Six Hours

Continuing sciatic pain in my left leg woke me at 4.30 this morning. Painkillers and lying across the bed with my knees on the floor afforded me a few more hours of sleep.

By 7.30 I was awake again and sure that I wouldn’t be able to train today. I turned to Google for a solution. The NHS site suggested painkillers and exercise. Okay, so training would be a treatment then!

I set off for Whitcliffe early. The Banditas, who train before us, had Feral Fairy visiting to guest coach. I’d asked if I could go and watch. For those that don’t know, Feral plays for Team England and is one of the top 20 skaters in the UK.

Adam, one of our jammers, was there, and others from our team who referee for the Banditas. It turned out that Feral was doing group work and she said that if we wanted we could join in! What! A lightening quick change and we were there…

Feral’s session focussed on one-on-one blocking, working in pairs at first and adding complexities bit at a time. This progressed to putting these techniques into practice. Unfortunately Vikki fell early on in the session and landed very heavily on her coccyx. She was sent to hospital but is home now – wishing you a speedy recovery Vikki!

I guess the training session lasted about two hours. Anyway, it was time for the Banditas to scrimmage. As guests I suggested to Adam that we sit out, but we were invited to play! Hell Yeah! The scrimmage was great! I got to jam and managed to get lead jammer one time, though a “back block” put me in the box. Feral joined in – so technically I’ve played on track with a top 20 player!

Before I knew it the scrim was over. I’d been skating for three hours when all I’d been expecting to do was to watch. A massive thank you to the Banditas for being so welcoming!

The hour from 2pm is for new skaters to practice minimum skills. There were only a few of us there. I was going to practice some of my weaker skills. But hey, Jeanette ‘Sue Perman’ was helping a few of the Banditas work on skills. I joined in and worked with them. Stepping and cross-overs were the order of the day. That was the fourth hour.

Then it was time for the Skateful Dead practice. The focus today was agility and jammer skills. This included walking on toe stops – something I’m really bad at – indeed I fell straight away and landed on my wrist. My left wrist, as always :-/ But a few minutes of silent cursing and I was back with it. A whole series of drills, working in threes, then more and by the end we had one jammer trying to get through a wall of eight blockers!

During six hours of skating I’d eaten flapjack and drunk about 3 litres of water/isotonic mix. I had cramp in my feet and legs. I don’t think I could have skated any longer, but I felt awesome!

Well done Gillie for a brilliant session today – best so far!


Skate like a girl

Tuesday night is free skate night at Whitcliffe. Well, it was.

Yesterday was another quiet session, I think there were perhaps ten of us there. The cost of the hall when shared by so few makes it quite expensive. It seems that from now the recommended mid-week opportunity to roll will be Midweek Masterclass. This is the session organised by Leeds Roller Dolls.

To be fair, this might not be a bad thing. The larger the pool of skaters that you practice with, the larger the pool of training and techniques you experience. Our trainer, Gillie, skates with the Banditas. She will pass on what she’s learnt. The Skateful Dead also welcome Banditas to our training sessions. In practising with them we will learn their skills. If we practice with LRD skaters then we are potentially exposing ourselves to variations in technique. It’s all good!

Anyway. I’m still non-contact in practice. I had a list of things that I wanted to work on. I continue to work on my weak side for transitions, t-stops and cross-overs. I believe it’s important to be able to perform these fluidly. There will be situations on track where, for instance, you need to transition to your weaker side. My aim is to improve so that I don’t have a weaker side. It will take time.

I also did loads of work on my sprint start on toe stops. This needs commitment – kind of “oh shit! I’m about to fall on my face!” commitment. It’s a damn good way to accelerate though, and an important skill to have. I think I got up to about four strides last night. By then I was moving pretty fast :-)

I also spent some time helping Kelly with her transitions. Well, I hope she found it useful! When I did the ICP qualification one of the techniques that we used when teaching new skills was to break the skill down into it’s component parts. Geeky yes, but I find it useful.

