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

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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

Break 

There’s something I haven’t read much or heard much through the grapevines, like it’s a taboo in the derby community. Yet, many skaters do it. It’s good for the mental as well as the physical state. 

Why is it taboo to take a break? 

From the team’s perspective, it might look like you’re slacking. Like you’re losing focus. Like life outside of derby seems so distant and foreign, why would you need to get back to it? Derby gives that feeling for a while that it can provide you with anything your heart wishes for. You have a supporting community, and a great physical outlet. 

I’ve come to see throughout my short time being involved in this amazing sport that derby can’t fill all the void. It certainly can’t give me the psychic effect I’m looking for. I don’t feel fulfilled every time I go to practice. It’s a fact. I love to feel satisfied when I accomplish a task. The task may be tedious, frustrating, exhausting but when I’m done, I like to feel good about myself. 

I learned with derby that I don’t feel good after every practice. I have practices that make me feel absolutely shitty. It’s ok. It’s part of being an athlete I guess. Or maybe I just need more solo skating time to feel accomplished instead of constantly comparing myself to others. 

I can’t ignore the signs. Is it okay to feel miserable? Is it like a rite of passage into the deeper layers of the derbyverse? Am I going to unlock some mysterious achievement once I suffer enough? 

Not at all. 

I’ve come too far and worked too hard on myself to feel shitty about anything I voluntarily choose to do on my spare time.

So time for a break has come. 

I don’t suck. I can do things. If it takes me ten years to do them, so be it. I simply can’t let external influences dictate my happiness. I have so many more things I have pushed to the side because derby had become my every day drug. 24/7. I only realized I was acting like a junkie when the high of the derby drug finally subsided and left me dry with bitterness and disappointment. 

I’m not condemning the derby community when I say these words. Derby is fabulous. But I have a life outside of derby. I’m a writer, and I have a fulfilling professional career in the legal industry. I learn new things daily and I want to stay inspired. I lose interest when I force myself to go through the motions without feeling any love for it. 

So it’s time for a break. Skating without any other goal than feeling accomplished. Trying new things and not competing against others, just challenging myself and beating my own personal best. I’m not there to prove anything to anyone. I’m just there to push myself and embrace the journey. 

I don’t want to lose my freedom. I’ve walked away from too many situations where I stayed too long and should have left sooner. Things aren’t going to get better by trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. 

I’m not saying goodbye forever. Who knows what might come my way. Right now though, it feels like the right thing to do. 

❤ 

What’s left

Maybe I’m going all wrong about this. Maybe I had too many expectations. Maybe my enthusiasm blinded me for a while. I know my strengths and weaknesses. My main weakness is my mind. 

I can train as hard as I want, if my mind isn’t in the game, I’m toast. I can deflate like a balloon in less time than it takes me to take a deep breath. 

I can try to blame the skating conditions, the level of game play, my lacking skills, I can try to blame anything and everything under the sun but I can’t stall forever. My mind isn’t in the game right now. 

And the sad part is that my mind hasn’t been in the game for a while. Even when I thought I was in the game, my mind had already checked me off. 

I’m always trying to recreate the feelings I felt during my very first scrimmage. I had no expectations then. I just went out there and gave them hell. I felt so powerful. I felt like I could do anything. Then came more scrimmages and my feelings were never the same as that first one. Like the addict that I am, I’ve been desperately trying to reexperience that high ever since. And I can’t. Scrimmages always feel different. Some are good, some are not. But these feelings just can’t be recreated again. 

Many reasons: my skills have improved despite my silent low self esteem protest that they didn’t. The players I go against have also improved. 

I’m chasing something that is long gone. I don’t know how to overcome that. I haven’t felt that same level of high since. Not during scrimmage at least. I felt that high while skating outdoors. I felt that sense of “I can do anything” many times outdoors. Even when my skating session didn’t feel like I had accomplished much, I never left defeated. I never left thinking I didn’t really want to come back for more. I never left feeling there wasn’t a new challenge I wouldn’t master, even if it took me years to tame it. 

