Back on Track

Yesterday we (The Skateful Dead) hosted another of our co-ed, mixed scrims. The big difference (for me) was that this was my return to the track!

First off I want to thank everyone for turning up and making this possible. Skaters travelled from near and far to take part. We had four down from Scotland, via Newcastle and four over from Hull. Closer to home players from Oldham and Leeds. (I hope I’ve missed anyone!) Refs and NSOs too, thank you for giving your time.

I was terribly nervous about playing again. Despite an early night on Friday, sleep seemed to evade me. Talking to a few of the Hull’s Angels it seemed that I was not alone, they were nervous too. However, once I got on track I was fine. I think that being in familiar surroundings helped, it was just like a practice session! The first half passed very quickly, the second half I noticed with 12 minutes to go, then it was gone.

I was also very pleased with the spirit with which everyone played. I was on the white team. Eleven of us, with Iron Giant elected as the captain. When it came to bench management we just took it in turns, with no regard to the score. Perfect :-)

I got to jam three times. The first time I got stuck behind the wall – the wall being El Nassar. She is an amazing blocker! I didn’t even get into the wall. Good job El!

The second time the lesson that I learnt was how important the team can be. They clearing a path for me and I just ran for it and scored 10 points before calling the jam. (I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’d realised that the black jammer was coming round and that calling the jam was probably the right thing to do.)

The third time I got lucky as two of the black blockers got called on penalties, leaving just two on track. This made getting round easier and I got another 10.

The other worry that I had was that I wouldn’t be able to take hits. I did take hits and, as far as I can tell at the time of writing (25 minutes passed midnight) I don’t think that I’m injured :-) From memory, Kurt Copain got a good hit on me, Optimus Grime got two, which would have been three if El hadn’t knocked me out of the way first.

I hope that some of the blocking skills of Rigs and Ripunzel(?) have rubbed off on me. Really good situational awareness, reformation of the wall and recycling.

Penalties? I got called on a destruction of pack. Happy with that. I’m keen to avoid any of the “likely to cause injury” penalties, such as high block, back block etc. One penalty in a an hour is fine.

Skaters, for the record and in no particular order (corrections please):

White: Iron Giant, Pixel Vixen, Riggs, Ripunzel, Heineken, Blazing Inferno, Ned, Rollerphobia, Phil S Stein, Chris de Blur, sk8geek

Black: Block Teaser, Knuckleduster Nat, El Nassar, Tripping the Velvet, Killer Blow Armstrong, Bruise Dog, Whyte & MacDie, Kurt Copain, Optimus Grime, Buckingham Malice

I want to finish with a thank you to Iron Giant, Pixel Vixen, Knuckleduster Nat and Block Teaser for coming over from Hull. As readers may know, I have foisted myself upon Hulls Angels as a photographer. I have seen them play many times. Yesterday I got to skate with four of them. So much fun! Thank you Dames :-)

Right, still buzzing, so sleep seems improbable, but I suppose I should try :-)

 

Too busy working to write

(A shameless play on the title of Kozmic Bruise’s recent post.)

At the end of June I started a new job. I need to learn a new framework, which is taking a share of my waking hours. Writing about events long after they have happened is such a chore, but I don’t feel that I can really just skip over them. Here then is a summary of things that I would have blogged about if I’d found the time.

Sur5al (Barrow in Furness)

June 21. Skateful Dead made the journey up to Barrow in Furness to take part in a men’s Sur5al tournament. I tagged along with my camera.

Sur5al is a variant of roller derby in which teams play each other in a series of two minute jams. The teams score points based on who gets lead (jammer) and who wins the jam. Most points wins. The points scored are secondary, used in the event of a tie in “Sur5al” points. There were eleven teams, some of which included Team England players. Skateful Dead didn’t expect to win, but they would make it fun and learn from it.

