Monday, July 30, 2012

Rollercon 2012 Recap!

If you just want to see my notes (very brief, scribbled from memory) from the three classes I took at Rollercon, click here. If you want my recap full of crazy shenanigans and gushing over roller derby and "What does it all mean??" sort of stuff, keep reading :)

If I had to choose a theme for my Rollercon experience this year, it would have to be "little things yield big results." (And I did not choose this just because I watched Francey Pants skate for the first time ever and was BLOWN AWAY.)

A couple months ago, after a home bout, I had an email conversation with my Psychopathogens teammate, Fibonacci Sequins (who also happens to be the wife of our head coach), and something she said really stuck with me:

We're getting beyond the point where [Carl] can coach us to keep making significant improvements.  We all have our fundamentals down pat.  We have all internalized the strategy and are executing it well.  What it comes down to right now is repetition and lots of self reflection on what is working for us as individuals.   When you look at sprinters, the difference between a 10.0 second 100 meter dash and a 9.9 second 100 meter dash seems small, but is really significant to that runner.  The difference doesn't come down to a coach saying you need to just run faster.  The difference is made when the runner figures out one little thing that makes his starts faster or gives him that extra burst at the finish.  For every runner, the thing that makes that .1 second difference is going to be very individualistic.

I've since taken this to heart and have been trying to find the little things that I need to work on - I feel fairly good about my knowledge of strategy and my strengths in terms of what role I fill out on the track; what I need to start working on in addition is fine-tuning and tweaking little things here and there that will add to my game. 

So with that in mind, I set about creating my Rollercon plan months ago, when the schedule was first announced (and then again, the week before, as they had since changed their schedule). Even though I knew I wouldn't necessarily stick to it, I like to have a plan. Some classes are just so popular that you have to plan to line up early for them, and I didn't want to miss out. (And in fact, the one class I really, REALLY wanted to take was such a class.) I tried to find classes that would address some of my weaknesses, little things that I know I could stand to improve that could greatly impact my gameplay.

Last year when I went to Rollercon, I was still pretty new. Despite having been skating for a year, I had JUST passed WFTDA minimum skills (and not even the rules test yet!) and had only one B&W scrimmage under my belt (literally the weekend before I flew out to Vegas). And I had only been with PRG almost two months - wasn't even past my probationary period yet. What a difference a year makes, eh?

This year, I'm a level 2, and am eligible for challenge bouts! I didn't sign up for any last year because I wasn't sure if I would pass WFTDA (and signups are done waaaay in advance). This year, not only am I eligible, but I even have bouting experience :) I had two scheduled - Killer Knitters vs. Happy Hookers, and Team Mario vs. Team Luigi, both level 2-3 bouts, so I was excited for a chance to push myself among better-than-me skaters.

Friday, July 27, 2012



I frickin' saw this bout IN PERSON and nearly peed myself in excitement.

GOD, I love Rollercon. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chills and thrills

I have to say, I don't know where to begin with this blog post, because leading up to it, this last bout has kind of been on the backburner for me. It's like, while I couldn't avoid being painfully aware that this day was coming - the final showdown! -  at the same time, I had run two huge races in basically the span of a week, and then a few days ago, I woke up with a severe cold that is only just starting to go away today. And then literally the night before the bout, Jolie came down with a fever, so needless to say, my mind has been engaged elsewhere for the last couple of weeks.

But as they say, the show must go on! With so much on the line, I wouldn't dare let down my team.

Not only was this a winner-take-all championship bout, but our two teams were also playing for a good cause. The winning team would have proceeds donated to the charity of their choice - we chose Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

I personally voted for PP when the Psychos were trying to decide on a charity not just because of what they've done for women's health, but also for what they represent in the fight for women's reproductive choices. I am staunchly pro-choice, and Planned Parenthood has been on the forefront of giving women healthy, safe, affordable reproductive options for decades. Of course, this also means that they have been in the crosshairs of many who do not believe that women should have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and if skating my ass off, healthy or sick is how I can help support them, then dammit, that's what I will do!

It was unbelievably hot. We were sweating just standing around waiting for the rink doors to open so we could set up. Between the heat and all the nose-blowing I did in the car on the way to Redwood City, my makeup was just threatening to slide off my face. (It actually never did - it stayed on perfectly the entire bout. I will never doubt again!)

I was still sick, overheated, hungry, poorly-rested, poorly-hydrated, and (IMO) under-prepared. (I hadn't skated since Sunday, and had pretty much only been skating about once a week for the past few weeks.) I would not call myself someone who has "swag" in general, but I was definitely not feeling it before the bout. I knew the Damas had been improving at a steady rate since the first bout, and that, with the trophy on the line, they would be going all-out. The first two bouts didn't matter anymore - as far as the title of "champion" was concerned, it was anyone's game. I did not feel that I had any hope of matching my previous performances - my goal was just to focus, hang on, and hopefully not let everyone down.

