Thursday, March 11, 2010

Derby can break your bones, but it can also break your heart.

First of all, some awesome photos from our league photographer, Jim Cottingham:
Jen and me doing one-legged hops. I was NOT expecting to nail this one, and as such, I even coasted a bit on one leg, like Denny wanted us to.



If I had known there would be pictures, I would've worn something cute.

I don't remember what I was attempting here. Do I at least look badass though, in my stripey socks?

It couldn't have been ALL bad if there was time for jazz hands at the end!


Okay, so now for the recap of test day one.



It was, in a word, heartbreaking, for almost everyone. We've been hearing all along that if we don't meet EVERY minimum skill, then it's a no-go. And there were very few of us who didn't mess up on at least ONE thing last night.

But let's back up that train to the beginning.

I've been worried about this test for ages, but yesterday was when it REALLY kicked in. I was tense and nervous all day, and I had knots in my stomach. And on the drive to practice, I was getting nauseous and having trouble breathing. Like, it was serious. And then I realized that the knots in my stomach? Weren't just knots. But a very real stomach ache. I don't think I ate anything out of the ordinary, but I think the combination of nerves and eating anything at all just made me sick. I bolted for the bathroom the second I got to the rink.

I think I must've been pale as a sheet. I think I just looked positively shell-shocked, because people were eyeing me funny. When prompted, I did tell a few girls that I was feeling awful, and they said, "Well, at least it's just skills today. We're doing the 25 laps and the pace line next week." And then I felt comforted. I started feeling better after the warm-up and stretching.

Task 1: The coaches had us skate twenty laps around the outside so they could check us for posture, stance, arm movement, and crossovers. They didn't have to be fast, but they had to look good. I hope my crossovers were good enough. I've only skated on my new wheels with pushers once (on Tuesday), and I felt that I was able to step over better than I ever could.

Task 2: Ho sh**. Weaving pace line with the entire group, to check us for maintaining proper distance, how we handle controlling speed, and then weaving skill.

It was only the second task, and it completely went to hell for me.

I thought I would be fine. It was my turn to weave, and I made it through the first few people fine, but then there was a huge spill, and everyone had to rearrange themselves, and I adjusted my speed to try to get back to where I was... and then I just never got there. The line just started moving way too fast, and people were being sent sooner and sooner, so I was trying to weave while three other people were also weaving, and totally passing me, so I was trying to make way for them, and all the starting-stopping just completely messed me up.

I pushed and pushed to go faster. People offered me whips, but they didn't help, because I couldn't keep up my speed without flailing. (And then the coaches told us that this was supposed to be unassisted, so... oops.) I literally felt my body failing. My mind was like, "Go... go... push.. push..." and my body was like, "Screw that. No." I kept falling further and further behind, and all of a sudden, I found myself at the back of the line, with my composure falling by the wayside. I felt my eyes smarting, my vision blurring, my breath hitching... I veered to the wall and sobbed.

Bitter, angry tears. Angry that my body was failing me now, when I needed it most. Angry that it was blatantly obvious that I couldn't keep up, and if I can't keep up with the bootcampers, then how can I expect to keep up with the regular league members? Angry that I have the SKILL to weave properly and stay in a pace line, but not the strength to keep it up, in this particular instance. (I literally just did this on Tuesday night, successfully in the large group.)

I'VE DONE THIS BEFORE. SO MANY TIMES. Read my old blogs. I can weave! I can skate in a pace line! Okay, maybe it was mostly in the slow pace line, but I have on occasion survived the large-group pace line (I remember an especially brutal two pace lines in a row in the big group).

But I couldn't do it last night, when it really counted.

Aim came over and gave me a pep talk, and I got back out (to quote Amy Winehouse, "My tears dry on their own"), and stayed in the line, though I wasn't asked to weave again. I stuck it out to the finish, and then they asked us to skate on all 8's in the line, and I barely managed it. My back was screaming in pain, I couldn't keep my form, but I tried to stay squatted and power through. Then they had us skate regular laps (not in formation) to have us demonstrate squatting and coasting on one foot. That I did too, a few times, but I don't know if they got to see or not, because I was in so much pain that I had to stop, and this time I actually left the rink floor and sat on the carpet to stretch my back. (I didn't want to be in the way of the regular league members, who were doing a pace line around the outside of our track.)

As I sat there, I contemplated my fate in terms of this bootcamp. In my mind, I'd already failed - I could not complete the weaving pace line - so what was the point in my even being here anymore? Is there any reason why I should not just pack up my gear and walk out right now? It's all over for me. The rest of the test doesn't even matter, now that I've already failed.

But I couldn't do it, I couldn't just walk out in a huff. For one thing, I don't want to be a bad sport. There are girls in our bootcamp who have probably known all along that they will not pass, and they're still here, so why should I be the one who leaves? I thought of the disappointed head-shaking that would inevitably ensue once Panda, Aim, and Denny realized I was gone, and I do not like the idea of people I admire so much thinking of me that way. They expect better than that from me, and they deserve it. I owe it to them - they didn't spend so much of their time and energy teaching me stuff so I could just walk away right now. I thought of everyone - from my coaches to the other girls down to Jolie's grandparents who have been so great about watching her while I'm away at practice and Jimmy being so supportive and patient with me - and when I heard Denny calling everyone over the side track, I picked myself up off the floor and dusted myself off and skated over to join them. I will not let myself give up.


