Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year-Old Derby Girl: Hard Skating? Just Skate Hard

Posted on 06/15/2018 in Newsletter, Roller Derby. Tags: , , , .


Learning to skate as an adult seems a lot harder than when I first put skates on about a hundred years ago. For one thing, my bones and muscles and joints don’t have that wonderful rubber band quality any more. Also, my skull has a lot farther to go when I transition rapidly from upright to horizontal.

I am thankful for muscle memory that spans the decades and allows me to remember how it feels to skate. But through those decades I accumulated some physical deficiencies that keep me on–or rather, off–my toes.

The toe-torturing skill that tends to get the best of me is called a stutter stop, specifically a left stutter stop. To execute you start by assuming the ever-praised low derby stance: “boobs up, butt down”. With burning quads, shift your weight to your right leg, reach your left foot out in front of you and–while maintaining the low derby stance and your balance–you tap your left foot, toes inward, on the floor in a “stutter” to bring yourself to a stop. Right!

It’s a challenging skill, and one I can do in a reasonable fashion with my right foot, however, my left foot hates it and I get instant toe curling cramps.

Last week, it seemed that everything I did caused my foot to cramp. I would start a skill, get a cramp, skate it off and try again. Eventually, I wound up on the bench, battling the abusive monologue of my inner mean girl. Shall I give her a name? Okay, let’s call her Joy Kill’r.

Kill’r is a relentless bitch. I’ll admit, she has made me cry more than a time or two. She says some pretty hurtful things. Last week, her rant went something like, “You’ve already fallen apart so many times. Why put yourself through the humiliation of doing it again? You know you’re not going to make it, sweetheart.” It’s crazy how she knows exactly what my fears are.

Lucky for me, Havoc was there on the bench, too. We chatted for a few minutes; she provided counter arguments to Kill’r’s diatribe. And for my part? Well, I may have gotten a little emo about the whole thing. (Insert sniffling sound here.) I halfheartedly heeded Havoc’s pep talk, got up, and tried a few more skills, still babying my foot, still feeling deflated.

By this time, practice was nearly over. Only one thing left on the agenda. That’s right, endurance skate! I cringed a little when Sugar Baby announced it, even though I knew it was coming. Perhaps I inwardly whined a little about endurance skating at the END of practice. (Because derby is all about making things easy, right?) I didn’t want to sit it out on the bench, but I sure didn’t want to skate only two minutes and have to bail. Dilemma!

I decided to compromise with myself and also stop whimpering about stuff being hard. I would bench Joy Kill’r and her stupid mouth and skate, but not full throttle.

I haven’t yet reached the elusive 27/5. My best is only 24. I was thinking that night it was probably going to be more like 18-20 if I was lucky, but I wasn’t even going to count. No sense giving Kill’r any ammunition.

The whistle blew and I started skating.  I focused on two things: not popping up in the turns and hitting the points of the diamond. I started skating and I began getting that skate buzz. My crossovers were smooth. My focus was good. I was finding all the holes on the crowded track. Next thing I knew I was nearly keeping pace with some of the Scrimmage girls. My low back was fatigued but not burning. I was breathing hard but not gasping for breath. It felt amazing! At four minutes I was still feeling winded but strong. At five I felt exhausted and fantastic.

I didn’t count my laps. I don’t even want to know what my count was. It felt like I did my 27 just because I could feel I was doing more of the right things than I had ever been able to do before, and that was progress. That night, I got to go home knowing that I showed Joy Kill’r it was MY track.  

Sometimes derby is more about what’s going on in your head than what’s going on with your body. We all have our struggles. That’s easy to forget when you’re wiping your nose on the bench. But Joy Kill’r is not the boss. I’ll try to remember that. You try too.

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