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Funny tan lines, cute ugly feet, and the six month marker

May 2, 2011

Today I went for an outdoor skate with some of the derby girls (and guy).  The weather was perfect, as it often is in Santa Barbara.  70-something degrees, sunny, slightly breezy.  We skated a total of about 10 miles of bike path along the beach, maneuvering around tourists, cyclists, and those silly surreys.  We skated with knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards. I’ve occasionally gone without my elbow-pads, but I do feel slightly vulnerable. The thing with the pads is that even with sunscreen, I end up with funny tan lines from the pads. I can see that by the end of the summer, I’m going to have a very odd tan.

I think there were about eight of us, and as we skated by, people would shout “roller derby!” or ask when the next bout is.  I heard one person say, “there go those Roller Angels”  Haha!  It was so much fun!  As we whizzed by, I remembered that the first time I attempted an outdoor skate on this path, I was getting passed by joggers.  As we started to get worn out, we motivated ourselves to make an extra trip down to the end of the beach and back by agreeing to stop for margaritas at the end.  Yummm.

And a quick update about my foot issue. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the doctor for a check up. I mentioned to her that I was having some foot pain related to skating and asked for a referral to a podiatrist. She looked at my foot and said “Awwwww you have a little bunionette!” Bunionette makes it sound so cute. It doesn’t feel so cute, but apparently it’s cute enough that it does not require a referral to a podiatrist. It’s an inflamed joint caused by friction from skating. She suggested that I wear a bunion pad when I skate, take ibuprofen or something like it, and ice it if needed. She told me that a podiatrist wouldn’t be able to do much other than recommend surgery, and my bunionette is a long cry from that serious of an issue. The other thing I’m going to do is get that part of my boot punched when the Riedell reps visit later this month. The bottom line is that, while annoying, it’s not something that’s going to progressively mutate my foot or cause me to have to quit skating.

Last Sunday attendance was low at practice due to it being Easter. After the team did their scrimmage practice and we did our reffing practice, we all got together and worked on drills together. It was my first time doing drills on the track (not just practicing on my own) since I got sick in January. I started out nervous, hoping to not make an ass of myself, but it turned out to be awesome. We practiced weaving through a pace line and hip bumps. Nothing too advanced and it wasn’t with quite the hardcore intensity that I remember from past practices, but it gave me a great boost to my confidence to realize that yes, I do have the skills to weave, land some baby hits, and keep up throughout the whole drill. It did remind me, however, that as much as I’ve been practicing my endurance doing crossovers, I could handle some more work on skating low and using sticky feet. My thighs were burning!

There was a while where my lack of confidence was causing derby and skating in general, to become un-fun. I was so focused on getting better that I wasn’t enjoying the ride. I’m still focused on getting better, but I think the past couple of months have helped me re-adjust my attitude and bring back the fun part of skating. I still have certain skills that I struggle with and I’d still like better endurance (who wouldn’t?), but I’m doing a much better job at recognizing how much I have improved in the past six months.

Wow, six months. Already?

Oh yeah, and click HERE to check out my profile on the Brawlin’ Betties website!

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Unhappy feet

April 18, 2011

I suppose it was only a matter of time…

For about two weeks, I’ve been having pain and swelling on the outer joint of my right foot.  It seems to happen from pushing off with my right foot and turning left all the time.  I suspect that skating inside the inside of the track (the ref circle) and those tight left turns are aggravating it.  I asked on skatelogforum.com if anyone knew about that kind of injury, and apparently I have what’s called a tailor’s bunion.  Admittedly, it’s an internet diagnosis, but after doing my research, it fits the description exactly.  I expected ugly feet from skating, but I didn’t really plan for deformities or anything.  On Tuesday I have a dr’s appointment and I’ll be asking for a referral to a podiatrist.  My biggest fear is that I’ll be told to stay off skates.  Hopefully there’s a simpler solution, like taking my skates to a cobbler or getting an insert for the boot.  I love my boots.  They are more comfortable than my everyday shoes, and I don’t want to be told that they’re wrong for me.

Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt to run, so I’ll be trying to do that on a more regular basis.

Catching up

April 14, 2011

I’ve been neglecting this blog lately.  The easiest explanation is lack of time.  I’ve been incredibly busy between work, ref practice, socializing, and planning some big changes in my life, possibly a move.  No, not out of the area, just looking for something more affordable.

