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Feb. 4th, 2012

I've been in six scrimmages now since I passed my level 2, and it's still very difficult but slowly getting better. Some nights I have more trouble with my physical game, and other nights it's the mental game. I have trouble keeping track of people behind me without losing track of what's in front of me. Mars had to shove me out of his way this week when he was jamming because I hadn't realized he was so close.

A lot of the physical game is that I need to get better at hitting and taking hits. I have been improving, but I need to improve a lot more. I know I should start going to Wednesday practices again, but I consistently underestimate how tired work makes me, and every time I convince myself I'm going to go, I get home from work and say, "Fuck skating, I'm going to SLEEP." I also need to work on my reaction times and figuring out what other people are about to do, so I can either get in their way or out of it rather than chasing them down or having them push me out of the way. Mars says I need to narrow my stance, too.

On the bright side, one thing that has improved hugely is my endurance! We did three-person push-pulls on Thursday, and for the first time, I didn't sit out a single lap. In fact, Chewie and I each did three extra laps of pushing, to do Molly's seven when she had to take a break. Looking back on the first time I did push-pulls, the difference is really amazing. Gabi and I were paired up for those, and we were both new to them. We were so winded that Clam ended up taking us one at a time, so we really only did half the drill, and I still felt like I was going to die.

Craig gave me a gift certificate to Bruised for Christmas to help me get new skates. I've picked out the boots and plates I want, and as soon as my tax return comes in, I can go buy them. I can't wait to have skates that actually fit!

First Scrimmage

Four of us took our level two test on the night of my last post, and at least three of us passed. The fourth was going to retake when she was feeling less injured after a fall, but I haven't seen her since then, so I don't know how it went. (Strangely, I haven't seen one of the other two who passed, either.) So two of us moved on to Thursday night practices. We did two nights of watching, one of which I was sick and miserable for, and a night of reffing. All the skaters rotate through the middle on a regular basis, so everyone tries reffing during the off season.

I participated in scrimmage for the first time the week before Thanksgiving. I got beaten pretty badly, which is exactly what I expected. I spent most of my time as a blocker trying to get off the floor and catch up with the pack, and I got winded pretty fast. Then I made an attempt at jamming, did pretty badly, and ended up taking a major and sitting in the box, asking for my inhaler. It was basically a whole bunch of fail until the very last jam. I'd gotten most of my breath back and decided to make another go of it, and Molly and I took the back of the pack.

The two of us apparently work quite well together! We held back Chick for 3/4 of a lap, until finally she started yelling, the sweetest words I heard all night: "Snidely, help!!" I was SO excited to have done one thing so spectacularly right.

There was no scrimmage last week (Thanksgiving), so tonight will be my second. I've fallen on my tailbone four times in the last two-ish weeks, and it hurts...I'm a little scared to fall on it again, but it's not going to keep me out of scrimmage. That's what ibuprofen's for! (And a chiropractor, if I ever remember to call my insurance company.)

Also, after keeping an ever-growing list since June, I've finally picked a name for myself: Choo-Choo Bear. (And yes, Randy gave me permission to use it. Thank you Randy!)

Level Ones

The three weeks following Fresh Meat night were devoted to learning the skills we needed to be considered "competent" on our skates (as in, not a danger to ourselves and everyone around us). The last Monday of the month was level testing and league meeting night. I figured they would run us through all the skills pretty quickly to make time for the meeting, but I was wrong - the test took a surprisingly long time. There were also three or four people taking their level twos and threes, but us froshies were by far the largest group.

Each of us got to try each skill three times, so that if we had a fluky moment and screwed something up, we could still have a chance to get it right and pass. Level ones consist of a whole lot of little skills - toe dragging stops, T-stops, stepping, right crossovers (they call them left crossovers, because you're going to the left, but that screws with my head), one-foot glides, single knee falls, double knee falls, four-point falls, etc. etc. etc.

