Bouldering

The last time I played roller derby was on 6 May last year. I’d organised a birthday scrim for Hylander and Fox. We had a handful of friendly referees, only three NSOs and just enough skaters to make it six a side. We made a mess of laying the track. Despite all this it was a lovely game and I felt it was a natural point to quit the sport.

I’m still skating in-lines, as a have done for almost 15 years now. That makes roller derby seem like a blip in the time line! On holiday in Berlin last August I covered plenty of kilometres, most noticeably Skate by Night and a roll out to Tempelhof airport.

I’ve also reverted to climbing. I have climbed for many years, possibly more than I’ve skated? I’ve managed occasional visits to The Depot and Leeds Wall in recent years, but there are only so many hours in the day.

I am now bouldering regularly, often two or three times a week. I’m taking part in the bouldering leagues and I’m seeing noticeable improvement in my ability.

I can’t help but compare it to roller derby. There are no ‘teams’ exactly; the ability to climb a problem rests solely with the climber. But I often climb with Rachel (colleague) and Colin (her boyfriend) and we tackle to problems differently/together/as a ‘team’.

The community is very friendly and willing to give advice. It’s perhaps even more inclusive than roller derby? Climbers of different gender, physical build and ability all co-exist without issue. The barriers to entry are very small too. Children as young as five (my estimate) through to adults even older than me are regulars. Equipment requirements are minimal, shoe hire an option for those wanting to try out.

The things that I miss from roller derby are the sweatiness, the physical contact and some of the people. Co-ed games were the most fun because the macho players generally stayed away from them.

Would I go back to playing? Maybe…

 

 

 

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Abducted by Aliens?

If you were to beginning to think that this is what had happened to me, then (1) thank you for noticing and (2) nothing so exciting, I’ve just been crazy busy. I still have a kitchen cupboard door full of post-it notes, each one a task to complete.

HARD vs Harlots

Rosie PeacockThe smart thing to do before leaving for a ten day holiday would have been to sort out the flat. I though made the short trip to Leeds to take photos of the games there.

The first game was my lovely Hull’s Angels against Nottingham’s Hellfire Harlots. Both Iron Giant and Claud Apart were missing from the line up. The Harlots were clearly the stronger team and controlled the game from the start. The final score of 344 to 35 reflected this.

Leeds Roller Dolls vs Checkerbroads

On the edgeWhilst I was there I had to stay for this game, and I was very pleased that I had. On paper LRD should have enjoyed a comfortable win against Manchester’s Checkbroads, but then paper doesn’t *always* translate well on to the track. The Manchester walls were very disciplined and LRD’s jammers didn’t slip through as easily as I’ve seen them do in the past. Of note was Tori Bee whose jamming skills were excellent. During the second period Leeds pulled ahead and won with 192 against 125. A very respectable score by Manchester.

I spent the evening backing up photos and preparing for my holiday.

Berlin

BuchstabenmuseumMy sister and her family live in Berlin. This would be perhaps the fourth time I’d visited, from memory the second Easter visit. I’ve twice been over in summer and taken part in Skate By Night. I wasn’t expecting great weather this trip, though I packed my in-lines just in case.

I was impressed by EasyJet (both outbound and on the return journey) and would definitely fly with them again. My children were with me, of course, and Elliot found the leg room a little tight.

It was lovely to see my sister, Thomas and their children in their home environment. They visit England, but spending time with the children there was wonderful. They are so funny. Calisto is into electronics, as am I, so we had lots of interesting conversations. Summer came out with some hilarious dry lines – and eight year old who owns a Sarcasm Ball (rather like the Magic 8 Ball) is going to go far.  Sol is rather grown up and lived on his X-Box. Tom was funny and polite.

Many of the evenings were spent playing card games. Super Mario across six DSs was also popular and playing GTA V and getting “wasted” was also great fun. We visited museums and landmarks, as you do, though we’d been to some before.

On the skate front I made it out onto the square a little, though I did hit debris whilst going backwards, which stopped my skate and landed my on my left butt cheek. It hurt a little but I carried on. Since then a huge bruise (NSFW) developed and bending on that side has been painful. This didn’t stop me skating further though. One day we went to Tempelhof (ex-airport). Thomas, Tom and Calisto cycled there, I skated, skated 10km whilst there and then skated back. Later in the week I got up early and skated about 20km in a little over three hours. An easy pace – most enjoyable.

Every time I visit Berlin I fall in love with it a little more. This trip was no different; I need to come up with a plan to move out there. Friday I was suffering post holiday blues an spent the day moping around the flat.

