Friday, October 29, 2010

Ready to brawl

Tomorrow night the Old Capitol City Roller Girls will take on the River Bend Bombers (Quad City Rollers' A-team) on our home turf of the Coralville Marriott for our annual Monster's Brawl season finale.

Last weekend at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, OCCRG tied the Mid-Iowa Rollers for the most wins in a single season -8- when we triumphed 182-91 over the Hell Dorados. There's a more than a good chance we will break that record when we take to the track, though I know the Quad City ladies will be ready to put up a good fight. Like us, they will be wheeling back in one week's time; just having suffered a tough 141-87 loss at the hands of the Des Moines Derby Dames at the River Center.

There will also be a costume contest during half-time; come see us possibly make history in Iowa's fledgling but blossoming roller derby scene. As always the doors open at 6:15 and the action starts at 7.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reeking of sweat and victory

I am pleased to report that last night at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, the Old Capitol City Roller Girls extended their win streak to three with a decisive 182-91 tally over the Cedar Rapids Roller Girls.


It was the first time that OCCRG had played the Hell Dorados (CRRG's A-team) since June of 2009; an event which we lost largely due to inexperience -- we had only had our first bout exactly one week earlier. (This past May, OCCRG thumped CRRG's B-team, the Bombshell Cartel, 271-84 on our home turf of the Coralville Marriott.)

Given the long drought between facing the Hell Dorados, I really wasn't sure what to expect. I knew we were a much more athletic and seasoned team since the last time we had faced them, but I knew the same would be true of the Hell Dorados.

As it was, it was undramatic bout. OCCRG took the lead from the outset with the usual big jams from Ophelia Fracture and GladI8Her (who was last seen bouting in June). I had a quite a few successive go-rounds as my turn as jammer, as did Left 4 Deadwards. The team's defense was quite strong, with plenty of full-body leans and booty blocking used to impede the progress of the Hell Dorados jammers by Fannysaurus Wrex and Animal Mother. As expected, Bat R Up and ZomB Blokr did the dirty work of breaking up walls put up by the Hell Dorados blockers and delivering some puissant blows.

The Hell Dorados did put up a good fight from beginning to end. Their blockers were aggressive and hit hard, and OCCRG had to rely on fancy footwork to evade them. In the second half the Hell Dorados employed a strategic play, delaying their blockers rolling past the pivot line as long as possible, for every single jam. (This is a play that is experiencing an unfortunate surge in popularity in the roller derby world in the moment, and is dissected well by Left 4 Deadwards in her latest blog post.) The motive behind such a play is that, in being the last blockers past the line, the Hell Dorados gained immediate control of pack speed since OCCRG blockers could not shoot ahead or risk being called for splitting the pack. It also meant that OCCRG jammers would hit a wall right off the line and isolate her from her own blockers As it turned out, all it really succeeded in doing was running down the clock, as OCCRG jammers were temporarily stymied before their blockers interceded by skating backwards into the Hell Dorados' walls to literally break things up.

Left 4 Deadwards holding up a Hell Dorado jammer

MVP of the bout in my book was Left 4 Deadwards, who switched back and forth from jammer and blocker throughout the night. She is alternately known on the team as 'Crazy Legs' for the impossible and unnatural footwork and she regularly doles out on the track. Left 4 Deadwards is not known for big hits that send opposing skaters flying like Bat R Up, but she is known for her heavy leans which are just as --if not more-- effective in fettering opposing jammers. She also sports a rear that, though diminutive, always manages to get up in everyone's business and throws thought-out plays into disarray.

As for me, I had a couple of big jams though there were two instances where a Hell Dorado blocker pushed me inside and, before I could stop myself, I cut the track. Controlling my speed and path is definitely something I will be working on in coming weeks, but on the whole I played fairly cleanly (No major elbows!) with fewer majors and minors than I have ever incurred during a bout. The Hell Dorados were successful a few times in distracting me from their approaching jammer by engaging and blocking me. I'm trained now to keep an eye out for that opposing jammer but now it's readily apparent that I also need to watch for opposing blockers who will try to knock me around when I'm caught off guard or looking the other way.

And no post-bout recap would be complete without the action shots, which come courtesy of Jonathan Johnson:

GladI8Her makes lead jammer while Fannysaurus Wrex and Chemical Spill wall

ZomB Blokr (center) and I watch for both jammers

Ophelia Fracture, as usual, runs circles around the competition...

...and slips through the inside while Left 4 Deadwards hampers another Hell Dorado jammer

More photos to post in coming days from our own team photographer, Emily Sherman.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Going green

This week the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) accepted ten new teams from around the world to be a part of their Apprenticeship program. Three of them are from Iowa.

In addition to the Old Capitol City Roller Girls, both the Des Moines Derby Dames and Mid Iowa Rollers --both of the state capital-- were accepted. This goes a long way in sending a message to the rest of the international roller derby community that Iowa is ardent and dedicated to the sport and will be becoming a more prominent name.

