But it doesn’t mean I don’t have some writing news as well!
No word yet if we’re going out like a lamb, however…
Don’t worry: it’s good news.
And here we are!
My teammates and me getting ready to leave.
And a few pictures from Battle of the Freshies. I’m in a black jersey with 882 on the back and wearing mermaid tights.
Two photos of me and Tiny Tina. The first is to give you an idea of our sizes and the second is the hit I put on her.
This was me running down a jammer in the last segment of the night.
And a few photos of me in Jammer Hell. It wasn’t my happy place.
The Black Betties Team Photo.
And yes, they are!
It’s not often I get way out of my comfort zone and try something I’ve never done before. I should say, it wasn’t often before I started transitioning. Before that little event I was pretty content not to do anything that might make me uncomfortable.
Now, being uncomfortable is something of a way of life–
Like it was yesterday.
Yesterday, the first of the year, I headed over to City Island to participate in the annual Penguin Plunge, which involves jumping into the Susquehanna River. As you may have figured out, living in Pennsylvania means it probably wasn’t going to be warm and you’d be correct: when I left to meet with my teammates it was 19 F/-9 C. At least the wind wasn’t blowing–yet. Anyway, I was ready for that weather–
I met up with my teammates, because we, the girls of HARD, were going to do the plunge together. Ariel Wildfire organized the event and I jumped on it, figuring what the hell, if nothing else I’ll contribute money. However, I did state on my page when I promoted the event that if I raised more than $75, I would take the plunge–
And you know I raised more than that. In fact I nearly doubled that amount, raising $146 total so far. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but I couldn’t kick in any of my own cash due to losing my job and with the exception of one $100 donation, the others were small dollar amounts.
Once all my teammates arrived we got together, registered, and waited. For a while we hung around outside in a gazebo, which gave me time to head down to the river and see how things were going.
The answer to that was–not well.
As you can see there’s a lot of ice on the river. That’s due to the extremely cold temps we’ve have in our area for the past couple of weeks. For the first time in a long time the river was completely frozen over, so when I took the above photo the River Rescue people were doing their best to chop open an area for us to dive in. During this time they were using axes to open the ice, but since that wasn’t working, a few minutes after taking that picture they broke out the chainsaws and started cutting. On a local newscast they said it was only the second time in like 24 years they’ve had to do so.
Since the time to plunge growing near my teammates and I headed to the warming tents and began stripping down into whatever garb we intended on wearing into the water. That meant leggings or shorts, and one one of us that mean fish net stockings and a green Derbyskinz, which is something I’ll probably wear during one bout when I get to that point. (Note: Derbyskinz is not only where my team gets their jerseys, but it was actually started by someone who used to play for HARD. She wore an outfit to Fresh Meat practice her aunt made for her and it became rather popular. Now they run their own business in Camp Hill.)
Naturally we had to get a team photo before going out:
(Left to right: Unchained Maryilly, Ariel Wildfire, and the Fresh Meat collection: me, Sarah, and Ashly.)
Matt Barcaro of local station WGAL News 8 was there and streamed the start. You’ll see us within 10 seconds, on the left of the screen. I’m easy to see because I’m big, I’m wearing a lime green tank top, and I have a GoPro strapped to my head. Watch us go into the water and come out right after!
Now, as I stated, I was wearing my GoPro and managed to shoot everything from my point of view. And here it is in all it’s chilly glory.
And just for the record, here’s a screen capture from the news stream of me coming out of the water. My face says it all:
After that we headed back to the warming tent and changed. It was strange watching steam rolling off my body and my feet remained numb for about 30 minutes after this little jaunt. So I just went home and chilled out, right?
Yep, I went skating and Unchained Maryilly, aka Mary, joined me because… well, we’re derby girls, that’s why! And I got video of us not only skating, but falling! Yay! (I spend most of my time skating behind Unchained, who is the woman on the YouTube splash for the video. She told me yesterday she wants me to certify so that she’s no longer the oldest certified skater–she’s 47 until the end of February.)
2017 was sucky. I’m hoping that 2018 is gonna be a hell of a lot better, and even though I’m out of work right now I still hold that hope. At least I started out the year right by getting out of the comfort zone and doing shit that even a year ago I might not have done.
I can only go upward from here, right?
