Failure

Risk analysis iceberg vector layered diagram.Iceberg on water inWhat a strong word to start a Monday! Failure is the word we do not like to hear. It leaves a bitter aftertaste in our mouth, gives us anxiety, makes us sweat and stress simply because we associate failure with a negative from very early on.

On the other hand, we get a figurative or literal round of applause when we perform well. We feel warm and fuzzy, loved and supported. Success is a positive.

The way we go to reach that wonderful “we made it!” moment is, however, not our primary point of focus, especially if that kind of success is new to us. In our minds, we think Point A to Point B, and see it as a straight progression from novice to expert over a certain time period. We don’t think of possible mishaps, challenges and setbacks that might pave the way. We don’t want to think of failure as a possible outcome.

Failure is, however, what makes us succeed. We were not made to learn without failing. We excel at a new skill after countless repetitions of that skill. It is very rare that anyone manages to do anything perfectly on a first try. It might take some naturals three tries instead of twenty, but these people will still face failure before they succeed. They will still fall before getting back up and try again.

There is value in showing up. I am not judging the value of giving a participation trophy to anyone who showed up, but rewarding a good behavior of consistency is a step in the right direction. Now consistency is paramount to any progression. It is because we practice one skill over and over and regularly that we manage to improve on that skill, and we can build up and learn a new skill. When you watch videos of athletes who can run fast, do back flips with bikes over ramps, jump the apex or perform any extraordinary physical effort, you rarely think of all the work they put in to reach that level. You just see the result. You see their most amazing execution of a skill that they definitely trained for and repeated many times over before being able to do it so seamlessly.

I watched this video of Tony Hawk – who’s a skateboarding legend – trying to skate this very challenging downward spiral loop (video can be accessed here). The guy has a ton of skating experience. But he decided to skate this loop and he committed to it. The video is really well made because it shows his grueling path of failure until he finally succeeds and tames the ramp.

Bringing it down to roller derby and the first stumbling steps of being a Freshie to becoming a more advanced skater, we forget to tell ourselves that we are going to go down a grueling path of failure in order to become the success stories we want to be. We will have to learn to fall and get back up to play effectively. We are going to experience a lot of negative emotions because failure does not feel good. Our job is to overcome the negativity in order to push through and keep moving forward.

Mistakes are proof that you are trying

So failure is not bad. Failure is good. Failure is necessary. Failure makes us stronger. Failure makes us better. Despite knowing that, there is nothing more difficult than dealing with failure and not letting it take us down. This exercise requires a lot of support, and re-assurance, and love. Love for what you are trying to accomplish. Love for this new version of yourself you are building, time after time.

It takes a strong and resilient mind to believe you can do it. Certain things your body will try to accomplish will feel impossible. The journey starts in your mind. Talking to yourself in a “less than” kind of way, in a “I’m not going to make it” kinda way is a recipe for quitting. And yes, quitting is failure, but not the kind that helps you achieve a goal. Persistence prevails. Patience is key.

Are we as persistent and patient as we would like to be? Are we willing to put in the work, to sacrifice hours and hours of our time to achieve success? Most of the time, we are not. Quitting is the easy way out. Persevering is the difficult way through.

So yes, you don’t skate fast, or plow, or hockey stop, or do anything that you see other skaters do. “Don’t” doesn’t mean “can’t”. In the past three years that I have been involved with roller derby and roller skating in general, I have seen people persevere and succeed, and people quit. There is no right or wrong in persevering or quitting. It’s a decision each and everyone of us makes and sticks by. You can’t, however, keep telling yourself you can’t do it if you’ve decided to persevere. You have to stop looking at failure like it’s a monster that’s going to bite your head off. You have to stop being afraid to fail.

Be Persistent Concept

I have learned to embrace failure. I actually sometimes embrace failure a little too much. I have built this trend of failing the first time, and making it the second time in most of the things I attempt. Roller derby wise I usually make the second time a fiftieth time. There are some mental blocks I need to overcome, and they take a long time, but I do not fall prey to the “I’m less than” BS talk anymore.

Because that talk is real. That talk happens. It happens especially a lot when things do not go as planned (straight line from Point A to Point B) and doubt settles in. Failure comes. Failure stays. One try after another, it becomes harder and harder to break the vicious cycle of “I’m going to quit, this is not for me” talk.

Embrace failure. Make failure a friend instead of a foe. Fall and keep getting back up. Learn a way to break down a skill that is particularly hard for you to master. Keep repeating the motion until you are comfortable performing that skill. Be in control of your mind to be in control of your body. The seed of success is planted if you believe in yourself. Watch it grow. Do not rip it out because failure makes you feel inadequate. Do not rip it out because you had a bad day.

There is so much to learn and do in roller derby at any stage of your journey. We want to jump the apex before we are able to jump anything. We want to juke a two blocker wall before we are able to understand the power of our edges, and how our body should be moving. We want to be at the top of the mountain without climbing it. Failure will teach you the best way to climb that mountain. I promise you if you decide to keep going, you will reap your rewards. You will pass your skills. You will skate twenty-seven laps in five minutes. You will block or jam and be effective at it.