They began the meeting while we were still testing, so when we were finally done, we snuck over and sat down around the edges. I wasn't too sure what to expect from the meeting, but there wasn't anything too surprising. I'm not supposed to share league stuff with other people, so I'll leave that there, except to say that my ass was numb and cold by the time it was all done.

That Wednesday, the yellow-stripes separated off and we started practicing hitting. (The levels are defined by stripes of tape on your helmet. Fresh meat are red, level ones are yellow, level twos are blue, and after your level threes you lose all the tape.) We started with wheel bumps and then moved on to hip and then shoulder hits. I got paired with Bitches, who describes herself accurately as a rolling wall; needless to say, I hit the floor more than a few times. When I came home, I curled up on the kitchen floor and begged Craig for ibuprofen.

I hurt so much more the next day than I thought I would, but after that week it got easier. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's easy - it's still exhausting, and it still hurts, but it's not quite as acute as it was that day.

Tonight is level two testing (and level one, for the people who didn't test last month or didn't pass). At last Wednesday's practice, we were going over things we needed to pass the test, and at the end of the night, we hadn't done running toe starts. I asked about them, and there was some debate as to whether they were on level two or level three. After someone went and looked it up, it turned out that they are on level two. Sarah said that if we showed up half an hour early tonight, we could go over them. Speaking of, it's time for me to go get ready!

The Big Apple Beatdown

I'm sitting here in the hotel room with Craig, Miranda, and Sam the morning after the MRDA championships. My head is splitting, but I really dont care - yesterday was AMAZING. There were seven bouts throughout the day, with three rotating ref and NSO crews. I was penalty wrangling, and was mildly concerned about working with a new crew, but they all turned out to be awesome. I worked the bout between Magic City and Dallas Deception, then had a break and got to watch most of the Dirty Dozen vs. Puget Sound Outcasts. I had to bite my tongue to keep from cheering for the Dozen - the men's team from my home league - because officials arent allowed to have an opinion.

MRDA logo

After that, I worked Dirty Dozen vs. Dallas, and I'm pretty sure the Dozen would have won had they been skating with a full - or at least fuller - roster. Doing one bout with just nine skaters is hard enough, and by the end of the first, they were clearly exhausted. They actually had a brand new team member whose level test got moved up by four days just so he could join the roster in time for championships. He did damn well for it being his first-ever game - they all played well, but that short rotation would kill anyone. Halfway through the bout against Dallas, one of them got expelled on an Insubordination 7th major. I wish I had gotten to watch more of that one, but wrangling and watching don't mix.

I had several hours off after that, enough to watch Puget Sound play the St. Louis Gatekeepers, and then the Gatekeepers vs Magic City. The ref and NSO team for the championship bout was to be announced right before it happened, and I ended up wrangling for it. I'm slightly disappointed that I never got to watch the Shock Exchange play, but I took it as an honor that they asked me to wrangle for the biggest game of the day. I didnt have much chance to pay attention to the score, but at half-time there was only a 4-point difference. The Shock ended up winning over Puget Sound, but not by a huge margin.

The four of us went to the after party long enough to get dinner and a couple of drinks, but left pretty fast because they turned up their live band's sound way too loud and we were all too tired to scream at each other. Having spent my day yelling out penalties, my voice was considering deserting me anyway. All in all, the Beatdown was a rocking good time, and I'll be torn next year between volunteering and cheering.

Discovering Derby

I don't understand how I've failed to explain anything further about the derby league that I mentioned exactly once in a previous post. That was a severe oversight.

I can't remember how I learned of PVRD (Pioneer Valley Roller Derby)'s existence - it may have been one of their postcards at the rink, or it may have been an internet search for roller derby - but I emailed them and inquired about joining. I traded emails with Lethe L. Ejection, their head ref, and she told me to come to a Thursday scrimmage practice and see what it was all about.

