food. They’re large furry monsters, trying to get their kittenish energy out by running the tiniest of laps over the desk, sofa back, then under the table. I feel so bad for them, but when they’re scratching at my back door I feel bad for ME.

So earlier this month, as soon as my refund check came in, I started hitting Zillow and Trulia every day. I got so frustrated because everything I wanted to look was usually under contract already, even though it had only been a few days on the market (according to my realtor, it’s because I was competing with investors. That should give you an idea of how low my budget was). And then, if it wasn’t under contract, it was falling apart. Literally–some of those homes would have been better razed to the ground. Finally I realized that since I”m making more money than I was last year, my range had probably gone up as well. I contacted my lender and double-checked with him, and sure enough–my ceiling was MUCH higher than I thought.

I went to look at a few homes yesterday evening, and the difference in quality was immediately apparent. Well-kept, solidly built homes. I didn’t feel disgusted just walking into them, or worry about what the foundation looked like. I was able to ponder if the home would serve my desires well, rather than “will it still be standing in five years?”. The last one we looked at, though, just took the cake.

I knew, walking through it, that it was meant for me. This is MY HOUSE. All I could think was how much this house was going to change my life. Sounds ridiculous, but consider this: my beautiful dresser takes up so much room in my closet (read: ALL of the room in my closet) that I can’t hang dresses. They pool up on the top of it. I  can’t stretch in my home, because doing so means rearranging my furniture. I can’t remember the last time I just sat on the floor. I have piles of books on every flat surface, because I don’t have enough room for another bookcase. I don’t even want to can anymore, because there isn’t enough room in my kitchen. My stove isn’t even full-size–I can’t fit a cookie sheet in the right way, because it’s too long! I’ve made do with these little nuisances for two years, but enough is enough.

What clinched this house for me, however, was when we walked into the backyard. I couldn’t tell “what sort of project” was happening in half the yard (it was dark by this point), and then I realized…there was already a garden started! And the shed in the corner? Looked like there had been chickens kept in it at one point! We took those as signs that this house was meant for me. This house isn’t especially luxurious: it’ll need new carpets soon, and it DESPERATELY wants painting, but those are things I can handle, that I’m looking forward to. I have wanted a home project for a while-something to do after derby on the weekends!

So this morning, I submitted a pretty tempting (I think) offer. Which means this afternoon, I’m sitting here, feeling like a crazy woman. Work has been very difficult to concentrate on, as I keep refreshing my inbox, waiting for news, anything, from my realtor & letters from my lender. I “know” that realistically they’ll want time to think the offer over and respond, maybe consider a few adjustments, but the other part of me, the part that’s afraid of yet another house slipping through my fingers, thinks they probably should have responded already (it’s been about six or seven hours). And the whole part of me just wants this day to be over with.

Derby Recap: Week 6

First contact.

Today we learned our first block–the elbow block. Apparently Polly is famous for this: it was impossible to get around her when she threw this block. And it’s trickier than it seems–I kept wanting to use it to push myself off my partner, as opposed to slamming my upper arm into her solar plexus. Luckily I partnered with Tasha, who was in New Girl Training for a bit and is more than willing to teach a girl what she knows. She always gives me bits of advice, and is very encouraging when I’m working through a difficulty. She showed me how to deflect a block, the best way to throw it, and let me throw more than she did. She gave me good usable advice, as did my next partner, Erika, who’s a scrappy ex-New Girl too. Get to the side but more to the front of them–they are in YOUR space, so make them move back with that elbow. Throw it out there and commit. Good stuff to remember.

But it was an off day. I had pizza and too much hard cider Friday night, so my system was feeling clogged up and run down. It’s amazing to me that just six weeks after giving up gluten/grains I can tell so easily that I’ve cheated. I also didn’t go in to the warehouse until right before class started, so I didn’t warm up much, and ended up doing a very painful slide because the cold floors+ cold wheels= loss of control. It was the very first time climbing onto the track seemed like more than something I wanted to do. It was not a pleasant feeling.

The worst part, however, was when we were practicing our stepping up/down the track. I have GOT THIS, except that on Saturday, I didn’t. Off. So off. Kept using my toe-stops, kept losing my balance and doing the torso shuffle. I got frustrated with myself for not managing to nail it, ESPECIALLY as I had really mastered it at bootcamp last weekend. But I just reminded myself to breathe and tried to refocus, and told myself it was an off day so I should just accept it and move on, as opposed to being all dramatic, even internally. Everyone sucks sometimes.

I felt better after we had warmed up and stretched. We did some clock-wise skating around the track, which is the opposite direction and can be quite unsettling. Everything you’ve learned gets thrown out the window, which is the point, I suppose. It just feels unnatural to be leaning the other way, and trying to do a crossover was out. of. the. question.

