Derby Recap: Tryouts

Note: This post is exceptionally long–over 3200 words. I know the details won’t matter for most of you, but since I like to use this space as a way to document this journey for my own personal memory-keeping, I’m including every detail I felt meaningful to me this weekend. I could break it up over a few posts, but I’d like to get it all out while it’s fresh and precious.

BEFORE THE TRYOUT:
Let’s begin with Friday afternoon. I put an offer on a house, which I knew was only going to add to the stress of a weekend already promising to be exhausting and stressful. I gave myself a headache, actually, and fervently wished the weekend to be over.

I met my friends Sadie and Jenna at our usual Friday evening skating rink, the Millennium, down on the east side. It’s enormous and usually empty on Friday afternoons–all the teenagers wait until about 7 to start showing up so it’s a great place to practice after work. We gently skated for an hour and a half, then caravanned over to Jenna’s to wait for the open skate. She lives next door to Central Market, so we strolled over to eat on their outdoor patio. It was a really great break–there was a live swing band, families eating together, friends meeting up for drinks. I choked down some food (mustard doesn’t go well in chicken salad, btw. Trust.) and we tried to ignore, for just a few moments, the nerves plaguing us. Even through the mounting stress, however, I was conscious of how lovely the moment was. Here I was, sitting with two amazing women I would not have met except for derby, enjoying a meal I would have otherwise eaten alone. The weather was beautiful and we were alive. There was much to be thankful for.

After dinner we headed over to the warehouse to take advantage of the two-hour open skate. There were a lot of people there I didn’t know, which made me nervous because then I thought, “How many people are going to try out??” [side note: I need to tell you that yes, as a matter of fact I DID over-analyze absolutely everything about the weekend and tried to read into things as a way to measure my chances of success. I drove myself crazy, but it’s part of who I am. I read into things.]

But there were also a lot of my friends there, people I thoroughly enjoy skating with. And to my surprise, a few flat-track rec league girls that I sometimes skate with at the Millennium showed up, to see what the banked track was like! It was such a pleasure to share that experience with them, as I’ve never seen them outside of the rink. I put my Spotify skating playlist on the loudspeaker and we spent that time milking the last few hours on the track to perfect our skills.

What was really cool was that at one point we all agreed to stop skating and practiced stepping up & down the track (something that’s difficult to practice outside the track, and impossible to do if others are skating). There were no feelings of competition in the room–everyone was encouraging everyone else in their attempts. That session has a special place in my heart–several times I looked around the place and thought This is why I do this–all these wonderful people. The memory of the music, the friendship, the anticipation–a moment I knew even then I would treasure and relive.

I had thought sleep the night before would be impossible, but when I got home about midnight I was dog tired. I pulled my left quad practicing a single knee recovery (and that is one of THE main muscles, so it was VERY discouraging to pull that the night before!) and I knew I needed to be as rested as possible. I took a hot hot hot epsom salt bath and laid there for awhile, relaxing and feeling the moment. I concentrated on my heartbeat, and meditated on relaxing my tense muscles. In fact, I was so relaxed that I almost fell asleep in the tub! As soon as my head hit the pillow I was OUT.

I woke up Saturday feeling rested and calm…for about .03 seconds. That’s when reality came roaring back, untamed by sleep. I tried to make my morning as relaxing as possible–I didn’t want to frantically rush to the warehouse to start warming up six hours early just yet. So I made bacon & eggs (which I didn’t eat) and hot tea, and tried to watch a TV show, but really I just sat there feeling my heart race for two hours. Every time I would let myself think about what was actually going to happen, my pulse would stumble for half a second. After a while I started to worry a little about the stress of it on my heart, but there was nothing more to be done. So I packed my gear up and headed out to the warehouse for a social skate with classmates.

And it was really, really great. All my friends were there, and even people who weren’t trying out came. I got some fantastic help from a seasoned skater on perfecting my jump, which ended up helping SO much during the actual tryout. We put music on again and basically everyone was as kind as possible to each other, encouraging and helping one another. I realized an hour or so in that once I’d started skating, my nerves had settled and I finally felt prepared for what was ahead. I’d just needed some physical exertion to get my head in the right place.