Berlin photos on Flickr

Reffing Cherry

Since attending the LRD Referee Boot Camp back in March I’ve been keen to practice what I’d learnt. The HARD Easterish Scrim provided an ideal opportunity and that filled my Saturday. I was pleased to spot some track cuts, though I was too slow to call them – other refs calling them ahead of me. There’s a lot of concentration required – I’d rather be on track – it’s easier!

Many thanks HARD for the practice, especially Beat Monkey for his guidance and Miley Si Rush for lending me his zebra top (and letting me keep it for the time being).

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Two Years

Today is my second Derbyversary!

It seems that one doesn’t have a party for such things, but any derby events around now surely count.

Yesterday evening was the first “party”, Banditas training. It wasn’t as well attended as some have been, so the scrim didn’t really work and was quickly replaced by drills and endurance. Of note, Miffy Mayhem’s speed and jamming are excellent. Dislo-Kate-Her’s hits and blocking are hard! Gremlin is cool, we played Creepy Blocker and paired up during endurance :-)

Tomorrow’s “party2 is over in Leeds. Hull’s Angels are playing Hellfire Harlots and Leeds RD and playing Manchester. I’ll be there with my camera, possibly for both games, but I should really be packing for…

… today is also my last day at work before the Easter holiday. I have my kids for two weeks, we fly to Berlin on Sunday to spend much of that time with my sister and her family. Berlin is flat – ideal for skating. I skate in-lines there, so a bit of a break from derby, but still wheels on feet and definitely a party!

HAPPY!

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Comfort Zone

Skateful Dead

In previous posts I have pondered the metric used to measure training sessions. One that I don’t think I’ve considered is getting taken out of one’s comfort zone.

Gillie was back last week and brought with her some jammer assist drills. They were a mix of traditional assists and a few “out of bounds” assists. It was these that I particularly enjoyed.

Let me explain what I mean by “out of bounds” for the reader who’s life has yet to be consumed by roller derby. A roller derby track is an oval, with inner and outer boundaries. (These are marked with tape, and in proper games a rope beneath the tape to provide a tactile “edge”.) Skaters must keep their skates within these boundaries when playing. They can however jump out of bounds so long as they land back within bounds. This sounds impossible, but consider the inside of the turns – with enough speed and height it is possible to jump a section of the inner apex.

We’ve practised apex jumps, but this week we were practising assisted jumps. These are where the jammer uses a blocker on their team as a fulcrum whilst they jump out of bounds, typically transition 180 degrees and land back in bounds. The aim is to bypass the opposition blockers.

There were many things here that I wasn’t sure about. One, I don’t really like jumping – I like my wheels to stay on the ground. Two, when transitioning I like to lead with my right foot. It’s a bad habit that I’m working to correct, but non-the-less it’s there. And three, some of our players are quite big and heavy and I’m not, how was that going to work if they are using me for the assist? But there we were, with this concept before us and no excuse to not try it!

The assists typically take place over the inside of the track and consequently the assisted skater will be leading with their left leg. We started with assisted apex jumps and after a few attempts I was landing in bounds – toe stops for the win. Then on the straights with the “pegassist” style assist. I started of being assisted, which was fine. I again landed on toe stops and then spun around and away. Then I had a go at assisting and to my surprise I didn’t just fall over when fellow skaters swung around me!

A great session thank you Gillie!

Banditas

Thursday evening I was again at practice with the Bruising Banditas.

We started with an excellent drill that they called “creepy blocker”. Neither Buckingham nor myself were familiar with it, and when demonstrated I think it’s fair to say that we both considered that it looked pretty straight forward. Working in pairs the aim is to maintain contact and prevent the other person from getting ahead of you on track. It quickly became apparent that it is not only quite difficult but also tiring! Definitely a drill that we’ll be taking away, though I wonder if men will go for hits?

After a mix of other drills we did an endurance drill. This is one I was familiar with, we’ve used it at our sessions. It’s a minute sprint, 30 second coast then transition and sprint anti-derby direction for a minute. Rinse, repeat. We tagged on the coffin drill for three minutes at the end. From this I found that Sonic Ruth is so speedy – passed me in both directions!

We finished with Queen of the Track. Lesson here was that Dislo-Kate-Her hits hard and can absorb hits too!

Thank you again Banditas!

Miscellaneous

  • I quit the gym. I’m struggling to find time to get there and every time I do I aggravate the injury to my left foot. I wanted to suspend membership, but that wasn’t an option, so cancellation it was.
  • Monday I went for a run. 4.85km in 24m23s. This was the first of this season, so I’m pleased with the pace. It did make my foot hurt to following day. I really need to rest it. Skating is fine, it’s the repeated impacts that trigger it.
  • I got new wheels for my in-line skates, ready for Berlin.