Let’s talk about my test:
Last night it was time to get down to business and find out if I knew my rules as well as I thought I might. I found out about two hours before I was supposed to leave for the rink that there wasn’t any point in arriving early as the person who was going to give the test couldn’t make it, so we were told to show up at the normal time. As it was I still showed up early, at the same time as my coach, and since she had copies of the test I put on my knee pads and went off to a quiet room–one of the rink’s party rooms–and sat down to start answering.
Since I have found a copy of the test online, I can show you some of the questions I had to answer. These three I gave right answers to:
7. If a Jam is called off for a Skater’s injury
(other than a suspected concussion) for the
first time in a game, how long before that
Skater may return to play?
A. As soon as the Skater feels well enough
B. A minimum of three Jams
C. The beginning of the next period
D. After the medics have cleared the Skater to play
The answer is B.
22. Red Jammer legally passes four opposing
White Blockers in a scoring pass, but is
then absorbed back into the pack. Red
Jammer fights their way back past two
White Blockers and a third White Blocker
has gone to the Penalty Box. How many
points will Red Jammer receive for this
The answer is again B.
40. What must a Pivot do to legally become the
Jammer after picking up the Star from the
A. Return it to the Jammer, who in turn passes it back to the Pivot.
B. Put it on their hemet
C. Hold the Star in their hand
D. Throw it to the Jammer
The answer is A.
Now you know as much as me. Aren’t you happy?
By indicating I got three right, that means I must have gotten some wrong, and you’re right to believe that. Here was one that I got wrong:
11. When both Jammers sit in the Penalty Box
simultaneously, how much penalty time
must be served before they return to the
A. 10 seconds
B. 20 seconds
C. 30 seconds
D. 0 seconds
I answered A, but the correct answer is D, zero seconds pass: the jammers are ordered to return to the track immediately because the rules for how to penalize jammers are strange as hell.
You are now aware that I didn’t get a 100% on my test because I did miss questions. But out of the 50 on the test, how many did I miss?
Yeah, I had 45 correct, which means I finished with a score of 90%. In order to pass you need a minimum of 80%, so I passed with room to breathe. My friend and teammate Mary, who also took the test, got everything right–I’m assuming she did as she said she “aced it”–which means she certified and that she is now the proud owner of a jersey number and derby name. So, as a team, we were able to spend a few moments welcoming #246, Unchained Merrily, to the HARD team.
With the test out of the way I have but two things remaining before I become a certified player and I hope I get past them quickly. When I started this at the end of May I stated that, at the earliest, November would likely be the soonest I would certify, and little did I know how true that look into the future would become.
Here’s hoping the next 30 pass with a change of name before it’s all over.
Today has been all kinds of crazy. Actually, the entire weekend was like that, but today is peak crazy.
And it’s of my own doing.
Saturday and Sunday–when I wasn’t shooting video and editing video and, oh, writing a bit and meeting with friends–I was studying for the test I need to pass in order to become WFTDA certified. (WFTDA means Woman’s Flat Track Derby Association, in case you were wondering.) I thought it was going to be easy to get through, seeing as how it’s possible to generate fake tests with sample questions that will show you how you did at the end. You can even look at a sample test of 50 questions as well as the answer key if you want to see if you’re really going to do well.
About Friday night I was telling my coach and another derby player that I thought I was being pretty chill about the whole test thing and that there was nothing to worry about–
You know, I seem to spend a lot of time lying to myself.
I went to bed last night a bit concerned that I might not be as up on the rules as I thought, as I was always missing the pass line on the fake tests I was taking, and by this morning I was feeling the stress that, yeah, I might struggle tonight during the test. I told someone at work about how I hadn’t thought I was gonna get stressed out over my test, and she was like, “Given how you stress out on everything in derby, why did you believe this test would be any different?”
And the answer to that is I like lying to myself.
As of right now I’m not a nervous and strung out as I was, but there’s still a little trepidation. I’ll get through tonight, though, and if I don’t pass the test, I’ll take it again next week. Or this Wednesday. Or this Sunday before the bout. Whatever I’m allowed.
I’m so close. Really, it’s just now starting to hit me that in another few weeks–maybe even this week–I could end up certified and have a derby name and start working towards playing for real next season. It wasn’t hitting me much last week even though I was aware. Now, I’m feeling it. I’m feeling the bit of pressure that comes with this sort of thing and it’s a bit uncomfortable.