As predicted, it was a fight from the start. This time, the Damas led for the first handful of jams. It's never a good idea to be a scoreboard-watcher, because that can just drive you crazy, but I have to admit that I was eyeing it rather obsessively. But we settled down, and we got to work. We caught up and eventually finished the first half with a 50-point lead. 

I was feeling terribly worn down, so I was quite happy when Carl told us that he would start giving some of the newer skaters on our team more playing time in the second half (since we had a comfortable cushion). My fatigue was getting to the point of impacting my effectiveness, so I was glad to sit out two or three jams in a row and save up the energy to go in and rock it.

I did the best I could, which is all you can ask of anyone, right? I wasn't as fast as I could be, I wasn't as sharp as I could be, but I think I did a good job containing the other jammer at various points throughout the bout, working with my pack, and laying down some hits. (During our short warm-up skate at halftime, No Filter paid me a great compliment - "Dude, YOU LAID ME OUT, Viva!") The most important part to me was working with my pack - I knew that I did not have it in me to be a superstar! all by myself (even on a good day, it's dubious), and my only chance at accomplishing anything good at this point was to find my teammates and work together - more often than not, we were successful.

When the bloody battle was over and the dust had cleared, the final score was 136-104 in our favor. The Psychos had swept the season! *cue Queen*

The larger victory at hand belongs to our league as a whole. Our first successful home team season! A full complement of volunteers/support staff! A fan base that includes not just our family and friends, but  even random people in the area who've heard about us! A bootcamp full of new recruits rarin' to go! And respect and acknowledgment from others in the derby community - that's a big thing too. I think that a lot of people are excited about us and excited for us, and that is such a thrilling feeling :)

I'm not going to say "This is it! We've made it!" because there's so much more to come... but I will say that we are gaining momentum, and for a new-ish league, that's a wonderful thing.

Now... onwards and upwards! I'm off to Vegas for Rollercon, and then interleague season begins...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Race recap: Jungle Run half-marathon

Can I get an "OH YEAH"?

I signed up for the Jungle Run solely because it's exactly on the trail where I normally run on Sundays, and figured I might as well just run a little extra (I was actually scheduled for 8 miles today) and get some bling and aid stations out of it. It was just supposed to be a one-off "fun run" (I put that in quotes because only someone like me would consider 13 miles a fun run, right?).

And then I ended up PR-ing!!!

3:06:11 - TWENTY MINUTES faster than my previous PR (Tinkerbell in January). Almost a full hour faster than my NWM time from October.

And I don't feel too beat up. My feet have been feeling blistery since last week's Dirty Dozen, but I feel great otherwise. I have to chalk this up to my better diet and just being more active in general - previously, even when I've tried to WALK a half-marathon (not even running a little bit), my body would start giving up around mile 8, and my legs would start feeling like lead. I was tired today, but I felt strong pretty much all the way through. (My throat was feeling scratchy though.)

And the best part of course is that I did it side by side with two wonderful friends:

Next up: we have a bout this Friday (our last home bout of the season), then I'm going to Rollercon the Tuesday after that, and then I have The Color Run in Sacramento on August 4th. I'm SUPER excited for that one.

The next two halves I'm signed up for are pretty hilly, so I'm waiting for the next Tinkerbell to try to go under THREE. That's my next goal.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Race recap: The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen and Half-Dozen endurance challenge is basically a race where you run as much as you can in either 12 or 6 hours (respectively). The course is set up as a 5k loop, and you run as many loops as you feel like. You don't have to run the full time if you don't want to - lots of people stopped to eat, change gear, hydrate, or even sleep.

DD also includes two 10ks and 2 5ks, one of each during the last one to two hours of the 6-hour challenge and the 12-hour challenge. Both endurance runs start at 7am, and last their respective amounts of time; the first 10k and 5k begin at 11am and noon; the second 10k and 5k begin at 5pm and 6pm.

The story is that I originally signed up for the first 10k, then decided I wanted to do the 6-hour challenge instead. However, I then decided that since I'd already paid the fee for the 10k, I might as well run that one too and get my shirt/medal for it, since I would still be running during the hours of 11am-1pm anyway. So that's how I ended up running two different races on the same day. So, even though technically my 6-hour distance isn't very much, I did also run an additional 10k before 1pm.

So... the race was held at Point Pinole Regional County Park, right next to the bay, which meant that it was both beautiful and freezing at 6:30am, when I first arrived:

This was my view walking from the parking lot to the race area
The 6hr was going to start pretty soon, so I needed to pick up my bib and timing chip. Other runners were setting up tents, laying down tarp, setting up lawn chairs, etc. I set up at a picnic table (with my friends Lindsay, Kymi, and her friend Dominique). Ugh, dirt and bugs. Definitely not my thing.

