A year ago today, I strapped on skates for the first time in over a decade and teetered my way across a playground in a beginner skating class. Today, I am getting my picture taken so that it can go in the program of the first bout in which I will participate as an on-skates ref. So much has happened in between!
After my admission of shamefully unsportsmanlike thoughts, I think that I should talk a little about the other untapped aspect of my personality that training for derby has coaxed out of me: team player.
I've never gotten along that well with other people. I think I'm just the sort of person that forms a close friendship with one or two other people, and everyone else is sort of arm's-length relations. I started this process as a lone operator - the road to rollergirl was one I was on by myself. That's great and all, but I feel like my commitment to this has ratcheted up about 1,000x since I found a pack to roll with.
When I was in my workout class, I noticed a couple of girls who looked like they had been skating a little longer than me and were really pushing each other. They'd tell each other to do certain moves, calling out "t-stop!" "plow stop!" They seemed like they were just as serious about it as I was, and were really reinforcing each other. When I found out that they were going to speed skating practice, I decided to go along with them. I was nervous, but what could it hurt?
As it turned out, it was lots of fun, and they were super supportive. It just sort of built from there - a couple of other people started coming too, and what was just a carpool turned into a group of people who force me to work way harder than I thought possible. We've hung out outside of skating a little, but not much (frankly, our practice schedule doesn't leave much time). Mostly, it's about having other people to be accountable to. For example, this speed skating class is great, but it's like 90 minutes from my home. I had decided I would go once a week to minimize the damage to my life. But after 2 weeks of them telling me all the awesome stuff they did while I was out, I just couldn't take it - I had to go twice a week too!
We're internally competitive in that we're always trying to work harder, try more new skills, just do more. But it's a friendly, non-catty competition. If someone falls, we all give a fuck. I've found myself quasi-coaching - thinking up things to do, calling out drills, helping people improve their form. I think it's something that most people might find irritating, but we thrive on it.
As a result, we've progressed at an incredible rate --so much so that other people have remarked on it-- and we've become crowd favorites at speed practice. The speed skaters are a pretty quiet bunch, they just get in there and bang it out. But we definitely kick up the energy, cheering for each other and others, joking with the coaches, and practicing our derby moves every moment we can.
Finding a group of supportive women has been an incredible experience for me, because it's something I've never had. We're probably the most cohesive group of pre-meat out there (we even printed t-shirts and stickers!), and it's all in the name of motivating each other. And even though we are cohesive, we're also supportive of the other people on this journey with us. Of all the people who regularly attend practices, our group is the quickest with a compliment or a cheer of encouragement. Having a posse has really encouraged me to bolster others in whatever way I can, where I might have totally embraced the dark side of my new-found competitiveness.
So I guess even though I've been thinking shark, I've been acting panda. Or some other supportive and challenging animal...
I don't know what I was thinking!
This morning, I woke up early to attend an exercise class taught by one of the roller derby girls (sort of like this roller derby workout but on skates and including some derby drills). It was awesome, and even though it was cloudy, by the end, there was sweat pouring off every inch of my body. Major jelly legs at the end of it.
Then about two hours later, I attended another beginner training by the team, which focused on skating skills (stops, falls, form). A good derby stance is a pretty serious squat, and we spent most of the time moving and doing drills, so my quads and butt were so dead by the end of it that I couldn't sit down to pee. I wiped out once and crashed into a wall once (ooops, thank goodness for padding), but it turns out that I'm actually kind of quick! That was really exciting.
Then about two hours after that, I went to a bout to cheer on my favorite team - we won! The other team was pretty scrappy and managed to put a lot of points on the board in the last couple of minutes, but they really didn't stand a chance against our star jammer/team captain, who's a league MVP and a freakin' amazon. (I ran into her at the skate shop the day I bought my roller skates and was totally speechless. It was totally like Porky Pig: bdyuh-bdyuh-bdyuh!)
All in all, awesome day, but I am going to be dead tomorrow for sure. Today it sunk in that I am really serious about doing this, and the magnitude of exactly how much I have to work was a tiiiny bit overwhelming, but I'm seriously excited.
Next goal: practice with the local speed skating team. I need to work on my form and speed at the same time as I'm working on the derby skills.