I don’t know how to beat my mind. Not this time. I beat my mind out of feeling bored, out of feeling angry, sad, depressed. I beat my mind all the time. This time though, it also feels like my heart doesn’t want to fight. All the love I feel for this sport makes my heart ache so much thinking I don’t feel like being a part of it anymore. 

I have to face that reality though. I love skating. I don’t think I will ever give that up, just like running or writing. I can take a break, but I can never quit. 

Derby is not just skating. Derby is the game I love to watch late at night on my iPad before going to sleep. Derby is full of strategy, and power. Derby makes me jump in my seat… as a spectator. 

Derby also pulls me out of my comfort zone. Derby makes me anxious. Derby makes me feel so sad, sometimes too. 

I don’t feel anxious when I’m skating on my own and practice new tricks. I don’t even feel scared either. I’m not afraid of hitting and getting hit. I overcame that fear a long time ago. I feel anxious when it’s me and other people though. I feel watched, assessed, judged. I feel like I’m giving it my all and it’s still not good enough. I feel like I’m hitting this wall and I can never break it. 

My mind is telling me all those things, and I believe them. I’m awake yet I’m so tired. I’m writing, crying, feeling like I must make a decision… at 6 am. 

I feel like I’ve lost my fire. I feel like I’ve grown bored. I feel unmotivated. 

So what’s left? 

I honestly couldn’t tell you right now. 

First Bout 

Saturday August 20, I participated in my first official bout with my home team the Gateway Grim Reapers. It was the team’s debut, and gosh how excited we all were! I had been waiting for this game since I got cleared for scrimmage, back in February/March of this year.

Despite my excitement, an overuse injury struck me ten days before the game. My left foot was pretty much useless for a while, which caused me to miss practice, and pray to the derby gods to let me play my first game, even for one jam.

The derby gods compromised on letting me block, which seemed the least painful position for my foot. Anything on toestops made me cringe, therefore, no jamming.

*Insert really sad face here*

I’m not going to lie, the entire game all I wanted to do was get out there and hit walls of blockers. It’s ok because I’ll hit them next bout. I got to hit and get hit by jammers a lot though.

Look at all those hits! There’s even some toestop action here, tsk tsk.

Use your edges, use your edges!

This bout was special in so many ways. It was my first one, it was the team’s debut, and my loved ones were watching me. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I usually get before scrimmages. We had crazy skull faces made up which smeared throughout the night. We wore reapers capes during our intro song, For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica. That stuff was epic. So amazing. I felt like a super hero.

The game also went by so fast. It’s like someone screwed up with the clock and set it in fast forward. I wish I had played more, I wish I had jammed (LOL), but overall, I’m super happy I could play at all. I’m happy I could be there for my team, and I had so much fun.

My league mates are truly top of the line classy players and human beings. I couldn’t imagine playing with and against anyone else for my first bout.

I ended the game with immense gratitude. I was proud too of course. Last year on the same day, I had failed my 27/5 yet again. I had no idea I’d be playing in a bout a year later. I had no idea I’d actually do something quasi-decent on the track, and not just stand there. Derby is hard, but I’m learning, one practice at a time. My teammates are patient with me, they sometimes yell in a murderous tone of voice when I do something stupid, but it’s all love, you guys.

This bout is the first of many. I’m honored to be part of such an amazing group of women, who are inspiring, and tough, and kind, and funny, and loving, and yeah… Garden State Rollergirls for life. ❤

Keeks

All photo credits go to Sean Hale and Quick Draw Photography.

Strong Athletic Skater

oewifhoiewBeing an athlete is hard! There’s all this time spent working on technique, and improving skills, while trying as much as possible to avoid injuries. Injury! What an ugly word. I don’t know anyone who played any sport and didn’t get injured at least once. Obviously, we want to stay away from serious injuries that will keep us out for weeks, or months at a time. I cringe every time I hear the word surgery, plates and screws. Sadly, that reality cannot be avoided.

