Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The amazing thing about derby

The amazing thing about derby is that even though I'm out of action for another 6 months yet, there are about a million ways for me to stay involved. There is no shortage of tasks that need doing, and for someone with a little bit of time on her hands, I still feel a part of the big "we" that is roller derby. I guess that people know that if I could be skating, I would be. It's a sport where serious injury can happen to anyone at any time, and it does, frequently.

The level of support I've received from my league has been really touching. I know that I can call on my league for pretty much anything and someone will put up their hand to help. I can't even begin to describe how much it means to me to be a part of this community. When I was in hospital, there was a constant rotation of derby girls coming to see me - my parents were shocked and amazed and finally understood why I would be involved in such a "violent" sport. My Dad compared it to his football days and knew that he'd never have received that kind of support from any footy team he was involved in. I guess that's why I am happy to keep putting in so much work for my league even though I don't get to do any of the fun stuff yet, and won't for a while.

I know I said this wouldn't become a personal recovery blog but I'm going to do this part anyway.

So, apparently I have experienced the best of the best case scenarios, in terms of my recovery. I was meant to be in a full torso brace for up to 9 months, but they let me take it off after 3. The hospital physios have discharged me and I only have one remaining visit with the surgeons in may, when they will hopefully tell me that I am allowed to do full contact again. I strapped on a pair of skates a few weeks ago to see how it felt, and honestly it didn't feel that bad. I didn't realise that I had been harbouring some great fear that I might not be able to even stand up on skates, that i'd be the unco person clinging to the boundary at rama. But no. I could skate around, one side of my body is still all tight so I can't really extend my left side, making crossovers uncomfortable. The cool part about this is that I was able to put my body to the test and now I know what areas of my body I need to work on with my sports physio so that I can do what I love again.

I plan to return to derby training soon, though I can only do basic basic training. No continual impact. meaning, no falling or jumping drills, and certainly no contact drills. The surgeons said it doesn't matter if I fall, but that they don't want me throwing myself at the ground over and over. Essentially it's going to be endurance only, and maybe a bit of footwork. Better to do that than not at all, right?

Friday, May 28, 2010

See you later. Not goodbye.

This blog has been interesting to write and be involved in. Everyone’s derby journey has been so different, and I’ve loved following it along. I will write again, just not till after a long term hiatus, due to my roller derby career being on a long-term hiatus - not through any choice of my own. About six weeks ago I had an accident while horsing around at a friend’s house, and broke my spine. They removed one of my ribs, and made a new spine bone out of it, and put some titanium rods around it to make it strong. On top of this I then had some complications from the surgery a few weeks later, which involved my lung cavity filling up with water and having to have drainage tubes stuck in my chest, which was probably the most painful part of the whole ordeal. I also have to wear a full back brace till further notice, but likely to be the next 8 months. Thank god it fits under my clothes, cause it’s really not hot.
Fortunately I am now on the road to recovery, and I wasn’t paralysed or anything like that. I’ve learnt to walk again, though I can’t go very far or very fast. In fact, I will apparently lead a pretty normal life, and there won’t be much that I can’t do, eventually. Even roller derby. It’s just a matter of time.
I’ll write again when I get back to skating, but given that this is a derby blog and not a personal recovery blog, I might say see you later for now. Not goodbye though. Xx

Thursday, March 25, 2010

fear on the rise

I’m standing at the edge of the banked track. The outside walls loom at me – rails heavily padded, and yet clearly steel… I wonder vaguely about the damage they do… splintered hip bones and crushed wrists momentarily collage through my mind… but the main thought in my head is the incline on the other side of that wall. The incline that’s about to take all of my sure-footedness out from under me, and increase the trepidation in each skated footfall…

At home, on my flat track, despite the three different sites, each with differing surfaces, at which we train each week, I have surety in my step. I know the boundaries of that flat track, and my skating is fast, nimble, sometimes even gutsy, the smile across my face betrays my pleasure in speed, in each evasion of contact, each knock I refuse to allow to take me off my path.