Men sprawled on the floorThe day was well organised. I took lots of photos and posted 464 of them to Flickr. On the down side Ballistic Whistle was a dick – giving the referee a double thumbs down gesture all the way round to the penalty box when he got called. Very disappointing to see such behaviour from a top player.

Generally, game play seemed to go completely out of the window. I have never felt that men play in the same spirit as women. Sur5al just seemed to turn it into a mindless mess of people getting hit and ending up sprawled across the floor. The came away from the event feeling rather disheartened. Skateful Dead did reasonably well, though looking back I can’t see just how well. I did note though that two of our team had no penalties – cleanest team in the tournament, of which I am very proud.

(Also, note of thanks to Knuckleduster Nat for looking after our merchandise. Thank you!)

Humberstruck

SonicJune 29. I headed over to Hull to capture the first such tournament to be organised by Hull’s Angels. (162 photos on Flickr.)

There were four teams taking part, The Banditas, The Crucibelles, Hull’s Angels and LRD Whip-Its. Each team played every other team in 30 minute games. The Bandita’s won.

As is always the case when the Angels are involved it was well organised and loads of fun.

Co-ed Scrim Cancelled

The Skateful Dead co-ed mixed scrim scheduled for 19 July was cancelled.

Sur5al (Oldham)

On August 2 the Skateful Dead came second in the tournament, beaten only by the Barrow Infernos. Really good job!

That pretty much sums things up. The Skateful Dead host their next co-ed scrim on 30 August at Whitcliffe Mount. I should be on track for that game – nervous and excited. Tickets are available through the event page on Facebook. I hope to see some familiar faces on track with me :-)

Two Day Weekend

Banditas vs LRD – Whip Its

GremLynn and Fury LaneOn Saturday I was at North Bridge Leisure Centre as the Bandita’s photographer. They played Leeds Roller Dolls Whip Its in a very close game. Whip Its were first to score, but from then the lead changed with just about every other jam. Faye Tality got knocked down – not seen that before! It was hard work for both teams. Whip Its were only playing with 11 skaters (14 is the usual count) so they had extra work to do. There were a few hard hits, but it was a pretty clean game.

I started this roller derby malarkey about 14 months ago. I’ve only bouted once due to injury and so I’ve ended up photographing the sport. I felt, on Saturday, that I was very much part of the community. There were people there that I knew. Obviously I know the Banditas, but there ere friends over from Hull too. The bloke from Taut let me have a go with his rather nice 85mm lens. Jupe was skating for LRD, so Andy was there to support her. I recognised one of the LRD A team players. A handful of my Dead bros were there too.

TrippingAlso spectating, for his second time, was a neighbour. I recognise him from the commute, we say hello. Last time he brought his daughter to a bout (as they were back then) we had a chat, though they left at half time as she had found it too loud. This time they’d brought some ear protectors for her :-) We spoke again; he said that he felt that roller derby provided good role models for his daughter (I estimate that she’s six). That made me feel rather pleased/proud.

The second half was a tough as the first. I saw Ninja Nina pass the star – it must have been hard work! It looked like Leeds would win but in the end the Banditas clinched it 138 to 129.

Training

After the rain of Saturday, Sunday was sunny and warm (yeah, it rained later, what do expect?!). I got to Whitcliffe a little after 2pm and couldn’t persuade Phil to take part in an off skate warm up, so I did it myself :-)

It was hot in the hall. After the usual stretching we kicked off with an exercise that I came up with a bit ago (yeah me!) before starting the session proper. It wasn’t long before we were all rather sweaty! I felt that the stuff we were doing shouldn’t have been such hard work, but it was.

We did a load of agility stuff, toe stop dancing, which I’ve been nervous about in the past. There was plenty of opportunity to play the jammer role too, which I do enjoy. Then we broke Bilb – a fall caused him to twist his knee. The other one. Not good :-/

I finished my litre of water and was pleased that I’d brought extra with me. Towards the end of the session I stopped twice to catch my breath – obviously need to push the aerobic exercise during the week!