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is the international governing five-member body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby and a membership organization for leagues to collaborate and network. The WFTDA sets standards for rules, seasons, and safety, and determines guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues. There are currently 98 WFTDA member leagues and 43 leagues in the WFTDA Apprentice program.


So what's the big deal? WFTDA is the big time and certifies all of the nation's best teams from the Oly Rollers of Washington and Gotham City Roller Girls of New York to teams in Canada and Europe. Member leagues get a vote in organization decisions, access to vast networks of other WFTDA teams and eligibility to tournaments and rankings. Part of being an apprenticing team to WFTDA stipulates that a team must play at least six sanctioned bouts against other WTFDA-certified teams during the season, which means that OCCRG will playing against several teams in the North Central region in 2011 for the first time. The quality of skating will be higher and the team will be, hopefully, getting more press and exposure.

Can you dig it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gaining momentum

Highlights from the first half of the Sept. 18th Flying Elbow bout in which the Old Capitol City Roller Girls derailed the Quad City Rollers. Plenty of big hits from Bat R Up, and you know you've been clamoring for them.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

OC Jammer

One topic I have been meaning to delve into as of late is the role of jammer on a roller derby team. If none of their skaters are in the penalty box, a team will send out five players: Four blockers and one jammer. The jammer, denoted by the large, prominent star on her helmet, is the only point-scorer for her team. And as the sole skater who can score points, all opposing blockers will be doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening. Essentially, putting on starred helmet cover is to paint a glowing bulls-eye or target on your back.

It's why some girls loathe jamming and others, like myself, revel in it. It's a rush to snake your way in and out of the pack, picking up points for each opposing skater you pass. You dodge heavy blows, try to stay up with the ones that connect and race for that lead jammer status (and the ability to call off the jam at a critical junction).

Jammers are sometimes vaunted as the rock stars of their teams, though this is a bit short-sighted. (Garnering points is important, but perhaps even more so is a team's defense; their ability to stymie opposing jammers and prevent scoring passes.) Even so, jamming is hard work. And the fastest skaters aren't necessarily the best jammers. Because a good jammer should be swift, have good stamina --enough to sprint the full two minutes a jam may require-- and loads of cunning, be light on her feet and able to juke and weave, and have an inexhaustible personal reservoir of moxie and grit.

An able jammer should be able to hold her own while her teammates tackle the opposing jammer

A good jammer should be able to get through the pack and pick up points without being dependent on their blockers (whose main focus should be on the opposing jammer) to break up walls and protect them opposing skaters. She should have what I call 'jammer eyes' --that is, the ability to see holes and paths where others might see none-- and be able to anticipate the movement of other skaters. She'd ideally be exceptionally quick taking off of the line. And, equally as vital, she should be savvy and smart: Know when it is wisest to "hit it and quit it" (i.e. pick up four quick points and call off the jam before the other jammer can accrue any points), to positionally block the opposing jammer and whittle down the clock instead of going for more points, or to gun it when the other team's jammer is sent to the box and results in a power jam.

Jammer's eye view: Jammers have a few short seconds to devise a plan before reentering the pack

Jamming can intimidating, but it can also be an exhilarating experience.

Do you have what it takes?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By popular demand

More action shots from Saturday courtesy of Emily Sherman Photography:

Ride 'em, cowgirl: Ophelia Fracture scored 58 of OCCRG's 148 points...

...but she's also an expert booty blocker

Left 4 Deadwards (right) lines up on the jammer line against Suzy Spew

Then there's me, with my "demonoid face" on

Bat R Up broadsides Lady Gotcha...

...and knocks Pink Taco out of bounds

...but she's really just giving the fans what they want

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bout de Triomphe

First of all, I would like to apologize to those of you who do follow this blog since I haven't updated in quite some time and failed to provide any sort of buildup to the Old Capitol City Roller Girls' Flying Elbow bout versus the Quad City Rollers yesterday in Davenport. I'm in the midst of a pet health crisis and it's been a hectic and stressful past week.

That aside, I am proud to report that OCCRG posted a dominant 148-98 victory over the Quad City Rollers, showing no mercy from the outset. In the first half we had some big jams from Ophelia Fracture (not a surprise to anyone by now), Left 4 Deadwards and myself. Fast Bettie did split shifts as jammer and blocker; Fannysaurus Wrex, Animal Mother and Recyclopath put up some rock-solid walls that stymied quite a few Quad City Rollers jammers. And of course Bat R Up, ever the menace, had quite a few big hits that had opposing skaters flying in all directions.

In the weeks before the bout we had been spending a lot less time scrimmaging and a lot more time adding new skills to our repertoire, learning new drills and practicing new strategies. Even sitting on the bench from time to time, it was evident the deviation from scrimmage-intense practices was paying off and it was very satisfying to see the drills we'd rehearsed playing out as they were designed to. OCCRG played sagely; working together to control the pace of the pack, trap opposing skaters and break walls for their own jammers.

