This is Roller Derby

At the very crack of dawn on Sunday morning I am up and cycling to town, I see no one, arriving at Peterborough train station I don’t have to queue to get a ticket or fight for a seat, it’s starting to feel a little post apocalyptic, but no, this is the start of my first day of roller derby training.


My new years resolution this year was to try new sports activities, things I have always wanted to try, however the main reason I haven’t done this before is that Peterborough just doesn’t have a wide range of alternative exercise options, it’s great for rowing and running and cycling and has all the normal clubs rugby, football etc. but when it comes to something just a little bit different, nothing.


So to try roller derby, I must travel, the nearest club to me is in Cambridge* and I managed to get a ticket for their fresh meat course (this is the roller derby term for beginners) despite, as I understand it an unprecedented demand for tickets.


So here I am on a two-hour train ride to Cambridge via Hitchin, a trip which takes 30mins by car and 45 by direct train, however apparently no one wants to go to Cambridge before 1pm on a Sunday so Hitchin it is.


I did wonder if perhaps Hitchin have a roller derby team but the husband informs me it is quite small and so all ten people who live there would need to play and thus quite unlikely.

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However as I struggle around in the dark for the plus points of this situation I reflect that I can at least blog about my experiences, catch up on my reading and on an apparently empty train and perhaps do an early morning core session, living the dream and planking between the luggage racks.


Before I get to the bit on skates let’s talk a little more about kit, roller derby requires quite a bit of kit and I have Double Threat Skates to thank for getting me kitted up.


Naturally the first thing you need is skates, I spent a good deal of my childhood and teenage years on skates but the little I remember about buying skates is quite useless for roller derby, I remember buying skates a size larger than your shoes (I guess this might just have been mum aiming for maximum value) however for roller derby your skates need to be super snug, not cut your circulation off snug but damn pretty close, to ensure your skates are snug rather than just too small you need to stand for a few minutes in them and see if you can still feel your feet, this is enormous fun when you haven’t been on skates for years in the middle of a room full of pros, however I discovered a trick, using a skate tool you can adjust your wheels so they don’t move, ha! Once you have found the right level of snugness, enough to ensure your feet don’t move around when you skate you are ready for pads…


One other thing I should say, skates make your feet look really small, tiny even, you want small (looking) feet wear skate! They also make you almost a foot taller, this is obvious but I forgot and I love being taller without the heels bit. Bonus.


Padding; Again very different from my early skating years when my mum would tape nappies to the bits I may fall on, it’s all quite high-tech in comparison. You need wrist, elbow and knee pads, wrist supports will stop you braking your wrist if you fall, but if you fall badly you will just break your arm a little higher up, I am told, you can’t say they aren’t honest.


Also you know shoes before corset? (when costuming put your shoes on before you lace up your corset or you will struggle to get them on without help) well skates before wrist pads; wrist pads make your hands nearly useless so they go on last and come off first, only when I said “oh like shoes before corset” I just got a funny look…


Knees: I went for the biggest knee pads I could scrimmage, I like my knees and apparently I’m going to fall on them a lot, there are a lot of straps involved in my knee pads, four? And they all need to be tight enough that you can’t just pull the pads off, my shins need to fend for themselves no stealing the knee pads!


Elbow pads: the knee and elbow pads keep your arms in a bent position, it’s very odd but I’m sure it works out once you are skating…


Apparently I have quite small arms, as I had to go down a size from the first pads I tried on, gutted is not the word, all that work and my gun show is disappointing at best, size SMALL 😦 sigh.


One more thing about pads, they have a left and right: I foresee this being one of the most challenging aspects of the sport for me…


Helmet! Skid lid, this is much more hardcore then my cycle helmet which can only take one crack before it needs replacing, this helmet can be dropped multiple times an take up to three proper crashes before I needs replacing, lets hope the same can be said about me, I restrained myself when it came to colour going for shiny black rather than sliver glitter-ball, no need to make any more of a fool of myself than necessary. Perhaps if I make it to being good…


I have also brought a mouth guard, I’m not sure that I will need it for the non contact bits but, hey ho, you get to chose a colour, I went for red, grrraahhh! I am warned they are a pain in the arse to shape, oh SUCH fun awaits!


Wheels: you can buy different wheels for different surfaces, one thing I remember from my former roller skating days is being told we can not skate outside then skate on our community centre wood floor as it will ruin it, skating little stones into it, apparently a lot of venues dislike people skating as they worry about the floor, however roller skate are not any more damaging then any other indoor gym activity. That’s all good and well but if I’m going to get any practice in during the week I’m going to have to face up the fact this will have to be done outside, as I don’t have access to any suitable indoor spaces near my house, but I am surrounded by parks with paths, the main reason I need to change my wheels for this is to make it a nicer ride, outdoor wheels are softer and make the going less bumpy. To change my wheels I need a skate tool, this is the rigger jigger/ multi tool of the skate world, gosh I do love new tools, anyways…


Carrying all this kit even a short distance I am struck by the weight of it all, it’s going to be quite hard work just to move in it. Once I have it all on (not correctly to start with I had to stop and swap my wrist guards which I swore I had on currently dispute the fact they are marked with left and right and these markings did not correspond to my hands) the moment of truth came, I had to get up and skate, ideally without immediately falling over, that was quite scary it has been a good ten years since I last did this, however I did quite well, going round in little circles trying to improve my technique, pushing out to the sides not back (ten and two) bending my legs so if I fell it would be towards onto the pads.


Naturally sooner or later I was going to fall over, I did so twice, once for no good reason, straight onto my arse, oh my poor coccyx, the second time, in front of everyone while trying to purposely fall forward on both knees, I again for no good reason feel back again but this time I took on board the advice from the last fall and choose an acre cheek to landed on, less painful, but not really what I was meant to be doing.


We had a go a few different skills, gliding on one leg, falling on to our knees that sort of thing, I wasn’t the best, but I wasn’t the worst, it was hard work and after two hours I had a proper bead on (I was sweaty) but I loved it, I literally crawled back home, stopping only to stuff my face, I arrived home, had a bath, made a lot of pained noises then went to bed at 3:30 in the afternoon. However when I woke up and hour or so later the husband had cooked tea so I might try that trick again!


I have spent the rest of the week paying for falling on my arse, I’m sure It didn’t used to take this long to recover from falling on my arse…it has much more crumble zone now, but it is higher off the ground… however nothing will stop me from returning next week, I literally can’t wait ( My tailbone would like to point out that it can and will wait.)


* turns out Borderline Brawlers are based just down the rod from me in Stamford, but no matter, its not like it’s a two hour trip to Cambridge on a Sunday morning…


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