I don't like to go into things unprepared, and I wanted to know everything I could about derby anyway, so I read the WFTDA rules before going. (Not skimmed them - read them, front to back, every word.) When I showed up and met Lethe, she asked if I knew anything about derby or had ever seen a bout. I explained that I'd never been to a live bout but had watched a couple on YouTube, and I'd just finished reading the rules.

"You read the rules?" she asked. "All 47 pages?"

"Um, if that's the length of the rulebook...then yeah. Why?"

She gave me a hug. "I love you." Apparently reading the rulebook is not as common as I had assumed. She asked if I wanted to ref, and I said no, I wanted to skate. She looked disappointed.

WFTDA Logo

Since they had stopped recruiting skaters after February until the fall, I joined as an NSO (non-skating official). My job was to be the penalty wrangler, which means I'm responsible for making sure that the calls the refs make get back to the person keeping track of them on paper. Basically, I run around and chase the pack refs in circles. Since I don't get wheels, it's damn good exercise when the pack gets going.

So I spent my summer working, penalty wrangling, and practicing skating on my own. Lethe had estimated when I asked that they would start recruiting again "around September or October," so I assumed October, so that I wouldn't be disappointed when it didn't happen in September. The first full week of September, I was preparing for Marie's wedding, and I had just barely enough time around work to practice the violin piece I was going to play in her ceremony, write my maid of honor speech, and finish the selection of other little things that needed to be done. The comic got put on hold to give me the time I needed.

On Labor Day, with five days to go until the wedding, I threw out my back and had to work. I texted Lethe and told her I wouldn't be able to penalty wrangle at the bout that night, because I could barely walk, and she got me a position working the scoreboard. Within five minutes of showing up, limping around hunched over like I was 90, Craig came up to me and said, "Jen wants you to know that fresh meat is Wednesday at 7:30."

All I remember saying is something like, "Uh, duh, what?" I'd been planning to use Wednesday night to write my maid of honor speech, which I hadn't yet started as of Monday, and I knew from experience that my back wouldn't feel better for at least another 5 to 7 days. I couldn't go - but I couldn't possibly not go. For the rest of the night, people kept asking me, "Are you going on Wednesday?" I said yes, determined to make it work somehow.

I used spare minutes that I found here and there at work to write my speech, scribbling it down in pieces on a notepad and eventually finishing it on my tablet (which I read from at the reception). I took arnica and ibuprofen and convinced Craig to rub my back, and by Wednesday night it felt somewhat better. I bagged all my gear and showed up at the bunker, feeling strangely nervous for someone who'd been hanging out there all summer. I signed my life away, put on ALL my gear (something I hadn't actually done yet), and hit the track.

Sport Court is a very odd skating surface. It's simultaneously mushy, by virtue of being held an inch or so off the floor on hundreds of little feet, and slippery, because it's plastic. I fell all over myself trying to figure out how to roll on it. We warmed up, got a talk from Bazooka Joe about how PVRD works, went over some basic skills, and then watched a couple of demo jams by some of the team skaters. Spank started to ask me over his shoulder if it was all making sense, then turned around, realized it was me, and went, "Oh never mind, you get it."

And so I went from spending one night a week at the bunker to three, and I'll leave this entry here and make another one for the rest of September.

ALCO! Fan Art

I discovered a new comic night before last to add to my regular reading list: Ada Lee Comes On! It's about a badass girl who has apparently sold her soul to the devil - literally. I won't tell you any more, because you should go read it yourself, but here's some fan art I made of Ada.

Ada Lee fan artCollapse )

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New Wheels = Good

Here's a short analysis of the wheels, because I don't have the experience to write a long, intricate one: they roll good!

I'm kidding. I can do a little better than that, both technically and grammatically.

They're not shockingly different from the old ones - not enough to really change my skating stride or anything - but they are an improvement, especially width-wise. The slightly narrower width makes them feel a little more willing to work with me on front-to-back turns (I have no idea what those are actually called, but I think the technical term I'm looking for is agility). The square lip gives me a little bit less grip at the longest part of my crossover stride, but it's not major. They're a bit softer than the old ones, so it takes a little more force to get rolling, but they grip pretty well without having very deep grooves.

