It was 11:58 p.m. when the transaction went through on New Years Eve. If I was going to do derby. I was going to be serious about it. Blaque Jac had been talking about Rollercon for weeks, and Chris and I needed an excuse for a vacation and a trip to Vegas. Purchasing this ticket made made me feel like Derby was going to be my home.
Well holidays come and go, and they're so hectic and exciting that I found little time for my roller skates in those weeks. Christmas came, and Chris bought me new gear. He was just as excited for me as I was for the sport. He was planning to go to Vegas too. We weren't sure how we were going to afford it, but we were going to make it happen. He wanted a vacation.
Saturday morning, January 8, new gear in bag, I made my way to Astro Skate for derby practice. It was kind of an off morning for me. I'd been feeling a little under the weather, and I'd spent the week prior dashing all over Manatee County preparing for Melissa's baby shower later that day, and getting my house back together after we decided it needed a New Years facelift. Derby practice was solace though. I couldn't focus on anything but being confident on my wheels. I didn't have to think about what the landlord would say about the new paint job in the house or if the couch we just bought was really ugly or if I could deal with losing my best friend to the baby she really, really wanted.
I laced up my skates and felt the wind in my hair. Everything else didn't matter. That morning, I was all derby.
After warm-ups and endurance, it was time for drills. The team divided into groups of five and stationed themselves at different corners on the track. We had a group of jammers, and helpers, and then three groups of blockers. At the Whistle, the Jammer and the helper would take off, the three blockers would pop onto the track as the jammer approached. Their job was to stop the jammer.
I was nervous. My knees were shaking, and I didn't know how I was going to handle this drill for two reasons: One, I was next up to Jam, and I was going against two of our highest ranked veteran skaters who both KICK ASS on the track. And then, two weeks before when we'd done this drill, one of the other betties had broken her ankle, and she was out for the rest of the season. She was out before she ever got to bout, and she's old enough that she doesn't know if her body can handle a come back.
I inched out on to the jammer line. Blaque Jac was my helper, so at the very least I had a power blocker to help me get through the walls of the veteran skaters. I had recently learned to switch my inner dialogue from "I can't do this" to "YOU CAN DO THIS."
The whistle blew. Off I went, skating like I never have before. I went directly at the wall with the help of Blaque Jac in an attempt to get through. The vets tossed me around like a kitten with a ball of yarn. I got knocked down, and got back up, over and over, it felt like hours passed, not minutes.
Then it happened. Areal Nightmare came in to nail a hit on my left side. It was a solid good "take the bitch out" kind of hit that the crowds go wild for in derby. Areal had been one of my favorite skaters to watch before I put on wheels. I knew of the power behind her hits, but had never felt one until that very day. She knocked into my left side and down we both went. Our legs got tangled up together, and I heard a pop in my left knee. When we untangled ourselves, I felt a searing pain race through my left knee.
I threw my helmet to the side and tried to fumble with the straps of my 187 pads to get it off my left knee. I knew something was wrong. Tenacious C and our coach Thor came to my rescue. They got my pads off, and helped me off the track to the applause of my teammates. They brought me a bag of ice and I sat out the rest of practice. My knee felt numb.
I'd never been an athlete before, and I didn't think 26 years old was the right time to give it a whirl. But things had changed so much in my life in the past few months that I needed to do something to take out my aggression. I needed to feel a part of something. That's how I found derby.
Needless to say the rest of my day was shot. I left Melissa's baby shower early so that I could get my knee checked out by my doctor. It was at the very least sprained and I was out for a minimum of two weeks.
When the pain didn't subside a week later, I went to an orthopedic doctor for an MRI. I couldn't bend my knee, and I could barely walk. Working was a nightmare, and climbing up the stairs to my apartment sucked even more. The result: torn cartilage and a major ligament sprain, I'm down an out for 6 weeks. I spent the beginning of our season in a black shirt doing Non Skating Official positions because I couldn't get back on wheels. I watched the Betties I graduated with skate their first, second, and third bout, and would leave before the after party in tears because I couldn't join them.
Derby put me on an emotional rollercoaster. And because I was so damned determined to be a part of it, I wasn't going to let my skates go because of a silly knee injury.
I was able to put my skates on again the day before my 27th birthday. I didn't push it hard at practice, I just felt the wind in my hair again. A week later, I accepted a new job. 27 is the year that I changed my life.
I could write for days on this... and I probably will continue to finish this story. Just let it be said that Roller Derby came into my life at the right moment. It taught me to be confident with myself, and I still learn new lessons from it every day.
If you want to hear more about my derby adventures follow me!
Much Derby Love,
Defamation of Skater.