But this moment is different. And even as my heart leaps inside me, and my hands and knees tremble (I clench muscles to steady them) I hear someone yelling that it’s my turn, and I leap onto the track, and the boards arch and flex beneath me, and I know that I’m going to make it. That that surety isn’t why I play. That each fall is another one done. And the bruises that await me are earned. And the fear rises up inside me and takes flight.

Monday, March 22, 2010

the funny over the win.

my last post was some time ago and a lot has changed since then. of course. my fitness has improved, i have muscles in my legs, arms, torso. the derby community has become another family, and i have found myself showing off my skating skills in my kitchen.

and i quit fresh meat.

what happened was this: i failed my yellow star assessment. by .4 of a point. i failed because i thought it would be hilarious if someone yelled out 'use the force, darth ada!' during my endurance skate. i had to do 5 laps in 60 seconds. when i heard the words, i lost my shit. i nearly spat out my mouth guard and laughed so hard i almost fell over. i lost two seconds. crucial seconds. i ended up with 5 laps in 62 seconds. fail. it's cool though - it was funny. i hope that i always take to funny over the win.

instead of taking the resit, i decided to drop out. i can't train enough to get good enough. admittedly, i have other interests and a full life and there's nothing i want to give up. so i decided to become a ref. being a ref means that i can continue to go to training, to skate and to be part of the Victorian Roller Derby League. it's an ideal choice. so for the past month or so, that's what i've been doing. reffing. or training to be a ref at least.

so my journey has taken a turn and i'm pretty damn happy about it. there's no pressure to continuously pass tests i'm not ready to take. don't get me wrong - reffing will be highly pressured. calling penalties is terrifying (as are the women i'll be calling the penalties on). i feel like i'm at the beginning of another new challenge, one that can engage my body as well as my brain. i suspect i'll do ok...if i can just get my head around the rules...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Derby is kinda like a love affair. Oh, sure, like all love affairs, it waxes and wanes, but the undercurrent of white hot passion seems to stay inside even past the initial honeymoon phase. Just ask Whip It.

Me? I've been variably infatuated since one crucial moment: When I first walked into Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, with the expectant anticipation of pleasure that comes with the collected works of Tracey Moffatt (that Australian photographic artist with a notoriously ambivalent relationship with critics tendency to label her an ‘indigenous artist’), I had little real idea of what lay ahead of me, it turned out. This day, I had the fortune of being accompanied by a good friend whose usual locale is New York City. And this particular day included in our perambulations of the exhibition space, the entry into a room containing a wonderful surprise - a series of sepia-tinted shots of stills of women in surprising combinations, all roller-skated. At this point, the advantages of having this particular friend of mine in attendance revealed itself – Roller Derby, was what we regarded. Roller Derby had been spreading itself across the States, and a run-through of the bare-bones rules and purpose of the game convinced me quickly that this vital, spectacular, woman-centric, full-contact sport was something I’d be keeping my eye out for here in Australia.

Fast forward a few years, and at least one location change, to Melbourne, and a fortuitous and wonderfully timely stumble across the burgeoning VRDL in 2007. I joined up. The beginnings were glorious, rosy times full of breathless enthusiasm for ebay speedskate packages, long debates about derby names with my then-derby-wife Jazzercise (derby number: &1&2&3…), rides to the Carribean Rollerama in a beautiful old-school baby blue car with bench seats full of ‘what is derby anyway’ chats, and dress-ups. I took on the role of freshie co-ordinator (and had the privilege to teach some of my favourite skaters their first derby skills), sweet-talked my friend Sooz into coming along to a ‘rama session, debuted at the Demo-lition bout (on the winning team)… and then a series of unfortunate events crashed in around me, and suddenly showing up at training to skate my heart out and enjoy some smashing times with other ladies became something I couldn’t stretch to anymore.

It broke my heart a little every session I missed. But I kept volunteering at every bout, and (a bit more recently) taught as many skills as I could to the burgeoning Men’s League, and never stopped writing (yes, I’m a geek) and lecturing about it, and my skates got a bit of wear. Every now and then, my enthusiasm and passion would start to burst from me, and I would attempt to reinsert myself into league training again, but time and again my body and my head would prove it was the wrong timing.

