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The head squirrels.

Head squirrels are invisible creatures that gnaw on your niggly brain thoughts at night and make it hard for you to sleep. Tonight I have appear to have a veritable infestation of them, so I decided to give up on trying to sleep and try to do something else for a little while so that the head squirrels get bored and go and nibble on someone else. The best way to make them bored, I decided, was to try to get all the brain thoughts out of my head and onto a page and then maybe there'll be no niggly brain thoughts circulating, and thus nothing to attract the brain squirrels.

This rather long and slightly surreal pre-amble is by way of explaining why I am writing in this utterly neglected blog.

A number of events have precipitated the niggly brain thoughts of this evening, mainly - some broken bones, lack of exercise, the opening ceremony of the Olympics & the Paralympics themselves. My thoughts are still niggly, and somewhat chewed-upon by head squirrels, so please bear with me if this comes out jumbled or even completely nonsensical.

I fractured my hand in February (playing roller derby) and 8 weeks later in April, a week after coming back to practice, I fractured my rib (playing roller derby) which put me out for another 10 weeks. During this time I ate ALL OF THE FOOD and did no gym. This meant that not only did I put on a whole bunch of weight, but I also started to experience more pain and difficulties with my joints & muscles.

I am not sure if I've mentioned this on this blog much - it's not something I talk about a lot because I am never really sure how to. I always worry that I sound like I am making excuses, and it's a complicated thing to explain. I have a condition called HMS which stands for Hypermobility Syndrome. It's not the same thing as being hypermobile (or double jointed, as it's more commonly known.) If you're hypermobile, you have (for whatever reason) very flexible joints. If you have Hypermobility Syndrome, that flexibility has started to cause pain or problems in your joints, muscles and/or internal organs. It's not very useful as a descriptor, to be honest. You could fill 10 football pitches with HMS sufferers and all of them could have completely different problems, symptoms, difficulties and variations on how it affects them. Some people have occasional pain and twinges, managed by painkillers or careful exercise. Other people can barely move, walk or sit and stand without serious dislocations. It's a condition as varied as the British weather.

When I talk about what hurts, or what I've injured, people often go "oh what is it THIS time? You're always doing something to yourself". Well, the vast majority of the time, my problems are related to HMS. For me, personally, my affected areas are:

- My shoulderblades. They can slide in an out and hurt a lot if I don't keep the muscles around them strong.
- My hands, wrists & carpal tunnel. I have difficulty gripping things, I drop things a lot because I lose grip. I can't place my hand flat on the floor or rest my bodyweight on my hands. On very bad days, I can't hold a mouse, or type, or hold a toothbrush or hairdryer. Thankfully it's been a while since I've had a day as bad as that.
- My hips. My hips & pelvis sit slightly in the wrong position, so it can get painful if I walk much, and if I get very tired my posture goes and I start walking funny.
- My shins. The fascia between my shin bone and shin muscle is so completely damaged I have permanent shin splints. This means I can't run or jump much and sometimes the muscle gets stuck on the bone which hurts like a mofo, and I have to have a horrible painful massage to get it unstuck.
- My ankles & feet. This is probably the one that gives me most trouble! MY ankles are very weak & over mobile, they are really unstable and ive way easily. They roll in when I walk. My feet have no instep and I overpronate when I walk to the extend the outside of my feet don't touch the floor. I have bunions on both feet over the toejoint. The ball of my foot and the large toe joint have fused in a weird way which means my toes don't bend backwards - I can't stand on tiptoe. This means when I walk my ankles twist round.
- everything else...

All of my joints are prone to "subluxing", which means they don't stay in the socket well, and can slip out. When I walk long distances, even in my NHS orthotics, the walking action can make my big toes sublux, which is incredibly painful.

What has happened is that my muscles are all working overtime to stablise the joints; but they aren't working in the direction or in the way that muscles are strictly meant to. This means that in addition to my joints being a dislocation risk some of my muscles are overdeveloped, and thus weak and prone to injury. My muscles are tense all the time, and I find it hard to relax them.

Many HMS sufferers (and I am no exception here) also have problems with migraines, IBS and proprioception (spatial awareness). That last one means I walk into doors a lot. In addition, because HMS sufferers muscles are all working so hard all the time, we can get fatigued more easily. It's a condition not an illness. There's not a cure and due to it's very nature it is degenerative, getting worse as you get older, unless you really look after yourself.

