Buster Skull


 Posted by at 4:10 pm  No Responses »
Oct 182011

Buster-Skull-roller-derby-130104706596980000I am a confident person. I am confident in my abilities as a skater, as a leader, as a worker, and in all aspects of my life. I was taught to always do my best and take pride in everything that I do. That confidence is my source of motivation. I know that I am capable of great things, I expect great things from myself, and I work hard to accomplish great things. I recognize and seek out areas for improvement as a skater and in all my roles.

Webster’s defines confidence as belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing. The issue is that many people confuse confidence with conceit. Self-confidence is necessary. However, you have to have confidence in others as well as yourself. You have to believe in your own capabilities an in others’, especially as a member of a team.

Over the years, I have been accused of being conceited, but never by anyone who knows me well. I suppose it is still my fault if I project an air of arrogance, but I truly don’t feel that I do. When I see myself, I view myself as strong and capable. I love what I see when I look in the mirror. If that were the only thing that I said, you might think I’m arrogant. But when I see others, I love them too. I know that sounds like bullshit, but it’s true.

I work as a physical therapy tech and recently I had a patient who was incredibly inspiring. I spoke to her for a solid hour about her love for everyone. She works in maintenance at a geriatric health care facility. To some people that is just a job, just a paycheck. But, she told me that when she comes in contact with someone, she makes a difference in their day. She may only see them for a moment while she is sweeping their floor or changing their linens, but in that moment she brightens their day. She greets everyone with a warm smile and opens a conversation. She takes pride in what she does. If her own mother were at an inpatient facility, she would want everyone there to treat her well, and so she recognizes the importance of what she does.

As a physical therapy tech, I could go through the motions and get by without putting my best into what I do. But, I would never do that. It might seem insignificant to ask a patient how their weekend was, or give them a sincere compliment, but I know that what I do matters. Maybe no one has asked them about their weekend, maybe something really significant happened and they simply want to share with someone. By being that person who asks I have made a difference and I take great pride in that.

My inspirational patient told me that she sees everyone as beautiful. She reminded me to be kind to those who are unkind because they need it the most. Love and confidence may not seem to go hand in hand initially, but they do. To appear confident rather than conceited, we have to remember that there is something to love in everyone. It is hardest to see in people who don’t see that in themselves, but that is when it’s crucial.

Someone who lacks confidence will not take pride in what they do, they may feel insignificant. I would imagine that going through life feeling unhappy with yourself would make you at least somewhat unpleasant. It might be challenging to smile at someone walking by with a scowl on his face, but he is the one who needs to see your smile! That small gesture is a reminder that you see good in them even when they can’t see it.

Of course, there are some people who have confidence in themselves and not in others. Those are the ones who are especially difficult to reach. My personal example of this is a “good old boy,” an older, country raised man who thinks that he knows better than I do about everything because of his upbringing, years of experience, and possibly because he’s a man. He’s not alone. We have all encountered arrogant people. What makes them arrogant is that they have a falsely high opinion of their own abilities and a low opinion of others’. These people don’t seek out areas for self-improvement and they don’t see the good in others.

I’ve learned recently that the best way to approach these people is with the same sincerity as you do others.  Don’t allow arrogant people to cause you to lose site of the good things that are within each person. It may seem counter-productive to look for good in someone who only sees good in himself, but if you don’t you will become him. As challenging as it is, you have to maintain your ability to believe in him. You may never change that person, but they may end up having confidence in you and that is a start.

If you only believe in yourself and not in others, than you are arrogant. If you only believe in others and not yourself, than others will doubt you. You’ll encounter people who struggle with one or the other, or with both. Don’t lose your confidence- you have to believe in yourself and in others, especially when it’s challenging.

