This is a reprint of an essay I sent to the Derby Dolls and Fresh Meat mailing lists back in early August. Back then, Helen Surly Frown didn’t have her awesome Derby name, so I’m putting it in here to protect the innocent. Allison? Well, she’s just stuck being outed with me.

Razorslut posted many weeks ago about the Historic Filipinotown 5K, saying she got clearance to skate it, and that it would be fun. She encouraged everybody to sign up. So three of us: Freshies Allison, Surly and myself, did. And then it turns out everybody else in the world went to RollerCon. We figured certainly someone else would be there. Some other Freshie, perhaps. No. Just us. Representing all y’all.

[ETA: Both the registration and the start/finish line were at the Doll Factory, the warehouse where the Derby Dolls reside. The Derby Dolls take an active role in the community through several service organizations. A couple of weeks earlier we were on this same corner in the early morning hours to help participate in the Mayor’s Day of Service. – p]

It’s the butt crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, we’re in derby gear, and already we’re nervous. They’re taking pictures, getting our names, and the people running the 5K ask if we’d like to lead the pack, get a five-minute start, or skate with the rest of the runners. We thought about which would be less humiliating — having everyone watch us skate away, only to pass us a few minutes later; having the fastest runners mow us down as soon as the starter pistol went off; or skating along with the pack, hoping to blend in.

We chose to stay with the pack, but we didn’t exactly blend in. Most people shouted at us one of two things: Either, “Derby Dolls! Woo!” or “Hey, that’s cheating! You can’t skate the race!” To which I replied, “We are not actually in the race. And don’t worry: you will beat us.”

Oh, it’s cute at first. Little kids are running alongside us, trying to keep up. Then, as we’re making our way up a hill, the kids run past us. Lots of people run past us. I hear someone say, “I don’t think I’d want to skate this thing. The hills would be brutal going up, and I don’t know how I’d get down.”

…Hills?

I don’t know about my fellow skaters, but I knew pretty quickly that I’d made a foolish decision to skate this path without having seen it first. I am a super-freshie. I have skated outside in speed skates all of once, and have never encountered a hill. So imagine how it felt to be suddenly staring down a monster hill. It was like I was asked to ski Mt. Everest, with hundreds of people (and children!) on foot in front of me, randomly placed. I can “kinda” snowplow. And my t-stop is for shit. I was either going to seriously injure someone, or myself, or both. Probably both.

Allison is good with the t-stop. She’s skidding down the hill, concentrating. But Surly and I, we leap to the sidewalk. Okay, more like fling ourselves. Every time we stand up, we immediately get too much momentum, and must fling ourselves to the ground again. So I’m skidding down the hill on my kneepads, crawling and skidding, crawling and skidding. People are staring, asking, “Are you okay?” I cannot stop laughing. All the people that accused us of cheating are now watching me crawl the race path. I have lost all the duct tape off the top of one skate.

Oh, did I mention I’ve got a busted tailbone? Another reason why I did the 5K was I figured, “I’ve already got to miss practice to sit home on packs of ice. This is just a little 5K. It’s not like Tarametrics, followed by endurance drills, followed by scrimmages. I’ll be fine.” Um, no. But the whole thing keeps making me laugh, I’m sure testing Surly’s patience. But I kept thinking how they thought we were badasses in our gear, wearing the badass Derby Doll name, but they don’t know I’m a freshy whose two main skills are “Getting Up Really Quickly After I Fall” and “Being Able To Fall Three Times In a Row Without Taking a Single Step.”

Few people know I’m currently rocking a possibly broken tailbone and a bruise on my ass the exact shape of my own skate, which I fell on. Yes, I kicked my own ass. You remember Cher’s butt in the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video? That’s what my ass looks like right now. It’s real pretty.

Second hill. We climb… and panic again. Surly goes straight for the parked cars, using them like the rails as she makes her way down the steep hill. I slide and crawl the sidewalk again, laughing so hard that I cannot catch my breath. I stand up, but my legs have gone to noodles, so I start to fall backwards. Instinct kicks in, and that’s when I make like a hip-hop dancer — rotating myself mid-air so I fall on my hip, and not my tailbone.

Allison, worried, screams from the street, “WAS THAT YOUR ASS?!”

And I cheer, “NO!”

This is when I get all Vietnam on my friends, waving my arms, telling them, “I’m just going to slow you down! Go on without me!”

It’s a three mile race. We’ve been skating for ten minutes.

“Just go! Get out of here!”

Allison and Surly shout, “We aren’t going to leave you! You can do it!”

The 5K is going on around us. Women are literally pushing baby strollers as they pass, staring. We are passionate, and they are confused.

“I will take off these skates and run this race if I have to,” I shout. “Just keep going! I’ll catch up with you later!”

But Surly and Allison are persistent. They tell me I can do it. I get up for them, to make sure their times aren’t for shit because of me.

The next few hills aren’t as bad, and we take them together, helping each other with our t-stops and snowplows. Halfway through the race you turn around and go the other direction. So everyone that passed us the first time? They get to pass us again.

“Hey, you girls are doing it! You’re not on the ground anymore!”

“Yay, Derby Dolls!”

We rounded the corner. We were heading back. Another mile and a half to go.

“Hey, that’s cheating! They’re on skates!”

One guy just pointed and laughed. Surly grumbled, “Maybe we should have worn clown costumes.”

“Honestly, Surly. Is there any way we could have been bigger spectacles?”

We get closer to the finish line. We know this because people keep shouting it at us. “Almost finished, girls! You almost made it!”

I see the finish line. I trip. Allison turns her head. “Did you fall?”

“Yes.”

“You got back up before I even turned around.”

“It’s my one skill.”

The three of us, we crossed the finish line together. And maybe my time was slower than if I’d actually run the 5K, but I really don’t care. I had so much fun.

On the walk back to the car, grateful that nobody else saw what we’d just done, a woman came up to me. “Are you okay?” she asked. “I saw you hit that tree.”

I don’t remember hitting a tree. I’ve decided to pretend that’s a good thing.

…So now we’re ready to hear the truth: that you were just hazing us, there’s no such thing as RollerCon, and you were watching the whole thing and taped us crawling down the sidewalk.

Ha-ha. Very funny, guys. Nice work.

-pamie