So, in short; I injure easily, am in pain most of the time, and if I eat ALL OF THE FOOD and don't exercise safely & regularly, everything goes to shit.

Ironically, if I hadn't started to try to get fit in the first place, I might not have discovered all of this. In around 2006 I went on a health kick. I started going to the gym and cycling loads, something I'd never really done before. After a few months of yoga & street dance I started to get really bad pain in my hands and legs. This started years of tests & diagnoses and re-diagnoses, via RSI to Arthritus through ME/CFS & fibromyalgia, finally arriving at the not-very-descriptive "HMS". Suddenly so much clicked into place. The difficulties I had at school with any sport that involved holding things (tennis) or running (long distance). My hatred and fear of "long family walks". I just assumed as a child that everyone was in as much pain as I was, just that I was the only one complaining about it, and I was therefore rubbish.

I have finally got a good balance of exercise now; I've been with my gym for 2 years and the instructors are very knowledgeable about my condition and work with me to make me strong in the right way. Not exercising, or overdoing it, or doing things that are just really bad for me (like running!) can make everything go to shit.

Annoyingly enough, not getting enough sleep makes it bad as well. I notice that it's one 1am and I'm still awake. I think some of the head squirrels are wandering off though, so it seems to be working...

So, in July I was in the opening ceremony for the Olympics. The Danny Boyle one, which was pretty much universally acclaimed as pretty bloody good. I was in the NHS section, as a roller skating nurse. You never actually saw me, but I was there. The rehearsals and the skates they gave us were pretty hard on my feet - I spent most of the rehearsals in pain but just trying to bear it as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was icing my feet when I got home as sometimes the balls of my feet were so swollen I could barely get my shoes on. I was fine until we got to rehearsing in the stadium for real, when we found our cast holding area was a mile and a half walk away. Not wanting to make a fuss (at first) I tried to do the walk. However after doing it twice, and spending 5 hours in the skates, I was in agony, and was worried I wouldn't be able to walk back to the station. I cried at the cast co-ordinator, and explained about my subluxy toes and foot & ankle problems; he put me on the mobility bus with other cast members with mobility issues, and told me to email the next day to request to go on the official mobility list.

I did so - but felt like a fraud. There were other people who I thought were much more in need than me. And I was a SKATER. What sort of a fraud was I, wearing skates and skating around, but unable to walk a couple of miles? I play roller derby for goodness sake. I can walk (albeit not far!) I can sit and stand. I can go to the gym. Ok, I can't wear heels or do plyo or play squash, but loads of people every day don't do those things. What business do I have saying I am disabled when I can do most things that I need to do to get by?

And there's the rub. the word disabled. The baggage it carries. It's a label. An albatross. A dis-ability. It's something I've rejected ever since I was first diagnosed. As my condition gets worse though (and despite getting new orthotics which are even more corrective than my old ones, my feet in particular insist on getting worse) it's something I've had to face more and more lately. I still can't bring myself to tick that box "do you consider yourself to have a disability?" when filling in forms. It feels like too big a thing to say yes to.

And so, roller derby. A great choice of sport for someone prone to muscle injury and joint problems, right? Well, actually I think derby is the reason I am as "well" as I am. I think without it I'd have no reason to want to be strong and fit and healthy. I would take on the role of a sick person, "Oh, i can't do that because of my feet" "oh I can't do that because of my HMS". I have to make sure I push myself only as hard as I can go, so my progress is slower, but it's worth it. In order to play derby, I need to make my body as strong and as fit as it will go. Roller derby gives me a reason to be the best I can be, and work with my body to make it do what I want it to do.

Compared to other people I know of with HMS, I am actually bloody lucky to be able to do as much as I can, and so while I can do all of the things, I will keep doing all of the things. My feet/shins could stay as they are for years, or they could deteriorate. I don't know. But then a perfectly healthy person could be hit by a bus tomorrow. You just don't know what will happen to you.

Is that a contradiction? My condition that I find so hard to accept is both the thing that holds me back and the thing that makes me strive to achieve in roller derby. Roller derby is the thing that makes me strive to be healthy while at the same time potentially harming me. I need someone to draw a diagram for that.

I can't give you an answer to that "do you consider yourself to have a disability" box. It's not something I've let myself think about, and it wasn't until the opening ceremony that I realised how there really are some every day normal things - like walking a mile, or holding on when standing on the tube - that I really struggle to so. If I am honest, the answer to the "do you consider yourself to have a disability" question is "sometimes".

