So during warmups last night, one of the other skaters, as she was passing me, asked, "Are you going to get new wheels soon?" I was pretty puzzled, because I had thought that I had pretty good wheels (particularly for beginner skates), so I said, "I don't know. Are they bad?" and she replied, "Yes!" And another skater right behind her said, "You will totally feel a difference with better wheels. You'll go faster!"
Which got me thinking, about new wheels and about gear in particular. I pretty much know nothing about gear and skates. It's just a matter of taking the time to learn, of course, and because the derby world never assumes that anyone joining derby will just KNOW everything, there are lots of primers and tutorials about gear, all over the internet. One of the skaters for SVRG, Postal Servix, keeps a gear blog. Sin City Skates has a ton of info for newbies like me.
The thing is, how MUCH will new wheels help me? I can see how a good skater, who has good form and is in tune with her body and her motion, can tell the difference between good wheels and beginner wheels, but how about someone like me, who is still working on form and stride? How much faster could I go on new wheels if I don't even have my skating down yet?
But maybe I'm underestimating myself. Maybe I'm better than I think I am. On Tuesday, we did this crazy circle-weaving pace line (where the person at the back has to skate a circle around each skater before moving on to the next, but constantly facing in the right direction, so it's a combination of both the forward weaving and fall-back weaving pace line drills). As we were listening to the instructions (which Denny had to draw for us, by the way, that's how crazy it was!), the girl next to me just had this look of terror on her face and I looked at her and said, "Don't worry, we can do this!" And she said, "Yeah, YOU'VE got this easy!" And last night, I was explaining the pace line to another skater who was absent for Tuesday's practice, and she said, "... I bet you totally made it through, huh?" And I was actually very surprised to hear both of these comments, because truth be told, I don't think much of my abilities right now. Back when we first started pace lines, I SUCKED. I could never keep up with the person in front of me, I would invariably get passed by everyone else in line (and then lapped, as the entire pace line passed me by again), and I would always end up in the back. And in my mind's eye, I am still a back-of-the-pack-er. Even though I've been writing these past few weeks about how "I totally survived this and that pace line drill, wow!", it's never really dawned on me that I am getting better. That I don't suck. I'm nowhere near the top half of the skaters in our bootcamp, but I must not be bad if others are telling me things like, "You've totally got this!"
I've never been confident in my physical abilities. I was never sporty. In those stupid Presidential physical fitness tests, I think I was only ever good at sit-ups and the sit-and-reach, but as far as the pull-ups and the mile run, I was horrible. I used to be teased for being chubby. I never did sports in high school because I was too afraid of failing (another common theme in my life). By the end of high school/beginning of college, I did try to start exercising and lifting weights, but as you know, my relationship with exercise has been very on/off. I did join the swim team in college, but I was never good. I got "points for effort," but I would never be the among the fast girls, because I didn't have years of conditioning like they did. (Too little, too late.) And over the years since college, I've gained a lot of weight, and I'm starting to think that I'll never be able to run well enough to be a marathoner like I've always dreamed.
Derby is the first sport that I actually think I can do, and do well. (And I will state right here that, no, it is NOT easy.) And I didn't start actually believing I could do it until maybe these past couple of weeks. Until now, I've been doing it with a "try it and see" approach, and now, I am actually starting to think that I can do this. I used to be terrified, go wide-eyed like a deer at some of the drills when the coaches would go over them, but I would gulp down my fear and try it anyway. Now, I get excited - I'm like, "YES! LET'S DO THIS!!!" and I'm ready to charge like a bull.
So... ahem... back to my original point. Maybe I could benefit from better wheels. I've been thinking a lot about upgrading my gear in general (pads, wheels, even skates, if I could afford it), but I've been talking myself out of it, like, "What if I don't pass the tests? Then I will have gotten all this expensive stuff for nothing." And now I'm thinking, "What if I don't pass the tests... BECAUSE of my gear?" What if upgrading my stuff could give me just that slight edge that would shave off a couple seconds on the endurance tests? Or help me stop more steadily? What if my wheels give me just that extra bit of sliding to help me cross over better?
And now, all of a sudden, I'm starting to feel like I can't afford NOT to upgrade my gear. So I'll start with the wheels. (I would not be able to save up fast enough to buy new skates before the tests anyway... the next ones up from mine are $300.) Do I want firmer ones? Narrower ones? Should I try a different brand? (I have Sure Grip Fugitives, which are pretty popular.) Should I get the same bearings I have right now, or try out the China Bones Reds, which lots of people seem to recommend?
We have three weeks left until the tests, I think. I still don't know if I will pass, but I do know that I will give it everything I have. No holding back. I'm not going to doubt myself and then have it turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I need to start treating this very seriously (more than I already have), and that includes learning about gear and how it can help me skate better and faster.