I closed off the weekend playing Battlefield with Elliot :-)

Scotland

Hull's Angels Roller Derby in AberdeenThis weekend I had the privilege to travel up to Scotland With Hull’s Angels Roller Dames as one of their photographers. They had two games lined up, Granite City Roller Girls in Aberdeen on Saturday then Dundee’s Silvery Tayzers on Sunday.

Both games were close!

Granite City

We travelled up to Aberdeen on the Friday, a nine hour journey by coach. It was sunny and the banter on the great. Some of the team played “guess who”, others read, slept or watched videos on their tablet. We got there at around 10pm, so just time for a very quick drink before everyone retired for the day.

Aberdeen is a beautiful city, made more so by the wonderful weather. I was up and out early with my camera. The beach was just a 20 minute walk away, though I wondered on along the docks to try and get some photos of the ships. I was out for about two and half hours arriving back just in time to have breakfast with the others. We had the morning to explore the city before piling back into the coach to drive to the sports hall. This, it turned out, overlooks the sea and was just a little further on than I’d walked that morning.

Jammer on JammerThe game started around 3pm. Claud Apart took lead in the first jam and scored 25 points. Nice one!

(My impression of games that I’ve photographed for the Angels is that they always win. The last one that I saw was a massive win by over 500 points. So perhaps this game would be more of the same?)

HARD continued to lead through the first half, though it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be an easy game. By half time Granite City had 82 against HARD 85.

HARD CakeThe second half was more of the same. HARD where, I think, always ahead, but never by a comfortable margin. Right up to the final whistle the game could have gone either way.

The final score was 166 Granite City to 177 Hull’s Angels – a hard fought game, one that was nerve racking to watch.

The after party was great, the Granite City team made a beautiful cake!

Silvery Tayzers

After another night in Aberdeen we set off for Dundee at 10.30am, just a good hour down the road. The game was at DISC, which whilst a little dated seems like a really good indoor sports venue. We had plenty of time to buy merchandise and raffle tickets before first whistle at 2pm.

Again HARD took the lead from the start, but the Silvery Tayzers were never far behind. Hull lead all the way through the first half but occasional penalties gave Dundee power jams allowing them to catch up. The half time score was Hull 92 to Dundee 85!

After the break the Angels came out fighting and (from memory) took lead in the first two jams. But then the Tayzers knuckled down caught and passed them, eeking out a lead that the Angels seemed unable to close. The penalties were racking up on both sides, Iron Giant fouled out, shortly followed by [#89] the Tayzer’s captain.

Both teams were having to fight for every point. With just 11 seconds on the clock it was Tayzers 173 to Angels 163. The Angels called a time out to enable one more jam. Claud was put on to jam for HARD and give it her all, got lead and got a scoring pass. Then another. The jam ended with the score board showing 177 to 173, but the Tayzers had scored points and the jam ref indicated 4 points. It was a draw at 177 points each!!

But there are no draws in roller derby though. The scores were double checked and found to be accurate and so the head referee called for another 2 minute jam.

The tension in the room was unbearable! D-Mac took to the track to jam against Crazily Insanne for the Tayzers. D-Mac got through first and powered round for a scoring pass. Insanne also got a few scoring passes before the HARD blockers shut her down. D-Mac went through again, and again and again, again, again again! Then the whistle blew. HARD had won! The final score was HARD 207 to Dundee 189. What a way for a game to end! There were tears all round, myself included.

The lessons to take away from this? 1, team work and 2, never give up!

HARD – I love you! Thank you for a wonderful weekend :-)

Happy

Today’s training session was, in a word, awesome!

I was particularly impressed by the newer skaters.

I refrain from calling them “newbies” as that might come over as condescending, which is not my intention at all. A few of the drills involved giving and taking hits. This is something that I’m really not very good at. I was in a three with Rob and Travis. Rob is a lovely bloke, always jolly and willing to help. Travis is our newest skater, but he didn’t stop once throughout the session. He’s boney! I expect my arms to be various colours over the next week or so. He through himself into every part of the session and even had a go at jamming in the scrim.