I have been watching the Paralympics with awe. The Olympics were impressive, sure. Watching anyone compete in an event they've been training for for 4 years, being in their peak condition, achieving amazing things - it's been inspirational. But the Paralympics somehow mean something else to me. These are all people that have technically ticked that disability box. And they've all had to go through rigorous testing for the classification system that determines exactly how "impaired" they are in their event. Some of them can't hold a toothbrush, or use a tube without an elevator. But, just as with Ennis, Bolt et al, they are achieving incredible things. Pistorious, Cocktroft, Simmonds, Weir; these are people in top physical condition, who are able in ways that many able bodied people aren't. And they all, technically, tick that box. Do they consider themselves disabled? I like to think that their answer is also "sometimes".

I don't know where I am going with this, I am not sure I ended up where I thought I would when I started. I am not sure I've answered any of my questions.

I think thought that perhaps getting these thoughts out of my head has made the head squirrels wonder off to find someone else's niggly brain thoughts to chew on, and so with my apparent conclusion being that I sometimes feel disabled, and sometimes not, I will try to sleep.

Confessions of a rollergirl

It's been over a year since my last post. This is because I have OBVIOUSLY been far too busy playing roller derby to write about it, and not because I am lazy, slack, or forgot about this blog at all. Nope.

A year is a long time in roller derby. Since I last posted, I joined a gym and actually started going regularly; started having regular physiotherapy for my irritating pain condition; got a bad case of the derby meh and nearly quit; got a bad case of missing roller derby and got right back on the horse. Only that's a different sort of derby. and I'm allergic to horses. ANYWAY.

It's been an interesting time for the league too - our A-team went to the US and did some serious ass-kicking, (and got LRG ranked in the DNN top 20) then got stuck there thanks to an overenthusiastic volcano. We completed our 2nd season, with the Suffra Jets the 2nd year running champions, and undefeated at that. We started our 3rd season at Earls Court with a FOURTH team who are totally awesome. The Suffa Jets lost for the first time ever. The Ultraviolents won for the first time in a public bout. The third season is anyone's to take. Our B-team started bouting other UK teams and kicked some ass. We started our recreational league, and held our first try-outs.

I've now been skating for nearly 3 years with the LRG, and the changes to the league, and to me, are huge. To see the league where it is now from where it was when I started makes me so proud to be a London Rollergirl, and so in awe of all the girls in the league that work so hard to keep it all going. On a personal level I am probably fitter and healthier right now than I've ever been. I go to the gym regularly and it shows in my game. I am learning to focus and direct my energy instead of ASPLODING all over the place. Most excitingly, I made it into the top 30 as a b-team sub, and get to play my first ever b-team game in January. Exciting!

For someone who hadn't dreamed of making it to the top 30 on my own merit, this is pretty much a highlight of my LIFE. If you'd have said to me 4 years ago that I would not only be playing an amateur team sport on a regular basis AND going to the gym 3+ times a week but I'd also representing my league competitively within the top 30 I would have laughed you out of the park. Only I wouldn't have been in a park, I'd have been sat on my arse on a sofa eating a king-size pack of revels, and I would have laughed at you from there, but quietly so I could still hear the television. Then I would have written my 30th LJ post of the day to say that some crazy person had told me that in 4 years time I'd be being ACTIVE. With OTHER PEOPLE. My mother would have commented on that LJ post with "who are you, and what have you done with my daughter?"

Help us go to the US of A!

London Calling to the faraway towns... and this time they're really far away! The London Rollergirls are working hard and fundraising like mad to send our European Champion all-star team, London Brawling, on a tour of the US East Coast next Spring. We have bouts and training sessions lined up with some of the top US teams, but we need your help and your votes to get us there! Please go to the following link: http://www.greatbritons.ba.com/users/23247 and vote for us! If we get the most votes we could win our flights to America!

This is a really exciting opportunity for us and our first chance to test ourselves against top-class international opposition. We're up for the challenge, we're desperate to make it out there and show the derby world what London can do, but we really, really need your help! You need to register to vote, but it's just an email address and name and they don't send you any junk.

THANK YOU!

FREE ROLLER DERBY!

we urgently need an audience for a pretend bout on Thursday.


