Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jam On It.

Okay, so maybe I got a little sentimental over all this derby stuff.  Sisterhood.  Warrior Priestesses.  Wearing tutus.  What can I say?  I’m a Pisces.  I’ve been known to get a little… carried away.

Or maybe I’m just getting a little bit obsessed.  Yeah, that’s probably it.  I mean, I’m skating pretty much every day now, plus I’ve bought all kinds of gadgets and thingamajigs to soup up my skates, and I’ve upgraded all my protective gear to the real stuff (not the used stuff you buy off the little 14 year old thrashers).  It’s pretty much ON, at this point.

And the Fear Factor is finally beginning to wane. 

We’ve been holding a second practice during the week this month that just involves scrimmages.  Basically, an hour and a half of pure, full contact mayhem.  At last week’s scrimmage practice, I freaked for some reason.  In fact an hour before practice, I started feeling squirrelly and getting all weirded out.  So I just kept getting ready and ran with it, figuring once I got to practice, it would subside.  Not so much - no.  And wow did I ever get pissed off at myself for feeling like such a wuss.

Later on, I think I figured out the culprit.  I’m reading “Down and Derby” by Jennifer Barbee and Alex Cohen, and had just got to the part where they interview a girl who was actually paralyzed by the sport.  She’d been in a pileup during a bout and a toe stop happened to smash directly into the back of her neck, snapping her neck and rolling into her spinal cord, and now she’s in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.  I’d just read that part the day before scrimmage practice, and there it sat, festering in my unconscious, feeding the fear and making me wonder if joining roller derby might turn out to be yet another one of the notoriously bad decisions I tend to make with my life.

But come on, I mean, it’s a contact sport, baby.  Either you’re in, or you’re out.  You can’t just join a sport like this and hope to never get hurt.  Everything I’ve read and heard reminds me that it’s not a matter of if you will get hurt, it’s when.  So when I got home after practice that night, I had to really sit down and ask myself, ARE you in?  Or are you out?  Decide NOW.

I don’t really think there was a decision to be made.  I was so mad about being afraid to take a jammer opportunity that night that I’d obviously already made up my mind.  (For those of you who are new to derby, the "jammer" is the one who tries to break through the pack and makes the points for her team; the star of the bout, essentially.)  The very next day, I ordered some pusher wheels and got a membership to the athletic club so that I can practice skating in the mornings – rain, snow, or shine.  Nope - no deliberation necessary.

I did note to myself that gee, look how pissed off you are right AFTER practice – you’re so brave after it’s all over, but we’ll see if you freak out again right before the next practice comes around.  Turns out, I was still more than sufficiently pissed, because I never questioned it – never even for one second considered skipping practice – just went.  And rocked it.  And when someone handed me the jammer panties (see below - the one with the star), I took ‘em.  Yes, I put on my big girl panties and dealt with it.  

So there I was, my very first jammer try, and lo and behold, I broke through the pack!  I think I might have even smiled a little as I skated back around to try and break through again, and then the ego went “Oh lookie there, you badass, there’s an opening; go for it!”  Next thing I knew, I was in the penalty box.  

Yeah, I saw an opening alright… it was right along the inside boundary line, and as the opposing team realized there was a hole, they blocked it up and sent me out of bounds, and what did I do?  I skated completely out of bounds, passing at least four people, and kept on skatin’, all pleased and jolly with my badd self – until the ref’s whistle screamed out and I heard “INSIDE CUT, JAMMER!” 

Woops.  heheh.

But hey – not bad for a first time, eh? 

So by the next scrimmage practice, I was full-on determined to get with it.  Full throttle.  I’ll jam anytime they say, said I to myself.  And so I did.

I had two opportunities to jam during scrimmage.  The first time, I managed to break through the pack three times (at least I think it was three times - but maybe it was only two and my ego got all inflated again), and maintained my position as lead jammer before calling off the bout.  HELL YEAH that was FUN!  The second time, I broke through the pack once and was hot on the heels of the lead jammer, but by the next time I tried to break through, the opposing team managed to block me out pretty good while the lead jammer broke through and called it off.  STILL FUN!!!

I’m thinking that I might just like this jammer thing. 

So when Holly Ween, our amazing guest coach from NAZRD came up and hosted our Saturday practice, she asked the group, “How many of you want to be a jammer?” - my hand shot up so fast that I actually looked up at it.  Was that MY hand in the air?  Huh. 

Yet another little awesomeness about joining derby is the fact that my husband has gotten jealous enough that he went out and bought himself a pair of skates, and showed up to the first “Who wants to be a ref?” meeting last Saturday.  Now he’s coming with me to skate around at the athletic club in the mornings, which really helps to motivate my sorry ass out of bed, because as a derby girl, I can’t very well let HIM go skate without ME, now can I? 

This'll be Gary and me, pretty much in a few weeks.  Pretty much.
From what I hear, he’s got the analytical mind and calm temperament to make a great ref.  I’m just thrilled beyond all boots and wheels that he’s doing this.  Now we can both get into great shape and feel better physically, and at the same time spend time together and push each other’s limits.  He times me on my 25 laps, and I’ve gotten down to 25 in 5:42.  The goal is to make 25 laps in under 5 minutes, and I only have a few weeks left before I’m going to be put to the test to see whether I can actually do this – among many other things I gotta know how to do.  I figure if I can shave off two seconds per lap within the next few weeks, I’ll make it.  But BOY do some days ever seem harder than others.  I think there’s something to be said for letting yourself rest for a day or two and then continuing your training after your muscles have had a chance to re-knit themselves, ‘cuz the quad muscle in my right leg is killing me.  Softly.  With its song of pain.

But the most debilitating aspect of derby – the Fear – is being conquered, one scrimmage at a time.  I still need to work on learning how to hit.  It seems as though every time I try to boot a girl out of the way to help my team, she sort of politely snorts at me and skates away, as if she’d like to say, “Awe, that was cute, Pippi!  You keep workin’ on that while I go pummel your team’s jammer, OK?  Bye now.”

Yeah, okay.  I’ll get you next time, darlin’.  Maybe not now, maybe not the next bout, but I’ll get you, my pretty.  And your little jammer, too.