Archive for March, 2010

please enjoy

I have other things I’d rather talk about … like surviving my second bout, woo hoo! Which I wasn’t as terrified to participate in as my first bout, but it was still pretty intimidating. Luckily, playing first helped. As did the fact that the rest of my team was awesome and on the ball. I think I did one useful thing, and maybe made one person on the opposing team fall down. (I also took a spectacular fall in front of my parents and allowed myself to be trapped at the back of the pack, but c’est la vie). All in all I’m trying to be more positive and stop thinking of myself as a derby individual and instead as a derby member.

I think that will help.

Right now I’m exhausted from work and frustrated and feeling overwhelmed with everything. . . . I feel like there should always be a balance (hey, I’m a Libra) between work, play, home life, and interests. Lately it’s been all work and responsibility and obligations and I find it smothering. I think the tendency is to assume that work is the most important because it pays the bills. When in reality, home life is the most important because it involves the people who love you and regenerate you. I need to remember that.

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Frustration Station

Tonight my captain gave me a great piece of advice – “Stop saying that you suck.”

She is totally right — I need to stop focusing on the people who treat practice like it’s a waste of time (“What? Is this supposed to be hard?”) and start focusing on making tiny progress in my own skills. It’s weird that not only is derby a game that plays offense and defense simultaneously, but so much of practice is solitary focus and improvement and the entire game is teamwork. I had no idea it would be this complicated.

One thing that does show progress? Two more of the fresh meats I tried out with got drafted today! So exciting for them. It’s a big moment (at least in our league) when you finally feel part of a team. It’s only then that you really feel like you can start focusing on improving in general, and not just keeping up with the Joneses. So yay – go Fresh Meat Class of August 2009!!

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I’m having trouble being springy.

My legs are getting in the way rather than propelling me where I need to be. Is it a strength issue? A coordination issue? Probably everything. I blame scrimmaging. It takes forever for me to be useful in scrimmaging. I start off shaky and slow, progressively become spazzy, and graduate to the point where I can avoid some people but still crumble at a block. There’s always so much going on that I can’t concentrate on getting in any good hits. I usually react after the fact, and then pathetically tap someone with my shoulder, or take out a bunch of people when I fall.

Everyone keeps telling me to use my legs to get in other people’s ways, but so far they’re just tripping me up.

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Injury City

Yesterday I reached another milestone in my derby career – my first trip to the ER with an injured rollergirl. Now, I’ve already seen loads of injuries. My first couple of months on the league, there was an injury nearly every week at scrimmage practice. Broken leg, torn ACL, broken collarbone, etc. It was completely terrifying to us freshies, and even though we knew injuries tend to happen in derby, it was freaky to see it happen that often. After a couple months the curse seemed to lift and it’s been a while since I’ve witnessed anyone get seriously hurt again.

… Until yesterday. One of my teammates jarred her shoulder last week, but has been to a few practices since and has been doing fine. We were doing a simple drill concentrating on two blockers and one jammer rotating through who was the offense and who the defense. I was rounding the corner behind my teammate’s group when she got knocked down and then flattened by the jammer. Her fall didn’t look weird or out of the ordinary – but as soon as she hit she screamed. It seemed to take forever for everyone to notice and stop and one of our league’s nurses to rush over, and I couldn’t understand why – she kept crying out in pain. We flocked around her and tried to stabilize her with ice and padding and soothing words but it took a while before she stopped screaming. When I saw a rollergirl get her collarbone broken, I thought that was the worst – all we could hear was her crying and all we could see was her flailing her skates up and down. But seeing my teammate — who I already knew to be particularly tough — be in so much pain was startling.

Eventually we got her calm and the medics came to transport her to the hospital. She kept apologizing – apologizing! – for getting hurt. Two of my other teammates and I followed her ambulance to the ER, and navigated the maze of hallways in our booty shorts and galloshes (it was a rainy morning). They wouldn’t let us see her right away, so we texted and facebooked information to the rest of our league and promised to keep everyone in the know. Inbetween bouts of silence we discussed league news, but didn’t talk about injuries. After an hour of waiting, we decided to check if we could see her and surprise! They sent us right back. Which probably meant we could’ve been back there with her a lot sooner. Grrr. As it was, she was waiting all alone, holding her arm and trying not to focus on the pain. We crowded her with happy thoughts until her husband arrived. The nurses let us get away with being way too many visitors for one person for a little while, but eventually had to kick us out.

On our way out, the two security guards commented, “There go the dancers!” We set them straight about the reason behind our tights and they were shocked and intrigued. I love the moment on people’s faces when they’ve already decided something about you and then you completely shatter their opinion. I love people looking at me and assuming I’m tough, or that I can kick ass in any way, shape, or form. (It’s not exactly a regular occurence for me). But I guess with all things, there is a price to pay. If you’re going to play at being tough, you’re going to get hurt.