Embrace the learning curve. Embrace the entire process. Be kind to yourself. Fight through doubt. Look at failure as a stepping stone, not a negative.

expression -  Failure teaches success - written on a school blac

I know it is easy to feel like you are not good enough. I know it is easy to tell ourselves that we are not cut for this. Guess what? Anyone can learn and play this sport. This is one discipline that will not discriminate based on size, shape, strength, athletic background… This is a chance for you to transcend yourself. This is a chance for you to take control, and write your own history. Failure and success will be part of it. Focus on the big picture. Repeat the motion until it’s yours.

With practice, you WILL get it.

❤ Keeks

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27/5: a Mathematical Breakdown

 

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Courtesy of the Bite Me Boutique

Hi everyone!

It’s not my first post on the 27/5, but as I gain more experience as a skater and FM mom, I also gain more insight into minimum skills, and try my hardest to break them down for our Freshies so they stop freaking out.

One of these skills is the daunting 27/5.

In theory, skating twenty-seven laps within five minutes should not be hard. With enough endurance training, and a good (but far from perfect, you’re not supposed to be perfect, because no one is perfect) understanding of the mechanics of what constitutes a crossover, you should breeze through these laps. You should not be hurting and panting, and crying, and praying for your life to be over, among many other things. You should be breathing hard like after a good cardio workout, and feeling accomplished.

Unfortunately, many feel absolutely beaten and defeated by the 27/5. There are however simple ways to break this cycle of defeat, and to succeed at the 27/5 without sacrificing your first born to the gods.

Think of the five minutes you have to skate in number of laps by minute. 

To reach 27 laps, you should be skating 5.5 laps per minute. 

Can you skate 5.5 laps per minute? Take a stop watch and train for one minute at a time.

Most people will coast in the turns. Do not coast. Train for one minute, and cross over the entire time.

Finally, skate the track like it’s a circle, or what we also call, skate the diamond. Do not get fooled by the shape of the track. If you skate a circle, you will never have to slow down and speed up as much as you do if you actually follow the track.

You will only beat the 27/5 if you can consistently cross over, and build a comfortable pace that works with your stride and your muscle endurance.

Stop thinking of the five minutes as one big chunk of time because this will kill you over and over and over.

You don’t have to look like Bonnie Thunders or Loren Mutch out there to skate twenty-seven laps in five minutes. You only have to build enough momentum that you reach 5.5 laps per minute. I guarantee you if you maintain your pace at 5.5 laps per minutes, you will easily beat this. You might even surprise yourself by skating more than 27 laps.

See I was like you. I drove myself into the wall with this skill until someone someday told me that all I needed to do was skate 5.5 laps per minute. This means 10.90 seconds per lap. I’m pretty sure you can skate a lap in 10 seconds. Once I understood this, my approach totally changed. And just like that, I started crossing over the entire time around the track, keeping in mind all I needed to accomplish was one lap per 10-11 seconds.

Final piece of advice, which is the “get out of your head” part.

I see you when you skate. I see what you’re thinking. You’re thinking many things, which might not help you with this goal. You’re thinking you’re tired, and this is hard, and your form sucks, and you don’t push hard enough, and there are people on the track and you have to avoid them, and your wheels slip, and your skates feel weird and heavy, and you focus on all that crap, instead of just blanking your brain and breathing.

Focus on your breath. Five minutes go by fast if all you do is breathe. Inhale, exhale. Keep your focus on the track, and follow the rhythm of your breathing. Do not do anything else. Do not talk down to yourself. Do not compare yourself to others. Do not tell yourself anything. Shut down that brain of yours.

If you do that, you will maybe find yourself smiling instead of grunting. It’s easier to skate if you smile too.

So here’s what’s on your to-do list for you to crush this goal:

  • Skate in a circle
  • Cross over the entire time
  • Train in one minute increments until you feel good skating for five minutes (or more!)
  • Keep your pace to 5.5 laps per minute
  • Blank your brain and focus solely on your breath
  • Relax
  • Smile (try not to grunt at least)

There are tons of videos and blog posts/articles available for you to skate the 27/5 so devour all of them, because knowledge is power. Keep it simple though. Once you pass it, you will look at it and find this skill rather easy. Down the road, you might even find yourself laughing about how easy it was in comparison to the myriad of other challenges that will come your way.

All in due time though.

Keeks ❤

A Few Words on Self-Care

img_8414Practice is important. No one gets better if they don’t practice. Individual skills needs to be mastered, and team work and strategy has to be ironed out, and only continuous, repetitive practice can allow growth on every level.

It’s also no lie that roller derby is not just about attending practice. Traveling for bouts, as well as being an active committee member of your league, takes A LOT of time out of your life. That time does not seem so bad to give up when you’re new. As you grow and evolve and get used to the practice schedule, just like life, things don’t get easier, you just become better at juggling more responsibilities. And more responsibilities you shall receive.

Running a roller derby league is hard work. There are some commitments that cannot be avoided, because showing up helps your league stay afloat. Whether it’s helping out with bout production, FM coaching, setting up a street team and distributing flyers, charity fundraisers, and so much more, the list is endless.

Sometimes all that time spent on derby makes you reconsider how much you want to put into it, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice out of your other responsibilities. You truly understand the value of time once you join a roller derby league. You end up not seeing some friends as often anymore. You end up not really going to any event that are not derby related anymore. You don’t shop, or eat, or work out, or do anything, without it having something to do with derby.