The more challenging reason for my blog silence is that I’ve still been grappling with confidence issues and trying to fit into this derby world.  I don’t really feel like going into it, but I’ll just summarize by saying it’s exhausting to want so badly to be a part of something that I’m sidelined from.  It brings out all kinds of junior high feelings in me.  Health-wise, I’m back to normal, but I still need to wait for try-outs.  So I’ve decided to just let that all go and focus on my athletic goals (endurance!)

I’ve also been working on my reffing skills.  I’ve been trying to learn the ins and outs of reffing while the team scrimmages at practice.  The first challenge was to actually see what’s going on.  Everything happens so fast!  I was hearing the more experienced refs call things that I couldn’t even see.  Once I started to recognize penalties, I still had trouble reacting quickly enough to think of the words to name them.  I started to see penalties as others were calling them.  On Sunday, our head ref Homer Pimpson was the only experienced one who made it to practice.  That left the rest of us to step it up a notch.  So I got out my whistle, and started calling.  Yeah, I made some bad calls, called “out of play” before it really was (oops!), have trouble calling location of the pack, and missed a bunch of calls, but I also started seeing track cuts and calling them.  Dita de Los Muertos may not have known she was helping me, but she made some intentional minor cuts that made it really easy for me to see and to call.  I’m still shy about blowing my whistle for major penalties, but I’m getting there.

I’ve heard comments from some of the girls I attended boot camp with, both the ones who made the team as well as those who now make up the Derby Justice League, about reffing being something of a demotion.  Relegated to reffing when you can’t play with the team.  I have to admit that I have some feelings like that as well, since my goal has always been to be on the team.  But the more I learn as a ref, the more I’m swept up in the challenge of improving my reffing skills.  I still hope to make the team, but I wonder…since I wouldn’t be ready to bout anytime soon, if I might be able to be on the team as well as working on reffing?

My first race

March 27, 2011

Today I “ran” my first race, a hilly 10k in Agoura Hills with some friends and co-workers.  I use the term “run” loosely because my run is pretty slow.  I did better than I was expecting to, considering how much time I’ve spent skating lately and how little time I’ve spent running, but I do wish that I had trained a little better.  Or a lot better.

Before I found roller derby, I aspired to be a runner.   I would have dreams that I was running like the road runner (meep meep!), legs spinning under me as a gravity-like force pulled me forward along the road.  I had never attempted running prior to about a year and a half ago, but once I did, I was addicted and determined.

Plagued by shin splints and then an inflamed iliotibial band (fibrous tissue than runs between the hip and knee), I had to take multiple breaks, but I kept trying at it. Over and over.  I would improve, get that road runner feeling, and then have to stop because of pain. Not the “oh, this is hard” kind of pain, but the kind of pain where I knew if I kept running on it, I would cause damage.

Then I found roller derby.  A brand new obsession.  Suddenly my road runner dreams were replaced by dreams of conquering all the skating skills that were so elusive in real life.  I gave my running injuries time to recover.   I ran for a couple of miles at a time here and there, but never really returned to running with the same passion that I had before I found roller derby.

A couple of months ago, my co-workers decided to train for and run a 10k as a group.   I joined in because, well, I’m an athlete now ;). Today was the big day.  I almost backed out of it on Thursday, blaming the weather and my lack of training, but I woke up yesterday and knew I had to do it.

I started out well, enjoying the fact that the course began with a good downhill and then flat.  I used my Garmin to keep a good pace and not get caught up in all the fast runners’ pace at the start.   I felt pretty damn good for the first four miles.  I felt a twinge in my right knee, but it was slight enough that I could ignore it.  Then we hit the steep hills, which I walked/ran up.   By mile five, my knee was a problem.   Going downhill was a problem, and I started limping.  Limping sucks because of the obvious reason, being in pain, but it also sucks because it throws off the mechanics of the rest of my body.  I alternated stretching, running, walking, and repeat as needed.   I finally got to the last half mile and knew I couldn’t let myself walk across the finish line.   I went back to my run, knowing my knee would get revenge on me later, and fantasizing about an ice pack.