The score was 95-32 at the half; during the second period the Quad City Rollers mounted a niggling comeback but never seriously threatened OCCRG, who held sway with 50 points by game's end. On a personal front, I finally toppled my bout jitters and kept my head in the game. Vastly improving on my performance in the home bout LaCrosse Skating Sirens last month, I managed to land a couple big-point jams and deliver a few hard hits to a few Quad City Rollers jammers. And I played smarter; pulling a few 'Hit It and Quit It' jams, keeping a more vigilant eye on any Quad City Rollers coming out of the penalty box and watching my bench coach for signals on each go-round. Sometimes it really is all in your head.

Next up will be another away game for OCCRG versus the Cedar Rapids Rollergirls in October, followed by the season finale against the Quad City Rollers at the former's stomping grounds of the Coralville Marriott.

Photos from last night's action:

Benzo Bang pushes out Lady Gotcha of QCR

Bat R Up jams?! And gets lead jammer status!

Yours truly walling with Bat R Up to hold back QCR's Sugar 'n Slice

Layne Rubber denotes Left 4 Deadwards as lead jammer

Fannysaurus Wrex is not only a great blocker; but has the best paint job around

Ho No U Didn, Recyclopath, Bat R Up and Left 4 Deadwards toe the line

Striking the front

Monday, September 6, 2010

Per volar sunata

As a skater and member of the Old Capitol City Roller Girls, I field a lot of queries. Some of the most common questions are:

Is roller derby fake?
How is roller derby played/scored?
Aren't you too small to play roller derby?
Do skaters ever get seriously hurt?
Why on earth would you want to do something like that?

I'm also asked about how much work goes into being part of a roller derby team. There's the short answer: We have demanding practices twice a week where we do core exercises, weight training, intervals, various drills and scrimmage.

And then there's the long answer: Countless hours are spent together with teammates off skates working to keep the team practicing and bouting. We are not professionals. We are not paid to play; in fact it's quite the opposite. We pay for our own equipment (everything from skates, pads, helmets, mouthguards, etc.) and uniforms individually as well as monthly team dues that go towards paying for practice space at the Coralville Marriott. OCCRG does receives some financial aid in the form of sponsors; revenue is also generated from ticket and merchandise sales.

But there's also a lot of elbow grease involved. We arrive at the Marriott seven hours before the start of every home bout to set up everything from the track, the merchandise table, the sound equipment, chairs, signage, etc. In the weeks beforehand we plaster our posters and fliers around town to generate excitement and interest, make radio appearances and send out our own press releases. The OCCRG website, Facebook page and blogs are all skater-operated and updated.

Each skater also belongs to one or more committees. These committee members are responsible for everything from bout productions (photo shoots, poster design, etc.), merchandise (tracking current stock as well as ordering new items like cowbells and pompoms), fund-raising (auctions, jello shot sales, etc.), coaching (sharing training responsibilities and expanding the team's library of drills) and public relations (making appearances and expanding our community presence). They meet several times a month to ensure responsibilities are being met and to discuss plans of action.

Finally, OCCRG is also very focused on making a positive contribution to the community. We volunteer at several local events including the annual Jazz and Art festivals, hold public scrimmages to raise money for the recreation centers and this summer we even organized a 5k run to benefit the Iowa City Animal Shelter. Most recently you may have seen us working as official Hokey Pokey wranglers at Fry Fest for the new world record dance.

As cliche as it sounds, it really is a labor of love. This team and sport have become a part of who I am, and I am more than happy to devote my time and energy towards prolonging them.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Fire burning: Ophelia Fracture doing her thing

Fast Bettie (center) and Benzo Bang trap a Sirens jammer

Yours truly performing unparalleled acrobatics

Benzo Bang, Recyclopath, Fannysaurus and Animal Mother form a daunting wall

Left 4 Deadwards' jam, the final of the night, had the crowd on its feet

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Maybe down but never out

What does it take to win a roller derby bout?

Talent, passion, teamwork, a willingness to take risks and a little bit of luck.

That was all on display at tonight's bout; a nail-biter right down to the very end. In both a physically and mentally-trying endeavor, the Old Capitol City Roller Girls edged the La Crosse Skating Sirens in one of their very stiffest tests to date. It was a fraught match that had the crowd on their feet, as both teams traded the lead throughout.

OCCRG led early, with Ophelia Fracture and Left 4 Deadwards racking up a slew of points. But the Sirens were just getting warmed up, and countered with the most aggressive blocking our team had ever experienced. There was a bevy of big spills on the track as the Sirens utilized every trick in their arsenal: Trapping opposing blockers, high and effective hits, chasing our jammers past the pack...

The Sirens had forged ahead with a sizable lead going into the second half. There were several misfortunes befalling OCCRG that allowed them to close the gap. Bat R Up and Fannysaurus Wrex fouled out and were eliminated from play. A communications snafu handed the Sirens a power jam when no OCCRG jammer was sent to the track.