There was a two-hour break between the end of the social skate and the beginning of tryouts, during which some of us sat around talking about anything but the tryouts. We DID discuss the merits of being among the first versus being among the last to try out, but that was strategic planning, really. It didn’t matter for me, though: while I went to the bathroom they let everyone line up, so when I got out there was no time for strategy. I still ended up with in a really great spot–I was the first to go in the second group, so I could watch the first group do it, but still get a warmup in right before my turn. Primo.

THE TRYOUT:
Since I was in the second group (there were 8 in each group), we interviewed with the panel first. I wasn’t nervous about this part–I thought of it as talking to other girls about why derby is so great. It was pretty funny because all but one of the five girls were just fresh from New Girl training and were Hired Guns, so they knew what I was going through, mostly. And they weren’t quite sure what questions to ask, so I ended up just telling them how dedicated I could be to the league (loads of free time, financial stability, a decided penchant for promoting my passions). Friends, this was NOT the time to be conservative with my enthusiasm.

When it came time to get on the track, I didn’t let myself think about what was coming too much. I started humming my motivational song (Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad”) and simply focused on warming up my muscles and getting the feeling of moving around on it. The evaluators were still sitting there, but I pretended they weren’t but still tried to think of my warm-up as a preview–show them you can do the box turn perfectly right now. It helped take the pressure off in the moment I HAD to do it perfectly. But I get ahead of myself.

Like I said, I was one of the first two to go, and when I stepped up to the track to start with suicides (burpees up the track) I tried not to think–I consciously felt. I know the feeling of my skates on the track and what sort of mode my body has to be in, so I let myself slide into it, tried to turn my brain off.

The whistle blew. tweet! Not down far enough–arms too straight. Ok, further down next one. tweet! oof! over-compensating, my chest slams down onto the track. take it easy. tweet! tweet! tweet! SKATE! Lacy had worked with me after class one day on this very transition–moving from the suicide position to the take-off. I make sure my feet are set underneath me, then run on my skates to a quick start. “the first lap is your slowest” I remember Jenna saying. I think about controlling my body, controlling my speed to make sure i’m not losing it in the turn. My crossovers are deep and I feel like my legs are six feet long and beautiful–they carry me high on the stretch and low in the corners, crossing over when smart, holding a squat when smarter. i know i’m moving faster than my mock tryout time, and that’s the thought that makes me smile.

I can feel my breathing accelerating, I start to worry as I come around for the T-Stop. We thought the evaluators would be more to the middle of the stretch; instead they are near the end. I start my T-Stop a little early, but I get it, hold it, take off again. The look on Anita’s face (the trainer who tells us the next skill) is encouraging. The plow stop. Oh dear, I’ve been having trouble with this. I come around and almost get it, but I can’t hold the necessary strength in my leg. I push too hard on one side–lose it, knee buckling inward. Make sure you look like you’re in control, not loose and flailing about. I come up strong and take off again.

When I messed up in our mock tryouts, I let it affect my entire run. This time, I brush it off, it doesn’t matter. Later, I am proud that I was actually able to ignore mistakes and focus on what was happening in the moment. Next skill. Single-knee, I got this. I can’t even feel the pulled quad in my left leg–adrenaline has kicked in, but it’s also starting to affect my breathing and I pray my inhaler isn’t necessary. I slow down to get a good pull of air in, and feel how hot the warehouse has become. It’s an oven at 3:30PM. Almost done. You’re doing great, keep it up. This won’t last forever.

Last fall, the baseball slide. I remember how important it is to not use your hands to help you up. I have to slow down my pace to allow the other skater time & room to do her skill, so I don’t quite have the speed I’d like for this fall. I manage to get up without using my hands, but I make a face that suggests it’s tough, and that’s not something I want them to see. I start to berate myself, but I don’t have that luxury yet. I come around for the jump, and think about the hints Riley gave me: don’t bend until just before, knees to tits, point your heels at the track and punch it in the face. Nailed itI make a mental note to hug her for that one.