We did another drill which first called for four volunteers – I was there in a flash. They were to jam, one at a time, against the remainder of players who formed a pack – of seven Ash, seven! ;-) When they got knocked out or down then they stopped, joined the back of the jammer line and the next one went. It was great! I didn’t get through once I don’t think, but i gave it 100% effort. Apologies to Phil for continually hitting on his shoulder – I’m also a boney beggar!

Endurance, a regular occurrence, was 40.5 in 7.5 – if my maths is correct. I think I managed 42, though I wasn’t counting, that’s based on what others got and how many times they passed me.

Finally we scrimmaged. It was a small affair, half an hour, five on one side, six on the other. Really good fun though. Now I need to rest, my arms/shoulders ache! :-)

Thanks Gillie/Carly – top session!

 

 

Not So Official

On Saturday I was at Futsal stadium in Leeds (Cottingley actually) wearing grey.

Grey is worn by Non-Skating Officials (NSOs) as they are impartial. They form an important part of the crew that goes into putting on a game. They track penalties, keep score and perform time keeping. I’ve NSO’d a few times, always as a penalty box timer. I’d recommend this role to anyone who hasn’t NSO’d before, wants to help out, but perhaps feels a bit nervous about it. You’re basically timing two blockers and you have two other NSOs in the penalty box with you. If you’re not sure you can just ask.

Leeds Roller Dolls had organised two scrimmages back to back. The first was to orignally to be a womens advanced game, the second and intermediate mixed game. In the end, due to a lack of players they were both mixed games.

For the first game I was Penalty Box Manager. So, rather than timing a pair of blockers I was resposible for timing the jammers. This is slightly more complicated as the penalties are not always 30 seconds. There must be a jammer on track at all times, so sometimes the penalties are shorter. My Penalty Timers were Kelly and Larni, who used to play for the Banditas. It was good to have friends with me. We managed just fine and didn’t go too far wrong.

For the second game I’d been assigned Jam Timer! My responsibility was timing the periods, jams and intervals/team timeouts. The periods are easy, two of thirty minutes each, and jams/intervals are easy too as they rarely run to the full two minutes. (Three jams did so whilst I was timing.) The interesting bit is when timeouts are called. Team timeouts are 60 seconds, official timeouts as long as they need to be. The period clock stops for the duration of the timeout. Written down it sounds very straight forward, but the twiddly bits around duration of the interval when mixed in with timeouts requires some thought. It’s a job for two stopwatches and I got to use my whistle :-)

A big thank you to XCon-Vick for giving me the opportunity to learn new roles and Stat for reassuring me about my knowledge of the rules. A benefit gained from NSOing first hand is an improved understanding of “the twiddly bits”. I have already started making improvements to my Penalty Timer and Jam Timer apps as a result.

Four Day Weekend

Four Day Weekend
The bank holidays doubled the length of this weekend and I made good use of it.

I have set myself a goal. I want to return to playing roller derby and when I do so I want to ‘good‘ at it. ‘Good‘ isn’t a precise measure and isn’t benchmarked. There will always be players better than I am, and less experienced players who have yet to catch up to me. ‘Good‘ is my own perception of how I’m doing, whether or not I’m pushing myself and whether or not I’m improving.

Over the past four days I have skated every day. On Friday I skated quads in the park and found that by changing the lacing my feet feel more secure in my skates. I’m still far from comfortable on toe-stops but this has helped. Saturday I did my usual gym/swim combo in the morning and then hit the park in the afternoon. In-lines this time, chilling and messing around with cone slalom.