And why should you? Derby is awesome. Everything should be derby. Life is derby. And sometimes, life is not derby. Life is life.

You may manage to squeeze everything in a twenty-four day, and keep everyone happy. You may not even know how close you are to burning out. You may be pushing past an injury that should be looked after. It’s very hard not only for us, but for outsiders too, to grasp the commitment it takes to play this sport. Sometimes they don’t understand at all. Sometimes they say it’s too much. Even if we’re basking in derby glow, we can manage to damage other parts of our lives.

No matter what’s going on, balance has to be found.

That’s where I want to pause and emphasize these four very important words that we sometimes tend to forget because of our deep investment in this sport: take care of yourself.

Do you ever hear the negative voice in your mind calling you a lazy bum? You’re half broken from a crazy day, your body hurts everywhere, and you still try to convince yourself you should cross-train. Meanwhile you know you have a two-hour practice the following day. I say this, knowing very well that I put myself under so much pressure to squeeze everything in, despite the fact that it can hurt my well-being in the long run but I do it anyway. Or you’re sick. Or one of your limbs is aching, and it’s not a good ache.

The time will come, if it hasn’t already, where you will feel guilty for not showing up for derby. You convince yourself you will forget how to skate. You will not make progress and you will regress instead. Everyone will forget about you, and no one will talk to you ever again.

Now let’s ask the logical next question: who do you hurt the most if you push beyond your limits and do not take time to recover, and reset?

You.

You might burn out so much, you might end up not being able to show at all for the rest of the year, or not wanting to show up ever again. You might end up resenting the very thing you loved so much. You might just say f*** roller derby, this stuff is taking too much time out of my life, and my health and mental sanity are taking a toll, so… I’m out.

What I’m essentially getting at here is don’t lose sight of the forest because of one tree. Derby is a big tree but it should be a healthy tree not a tree that ends up rotting from the inside and poisoning you. Derby is not just a sport, it’s also a lifestyle. So derby should bring more joy than pain, right? Right.

We had tryouts earlier this year and everyone had the flu. I got sick with a sinus infection and missed all rounds of tryouts. I pulled myself out of bed and showed up to the final tryout session ready to put on my pads and helmet and skates despite not being able to breathe standing up without moving. My teammates told me to take it easy, and rest.

You know what the negative voice said to me: I was not worthy of being on the travel B team because I did not even try out. I stood there, and watched everyone else with a heavy heart, thinking the dream was over. Anyone with their right mind would think that I am insane to think this way. But I’m not, am I? I love derby so much, I forget that I’m only human. I put myself under so much pressure for no reason at all, and I think it’s perfectly okay to do so because why? Who am I trying to impress?

Another truth to come: my mind is just an asshole. Derby is no different than any other life responsibility. It’s a commitment but it should remain fun for you, and if health or family or work comes in the way, then it’s okay. Derby will be there. I found out though I’m my biggest enemy. I sabotage myself. I take it to one extreme or the other, I set unattainable goals, I wear myself out for no reason at all, and I tell myself the entire time that it’s perfectly fine. I have to sacrifice everything to succeed!

Let me tell you something. Derby is not this black widow sucking the life out of you. It’s not. For a period of time, however, I unfortunately believed this was it. “You have to be all in, all the time, 100% of the time, even if you’re crawling and are missing three limbs, just go!” I made derby so powerful, it sucked the life out of me for a bit. And I had so much invested in, when derby didn’t give me back the results I expected, my expectations were crushed. There is the pressure, and there is also impatience. I wanted the rewards of years of derby within a few months. I had to learn to relax. I had to learn to let go. I had to find my balance to stay content no matter what happened.

A very wise skater once said, roller derby should be one chapter in your book of life. It shouldn’t be the entire book. You have many many talents and passions to discover, and things to accomplish, and derby is one of those things. Derby is wonderful. I love derby.

Yet, sometimes getting into derby can take over everything else, and it can become unhealthy. Making sacrifices so derby can fit into your life only works if you’re happy with making that sacrifice. Derby should not be a chore. Derby should not make you miserable. We want to prove to ourselves and to the world that we can do it. You know what will prove you can do it? If you do it. If you manage to do it, and feel good about it, and enjoy it. If you stick around and learn new things, and love it for what it is.

Stop thinking you’re not good enough, or a failure, when you’re sick, tired, overworked, sleep deprived, and life is throwing a thousand lemons at you and you just can’t catch them all. Shush the “Suck it up, buttercup!” Take a breath. Take care of yourself. Go take a nap. Go get a manicure, a massage, go eat, go walk, go read a book, go hang out with your friends, go play video games, go skate just to skate… do something to break the vicious cycle.

Make the best of this life you have, and make it glorious. Pressure is not a bad thing, but when it’s self-imposed in a totally unhealthy way, then it’s time to reset. Derby is wonderful, and should remain wonderful if you let it.

Keeks ❤

(New) Beginnings – How to grow as a skater

Keep pushing forward (credit @Quickdraw photography)

Hi all!

Well, it’s been a while since I put pen to paper, and wrote about my derby experiences. I had a very interesting season last year, and am just starting this 2018 season so I thought it’d be a good time to check in.