Meanwhile, I was having my own personal crisis of sorts. I got plenty of jamming action during the first half but failed to rack up the big points, a result that had me questioning my own abilities as a skater. My competition anxiety was getting the best of me and I was playing timidly and without focus. During half-time Bat R Up showed me my dismal point spread and matter-of-factly shrugged it off.

"You don't like it?" she asked nonchalantly. "Then go out there and change it."

It was simple advice, but sagely nonetheless. I went back out during the second half, took a deep breath at the jam line and just went. In my first outing back I scored a 15-point jam that pushed OCCRG back into the lead. Ophelia Fracture took off where I left off, adding to the tally in her turn as jammer. Zom B Blokr, Left 4 Deadwards, Benzo Bang and Animal Mother stymied the Siren jammers on several occasions.

And yet, the Sirens managed to cut into our lead, and eventually forged ahead with less than 15 minutes left to go. They maintained it going into the last jam of the night, which started with 1:31 left on the clock. But in an unexpected turn of events, the Sirens left the track to call a timeout which was not immediately recognized by the referees. The jam proceeded seconds later and, with three of their blockers off the track, the Sirens were left at a severe disadvantage at a critical junction. OCCRG skaters trapped the sole remaining Sirens blocker and managed to foul out the Sirens jammer early on; leaving Left 4 Deadwards to her own devices in a power jam. The latter was quick to capitalize on the circumstance and hustled to lap the pack several times before the jam ended.

Then the score was posted: 141-133.

To say we were thrilled was an understatement. It seemed at several intervals of the bout that we were going to be beaten; that we were outgunned and in over our heads. And yet, we pulled together when the bar was raised. On a personal level, I did contrive to pull my head out of my rear to have a vastly improved second half where I contributed several points to the team.

Still, I felt more exhausted emotionally than physically as I left the track. It's good to be pushed -- but also very stressful. There was also the matter of the Sirens, who were understandably upset about the turn of events that saw them lose the bout in literally the final [90] seconds, which resulted in a lengthy meeting between referees, non-skating officials and captains.

Ultimately the result was allowed to stand and we were all left remembering the importance of pertinacity and a never-say-die attitude.

Photo courtesy of Emily Sherman Photography

[On a side note, I had some coworkers attend their very first OCCRG bout (or any roller derby bout for that matter. Suzette, Michael and Christen, thanks for the support and I hope you are well on your way to become die-hard derby fans. Also sending out get well wishes to Quantum Bombshell who had to miss tonight's bout after suffering bruised ribs during Wednesday's practice.]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This is but a taste

Cirque du Slam promotional video by our very own Left 4 Deadwards, with footage from our Fullmetal Derby bout versus the Stateline Derby Divas back in June:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feeling saucy

The Old Capitol City Roller Girls haven't bouted since their Scars 'n Stripes Forever mixer in early July, and everyone's getting a little hungry for some action. Fortunately for skaters and fans alike Cirque du Slam, Saturday's bout against the La Crosse Skating Sirens of La Crosse, Wisconsin is fast approaching. This equates to even more scrimmaging than usual, more inventive and spontaneous strategizing and pre-bout jitters.

I can get a little too excited for my own good and it spills out on the track; like the time two weeks ago when I accidentally sucker-punched Fast Bettie with an elbow to the gut in my attempt to stymie her progress as jammer. I do have a hard time playing nice but heck, that's why I play roller derby. I try to do a half-hour of core exercises and weight training before practice (and even before my afternoon runs on days I'm not skating) and that burns off a little bit of the edge. Front planks, side planks, push-ups, crunches, leg lifts... I'm not sure it centers me as much as I'd like but on the plus side I am sporting some sinewy arms and a more defined torso these days.

But enough about me. The roster for the 21st will have some fresh faces as OCCRG has suffered a barrage of skater injuries, some involving prominent skaters. Notable absentees include two of our best blockers, Hitzy Blonde and Toxic Sugar. The former is still out of action after having surgery on her knee; the latter will be on the sidelines the remainder of the season with a dislocated patella and an unlucky triumvirate of ligament tears: Posterior cruciate, anterior cruciate and medial collateral (which will also require surgery in the coming months).

The bantam but mighty GladI8Her had been away for several weeks with a sore back though she has already resumed scrimmaging). Fast Bettie also missed some time due to niggling minor ailments. Shelby Flyin is still recovering from a compound fracture of one of her fingers. And sometime after the Avoid the Stork-sponsored bout in May, Ima Golddiggah got knocked up.

Filling their positions will be Ho No U Didn, Quantum Bombshell (who returns to the roster for the first time in almost a year!), Old Yeller and Chemical Spill.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brand new key

For a change of pace, I find myself blogging from New Jersey where I am visiting my mother for a week. But I readily confess that I couldn't stand to be away from derby that long, so about a fortnight ago I put out a call on the Skatelog Forum asking any New Jersey and Pennsylvania-based skaters to help me locate teams in the immediate area who might graciously entertain my wish to participate in one of their practices.