Now it isn’t. Now I’m back, and for the first time, I feel like I might actually be good at a sport for the first time (yoga’s not really a sport, right?). That possibility is incredibly important to me, and how I think of myself, my capacities, and my body. The other day, one of the bouting players said that it was a wonderful thing to see how womens bodies change with derby – thighs bulk out, booties become blocking machines… I can’t wait to see how mine responds. I know I can feel it already, and I have to admit: I’ve got derby to thank for the fact that for the first time ever in my life, I’m looking forward to my jeans being too tight.

Now this kind of DIY women-centric organising gets to be back in my life with a vengence, and I’m focussed on keeping it that way. This means that I have to hold myself back from going to absolutely every session regardless of how I’m feeling, because I want this to be a sustainable part of my life from now on. It means that I’m not giving up riding my pushie, or waitressing that shift, because it turns out that the thigh strength and spacial awareness I gain is invaluable to derby. And the community of women around me keeps me in constant awe of the things that we can do together.

Thanks ladies. See you on the rink.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Ok, so its been a while since I last updated. I passed the white star, not with the flying colours I would have liked, but I passed. I actually had to do the white star resit which was a massive blow to my ego but I sat the retest along with darthada and some other derby girl wannabes and we made it through. The ten days between the white star test and the resit were some of the hardest days I’ve had in a really long time, and it proved to me how much I love skating, and derby.

Something I wanted to blog about is how derby has changed my relationship to pain and injury. Previously, injuries were kind of cool. Good excuses to get out of doing things that I didn’t want to be doing. I’d prolong the recovery process as it would give me a seemingly legitimate reason to not go to school or uni, or do boring chores in my life. Now, the first thing I think of when I hurt myself is “Shit, Am I still going to be able to skate?” I’ve always thought it was a bit crazy when people in professional sports would just take some pain killers and get back out there, but now I understand. Last week I dislocated my shoulder at training. It’s not the first time this has happened, so I have a pretty good understanding of how to put it back in. It was pretty disgusting, horribly painful and I’m pretty sure I saw a few green faces amongst the freshies and coaches as I maneuvered the joint back into its socket. Now, I know I’m tooting my own horn here, but there were no tears at all while I was in a ridiculous amount of pain. Lots and lots of expletives, but no tears. The only time that I actually really wanted to cry was when I was sitting on the sidelines, watching everyone doing various kinds of drills, and looking like they were having amazing fun. It royally sucked to not be out there.

My major thoughts were about my derby career. What if I had to give it up now, and try out again in some other fresh meat intake? What if I had to have an operation and try out again in like.. a year’s time? I imagine it would be like falling in love and moving in with a foreigner, who suddenly got deported. It’d suck. Suddenly I don’t care about the pain, and injury is no longer an excuse. I want to get better, not draw it out. I want to get back to doing this thing that I’ve fallen in love with, not sit on the sidelines. All I want to do is get on the track and become better at skating and derby, and not to be afraid of further injury. I want to be able to give this thing my all. Conclusion? I’m not copping out, and that’s pretty cool.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

some time later...

i retook the white star test. i wasn't sure that i would. it was a shitty blow to fail the first time and i wasn't sure i had it in me to fail again. failing sucks. i tend to avoid situations where i can fail so i'm not well practiced. i'm not saying that i'm awesome at everything, i guess it's just that i play it safe. i do things that i know i'm good at so i never have to suck too much. but skating is fucking hard and the level of skill required is beyond my capacity. so i freaked out and thought that it's probably best to avoid future devastation. but i agreed to car pool with shirley tumble and slicer minelli so i had to go. and i passed.


and here is a list of what i've learned about myself:

1. i dont have great balance
2. i learn at my own unique pace
3. i really really really miss pippa when i work all day and skate all night
4. i have no real interest in doing sit ups or push ups
5. i'm very inexperienced with team sports
6. i love skating and feel hugely accomplished when i learn a new skill that had previously seemed impossible.

i don't know how long i can ride this wave for, but i'm pretty stoked to have gotten this far.

xx darth ada