 

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Crazy Season

Today it feels as though the roller derby season is starting in earnest; I send this post from the train on my way over to Hull via Leeds. HARD B are playing York Mixsters in a closed game.

Last Saturday I was in Halifax with the Bruising Banditas covering their game against Liverpool Roller Birds and Sheffield Steel Rollergirls against Furness Firecrackers. These games were among the first to be played as part of the newly formed British Championship. This is the largest interleague tournament in Europe consisting of both women’s and men’s teams. I’m quite pleased to be involved as a photographer and pleased that the organisers don’t seem to have imposed any restrictions on us.

Bruising Banditas vs Liverpool Roller Birds

I’ve seen the Banditas play many times, they are a strong team, but I knew nothing of Liverpool. The first few jams saw the Banditas take the lead and it seemed like a familiar pattern. Then in the seventh jam the Birds came back and drew level, scoring over twenty points in a single jam. From then on the game changed and Liverpool showed themselves to be the stronger team. They took the lead and once that lead was comfortable they were able to push it. The Liverpool walls were effective, wearing out the Banditas jammers. By the second half Faye Tality, traditionally a blocker, was being played as a jammer. The game was played in good spirits and I don’t think penalties were an issue. Liverpool Roller Birds won 259 to 131.

Sheffield Steel vs Furness Firecrackers

This game was only ever going to end in a win for the Firecrackers. They took the lead from the start and extended it throughout the game. I found the game quite difficult to photograph. The packs seemed to stay quite close to one another and so the referees were in front of me. I managed though and continue to spend my free evenings working through the resulting photos. I didn’t realise, though I spoke about it with two people on the day, that this was Sheffield’s A team. I think I’ve only seen the Crucibelles play in the past. I did recognise She-RARR (obviously) and Toulouse Le Threat though. Again, played in really good spirits. Toulouse’s “we are not worthy” worship of Weeble was funny, though I felt that she was a little embarrassed by it. Just one foul out that I’m aware of, one of the Firecrackers. Final score 270 to 54 to Furness.

Training

There were nine of us on track (plus coach and referee). We were pleased to be joined by Miffy Mayhem from the Banditas (they don’t train on the day following games). Miffy was keen to get back on track, annoyed by the loss on Saturday. I spoke to her after the gameon Saturday. They’d been practising three walls but she felt that their flat walls were then not as effective as they needed to be. Richie also joined us again – that’s three weeks in a row.

The drills were good, though I felt it look me a little longer than it should have to get my derby head on and block effectively. We try to scrim every week, an important part of the session, though obviously with small numbers on each side. This is fine though, it was another good session with all working well throughout.

The Works

Monday was the monthly “wheels on feet” event at The Works in Leeds. Good to see some familiar faces. I can’t stay I pushed myself, I hardly fell, didn’t drop in and didn’t grind anything. Soon I hope. I did chat to a few people and hopefully made steps towards setting up a game with one of the local teams fairly soon. A big thank you to Ashleigh for continuing to arrange this event. It’s well attended and improves skate skills – I always encourage Skateful Dead to come along.

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Bridge?

Last week was, I think, the worst turnout that we’ve ever had at training! Just four of us on skates, including Carly our ref. Baker was there too, though not skating as he’s injured himself. (A non-skating injury!) Good to see you Baker, missing you on track, get well soon :-)

With so few there we couldn’t stick to the training programme and a scrim was obviously out of the question. Fortunately Matt wanted to work on his minimums so that’s what we did.

It was the first time out for me in my new knee pads. Knee falls were enormous fun as the pads are way more slippery than my old ones. I could slide for ages! We also had lots of time to practice our own skills and time for some messing around too. I’ve been working on jumping two foot translations. I’ve found that going to the skate park at The Works has made me more confident about jumping. I’ve always liked to keep my skates on the floor.

Matt did really well. He ticked off his 27 in 5 with style, hits he’s always been comfortable with and falls are easy. Well done Matt!

At the end of the session I did 24 in 5 clockwise, which I was pleased with, 27 very soon I hope.

The Works

On Monday evening I made it over to The Works again. This was an extra “skaters only” that Ashleigh had organised for Gemma (I believe, as she is moving away from Leeds soon). This too was low numbers, though it was expected. Discussion in the Fraternity of Rogue Skaters group had concluded that a monthly meet would be best. I highly recommend it, next one is 27 October if you can make it.