As part of a team, especially in roller derby, you have to trust your teammates. If you’re playing defense and you doubt the person you are in a wall with, what happens? You leave them and try to hold the jammer on your own, or you overcompensate and end up leaving a space for the jammer to slip through. If you had trusted your partner’s abilities, whatever they might be, then you would have been better off. If I am in a wall with a brand new girl at practice, I will probably tell her to hold the inside line and guard it with her life then I’ll play defense on the outside and help keep our wall protected. If the jammer is coming up and my partner has left some space on the inside line, I will move her to where she needs to be. If my partner misses the jammer and I don’t have time to re-trap then we’ll just reset and adapt for the next pass. It is okay to be realistic about her abilities, but the point is that I don’t jump the gun and leave her. Instead, I work with her; I know that she has the potential to be a strong member of my team, but not if I don’t give her every opportunity to learn.

As a jammer, I have to be confident in my abilities. When I line up, I see the first holes that I am going to take and I take them. If they close up, I am ready to find another way, or fight through. I am confident that I will get by each of the opposing blockers, and I am confident that my blockers will be able to hold the other jammer so I can get through before she does. As soon as I doubt that, I hesitate. Any jammer can tell you that if you hesitate when you get to the back of the pack you may end up stuck. If you doubt your abilities you give them enough time to wall up in front of you.

An important thing to remember about confidence on and off the track is that it has to be realistic. If I know that I am going up against a solid wall, I don’t doubt whether I can do it, I simply adjust my plan. Maybe I’ll need one person to start on offense to get me through, maybe I’ll need to keep fighting through while my blockers stay on defense, the point is that I won’t back down. For most people, especially new athletes, the problem isn’t being falsely sure of their abilities, it is the looming self-doubt that comes with being new to anything. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about the realistic part. Just know that you can’t fly through a wall of solid blockers just because you are confident. That is called a back block.

Everyone on your team will have both strengths and areas for improvement (including you) but play to the strengths! Remember that off the track you’re a team with everyone in the world; it’s just a much larger playing field!


Skating a Marathon

 Posted by at 10:06 am  2 Responses »
Sep 292011

42035-skate-marathon-the-first-event-of-its-kind-for-scotlandLast year was my first year competing in the NYC Skate Marathon. My teammates Cinderosa and Kitty Purry competed as well, and we were the only three racing on quads. We did make a friend from Gotham’s rec league, Jeanne Williams, who was skating in the park that day.

This year’s marathon took place this past Saturday, September 24th and there were (I believe) 12 skaters on quads! The race added in a “roller derby challenge” to allow skaters a relay option. There were two teams of two competing in the relay. The marathon is just like a regular marathon- 26.2 miles, but it is a loop around Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The loop is approximately a 5k, so for the marathon- you make the loop 8 times. For the relay- you tag off each lap. I expected it to be one person skating 13.1 miles and then the next, but you switch off each time. I think having that rest probably made each lap much more daunting, but that’s just me. One derby challenge team featured O Chit of Charm City and Cybil Disobedience of Harrisburg. The other team was a skater from Gotham and her husband from the New York Shock Exchange. From my team- ED Sledgewick and Marv E Lust completed the half marathon, 13.1 miles! There was also a skater from a team in… Michigan, maybe… who completed the half, as well as a friend of Suburbia Roller Derby, and our friend Jeanne! In the full marathon there was Domestic Violet of Suburbia, my teammates- Percy QT and Amelia RIP Heart, and me.

take off 2


Having quads at the race generates respect for our sport. Knowing that we can compete with speed skaters because of our training for roller derby shows that we are athletes. I’m not saying that everyone who plays needs to be able to skate a marathon, I am just saying that the speed skaters there were impressed. When they asked how I was able to go so fast on quads I told them, “roller derby!” That is the truth- practicing at least 3 days a week for 2 hours is why I am fast on quads! No secret there! But, I did do a fair amount of training for the marathon. I skated between 10-26 miles about three times per week outdoors. I started training for the skate marathon after my half Iron-Man triathlon. I really picked up the training in mid July.

Other than just increasing distances, I worked on improving times, did a bit of hill training, skating with ankle and wrist weights and varying my strides. Fortunately there are several loops that I can use to train where I live. I found one loop that is a perfect 13.1, so I would do that once, or twice, and work on my race pace. Amelia and I also skated 35 miles to the beach, but only once.

