May Featured Skater: Vicious Valkyrie

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What do you think of when you hear “Vicious Valkyrie”? Probably not a slender, speedy skater who has number 93 on her back, but that’s our Val. She was kind enough to answer some questions for us as our featured skater for May. 

What made you decide to try derby?

In Spring 2013 I went to my first roller derby bout and instantly fell in love. I spent the remainder of the 2013 season and all of the 2014 season traveling almost weekly to watch bouts all over Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. If I wasn’t at a bout any given weekend, chances are that I was live streaming a tournament or watching bout archives.

How long have you been skating?

At the first bout I went to, I talked to a skater and found out about an open skating/derby skills practice weekly in Cincinnati. I began attending in April 2013 and worked on improving my skating skills for about a year and a half (minus the time I spent off skates with a broken foot and 2 torn ligaments Summer/Fall 2013.) After being turned down twice by a league closer to where I live it came to the point when I realized I wanted to skate and began looking at other leagues. I decided to join Gem City in January 2015 and was instantly welcomed and it really felt like I was finally home. Within a month I had passed off on all of my skills and was rostered for my first bout; I haven’t looked back since.

Other than derby, have you participated in team or individual sports?

I played one season of soccer when I was in third grade and discovered that I am not great at sports with balls. I danced competitively as well, which, I believe, gives me an advantage in toe stop work.

What’s your fitness routine?Val1

Outside of practice I try to hit the gym for weight training 3 times a week. I also try to find moments throughout the day to stay active if I can’t make it to the gym. For example, doing squats in the morning while I’m waiting for my cats to eat their breakfast.  

Do you have a bout day routine or special meal?

I try to get as much sleep as I can the night before and get a good breakfast. I’ll do a breathing treatment a few hours before and get a chicken teriyaki sub from Penn Station.

Do you have “off” practices? If you do, how do you deal with it mentally?

Absolutely! I can’t always get myself in the right state of mind during an “off” practice, but I try to make sure that I don’t go to bed while I’m mentally in a bad place. On the way home I’ll remind myself of how far I’ve come and try to name something I did well at practice to counter-balance any negative feelings. If nothing else getting a good workout and getting to spend time with my team are always positives.

Val2How did you pick your name?

In Norse mythology, a Valkyrie decides who lives and who dies on the battlefield. I love that strong, unstoppable female archetype so I knew I wanted something with Valkyrie in it. I added the vicious later to make it unique. I guess the intention behind picking such a fierce name is the hope that I’ll eventually be able to embody it on the track.

We know that you have Lupus, which is something people hear about but don’t always have facts on. What it is, and how has it affected you as a skater?

I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus Spring 2010. I was relieved to actually have a diagnosis to explain the downturn of my health and begin treatment, but frustrated to learn that this would be something that I would have to face every day for the rest of my life. Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organs. [1] Some environmental triggers that set off the illness are: ultraviolet rays from the sun or fluorescent light bulbs, an infection, exhaustion, emotional stress or anything that causes stress to the body. To get a picture of what this is like, it seems like, whenever I am stressed or even simply go outside my cells attack themselves and flare up symptoms in all of my body systems. I have been fortunately thus far that my case has only been mild/moderate. As far as how this relates to roller derby, I just need to make sure that I listen to my body and put my overall health as the top priority. I am proud of all that I have been able to accomplish and will continue to keep fighting.

  1. “Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.” MedlinePlus. January 20, 2015. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000435.htm

March Featured Skater: Tara Hole-Inu

aholeLeaguePhotoTara is one of our favorite skaters — she’s so upbeat and funny and helps out, but she works hard at practice. No goofing off or clowning around! As the featured skater for March, she agreed to answer some questions for us, her loyal fans.

 

Q: How long have you been skating?
A: I joined the team in 2011. I spent a lot of time skating as a kid. I have memories of my cousins singing “roller derby woman” to the tune of “Pretty Woman” as I skated on the street in front of their house. So, yeah, derby was pretty much my destiny and stuff.

 

Q: What made you decide to try derby?
A: I saw a Gem City a recruitment flyer while I was looking for a roller girl Halloween costume. I was immediately captivated and knew I had to try out. Why didn’t someone tell me this existed in real life sooner??

 

Q: Had you done any other team sports besides derby?
A: I was involved with a good amount of sports, intermittently, as a kid: swim team, softball, soccer, baton twirling (yes, it totally counts), volleyball, basketball, and track & field.