Last time I wrote on this blog was one year ago. At this time last year, I had not played as part of the travel B team yet. I was figuring out how to skate safely with my wonky right ankle that I kept spraining over and over and over and over, and I also needed to fix my plantar faciatiis in my left foot. We had our first home game, and I played despite having pulled a muscle in my groin a few days earlier, so I did not perform great that night. In the grand scheme of things though, I honestly wasn’t sure if I was cut for derby, or if derby was cut for me. I always felt a bit out of my comfort zone, not because I couldn’t sustain the physicality of the game itself, but mostly because I did not see progress in my own performance. I questioned a lot whether I should primarily jam or block. I did not see results that reinforced or built any kind of confidence as a jammer, and I did not really know how to block, so I felt like I was stalling.

Obviously this kind of self mental assessment of my growth as an athlete within the league left me extremely scared. I would not say that I had lost my motivation, but I had too many questions which did not have answers, and I found it hard not to know what to do. I went to a league mate, and talked things out with her. She had more experience, and understood my doubts and fears. She told me straight off the bat to keep working as a jammer. I had the endurance, I could move my feet and run on my skates, and I had proven in the past that I could be a valuable asset to the team and score points. The rest, she said, would come with practice.

You know I always feel defeated when I watch other skaters around me progress faster than I think I am progressing. I really truly feel sometimes like I’m skating the same. Whether it’s a home game, or an away game, even a scrimmage during practice, I had to learn to reset my brain, and shut up the voice that kept telling me I was not good enough.

Everything starts with your mental game. Whether you are a freshie, and learn transitions or are desperately trying to pass the 27/5, or you have been skating for years and are prepping for a big tournament, if you keep doubting yourself, you won’t go anywhere. Skills take time to perfect. They take practice. Yet, it’s not just your physical skills that require practice. Your mental skills require time too! And they probably need more attention that you think they do.

I can judge my performance all day long. I can be hard on myself all day long. I can ruin an entire practice or game just by focusing on all the negatives. Meanwhile, I’ve grown so much as a skater, and I forget how much. Three years ago, I could not skate, less hit people while on skates. I could not stop. I could not turn around. I could not go backwards. I could not exercise for hours, hitting, doing laps, jumping… What do you mean cross-train? I thought I was fit when I joined derby, pfffft. Give me a break.

I forget all of those things, and I take them for granted, instead of looking at them like gains, positives, things I should be proud of. I focus so hard on the results, instead of the journey, I can destroy hours and hours of work in a matter of seconds. I found myself time and time again wanting to quit all together because I did not feel up to par with that imaginary player I attempted to be in thirty seconds.

It’s been three years, and I am now starting to feel comfortable on my skates. It’s been three years, and I now enjoy skating outside, any surface, any terrain, anything skateable I’ll skate it. It’s been three years, and only now do I not hyperventilate like a maniac before a game. It’s been three years since I decided to do this thing, and I’m only now starting to hit my true potential.

Do you think I would have hit my potential on week 2 of Freshie practice? Do you think it would have been wise to quit after failing Minimum Skills testing? Do you think I should have packed my gear away after not making it to 27 laps in five short minutes?

There are times where I want to kick my helmet across the rink. There are times where I feel so down, because I know what I can do, and I didn’t have the chance to showcase it. I feel so stupid, so slow, so negative… I have to stop. I have to consciously tell myself to shut up.

There is no perfection in this sport. There is no perfection anywhere. The secret to awesomeness is practice. The secret to having a grand time is to shut the negative voice up, and be present. Be in the moment. Practice that move countless times, and think of it as if it were the very first time you were doing it. Feel the response of your body with every stride, and gather this information as a learning experience, not as a “let’s see how much I can beat myself up today” experience.

Take a breath. No matter how advanced you are as a skater, you will never stop improving. You should never stop improving. You should never rest on the laurels of past achievements. And I’m saying this because you’re going to have good and bad days. One team is going to be easier to beat than another. One night you will feel like you have energy for days, and another night you won’t even want to put on your skates. You will get injured, and have to rehab from that. Recovery will take time, a lot of time, sometimes too much time.

Just embrace it. All of it. Don’t stay stuck on stupid. Don’t tell yourself you suck, and quit. If you love this sport, you will stick around. You will overcome doubt, fears, frustration. You will cry with your teammates, or alone, you will laugh and hug, and jump, and you will get pissed off, but you will experience all of it, and you’ll learn from it.

Not long after the season opener home game last year, I was rostered to play my very first game as part of the travel team. I was on the ALT list, until a jammer couldn’t make it, and I took her spot. I jammed that night. I got two back to back track cuts during my first jam, then I didn’t get lead, and then I got lead twice, and scored twice. Do you think I should have stopped after getting these two track cuts? I was scared to death. I really thought I couldn’t do it. But I took a breath, and I said to myself to shut up and try again. Start fresh at the next jam, and try.

You won’t win every time. You won’t be spectacular every time. But you will grow oh so much.

I am a Fresh Meat mom now on my league. I teach new skaters how to skate, how to fall, how to do all the basics. Looking at challenges from the perspective of a brand new derby player, reminds me of my own, and shows me how much progress I truly made. This is not a competition of who can show off their skills the best. This is an opportunity for you to learn to trust yourself, and love yourself, because your body can do so many amazing things out there.

Keep moving forward. You got this.