The box turn is next. Easy, tiger. you’ve done this a million times now. shoulder & hip married. open wide, feel the balance. Beautifully done–exactly as I wanted it. Next up, almost finished–a smooth half-box turn transition to backward skating. I’m not even thinking about how my backwards skate looks–I’m thinking how we’re almost done, just got the stepping up and down left. I wait for Kate to finish her backward lap, we line up and start. I can tell I’ve got the mojo back for this one since I lost it a few weeks ago–this skill doesn’t feel difficult like it has lately–I breathe a huge sigh of relief as we finish and leave the track.

I know it reads like I was thinking more than I wanted to, but honestly most of these were just my gut reactions [side note: I’m reading a fascinating book right now that details the differences in decision-making between our ‘rational’ brain (the prefrontal cortex) and our emotional brain. Basically, my rational brain had nothing to do with the tryout].  I can’t even remember seeing Kate on the track, I felt like it was me and the mob of judgement sitting on my left.

I drink half my Nalgene in one long pull–I am dripping with sweat from the heat and the exertion, shaking from the effort and breathing hard from the adrenaline and maybe a touch of asthma. my helmet comes off as my friend erika whispers (no talking allowed!) “you looked awesome out there! good job, you really looked good!”. i lay down on the cool cement floor and i can’t stop grinning. it’s done.

AFTER THE TRYOUT:
Coming off the track, headed towards my friends. I am eager to know what they thought of my tryout–were they as excited for me as i was for them? Did it look as good as it felt? Were my slight hesitations and missteps as obvious to them as they were to me? Taking off skates & soaking wet gear, we compare our tryouts to each other, seeking affirmation and encouragement. I am glad to give it–I loved watching my derby sisters tear that track up.

I immediately phoned my mother as I left the warehouse, because that’s what I do. When Jon came home, I relived it for him as well. By this point I could only sit on the couch and move my mouth, because the thought of moving to make food or shower was discouraging, even if it was necessary. I decided I needed to bathe more than I needed food, and spent the rest of the day on the couch. I still haven’t regained my appetite. Apparently that’s a survival technique in response to high stress. 

Sunday I woke up later than usual, and at first all I felt was relief–the tryouts were over, this was finished. We ran some fun errands–Home Depot, Goodwill, Jon’s new building. But as the day crept on, I began to panic more and more often. Each hour closer to 7 was slightly more agonizing than the last–I couldn’t keep forgetting that I still didn’t know the result of my tryout. Finally at four, when the second round of tryouts was concluded, my lovely friend Sadie invited me to join them for drinks, which sounded perfect. We dissected their tryouts, I talked about the day before, and we all agreed it was unbearable and we didn’t want anyone’s phone to ring while we were together, so we quickly went our separate ways.

I came home to a giggling Jon and we started a movie about stunt men (NItro Circus) that was super funny, but I couldn’t focus. Six thirty came around. Half an hour–they said seven. My shoulders were starting to ache from the tension so I was quickly offered a massage. 6:40, my phone rings. Twenty minutes early. My heart dropped to the floor. Jon leaps from the couch to see my face, I can tell he’s nervous & excited too. Of course it’s Anita, I can hear the smile in her voice and she’s so kind and making sure it’s me but all I can think is Just say yes or no! Just end the agony!

Jon later told me my face was so funny to read–every emotion clearly expressed on my face. But I literally did not have the mental faculties to manage my reaction–all my mental and emotional energy was maxed out for the weekend (I seriously wouldn’t be surprised if I was chemically depleted of something, the stress was that intense). Each word carried weight. Including, “Unfortunately”….”you made it!”

OH. GOOD. GOD. I thanked her, hung up the phone, and started screaming. Seriously, pacing and jumping around and screaming. Jon and I hugged and kissed and I cried a bit and we laughed through our excitement and he kept saying how proud, how very proud he was. How he didn’t think at that championship bout that I would actually go through with it (because let’s face it, I’m not known for following through) but he was SO impressed with me and he was just so happy for me. That moment, that sweet sweet moment, is held so dear to me. It was victory and accomplishment and love and relief, such sharp poignant relief, all rolled into one giant gift.

