My online journal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Autumn of my discontent

Things have taken a strange turn for me lately. I traveled with the All-Stars out to the Pacific Northwest during the last weekend of August. Part of me wants to add more detail about the trip, because it was ... eventful ... but I'll cut to the end for now.

With only about 3 minutes left in the last game of the weekend, vs. Seattle's Rat City, I went in to jam. I cleared the pack just feet behind Missile America, Rat City's jammer. She's "normal derby size," I'm told -- easily 5'10" and strong. She looked at me over her left shoulder and cut HARD left to try to knock me out so she could go score some points. I realized this and dropped my right shoulder to counter her hit and, with luck, stay on my feet.

The pain as our shoulders met was instantaneous and excruciating. Something was horribly wrong with my shoulder, and I felt a second pop as I continued to skate around the track. She scored three quick points and called off the jam, and I immediately got some ice and attention from the trainer. It was going to be my last jam of the game anyway, which was a small mercy after a very disappointing three pitiful jams against Portland's Rose City two days earlier.

We flew home that night and in the morning I saw a doctor and got some x-rays. My right AC joint (the bony part of my shoulder that sticks up) is sprained or separated, but not broken or dislocated.

It's been three weeks. I have got most of my mobility back -- though it's still really stiff in the morning (particularly if I've exercised the night before) and though I can still feel some tightness most of the time, at least now I can wash my hair and do most household tasks without too much pain. Brushing my teeth and other small, vigorous, and/or repetitive activities in front of me -- those are still difficult. And putting weight on my right arm while it's behind me (like, to shift myself over on a couch, for example), still hurts.

I missed the first MNRG bout of the season, and I didn't go to Regionals with my team. These things were hugely disappointing. I've been going to practice, but not doing any contact or scrimmaging -- and unfortunately, 90% of practice is contact and scrimmaging. It is roller derby, after all.

I've been getting some physical therapy and I got a shoulder pad that I thought would help. Unfortunately it only protects against hits coming from the front. And in derby, I'm afraid that it's all the side-jostling that's really going to aggravate it. I took one side-shoulder hit at practice last night -- and it was a completely-incidental, not-even-hard one -- and the pain scared me enough not to want to try it again.

Now, it's only been 3 weeks. Six weeks will take me up to the next bout, on October 6. I'm not hopeful about skating then. It's absolutely killing me.

Yet life goes on. My baby sister Ellen got married last weekend at a lovely old barn in Illinois, and we had a wonderful time. We love her new husband, and we had a great trip. All my dance classes are starting up, too. I've had to cancel some due to low enrollment, but I think I'm teaching about 11 classes per week. I'm still editing the newspaper, and I'm working on a kids' version of Seussical. Lucy will be in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and she and Eddie are both playing soccer and piano.

So it's not like I don't have anything else going on. Ah, well. Maybe more tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday afternoon

Hi again!
Today is sort of my favorite kind of day. Kids had swimming in the morning, then swung by a dear friend's house with ice cream to celebrate her GETTING DRAFTED TO MNRG!!! It's not too hot, the kids and I ate a decent lunch, and now they are playing together incredibly nicely. Enough to make a mama want to grab a glass of wine and a Sudoku and do some happy deep-breathing.

Joel and the kids and I had a fabulous Saturday. The weather was near-perfect and after sleeping late-ish, I dashed over to Minnehaha Falls to run some stairs with a teammate and our coach. The stairway we run has about 130 steps, and we did it 14 times: stepping on each step, skipping steps, sideways/crossover, two-foot jumping, one-foot jumping... you name it. It was brutal and wonderful. In the afternoon we Gronaus worked on our outdoor projects, finishing the brick patio and a small set of steps, and making some more headway on the retaining wall. The yard is starting to look very nice and, we hope, will require less fussy maintenance (like mowing/weed-whipping around weird rocky hills and contours that we cannot be bothered to do) next summer.

Yesterday my team, the Atomic Bombshells, was supposed to go tubing down a local river -- and then it was 60 degrees and cloudy. So we met at our captain's house, sat around and ate and drank and caught up for a few hours. It was really lovely. Afterward two of my teammates came back to my house and we played our guitars for an hour before I had to go to practice.