Sunday was Skateful Dead practice and it was brilliant. Some of us got there early and did off skate warm up. I lead this, re-using many of the activities that Chris at Motive8 has tortured me with at boot camp. Thanks Chris! During practice there were loads of good drills too. I managed two things that I was pleased with. As a jammer I snook through on the inside of the wall and I also managed to unbalance Buckingham Malice. I didn’t knock him down, not even close, but just to see him react to a hit was satisfying :-)

We also did an endurance section, speed laps for 60 seconds interspersed with various exercises (press-ups, plank, etc). Really hard work, but with much quiet cursing, achievable.

SkatersMonday was sunny and so I was back on skates in the park. I’ve skated in People’s Park for many years, most of that time alone. This time though Carly organised a bit of a picnic and there were loads of us, mainly Dead but a few from Leeds too. I was challenged to slalom the 50cm spaced cones and, amazingly, managed to do so without knocking any down. I skated in-lines again, taking some stick from the others who were all on quads. It was lovely to have company.

In amongst all the skating I managed to find time to go out with friends and drink beer/eat pizza, sit and eat with my kids, my dad (who was up from Nottingham) and my mum, sister and niece/nephew who are over from Berlin.

I leave you with links to two videos. The first is Demetrious George, an aggressive skater, jumping up to a 5’10″ high edge. His flexibility and one-leg squats are a (distant) goal. The second is Naomi Grigg, a well know skater from London, showing how to do the Grapevine on in-line skates. The third pivot continues to elude me.

Derby Packed

Last weekend was one full of roller derby.

Skateful Scrim

Heave!Saturday saw The Skateful Dead host our second open co-ed scrimmage. The first was back in February and was well received; The second seemed just as popular. We had a good mix of players from various teams, a few who used to skate but no longer do and a few ex-fellow skaters :-)

Some of the players were big guys, Slam C Nesbitt and Jason Slaysthem for instance, and I would have been nervous stepping on track. The game was played in good spirit though, there were few penalties and thankfully no injuries.

I made it to the after party briefly and got to chat to Bruise Dog and Turbulinz who had travelled down from Glasgow! They had called in to scrim on the way down to Liverpool!

HARD

Sunday I made the, now familiar, journey over to Hull to photograph the lovely Hulls Angels. They were hosting two games:

B-HARD versus SOFT (Some Other Filthy Team)

DollyIf the team names were anything to go by then I felt that the first game would be good natured. B-HARD consisted of a few of the A team players and, I imagine, others who skate for HARD but had rarely/if ever bouted. It was the first time that I’d seen Ju on skates! SOFT was made up of a collection of other filthy skaters. I recognised a few and found out that three of them were from The Imposters! (They had played the Bandita’s the previous week.)

SOFT got off to a flying start and never looked back. The half time score was SOFT 147 to B-HARD 65. I didn’t note the final score; I think B-HARD just got into three figures but SOFT own by quite a margin.

HARD versus Haunted City

May TronHulls Angels Roller Dames are undefeated this season and so they obviously wanted a win.

From the get go they played incredibly well! Stunningly good jammers sliced through the pack, quickly taking lead in all but a few of the jams. Their blockers were horribly effective too. If the opposing jammer managed to stay on track for any length of time then they were bogged down by text book recycling! (Is there a roller derby text book?)

About half way in to the first period one of Haunted City skaters fell and didn’t get up. Not something that you ever get used to seeing. She just lay motionless on the track. The jam halted, everyone took a knee and the medics were called over. At first I thought she’d been knocked unconscious but she hadn’t. She was carefully tended to and once her skates were removed she was helped off track. A collective sign of relief was breathed and the game continued.

By half time the score stood at HARD 300 against Haunted City 9 – their unbeaten streak looked safe, but they didn’t ease off in the second half and pushed the score to 593 versus 38 by the final whistle.

Happy!Of note though was the spirit with which Haunted City continued to play. At no point did they seem down-heartened or stop trying. Ginge, their key jammer, was smiley all of the time – I’m sure she won many new fans today, myself included. Derby spirit at it’s best!

(Photo stats. I took 1,550 photos across the two games. Following review I once again find that this results in around one photo per minute. I posted 57 and 68 photos respectively.)