I called my friend Sadie, but she didn’t answer….because she was on the phone with Anita at that very moment! But she called back and we rejoiced together as only fellow soldiers can, and then hurried off to call our mothers. Mine who was so proud of me, as she always, always is. Telling her was another moment of sweetness–she had encouraged and believed in me, for months and months. I felt it only right she was the first to know.

We celebrated with a hard cider and held hands on the couch while we finished the movie–it was so much easier to watch now that I knew!–but really all I could think was I did it, I actually did it. My first time trying out, and I made it. Of course this means I will only have to work harder, longer, and stronger, but for just a moment I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I had been so worried that statistically the odds were against me, but in the end it was only myself.

Getting through tryouts makes me so incredibly thankful for the hours I spent skating outside of class, that I didn’t stop going to Pilates, that I didn’t quit strength-training, that I didn’t let exhaustion, soreness, and laziness keep me from pressing on. I know, I know, that those are the reasons I’m the skater I am today. I’m not saying I’m fantastic–I’m saying without learning that discipline I would not have pulled this off. But thank God there will never be another FIRST tryout. Maybe other tryouts, but certainly none as terrifying as this one. I do think, however, that part of the reason I was successful in my tryout was that I was able to forget my nerves and focus on what was happening in that moment. If I let myself start thinking ahead to what was coming, I’d lose it, but if I concentrated only on the now, it didn’t seem so overwhelming.

I realized after the fact that I hadn’t let what I was trying out for really sink in–I was so focused on simply getting through them that I forgot about the prize on the other side. That phone call was affirmation all my hard work had paid off, that I had not slaved in vain. That in itself would have been worth it. But I am seriously looking forward to the training that’s ahead. I’m so excited to learn how to play the game harder, better, stronger, faster–so eager to see the results of working that hard.

And even though this whole weekend was stressful beyond belief and most of it is colored with the memory of gut-wrenching nervousness, there are still those moments of incredible bounty, moments I carry in my heart. And even though I still feel like I’m recovering emotionally and mentally, I imagine it’ll pass soon.

It’s like Jon said. This isn’t the end. This is only the beginning.

Derby Recap: Week 10

“Talent is a pursued interest. In other words, anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” Bob Ross

It’s like Bob Ross has been watching me the last six months and decided to give me a mantra–as my Level 2 course ended this weekend, there is nothing that can sum up the last ten weeks better than this. I have learned, through trial and error, that the best way to master something is to simply do it. I wish that I had learned this earlier in my life, as this simple realization has empowered me to try so many more things, to brave the unknown (like red lipstick, or cauliflower). It has honestly been one of the most eye-opening and self-affirming lessons I’ve learned in my entire life. I don’t know if it’s simply the result of growing older and realizing that my dreams are best pursued by ME, or that I am finally outgrowing the laziness that has characterized any endeavor, but I am finally discovering that power really does live within me. I can be either my own best friend or my own worst enemy.

Ok, I’ll quit with the touchy-feelies. On to my final recap.

This Saturday started with another extended warm-up that ended with a one-minute endurance sprint, which always inspires me to really push myself. I love seeing how far I can go with it–how much faster can I be today? Can I actually make myself go hardhardhard for an entire minute? Can I keep breathing all the way to the end? It’s usually just a race against myself, although this week others could tell I have been working on my speed. [side note: Riley if you’re reading this, you have no idea how your words gratified me. Everything you said to me I hold close to my heart in moments of doubt–it was appreciated far more than you can know]. Although I have been trying to build my endurance and really look forward to maxing out, by the end of the sprint I had to take myself to the rail because y’all, I seriously thought I was going to THROW. UP. I hadn’t even eaten much for breaky but all the blood left my stomach to help my limbs and I figured if I was gonna yak it’d better be off the track. In the end I just coughed a bit and had a laugh. I’ll figure this breathing thing out yet.

But the best part? One word.

SCRIMMAGE.

We divided up into teams, promised not to get our feelings hurt, and proceeded to actually skate a derby bout. And? It. Was. AWESOME. I started out in the pack because I really wanted to see what blocking felt like, and because I didn’t want to assert myself immediately into the jammer position. I’m glad I started with blocking, because it gave me a very keen insight into what actually happens in a pack, how very little you are thinking about your feet or movements, how aware you must be of all the other players, and how key muscle memory is. At one point I fell and landed in the “All-4” position, which I have spent considerable time practicing lately. Because I didn’t need to think about it,  I was able to land in the correct position and then jump right back up–an affirmation that with practice anything can become second nature.