We also did some backwards skating, and I always appreciate getting some backward time on the banked track. The only problem is that some of my classmates aren’t quite used to it yet, so it was difficult at times to maneuver around them. Of course, I’m sure there were several others who thought the same of me. It’s all relative, I suppose. I was really loving that I’m finally getting to the point where I can actually use the box turn to transition from forwards to backwards skating, which is, you know, the ENTIRE POINT. I’m feeling more confident on my feet–I’m not thinking about them most of them time anymore, which is helpful when we’re doing pack work.

I’m just gonna be honest and say it though: I don’t want to be a blocker. I want to be a jammer. There is something in me that just wants to make my way through the pack. I don’t want to be hunkered down in it. I understand that’s part of being a team player–I can’t jam every time. But I feel like that’s where my strength lies–I’ve got speed and I’m good at getting past people. That’s how I see myself–star panty on my helmet.

All that being said, when we did our pack work, and practiced using the elbow block as a way to maneuver through, I really tried to use that time to improve. That’s one of the 3 rules of a good practice: don’t waste your time. If I’m going to pay good money for this class and spend my time here instead of sleeping, I might as well use it to my advantage. If I don’t need instruction for the moment, I want to make sure I’m focusing my energy on something I DO need to work on. So I tried to work on my in-pack communication, filling the holes, skating closer to the others, plow stopping to keep pace or “packing up” the back, and slaloming instead of striding. I’m learning just how much I need to sit down into it, or my lower back is gonna suffer long-term, so that means more (and longer!) squats.

(Sorry if it’s a lot of jargon. I’m trying to get it right so that I can keep an accurate journal of my Derby journey. These entries are more for me than for you.)

Blerg. By the time practice ended, I was finally comfortable in my skates and ready for REAL training. I guess I just got a slow start, and that taught me more in one morning than I could have imagined: eat & drink properly, show up early to warm up, and always be willing to climb on the track.

Derby Recap: Week 5

Every time I sit down to write a derby recap, I think “Why is this the only thing I write about?” It seems just as I’ve written one week’s recap, it’s time for another. But I have five or so days in between, and I do plenty in between that I could write about. I could talk about how I’m still searching for a home and at times it feels like it’ll never happen. Or my decision to switch my cats’ diet to a wet food that I someday hope to transition to a homemade diet (I promise it is much more interesting than it sounds!). I could write about how lucky I feel to have moved into a new job that is such a plum, that has been the answer to so many prayers and really fits the type of life I’m interested in living. I really keep meaning to write the Primal Eating month-long recap, but that’s almost two weeks overdue, and honestly I don’t know if I”ll ever get to it. I may simply write, in a few months, of my experience with switching to this new eating lifestyle, and how it’s helped me in so many ways (hint: it’s been 5 weeks and I’ve lost about 10 pounds!).

The honest truth, though, is that for once, I’m not actually being lazy. It’s that derby is consuming my life. Every day, every meal, every workout is geared towards making my legs even stronger, my tummy leaner, and my lungs fuller. Not one minute of one hour spent skating (four days a week) on my own is wasted–I work on skills, speed, footwork, falls, and endurance. If in the end I fail to accomplish what I set out to do, I do not want it to be because I lacked the willpower or discipline, but because I’m just not there yet. This weekend reinforced my beliefs that all must be given–time, calories, and toes; that even more work and dedication and true discipline will be required of me before I can get where I want to go. It will mean falling harder and more often, pushing back, sucking it up, and increasing the weights. I spent this entire weekend either on my skates or on my back recovering–five hours that started very early on Saturday morning followed by a three-hour bootcamp on Sunday have made me a sore, tired, inspired skater.

We stepped it up from just skating to pack work, which I really enjoy doing because it’s an aspect of derby that I don’t know much about, and I like learning the game itself. Pack work involves not thinking about your own feet or skating, but rather trying to accomplish something using those skills. It forces you to be better simply because you can’t think about what you need to do–you just do it. For example, at one point someone else’s skate get locked into mine, and down I went. But instead of losing it and spinning out, my muscle memory kicked in and I took it down on a knee, held it there for a few moments (while struggling to disengage my skate), then recovered, still in my spot in the pack and ready for more. (“Fantastic recovery!”) It was proof to me that not only was it a good idea to have practiced that fall earlier in the day, it would be a better idea to keep practicing