I can’t think of any other “secrets” to my training. I eat well (mostly fruits, vegetables, and yogurt), train (pretty much) daily, stretch, and drink plenty of water (about 64-72 ounces a day).  The only other key to my success was setting ambitious goals.

At the 2010 marathon, my first lap was my slowest. In any race that I have done, even just a 5k, I start slow and build up. It can be a pretty good strategy, except that I was starting too slow. You can only make up so much time. So this year, when I was training and when I was racing- I started hard and got even harder. I would be around mile 6-7 of a training skate and realize that my legs could push harder than I was asking them to push. I had to break myself of the habit of reserving energy for the end. Pacing yourself is important, don’t get me wrong- but you have to find your limits, especially in training. If you start at a pace you end up unable to maintain, then you’ll slow down towards the end- at least you’ll know your limits. What I found is that I could push myself more and more towards the end, even if I had been challenging myself the whole time.

Let me use an example. I set out on my 13.1 mile loop at a 11mph pace. Around mile 2, I realize that I can pick it up- so I get up to 13mph. Can I maintain 13mph for the rest of the distance? I don’t know, but I can do it at mile 2- so I do. Around mile 10 my legs are not pushing quite as hard, I feel myself slowing down. But I realize that there are only 3 miles left! I can keep that pace- or even pick it up a bit- for the last 3 miles. With only 1 mile left, I know that I’m almost done, so I pick it up again. Then, when my house is in site, I can really sprint. Initially, I wanted to keep that 11mph pace in order to preserve energy for the last mile and the sprint at the end. But instead, I found new energy reserves! They are there, but you have to be willing to search for them. That’s how you build endurance- you can’t hold back! There is no reason to preserve your energy, you’ll find new energy, and if you don’t- you’ll collapse, haha! That’s training.

My time goal for the marathon was 2 hours. In training, my pace was typically 12.6-13mph depending on the distance and objectives for each session (ie- long strides, weights for strength). At the race, my pace was just about 13.1mph exactly.

Since it is a loop, you can see your time each lap. After my first lap when I saw the clock it read 18minutes. In order to meet my 2 hour goal, I needed to do each lap in about 15 minutes. I spent the rest of the race trying to make up for these three minutes. At my second lap, I needed the clock to read 30 minutes and it read 32. At the third, I needed it to read 45 and it was around 47. On my last lap, I dug deep and picked up the pace as much as I could. When I crossed the finish line the clock read 2:02. I was proud of myself, of course, but I was bummed. I tried really hard not to be, but I was. Sledge and Marv were there when I crossed. Sledge had a serious wipe out, but got back up and finished with road rash that looks like a zombie bite. They had both reached their goal of completing the half and I was truly very proud of them. Then Percy and Amelia came in from the marathon in under 3 hours, reaching their goal. It was cheering me up that my teammates reached their goals, but bumming me out at the same time because I was 2 minutes off mine. Then Percy told me that they started the clock from the first wave… we went in the fourth wave! My time was actually several minutes faster! Turns out my official time was 1:59:44! I was stoaked! I met my goal and took first in my age!

Here is my time broken down by laps:

0:15:12.867 0:14:34.283 0:14:43.370 0:14:46.025 0:14:46.522 0:15:03.852 0:15:30.845 0:15:06.260 1:59:44.024


It ended up being a great thing that I thought I needed to make up time! The current Guinness World Record is 2:30 for the fastest marathon on skates (I believe). I filed a claim several months ago and they replied that the minimum requirement for the record “fastest marathon on roller skates” was 2:30. So, I confirmed my record attempt date and got all the necessary information. Now, it is just a matter of compiling all the evidence they requested. I haven’t heard back from them. I emailed to see what the actual time for the record is. I guess it could really be 1:58 or something and they are just saying that the minimum to even attempt the record is 2:30. But I don’t know why they would do that… so we’ll see! Either way, I am pleased with my time. It would be cool to say I have the record, but I am not as pressed about it as I was prior to the race. Especially because I will take off even more time next year.

