When she was a toddler, my daughter could not pronounce her actual name, so she called herself Iya. And, at that age when small people have strong opinions about what they can do themselves, what they want Mom to do, or what they want Dad to do, she would often say, “No, Mama. Iya dooey.” if she wanted to do something herself. Or, if it was something she wanted me to do for her, she would say, “Mama dooey.” Or for my husband, “Dada dooey dat.”
We took her to the beach and she had a blast “dooey-ing” all sorts of new things — playing in the sand, running along the beach, splashing in the water. And then one day we saw a group of young teen girls carrying surfboards, heading into the ocean for surfing lessons. Ivy’s big blue eyes got even bigger and she pointed and, in a tone that conveyed nothing but sheer awe, said, “Iya dooey DAT.”
In May of 2013, I had a similar experience — I went to see the Carolina Rollergirls play in a tournament at Dorton Arena in Raleigh and, from the first whistle of the first bout, all I could think was, “I need to do that.” The combination of speed, power, and agility was completely inspiring, and I loved the way so many of the players played the game — so much strategy, so much teamwork, so much gamesmanship. It was amazing. And I knew, as I took pictures on the sidelines, that this was something I simply have to do.
So I started training. I lost 50 pounds through a combination of changing up how I fueled my body, running, strength training, yoga, and lots of skating. My husband was down on the idea and wouldn’t agree to my spending money on skates and gear…even if I set up extra side jobs to pay for it. But one of the Rollergirls lent me her spare gear and then a woman in my pottery class passed along a pair of skates (miraculously my size) and some derby gear that she received as a gift but never really used. I started going to Rollergirls open practices and a derby skating class, where I began learn how to do all the things that Rollergirls do.
December 11, 2013, I fell at an open skate at the roller rink and tore my hamstring, just a few weeks before January tryouts, and just before my parents bought me my own skates for Christmas. The injury was bad enough that the hamstring is likely partially detached from the bone, permanently altering the geometry of my leg, and I am told my full recovery will likely happen on the far end of a typical 6-12 month recopy timeer, of which I am in month #7. Fortunately, I am strong and was told that I can heal from and compensate for the injury without requiring surgery.
I never stopped skating, although my first practices in January were just slow laps around the floor near the wall, cringing and wincing whenever instability caused me to activate the hurt part of the hamstring to catch my balance, which was humbling for someone who was feeling pretty solid on skates before getting hurt. And fighting back tears sometimes while I watched people I used to skate with becoming more and more skilled and closer and closer to making the team while I painfully baby-stepped my way around the rink.
But by March I was able to participate in practice more fully. I still couldn’t cross over consistently and skating backward was painful. I sat out of drills and activities that caused pain like jumping or transitioning from forward to backward skating. But each week I felt a little more stable and a little less painful. And by April I felt like I might have been able to try out, despite the remaining pain, but was told my a massage therapist, two physical therapists, my own doctor, and an orthopedist that it was a terrible idea, given the risk of reinjury. So I waited. And did my physical therapy exercises and got massages and tried to heal.
And now I still feel twinges of pain and the hamstring still spasms if I am not properly warmed up. There are certain movements that still make me aware of the injury (cross-overs, some transitions, jumps), and I have had to work at overcome injury-related fear that was never part of my training before. I have what feels like a ridiculous regimen of filling a hot water bottle to put under my leg for the drive to our practice space to speed up the warmup process, and jogging around the track before I put my skates on to help prevent spasms. Sometimes one of the fresh meat skaters who is a physical therapist rubs out the spasms and stiffness in it so I can skate better, which is awesome. But if I do all that, I can SKATE and train and challenge myself in ways that were unimaginable six months ago.
Tryouts are now, once again, about two weeks away and I feel like I am making good progress on my skills. I can cross over going in both directions once I am warmed up. Backwards skating is not as painful, though still awkward. I am working on building my confidence with transitions and jumps, and making myself do turn-around-toe-stops as often as I can to get over my hesitancy. I finally started plow-stopping correctly and I am working on my hockey stop, though I am finding it frustrating. I am working hard on my fitness and probably have another 50 pounds to lose, but I am making progress.
I have a ways to go…but eventually…Mama dooey dat.