Sunday, February 27, 2011

A bittersweet ending

Derby Boot Camp ended this afternoon. My bruised and battered body was ready for it to be over but my heart was not. It's not often that I get to immerse myself in derby 24/7 but for the last 5 days, I did. I must tell you that here in Texas, they are dead serious about derby! Sometimes I felt unworthy as I saw so much talent down here. I met a lot of great skaters and coaches and took the opportunity to learn from them all. I learned a lot about derby and a lot about myself. It reminds me of a poem by Bonnie D. Stroir about living life your own way:

Tight Rope Life

The day I learned to lose my frown
it was the day I'd not look down
ever forward, steady, slow
with no regard to what's below

The end of the tunnel?
fuck all that.
the end of the wire:
now that's where it's at!

I'll keep on inching,
just the same.
and when I've crossed
you'll know my name.

I have enjoyed escaping the Illinois winter for 80 degree weather and especially enjoyed visiting with my brother, David, sister-in-law, Debi and niece, Rachel. I introduced Rachel to roller derby as we all went to the Blood and Thunder bout on Saturday night. Now she wants a pair of roller skates! But I have over a dozen pages of notes from camp and I can't wait to share what I've learned with my teammates and my league mates. So, I guess it's back to the unrelenting Illinois winter and reality. So long, Texas, I hope to see you again real soon!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Queen of the Box!

Today at boot camp we did some off skates training. One of the classes was blocking off skates. We played Queen of the Box. You remember the childhood game King of the Hill? It's like that. Two people try to push each other out of the box and the one who pushes the other out, wins, which makes her "Queen of the Box". I was pretty awesome as the Reigning Queen until Coach Smack Ya Sideways decided to join in the fun. Now whatever possessed me to take on a woman who is like the Rock of Gibraltar and must have come out of the womb skating is beyond me. She nailed my ass! I went from Reigning Queen to the ugly stepsister in a matter of seconds. I don't think my left shoulder will ever be the same! We then practiced hip checks and can-openers on each other. Coach Smack later led a blocking drill where we practiced getting all up in each other's business. My practice partner took me down to that damn hard cement we've been skating on although I did manage to kick her in the coochie on the way down. But I landed on my left shoulder, making it hurt even more.
Another of the classes I attended was with Bonnie D. Stroir. She did a session on setting goals and visualization. She said that you need to write down your goals, visualize them and have faith. The funny thing was is that today's tarot card was the Star card. The Star is a card of faith, both in your own power, and in powers greater than your own. What exactly is faith? It could be said that faith is a conscious belief in an unconscious experience, of which we may not be directly aware, but of which we can still feel the effects. This definition fits both belief in a deity and belief in your own abilities. Having faith in any power will allow that power to manifest in your life. Beleiving that something will happen is as sure a way as any to make it happen. There is a lot of meditative imagery on almost all renditions of the Star, though the most interesting symbol on the Rider-Waite version of the card is the pool of water at the center of the scene. On some decks the naked woman is standing in the pool, but in the Rider-Waite version she kneels beside it. Her right foot rests on the water but does not break the surface. Once faith is placed in its power, the pool of the subconscious becomes able to support the conscious mind. The miraculous ability to walk on water is symbolically translated here into the ability to trust in another power, whether in the heavens or in yourself. Once that trust is achieved, anything is possible. All you need is something in which to place your faith. So trust in yourself, and in whatever powers you believe control the universe, to help you through difficult times. The infinite energy of the Star warms you and rejuvenates your soul, to provide the strength and the clarity of purpose you need to continue on your journey. It must mean my roller derby journey, right?!

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Oh my god, Becky, did you see her butt?!"