Skating and practicing with different teams is a fantastic way to meet new people and learn new drills, so I was delighted when the nearby, WFTDA-leagued Philly Roller Girls were receptive to the idea. Last night I drove to the notoriously crime-ridden city of Camden, where amidst a decaying industrial district I found the small oasis of Millennium Skateworld. Inside was an old-fashioned hardwood floor and skaters of varying abilities whizzing around and warming up.

With some trepidation and a touch of anxiety, I sat down at a table and watched for a few minutes. The Philly Roller Girls are a large, decorated league comprised of three individual teams and hosts its own Warrior Cup annually. Their all-star travel team, the Liberty Belles, is currently ranked second in WFTDA's Eastern division (only behind the juggernaut known as the Gotham Girls).

I needn't have worried.

The Philly Roller Girls were a warm, goofy bunch of women who seem genuinely excited to have me. Liberty Belles member Mo Pain was my envoy for the evening, and after an extended sprint to warm up (felt pretty cool to know I was holding my own with some WTFDA jammers!) we practiced a variety of drills. This was the more humbling part of the practice; though speed is my best asset it still takes a lot of time and effort for me to make progress on skills like whirlybirds and backwards crossovers. In essence, I'm much more of a forceful skater than I am a graceful one.

The really fantastic part was that every single drill was entirely new to me. Learning and practicing new drills helps keep things fresh and interesting, and challenges your mind and body to work on new skills and concepts. When I coached practice a few weeks ago, I was able to introduce a new pivot-central drill that the team was receptive to, so I'm eager to bring back even more things with me to share with my teammates (and also a couple of bags of Utz potato chips for ref Lukan D'Otha Way, by request). I'll be doing more traveling to see friends and family later this year, so I'm keen to connect with other teams like the Derby City Rollergirls (Louisville, Kentucky) and Charlotte Roller Girls (Charlotte, North Carolina).

But even a week-long vacation makes me pine for my ragtag teammates of Iowa City. As one veteran blocker, Hitzy Blonde, returns to skating after knee surgery we lose another, Toxic Sugar, with a dislocated patella. Toxic Sugar, ironically and unfortunately, was only two days away from surgery for a preexisting chronic knee condition when she suffered the injury, though she'll be going under the knife next week. The Old Capitol City Roller Girls also has several fresh meat skaters with various ailments so here's hoping they are all making speedy recoveries while I am away.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Seeing stars

In the Old Capitol City Roller Girls' first home mixer bout, Scars 'n Stripes Forever, it was the [red] Liberty Belles who skated to victory 179-129 over the [blue] Femmes of Freedom. I was on the winning team, though the Femmes of Freedom were definitely short one or two jammers and I think that put them at a disadvantage from the outset.

Getting the finger from referee Layne Rubber

I can't complain; I got to see plenty of action as a jammer and a blocker. My jamming was decent and I had several 9 and 10-point jams. As a blocker hits just weren't connecting very well tonight so I stuck to booty-blocking the majority of the time. Or maybe things just felt less successful since I was, for once, skating against some of the more venerable blockers of OCCRG like Left 4 Deadwards and Zom B Blokr. Mexican Monster and Lady Gotcha, both of the Quad Cities and skating as Liberty Belles, were valuable players. I was also proud to see my 'derby wife' (i.e. apprentice) Gigahurtz doing some of her best skating.

Fast Bettie leads the way ahead of Chemical Spill and Toxic Sugar

Our next bout won't be until August 21st --a home bout against the Lacrosse Skating Sirens-- so it will be nice to take a bit of competitive edge off the practices. I myself will be going to visit my mother in New Jersey for the latter half of the month; though I couldn't bear to go that long without skating... so I'll be attending a practice or two with the nearby Philly Roller Girls. They're WFTDA-sanctioned so I anticipate learning a lot.

Ophelia Fracture gets an assist from Toxic Sugar

In other news I'm still hunting around for the ideal wheel for myself. I'm leaning towards the slimmer, narrowly-profiled wheels since I do find myself in the role of jammer regularly. Probably will be looking at some Atoms; maybe the [slim] Stingers, Jukes, G-Rods or Omegas. Although it's probably not as exciting to read about as it is for me to shop for them.

Left 4 Deadwards and I jockeying for position

All photos courtesy of Cathy Kovach.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Change of pace

The Old Capitol City Roller Girls, some refreshed by the long holiday weekend and others; hung over, have been practicing in earnest for Scars and Stripes Forever, our first home mixer bout that will feature some of the lovely ladies of the Quad City Rollers. For Saturday's bout --starting at 7 PM and held, as usual, at the Coralville Marriott-- promises to pack all the red, white, [black and] blue you can handle.