Without vanity, can I tell you how proud of myself I was? When I finally put on the star panty (jammer’s helmet covering), I was nervous–so nervous!–but when my whistle blew I was impressed with how my feet just knew what to do–how they knew how to run to gain enough speed to pass the other jammer (something I don’t remember teaching them). How smoothly my mind and feet settled into the game, how all thoughts of doubt vanished in the pace of the game. Variations of I CAN DO THIS and THIS IS NOT FOR GODS ALONE and ITS ABOUT DAMN TIME all ran through my head, and I allowed myself a moment of pride when I slipped through the pack unimpeded for four points, or when I caught up to the pack after a collision. (I do think it’s important to note here that I also fell quite a bit during our scrimmage, but I’m of the opinion that falling means you’re trying, so I’m not embarrassed). I know a lot of my “success” during jamming was because there are some seriously kick-ass blockers in my class and also it was our first time playing, but I don’t want to allow that to diminish my victory over doubt. It was confirmation of the most important kind, that I am not making up either my accomplishments or my passion for this sport.

Yes, I have wondered, occasionally, why I trained for something that doesn’t really fit the mental image I have of myself–I do not consider myself hardcore or an athlete of any kind. But week after week, I have eagerly looked forward to my two hours on Saturday. Even now I cannot pinpoint the why of it, I only know that I love it, I am good at it, I want to keep doing it, and that is enough for me.

Driving home from practice, I was struck by how profoundly happy I was. There was no big smile on my face, no one moment to pin my elation to but rather it was the humbling, overwhelming sensation that I had been given the gift of a beautiful journey. I had dreamed, I had discovered discipline and pushed myself, and then I had proven that I, Ashley, am capable of accomplishment. Anything after this point is bonus. No matter what happens this next weekend, no matter if my derby career stalls out, there is nothing that can take away the deep-seated satisfaction of knowing that I am able, if only I am willing.

All that said, I’m still ready for this next weekend to be done with, so that I can know, one way or another. I have spent the last six months working towards this moment, six months of trying to hurry up to be good enough, six months of falling and getting back up, six months of learning how to be an athlete, all in anticipation of this Saturday. And now they are here. Tryouts are in five days. We are counting in days now, not weeks.

I’ve been trying to prepare and psych myself up for it–I spent the weekend trying to visualize myself actually skating the tryout but could only “do” one lap at a time because my heart kept doing that dropping/skipping beats thing. But I have been practicing those basic skills anytime I’m on skates. At the rink with my friends, I do those I doubt myself most in–falls, plow stops, and of course the box turn, over and over and over again. But it’s not my skating skills I’m worried about. It’s knowing I can practice as much as I want, but in the end it’s all about my mental game.

I keep telling myself that of course I can do this. They’re looking for controlled skaters, they’re testing you to see if YOU skate your skates or your skates skate YOU. And I AM controlled, I AM comfortable on eight wheels. I know I can do this, I know if I can keep it together mentally for about five minutes it’ll be alright. It’s just that I’m fearful that in that moment I’ll lose my nerve. So I’ve been practicing that moment before the first suicide, when I’m waiting to hear the first tweet of the whistle. I imagine what I’ll say to myself, what prep talk I’ll give: “You’ve done this a hundred times, it is no different than Lacy or Polly standing there. Just hold it together and show them what you show yourself. You are here for YOU and they can enjoy the show if they’d like.” Something like that. I don’t think I’ll turn into a nervous blithering idiot–I already did that the first time, and there will never be another first time (thankeejesus). If I can convince myself that I am hardcore and deserve it, then I just might stand a chance. I guess I’ll just have to practice.

