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.

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