Ok, so I woke up this morning feeling ultra crappy. I had a ferocious sinus headache and really just wanted someone to cut my head off! At derby boot camp they have been stressing safety and pointed out that some days you just shouldn't be on the track because you are a danger to yourself and others. This was one of those days for me. I couldn't risk it, so unfortunately there wasn't much derby camp for me today. But I was able to visit with my brother, sister-in-law and niece, who live down here in Corpus Christi. If you have been keeping up with this blog, you know I frequently talk about realizing how important family (& friends) are in one's cancer journey. When it's all said and done, that's all you really have.
Boot camp has also been stressing a "program", which cuts down on injuries and helps skaters "own" the skills they are learning. We've worked a lot on muscle memory and physical fitness along with skill-building. I've learned a lot about blocking. Anyway, the title of this is really "Booty Blocking" but I heard one of the boot-campers say this in admiration of another skater's great booty blockin' butt and it sounded like a better title! When done properly, booty blocking will cause you quite a few hits to the back, hopefully drawing a penalty for your opponent or at least causing her to break her momentum. The proper posture for a booty block is to get low and wide, forcing your opponent to get as close to you as possible, but giving her no room to maneuver around you without hitting you from behind (a big no-no in derby). Knees are bent more to absorb such a hit, elbows are tucked in and forearms are resting on your upper thighs for balance. Your feet are more than shoulder width apart so as to take up as much space as possible while giving you a stable base that's not so wide that it will result in a low block penalty. Your eyes are looking over your shoulder for the hit that is inevitably coming.
The booty block is best done when you are holding the inside line to prevent a jammer from getting by you and/or your teammates. You are not picking your feet up, but are self-propelling by either slaloming or by weaving your feet to maintain a decent speed. Ideally, you use your left foot to "feel" the edge of the track or use your peripheral vision out of your left eye to make sure you are holding that inside line.
Some common mistakes are: giving up the inside line in the turns by coming off the line too much (even an inch can be too much depending on your opponent); getting your stance too wide and planted so that you cannot react and regain your derby stance when an opponent hits you from the side or a jammer gets past you; and misjudging a hit and swinging your arms causing you to hit your opponent. Roller derby is not about roller skating because it is not a leisurely jaunt around the rink and most of the time, unless orchestrating the booty block, you should find yourself only on one skate!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Able to leap 2 people in a single bound

Today was the first "official" day of Derby Boot Camp. We worked on footwork, bouncing back and getting in front (when knocked out of bounds), which blocks to use when, stopping on a dime & reversing direction and what Bonnie D. Stroir likes to call Effing around makes you better at derby. This is where you do silly things while skating so your body learns how to react in situations. During this session we worked on jumps and Bonnie laid down and had us jump over her. We then did a drill where we all laid down on the track, 6 of us on each side and when the whistle blew, the first person got up and jumped over the other 5. When they got to the end, they laid down and yelled "clear" so the others knew to roll to keep everyone on the straightaway. We got through that ok so she had us lie together in pairs which meant we had to jump over 2 people. I did just fine until I got to the last pair. I somehow managed to catch my toe stop on the track and flew through the air right over them! Everybody was holding their breathe as I did my best superman impression but as soon as I hit the ground, I yelled "clear" causing everyone to laugh. The only bad part about it was that I landed on my right elbow, which is already bruised from yesterday! Tomorrow's agenda includes: fearless jamming, edging, whips and some off-skate training. That means I need to take this bruised and battered body to bed now!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Banked Track Day

Today was banked track day at Blood and Thunder's derby boot camp. We skated on a piece of history. The track, affectionately known as "Grandma", is the actual track that the Bay City Bombers skated on way back when. It is now the practice track for the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. It was pretty awesome but it did kick my ass! I have muscles screaming at me that I didn't even know I had! My left butt check is especially sore. We were not allowed to hold onto the railing so when we stood up at the highest part of the track, we had to be on the inside edge of our left skate, which worked those muscles pretty damn well. One of the first things we were told was to be careful at the railing because slamming your arm into it could cause a nasty break. So, what did I do? I somehow managed to slam my right elbow into the railing, which hurt like hell. I'm fairly sure I screamed at least a few obscenities before skating on.
Although a lot of what we know from flat track derby translates to the banked track, there are some things that do not. For example, giving an arm whip on the banked track requires you to put your arm straight out and back, unlike flat track where you keep the arm close to your body. Also, you don't have to be fast on a banked track because gravity and momentum make you faster than you really are. You can go faster and use the physics of the track to your advantage. The banked track has an asymmetrical surface. It resists movement in one direction, and assists it in the other between the infield and rail. Modern banked-track roller derby, with its instantly-recognizable ovular track banked towards the middle of the track, has high railings flanking the outer edge. The banked surface allows for players to get greater speed, more targeted hits and consequently more exaggerated falls. And speaking of falls, you really have to get up fast because if you don't, your ass will be sliding right into the infield. It only took me two falls to learn that!
We spent time skating along the rail and kicking it with the side of our right skate. We did this so much that I had white paint on my wheels when I was done today. We spent a lot of time "going to the rail" to practice slamming into it and spinning off, in order to get away from our opponent. We were not supposed to grab the railing as that constitutes a penalty in banked track. You are not allowed to skate or step backward as that also warrants a penalty. Also, the SOUND of wheels on the banked track adds a component to derby that flat track will never experience. Additionally, banked track, because of the higher possible speeds, forces skaters to think faster to maintain their tactical strategies. I very much enjoyed skating on the banked track but am happy to be a "flat tracker" as the banked track takes some getting used to!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dead Skunks and Horny Toads

