Last night, carrying my new Riedell Vandal 265's in a vintage plaid bag that I bought for a buck at a yard sale last weekend, I hit the Palladium with the other girls for our first official Fresh Meat only practice. Our head coach, Charlie Red Stick, gave my new skates a mysterious adjustment and out I went.
We started with 15 laps in a pace line, which means we are all in one line following a leader around the track. We had to stay in our "derby form," which means we skate around in a squat-like position. It's better to stay low to the ground, I think for both balance and speed. My legs and lower back were really starting to throb by lap 12 or 13, but it soon ended and we were allowed to stretch in the middle of the rink.
Besides Charlie, our coaches last night were Heather Headlocklear (who is still off skates per doctor's orders after giving birth 3.5 weeks ago!), Bronco (Ref), and Crushed N. Slayedher (Ref). We went around the room and said a little blurb about what we had learned the night before. As for me, well, I learned what happens to one's head when one's helmet is just slightly askew. (Update on the forehead: the lump is still red and very tender.) Then the coaches spoke for a bit and I thought the best advice came from Heather who said that we should not compare ourselves to the other skaters, because everyone is at different levels and we all learn at different rates. That's pretty good advice, because I am constantly comparing myself to others.
We then did the shopping cart drill. This drill involves two people. One person is in front squatting in derby form and the other is behind and pushes the other girl forward. Thanks to some personal instruction from Pixie Painful two weekends ago, I was ready for this drill. I have trouble pushing, but it helped steady me to have someone in front. As for being the person being pushed, Pixie instructed me on how to go through corners by staying low to the ground and extending the right leg out to the side to help steer us. It felt good to start the night with something I could actually do.
Charlie then wanted to work on stopping. She wanted us to skate halfway down the rink and then stop with a plow stop and then skate to the other wall, do a quick turnaround, and stop backwards on our toe stops. I could hear a collective shudder go around the room. Heather must have heard it too, because she asked if any of us needed assistance. I think almost half of us went to the side to practice these stopping techniques while the other half went and completed the drill.
We started with the backwards toe stop. Okay, so I really can only go forward at this point and have not worked on turning around while in motion. Coach Slayedher took some time to work with me on turning around and said not to worry about the stop just yet. Sound advice, because it probably should be learned in increments. I still had not mastered turning around by the time we started on plow stops. Half the group went and joined the rest of the team, while about six of us stayed behind and worked on plow stops.
I guess the best way to describe a plow stop is to think of how you would stop if on skis and pointing the tips of the skis together to plow through the snow. It's the same concept here, except there are no skis. You have to spread your legs pretty far apart, squat down like you are taking a massive dump (or giving birth to a massive baby), and then put pressure on the outer wheels. I've been practicing these in rental skates since tryouts with minimal success. Perhaps the wider wheels of my new skates helped, but I think the real Aha! moment came when Heather Headlocklear said to turn my knees in toward the end of the stop. It totally worked! Coach Slayedher seemed pretty impressed and encouraged me to try stopping while going at a faster speed. Yes! After last night's fiasco of a practice, it felt so good to actually be able to do something with some success.
Because I stuck around to do more stopping drills, I missed the hip bump drill. When I rejoined the pack we were working on a Do-Si-Do drill whereby you whip your partner around and then she whips you. (This is accomplished by extending your fist behind you and your parter then grabs on with two hands and gets pulled around for some massive forward momentum.) I was partnered with FM Natalie, whose nose is in remarkable shape after meeting my forehead on Monday night. I have no problem being whipped around (though I need to learn to move my feet and not to coast through the turns), but I have not had much luck at whipping others. I have lots of upper body strength, so I'm not quite sure if I'm not using it correctly or if I'm still too unsteady on my skates to get any momentum behind this action.
FM Daisy and I were then partnered up for some sort of cone drill where we had to look behind us to see the number of fingers our partner was holding up. This seemed like a pretty confusing drill and I'm still not sure we did it correctly. We then worked on jammer starts. There are two different kinds. The first is where you run on your toe stops and I'm pretty terrified of this one. The second is called a duck start, I think. You run with a wider stance, but on all wheels. And then we ended up having some clockwise (yikes!) cool down laps and an organized group stretch. We did not stretch after Monday night's practice, so I really liked that we took the time to do this.
So overall, I had a much more positive experience than Monday night's practice. It was calmer and I did not feel as singled out as much as I did the other night. I did take a nasty fall to my right hip, but there's lots of padding there and it doesn't seem to be too damaged. I also put pressure on my right wrist when I fell. There's already a bruise on my palm from Monday night's many falls, so double ouch.
And did you notice? There was no crying! Yay for me!
After practice, FM Daisy and I picked up my BF and we went for some celebratory ice cream at Marianne's, where we were instructed by annoying tourists on how to go inside and get a number. While waiting in a ridiculously long line for a Tuesday night, we posted the latest bout poster on Marianne's bulletin board!