I’m now in bed with that ice pack on my knee.  I’m not really sure how I’m feeling about it.  Part of me is angry at my knee.  I had more staying power and could have pushed myself harder were it not for my knee/IT band. Also angry at myself for not training like I should have.  Ok, I was sick and on exercise restriction last month, so there’s a reason I wasn’t training, but I should have run more this month.  On the flip side, I’m proud of myself for doing it.  I’m proud because two years ago I couldn’t run at all, not even a quarter mile.  I’m proud because I’ve conquered more physical challenges than the average runner (heart defect and losing 90-ish pounds, whatever caused my ovarian pan last month).   I’m proud because I didn’t take the opportunity to wuss out as I had decided to do on Thursday night.

My finishing time was 1:20.  If I can ever get over this IT band issue, my next time will be better.  I got a finisher’s medal and I hope to be able to get some photos when they’re posted, hopefully not too sweaty and bedraggled-looking (though probably sweaty and bedraggled).

Adjusting, Falling, and Getting Up

March 18, 2011

This is going to be a long one because I have a lot to write about.

When I first got my new skates out on the rink on Saturday, I felt like a brand new baby skater all over again.  It was Jr. Skate at the rink, so I fit right in.  I go every Saturday with my girls after their lessons, and am usually one of a handful of parents skating at Jr. Skate.

My crossovers felt like mud.  My DA-45 trucks struck me as something that wasn’t supposed to be.  I’ve heard great things about the Invader DA-45’s, but wasn’t feeling it. I wondered if I had chosen the wrong plate for me.  My wheels felt too grippy on the rink floor.  From there, I went to our dirty outdoor track to see how they worked.  I felt just as unstable, but in a different way.  My wheels felt slippy and my crossovers still felt like mud.  Viva suggested some adjustments to my trucks, which helped with my stability a bit, but I still felt like I was skating in really wobbly mud. The boots were great. I was worried because I know that no single boot works for everyone’s feet, and I’ve heard stories of people having a lot of pain with the 265, but they fit me just as well out of the box as they did in the store. After four hours of skating, I had one little spot that felt like it could eventually turn into a blister, but never did.

My success that day was that, just for fun, I did my timed laps for the first time since asessments, and I passed 🙂  I felt so sluggish the whole time, and there were other people practicing their own thing on the track, so I was sure I wouldn’t reach 25 laps in 5 minutes, but I actually got 26, so yay me!

However, I still left the track with a little sad trombone playing in my head.  How long would it take for me to learn to skate on this new setup?  Could I learn to skate on these?  The physics seemed wrong.  As I pushed off, the wheels seemed to stop rolling, making me slower.  I can’t afford to lose speed.

The next day, I was back at the track for ref practice.  I practiced my t-stops, first on my comfortable foot, then on my less-stable foot until I couldn’t remember which was which.  I did drunken sailors which used to be my enemy. I practiced clock-wise crossovers, which is something I’ve never been successful at.

On Tuesday, I felt better.  Actually, a lot better.  I drunken sailored all over the place. I practiced cuts. I practiced being a skating ref during scrimmage. While my penalty-calling skills are still too slow to be able to react to such fast action, my feet sure did. I was able to weave around other refs, not get run over, and step out of the way when skaters were blocked to the inside of the track. I felt nimble! I don’t think I’ve ever described anything about myself as nimble.

And then Wednesday night night…
I went to the skating rink again for cheap skate night. I was determined to follow my own advice from this blog and fall down a little, even in public. So I did. I practiced my forward to backward transitions, which still terrify me at speed. I practiced mohawks, which I’d love to post a photo of, but can’t find any. I don’t know that they have any practical application for me yet, other than helping my transitions and overall stability. I tried, I fell. I tried, I fell. I fell again. And then I DID IT. AND DID IT AGAIN. Pretty soon, I was gliding sideways in a mohawk position along the length of the rink and around the turn. Matt gave me a baby whip and I stayed up!

I feel so much better on wheels than I did a few weeks ago. I’d like to think that I’m just a better skater, but I wonder how much of it is my skate upgrade. Maybe my old skates were holding me back? Or maybe I was holding myself back by being afraid to fall where everyone could see me? I’m not afraid to fall at the track during practice where falling is that status quo, but most of my practice time has happened at the rink lately due to my messed up schedule and not practicing with the team anymore. At any rate, I’m proud of myself for continuing to push myself to do things that are uncomfortable, even when no one is pushing me. Like so proud that it keeps me up at night fantasizing about my skating future.