 

Q: What is your day job?
A: I build commercial project quotes and provide technical assistance for a local garage door manufacture. It’s insanely glamorous.

 

Q: How much exercise do you get in a typical week? 
A: On average 3-5 days a week, which can be a struggle in the winter. Once the weather warms up, I’ll be running, skating, biking, or walking my tiny dog almost every day.

 

Q: How did you choose your derby name?
A: When I started derby I wanted people to think I was mean and scary. Unfortunately, I look like I cuddle with kittens all day (which is only sometimes true), so I picked a name that would help me feel a little more aggressive on the track. Kind of a “fake it ‘til you make it” approach.

 

Q: What helps your mental game the most? That is, what do you say to yourself when you feel like you aren’t performing up to your standards in a bout?
A: If I feel like I’m skating poorly or I’m getting penalty heavy, I’ll use the “power pose” and positive visualization to boost my confidence. I’ll stand or sit bigger and stronger, making sure my chin is held high. I’ll close my eyes and visualize a good jam or think of something that makes me smile. It sounds kind of cheesy, but it can be really effective against negative self-talk.

 

Q: How has derby changed you?
A: I feel like a kid again. Derby has pushed my boundaries and given me a lot of unadulterated joy. I’ve utterly failed, felt like a super-star, had to apologize for being a jerk, and made some really amazing friends… and sometimes I do all of that in one single night! I also feel stronger physically, but I think the mental and emotional gains are the ones that will stick with me long after I’ve left the track.

February Featured Skater: Beast Mode

Beast_modeHey guys, Beast Mode here! So I guess I’m supposed to tell you some things about me.  My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down the Mississippi… Okay, okay, that’s a lie. I stole that line from “The Jerk” (a classic).  Alright, real talk now.

I’ve been skating with Gem City since the tail end of 2012 (sweet baby Jesus I can’t believe it’s been that long) and I was empirically terrible. I had the great fortune of having a sage orchestra teacher in 5th grade (Mr. Wright) who imparted this wisdom on my young impressionable brain: “You aren’t going to get this overnight.  If you keep doing it, it’ll click.  You’re building new connections in your brain – that takes time and only works if you keep doing it.”  So I trudged on (squawkily and screechily, as I’m sure my parents will attest to those early violin days) and one day, it clicked.  I’ve carried that lesson with me into all aspects of my life, but particularly with derby.  All those times I fell on my hind parts (and sometimes my face) and took down everyone (refs included) during a pack 30, I’d take a breath and say, “I will get this”. Eventually, things began to click. Being stubborn with your goals pays off!12696800_10101625416424646_614746469_o

I started doing yoga around the same time I began derby and both have transformed my life and body.  From yoga I am learning to quiet my (often restless, easily distracted) mind and listen to my body.  I’m learning to be gentle with myself and confident in my strength (crow pose lovers holla at me!).  Derby has given me a wonderful community – I can’t remember what life was like before derby! I absolutely love blocking, especially in a 4 wall.  There is something magical about being in a great 4 wall.  I have mad respect for dedicated jammers, jamming is physically and mentally taxing.

12696434_10101625416549396_433449726_oMiscellaneous things to know about me: I enjoy 5Ks, 10Ks, and have run 2 half-marathons but actually loathe running in and of itself.  I became a vegetarian after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, “Eating Animals.”  I read voraciously. I donate blood every 8 weeks and volunteer with Ronald McDonald House Charities and Five Rivers Metroparks.  There is really not much I won’t do for charity. I love living in a geographical place that gets all four seasons. Thanks to the X-Files I wanted to be a cryptozoologist as a kid and was completely crestfallen to learn that wasn’t an actual thing, so now I work in software support.   If I had to pick a spirit animal it would probably be a bouncing baby goat.  Or a squirrel. My sister and I spent a whole summer as kids watching Star Wars on VHS and pretending we were in the film.  I have amazingly supportive parents who also happen to be lovely human beings. I’d be lost without my best friend (Hi Jenn!).  I think pizza is proof that whatever deities may be love us and want us to be happy.  I believe if everyone read Mary Oliver the world would be a kinder place. I have a full, wild, blissful existence in a beautiful and broken world.  Being part of GCRG these last few years has been a gift and I am beyond excited to keep working toward building a better league!