Hulls Angels next games are 31 May/1 June up in Scotland. I’m trying to figure out how I can get up there to capture those games.

Harder Better Faster Stronger

I feel that this weekend is the start of my getting my derby shit together.

Last Wednesday I had an “MOT” with Chris Baird at Motive8. A few of friends at work have him as a personal training. When I was training for the Abbey Dash 10k in 2012 I went to the weekly boot camp sessions that he ran. I really rate him.

He’d asked me to keep a food diary. At the MOT he took fat measurements at various points and from that he’ll be recommending dietary changes. My disc injury limits what exercise I can (should) do and he’ll be taking that into account. Already though he has confirmed that swimming a good aerobic exercise.

The Men’s Roller Derby World Championship also took place in Birmingham over the weekend. I couldn’t afford to travel down for it, but I spent much of Friday evening, Saturday and some of Sunday cursing the Livestream feed for failing just at interesting points. As expected Team USA won by an easy margin, but this was not the main take away from the weekend. The Japanese and Argentinian teams won the hearts of the derby community, travelling great distances with small teams and little resources. When it transpired that the Argentine team had run out of money a hat was passed around the stadium and a collection of over £1,000 raised for them. On a personal level I was pleased to be able to say to my kids “I’ve skated with…” or “I know him/her”. Two people I want to mention are Captain Malice, who did a damn fine job commentating. I’ve bouted with him! Also Beat Monkey. He was blogging the event but did so anonymously.

Early Saturday I’d been swimming but my arms were tired and I felt that I’d made a poor effort. I came away rather disappointed; the MRDWC gave me the perfect excuse to mope around the house. My son came down later in the day, so we watched a film while I tried to fix his very dead laptop.

Sunday was a slow start and it seemed that I wouldn’t make it to Skateful practice. The trains weren’t running (again) due to engineering works and my usual lift was down in Birmingham. But it all ended well. I managed to get lifts to and from practice and was so pleased that I made it.

Some of us got there early and did 30 minutes off-skate warm up. Perhaps over-did would be a better description. I’ve been advised not to run (repeated jarring) but managed five laps of the tennis courts (yes, it’s a tiny distance, but after nine months off I was quite pleased with myself). Then we did various activities to really work our thighs.
The session was all minimum skills. I loved it! Hardly any hitting but skating non-stop in derby stance. That pretty much finished off my legs. Today I’ve found going down stairs progressively more painful as the day has worn on – a good pain though – one that I haven’t experienced in ages.

When I got home I had a sensible dinner, joined a gym and prepared a healthy lunch for today! Then I went to bed at 10.30 so I’d get a good nights sleep.

The first steps on my journey to building a stronger me :-)

Wheels on my feet

All this week it’s been sunny in the afternoon. From my rather nice window seat at the new offices in Leeds I have wished that I was out skating. So on Saturday I did just that.

It’s been quite a while since I put my in-line skates on and got out into the park. It wasn’t too long before they felt familiar. The first thing that I noticed is how grippy tarmac is compared to the sports halls that I’ve become used to skating in. At derby practice I’ve been working asymmetric plough stops – doing those on tarmac took a little bit of testing to get the balance right, but I managed it with my right leg braking. (Didn’t try left leg – favouritism.)

I skated for about 90 minutes and then went and had tea my mum’s – an unexpected bonus – cottage pie! Then I headed over to Whitcliffe Mount sports centre. A handful of the Dead we’re going to the roller disco! This was a 7pm start and we paid a little extra to stay for both sessions, finished at 9.45. There wasn’t much dancing and as there was a track marked out we may have engaged in some blocking. There was also a line of cones, which is always a draw :-)

Today was practice. We had a new bod start and also a guest from Deathrow Hull! I stepped out of some drills – looking after myself! So, another two hours on wheels, bringing the total this weekend to a little over six hours.

Very pleased!