I think I might need to tighten them down just a tiny bit more. I tried hard to get the nuts right when I put them on, but having no experience doing it, I may well have gotten it wrong. I'll have to bring my skate key with me to the rink tonight - something I have not been smart enough to do up until now - and play around.

How I Swapped My Wheels

 As I mentioned two entries back, I hurt my knee skating a couple of months ago. It was a simple fall, but had more of an effect than I expected, so I stopped skating for a while. At first I was just waiting until I could buy knee pads, but even after I bought them, my knee still hurt enough that it seemed a better idea not to ask any more of it until it healed. So for about six weeks, I had a bag full of brandy-new skating gear sitting in my kitchen, mocking me.

A couple of Fridays ago, I decided it was time to get back on the wheels, so Jenn and I headed for the rink. I was surprised by how much body memory I lost in such a relatively short amount of time; I felt like I’d gone back in time to my first time on the rink in several years. Fortunately, it didn’t take as long to regain the skills as it did to gain them in the first place. I’m skating twice a week now when I’m not too exhausted from work – once a week when the work days are long – and Friday night I actually ran into one of the skaters from the men’s derby team (not literally!), and he gave me some impromptu lessons. That was full of awesome.

Anyway, I’ve been replacing various parts on my skates as I can afford new ones, since they came with the standard package. I started with laces (not that I actually needed them, but I ordered something else online and then had it swapped when I found out it was out of stock), then got toe guards (so I don’t wear holes in the toes of the boots). Next I replaced the toe stops, because they had Midi Grippers, which are known for the exact problem I had with them – they spin. No matter how tightly you screw them down, they will turn any way they damn well please, which matters because they’re not round or symmetrical.

Most recently, I got new wheels. I took a while deciding which ones to get, because I don’t know enough about my own skating style yet to know whether I prefer narrow or wide, tall or short, hard or soft, plastic or aluminum, etc. (Wheels are complicated.) I only know that I don’t like very soft urethane (one problem with the purple skates), and what surfaces I’ll mostly be skating on.

I’d been seriously considering the Atom Poisons, which are very popular and pretty inexpensive. Then I read an article about wheels that made a point I hadn’t thought about: if you skate only on soft, grippy wheels, like the Poisons, you become dependent on them and may not develop your legs muscles properly to hold you into turns, because your wheels do it for you. So I decided to skip the Poisons and go with something harder.

See the wheel swap with pics!Collapse )

Good Newses!

 Seems I’m back into the habit of neglecting my blog. Not exactly my goal, but as I’ve said before, better the blog suffer than the comic. There are two big pieces of news that have not been posted as a result, so in order of importance, here they are now:

One: Craig and I are engaged! :D There’s not too much more to say on the subject than that, but that’s all that really needs to be said. It’s exciting.

Two: I have a new job. I’m still working for Craig when there’s work to do, but I have an actual had-to-interview-to-get-it job now. I’m doing the same things that I do for NTC, which would be two-way radio installation and maintenance, for SWNHFMA. Even the acronym is a mouthful, but it stands for South-West New Hampshire Fire Mutual Aid, specifically the Radio Shop part. I’ve been there about two months now, and so far it’s going quite well. I’m one of four people in the shop, the other three of whom are guys who have been there anywhere between 5 and 15 years.

Aside from regular radio installs, which is what I was officially hired to do, I’ve been learning about their statewide coverage system as well. I can’t actually tell you anything about that – it being public safety and all – but it’s a really interesting thing to learn about (and it’s going to take a long time to get a thorough understanding of it – my boss estimates about 6 months).

Now that’s settled, I’m moving on to creating the entry I originally sat down to write, which is all about rollerskates. See you there.