Derby Recap: Week 9

There wasn’t much incentive to write this week’s recap. Sometimes I feel like I write the same things over and over again: it was hard, I’m learning there’s so much to learn, tryouts are coming up, I need to work on _____, blah blah blah. But then last week I went back and re-read my blog from last September to now, and not to sound narcissistic, it was pretty amazing. Not because I’m a Nobel-winning author, but because there was a lovely reminder of a time when skills that are so basic and fundamental now were difficult and felt impossible. It was an encouragement to consider that the things I have difficulty with now will one day be a fond memory. And it was kind of beautiful to read the entries just a few weeks before I found derby–I was bored and trying to find a way to fill my time, trying to feed my soul. And then, voila! Into my life skated this amazing opportunity, and it was everything I’d been hoping for. I really enjoyed reliving the excitement of starting a new journey, of being nervous about T-stops & plows, of being so in awe of all rollergirls I couldn’t pick my jaw up off the floor. It’s just so great to see how things unfold in their own timing, how what you want doesn’t really come until it’s needed. I’m trying to keep that in mind as I search for my home. Perhaps in six months I’ll look back at THIS post and smile at how I couldn’t see what wonderful thing was headed my way.

And in the interest of finishing SOMETHING, my plan is to recap this week and then next week’s, and of COURSE you know I’m going to recap the tryouts. Where I go from there is pretty much up to the evaluators. I’ll try my best at tryouts, and then either progress to New Girl training or back for another round of Level 2 with the ever-amazing Lacy & Polly. But, I would like to really work on blogging about some of the other things in my life, and hopefully, once I find a house, I’d really like to document some of my decorating tips/journeys, as i plan on stamping my mark quite emphatically wherever I land. I’d like to discuss gardening, my newest attempt to learn basic sewing/quilting, and of course, eating Primally.

But let’s begin, eh?

This last week began with a snake drill warm-up that lasted 45 minutes. Yes. FORTY. FIVE. MINUTES. of continual skating. Thankfully it wasn’t tough–no sprinting–it was just 100 or so laps of pace line while each girl weaved from the back to the front, back to the back, and back to the front AGAIN. You can see how this would take a long time with 17 girls. It wasn’t hard: the difficulty with snake drills can be when you’re part of the line and you need to maintain consistency to provide a learning experience for the weaving skater. (i.e., don’t adjust your skating to fit hers–the whole point is that she will have to adjust to you). When it was my turn to zipper, moving forward wasn’t the problem, but moving backwards through the line was a little more difficult than I anticipated. And we weren’t supposed to “coast” between skaters, but pick up our feet. Admittedly, this is something I’ve been trying to work on, but the physics of stepping UP the banked track require more energy than simply pushing off and gliding to the rail. However, when you step up, you’ve got more potential energy and more power, so it’s a useful tool to have in your toolbox. I’ve been trying to become more comfortable by doing “fast feet” exercises and being deliberate about it during personal time, but in practice it isn’t a default mode yet. So, something to work towards.

Next we worked on more advanced blocking–hip checks. Oh friends, if you know me at all you know I am A) proud of my hips and B) NOT afraid to use them. I didn’t have much difficulty with this, excepting that I wanted to use my shoulders as well, and this is an exclusive hip maneuver. I don’t think I mentioned this in the last post, but we’ve also learned a block that involves stepping in front of you opponent and basically controlling her movements with your hips and butt ALL UP IN HER BUSINESS. I have a little difficulty in keeping my back straight and not bent over in this position (“tits up”), to give me more strength and maneuverability, and this hip check sort of uses the same ideas–keep your back up but let your hips swivel freely. I like to pretend my hips are well-oiled swinging machines!

There wasn’t too much time in this training session because of the insanely long warm-up, so we ended by doing a few of my favorite things–one being the whip drill. It’s so much fun, and basically you get to go as fast as you can and there’s only two or three other girls on the track with you–the best setup imaginable. But if you think THAT sounds like fun, you should try playing Duck Duck Goose….in skates…on the track. Because that is the absolute best way to end a hardcore training session: with a children’s game. We all squealed and played like we were still little girls. Amazing.