While I was at practice, the MNRG home team captains were busy drafting this year's class of rookies. I was incredibly nervous and hopeful about my friends being drafted. So practice was OK. There were nine of us there, a very small crew, but we did some good drills and trainingy things. We have this new scrimmagey drill that we do that I pretty much hate -- and after last night I realized I needed to change my attitude. After every jam I was feeling depressed, ineffective, and stupid. A couple weeks ago when that was happening, a teammate encouraged me to look at the other people I was playing with. Getting out of my own head, and being aware of my surroundings and the bigger picture. I forgot about that last night. I also forgot one of the things from The Mental Edge: "If you do what you've always done, you'll get the results you've always gotten." Well, clearly with these drills I am doing something the same over and over again, and getting the same results. Since I can't see what it is physically, perhaps I can start by changing my mental state a bit.

At the end of practice I found out that many of my friends did, indeed, get drafted -- HOORAY!! And tomorrow night we find out which teams drafted what players. Super excited to start the new season!

No practice 'til Thursday, so I've got a couple days to talk myself up to doing those drimmages with a better attitude. I'd really like to someday be trusted to do some blocking. Someday.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Some successes, and hope

Had another good practice last night. We added a new element to our off-skates warmup: 4 sets of 30-to-45-second hand stands, up against a wall. I've been doing handstands up against a wall (and sans wall, with somewhat less success) for just about as long as I can remember -- cartwheels, too. Evidently that's not true for the majority of the population, and I'm surprised to see teammates having trouble with the exercise. I found *I* had the energy to shout encouraging things to the group as the seconds ticked on and we felt like our eyeballs were about to explode. I've been very reluctant to take any kind of leadership in derby, so it was weird for me.

We moved into on-skates drills, including agility work and wall blocking (meaning 3 or 4 blockers stand across the track, forming a "wall," to stop the jammer from getting through). I'm slowly starting to feel more successful in this drill. As a jammer I was finding/making holes, and I felt pretty good blocking too. One thing we're being asked to work on is blocking with our upper-torsos pitched forward, so the jammer is only able to make contact with the pointy part of our butts (instead of the whole of our backs, which in theory would give the jammer more to push against). Fortunately that pitched-forward stance is one I'm really comfortable and stable in, and it makes me feel effective as a positional blocker. ("Positional" is when you block just by being in a space, as opposed to actively trying to hit someone. Despite being small, I am really good at getting in front of someone and staying in their way -- not so good at hitting. My intended hitting "victims" usually giggle as I bounce off them. Things to work on.)

Later in practice, we did some "drimmage" -- a drill that works on situational game play. This particular drill rarely leaves me with any sense of success. Whether I'm blocking or jamming, I usually feel defeated, confused, and stupid. Last night the jamming part felt pretty OK. Blocking is still a giant clustermess for me, though in one jam I managed to stay in front of L'exi-Cuter (one of our absolutely star jammers, and a lovely Bombshell to boot) long enough for another blocker to come up and help contain her. She eventually got out, which was bound to happen, but for a few seconds I felt effective.

I did find out I'm on the 16-player roster to travel with the All-Stars out to the Pacific Northwest at the end of August. We are playing 3 games against some of the top teams in the world, in Portland, Seattle, and Olympia. We can only play 14 women for each game, so I am hoping to get into a game or two. Sometimes people travel and do not wind up playing, so I'm prepping myself for that possibility as well. 

Most importantly, last night was the last practice for the "boot camp" that starts with Minnesota RollerGirls tryouts in June (or was it May this year?) and ends with some of them getting drafted to the four MNRG home teams in August. There are about 24 hopeful bootcampers this year. Many of them were on Debs with me; a handful went through boot camp with me last summer; some were new Debs I worked with this past year. I count about 12 of them as very-close derby-friends, and one is one of my very dearest real-life friends as well. And only 13 or so will be drafted. It's so heartbreaking and gut-wrenching that I have a hard time remembering that a good chunk of them WILL be drafted, and I'll get to skate with them all year! The draft is on Sunday. Eeeeek!

