Thursday, July 07, 2011

This Is Weenie War

I had an epiphany last weekend as I was trying to come up with ideas for my blog. I realized that I've spent six months trying to describe and document my roller derby experience, when all along, the entire journey can be summed up by a scene from one of my favorite movies.


What's that? You've never heard of the 1979 Bill Murray classic Meatballs? Are you kidding me? Next you'll tell me that you've never seen The Monster Squad (Wolfman's got gnards?!)

Meatballs was one of those movies that my dad let me watch when I was six, I didn't get most of the jokes (mostly because I didn't know what "boner" meant), and when I saw it again it my twenties? I was horrified that my dad had even let me watch it. (In my dad's defense, Meatballs was rated PG, at a time when PG-13 didn't even exist yet. So while it's not quite R-rated material, I think the boner jokes alone qualify it as too mature for a six-year-old.) Other movies my dad let me watch at that age include all the Rambo movies, Jaws, Predator, Poltergeist, and The Benny Hill Show. And he wonders why I turned out the way I did. Just saying.

But I digress. If you haven't seen it, all you really need to know about Meatballs is that Bill Murray plays Tripper, who is in charge of all the young adult counselors at summer camp. And let the hilarity ensue.

The scene that best sums up my roller derby journey is when Fink, the stereotypical underdog fat guy, is matched against The Stomach, a hot dog eating champion from a rival summer camp. Tripper gives Fink the simple pep talk that has always stuck with me:

Tripper: Mmmmm. Look at all those steaming wieners. Do you know what they're saying? They're saying, "This is the year that Fink beats 'The Stomach'."

I suppose it's not really the pep talk that pushes Fink to win - it's probably more Bill Murray screaming over his shoulder and shaking him that gives him that oomph to go the extra mile. Tell me this doesn't motivate you to furiously shove hot dogs in your mouth:

So how does this relate to derby? Quite simply: I am Fink, roller derby is The Stomach, and the Red Rockettes are my Tripper. They're the ones yelling over my shoulder (literally and figuratively), pushing me to do more, do better, try harder, keep going. They are my personal Bill Murray, telling me that even when I feel like it's impossible, there's always more room in my mouth for weenies.
Because of their support, I've been able to overcome some major milestones. I've worked on overcoming my derby fears, and I've even managed to face some of those fears:

1. Cross-overs. Here's a perfect example of a basic skill that I was supposed to have mastered five months ago. But I was terrified, and I just couldn't pick up my foot and lift it over the other one while skating forward. I spent every practice trying to hide behind other people so that the coaches wouldn't notice that I still wasn't crossing over. (I know they totally noticed, I wasn't fooling anyone). And finally, I just tried. And guess what. I didn't fall or trip myself. And while I still don't look comfortable or even natural crossing over, at least now I'm doing them.

2. 25 in 5. This is another basic skill - being able to skate 25 laps in five minutes or less. This breaks down to skating one lap in twelve seconds tops. Most of the vets can easily do it; the fresh meat mamas can probably do it in less than four minutes (that's like nine seconds per lap) which might not sound that fast, but trust me, it's fast. Much like I avoided cross-overs for so long, I also avoided being officially timed on my 25 laps. Basically my logic was this: I already know I'm slow, I don't feel the need to know exactly how slow. So every time we had an opportunity to be timed, I'd duck out early or just say I was too tired. I sucessfully avoided it for months, because ignorance is bliss. And I preferred to be ignorantly, blissfully slow instead of just plain slow.

Then last week at the end of endurance practice, we were offered the chance to be timed. There was a small enough group there that we'd each have our own personal timer, counting our laps and tracking our time for us. I wouldn't even have to worry about counting or losing track of which lap I was on. So there went that excuse.

It was the end of the night, we'd been working hard and I was sweaty, red-faced, and panting. My body hurt, my swass was out of control, and I just plain didn't want to do it. But then I looked over at Liz Tailher, a fellow Rockette. Liz, who does a 7:00 am bootcamp, running up huge hills and jumping over bleachers. Liz, who will chase down a jammer the way I would chase down one of the New Kids on the Block. Liz, my fellow middle-easterner who fondly refers to me as the other half of her West Bank. Liz, who was just as red-faced and sweaty as me, and she was already lined up on the track, ready to go.

When I looked at her, I knew I was out of excuses, and I just had to do it. She gave me a fist bump and said, "Let's do this." Andy Wardoll yelled out from the sidelines, "I got YOU, Bone!" and held up her stopwatch. So I took a deep breath, lined up on the track and said to myself, "Ima make this my bitch." The whistle blew, and off we went.

I wish I could tell you that I did my 25 laps in like three minutes, and that everyone carried me over their shoulders, cheering. But that didn't happen. What did happen, is that I pushed myself as hard as I could. My legs felt like they were on fire, my mouth was completely dry, and every muscle in my body hurt. But I heard Andy cheering for me every time I passed her, telling me to keep going and not to give up. Each time she called out my lap number, I focused on that and told myself, "Just fifteen more...just ten more...five more..."

And you know what? I didn't do it in less than five minutes. But I was a lot closer than I thought I'd be and more importantly - I finally at least tried.

3. Wearing No-Pants with No Dark Tights. Every time I've worn no-pants, I've had either black spandex or dark tights under them, so none of my skin was actually showing. I was too self-conscious about my legs and how I could survive for a year on the cottage cheese that resides on my butt and thighs. Most of the other girls wear nude pantyhose (if anything) under their no-pants, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. But then Bruiser Ego showed me these:
So I bought a pair. And when I put them on? Somehow I felt confident and at peace with my cellulite...and I wore them to the next scrimmage with nothing but newd hose underneath. Other than a bathing suit, it was the most leg I've ever shown in public. And it was incredibly freeing and empowering to skate like that.

Obviously I still have a million areas that need improvement, but I feel content knowing that I'm at least trying to get better, and I'm starting to face the things I'm afraid of. I still have a long list of personal milestones that I want to reach (jamming, anyone?), but I hope I always have my own personal Bill Murray's cheering me on.