Other than reach my goal and seeing my teammates reach their goals, the sweetest part of the marathon was seeing Team in Training people running in the park. Team in Training is an endurance training group that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When I did my 70.3 mile triathlon in June, it was with TNT. Prospect Park remains open during the race for recreational users and there was a whole group of TNT runners there. When I passed by them I yelled “Go Team!” and they all cheered in response. In my next lap around I yelled to them again and said “Survivor!” That was probably in loop 3-4 and that word gave me strength. It means a lot to me, I had to keep myself from crying when I said it. The pride that I feel when I say that word is immeasurable. I realized then that I could pick it up. I had more strength than I knew- shit, I beat cancer!

Next year I plan to start training earlier, train on more hills, train on longer hills, and train with a parachute for wind resistance. I’ll decide what my time goal is once I get into training, but I’m thinking I want to take off about 10 minutes. I hope to see even more people on quads! Playing roller derby gives us endurance, physical strength, and mental strength- that’s all you need for the marathon, so go for it! You’ll be able to register at http://www.skatemarathon.org/ and I expect to see you there!


Setting Team Goals

 Posted by at 5:03 pm  1 Response »
Sep 202011

Now that I am back at school and have access to a computer, I will be posting on this blog. During my hiatus from blogging, I was still writing in my journal and I’ve wanted to share so many things with the derby community. I find myself learning new things from roller derby daily.

People are very often praised for remaining strong in their convictions. Many pride themselves on remaining unchanging because they think that a change in beliefs shows weakness. In reality, we should be ashamed if we are the same as we were a year ago- or even a day ago. The tendency to say “but I’ve always done…” or “I never did…” is understandable. Once we have progressed, it is hard for us to imagine how we may have done something differently. I can hear myself saying “I’ve always been fit,” but in reality I have become more and more fit over time. If you were to compare my scrawny 16 year old quads with my now buff 20 year old quads, there is an immense difference. The point is that change is good. That change is called progress and without it we digress.

Change, or progress, comes from challenging yourself and setting new goals. In order to achieve what we you want and to grow- you have to set goals. Goals provide you with direction. If you know where you want to be in the future, then you will know what you really want to be doing in the present. It seems like it would be easy to do what you want, but it isn’t always that simple. For example, my goal is to have 8 pack abs. One day someone offers me a donut that sounds appealing at the moment. Keeping my goal in mind, I can say no because I know that it won’t get me what I truly want. Distractions are simply excuses and vice versa. When I was setting my goals I didn’t make my goal to enjoy saturated fats. That is not depriving yourself; it is understanding what you really want and maintaining focus.

I understand and embrace the mentality that life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. But where will you journey? Will you just go as the wind blows you, or will you decide where you want to go and get there?

As individual players we should be setting goals and constantly challenging ourselves to be the best athletes we can. We should evaluate our performances, highlight our positives and determine areas for improvement. I am a constant self-improver. That does not mean that I am not proud of what I have accomplished, it simply means that I will not coast on what I have accomplished. If I decide my goal for that month is to skate 13 miles in one hour and I accomplish that, then it is time to do 14 miles in one hour. If I don’t accomplish it, that’s okay too. That just means my goal for next month is still to skate 13 miles in one hour.

I believe in setting big, arduous goals- because the only thing that is certain is that if you don’t try it, you won’t accomplish it. So how do we go about setting goals as individuals?
Determine your values. What matters to you? How do you enjoy spending your time?
Look at what you would truly want in an ideal world- with no limiting factors.
Set your goals.

I set one, five, and 10 year goals for derby, health, personal, and education/career. I based my goal setting worksheet off of one that I found here: http://www.lululemon.com/education/goalsetting. I start at 10 years, and then do 5, and then one so that I can direct my shorter term goals based on my long term vision. I also set monthly, weekly, and daily goals that work towards my ultimate goals.