The injury verdict was that she tore her AC ligament. To me, it’s sad on so many levels – all her hard work she put in to get to this point, her excitement at just starting to bout, her anticipation of a derby career. Now she’ll be out for months in recovery and we’ll miss her terribly. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to come back if (when) I get injured. Derby injuries seem to do so much more than stall your athletic career – they sever the connection you’ve formed with all your derby friends, fans, teammates, committee members until you can get back to the routine. Derby is intensely demanding and rewarding, but it’s unfair it can be so heartbreaking too. Maybe I’m taking this too hard – loads of rollergirls have shared their injury stories with me and they came back and kept playing. But out of the 30+ girls I made the league with, less than half are left. After this incident, I don’t want to lose any more.

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Hobbit Feet

Monday I returned to derby after struggling with car and health issues that caused me to miss practice for the last two weeks. Naturally, the day I picked to return was an exceptionally challenging practice — off skates exercise that wore out my thighs and hip flexors, then continuous skating in one form or another for an hour. Ugh.

I actually like some of the more endurance-based stuff when I can let my mind zone out and just concentrate on what I’m physically capable of. It gets distracting, though, when other people notice you’re struggling and get annoyed that you’re either in their way or slowing them down. Sometimes it gets to me, but I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring the unhelpful comments being barked at me.

One thing I really got frustrated  with during this practice was my feet. Cramping up I can usually deal with, but I was getting a lot of pain from what felt like the plate drilling up into my boot. I usually stock up on tights, moleskin, and socks, so it annoys me that it still doesn’t feel like enough padding to get me through. It mainly bugs me on the inside toe and ball of my right foot — the dreaded “pusher foot”. I’ve already started to develop some nice calluses as a result, but apprently not enough. Several rollergirls have told me derby doesn’t exactly produce pedicure-pretty feet.

I’m thinking I need to start gellin’ like Magellan . . . any foot suggestions out there?

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. . . so I’ve been sick. Which is horrendously inconvenient when you’re trying to get good at derby. My throat’s a wheezy mass of sandpaper and my voice sounds like a foghorn. It’s delightful. So it’s a bit of a setback on my way to progress. I wish I could shrug it off and go and kick my own ass but I want to be rid of the cold without subjecting anyone else to it. Plus I slept too much and my neck has seized up, causing me to have to turn my whole body in the direction I want to look, a la Michelle in Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion. “Hi, Back Brace Girl!”

Anyway. So in light of the fact that I can’t exercise or excel at sports at the moment, I’d rather talk about someone who can — my new favorite person, Zoe Bell. Like many others, I was first alerted to her presence via DeathProof, one of my absolute favorite movies. I had heard that she was a stuntwoman, and Uma Thurman’s stuntwoman on Kill Bill no less, and then to see her in all her glory kicking the crap out of Kurt Russell was just oh so magical. She delights me every time she pops up, be it a random LOST episode or a side character in Whip It. I can safely say I’ve always envied the women (such as Buffy’s stunt double, Sophia Crawford) who are the real-life ass kickers in the world. But I’m safe from ever being able to express an interest in trying to be a stuntwoman, since I’m terrified of most daring feats and suck balls at tumbling.

Recently, a friend of mine let me borrow her copy of Double Dare, which parallels the lives of two stuntwomen. One famous (Jeannie Epper, of doubling Wonder Woman fame, among a zillion other film credits) and one about-to-be famous (Zoe Bell). Besides the fact that I find the real daredevils behind the scenes sort of fascinating, it’s also fun to just get a glimpse of the people who you know, when you’re watching a movie, that you’re not supposed to be seeing. In one of the interviews on the DVD, Quentin Tarantino remarked how when he was growing up it was commonplace to see the stuntdoubles in movies and TV. There they were, right in front of you, and you knew even though out of the corner of your eye they might resemble Arnold, they weren’t really Arnold. And you just glossed over that part and accepted it. Now, Tarantino remarked, actors are expected to do a lot more of their own stunts so the stuntpeople become even more invisible. The idea is to cut them up with the footage of the actors so much that it will be impossible to tell actor from stuntperson. The filmmaker will blend the two together into an impossible persona.

I find that kind of fascinating, but also kind of sad. It was always a fun game to see if we could pick out the blatant stuntdouble shots. Who hasn’t thoroughly enjoyed that scene in Spaceballs when they catch the stuntdoubles instead of the real characters? If they take that away, then the stuntdoubles will become truly invisible. In a way, they are the real-life superheroes of our time. Doing all the dirty work behind the scenes with no credit, little gratitude, and perfect disguises. They make the extraordinary possible.

That’s why Zoe Bell is such a treasure. In Double Dare, she maintained the same determination and delightful outlook whether she was doing grueling take after take on Xena, Warrior Princess, rigged up in wires that spun her around until she injured her shoulder or navigating awkward Hollywood parties as a stranger. It was especially thrilling to see the lead up to her audition for Tarantino and legendary martial arts advisor Yuen Wo-Ping – which she nailed not just because of her strength and skills, but her sheer determination and frustration in trying to land a flip she repeated four times. In the end, they hired her not because she successfully landed the flip (she didn’t) but because she kept trying, no matter how many times she fell down. I’m grateful that Tarantino has, since seeing Bell, reversed his opinion on stunt doubles and brought her to the forefront for all to enjoy. We need more of them lady heroes around.

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