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.