In roller derby, if you fall, you have to get RIGHT back up. Three seconds. Two, even. For one thing, the action is still going on, and if you take too long, the pack will be miles away, and you will have a heck of a time catching up, and in the meantime, your team is short a jammer (to score points) or a blocker (to take out the other jammer or clear the path for your own jammer). And for another thing, if you stay down, it signals to everyone else that you have a serious injury and they will have to stop the action to take care of you.
This week has shown me that sometimes it's better to stay down.
This has been a terrible week. I got sick last week - bad cold, sore throat, exhaustion - and it rolled over to this week. I toughed it out through Monday and Tuesday at work, and had planned to go to practice, but my nose started BLEEDING right before I was to get ready to leave, and I decided to stay home, but I wasn't happy about it.
That's how you know that I love this. I'm not saying that I don't love my job, but let's just say that when I call in sick to work, I'm not particularly upset or sad or depressed about it. (I'm not giddy dancing around the house either, but it just is what it is: a sick day.) But missing derby? I was in a mood that could bring the house down. I went to bed angry, woke up angry, and was nearly in tears as I read all the Facebook comments from fellow bootcampers congratulating each other on surviving the hardest practice yet. You may think I'm nuts for being in a funk over the fact that I missed the one practice that made people cry in the pace line, but it's not actually that crazy when you think about the fact that I missed yet another chance to learn something new, to prove myself, and to be with my team. Instead, I was moping in front of my computer. Yes, derby has become an obsession for me.
Anyway... I was determined to go to practice last night. 1) Because I was determined to get back out there, and 2) Missing two practices in a row? Three weeks before the big tests? Baaaaaaaad idea. So I got dressed and left, fighting the uneasiness in my stomach (not nerves, but literally physical discomfort and nausea). Yeah, that's not a good sign.
I didn't feel right during warm-ups, but I chalked it up to being off-skates for a week (due to missing practice) and we always warm up in the opposite direction, which never feels right to me until the end of warm-ups when I've been at it for a while. But this time, it felt weird the whole time. And it made me wonder if maybe my wheels were loose or something gear-related, but a quick check during stretches showed nothing wrong.
We immediately went into a hitting pace line, which is something they did Tuesday for the first time, so everyone had done it but me. (Well, okay, not exactly... apparently a LOT of us were out sick on Tuesday.) But I was excited to do it. I held my ground okay as others hip-checked me, and then it came to be my turn, and suddenly, I was just ALL over the place. I haven't felt so much like a beginner skater since I first started LAST YEAR, and it wasn't the hitting, but the skating itself - my stride was choppy, my skates were going behind me instead of out to the side (even though I wasn't trying to push that way, because I know better), my knees weren't staying bent. I fell SO many times after hip-checking others. (Although... the plus side to falling a lot is that you stop being afraid of falling. But this wasn't the time.) Aim gave me a couple of whips to get me back to where I was supposed to be in line. Eventually I got through, but I was so dismayed - I was just TERRIBLE. I hadn't felt so discouraged and disappointed in myself since I don't know when.
The faster line is much longer than ours (we are "fast," they are "faster"), so we had enough time for some of us to go a second time. My second time through was much better - I avoided falling, I actually got in a few good hits, and I managed to stay up even when one of the other skaters grabbed my arm to steady herself (it's a big no-no to grab someone as you're falling, and because it tends to be instinct, it's something we have to consciously remember not to do). I was much happier with my performance the second time - it renewed my belief that I could be a good blocker. I had to push extra hard, and my body was crying uncle, but I was so happy that I was able to redeem myself.
We did hot laps and then got water, and as I stood at the wall, I felt my temples pulsing, and the room was spinning a little. We started the next exercise - Unexpected Objects. As in, we skate all together in a huge pack, and Denny throws cones at our feet or has random people do knee falls, and everyone else has to avoid hurting themselves or each other by skating around, jumping, or falling properly. I could NOT keep up very well with the pack, and after I was sent sprinting to the front, I fell and ended up at the back again. I stopped a couple times to adjust my laces (too loose, too tight) and after a while, the room started spinning more, and when I felt something rising in my throat, I knew I had to sit. I've dropped out of drills before, and skated easy laps around, but I've NEVER sat anything out. Never.
I planned to go back out eventually, but the nausea persisted for quite a while. One of the other skaters (my friend Tish), who was injured at Tuesday's practice, convinced me to give it a rest for the rest of practice - she had been talking to one of the other bootcampers, who was injured indefinitely and would probably have to come back for the next bootcamp, and what happened was, she'd started out with a small injury, so she downed the painkillers and went back and skated. And now her injury is so bad that she can't finish bootcamp with us. (I think this is something that happens to a lot of athletes in all sports.) So Tish didn't want this to happen to her as well, and she relayed this to me, and the three of us watched the rest of practice.
They're both right... I don't like admitting weakness when I'm really, really dedicated to something, but the last thing I want to do is jeopardize my health and physical ability in the long run. I know I'm "merely ill," as opposed to being injured, but I could've run myself ragged last night, and then maybe I'll still be sick next week. And I definitely don't want that. Even though I feel like I'm admitting defeat, I have to concede that I would rather take it easy this week, and be at full strength for the remaining weeks of bootcamp, than to be at half-strength the whole time and just be really inefficient and ineffective and mess myself up completely.
If you fall during a jam, and it's a legitimate injury, stay down. The medics NEED to look at you. If you get back up with a bad knee or a concussion, it's going to affect your game, and you're going to be no good to yourself or your team - you'll just end up being the weak link that costs your team some needed points. So don't try to be a hero - stay down, let them take you out and put in someone who's 100%, and when you're back to 100%, get back out there and kick ass.