I came into the warehouse early, before the level 1 class even got there, and spent some time on the banked track by myself, trying to get this box turn down. I’ve finally got it no problem on a flat track surface, but the difference in angles throws me off. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t ready for tryouts. So I spent some time on it, and I also worked on my backwards skating on the track. I used to have problems coming out of the curve, but a little course correction and I’m doing much better. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to working out my entire thigh. Strengthening the entire leg with squats, lunges, abductions/adductions, leg presses, and ham curls has really helped with “pumping’ around the track, and I was grateful for the extra strength while “slalom-ing” in the pack. I had a surreal moment when I stepped off the track to let the L1 girls on and one of them, lacing her skate, had this look of awe on her face as she said to me “Backwards skating, huh? Wow. I’m nowhere near there.” And there I was, red-faced and out of breath, trying to figure out if she was talking to me with that look on her face. It’s the same look I get when I’m talking to a league member.

My favorite thing about the Level 2 class is how quickly I’m progressing. Each week, I know I’m a better skater than the week before.  Lacy says I’m doing…awesome….and there is nothing quite like hearing your trainer recognize that you are actually improving with each class. While I have never been a runner (or athlete of any kind, really), I’ve been trying to push myself with every round of sprints–going even when it hurts, putting power into every stride–and it’s paid off: I can go harder, longer. My lungs have adapted. It’s ALL adapted, and that’s the beauty of pushing yourself–you begin to do what once you thought impossible.

It was a long, hard weekend. And it’s not the last of them. Thank God.

Derby Recap: Week 4

This is a week for celebration: on Wednesday, I finally figured out how to do the box turn!! If you read my last recap, you will surely understand how frustrated I’d become at failure to master this basic skating skill.  I had spent weeks practicing a tip for skating sideways that one of the derby girls had given me to help with box turns. It basically helped me to get comfortable spinning around, which seemed to be the biggest hang-up I had: the motion of not being either front-facing OR backwards was throwing me off.  Your brain doesn’t want you to be on eight wheels, and it doesn’t want you to go backwards (or sideways). So when you want to change directions, your brain tries to put the kibosh on it. “Derby’s about tricks”, I hear every week. But it basically came down to me just telling my brain to shut it. And of course, I had a pretty bad fall first, but then right after it, I got it. It’s like I HAD to do it before I could do it–a rite of passage that would not be side-stepped.

I practiced my turns and stopping all week on my own at the skating rinks, and then before practice at the warehouse. I’m comfortable with the box turn and swivel turn, but the thought of doing it at high speeds is still terrifying. Baby steps–I just need more practice and more time to build muscle memory. It’s simply nice to know now that I CAN do it– that I can progress in derby. 
At practice this week we focused on practicing our falls, left-arm- and hip-whips. There are several types of falls, but there is one in particular that I found especially challenging in the Level 1 class because it involves a lot of core and leg strength. Since then, I’ve been working steadily on both, through weight training and Pilates classes, so imagine my surprise when I could actually do the fall (the “rockstar”) during the drill! I am constantly surprised at how action leads to results. If I spend time on weight training for my legs, and suffer through Pilates classes, eventually that work will pay off in a stronger core and faster skating. Or if I keep getting up while learning to jump, at some point I won’t fall. 
That’s one of the reasons I love derby: it has taught me that if I practice and practice something, eventually (and usually not long after) I’ll get it. I just have to be willing to fall, or be sore, or go to the gym when I don’t want to. I may feel like throwing up afterwards, but I will have finished that sprint. I know it isn’t the only sport to teach perseverance, but it is the one that has worked for me. 
Sometimes though, I wonder why I want this so much. I’ve never been an athlete, I’m not an adrenaline junky and I don’t have any latent aggression. But I enjoy the speed, the skills necessary, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. There are some really amazing women in my class and on the track, and it feels good to be counted among their company. And of course there is an element of vanity to the entire thing: I am excited to be skating in front of a crowd of fans who think I am entertaining and hardcore.  But most of all, I think it’s that I am finally, surprisingly, gratifyingly good at something. This is something that comes a bit naturally to me (as natural as eight wheels can be) and I want more of it, I want to be better at it. 
My goals for the rest of this training sessions are to improve by leaps and bounds each week. I improved 100% since last week by working super hard to get that damn box turn down, and I’d like to say the same for each week–I am a better and stronger skater this week than the week before. I’d like to be more comfortable skating/turning/stopping on my weak side, and I definitely want to build endurance. Eventually I want to be able to skate sideways. I want to spend even more time skating–as much as possible, and as hard as possible. I want to master falls to the point that my body automatically knows what to do when I do go down. I want to get really good at pack work-communicating, staying low and slow with the pack, and moving through it. Of course that’s a fairly long list, but it’s a lot shorter than it used to be. And that’s a pretty damn good feeling.