Here is one of my goals, “I reach five year remission (cure) by 2016.” This one is a little trickier than others because obviously I did not choose to get cancer to begin with. However, this remains a goal of mine- in an ideal world that is what I would like. Knowing this, I can make decisions that work towards my goal.
So I set the goal: “I skate a marathon in 2 hours by September 2011.” That works towards my ultimate goal (as well as many of my other long term goals related to skating) by contributing to my health.
To accomplish that I set a goal: “I skate 50 miles per week outside of practice by August 2011.”
Today I set a goal to skate 10 miles, which I will do as soon as I finish typing this.

You get the picture.

The point is to progress and live your life with direction. But I’m not done yet. You see, that is pretty easy for us to do as individuals… but we’re members of a team. Our personal goals differ to the goals of the team. Or better yet, should be a direct reflection of the goals of the team. A good team is full of players who set goals, but a great team is a unit working towards the same goals.

The direction of your team should come from the leaders and the leaders should provide direction that reflects the goals of each teammate. It has to work both ways. As a leader, I listen to the goals of my teammates and then help them work towards the goals we’ve established. Our goal is to compete in eastern regionals by 2015. When the league was established, it was with a competitive direction. As coaches, we meet with the girls to find out their individual goals and then lay out our goals for practices based on what they want. But the most important thing is that everyone in the team is united in their direction. Everyone MUST realize the goals of the team and make contributions towards those goals. That is what a team is. I cannot compete in regionals by myself. A team makes possible what is impossible to do by yourself.

You may have a goal to be the top jammer, but that goal may not be team oriented. If someone transfers who scores more points than you do- then you should be stoaked to have them! It should motivate you to make improvements and contribute to your team, but if your motivation is selfish than you are not being a good teammate. If I want to score more points, it is not because I want to score more than my other teammate; it is because I want to contribute to the score of my team.

Watching eastern regionals this past weekend I saw teams that operated as a unit. The best teams were those who communicated effectively and worked together towards a common goal on the track. They were not trying to block for glory. They were each contributing 110% and working together. That is a team. When I’m blocking, I’m a point- but so is each other member of my pack. I do not want the jammer to get around me, but if in my quest to lay the jammer on her ass- she ends up getting around my teammate, then what good have I done?

Wolves (bear with me) hunt together. Each wolf is hungry, but they understand that in order to eat as individuals, they must hunt together. They are a pack, and in roller derby- so are we.

This is how we must hunt, haha!


One on One

 Posted by at 9:10 am  No Responses »
Apr 252011

Classic example

Being out of contact since December has taught me a lot about derby. I’m able to see the strengths and weaknesses of my teammates, recognize which strategy should be implemented in a given situation, observe effective and ineffective communication, etc.

While I have passionately missed playing, I think being on the sidelines has been immensely beneficial for my team and for me.  I could go on and on about everything I have learned by watching (and probably will at some point- since I have a blog now and all), but for tonight I’m going to focus on playing one on one.

To clarify, I’m not taking about playing woman on woman in a pack. I am merely talking about one on one as a drill.

This might seem elementary to some of you, but don’t consider this an instructional post. This is more of my ode to playing one on one.

It’s nearly impossible to summarize all of the skills that are essential to roller derby in one sentence. Lateral movement, agility, speed, speed control, communication, awareness, teamwork, strength, power- all of those things come to mind, but that still doesn’t cover everything.

I think of one on one as encompassing all of the individual skills necessary. It doesn’t teach teamwork, communication, pack awareness, and the like. However, by playing one on one we practice agility, footwork, speed control, quickness, lateral movement, hitting, track awareness, etc.

Aside from actually playing roller derby- playing one on one is the most fun you can possibly have. Rather than just skating in circles at open skate, bring a friend and try to get around each other! If you can go to your rink and you have a track painted, then that’s even better. But if you don’t- it’s still fun to play!

As a jammer, I can work on getting around a blocker by juking, jumping, hitting, running through hits, and looking for opportunities! When I’m blocking, I can work on my lateral movement, speed control, hitting. This is the most simple drill that you can do, but arguably the most effective.

My roller derby buddy, Merv the Perv of Dutchland, taught me the importance of this. He simply said, if your 14 girls can beat their 14 girls in one on one, you win.