But it’s not unbearable.
I take the test in about four hours.
One way or another, I got this.
Yeah, there’s a lot to talk about and now’s as good a time as any to start. Enjoy!
It’s been a long day and the post I hoped to get out earlier is–well, here. Late. Crazy late. And I’m typing like made ’cause I’m on a time table. So bear with me…
I talk a lot about derby practice. I even show you video of what I do. But what does practice really look like? I mean, how does it come out in the long run? What exactly do we do when we’re in skates and geared up?
Glad you asked.
Last Wednesday I manged to get some great GoPro footage of our practice. Not just a few things here and there, but damn near the whole thing. And I thought that rather than give long explanations of what’s going on, I figured, “Why not show what I go through?”
So this is what you’re getting. Basically, this is all the practice–save for the cardio warm up, which was 40 laps and about 12 minutes of fast skating–that I experience, as seen through my eyes. You’re also going to hear what I hear and pick up on some of the instruction that’s given to help me improve. You also get to hear some of the shit we talk back and forth between us, which can be somewhat amusing.
Part of this you’re already seen. This is a long drill where we weaved up through a pack, then weaved back, then shot up the outside to return to the front. Like I said, it’s long, but then so are all these videos. This, like a lot of the things we do, is a timing drill:
You’ve also seen a little of this: the blocker/jammer pace line where one person blocks the way through the pack so the jammer (your partner) can get through. This is where I fell and someone tripped over me, but that was as shortened version of this drill. Here is the full one, and it’s–you guessed it–long:
Here we get into our blocker/jammer drills, going two-on-one and three-on-one against a jammer. This is where I’m told on several occasions about things I’m doing wrong and how to correct them. The guy giving the instruction is a ref, Ted Nuisance, and he’s really, really good at what he does. A lot of stuff happens fast–you’ll see:
This is an extension of the three-on-one drills, with us adding a pivot, who is on the same side as the jammer. The idea here is for the pivot to move blockers out of the way and help the jammer get through the pack. That’s why you’ll sometimes see a person with a stripped pantie on their helmet moving people aside.
This was something that Bi and I got into with Mary–she’s in the white helmet–explaining how bridging works and how to use it to run a jammer way back away from the pack. She wasn’t present the day we practiced bridging, so this was her chance to learn.
There you have it: quick, dirty, to the point. Don’t have to read much, just put on the video and watch me go crazy.
Or maybe you’ll feel like joining me…
Yeah, had to get that Beatles reference in that for the title, doncha know?
Last Tuesday was my freshie practice and something of a special day. Why is it a special day? I tell you in the intro:
Now, you’ve seen push drills before, but this one I liked because I was really moving along well the whole time. I started getting a little back soreness at the end but it’s not that bad that I can’t finish what I do. While I’m not quite able to keep up with the OG, I like getting the speed on here.
The 27/5 keeps coming up from me a lot and there’s reasons for that: it’s like the Golden Fleece of the Derby World: once you do it you never have to worry about it again. Ida wanted Sam and me to skate our and while I was feeling a bit tired from the previous night’s practice, when the coach tells you to do something, you make it happen.
It was not, however, my finest hour. I start out okay and even managed to do half-ass crossovers around the track as I skate the diamond–and I was hitting it almost perfectly. It’s just that on Lap 3, as I go into Turn 3, I lose it big time. From what the video shows it looks like my leg buckled because I wasn’t maintaining a good form, and I just did a baseball slide into Turn 4. From the time I started to fall to the time I’m back on my skates is ten seconds and I figure the fall screwed by time by thirty to forty seconds. However, my time of 6:18 was good enough for almost 22 laps, which is what I’ve skated before, so I figure without the fall I’d have made 24 laps. Closer and closer every time.
Sam was up after me and as you can see, she has great form. She also skated a 5:25, so when she builds up her speed a bit and gets her form right, she’s gonna beat a 27/5 like it was committing a crime. It’s all each of us want to do.
After that skating to a back seat to rules. Registered Curse, a ref who lives nearby and comes over to help now and then, stopped by to go over some of the rules of derby. We first start out leaning about the pack: what makes one, what doesn’t, and how you can find your zone of engagement. This is important because it lets you know when and where you can score and hit people. It also lets you know why, when you go to a bout, refs are yelling, “No Pack” and “Pack is Here”. This is why.