Inglis Barracks
Formerly Inglis Barracks
Bray Road
Mill Hill
NW7 1SL

Be there for 8, filming to start at 8.30. Bring signs and stuff.

It's going to be a real bout in terms of competitiveness (as usual, no sript, no fake-ness) but doesn't form part of the season games or anything, we're putting it on for this TV show.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who may be free on Thursday and wants to spend a fun evening being on TV, watching a TV programme being filmed and of course watching some roller derby.

Splease pass this on to anyone you think may be interested, London Rollergirls need you!

If some people could also post this on facebook I'd be grateful, I can't get on it at work. Anyone wanting more info can email me - maybetwisted[at]londonrollergirls[dot] com.

Cheers m'dears!

p.s. also a good opportunity to see some FREE roller derby for those of you who haven't made it to see a game yet due to event clashes/cash-flow issues!!!

Sunday Times!

Get your copy of the Sunday Times today for an hilarious article about the London Rollergirls!

scan under here...Collapse )

Thanks to Duncan Disorderly¹ for the scans!



[1] - Best. Ref. Name. EVER!

ROLL BRITANNIA!

What can possibly be more awesome than a roller derby bout you ask? The answer...

A WHOLE WEEKEND OF DERBY!!!!!

Today is the last day to get early bird prices for weekend tickets for Europe's FIRST EVER roller derby tournament!

You can buy tickets and check out all the latest news at the website:

http://rollbritannia.com

Today only tickets for the whole weekend are £25, tomorrow they go up to £30.

the draw for groups was done today, and it promises to be such an amazing weekend.

Group A

Birmingham Blitz Derby Dames
Leeds Roller Dolls
Berlin Bombshells

Group B

Auld Reekie Roller Girls
Central City Rollergirls
Royal Rebel Rollers

Group C

Glasgow Roller Girls
London Rockin Rollers
Rainy City Rollergirls

Group D

London Rollergirls
Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz
Team East Angrier

While officially, of course, I am supporting my league, the London Rollergirls, I am secretly rooting for Team East Angrier because OMG TOTALLY BEST NAME EVER, right? and check out their logo!



pure class.

To be pulled out in the same bracket of the LRG is going to be one hell of a punishing game for them. Perhaps I should make a sign to support them with my amazing and totally scientific and not at all made up on the spot learning curve graph with the words 'IT'S ALL A LEARNING EXPERIENCE' written underneath.

GO TEAM EAST ANGRIER!!!!

wear the derby love...around your neck!

Do you love the London Rollergirls?

Do you vote for the Suffra Jets, or are you crazy for the Ultraviolent Femmes, or have the Steam Rollers stolen your (clockwork) heart? Or are you a zebra fan?

Do you want to declare your love in jewellry format?

We are SO excited to have partnered up with TATTY DEVINE - you can now show your support through their amazing vinyl skate necklaces.

I ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ my Steam Rollers necklace and haven't taken it off since the bout.

Check them out over at Tatty Devine's website

the penalty learning curve

There are still tickets available for the championship final on the 25th April!

Buy tickets now!

I've mentioned before on this journal how steep the learning curve can be in roller derby. First, you need to learn to fall properly. Then, once you have sorted falling, you've got to get the skating down, and after that you need to get the blocking down. Then you need to get the hang of doing both at once. Then you need to get the hang of doing it in a game situation where other people are hitting *you*.

And then, once you've got all that, you need to learn how to play the game. As hard as learning the basics was, this is the hardest part, the steepest learning curve. My first ever 'scrimmage' I had NO IDEA what was going on. It felt like chaos. It has taken a long time for me to feel like I am in a scrimmage and can pay attention to anything other than not falling over, let alone remember a set of tactics and game play.

There was a long time where I felt I was little more than a 5th person on the track skating around with people playing derby. I was inneffective, couldn't keep track of what I was meant to be doing and any time I helped our jammer or stopped theirs was more accident than design. I was never called for any penalties, even though I felt I was all over the shop. Whether this is because anything I did never had any impact on the game or that the referees just didn't pay that much attention to me I don't know.

Recently, I feel like I have made a sudden jump up the curve. I feel effective in the pack. I am still no good on the inside line and a bit shonky at being part of a wall but I can waterfall pretty effectively (waterfalling is where blocker a hits opposing jammer, and blocker b paces up to take their place, ready to hit opposing jammer again, and whils she hits, blocker paces up to be ready to hit again. You do this for as long as you possibly can, it's very effective!) and appear to have finally got comfortable enough on my feet to hit pretty hard. My timing is getting better and my positional blocking (where you skate in front of someone without hitting them to prevent them getting past) does actually keep people back for more than 3 strides.