Now obviously, you need team work and communication. But even when I’m playing defense in a 2 person wall, I think about one on one. The way I see it is that if you are working well with your partner- you communicate, recycle, and trust each other- then that wall should be exactly twice as effective at stopping the jammer. 

As a jammer, one thing I’ve learned to do by just coaching rather than playing- is to teach my blockers to block me. We’re a team, a cohesive unit. 

I should want all of my blockers to be able to stop me. Likewise, all of our blockers should want all of our jammers to be good enough to get around them. Clearly, both of those things can’t be true but I just mean help each other out. Tell them your “secrets,” because they’re your team! Also, by helping your teammates be able to block you (or get around you), you are challenging yourself. 

So next time you skate outside or at open skate (or if you’re just walking or running with someone) play one on one! 

Apr 132011

Taking my victory lap with the Old Bay Bombers!

Since my diagnosis I have written and told my “cancer story” countless times, but I’m excited to be able to share it with fellow roller derby players who will be able to appreciate how much it has affected my derby life. I should clarify, as the president of my league, a coach, and an ever-improving jammer, my entire life is derby. I don’t attempt to, or desire to keep roller derby separate from other aspects of my life. It is my life calling and passion. What I really meant was that I am excited to be able to share my story with people who understand that. The hardest part about Chemo is that I’m not able to play.

“I skate every practice and coach, but can’t do contact.” I have to tell people that all the time. They seem to think that it’s no big deal, but you can imagine and appreciate the difficulty of watching my team from the sidelines.

I was diagnosed with primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma on December 20. On December 11 I ran a 5k in the morning and really sprinted my ass off, got my best time actually. That night I went to sleep feeling fine and then I woke up around 3AM with shortness of breath. It’s hard to explain what that felt like, mostly just like I couldn’t get a deep breath, like something was in my chest. I had my boyfriend take me to the ER. They did a chest x-ray and a CT scan, but I was starting to feel fine.

My boyfriend, Bryan, and my mom were with me and I told them that I was embarrassed for coming to the hospital with (what we thought was) muscular soreness from the run. I was getting ready to pack up my stuff and head out, when the doctor came in and told us that there was a fleshy tumor in my chest. We called my dad and my sisters who were headed to the hospital. We all knew immediately that there were two options: malignant or benign. While we were waiting to find out the next step, we made jokes to pass the time. I wasn’t scared because at that point I still didn’t know what to be scared of.

They sent me home and I immediately began doing research. I ordered books, articles, googled everything. When I came back to the hospital on the 14th to meet with the thoracic surgeons, I already knew that it was probably lymphoma. My doctors were amazingly upfront with me. We scheduled my biopsy and I felt 100% confident about the surgery. My doctor told me that my prognosis was the same whether it was benign and we had to do extensive surgery, or it was malignant and we had to do Chemo.

I went in for the biopsy two days later and was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma on December 20. The most important thing I did for myself at that point was not skip a beat. I would’ve started treatment that day if they had let me. But by the time that we got the second opinion, ran more tests, got my infusaport in and healed up- it was January 20th.

I’ve had 5 treatments now and I only have one more to go!  I thought that I would be done in time for our bout on May 21, but I’m going to have to wait until June. My last treatment is going to be April 27th and I have to wait for my blood count to come back up, get another PET scan, get the port out- which is a minor outpatient procedure, and then heal from surgery.

Of course I’m bummed that I won’t be able to bout until June, but there is no point in being upset. When I come back I know I’ll be stronger than ever. I’ve been training for a half-ironman triathlon, skating, working out, eating well, and learning a lot by watching. I’m going to be blood thirsty when I can finally play, I miss it every day.

The way I see it is that you choose to be happy. You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose how you react to them. Anything can be positive if you want it to be. I know that seems easier said than done, but I really do think it can be that simple.
Cancer can be an excuse to be miserable, or a great opportunity. I have been able to demonstrate to people the power of having a good attitude, learned a lot about myself, and made a lot of irreverent jokes. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? I’m not saying this has been easy, but I make every day a good day- no matter what.