Keeks

Dear 27/5 or How to Make Freshie Life Difficult

Photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

I hate generalizations, but I am pretty sure that if I asked across the Freshieverse what skill Freshies dread the most, the majority would answer: the 27/5. How can such a simple exercise become the plight of a Freshie’s existence so quickly?

My experience with the 27/5 was the same as any other skater who had never heard of it before. There was already so much new and mysterious vocabulary to learn in derby, such as “eat the baby”, “goat”, and “mohawk” to name just a few, that the first time I heard “27/5”, I did not know what to think of it because I had no clue what it was. What the Vets told me is that in order to pass my minimum skills, I had to skate around the track at least twenty-seven times in five minutes or less.

Let’s process that thought for a second. 27 laps in 5 minutes. Broken down, it is 1 lap every 11 seconds.

I did not ask why five minutes, and why twenty-seven laps. In the past, it was twenty-five laps. I do not know who decided this particular exercise would be part of the answer to judging who gets to scrimmage, and who gets stuck in the Freshie corner for two hours. Because let’s be honest, the first time I put on a pair of skates and went rolling around, completely uncoordinated like the baby giraffe that I was, I thought speeding around the track was for Olympic athletes who did speed skating since age 3. I was very new and very unprepared to say the least.

Therefore, the 27/5 finally took its full meaning when the day came and we were asked (with a smile) to do it. Barely two months in the Freshie program, I believed that I was going to die, just like those folks back in the 1800s who rode a train for the first time at 5 mph and thought they would die. Same deal. Only difference was I would skate faster than 5 mph.

There I was, shaking in my boots. My stomach tightened like a rock, and the anxiety rose up like mercury in a thermometer. One of the Vets looked at us, witnessed the terror in our baby giraffes’ eyes, and said: “Don’t worry about the number of laps, I sucked my first time! Just do your best! You can only go up from there!” Another Vet stood in the center of the track, and shouted at me: “I’m counting for you!”

Right. I looked at the oddly shaped track and thought, “Twenty-seven times.” How did you skate around a track that was not round to begin with? A Vet threw out there, “Skate the diamond!” Confusion settled in my brain. What was a “diamond”? No time left. It was real. It was VERY real. I looked around and saw my Freshie mates spaced out on the track ahead of me. I could not back out now. My counting partner gave me the thumbs up. My stomach flipped like a burger on the griddle pan as I took a deep breath. The whistle blew and I just went.

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Photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

I skated as fast as I could. My breathing got heavier. My vision narrowed. My heart thumped like a beast inside my rib cage. In between breaths, I heard cheers. Lots of cheers. Every here and then, I saw people smiling and giving me more thumbs up. How many laps already? 3. Gosh, it felt like 15. Five minutes they said. More like five hours in my book. Twenty-seven times. Gosh! My trucks felt tight, my form was crap, I followed the shape of the track and braked at every turn… because I did not know what a “diamond” was! In between blank thoughts and blood pumping in my dizzy head, my left leg had turned into a useless limb almost immediately. I dragged the dead leg as best as I could. How many laps? “5… 11…. keep going Kiki! 15…. 1 minute left… Go Kiki, go! thirty seconds left… 20…  21… Time!”

My jello legs gave way, and I thanked the heavens as soon as the whistle marked the end of this medieval torture. While I recovered, my counting partner came up to me and patted me on the shoulder. “You did great for a first time! You will get better, I promise!”

My left leg was hurting so bad I thought I would be limping for the rest of the night. I had done great. I was almost dead! How could people endure this? Deep down, I did not feel accomplished. I just felt tired. The task was not complicated. Clearly, I had to learn one thing or two, starting with how to loosen my trucks, how to crossover, and how to skate a “diamond”. I also thought I was in shape, darn it! Roller derby made me reevaluate my fitness level right off the bat.

From that point on, began a quest. Loosening your trucks, I learned, helps with turns, and better catching your edges. Obviously, loosening trucks too much can lead to greater imbalance. If you are unsure as to what trucks are, here is a post I wrote on skate maintenance which explains everything you should know about the anatomy of a roller skate.

The biggest challenge by far was my crossovers. They looked more like pirate leg skating than really pushing over and under. What I refer to as pirate leg skating is basically your right leg doing none of the pushing for you and looking pretty much like a wooden peg while your left does all the work and wears out and cramps up after lap 10. I really wanted to look good, you know, like those Olympic athletes.

And what the heck was this “diamond”? Figures “diamond” is the sweet derby name for circle because diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

The quest to pass the 27/5 became more technical than I thought. Skating a perfect lap without losing speed and getting completely worn out was a science in itself. My pirate leg skating was pretty strong for a while, so my “diamond” and crossovers suffered, but like with anything else in roller derby, I did not give up.

Yes, after hours of practice, I eventually passed. The “diamond” finally happened. My pirate leg turned into a functioning human leg, and I did manage to squeeze the twenty-seven laps in those five minutes. I would like, however, to meet the twisted individual who thought the 27/5 was the make-it or break-it skill. The 27/5 does not add anything to my strategy or track awareness. All the 27/5 really does is test endurance without contact with any other player, so good luck once you start jamming/blocking and have to deal with immovable walls. (To learn more about the love-hate relationship we all share for the 27/5, please read IronOctopus Fitness’s wonderful blog post: The 27-in-5: A Metric For What Exactly?)