I am attending Blood and Thunder's Derby Boot Camp, which actually starts tomorrow (Wednesday) in Austin before moving to Robstown (near Corpus Christi) Thursday-Sunday. So last night (Monday 2/21) I drove from my house, through Missouri and Oklahoma to the Texas state line ~11 1/2 hours. Bert then took over the driving for the last leg of the trip so I could nap. We rolled into Austin, TX about 1 pm.
Not to disparage Oklahoma, but it is one stinky state. I saw countless dead skunks and smelled them too! At one point the smell was so bad that Bert and I had to cover our noses and mouths so as not to gag. She asked me what that horrible, disgusting smell was and since Mom was snoring away in the backseat, I said. "Your mother must be farting in her sleep!" {Just kidding, Mom}. We got a good chuckle out of it anyway. So Oklahoma is now known as "Dead Skunk Heaven" and we will not be going home that route!!!
When we finally got out of the traffic jam in Dallas and as we wound our way past Waco, the GPS (TomTom), kept calling it "Whack-o". I was so tired that I found this to be hilariously funny and I tried to make it keep saying it. Then as we got to Temple, TX, we saw this Harley Davidson shop called Horny Toad Harley Davidson, so of course we had to stop. As it just so happens, the Texas horned lizard (or Horny Toad) is the state reptile of Texas and the "horned frog" is the mascot of Texas Christian University (TCU). The Texas Horned Lizard is one of 14 North American species of spikey-bodied reptiles called horned lizards. It ranges from Colorado and Kansas to northern Mexico, and from southeastern Arizona to Texas. There are also isolated, introduced populations in the Carolinas, Georgia, and northern Florida. Texas horned lizards may also be native to Louisiana and Arkansas. Who knew? When I think of Texas, I think of Armadillos, not Horny Toads. (And armadillos always make me think of one of my favorite movies Happy, Texas). Sorry to go off on a tangent there.
Tonight we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Ruth Chris Steakhouse in downtown Austin. For those who have never been, downtown Austin is a pretty rockin' place. I only wish I had more time to explore. But alas, tomorrow is banked track day at Boot Camp and there is no way I'd miss my one and only chance to skate on a banked track! Stay tuned to learn more about Texas and Boot Camp!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Drag Queen Derby?

Does cancer bring about crazy dreams or is it just me? Last night I dreamed that the 'Paign was bouting a team of drag queens! From where I don't know but it was pretty wild. So, my teammates and I were at the mall shopping for some over-the-top "boutfits" just to keep up with the drag queens. While shopping, I ran into some old high school friends, who were on their own shopping spree. One of those friends just experienced the death of her father (in real life). I was offering my condolences when they all hurried off. I was really pissed at them for barely stopping long enough to say hello. So what's the meaning of this dream?
To dream that you are part of a team, indicates the importance of working together. The dream may be a metaphor that you have your life in order. Dreaming that you are at the mall, represents your attempts in making a favorable impression on someone. You are trying to establish your identity and sense of self. The mall is also symbolic of materialism and the need to keep up with the trends, fads, and/or the latest technology. To dream that you are wearing a costume, indicates that you are putting on a facade toward others. You do not want to reveal your true self and are not being completely honest with people around you. If you see a [drag] queen in your dream, it symbolizes intuition, personal growth, power and influence. The queen may also be a metaphor for a homosexual man. To see your childhood friends in your dream, signifies regression into your past where you had no responsibilities. Things were much simpler and carefree. You may be wanting to escape the pressures and stresses of adulthood. Consider the relationship you had with this friend and the lessons that were learned. In particular, to dream about the death of your parents, indicates that you are undergoing a significant change in your waking life. To dream that you are holding or expressing anger, symbolizes frustrations and disappointments in your Self. You tend to repress your negative emotions or project your anger onto others.
Ok, so I'm still not sure of what this dream means. Perhaps I need to quit watching RuPaul's Drag Race before I go to bed?!