I’m sure I missed something, because here it is Wednesday and Saturday was five days ago and I have done quite a bit (ish) since then. But basically, we’re coming to the end of our Level 2 course, and we’re all counting down the days until tryouts. At this point, we’re all figuring out if we think we’re good enough to get through tryouts. I’m trying to work on my “mental game” here–psyching myself up for the day itself, mumbling reassuring mantras to myself as I practice falls, box turns, and backwards skating. I know that I’m going to do all I can, and that’s going to be enough no matter the outcome. Remember that Ashley, when you read back over this in a few months (weeks?).

Derby Recap: Week 8 or, Derby Broads

You know what I love the very most about roller derby?

the women. the badass, hardcore, soft-hearted, ass-kickin’ women. they are lovely and real. Sure, it feels awesome to push myself beyond my “limits”, and there’s not much that feels as good as knowing like I’m finally pretty good at something. But when it comes right down to it, the friends I’ve made in the five short months I’ve been skating have been well worth any discomfort, displeasure, or disappointment. I still feel a slight squee in my heart when I think about sitting on the track half an hour after practice, still in skates, talking about makeup skills & pinup clothes. It’s making plans to hang out during the week or all seeing the bout together. My derby friends feel like my sorority sisters from HPU–girls who get where I’m coming from, and who want to go the same places.

When I watched my first bout, I remember thinking A) how awesome it was B) what a great workout it must be! and C) how amazing it must be to hang out with women that badass ALL. THE. TIME. And you know what? Even though I’m not in the league, I STILL get to hang out with badass women, every Saturday. They’re genuine and loud and sweet and helpful and intimidating and sometimes I can’t believe I’ve been lucky enough to find women like this again.

Sure, we’re not all skating at the same level. Some of us are ready for tryouts, and some of us are not. But when we’re all on the track together, we’re interested in improving ourselves, but I also get the feeling that we’re all there encouraging each other in this journey as well. Soon enough, it’ll get more competitive, I know. But at some point, the skates come off and we’re all just silly girls again, giving makeup advice in one breath and weight-lifting advice in the next. It’s how derby girls roll. (wokka wokka!)

This week was pretty awesome as far as training went. I just absolutely love when we do snake drills. I see it as a personal challenge, because they still scare me a bit. I think I’m afraid that if I can’t do them, it means I just shouldn’t be a jammer. And then I always end up having a blast, so I like to think maybe THAT’S not true either. This snake drill was all about maneuvering around other people on the track, so we had to catch the back of the line, circling around each girl before moving up to the next. I learned how to skate super-close in front of and behind a girl–yet another drill that helps move my focus off my feet and onto the track. And whenever we do these snake drills, I try to work on looking behind and around me, to build my awareness of the pack and jammers around me. I have a tendency to look at the ground in front of my skates, but when I keep my head up I do much better overall.

We also covered shoulder blocks, which I learned in bootcamp last Sunday, but the more work I can do on my blocking, the better. I can see how I’m having trouble with staying engaged with a girl, like when taking her to the rail. I get the initial shove in, but keeping her out of place and moving her where want her to go is proving a little more difficult. I think if I work on my left crossovers/stepping up, that will help with maintaining momentum, and I’d also like to work on getting lower and keeping my legs and hips filled with that “potential energy” they’re always talking about. I can do squats just fine, but it’s the holding that position that I don’t like (and therefore don’t practice). Looks like there’s some wall sits in my future.

The best part of the day, however, was when Polly asked for someone to come try to jam around her while she demonstrated elbow blocks. No one was saying anything, and I thought, why the hell not? So I jumped in there, and almost squeaked by once or twice. Of course it’s much different when you have your own blockers there to try to help you through, but I was pretty proud of myself. I wasn’t thinking about everyone watching and judging me, I was focused on how to get around Polly. I tried juking her out, but she’s a veteran. No fooling that broad 🙂 . But yeah–definitely working on my fast feet.

There are two more weeks left before the session ends, which seems impossible. I cannot believe it has gone by so fast already, and this session is two weeks longer than the last! I’ve decided that even if I don’t make it past tryouts this time, I’m still going to keep taking the classes and pushing myself. Because the money I pay for ten Saturdays of a hardcore workout is well worth it in friendships and bruises. And it’ll only help me get better. I know I still have work to do (and don’t we all, really?) but I’m still excited to be facing tryouts in a few weeks. The not-knowing is the worst part.