Derby Practice: The Next Level

Like butta

Like butta

I wrapped up my 12-week intro class, Derby Lite Start Out, at the end of March. Last week, I went to my first practice at the next level. I signed up for the Tuesday night class, which is held at a roller rink in Lombard, IL. Since it’s far from my house, I stay in the suburbs after work and head there after traffic has died down. The other option was to do the verrrry early Saturday morning class in Oak Park, and so I decided to do whichever my friend Lisa was doing.

Lombard is possibly the best rink around. The Windy City Rollers just recently switched to the Lombard rink for hosting their home games, and its floor had been described to me as “buttery.” That sounded confusing (and unappetizing) but as soon as I set foot on it for the first time last week, I knew what that girl had meant. The practice space at Oak Park is fine, but it’s not a dedicated skating track — it’s a multipurpose floor, for things like playing basketball and other sports. It’s tiled, whereas Lombard’s floor is one gigantic, marble-smooth surface. It’s a huge difference, and you can go a lot faster than you mean to, as a result.

Going accidentally faster can only help me at this point, because in level two, almost everyone is faster than me. My days of speeding past my teammates are done — the level I’m in now is stacked with former derby players. They may not want to play the sport on a league team anymore, but they still want to skate, and this level is their place to do it. And now, it’s my place in which to get lapped.

We did speed trials on day one, which I was really excited about. I hadn’t done one since my pathetic 20 laps in five minutes back in January, before I knew how to do crossovers. Because there are about twice as many women in this level as there were in my intro class, we couldn’t all skate for five minutes and get timed. Instead, we were timed, two at a time, skating three laps. I felt pretty confident in my time, but was disappointed to see it in hard numbers, listed next to the new teammates’ times, once we were done.

I did my laps in 54 seconds, or at 18 seconds a lap. Most of the former derby girls had done theirs in well under 50 seconds. At the rate I skated, it would take me a sad eight minutes to get in 27 laps. To get 27 laps in five, I’ll need to shave my time down to 11 seconds per lap.

To get from 18 to 11, I’ve got some work to do. We don’t do another speed trial until 11 weeks from now, at the end of this level, on July 7. The good news is, friends and family are allowed to come see us skate that day. If you want to hitch a ride to Lombard with me, I’ll thank you forever for shooting some video of me going.

The class I’m in now is different from level one in almost every possible way. I know how to do the basics now, but I still struggle with my T-stops and turning around (gracefully). In level one, I felt like I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted to. Now, I’m struggling to keep up. I can’t complain — I wanted to feel more challenged, and that’s exactly what I’m getting.

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but after every class, we do some stretches to cool down. We sit on the floor, still in our gear, and basically do yoga in skates. Every single week, I start stretching feeling disappointed I have to stop skating, and not really wanting to waste time stretching. And every week, by the end of our stretches, I am so comfortable lying on the floor that I don’t want to get up. After my first level two class, I lingered longer than usual, closing my eyes, laying on smooth, cool butter.

I was starving after that class, having worked harder than I’d expected. A craving for Arby’s struck me out of nowhere, and I was suddenly a woman obsessed. Luckily, I was in the suburbs, and I suspected the odds were pretty good there was one between me and the interstate drive home. I looked on my phone, and there was an Arby’s less than a mile away. Being able to sense the presence of mozzarella sticks is a pretty underrated superpower, in my book.

Branching Out

Recently, with Stef’s help, I started a TinyLetter for the Addison Recorder. This was mostly done so we could try to get traffic to our posts that isn’t reliant on Facebook, which tends more and more toward a pay-to-play model we can’t keep up with as a free site without ad revenue. It was fun to lay out, and really easy. Then, after the first Tiny Addison Recorder went out, I read this article, which discusses the merits of freelance writers having their own email newsletters. It got me thinking, and I decided since TinyLetter is so quick and easy, it could be worth my time to put my own out on a bi-weekly basis. And so, may I introduce The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter.


This new platform is not intended to replace this blog, but to supplement it. It will serve as a digest of things I write about here, on Hello Giggles, for other sites, what I post about on social media, and more. It will be a bi-weekly wrap-up, but it will also always include some new content I haven’t already posted elsewhere.

If that sounds interesting to you, sign up — the first edition goes out next week, in which I’ll be updating folks there about my life and upcoming move as well as my writing.

How Twitter Bridges Gaps Between Cities

I’ve written before about how much I love Twitter as a freelance writer, but it’s also served me very well so far as someone moving from one city to another. After my initial Portland foray last fall, I began following lots of news outlets, writers, and local businesses out there. I keep most of them tucked away in a list simply called “Portland Folks” but I check in on it with enough regularity to feel pretty well versed on what’s happening there. I feel much more informed about Portland than I did about Chicago when I moved here in 2010.

It’s also helped me network from afar. Shortly after I started following Portland accounts, I also started seeking out roller derby ones. That’s when I realized there’s a handful of women who:

  • are freelance writers
  • play roller derby
  • live in Portland

I nearly fell over. What are the odds? One might worry that this means Portland metro area may be over-saturated with smart lady writers who love roller derby but I don’t think of it like that. I see it instead as further indication that someone like me will be very happy somewhere like there. I had been following a couple of these women for a while, and was interested in their books. Both about roller derby, but each is very different — and both are still different enough from the book I’ve been working on.

I bought Frisky Sour’s first, a how-to guide for those starting out in derby. Her book got me to reluctantly try washing my gear in the top rack of my dishwasher! (It really does work — you just have to make sure your velcro is all sealed up.) And while I was aware of it, I didn’t actually buy Roller Girl, the new graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson, until I heard my hero Stephen Thompson plug it on my favorite podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. I recognized her name and the book title right away, and tweeted at her. She responded, at first, with:

But THEN, this made my day, when she replied to me separately:

I fully intend to transfer to their derby program the minute I move, and I can’t wait. I told her I’d even seen the Heartless Heathers play when I was in Portland last weekend!

Even before now, I’d “met” some Portland folks on Twitter and through Instagram. I even met met one guy, when Stacey and Shane and I went to the Portland Beer and Wine Fest. One of the organizers had messaged me on Twitter and told me to introduce myself at the event’s info booth, so I did. He’s a writer too, but also a radio host and active member of the Portland craft beer scene, so we had a lot to talk about.

It’s awesome that I’m slowly making connections in a new city I’m not actually living in yet, and it makes the whole thing feel a lot less daunting than it did five years ago when I moved to Chicago.