I also continued to work on my plough stop. Over the past few months I have asked various people how to do them. I have never had a satisfactory answer. Well, I’ve never had an answer that I have considered was detailed enough. “Make and A frame and point your toes in” is apparent enough. I can do that and roll for ages! “Push through your hips”, “Pretend you’re having a poo”. I’ve not found those helpful. Sorry! Then whilst I was kicking around at practice on Sunday I found what I hope might be the answer. I was rolling backwards, just slowly, then doing a gentle backwards plough stop. The stop was achieved with my inside toe wheels; that’s where my weight was! It follows then that I need to get my weight through my inside heel wheels when rolling forwards. I worked on this last night and it seemed to be an improvement. I also found that an asymmetric stop worked better – leading with my right foot – as always.

At the end of the session, as I was getting changed, I overheard two of the girls talking. They were watching a few guys at the other end of the hall practising plough stop. “It makes me laugh watching men try to plough stop. Women can do it better because of our hips.”

Oh to skate like a girl! :-)


Sunday was our first proper practice session since the bout.

We train just after the Banditas though this month there will be a newbie session between the sessions. This will allow new skaters to work on minimum skills. I attended this week. I think it’s important to practice skills over and over, so they become second nature. There was a mix of Banditas and Dead. The session was led by Jeanette (Sue Perman) from the Banditas. We covered stops, falls and cross-overs.

A few of the Banditas stayed on for the Skateful Dead session. This week we kicked off with a warm up. Gillie had us power through a mix of sprints, press-ups, sit-ups and planks. I loved it! Since training for a 10k run last November I have been keen to keep a reasonable level of fitness. It paid off! The only thing I struggled with was the press ups; I have “IT arms”.

The rest of the session was, unsurprisingly, contact stuff. I sat out, as did Brian – both of us injured. The focus this week was jammer assists. The team practised giving and receiving whips and a couple of plays. These were then put into practice with a scrimmage.

When playing it can be difficult to observe what is going on around you. You’re concentrating on the game, the opposition and listening out for referee calls. It was interesting to observe from the middle of the track. There were techniques used that I hadn’t seen before, especially when a team had blockers in the box.

Avoiding contact was undoubtedly the right thing to do. My back was uncomfortable by the end of the session. I’m hoping to be back on it by next week!

Leeds Roller Dolls vs Hot Wheel Roller Derby

Fanny Batter blocking R.I.PunzelThe weather on Saturday was glorious. The kind of day would you usually find me skating in People’s Park. But I was resting and so decided to go and watch Leeds Roller Dolls play Hot Wheel Roller Derby at North Bridge Leisure Centre.

I’ve seen both teams play before, but never against each other. Both are from Leeds and so I suppose there must be a little rivalry between them. I took along my camera and tried to capture some of the action. Photography in most sports halls is a little difficult. They are generally quite dark, the lighting is often not true white. In addition, most sports separate the players from the spectators. The result is that you need a long lens. A long lens and the desire to keep motion blur to a minimum calls for a high shutter speed. I’ve found that I use my 85mm f/1.8 almost wide open, with ISO pushed to 1250, giving a shutter speed of about 1/200th of a second. But anyway, enough of my other hobby!

Peggy Leethal jamming for HWRDThe game was fast moving and fun to watch. There was some good jammer on jammer action, something that doesn’t seem to happen so often. I sat in the front row (though not in the suicide seats) with Andy ‘Slam C-Nesbit’. He was commentating on many details that I would have missed. I don’t really have much more to say. Leeds took an early lead and by half time they led 76 to 23. During the second half Hot Wheel seemed to struggle and the bout ended Leeds Roller Dolls 254 to Hot Wheel Roller Dolls 103.

Best Blocker, Clar Mar Superstar holding up her certificateFor Hot Wheel, Best Blocker went to Clar Mar Superstar, Best Jammer was Peggy Leethal and MVP was Zinetang. For the Roller Dolls, Best Blocker was Livid Doll,  Best Jammer was R.I.Punzel and MVP was Skatewell Tart.

After the awards Hot Wheels gave each of the LRD team a party bag. Another example of the friendly spirit that exists in the roller derby community. I love it! The bonus end to the day for me was a few drinks and a bite to eat with Lydia, Adam and Andy. We talking derby a bit too :-)