Stops, falls, and jumps. I've been worried about this, more so for having to do stuff on my non-dominant leg. I KNOW I can t-stop. I KNOW I can do a single-knee fall. But I KNOW I can do it on my right leg, and I can only sometimes do it on my left, on a lucky day.

And THANK THE GODS, it was my lucky day! It's funny - I think that knowing that I had already failed and that my chances were gone helped me to stop freaking out, and once I stopped freaking out, I was focusing a lot better. And as such, I feel like I passed every single skill we did for the rest of the evening. How's that for irony?

My left leg t-stop wasn't perfect, but I stopped, and I didn't fall, and I think I kept all four wheels on the ground. My left leg knee fall was solid, and I stood up right away. My plow stop was good - I stayed low, had my legs wide, and even though I did pull my legs and feet together by the end, I did actually come to a stop. I didn't slide much on my double-knee and sprawl falls, but I stayed facing the right direction on the double-knee (I used to stick my right knee and turn), and on my sprawl fall, I remembered to keep my fingers in. On my figure-4, I did not sit on my skate, I slid all the way on my butt (which you're supposed to do - it's like a baseball slide), and I did not have to use my hands to get up (though it took an extra heave with my abs). My 180 knee-falls weren't totally 180 degrees, but I at least ended up generally facing the correct direction. (As I jokingly told one of the other skaters, "Um, that wasn't a 180 fall, that was more of a 92 fall.")

And the jumps. We practiced jumps on Tuesday night, that was literally the first time I'd tried to jump over something three-dimensional. (The official rule says a three-inch object. So far, I've jumped over lines painted on the ground.) The first time, I fell, but after that, I managed to stick it.

Last night was something amazing. I jumped, but felt my skate touch the cone. And by some miracle, Aim said, "Hey Thu, I need you to do your jump again because I got distracted and missed it." SCORE. I did my jump again, perfectly, without kicking the cone, and stuck the landing, and even Aim cheered for me from the side.

One-legged hops - I practiced these the night we learned them, and that's it. The coaches told us that it was definitely a hop, and not a step, over the cones. I was certain that I was either going to step, or I was going to hop and fall. Denny said he preferred for us to land on one foot and keep coasting on that foot, but if we had to land and then put down the other foot, that would be acceptable.

Well, I THINK I hopped (rather than stepped) and I stayed coasting on my foot! I hope that was enough hop to pass, because I didn't feel like I merely stepped. I surprised even myself, and I remember thinking, "Oh my god, I just did it. Holy cow."

And that was it. Panda had us spread out over a large area and have us step left, step right, step forward, step backward, over and over and over, and we were all laughing and joking (she said she felt like she was leading a jazzercize class), and I guess apparently this is on the test too. I think that this part was not a problem for anyone.

And then it was over. And we took group photos.

Afterwards, a bunch of us bum-rushed Aim to ask her, "So... are you going to let us know if we failed and if we should even bother showing up on Tuesday?" All along, they've been telling us, "If you don't meet ALL the minimum skills requirements, then you don't pass." And tonight, there was hardly any person who did not mess up on at least one thing - for me it was the pace line, for someone else it was the t-stop, for someone else it was the jumps. Even some of the girls who are the best in our bootcamp messed up on something, most likely out of nerves. Mine were not the only teary eyes in the rink that night. LOTS of us found ourselves crying in frustration and disappointment. If we had already failed on THE FIRST NIGHT, was there any point in attempting the rest of the tests?

Aim told us, "OF COURSE YOU STILL SHOW UP." And refused to tell us our scores. She said that tonight wasn't a pass/fail situation in general, and that no one was being eliminated. Which kind of contradicts everything we've been told all this time, but hey, I will take it.

She said that the coaches understand if we're having an off-night, and that sometimes the added pressure of scrutiny can mess you up. (She said the three practices before roster decisions are made are. HELL. because all the girls are skating their hearts out for the coaches, who ARE WATCHING. *scary music*) And she said that they've been seeing us skate for the last two months, so they know what we are capable of. And I know that I have shown, in practice, that I am capable.

And this is my tiny smidgen of hope. I am 99% positive that I completely out of the running because of my (lack of) performance during the pace line. But... that still leaves 1%, to hope. A 1% possibility that I might still have this, that I could pass. And so that's what I'm going to cling to, with as much fierceness and determination as I can muster.

Tuesday is the endurance test - 5 minutes, 25 laps. I'm going to practice this on Sunday afternoon, just so I can have a few test runs under my belt, and hopefully show myself that I am capable of it. Just like when I practiced the 5-lap test over and over, once I finally came in under a minute, I felt sure of myself, like if I could do it ONCE, then I could do it again.

I'm not giving hope. Even though it seems very unlikely now that I will pass, "unlikely" is not a definite "no." So I will skate my guts out (and try not to eat anything weird on Tuesday) and I will push myself until I cry again, and hopefully they will not be tears of disappointment, but tears of exertion.

We may be done learning skills through bootcamp, but that doesn't mean we're done with learning, period. Even up until the very end, there may be something new revealed.

And that's the end of day one.

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