The sport has progressed so much over the years that the 27/5 almost does not make any sense anymore, and yet, it remains. It is a staple of the minimum skills, and trips up many skaters who may excel in all the other skills (like plows, jumps or transitions). Like it or not, you gotta lap around the track like a mad dog at least twenty-seven times if you want to become a rookie giraffe who can scrimmage and hit people for real… instead of practicing non-contact drills in a corner of the rink.

My experience with the 27/5 is no different than many others who went through it. It took several tries and a lot of meditation to finally break the threshold, and realize this thing was not the end of the world after all. Five minutes though… even now I feel like I could be doing a lot of other things in five minutes. Crossover, crossover, crossover… gosh I’m losing count. How do you crossover the entire way? Breathe, remember to breathe. I swear my left leg is going to fall off. Over push, under push, I can’t tell the difference! Did I loosen my trucks enough? Argh 26 and 3/4!!!!!!!! Why the heck did I join derby?

And then once you pass it, it feels like you just climbed Mount Everest.

Dear 27/5, I freaking hate you but I feel very accomplished once I make you my b*tch.

Let’s hear from you! What is/was your experience with the 27/5?

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Photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah – My pirate leg’s game feels pretty strong here

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

A Shoutout to Derby Wives

 

Photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

Joining roller derby, I did not think of getting married. Well derby married.

A derby wife has many definitions, but here is one I found and truly identify with: “A derby marriage is a declaration of close friendship, but more than that, it is a commitment to support one another both in and out of derby. A wife is a person who always has your back. She will never insult you by taking it easy on you at practice. She will notice your improvements and make sure that you notice them, too. She will work with you to help you excel in areas that you previously felt were weaknesses. When/If you get injured, she’s the one who takes care of you and worries about you. She’ll even back you up at the after-party.” I stole this definition from Charlottesville Derby Dames’ blog. 🙂

At the beginning of my derby journey, I heard the term and did not know how to really go about it. I did not have friends per se in derby. I only started to get to know people, and was more focused on learning the ropes at that point.

There was also something a little nerve wracking about derby marriage since it was a marriage, especially when the “’til death doeth part” echoed in the back of my head like an ominous warning. How did this work? Did I have to get dressed up, and have a ceremony?  How did I even find my derby wife? Were we supposed to get engaged? Did we get rings? What if this did not work???????? Speaking from life experience, and having gone through a marriage that ended in a divorce, I was not too hot on getting married again, especially when I did not know what this marriage entailed.

Guess what though? Derby marriage is actually not as bad as it sounds.

Derby marriage is a special bond. A derby wife will stick around and support you through thick and thin. She is your best bud, off and on the track. She gives you hug after hug and says you can do anything you set your mind to. She inspires you day in and day out. You miss each other when you are not together at practice. Your heart breaks for the other when you or she gets injured. You can talk about anything, and you never get mad at each other, but you also stay true and honest, and say it like it is when necessary.

I was probably the last one to think I would ever get derby married. It was okay by me to be derby single. Teammates made official announcements of their derby weddings, and I was happy for them. I read in a lot of places that you do not need a derby wife to have a happy derby life.

My wife getting married, and I watched it all on Skype! ❤

I guess the derby gods had other plans for me. The wife and I were not really sure how to go about it, if we needed to do something formal, and all that jazz, and we decided not to. We just agreed to be wives. She actually proposed to me and I said yes. LOL Other than that there was no ceremony, no dress, no rings exchanged, no vows. We are best buds, and we support and care for each other. When I took a leave of absence, she asked me if I was quitting derby, and she even said her heart would break if I quit. I reassured her I would not quit derby. I needed a break to heal from a stupid injury and manage my crazy life, and she understood and respected my decision. She is always there to talk to and to vent. We share laughter, and gossip. We talk derby. We talk life. In good and hard times, we are there for each other as much as we can. We share happy moments. I attended my wife’s wedding via Skype while on vacation in Europe (I know how funny this sentence just sounded – but it was amazing! Thank you technology!). We make the best of recovery time when one of us gets injured. We miss each other dearly when we are not at practice. Most importantly, we stand on the track, whether as allies or opponents, and it is always a privilege to play together.

I would like to dedicate this post to my derby wife Pixel Bloq. She has been a tremendous source of support and love I did not think I would find when I joined derby, but I was proven wrong once again. Derby is really full of surprises. I have also read stories of derby wives traveling across the globe to help each other, and this is the best thing ever (this is a wink to my teammate Knox).

It is also okay to have multiple wives, and to switch wives, so derby marriage is not as strict as a real marriage I realized. 😉

What about you? Do you have a derby wife?

❤ Keeks

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Follow me on instagram @kikindateef

When Your Heroes Retire 

Retirement. In my opinion, one of the ugliest words of the roller derby vocabulary. Hearing it makes my heart shatter in little pieces, knowing your favorite players won’t be playing anymore. Retirement marks the end of an era, the final word to the chapter of your favorite book. Retirement feels like the last mile of a beautiful ride, or a sunset. I also like to compare it to eating the last bite of a really delicious chocolate cake. No matter how retirement makes me feel, I have to accept that retirement is unfortunately part of roller derby, and cannot be ignored. No one lasts forever.