The other great thing that’s happening is that I’m getting my derby butt back. During the month of sick time and exercise restriction, I got kinda fluffy and I lost my muscular legs and butt. The other night during one of my better falls, I fell right on my cheek and bounced. Yes, bounced like a superball. If I were a cartoon character, I would have bounced right back up to my feet and kept skating (maybe someday…). That doesn’t happen with a jiggly butt. It only happens when that butt cheek is supported by a nice, sturdy muscle underneath. Thumbs up.

Saturday is the next Brawlin’ Betties bout! Recap to follow. I’ll be the one holding up the scoreboard white board a la Vanna White and I’ll get to watch the action from inside the track. Doing my no rain dance!

OOOoooOOOooo!

March 12, 2011

My new skates came today!

Yes, white.  I know that they won’t stay pristine for long on our track, but I just love these boots in white.

I’ve been stressing all week that the boots wouldn’t fit as well as I remembered when I tried them on, but they are sooo comfy right out of the box.  I’m still expecting that I’ll have a break-in period so I’m all stocked up on blister pads.  I’m planning on trying them out tomorrow when we take the kids to their lessons at the rink, and then if my feet still have more to give, I’ll go try them out on the track for a bit.  I learned that the Riedell toe caps don’t fit over the Invader DA-45 plates, so I’ll have to invent something to protect my toes before I start knee-sliding all over our unforgiving track.  I also picked up some gumball toe-stops to see if they help me feel more comfortable with my toe-stop runs.

Wish me luck!

Just Keep Swimming

March 7, 2011

I love Dory.

My blog has been quiet lately because I don’t want it to become a place where I whine freely and publicly.  Last week team tryouts were held and I wasn’t there.  It was disappointing.  I was grumpy.  I think I’m over it now, so I’ll focus on my plan to keep working on my skating goals.

Health-wise, I’ve recovered and am back to normal.  No more pain, no more doctor visits.  Fitness wise, I’ve lost some ground.  I knew that I would, but it’s always tough to get back to working out after a time off.  I’ve been skating, running, and doing some plyometrics.  Over the past couple of years, exercise has been my primary way of coping and lifting my mood.  Since getting sick, exercise hasn’t really filled that need, at first because I wasn’t allowed to, and then because it’s so much more challenging than before I got sick.  I like that feeling of going for a run and pushing to go that extra mile or to improve my pace.  It leaves me with a successful “I win” feeling.  I haven’t been getting that “I win” feeling with my workouts lately.

Fortunately, a very well-timed blog was posted to derbygirlsblog which helped me get through those workouts. Blockodile Dundee wrote What I’ve Learned: One year in in which she basically drives home the point: the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it. The better shape you are, the better skater you’ll be.  Pretty basic, right?  I think that what was most helpful for me about that blog in that moment, was that it reminded me why I push through those discouraging workouts.  Why I continue to run even if I’m unable at the moment to beat my last distance or pace.  Why those really bad skating sessions aren’t so bad after all.

And here’s why:  Every time I do it, I get closer.  It doesn’t matter that I’m weaker now than a month ago.  It doesn’t matter that my endurance is shot.  What matters is that I keep going, keep getting stronger, and keep improving from here on out.   The blog wasn’t even related to recovering from an illness or an injury, but I made it about that.  While I was jogging at a snail’s pace, instead of telling myself that I shouldn’t waste time on a crappy run, I was telling myself that pushing through a crappy run is how I become an athlete.

So what’s next?  I’d like to be ready for team tryouts in June, but I also want to learn to be a skating ref.  Is there any reason why I can’t learn both? Maybe, but I don’t know what that reason is yet.

My plan:
Skate every chance I get.  Skate hard.  Fall down a bit, even in public.
Keep running.  I’m signed up for a 10K in three weeks.  Even if I can’t run the whole thing, I’m going to finish.
One-legged squats, three minute planks, lunges until I can’t stand.
Learn everything I can about the rules.
Watch as much derby as I can and look for the penalties and strategies.

P.S. I got my new wheels (Atom G-Rod Slims) and I love them! I was worried that the slimmer wheels would feel less stable or something, but I feel much less like a stomping Frankenstein skater and feel like my crossovers are more fluid.  New skates will be arriving by the end of the week!  I’ve got my blister pads ready to help me break in new boots…