A mixer, for those of you who are wondering, features two or more teams where the skaters are divided up and reassigned into newly created teams. It's both challenging and refreshing for the skaters, who are pitted working side-by-side with girls they may have played against in the past but do not practice with regularly.

OCCRG is, by the way, very excited to announce that the ever-dominant and local Klinefelter Sisters will be performing as the half-time entertainment.

On the personal front, it was my turn to coach practice on Sunday, as team coach Bat R Up is away vacationing in stinky France. We did some scrimmaging and I was eager to teach the team some new drills I had found after many hours spent Googling. There was a new pivot drill in particular that centered on communication and teammate reliance that seemed to be well received by the girls on the team. Although none of this was as grueling as tonight's practice, which started with a sprint of 108 laps punctuated with twenty-second respites. (I know what you're thinking: 108 laps isn't a sprint; it's a marathon! And you would be right; a sadistic, depleting one.)

And just as food for thought I thought I'd share an interesting article from the New York Times, Phys Ed: What Science Doesn't Know About Women, debunking the myth surrounding protein and its supposed essential role in exercise recovery.

Scrimmaging with the newly-formed Farm Fresh Roller Girls of Orion, Illinois

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Looking forward


I have to apologize for the lack of blog action lately but after our heart-wrenching 3-point loss to the Mid Iowa Rollers on the 19th I had to put the bout out of my mind for a little while. The Old Capitol City Roller Girls had led the game from the start but losing by that little in literally the final few seconds of the final half was like a punch to the gut.

It was a bout we should have won; though we put our hearts on the track as always we made some costly mistakes. But we'd had some huge blowout wins earlier in the season, and doubtless that did not aid us in playing a team as venerable as MIR. Even in retrospect the experience is going to make us much stronger and wiser as a team. OCCRG lost nothing in defeat in coming up three points short versus a team that has been around and active for over five years. Considering we have only been around since October of 2008 (and only bouting since June of 2009), there is no question in my mind whose star is on the rise.

Even still, the loss still stung in the days afterward. It was quite fortunate that I had volunteered --along with Animal Mother and Fannysaurus Rex-- to skate with the Quad City Rollers in Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend, as it gave me something else to focus on and push towards. (I've also always vowed to skate for other teams when offered the opportunity not just to help out fellow derby sisters in need but to pick up experience playing different teams and venues.)

The Quad City Rollers lost to No Coast Derby Girls B team, the Road Warriors, but I did have quite a good time skating and observing some very peculiar jam scenarios that arose. I knew QCR was short some of their better skaters like Pink Taco and Diamond Dust so I went into the bout thinking that if I could be an asset to them, I would be satisfied.

I had some decent turns as jammer, including one 15-point tally in the last jam. But I think I had a career-best night as a blocker; keeping my eyes peeled for those Road Warrior jammers and, without tooting my own horn too much, wiping them out with some monster blocks that I think would have made Bat R Up proud. (Yes, there is footage and you'd better believe I will be linking it here once it surfaces!) And to top things off I only ended up in the penalty box once (for four minors).

But watching the Mad Maxines of Lincoln butt heads with the Omaha Roller Girls as part two of the double-header was surreal. I was mesmerized by the athleticism, cunning and sheer passion for the sport of the skaters before me. I had a fine vantage point atop the stage next to the DJs, and while everyone stood up and cheered loudly the duration of the bout, I sat quietly on the stage imbibing as much of the game play as possible. I did discern several shrewd tactics and calls that I quickly digested and filed away, synapses firing as my eyes scanned the pack repeatedly.

The Maxines were solid throughout the game but Omaha made a spectacular comeback in the second half to cut a sizable deficit to less than 30 points by the bout's end, thanks in part to some hugely salutary jams by Anna-Maniac and Ima Firestarter.

I did run into Anna-Maniac at the after-party and she told me nonchalantly, beer in hand, that she thought I had skated well.

And then I peed a little in my DerbySkinz.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pivoting for dummies

Taking no prisoners with PsycHo AnalyzeHer (left)

It's crunch time for the Old Capitol City Roller Girls, who stand at 5-1 for the season and are set to take on the powerhouse known as the Mid Iowa Rollers --currently undefeated in six bouts this season-- in undoubtedly the toughest test OCCRG has faced to date. Saturday is swiftly approaching and that equates to lengthy scrimmages, new pack drills and lots of strategizing off the track.

In Sunday's practice I was placed in the position of pivot quite a few times; far more than I usually am. It did not take me long to find out why.

Pivoting is hard.

Arguably it is the most challenging position to play, and it takes an apt player able to quickly assess the ever-changing scenarios of roller derby and convey crisp, effective instructions to her teammates.

I had always assumed the pivot's role was simple. To set an appropriate pace (fast if her jammer is in penalty the box; slow if the opposing team's jammer is in the box) and hold the inside line as the last line of defense against the other jammer. And, I suppose, that is the position at its very core.

But I'm finding out it is so much more than that. I consider myself to be a sharp and visually aware blocker, but I struggle with vocalizing during jams -- I'm much more of a 'hot hand,' physical communicator, and this does not parlay into the best pivoting abilities. While I left Sunday's practice feeling a bit frustrated with my performance on the track, I feel highly motivated to work that much harder. It's important to me to be the best asset I can possibly be to my team, and I consider that to equate to being versatile enough to switch between jammer, pivot and [regular] blocker -- essentially being placed where I am needed by the bench coaches.

We're fortunate to have some very efficacious pivots on our team -- Toxic Sugar, Hitzy Blonde and Animal Mother, to name a few. I certainly have more respect for those women having had more time to play the position myself.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Of perils and compound fractures

On Wednesday night, Coach Bat R Up had us gather 'round at the start of practice. Before briefing us on our first drill of the night she addressed the status of our roster for our June 19th away bout versus the Mid Iowa Rollers in Des Moines. Of course, regulars Hitzy Blonde (bum knee) and Furyis Jorge (broken fibula) were still out of commission. But Bat R Up broke the news that additionally Tramah Queen (broken rib and torn posterior cruciate ligament), scheduled to make her bouting debut, was in no shape to skate. Finally, Holm Wrecker had also bowed out because of some sort of late and cryptic engagement.

This meant we had officially used up all of our alternates as replacements for the aforementioned skaters. Bat R Up, her voice tinged with caution, warned us that if another rostered skater were injured we would be forced to skate short. We listened and digested this, and then promptly began our first drill.

A few short minutes and one powerful block later, Shelby Flyin literally went flying into an alcove of the armory and smashed up her hand severely. It was enough to result in a compound fracture of one of her fingers, a gruesome exposition of bone and ligament.

The tell-all x-ray

In the aftermath, it was revealed Ima Golddiggah would be popping her bout cherry with OCCRG in Des Moines. Aggressive and tenacious, she will be a valuable and well-received addition to the team. And finally Fast Bettie will be returning to the roster after a three-month absence.

As for poor Shelby Flyin, she's slated to have surgery early this week to repair the cartilage casing around the joint. She'll be on the sidelines for a while but is in good spirits and plans to be trackside to cheer on her team.

On a lighter note, I've swapped out wheels again. My tried-and-true Sugar Hybrids have served me well since October, especially when cornering on the slick polished concrete floor of the Coralville Marriott. But I'd been considering a switch to a faster wheel for some time, particularly since I jam regularly. And after spending several hours pouring over wheel innumerable wheel reviews without a clear standout, I was frustrated enough to give up for the time being.

But one of the boyfriends of one of our fresh meat skaters offered me some new wheels to skate in on a trial basis. The Sure-Grip Optics are relatively new but inexpensive. I was skeptical of them being all that grippy without any nubs but I was able to corner well when using them for the first time during the Fullmetal Derby bout. I've settled on using them as pushers with my G-Rods. Stay posted to read when I reach escape velocity.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Well-oiled machine

In case you've been living under a rock or perhaps in a hollow tree, you should be aware of the fact that the Old Capitol City Roller Girls won their fifth straight bout this past Saturday at the Coralville Marriott. Facing off against the the Stateline Derby Divas of Beloit, Wisconsin, OCCRG notched a blowout victory with a staggering final tally of 303-69.

The Fullmetal Derby-themed bout featured the debut of new OCCRG skaters Holm Wrecker and Gigahurtz as veteran skaters Hitzy Blonde and Killer Baker remained laid up with knee and ankle injuries. And I'm proud to report that they both skated like pros and even took respective turns jamming. In fact, there was a slew of veteran blockers making rarely witnessed appearances on the jam line including Toxic Sugar, Benzo Bang, Fannysaurus and Animal Mother.

Overall it was a strategically played game by OCCRG, won with near-impermeable walls, pace manipulation and self-sufficient jammers. Highlights included an obscene 37-point jam by Ophelia Fracture and the passing of the star by Benzo Bang to Left 4 Deadwards, who pushed OCCRG over the 300 mark for the first time ever.

Here are some photos from the bout taken by the talented Emily Sherman:

Animal Mother moves in for the kill

Solid walling by Toxic Sugar, Old Yeller and Gigahurtz

Shelby Flyin was one of many lead jammers for OCCRG

Fannysaurus tackles a Stateline jammer

Yours truly skimming the inside line with some help from teammates

Bat R Up terrorizing a Stateline jammer

Next up: OCCRG heads on the road again for their first anticipated match-up with the Mid-Iowa Rollers in Des Moines on the 19th.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Releasing the Kraken

It's been an interesting past two weeks, to be sure. My Achilles tendon did heal well enough for me to start running again, and I was pleased to be back outside in the sunshine instead of toiling indoors on the stationary bike. The last Wednesday practice before our May 22nd bout against the Des Moines Derby Dames went well other than me landing on my right foot funny during the last ten minutes of practice.

By coincidence, I did have an appointment with my podiatrist the next morning. I described the fall and the resulting pain running along the right side of my foot. He diagnosed me with a stretched peroneal tendon and informed me that it would probably take two or three weeks to heal fully, which sent me into panic mode. Within a few hours of the injury, I could not even bear weight on my right foot and I couldn't conceive it being possible in the slightest that I'd be well enough to skate that Saturday.

The Old Capitol City Roller Girls needed me to jam on Saturday. We were already skating short, not having ace jammers Ophelia Fracture and GladI8Her as well as the blockers Zom B, Shelby Flyin and Hitzy Blonde. I envisioned having to call coach Bat R Up to tell her I couldn't skate, disappointing the rest of the team...

And yet there was a glimmer of hope: Dr. Sehl told me sometimes such injuries make quick turnarounds, and in my case there was very little swelling. He advised continuing to take my heavy-duty anti-inflammatory, wrapping the foot in sports tape, wearing the boot I'd previously used on my left foot and icing the tendon like crazy.

I followed the prescription zealously over the next two days, and miraculously enough by Saturday the pain had diminished enough that I could skate. I wouldn't be at my best, but I'd be pretty close. As for the bout itself, I wasn't sure what to expect -- we'd won comfortably in our only meeting with the Dames, but they were more experienced and we were without several of our best skaters. Additionally, Bat R Up asked me to be Alternate Coach for the bout -- equally flattering and daunting.

As it turned out, it was a most arduous bout. Left 4 Deadwards and myself did the bulk of the jamming, mostly against the fleet Stella Italiana of the Dames. In the first few minutes of the game, OCCRG was down by a number of points. Our heads just weren't in the game, but we dug deep further into the first half to reclaim the lead. The Dames were tenacious but OCCRG fought even harder to maintain the margin.

Left 4 Deadwards was evasive and swift and was named lead jammer in the vast majority of her jams. I had a 20-point jam (and a bout total of 82), a personal best, though it helped that the Dames' blockers and jammer were stuck in the penalty box at the time. Bat R Up jammed a few times and true to form took out a number of the Dames in spectacular fashion. Footage of the bout can be viewed here; be sure to check out 2:06, 2:16 and 3:23. Toxic Sugar also got in several rock solid hits.

In the end, it was OCCRG 151-122. But we were not without a casualty. Furyis Jorge went down hard and broke her fibula so she will be out for a few months. I'm glad she doesn't need surgery for it but I will sure miss that monkey on the track.

Shots from the bout:

Left 4 Deadwards in one of her many turns as lead jammer

Furyis Jorge making OCCRG proud with a solid hit

Coach on coach action: Bat R Up butts heads with Show Stopper

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Eager to roll

Whew. It's been a whirlwind past couple of weeks; neglecting the blog while I crammed for final exams and churned out last-minute papers. But now that school is out for the summer you can count on better coverage on your Old Capitol City Roller Girls.

About three weeks ago while running I developed a moderate, radiating pain in my left ankle that seemed to stem from my Achilles tendon. And though I made it my New Year's resolution to stop going on the Internet and self-diagnosing myself with various illnesses and injuries, I did some Googling and figured I must have tendonitis in my Achilles. Most sources said to just to cut back on the workouts slightly and practice the infamous RICE treatment until it subsided. So I stopped running and just skated and walked for exercise, popped ibuprofen around the clock and iced with a gel pack. But after a week I wasn't seeing any improvement; the pain was worse and the tendon was swelling, so I made an appointment with my podiatrist. He diagnosed me with moderate Achilles tendonitis and prescribed a heavy duty anti-inflammatory, physical therapy and a hideous immobilizing boot to wear all day, every day for the next two weeks.

Unfortunately, as the date of the home bout with the Cedar Rapids Roller Girls neared I had to make the dreaded call to my coach to tell her that I didn't think I could skate without worsening the condition of my Achilles. She was disappointed, but understood. So on Saturday, May 8th OCCRG skated without me in the bout, themed Better To Get Knocked Down Than Knocked Up and sponsored by Avoid the Stork.

And I am proud to say that even skating one player short OCCRG steamrolled Cedar Rapids 271-84! Though I hated missing out on the action, I was very pleased with what I saw: Swift jammers, solid walls/blocking and aggressive hits. Also exciting was having Benzo Bang making her bout debut, as she was one of the very first OCCRG skaters but spent most of last year laid up with a bum knee.

Ophelia Fracture blitzing, as usual

Recyclopath, Killer Baker and Fannysaurus wall it up

Left 4 Deadwards in the clear

Sorry, no photos of Bat R Up mopping the floor with an opposing skater this time ;)

Meanwhile, my tendon is healing nicely; well enough that I can skate with no discomfort so I can still skate against the Des Moines Derby Dames this Saturday. I might even start reintroducing running to my exercise regimen again, which is well-timed as I am getting awfully tired of riding the stationary bike at the gym.

Don't forget about our next home bout on Saturday, June 5th against the Stateline Derby Divas!