When world renowned skaters hang up their skates after years of shaping the sport into what it is today, I am sad because I loved to watch them on WFTDA.tv. Thank God the footage is here to remind me of their incredible athleticism. I was fortunate enough to meet Bonnie and OMG while they worked at the Five Stride skate shop in Brooklyn. I stood near legends. The most humble human beings too.

When league mates retire, I am sad because I am not going to see them at practice anymore. The level of intimacy is obviously different. I remember being just a freshie and feeling so heartbroken when some of my favorite skaters decided to retire. I looked up to them like they were goddesses, and they were goddesses. They had everything I wanted and then some. I continued my journey from freshie to rookie, and another wonderful skater retired. I looked up to her too. And then a couple days ago, it happened again.

The more I grow within the league, the closer I get to veteran teammates. They inspire me to keep pushing. They share words of advice with me. They provide so much love and support. They are the big sisters I never had. They are larger than life women who push me to get better. When I did not know what I was doing, they told me to just keep skating. They had faith in me before I had faith in myself.

I hate the word “retirement”. I hate to think I am not going to see these amazing women as often anymore. I hate the fact that this is my last piece of chocolate cake, because I was not finished with the cake! I also know everyone has a life. These women gave their all for years. They reached the top and became legends in my starlit newbie eyes. They paved the way and made room for the next skater, the next legend.

Despite the sadness, I am forever grateful and blessed to have shared the track with these heroes. Always know that your love fueled my fire. As much as I made you smile because I reminded you of you when you were just a newbie too, your words of encouragement made me fight harder. So yes I hate to see you go, but I wish you the best of luck and even more success in your next adventure.

You forever remain my inspiration, and I cherish deeply the memories we made.

❤ Keeks

retirement

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

Reinvent Yourself

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photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

Well here we are. The season 2017 has begun. After taking three months off, I am more than ever ready to tackle this year as efficiently and intelligently as possible.

As a freshie, I did not really think of derby as this long term commitment, almost like a job, that I had to adjust to, and treat like I treat everything else in my life. My family, my professional career, my own self-care routine, everything is on a schedule. I have to be well rested, well fed, because I cannot survive derby half-assed. This was in itself something new for me.

I had never played a team sport before joining roller derby. Heck, I had never really played any sport before joining roller derby. I am not the first one to say this. I joined derby because I wanted to try something new. I wanted to learn new things. And the ladies on the league looked badass and cool enough that I wanted to spend some time to get to know them, and then spend a lot of time with them several days per week.

In the past, I tried things, but never really committed to something. I went in cycles, maybe dedicating one or two years to a hobby, then giving it up and forgetting it all about it just like another failed relationship. I was not made for it, I thought. Some people were better at it than me, and that was the end of it.

I am not the first or the last to say roller derby radically changed my view of team sports. I honestly did not think I was cut to be a team player. I am awesome on my own. No boss, and no rules, except my very own, and all the time in the world to slack off. Only thing I could do well was work out in my living room in sync with Shaun T and the dreadful beats of his Insanity videos. I am made for challenges. I welcome competition. I thrive when put under conditions that push me to my outer comfort zone, and force me to improve. Get stronger, faster, smarter. Jumping by myself on a yoga mat, imagining I was training for something big, something important, something that would change my life for the better, I worked out relentlessly with my personal coach on TV for two years. Occasionally, I ran too. Jogging is something I picked up in my early twenties and really fell in love with, but a stupid treadmill injury made me think I was not made for that either. Haha, what a joke.

Deep down though, I always had this dream of skating. Gliding effortlessly and doing tricks. I picked up roller blading in my late teens, never to really graduate to do more than use the flimsy brake on my left heel. When I worked up the courage to finally transition once, I fell so hard on my tailbone I just decided I was not made for this either.

Now fast forward to when I am 32, and I see these badass women on a flat track, hitting each other, opening their hips and skating backwards like they have been doing this since birth. I hear loud screeches on the rink, and I do not get the rules at all, but I do not care. The ad on the flyer saying the league was looking for people, and I did not need to know how to skate to join, convinced me to take the first step and just like that, I joined roller derby.

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photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

First skate practice, I am padded up to the forehead, my skates, pads, outfit and helmet are all color coordinated like I am going to a roller derby pageant. I look new. I look inexperienced and plain clueless. The first steps I take are scary as hell, and do not compare to the first steps I took in my living room the night before to quiet the anxiety of a first time. Rolling on quads make me feel even less balanced than on inlines, and I am not really sure of anything except I really want to try this. I want to glide and I do not care if I fall. I am committed to giving it my all.

The journey started here. What I learned along the way was that commitment is the first step to a roller derby career, just like anything else. Discipline and consistency come next, just like anything else. Balancing responsibilities, job, family obligations, pretty much life on life’s terms, disrupt and distract but as long as I keep the focus on what is important, I am okay. I can juggle it all.

Of course, there are also moments of doubt, so big they can crush you into giving it all up again just because you tell yourself you are not really cut for it.

I was not immune to the doubt. I was not immune, despite all the love I have for this sport, to feeling like this was not my thing. Once the pink cloud vanished, I was left with reality, and reality sucks.

The love was everything though. I had to dig deep inside and cultivate that fire so that I would keep going despite failures, disappointments, and physical setbacks such as injuries.