The thing that I've noticed most is my penalties. I have started getting them. I've had my first two trips to the penalty box (one for a major, one for 4 minors) and am being called much more often. I am also, conversely, making a concious attempt *not* to commit penalties. My increase in penalties has directly co-incided with my improvement.

I have been told by a US skater that this is really common. You go through a phase when you start playing, and you're not that good yet, of getting no penalites at all. Then, when you start getting good, you get penalties galore. It is, apparently, a sign you are getting better. You are involving yourself in the pack, you are pushing up, gong for hits, trying to get past other people, engaging more and generally getting properly stuck in. You are having an impact. Possibly, because you're doing more, the refs see you more.

This is massively pleasing to me as I haven't improved for MONTHS and was starting to despair of ever getting better. The next step, I am told, is when the penalties start to curve back down again.

Sort of like this really rubbish MS paint graph I just made.



Pink is the learning curve, red is the amount of penalties. This graph is, of course, totally accurate, scientific and in no way made up on the spot.

I am still not a really good player. I can hold my own in a pack, but need to work on my team work and communication, and on switching from defense to offence i.e. when you are switching from stopping their jammer to helping yours. I need to work on my timing, so I don't go in for a huge sweeping block and then go head first into a wall as the jammer sails past me.

Playing Pivot (the front most blocker, whose job is to set the pace of the pack and call the play adn tactics) the other day showed me how much I really have to learn. While in a pack position I know my job, I know what to do and I can concentrate on my own game and do ok, but as soon as I put on that Pivot cover (the pivots wear a striped cover on their helmets. These are called 'helmet panties' which is a never ending source of amusement to me.) I go totally to pieces. I can't concentrate on playing my own game any more, and am not yet good enough at reading the play to call out effective play to my team mates, so I become worse than useless.

Even so, the experience of being pivot showed me that I *am* getting more effective as an individual. I just need to start learning to pull all the parts of the game together.

I feel a lot more positive going into this game than the last one. In the last one my objective was to not let my team down. My objective in this one is to help my team win. It's a subtle difference, but it's a lot in derby!

Lets hope that this confidence lasts until the game.
Lots of news!

First of all, tomorrow is the LRG's Birthday Party Fund-raiser bash, at The Gaff on Holloway Road.

We are 3 years old! Come and eat cake, dance and be merry with the roller girls.

Secondly, the season finale is coming up fast, on the 25th April either the Suffra Jets or the Steam Rollers1 will be crowned champions, winners of the first ever roller derby home season in the UK.

BUT there's more! It will also be the UK's first double header game - with the Ultraviolent Femmes taking on Barock City!

Double the derby for your money, how can you resist? It will be an amazing and exciting day, if you've not yet made it to a bout you really should try to make this one, it is going to be spectacular.

And I get to play for my team again, woo!

tickets and information here

Buying in advance is strongly recommended as we sold out completely last time.

On a personal level, I have been working REALLY HARD to make my team proud of me, and to try and be a help rather than a hindrance on the track. I really feel like I am making progress, slow, for sure, but progress none-the-less, and I remain astonished that I stick with it when I am not IMMEDIATELY AMAZING the way I give up on everything else I find difficult. I have also been braving the outside world on skates, thanks to Fox Sake2 loaning me some outdoor wheels, and today I skated from my house all the way to the house of Mr Twisted3, up and down kerbs, over roads and some particularly shonky pavements of dark Hackney alleyways.

There had also been the super exciting first home bout for our London Derby Sisters, the London Rockin' Rollers, playing the Glasgow Rollergirls Travel Team - the Irn Bruisers4.

For a write up of this, I hand you over to the significantly superior prose of Mollie Cosh of the Romsey Rollerbillies whose write-ups are always spot on5

More to come soon about floors, wheels, parks, Nicole Kidman,and the UK's first6 Roller Derby Tournament!

[1]I AM BIASED OK
[2] omg totally awesome name, right?
[3] ok so It's only a mile, but you gotta start somewhere.
[4] omg best travel team name EVER, right?
[5] and much better written than mine
[6] I think I may have overused the word FIRST in this post.