Welcome to Derby Lite

Me and my helmet.

Me and my helmet.

My first class of Derby Lite was Saturday morning. I was so excited I got to the Arc in Oak Park a half hour early and suited up, well before anyone else arrived. A higher-level class was wrapping up, so I watched the more advanced skaters round the track and finish their drills.

Queen B, our class leader, reminded me that for our first class we would be starting out in gym shoes. I immediately felt silly, as I already wearing full pads/guards and looking up at her from under my brand-new royal blue Triple8 helmet. “Oh, okay,” I said, trying not to sound disappointed. Despite having my skates with me most days of the previous week, time hadn’t allowed me to make it back to the suburban rink by my office during their open skate hours to try them out. It was kind of killing me. I fumbled with the laces of them longingly and set them back in the rolling suitcase I’d repurposed the night before as my temporary gear bag. I took off my helmet and pads as well and set them aside.

Then I realized I hadn’t thought to bring gym shoes to the class — I’d worn my yellow rain boots, which currently serve as my Chicago winter boots when paired with multiple layers of socks. I’d taken the boots off at the door to avoid tracking in snow and knew wearing them on the slick rink, much less running drills in them, was out of the question. I panicked — then I remembered I’d left my gym bag in my car from a couple days earlier, and thought there was a chance my shoes were still in there. I ran to my car, and luckily, there they were. I carried them back inside and put them on.

My class mates slowly trickled in, including at least two women I remembered from Get in Gear Day. I greeted them and at 10, we were asked to come out onto the rink with our gear AND our skates — yessss. Queen B showed up how to properly strap on our helmets, our knee and elbow pads, and our wrist guards. A lot of the things we went over had been covered in Get in Gear Day, but not everyone at this class had been there for that introduction. Finally we were told to put on our skates, but asked to put in our mouth guards first.

My heart sank again. I’d been digging through my suitcase/gear bag and didn’t remember seeing my mouth guard in there. I’d also forgotten to boil it the night before like I’d been supposed to, to make it malleable and conform it to the shape of my upper teeth. I knew I wasn’t going to be allowed to skate without it. I told one of the co-instructors and she gave me a brand new mouth guard — for three dollars. I’d paid $20 online for my boil-and-bite one. This new one wasn’t fitted to me specifically, obviously, but it meant I could skate. I thanked her and rolled back onto the rink, relieved.

We did a series of drills, including a couple of new ones from Get in Gear. I noticed that when I tried to do a toe stop with my left skate, it was more difficult than it had been with my right. I think now it may have been because that’s not my dominant foot and also because we were skating clock-wise for the first-time and not counter-clockwise, the traditional skating direction. Queen B noticed when I faltered on that one and told me she’d take a look at my skates after the class ended.

At the class’s end, I brought my skates over to her to see what she thought. She told me that the skates my uncle gave me are great, but maybe a little too professional for the level I’m at — the toe stops on them are smaller, and therefore cover less surface area, and are also intended for speed skating.That makes sense, since that’s my uncle’s forte. They also present more of a hurdle because the gym floor we practice on isn’t intended for skating-only, like at traditional rinks. She said I could get different ones, but that eventually I’ll be good enough to be able to rise to the challenge the toe stops present. Part of me wants to just leave those toe stops on there so I force myself to get better, sooner.

I thanked her for her help and packed my bag to leave. I didn’t get to skate as much as I’d hoped, because the more I’m on the rink the more I love being out there, but at least I was able to tell that those skates fit me perfectly. I’m still blown away my uncle got them for me. I can’t wait until next week’s class.