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Cheapskates

 Our neighbor Jenn works at the local roller skate rink, and about a month ago I decided to tag along with her and go skating, because I hadn't been roller skating in years and I missed it. Craig came along even though he said he couldn't skate. I figured he was just being modest, in the way that so many people will say, "Oh I can't sing!" or "I can't skate!" and what they really mean is that they're not experts.

It turned out that he really can't skate, but I was glad that he at least gave it a try. After he sat down, I skated around for a while by myself and was quickly reminded just how much I do love skating. It had probably been four or five years since I'd gone, since the rink I used to go to up in New Hampshire closed.

As soon as we left, I was itching to go again, so Jenn and I went again a week later. The next weekend, Marie went with us. I don't remember exactly when or why, but at some point in those two weeks I remembered that I'd had an interest in roller derby a while back. I looked it up online, did some reading and watched some videos, and immediately decided I wanted to do it. I found a local (very local!) league who will be recruiting new skaters in the fall, and bought a pair of cheap skates online so I could practice for the summer. They weren't derby skates, but I figured I could still practice basic skills. I chose the high-topped variety because I have a weak ankle that I don't want to sprain for a fourth time.
 
Cheap Skates

The skates arrived Monday, and I finally got a chance to try them out on Wednesday night. The local rink was closed, so Craig and I went to their sister rink a bit farther south. I was super excited - until I got the skates on and did two laps around the rink. I came back off with my head in my hands, asking myself what the hell I had done.

I can't say enough bad things about those damn skates. I could bend the trucks right off the soles of the boots with my hands, so you can imagine what happened when I put my full weight on them. I borrowed a wrench and tightened the truck nuts until I was afraid the holes would strip, and it didn't help. They wobbled and flexed and refused to take direction. The wheels were so soft I felt like a fish swimming upstream; I had to push constantly just to keep moving forward.

I did give them a decent chance. I skated for about an hour and a half with a few water breaks, but decided I was done when I fell out of a basic turn because the skates flexed and dragged me in a direction I wasn't planning on going. When I sat down and pulled them off, I noticed that a significant amount of the right toe stop had already worn off, after using it exactly three times.
 
I was annoyed, but knew it was my own damn fault for having bought the cheapest skates I could find. I figured I could at least use them for exercise, if not for skills practice, and I would just have to save up for a better pair. On the way out, Craig convinced me to stop at the skate shop and look at what they had. They had a nice intro pair of Riedell Dashes. I tried them on to get an idea of my proper skate size, since the major disadvantage of buying online is the inability to do that.
 
"They fit?" he asked.
 
"Yeah, they fit pretty well." I made a mental note that I'm a size 9 in Riedell's skates and went to put them back in the box.
 
"Go take a spin. They're yours."
 
"What?" They were on sale because they were last year's model and the ones on the shelf were the last pair left. While I'd been bent over fiddling with the laces, Craig had apparently bought them for me. I think I said something like, "Holy crap, are you kidding?"
 
"I buy enough toys for myself. I figured I could get something for you!" Did I mention that my boyfriend is awesome?
 
Riedell Dash
 
I laced them up properly and headed back out. It was like getting new feet - they were amazing, but I instantly became clumsy as hell. Having accustomed myself to the rental skates, and then forced myself to learn to use the crappy skates, my feet didn't even know what to do with the good ones. Between bearings that rolled freely and wheels that were sticky but not soft, I'm lucky I didn't flatten my face against the floor. I did come pretty close.
 
Jenn and I went to the local rink tonight so I could get a chance to break them in some more. They're definitely going to take some getting used to - I think the biggest change for me is not having the high tops to help steer, but I'll figure it out. I took a few good falls, bashing my knee and twisting my ankle, and finally decided I was done for the night after landing so hard my head twisted and my neck cracked. I'm sore, but it's that happy kind of sore that comes from doing something so fun I don't even care that I hurt myself.

I will, however, be getting some knee pads as soon as possible.