You’ll need to listen closely: I didn’t mic Curse and we have to deal with open spaces and background sounds. But you can hear her.
Part Two of Registered Curse’s Rules of Derby involved going over where you can hit another place and what parts of your body you can use to hit. She also goes over what constitutes a cut track and how to get a misconduct call made again you, which I help out with from off-camera. We had to deal with a lot of background sounds here as the men’s roller hockey was on the track and they were being supper loud with their slap shots.
Lastly we go off-skates and Curse shows us the ins and outs of block, starting off with something I’m bad at doing–as she points out–the clockwise block. She also shows a stop block and tells out the quickest ways of getting kicked the hell off the track, which does happen from time to time.
There you go: nine freshie practices, nine different things going on each time. The next one, next Tuesday, is my tenth, which means I’ll have twenty weeks of freshie practice under my belt.
It won’t be long before six months done is here–
In the parlance of a time gone by, I am burning the candle at both ends. As of last night I’d attended five practices in six nights and last night I felt it all: no energy, no strength, no nothing. I made it through the evening, but only by doing simple stuff I need to develop for certification. No shame there: it happens.
One of the reasons for feeling this way has to do with the practices I attended on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. Video is coming for Tuesday night, but today you get a real good first person look at my Monday night practice, because I had the GoPro fired up and sitting pretty on the helmet.
Let me take you though an evening…
First up is cardio. I edited this video as cardio lasted 12 minutes. What we did was this– First, it was skate 5 laps, then stop and do 5 push ups, then follow that with 5 squats. And when you finished the squats, repeat the whole sequence until the 12 minutes were up. For the record I did 21 laps, 20 push ups, 20 squats, all of which you get to see from my point of view, including the floor going up and down as I do push ups.
This is the longest of the videos here because this was one of two pace lines I did that night. It runs long because we skated about 30 laps, or just a little more than a mile. Since we did two of these that means we skated two miles, and when you add in the cardio laps the total comes closer to 2.75 miles. I think with all the skating we were pretty close to three miles on Monday night.
You’ll see me get knocked out of line at least once: that’s because I took a good hit and was sent flying. It happens to a couple of other people, too, and it’s one of the reasons I was sore on Tuesday and unable to go to work. That and the videos that follow this one.
You’ll also hear a lot of calling out and talking, because that’s how we’re supposed to be when we’re in a bout: shouting out instructions to our teammates. While skating and pushing. And while you have a mouth guard in place. Yeah, easy as pie.
This was the only video that survived the line spin/apex jump part of the drill. Unfortunately I can’t see if I’m recording or now, so I have to hope I have the camera in record mode. The only thing that survived was this spin where I go between the outside line and a cone and spin around the moment I reach the cone. Later I actually managed to cancel out the spin and skate away backwards, but not in this video. I also didn’t show an apex jump, which involves jumping over the inside line in order to get away from blockers on the inside line. Maybe next time.
Now we come to the blocking and jamming. This video shows an example of how this drill should go, as I was standing on the inside of the track watching this go down. What my teammates do when they come back towards me is known as bridging and designed to keep people in contact with the pack while, at the same time, forcing the jammer to run way back from where they were knocked out and return to the track. (In the rules the jammer has to return to the track behind the player who knocked her out. If that player is forty feet away, they have to skate back in the out-of-bounds area forty feet before reentering the track. Otherwise the jammer gets a cut track penalty and spends 30 seconds in the penalty box.)
Then I go up, as jammer, against a block. Most of what I do is push them down the track before going out, but afterwords Mary, Panzer, Smack (the women from left to right), and I discuss what happened and discuss a little of what to do and what not to do–like, don’t grab an arm, because it can lead to a penalty and other things…
And here are those “other things”… this is what my arm looks like after the Wednesday night practice, showing what happens when you grab:
Lastly I went out and jammed again three experienced players, aka the OG. As you see they spend time knocking me out and forcing me to come at them again, but eventually the drill is called and we go back to let another group try. While inside my coach Blade comes over to talk about what I’m doing. She told me Wednesday night she thinks I’ll eventually take over her position on the team, being the one who is big and has the power to hold a block and jam through one if necessary. Considering she’s retiring at the end of this season, she probably believes I’ll do this next season, and really, I hope that happens…
Now you know why I’m tired and sore. And tomorrow you get to watch me crash and burn…