How you deal with injuries brings out a whole new level of commitment and dedication to the sport you love. It makes you rethink how to live your life, and how to do the simplest tasks such as carrying groceries, showering or walking. It makes you feel so vulnerable, weak almost. You can’t work out like you want to. You can’t move without feeling pain somewhere.

I hate injuries. I do everything in my power to avoid them. Although it’s nothing broken, something as small as blisters can still make my life hell! I couldn’t even imagine being off skates for longer than six months… I already go crazy if I miss one week.

I’d like to dedicate this post to skaters who had to step down for weeks or months at a time, and still stayed strong. Those skaters showed up to games with their crutches on, wearing special fitted braces, limping, but smiling. Even if they couldn’t play, they were there. I saw them heal, and work their way back up to their fittest level. I scrimmage with them, and feel their strength and speed. These folks inspire me. They tell me injuries aren’t the end of the road. They are evidence that being an athlete is hard, and sacrifices must be made, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

These strong athletic skaters make me look at my own journey, and make me grateful to be on wheels. They make me feel strong when I push myself. They make me feel powerful and dedicated when I show up to practice and feel like the least good skater out there. They give me perspective. They give me that sense of longevity I long to gain despite life’s demands. They make me proud to be with them. They give me faith. They make me get up and try. It doesn’t matter if my day was horrible. I leave it all on the track, and get those hugs and fist bumps that mean the world because we’re all in this together. It’s real love out there, among pain, sweat and tears.

To all the strong athletic skaters in my league, I say thank you. It’s a real honor and privilege to watch you fight your way up, and grow. It’s a real treat to skate by your side. You make me feel like I can do anything.

Keeks

Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

Find Your Tribe… and Your Identity

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Credit Sean Hale @Seanhaleyeah

I joined roller derby because I wanted to try it out. I had no real ambition of becoming a super star. I didn’t research the leagues in my area because of their WFTDA rankings. I knew nothing about the sport except the little I witnessed at a bout one night, that I wasn’t even supposed to attend except for the sole fact that my boyfriend’s cousin was getting married on the rink, and we were her guests. Roller derby sounded so foreign to me, more foreign than golf or cricket, and I never played golf or cricket.

Little did I realize how much impact this sport would have on my life. It redefined mostly everything. I owe this transformation not just to a pair of roller skates, but to the league I joined. The power of a group of skaters can change you, and bring the best out of you. I was fortunate to become a member of the Garden State Rollergirls. These ladies and gents welcomed me with open arms. I was terrified, of course. I let them guide me onto the rink, and I felt good. I didn’t feel embarrassed, or pressured to do anything except skate. Fall. Get back up. Fall again. Rinse. Repeat. Throughout my challenges, I heard encouragement, and I felt real support.

Finding the right league is crucial to a great derby experience. I heard many horror stories of leagues that didn’t really help freshies feel at home. Lots of drama. Leagues disbanded, split, or reformed someplace else with different folks… Or the same folks, trying to figure things out and not repeat the same mistakes. We are only human. I feel fortunate that the league I’m in tries its hardest to be healthy, and supports its skaters without prejudice. GSR is really my tribe!

With a tribe, comes an identity. Yesterday was the derbyversary of my derby name baptism. Finding the right derby name wasn’t something I really planned either. I honestly didn’t think I’d get a name until I made one of the teams. But here I was four months later as a freshie, brainstorming for a derby name that would be my identity on the rink and in the derbyverse. That stuff is serious. I saw people come up with really smart play on words, and celebrity names I sometimes wish I had come up with because they’re truly genius. My name is fine though. It’s funny and I like it. Plus, given the multitude of names out there, it gets harder and harder to be original.

Today, I’m thankful to have a tribe and a derby name. I play for the name in the front, so people remember the name in the back… I have good days, bad days, but overall, I see derby as my second family. It’s crazy, and amazing. I can’t really explain it. I’m just grateful to have found this sport, to have discovered and tried new things, to have met new people, and to grow, learn, always evolve. I’m not going to lie; it’s also so much fun to hit people three to four times a week!

I want to hear from you! How do you like your tribe, and your derby name? How did you come up with your identity? What does roller derby mean to you?

Keeks

Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef