Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This place about to blow

After the previous week’s testing bout against Sioux City, I felt much more comfortable going into last Saturday’s contest versus Omaha Rollergirls’ AAA team. Bat R Up was back from Utah. We’d had a week to drill and tighten up our defense further after a nail-biter of a bout exposed our imperfections. And after having to sit out most of the second half with six majors, I was quietly determined to make far fewer trips to the penalty box.

If nothing else, I figured we would have front row seats for the second of the doubleheader: Two veteran WFTDA teams, ORG’s All-Stars and the Chicago Outfit, pitted against each other.

The ride to the venue in Council Bluffs was uneventful and I arrived early enough to get in my core workout while Fannysaurus Wrex and Left 4 Deadwards applied their trademark face paint. Unlike most teams which allot half an hour or less for individual team warm-ups, ORG had graciously allotted a full hour. We used every last minute of it, working in more drills and getting a feel for the new surface.
As the start of the double-header neared I felt calm and collected. I didn’t know a whole lot about the ORG’s AAA team other than that several of the skaters like Mid Life Crashes, Spin Shady, Eblastagirl and Mikillya also do double-duty with the All-Stars. But as I found out during the bout, there were also some less seasoned girls skating.

As is the norm, Ophelia Fracture lined up as our first jammer of the night. While our blockers held AAA scoreless in the opening minutes, she made it look easy while racking up several grand slams that set the tone for the evening.
Shortly after in cyberspace the ORG twitter feed reads:

Occrg scores 20 points in the first jam! Yee-ouch! 20-0 OCCRG

In the following jams Gladi8Her, myself and Left 4 Deadwards take turns wearing the star and earning a slew points as our blockers take control of the pack and slow the pace to a crawl. Bat R Up, Animal Mother, A Few Screws Lucy, Fannysaurus Wrex, ZomB Blokr and Jane Bang are the usual culprits when it comes to picking on the opposing jammers, who often ending up hitting the concrete or forced out of bounds.
The ORG twitter feed updates:

4-47 OCCRG these gals mean business! O.0

AAA ends up doubling their score to 8 as the end of the first half nears, but we are up by over 100 points. Our blockers are doing a terrific job of trapping and separating the opposing team’s blockers and jammer, while leaving small swaths of track for our own jammers to skirt through. It’s clear the AAA girls are getting frustrated, and their coach has already called two of their three timeouts at the half.

Our strategy remains the same going into the second period. I have picked up a fourth minor at the end of the first half as jammer, so the first jam of this new period is a power jam for AAA as I begin it in the box. Though not ideal, it’s of little consequence as the AAA blockers are unable to get their jammer through; my minute is soon up and I gain lead jammer status coming right out of the box. I’m not squeaky clean on penalties tonight, but I’ll take three trips over six any day.

As a team we are untouchable on this evening. Hours upon hours of conditioning and communication have us performing like a tremendous machine, and it’s not to be for AAA. They fail to pick up any points in the second half and the bout ends at a decimating 225-8. (It will be a tough night for ORG, who also see their All-Stars fall to the Chicago Outfit in the proceeding contest).

The Minnesota RollerGirls’ All-Star team --second in the North Central rankings and undoubtedly the toughest examination posed to us-- await the following weekend. But tonight is our night, and I feel ready to meet whatever comes our way.

It's red in every direction as Animal Mother, Ima Gold Diggah, Bat R Up and Left 4 Deadwards surround a jammer

Left 4 Deadwards, off the heels of a sensational effort versus Sioux City, delivers a punishing blow

A Few Screws Lucy, ZomB Blokr, Animal Mother and Bat R Up herd AAA blockers to the outside, leaving the inside line wide open for Gladi8Her

I enjoyed a far more successful and consistent night as both a jammer and blocker

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This ain't no tea party

Saturday night at the Marriott, one week after an easy triumph over the Push-Up Brawlers. The Sioux City Roller Dames have journeyed from across the state to play us on our home turf. The feeling in the air is uneasy; save for A Few Screws Lucy none of us have played the girls from Sioux City. What we do know is that SCRD have beaten some of the teams we have also won against -- namely, the Des Moines Derby Dames, Cedar Rapids Bombshell Cartel and the LaCrosse Skating Sirens. They could be as good as us, I think. Maybe even better.

The fact that we are skating without Bat R Up for the first time doesn't help. She's not only [arguably] our strongest blocker, but as team captain invigorates and unites a team of very different women into something of a juggernaut. With Left 4 Deadwards taking the helm as captain this time around, I know we're in capable hands but my anxiety is prevailing. Instead of talking to my teammates, most of whom are already in their skates and equipment, I grab my iPod find and quiet corner in our locker room. I sit down on the floor and begin my usual pre-bout routine of crunches, push-ups and stretches.

Our warm-up goes smoothly, and a decently-sized crowd is filling the Marriott's exhibition hall. The next half an hour goes by quickly: More stretching, line-up reviews, intros, the derby demo. The crowd is energetic and loud; I'm sitting on the bench as five of my teammates line up for the first jam: Ophelia Fracture, Jane Bang, Fannysaurus Wrex, Animal Mother, A Few Screws Lucy. Some of our very best skaters. And yet when I hear four whistles some two minutes later we are scoreless.

We're scoreless in the next jam. Then we pick up four points, but go scoreless again in the next six jams. Our bench is silent; the frustration and is palpable. SCRD's walls of two are stymieing our jammers and as blockers we aren't communicating and working together enough. I'm panicking, getting sloppy and accumulating majors far too rapidly. But a few power jams from Left 4 Deadwards and Ophelia Fracture motivate us further, and we realize it is all in our heads.

By the end of the first half we are gaining steam and slowly cutting into SCRD's lead, 82-49. After rehashing strategies in the locker room we return to the track stronger and more in sync. We can win this if we play to our potential and stay out of the penalty box.

And we do. SCRD continues to accumulate points, but at a far slower rate with our stepped-up defense. They're working frantically to maintain that lead and more of them are finding their way into the box.

A steady rotation between Left 4 Deadwards, Ophelia Fracture and Gladi8Her wearing the star puts us ahead by two points with three minutes left on the clock. I am benched for the night, now in the right frame of mind but not in time to avoid accumulating six majors. All I can do is watch and wait from the edge of my seat. The bout could go either way; we have momentum but SCRD wants this as much as we do.

As the clock winds down, SCRD's jammers are unable to get around our walls. Gladi8Her and Left 4 Deadwards seal the victory with an additional 12 points to extend the final tally to 141-127.

It was the first time we had started a bout so far behind on points, and feeling the intense pressure knowing that a furious rally would be needed to come out on top. We'd been truly tested, and as a team we had risen to the occasion.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The derby don't stop

It's full swing here with OCCRG. Last Saturday was the launch of four straight weekends of bouting, with the team slated to take on -in order- the Cedar Valley Push-Up Brawlers, the Sioux City Roller Dames, the Omaha Roller Girls' AAA team and finally the Minnesota Roller Girls' B team.

It was no secret going into last weekend's bout that the team was heavily favored to route the Push-Up Brawlers, who would be skating in only their third lifetime bout. We were not only expected to win, but to dominate over a far less-experienced team. So what do you do? Skate as hard and aggressively as you always do or take it easy on the neophytes?

For me, it wasn't really even a question. Sports at its essence is about giving it your all, pushing yourself as hard and as fast as you can -- whether you are winning by 200 points or losing by 200 points. It's the only way to play and maintain the integrity of the game. And quite frankly, I don't think the Push-Up Brawlers would have had it any other way.

The emphasis going into this bout was all on defense, and this had really little to do with the past record or skating style of the Brawlers. Though OCCRG is undefeated and a winner of our last nine bouts, we don't take anything for granted and we're always examining ourselves for ways to improve. Our captain, Bat R Up, has maintained most of the season that we were letting our opponents pick up too many easy points. So in the six weeks since our last bout against the Eastern Iowa Outlaws we've been training up a defensive storm, fine-tuning plays and strategies for all of our future bouts.

Back back to the Brawlers bout. We took no prisoners from the start, with our jammers racking up grand slam after grand slam while our blockers held them scoreless until half-time; 152-0. Early on in the second half the Brawlers picked up 6 points but the scoring gap continued to widen until the timer ran out, with the final score at 298-6.

Photos by Donna Olmstead

Butting heads with a Brawlers jammer

Jane Band and Swiss Misfit put on a squeeze while Fannysaurus Wrex looks on

A Few Screws Lucy likes creating 'strategic' chaos in the pack

A Brawler takes a dive at Ophelia Fracture

It would be simpleminded and injudicious to look at the final score and conclude that the Push-Up Brawlers are a bad team. On the contrary; for a team making only its third appearance in a bout I found a tremendous amount of upside and promise. Their tenacity and grit was truly admirable -- I think there are very few teams out there that could be down by so many points and say that they would have still played with the intensity and never-say-die attitude that the Brawlers exhibited in front of their wildly supportive home crowd.

Their blockers tried hard to hit and push out our veteran jammers every go round, and their own jammers picked themselves up and fought to get through our strong walls. What they lacked in experience they made up for in moxie. And for the record, the Brawlers play hard on the track but they are an awful nice set of ladies off of it.

As for OCCRG, we'll be taking on the Sioux City Roller Dames for the first time in just a few short hours on our home turf of the Coralville Marriott. The latter represents an unknown as most of us on the team have never seen them skate, but we're always excited to take on new teams, especially an established one like Sioux City. It should be a competitive bout and I'm itching for a dog fight.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rewind, flash forward

***I apologize for the very tardy writeup on the bout versus the Eastern Iowa Outlaws Felons from April 16th. It's been a very rough and stressful past couple of weeks for me, having to put my dog down, helping my older sister with wedding preparations and struggling to get final papers turned into professors on time. That being said...

OCCRG came into the bout heavily favored against EIO, still riding the momentum of a 4-0 season that included tallies over the WFTDA teams Kansas City Rollers' Plan B and Mad Rollin Dolls' Unholy Rollers. Still, as a team we knew better than to get cocky, especially when facing a new team for the first time (and one that had also recently been approved as a WFTDA apprentice). We were familiar with a handful of EIO skaters including veterans V Train and Dead Lee Danni, as well as frequent sub Krystallica of the Midwest Derby Divas, but weren't quite sure what to expect.

As it turns out, the bout held at the Five Flags Center in Dubuque turned into a comfortable 243-122 rout over EIO. OCCRG has made skating hard and focused from the get-go a focal point this season and jumped out to a typical early lead. Gladi8Her and Ophelia Fracture racked up their share of points quickly as jammers, but this was a nigh in which our defense really shone. Blockers like ZomB Blokr, A Few Screws Lucy and Jane Bang not only did a topflight job of holding back opposing jammers, but also luring those opposing jammers and blockers into committing major penalties like back-blocking and out of play's. Left 4 Deadwards was an asset while doing more blocking than jamming, and Animal Mother, Bat R Up and Fannysaurus Wrex had a great night stats-wise in terms of attacks and assists.

EIO jammer Krystallica back-blocks Bat R Up as Gladi8Her nears her second pack pass

EIO acquitted themselves well but were hampered by numerous trips to the penalty box that often left them skating short in most jams. It was a tough night for the Felons as they also saw their previously undefeated B team, the Misdemeanors, fall to the Peoria Push Roller Dames in the following game.

Now beyond 20 feet of the pack, EIO's V Train and Dead Lee Danni cannot engage OCCRG's Ophelia Fracture

[As for myself, it was a reversal of roles from the previous week's bout against Kansas City in which I spent the vast majority of the time blocking. I got to wear the jammer pantie quite a bit in Dubuque and enjoyed a fairly good night stats-wise (although I'm still looking to make fewer appearances in the penalty box). I even had a pretty nifty apex jump a la Left 4 Deadwards.]

For OCCRG, the win improved our 2011 record to 5-0 and was our ninth consecutive victory -- as well as being our fifth bout in six weeks. Though we're training as hard as ever we won't been seen in action again until May 21st, when we will travel to nearby Cedar Valley to take on the Push Up Brawlers -- a game that will touch off four straight weekends of bouting.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Banging on all cylinders

Photos by Dave Shrader

Going into last Saturday's bout against the Kansas City Roller Warriors' Plan B travel team, Old Capitol City Roller Girls were feeling confident in our abilities, but unsure how we would match up against a seasoned WFTDA travel team. OCCRG would enter the bout with a seven-game win streak and tremendous momentum, but Kansas City also brought its own winning streak including a last-out absolute beating delivered to the roller girls of Topeka, 325-45. Our victory in Madison had been a surprising but desperately close one; would we be life-or-death clashing with Kansas City?

ZomB Blokr is on top of things

Well, not exactly.

Ophelia Fracture squeaks by on the inside while Bat R Up holds back the opposing jammer

Though I am considered a veteran skater of OCCRG, pre-bout jitters have been a terrible struggle for me in the past. I've made great strides in conquering them but my bench coaches tend to sit me out the first two or three jams to make sure I am cool and collected before going in for my first one. And time and time again I have been awed and inspired by my teammates, who take no prisoners right from the start. Our jammers --Ophelia Fracture, Gladi8Her and Left 4 Deadwards-- are fleet-footed and agile; our incredible blockers --everyone from Bat R Up to Animal Mother to Jane Bang to ZomB Blokr to Fannysaurus Wrex to A Few Screws Lucy-- are shrewd and calculating. Watching them skate and dominate gives me added confidence and pluck I didn't know I possessed.

Bat R Up takes out a KC jammer... and sends her flying into a spectator's lap

As well as OCCRG played last Saturday, Kansas City played almost as well. They too had capable jammers as well as a hard-hitting and terrifically aggressive defense that kept us working hard to maintain control. One area OCCRG struggled with during the first half was staying out of the penalty box; it was not an uncommon sight at the beginning of jams to see only two OCCRG blockers lining up on the track. Despite the penalties, we went into half-time still leading 115-102.

Left 4 Deadwards cuts inside while I zero in on the KC jammer

During our time away from the track we made up our minds to go out strong in the second half, to up our defense while skating cleaner to stay out of the box. And stepping back onto the track, we were focused and motivated. As the minutes on the clock ran down in the second half, OCCRG gradually extended the lead. More Kansas City blockers made their own trips to the box and more of their jammers were shut out with fewer or no points accumulated during the jams.

Gladi8Her takes lead while Bat R Up and Jane Bang move in for the kill

OCCRG ultimately prevailed with a comfortable and definitive score of 213-152 over Kansas City. The win bolstered our 2011 record to 4-0 and marked the team's eighth straight win. But the ladies of OCCRG aren't ones to rest on their laurels. We're coming right back tomorrow on one week's rest to take on the Eastern Iowa Outlaws for the first time in Dubuque.

And we're ready.

Yours truly butting heads in the second half

As for myself, last Saturday was a valuable learning experience. The Kansas City team had as fierce and assertive defense I have come across yet as a jammer, but I did fairly well. During the first half I was able to garner lead jammer status on most outings and was able to chase the Plan B jammers and force them into calling things off early when they got through the pack first. In the second half I played exclusively as a blocker as that was where I was needed most; to assist defense in stymieing the Plan B jammers. It was a little bit refreshing and good practice for future bouts, even though I had suffered a back strain in the first half and was in quite a bit of discomfort.

The back strain knocked me out for almost all of this week, but after regular dosages of Relafen and hourly icings, I've got the pain down to a manageable level and feel ready for tomorrow.

Besides, I've got a hankering for some spankering.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Storm's a-comin'

I have to apologize for the very tardy breakdown of the Old Capitol City Roller Girls -- Des Moines Derby Dames bout on March 26th. Our March Madness of three bouts in as many weekends left me wiped out but I am happy to say that after many nights of ten-hour slumbers Triple D. Zaster is back to her usually feisty and pugnacious self. I've seen more spark from my teammates at this week's practices as well, so despite not knowing a good deal about the Kansas City Roller Warriors' Plan B travel team I feel the team is ready to give a good account of ourselves on our home turf.

But, back to Des Moines. Going in I knew the Dames were hoping that OCCRG would be knackered and jaded, but I felt confident in my team's vigor and constitution -- especially in light of coach Bat R Up's typically grueling practices aimed to raise both one's strength and stamina. We hadn't played the Dames in over a year but we knew with more experience they'd be tougher this time around. Their star jammer, Stella Italiana, is nimble and startlingly quick and warranted the majority of our focus and energies.

The bout played out as expected. OCCRG established an early lead and never relinquished it, though the Dames were always in striking distance thanks to some big jams from Stella Italiana. Their defense was tough but ours was a little better, and other Dames jammers like Ella Diablo, Show Stopper and Smallsbury Steak were shut out entirely during a few jams. OCCRG's A Few Screws Lucy, Fannysaurus Wrex, Zom B Blokr, Jane Bang and Animal Mother made for an especially formidable defense.

And Bat R Up? "The Kraken," as she is remembered in Des Moines, made her presence felt repeatedly in the first half, delivering her usual round of punishing blocks that sent various Dames to the floor. But she had to sit out the entire second half after accumulating six majors -- most of which I feel were unfairly called simply because Bat R Up is a big hitter, but that's a rant for another day.

In the end the score stood at 156-123, with OCCRG bringing both their 2011 season tally and record versus D3 to a perfect 3-for-3. It also marked OCCRG's seventh consecutive victory. Stat-wise Stella Italiana -predictably- was the highest-scoring jammer, but I did have the second highest point average per jam and notched a 20-point jam. Not to toot my own horn but that's not easy to do when you come from a reputable stable of jammers that includes the venerable Ophelia Fracture, Gladi8Her and Left 4 Deadwards.

And now for the photos:


Ophelia Fracture skates around a fallen Show Stopper, while farther back ZomB Blokr tries to stymie a D3 jammer

From left: Ophelia Fracture, Animal Mother and Devil'n Laces make a formidable front wall, but leave just enough room for Left 4 Deadwards to squeak through

Animal Mother (left) and Swiss Misfit's two-woman wall is enough to hold back Show Stopper

Ophelia Fracture (second from left) attempts to navigate around Show Stopper, Jane Bang holds the line while Fannysaurus Wrex takes out Stella Italiana

Swiss Misfit (right) holds the line while Bat R Up and ZomB Blokr swarm a D3 jammer

Bring on the Kansas City Roller Warriors. I expect them to be tough but OCCRG is ready to bring the fire.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Freeze frame

Photos from last Saturday:

ZomB Blokr, Gladi8Her and new addition Few Screws Lucy line up for a jam

Photo by Cathy Kovach

Left 4 Deadwards (333) battles back as jammer
Photo by Cathy Kovach

Benzo Bang and Animal Mother put the squeeze on an Unholy Roller jammer
Photo by Dave Shrader

Bat R Up simultaneously blocks an Unholy Roller and gives a whip to Ophelia Fracture (far left)
Photo by Cathy Kovach

I push out an Unholy Roller jammer while Gladi8Her (far left) skirts around and Killer Baker and Benzo Bang look on
Photo by Cathy Kovach

Fannysaurus Wrex stymies the opposing jammer while Gigahurtz (far left) and Ophelia Fracture close the gap
Photo by Dave Shrader

Monday, March 21, 2011

Front and center

The Mad Rollin Dolls of Madison, Wisconsin have long been a mainstay on the regional derby scene. They've been established for several years and have grown into a premier four-team league. Their Unholy Rollers were named 2010 league champions after losing a single bout all of last season, and several of their roster skaters also compete on the Mad Rollin Dolls' all-star travel team, including the venerable co-captain Twisted Halo.

So although the Old Capitol City Roller Girls finished our own 2010 season 9-2 and came into Madison on a five-game win streak, we were facing a tall order in our first bout against a WFTDA team. Coach and captain Bat R Up had run a slew of demanding and grueling practices all winter, and we were returning just one week after a comfortable victory over the Quad City Rollers. OCCRG was a team in good form but clearly entered the bout as underdog.

Having a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for a veteran WTFDA team/league, we had been thrilled just to have been asked to come and play. Like the rest of teammates, I had been telling myself going in that we would come, play hard and in the very least glean some valuable experience in the process.

Yet within the first few jams of the bout it became evident to everyone in the coliseum that OCCRG was in with a very big chance. We took a solid early lead with Gladi8Her and Ophelia Fracture racking up the points and smart and unrelenting defense from our blockers -- Bat R Up, Animal Mother, ZomB Blokr and Fannysaurus Wrex were in especially fine form.

But quickly several of our skaters ended up in the penalty box over the new few jams, affording the Unholy Rollers' jammers easy points that allowed them to cut into what had been a clear lead. OCCRG's points continued to accumulate in the jams that followed but the Unholy Rollers were tenacious and continued to draw closer, eventually taking the lead with the aid of a few power jams. It was nerve-wracking, but OCCRG's ability to secure the lead jammer title in the majority of the jams was tantamount to regaining the lead 63-62 at half-time.

"If we stay out of the box, we can win this," Bat R Up had emphasized going back into the second half, but it was easier said than done. There were a few more turns in the penalty box for OCCRG skaters though the increased aggressiveness and physicality of the blocks from the Unholy Rollers also resulted in their own fair share of penalties. The lead continued to be traded back and forth behind both teams until the final six minutes of the bout, when GladI8Her and Ophelia Fracture had bold and swift jams that pushed OCCRG's lead 141-123 with just over a minute left to play out.

With an 18-point lead, the outcome all but seemed like a foregone conclusion. The last jam started with no OCCRG skaters in the box and the crafty and reliable Left 4 Deadwards jamming. But the apparent victory seemed to slip away in an instant. From the bench I watched with a sickening feeling as Left 4 Deadwards was sent to the box for a major low block, in the process leaving the veteran Unholy Roller jammer Twisted Halo on a power jam. Still, all four of OCCRG's blockers remained on the track... for a few more seconds. Bat R Up and Ophelia Fracture soon joined Left 4 Deadwards in the penalty box, leaving Fannysaurus Wrex and ZomB Blokr to tough out the last moments of the bout alone.

Like other members of my team, I had flashbacks of our bout with the Mid Iowa Rollers last June, in which we led the entire game only to lose by three scant points when Left 4 Deadwards was sent to the box in the final jam of the night and our blockers were unable to keep the opposing jammer at bay. My fears only intensified when Fannysaurus Wrex's toe stop broke off of one of her skate's, and with her toe guard dragging on the floor was forced to the sidelines. Now ZomB Blokr was the last OCCRG skater left on the track to impede Twisted Halo, who was gaining momentum and with each pass. The crowd was on its feet now and hollering loudly for their home team.

Twisted Halo continued to skate out the jam as the clocked ticked down. I kept my eyes mostly on the floor, trying to pretend the scenario playing out in front of me wasn't happening. But out of the corner of my right eye I caught a flash of black and red shoot onto the track.

It was Left 4 Deadwards, and she wasn't going down without a fight. I watched as she made her first pass through the pack swiftly and without hassle, as the Unholy Rollers did not seem prepared for her re-entry into the jam. Left 4 Deadwards motored past the bench and around the turn to our cheers, and pushed on to lap the pack for four points just as the clock ran out.

Bat R Up called the team in for a quick huddle but I stood alone to the side, my eyes glued to the scoreboard. I watched the Unholy Rollers' point tally jump to 143, two points higher than OCCRG's 141. But I kept waiting. We'd entered the jam with 141, and Left 4 Deadwards had scored at least four points... hadn't she? The referees gathered in the center for a few seconds, and then the scoreboard changed again:

Unholy Rollers: 143, Old Capitol City Roller Girls: 145.

The rest was all a blur of screams and cheers, tears and hugs.

In the days following I find myself replaying the bout constantly in my head. Did it really happen? Did we really triumph over a talented and accomplished team like the Unholy Rollers?

But we did, and people are taking notice.

Online publication Dane101 wrote of the bout:

For Old Capitol City, the victory was a major accomplishment for a league that began bouting less than two years ago. “Mainly coming in, we were so honored to be invited by the Unholy Rollers and Mad Rollin' Dolls...we are so excited to play a team of their caliber, we were honored to just come and play,” said OCCRG's Tynamite. OCCRG relied heavily on a quartet of jammers for their points, with Gladi8her leading the team with 51 points, followed by Ophelia Fracture with 46, Triple D Zaster with 30 points and Left 4 Deadwards with 16. Blocker Animal Mother led OCCRG with a plus/minus rating of 33, followed closely by Bat R. Up with a rating of +30. Bat R. Up had a particularly strong night as a blocker, leading in both attacks (14) and assists (9) for the up-and-coming league.

Iowa Roller Derby:

On Saturday night, the Old Capitol City Roller Girls journeyed to Madison to play their first WFTDA on WFTDA bout against the Mad Rollin’ Dolls: Unholy Rollers. Surpassing all expectations, they won 145-143. Should we call this “The Miracle in Madison?” I don’t believe it would be appropriate. OCCRG is amazingly talented, endlessly creative, well coached and conditioned with a superb jammer roster and pulverizing defense. You knew they were going to be competitive. But to take home a win? No words can express what it meant to Iowa Derby, both players and fans. I’d like to think of it as OCCRG making a successful first step on the road to gaining a regional, and eventually, national reputation for Iowa as being a hothouse of derby talent.

I'm so proud of my team and honored to be a part of it that I could burst.

On a personal reflection, I myself had a complete reversal of form from the previous bout, managing to keep my nerves and emotions in check and bolstering my performance. I fought hard and succeeded in getting lead jammer status in most of my turns as jammer, kept my elbows in for the most part and made only three trips to the penalty box (a career low). I was incredibly proud of my teammates, but also greatly relieved to realize that I had never regressed in skill or ability at all; only needing to conquer my own self-doubt to fulfill my potential.

Oh, and I also rode a unicorn.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Shaking off the rust/March madness

If you hadn't heard by now, the Old Capitol City Roller Girls opened their 2011 season with a victory over longtime rivals the Quad City Rollers last Saturday at the Coralville Marriott. The final tally was 191-83, and though the Quad City Rollers put up a good fight in the second half it was enough to derail the momentum of OCCRG.

Fancy footwork by Left 4 Deadwards adds another few points seconds before the jam is called off

Bat R Up takes out Lady Gotcha of the Quad City Rollers while OCCRG's Ophelia Fracture skirts along the inside

GladI8Her had several big jams, including this 23-pointer

Myself booty-blocking a Quad City Roller jammer

But though the team was ecstatic with the winner, I left the Marriott more unsure of myself than I had been in some time.

Pre-bout jitters have always been something I have struggled with, but last weekend my anxiety levels were off the charts. It was something of a bad omen when, the day before the Back in Black bout, I weathered my worst anxiety attack in several years. I tried to refocus and told myself I'd be better now that I'd gotten that out of my system, but I slept poorly that night as well.

Saturday found me highly strung and skittish. In the hours before the bout I did my best to relax by doing yoga and some core exercises. But I just couldn't calm my nerves. I try to keep my everyday stresses from spilling over into derby every time I lace up my skates, but sometimes it seems like an exercise in futility. Add that to the feeling of overall rustiness from not having bouted since October and you have a recipe for disaster (no pun intended).

As for the bout, my nerves got the better of me and I underperformed. My turns as jammer weren't as stellar as they usually are, and as a blocker I could have played a little smarter. I ended up in the penalty box too many times. It didn't help that I had an even more severe anxiety attack that lasted the entire half-time, but with the encouragement of bench coach Tynamite I shook it off just as the entire second half was beginning. In the minutes that followed I did manage to make lead jammer and improve my performance blocking.

Someone later told me I had shown a lot of guts to come back like that while battling my own inner turmoil, but I still went home that night feeling disappointed in myself. I thought about the bout constantly all week; at first only things I had done wrong. But towards the end of the week my began to zero in not in the areas I had come up short, but instead on the things I wanted to improve on: Hit cleaner (i.e. no elbows). More ducking, jumping and weaving while jamming. Improve pack awareness.

And finally: Being confident in myself and my abilities.

I was surprised to find a lot of the anxiety dissipating as the week wore on, even with OCCRG's bout with the Mad Rollin Dolls' Unholy Rollers--the toughest endeavor the team has taken on thus far-- fast approaching. I'm slowly realizing that, although I can't skate as well as I'd like all the time, I can train as hard as I can at practices and try my best at the bouts.

And I think I can live with that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Breaking up the girl

Triple D. Zaster has fallen off of the face of the planet.

That's what some might of thought, with it being some six months since my last post.

A lot can change in six months. This winter in particular had been especially draining. Despite my best efforts to extend his well-being, I had to face the fact that my dog, my best friend of over fifteen years, was slowly dying. Several close friends fell out of my life suddenly. My grades slipped at the university, and I barely made it through my finals. And I continued to wilt from the lack of sunlight and warmth.

Yet I still held out hope for the spring, when the weather would be fair and mild. I'd get a fresh start with classes, and a whole new season of derby would be fast approaching. Feeling directionless, I through myself wholeheartedly into exercise.

The endorphins are good for you, they say. But more important to me, I wanted to be a fitter, tougher Triple D. Zaster in 2011. And so I devised an ambitious training plan for the winter, upping my old standards to five miles of running, 60 push-ups, 150 crunches, several planks and other core exercises. Every day.

I was convinced that this regimen would drive me to the limits of robustness, sending my speed and stamina through the roof. But I was disappointed as the weeks wore on and my performances at practices seemed to plateau. I could no longer keep up with Ophelia Fracture during sprints; in fact I could hardly sprint for more than a minute without feeling light-headed and weak, barely able to catch my breath. My 25-lap times were slower than they had been in almost a year.

But I just couldn't understand how someone who had been training so hard could be regressing. I had thought I would be bursting with energy, tireless; not someone who could barely keep her eyes open past nine. I'd been dedicated to my training plan; of the 365 days in 2010 I had not exercised on exactly four.

"I'm losing weight and I haven't gotten my period in almost a year," I remember lamenting to my mother, a registered nurse, on the phone. "I'm tired all of the time... I don't know what's wrong with me."

"See a doctor," she said simply, and so I did two months ago.

As it turns out, I have an eating disorder.

This obsession with exercise, the compulsion eat increasingly smaller amounts of food, feeling cold and exhausted... it feels silly to say it snuck up on me. When you think of girls with eating disorders, you think of 80-pound wisps of girls with ghastly hollowed faces and every bone visible on their emaciated frames.

Not girls like me.

"I'm concerned about you playing roller derby," the nutritionist told me. "I have girls who have broken hips just from running." I shook my head. Even the very thought of taking a temporary hiatus from my team and the sport was overwhelming and despairing. And so I haggled with my nutritionist and doctor until a deal was formed to satisfy both parties: I would continue to skate if I promised to follow their strict diet and exercise plans with the greatest rigor and dedication.

For starters, I would have to take one or two days off a week from exercise. When I did exercise on the days I did not have practice it would be limited to no more than 30 minutes per day. No consuming diet, light or low-fat food; in fact I was instructed to take in a certain amount of necessary fats and to eat one dessert per day. I would have to attend weekly nutrition and therapy sessions, and see a doctor monthly to monitor my physical condition and weight gain.

But I'm already reaping the benefits. Instead of a chilly 95 degrees, my body's temperature has risen to a far healthier 98 degrees. At work and in class I no longer struggle to stay awake and focused. And the skating! I had forgotten what it felt like to push myself without feeling dizzy and unbalanced, to be able to dig deeper for more without worrying that my body would be too enervated to respond. And yes, even keep up with Ophelia Fracture (well, at least within 15 feet).

There's still such a long road ahead before I am both physically and mentally well. But I am feeling better and stronger than I have in almost a year, and with the team's seasonal debut against the Quad City Rollers on Saturday I feel that more than ever I am ready to put my best foot (skate) forward.

Wish me luck.