People who do the 12hr or 6hr get a really awesome zip hoodie, as opposed to just a tshirt:

And it was SO nice to have this, as it would still be super cold later on. (After I'd finished my first run, and was sitting at the table freezing because I'd been sweaty and the wind was really strong, I threw it on over my jacket, over my sleeved tech tee.)

It was not an easy run for me - I run on flat concrete, so my not-trail shoes and my under-developed leg muscles were less than adequately prepared for the hills and the loose gravel that made up a large chunk of the race course.

I pushed on and felt pretty good the first loop. I took a short break at our table to Gu up and stretch a little, before heading back out for loop 2.

(At this point, I would like to take this opportunity to say that the race course loop was actually 3.37 miles, instead of 3.1, which is what a 5k actually is. I was SO perplexed why the race felt so long, and my 5k time was unusually slow. Yeah, that was why - it was a quarter of a mile longer.)

I didn't want to overdo it, since I would have a 10k later (and a half-marathon next week), so I took it easy and decided to enjoy the scenery, which was beautiful.

I even saw two deer run slightly around me in close proximity. (No, I didn't get pics of that.)

My goal for the first part of the morning was to run 3 loops (which, rather than being 9.3 miles, ended up being 10.1), which I did in about 2:38. This gave me about an hour to recover a bit and get ready for the 10k.

Here's my DD medal! Yes, that's a bottle opener in the center - it's like, "YEAH, crack one open! You just spent HOURS on your feet!"(I don't drink though.) It's also padded around the outside circumference on the backside, so you can use it as a coaster. BADASS.

I got some food and sports drink, and picked up my 10k race stuff:

The 10k (which was actually 6.74mi, not 6.2) was hard. It was hard because I was already tired, and it was warmer/sunnier out than it was at 7am. I tried to run as much as I could, but it wasn't very much :/ There were 5k runners who finished before I did. My calves were spasming a bit, and my hamstring felt like lead, and I didn't want to risk injuring myself (I've got too much riding on my legs right now!), so I had to just content myself with walking it. I finished in 1:52. Blah.

What made me feel better, though, is that the medal for this year was a piece of poop:

Even the stripes on the ribbon were brown!
This gives a total of 16.84 miles in about 4:30, which is seriously the greatest distance I've ever covered in a single day, ever. (Because my longest distance until now has been a half-marathon.) I was proud that I was still standing. Maybe I will live to see another day. Maybe my hamstring and I will be on speaking terms once again.

I want to take this opportunity to say that Brazen Racing (the local race company who put this on) is FRICKIN' AMAZING. This was my first time running any of their races, and I was duly impressed with it. Normally, race experiences don't particularly stand out to me in terms of, like, hospitality - I usually run, get my shirt, and go home. The volunteers are always cool (well, except a few at the Divas HM), but that's not necessarily a credit to the racing company, so much as a credit to the volunteers themselves.

But I have to say that Brazen really took good care of their runners today. I don't know if all their races are like this, but I will be running this one again for sure. I mean, it was a small race to begin with, which really made it awesome, because when there are too many people, it sometimes sucks (because I hate people), but I love that they strategically planned the course so that there were porta-potties at the halfway point; the race course instructions were clearly explained to us; the bib pickup was orderly; EVERYONE was so nice and friendly; and the aid stations didn't just have sports drink and water, but also FOOD, like Oreos, skittles, bagels,  mini cinnamon rolls, chips, potatoes, Gu, and even stuff Paleo people like me can eat, like oranges and bananas. It was QUITE the spread for aid stations. I've never seen that much food at an aid station in all my (running) life.

And IT GOT BETTER... I know they said they'd have hot food, but I assumed it would be like other races where they have food companies come in for post-race, and you buy a $12 plate of teriyaki or something. I did not realize that they would have FIVE tables of food and drink for all their runners (for free!). They had pizza, chili, soup, fajitas, burgers, hot dogs (and toppings), potato salad, Tabbouleh (I dunno), TONS of fresh fruit, a ginormous amount of V8 Mango Smoothie (they were urging people to take CASES home), and an entire frickin' CARB TABLE, which I've so named because it was full of bagels, muffins, cookies, chocolate cake, cheesecake, other cake!, and an assorted amount of spreads that included NUTELLA. I s---- you not - they had NUTELLA for us!!

My Paleo-ish plate
And it was all GOOD. I've had post-race food that was basically blah and cheap-y, and totally mass-produced. But this food was totally delicious. And the fruit was being freshly cut by someone the entire time - it was not like eating old bananas that have been slowly turning brown in the sun while I was running the race. I don't know if I was overly tired and hungry, but I swear to you that every single piece of fruit I had was just utterly amazing and sweet.

So major, major props to Brazen Racing. I will be checking them out again in the future.

Overall, it was a fun race, and I think it will be a good benchmark for the future to see how I've improved as a runner. Next year, I want to do 20 miles!

Pause and reflect

I haven't written a blog post in almost a year. I've had a lot of stuff happen, some good and some bad, and I could've written a...