Whether it was the first practice, or training to pass my minimum skills, my first scrimmage, my first bout, my first time at doing something new, I had to dig deep every time, and find that love, to use it like a weapon. I am cut for it. Giving up is easy, and then what? What do I have left? Memories? Regrets? I absolutely love being on roller skates. Whether it is roller derby, or outdoor ramp skating, that stuff is hard, and I do not care what outsiders have to say, we are not born on wheels. Just like anything else. We are not born to do much of anything. There is always a learning curve.

Of course, you can hate what you do, and then why force it? But why give up if you truly love it?

That is what it came down to. That love was and is everything. During those moments where you think “meh, this is way too hard”, just tread patiently and skate. In those moments where you think you will never get it, just skate. Forget the drama, the voice in your head, or the voice of others who might enable you to quit. Forget the bitterness, the harsh self-talk and the comparing yourself to others bullshit that doesn’t serve you at all. Forget the “I can’t do this” broken record monologue.

Just focus on you right now. Be present. If you have to take a break, take a break. Go do what you gotta do and come back stronger. Come back more in love than you ever were before. Come back confident and ready to learn. Reset your thinking and apply yourself. This works wherever you are in your derby career.

A long successful career is just an accumulation of days. Days where you practiced, played, maybe dicked around, and laughed. Days where where you fell, cried, smiled, lost focus and gained it back, hugged and high-fived your teammates after an awesome move. Days where you took a breath, sat down, and got back up. Days where you decided to give it your all. Days where you gave your all. Days where you were tired but still tried. Days where you doubted but just fought harder. And then there are days where everything just falls into place, and you feel like you are straight in heaven.

This sport will ask a lot from you. It will make you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. It will drain you and fill you up. It will fulfill you and put you in the driver seat on and off the track. It will teach you courage, unconditional love and patience. So much patience.

Today is the opportunity to just reinvent yourself. Put on a pair of skates, and be your own hero.

You deserve it, and tomorrow is already too late, so do it now.

❤ Keeks

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When I don’t derby, I ramp skate! So much fun!

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

My ten 2017 Resolutions

road-908176_960_720Happy new year to all! I have been absent from this blog during my 3 month LOA, and missed it dearly. A break was much needed. My foot was injured, work got out of control and I needed time to just relax, and not stress out. This small break helped me greatly, not only physically but mentally, and for this new season, I’ve made a few resolutions so I can enjoy myself as much as possible.

1- Be in a good mood at practice

I admire one of my teammates because she is always so upbeat at practice. Her energy is contagious, and I have made the conscious decision to learn from her and be upbeat too. I’m not going to practice to be grumpy. I’m going to have fun, and guess what? You learn when you have fun. You fall and you laugh. You have a good time, and this motivates you to keep practicing, and keep showing up.

2- Get out of your head

I have also made the conscious decision to not overthink anything. I am an overthinker by nature, and this has played in my disfavor more than once. This season, I am not thinking. I am doing. The voice in my head is my enemy, and I am not listening to it.

3- Push yourself

This is pretty much a given, but I’ve noticed even when cross training, I get comfortable at a certain level, and it is truly a chore to push harder. I consciously tell myself that I’m not going to die, I’m not going to pass out. By now I know my limits, and I know I can push. You only grow as much as you give at practice, so do it, and don’t hold back.

4- Try new things

Don’t be scared to experiment. I skate outdoors as much as I can, and I always tell myself to just try things. If they work out, they work out, if they don’t, they don’t. At least I know what I need to work on. With enough practice, most tricks can be done. So try new things, and practice!

5- Be patient

I can do a lot of things, and I cannot do a lot of things… yet. That’s okay.  This isn’t a race. And it’s great, this way I can appreciate my progress, and look back and amaze myself.

6- Be kind

To yourself and to others. Go get that massage. Relax. Stretch. Do yoga. Take care of your body, you only have one! Smile and laugh, and tell your teammates nice things whenever you can. The words of my teammates have lifted me up so many times, even when all they said was “Good job”. They kept me in the fight, when the little voice told me I couldn’t fight anymore. Love yourself. I cannot repeat that enough.

7- Take a break

Don’t feel guilty if you have to take a breather. If something hurts, just pause and assess whether you can keep skating or not. Injuries are not a joke. The smallest, most insignificant aches can become real pains in the butt if you don’t take the time to properly heal.

8- Inspect your equipment

Need new wheels? Need new cushions on your plates? Need to change your bearings? How are your toe stops looking? Take a few minutes to inspect your skates, and make sure everything is at the right spot and everything looks good. If something feels wonky, ask your teammates. One of them will be an equipment nerd and will help you. I am an equipment nerd by nature, got the tools and all that stuff. If your equipment is not up to par, you can injure yourself and your teammates, so a little maintenance won’t hurt.

9- Eat well, and enough

During the day, and especially before practice, make sure to hydrate a lot, and eat good things that will help your body sustain two hours (or more) of intense practice! I’m not going to suggest what to eat because we all have our routines, but make sure to be in 100% condition before you go in. Your body will thank you, and you will enjoy yourself so much more if you have energy. Also, take naps before practice if you can. Power naps are awesome.

10- Smile, you’re at derby!

Yes. Smile all you can!

Keeks

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

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