I got chatting to a young Italian skater who could grind and jump. He wasn’t afraid to point out what I was doing wrong. He’s studying in Bradford so we got the same train back that way. There were a few other new faces there, all good for increasing numbers. It was good to see Sam (Flame) – she’s very confident on the ramps/pipes but also very encouraging of others :-)

My achievement was to jump flat top of a block with ramps. I’d like to be able to grind, but that’s going to take some work I think.

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Sweaty

Weekend three of my derby crazy month and after the photo trip to Nottingham on Saturday I was at practice with The Skateful Dead on Sunday.

Not many of us made it, six in total, so not enough for a scrim. They can be odd sessions. I always tell myself that it’s an opportunity to work extra hard. With the training plan on hold we practised a variety of blocking techniques and walls, reformation and recycling. This did give me opportunity to jam a little more than my fair share :-)

I like jamming but I have plenty of room for improvement, so practice is good.
The number on track reduced further when Buckingham did his neck in and Ash stepped off (injury? hangover?). This gave opportunity for some free time so I worked on transitions.

Subvert

Sam (Flame) had arranged at bit of a session at Subvert in Wakefield. It’s a small indoor skate park that is party of the shop, in the Xscape centre. I didn’t make it there until after 6.30. Sam and two others, Maha and Gemma were already there. I kitted up and joined them. The young lad in charge seemed pleased to have new interest in the park – “sick”!

There was a small group of boarders there too, practising a route/trick over and over. I guess that’s what it takes to get them down pat. That made me feel better about being too timid to drop in to a half-pipe or grind an edge. Both are things that I long to do.

I managed to fall on my left knee. It hurt more than it should have done. I guess my knee pads have had it; I ordered some more this morning. Hoping that they’ll arrive before Friday.

An enjoyable evening. Thank you Sam for your encouragement and Maha for letting me talk you to death on the journey back to Leeds. (The image I have in mind is Airplane, over Rio Grande :-) )

Gym

This evening was a gym evening. Nothing special, but it does mean that I’ve exercised three days in a row, that has to be good. I seem to end a good number of my days carrying around a rucksack of sweaty clothes :-)

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Three in a row

Day #2

Sunday is Skateful Dead training day.

I woke in Hull after a good night’s sleep at Hull Trinity Hostel. I figured that I’d get an early train back – I’d booked a ticket on the 10.40 arriving in Leeds at 12 noon. However I found that train tickets purchased on the day are three times the price of those bought in advance. Crazy! So I called in at McDs for breakfast and then went and settled in the Starbucks across the road and read my book.

I made it home with 30 minutes to shower and change before heading off to training. It was another really good session. So often now I find that they fly by. Gillie was all dressed up, having been to a christening – teacher shoes worked well when she was shouting “sprint!” at us during endurance :-)

She’d also listened and we started off by working on hip-checks. Thanks Gillie! I was working with Si-clops, an opportunity to suffer. He got some damn good hits on me. My left thigh isn’t bruised. Yet. On one hit I felt my back crack and then I was worried that I’d f***ed it up again. Fortunately it’s all good :-)

Scrim was hard work; we were low on numbers. Four a side to start with, then three a side. Si-clops loves to jam and he’s pretty good at it, though Matt did knock him off track once – good job Matt!

Day #3

Yesterday evening I trekked over to The Works in Leeds. Spinal Taff had arranged with them to have a “wheels on your feet” only session. So, no scooters, BMX or boards.

The Works has a climbing wall (also of interest to me) but also an big indoor skate park. Loads of derby players were there, I reckon more than 20, some with their kids. I was pleased to recognise many from Leeds Roller Dolls and Aire Force 1.

Quad, freestyle and aggressive skates
Skates!

Most of those skating were sporting their quad derby skates. I was in my Rollerblade Broskow in-lines, right in this photo. These are made for ramps, half-pipes grinding and such silliness. I’ve had them for years, but never used them much – landed badly numerous times.

Derby though has improved my skills and given me more confidence. I didn’t drop in on any of the big quarters and I didn’t grind anything – aims for the future – but I had tons of fun.

The skate park has a lovely long section called “Easy Street” that is mainly flat ramps. By the end of the evening I had a lovely run from end to end. It included a ramp with a jump up a step on to a platform and a drop of around 40cm. I only fell over twice, but the wooden surface is much nicer to land on than concrete!

After two hours of craziness I was very sweaty and very happy. There are plans to run the session monthly. Cost for two hours is £4. I’ll be encouraging my Skateful Dead bros to make it over there. I can see that this is going to be really helpful at building skate skills.

So, three days in a row with wheels on my feet! :-)

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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.

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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!

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