Well it's almost noon on the most beautiful, perfect day. Time to get outside. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

One month 'til the season starts!

One month from tonight is the first game of the Minnesota RollerGirls' Season 9. Can't believe it's only a month out -- I am getting VERY excited for the start of home season. I was so nervous and frightened and intimidated at the start of last season, and I think it might be a different story this year. But I can't wait to find out.

Last night at practice we scrimmaged with the men's team in town, the Twin Cities Terrors (AKA Minnesota Men's Roller Derby). They have a game coming up and they wanted to practice playing someone other than themselves. It's always exhilarating skating with -- and against -- the boys. They're bigger than we are, in general, and have different muscles and centers of gravity. But they've always been coached by members of our team, so they employ a lot of the same strategies and terms. When we play them we get to wear our pretty All-Star jerseys and Serious Bottoms, plus there are boatloads of refs and non-skating officials on hand, so it feels festive, like a real bout.

Before the scrimmage started, one of our team leaders called out, "Hey, even though it's just a scrimmage, try not to cut the track!" (Cutting the track is a penalty that can get you sent to the penalty box and temporarily out of the game, leaving your team short a player.)

And I thought, hmm. As a team we have been doing a lot of mental preparation, including "practicing how we play." We hit hard, skate hard, play hard during practices, so that our bodies instinctively  know what to do in an actual bout. Shouldn't that also apply to trying to avoid penalties?

It's no secret that in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, losing all 3 games we played, we were absolutely plagued by penalties. I jammed, and I don't remember lining up behind a full pack but maybe one or two times, way early in the game. I've been watching the MNRG All-Stars for two years now, and when it comes to big games the team seems to always be plagued by penalties. So it would seem to follow that we should practice NOT committing penalties.

Ack! Joel just got home, time to make dinner. Cheers!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

I'm baaaaaaack.

Keep your socks on, but I'd like to start blogging again. To make it easy on myself, I'm not going to take time to catch everyone up or give a ton of backstory. If you care enough that you're here reading, then just jump right in!

Had a solid practice* tonight. We started by talking a bit about a couple chapters of the book we've been reading, The Mental Edge by Kenneth Baum.
(*If you're SUPER behind, I am still playing roller derby and made the All-Star team for the Minnesota RollerGirls this summer. We practice 2 hours, three days per week and are ranked somewhere around #10 in the world)

The talk was lovely. As I reread the chapters to prep for the meeting, I was surprised how many elements of the book I am already incorporating into my mental preparation. For example: when the going gets tough (at practice or in a bout), I have learned to tell myself "I live for these moments!" instead of "This sucks and is hard." Also, when I get anxious about derby, I remind myself that events have no importance except what I give them. It's a whole bunch of little things but I can feel that my mind is stronger, which makes my game stronger. It makes ME stronger.

Back when I was in Debu-Taunts (the rec league, as recently as 14 months ago), I would get physically ill before every practice, because I was so nervous. But reading this book has changed everything -- last week I played against Denver and Philly (#2 and #4 in the world, respectively) and I felt GOOD. I felt excited and focused and ready.

So practice was good. We did some new warmups, which were good and welcome. We worked on some agility, some quick-stops and direction-changes, and then worked some strategy things. The strategy stuff is my absolute Achilles' heel -- I feel SO outclassed and outbrained when it comes to strategy. Today one of my captains mentioned some "training zones:" the Comfort Zone, when you're just playing and having fun but not learning or working on anything; the Learning Zone, and the Panic Zone, when your brain is full and you feel like you're drowning.

I'm in the Panic Zone by the end of most All-Star practices. My brain is full, and I just feel like I can't learn or try anything more. I feel useless and messy out there. Hearing about the zones didn't make that panic go away today, but it was nice to be able to identify and name it

OK I'm not going to set myself up for failure here by writing a novel my first time back. I'm going to polish off this Coors Light and hit the shower.