Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Berlin Bombshells at the 2014 Kitchener D2 Playoffs

Our public thank-you status
is a good way to make a long story short: 

Now for the longer version,
including the hidden part of the iceberg,
this is what (also) happened there...


In early July, the WFTDA20 players of the league had a special meeting to vote whether to go or decline the invitation. Two main problems stood out: Money and availability. We were flat broke from our previous trip to Florida and didn't have money to pay for another trip. Moreover, taking another week off of work also meant less money entering our wallets. Sounded like a catch-22!
On the other hand: Why had we played at the Beach Brawl in the first place, if not to climb up the rankings and flirt with D2? We had dreamt of this but forgotten to prepare for reality. We had to make it work not to turn our Beach Brawl feat into a sterile shot in the dark.
We adressed one problem at a time. First: Availability. If none of us was free, there was no need to go into further details. 12 of us could technically make it that weekend. 10 is the minimum... Then let's do it! As for money... Who needs money when you have dreams? #SparklingRainbowShit
We launched an umpteenth fundraising project, had a little help from the league with the accomodation and car rental... I had the chance to have part of my plane ticket covered by my sponsor, CrazySkates... and for the rest, we smashed the piggybank!

Week after week, we sold our bodies to the night derby (we're broke, not desperate!) locked up in our training hall with the summer sun teasing us, knocking at the bay windows, and leaking in through the smallest openings. Our intensive summer training resulted in one broken ankle and one injured shoulder. We were initally 12, we were now 10.
Fortunately, Bee's shoulder healed enough to swell our number back to 11 valid players!



We all had booked different flights according to our availabilities.
Most planes were delayed.
One had to do an emergency landing halfway because of a windshield problem... fright set aside, they had to change planes and all.
One was cancelled. The concerned player had some re-routing issues, delaying her journey by 24 hours, making her arrive at final destination on... Thursday evening to play the opening game of the event the next morning.
I think that my trip was the only one without mishaps. I was super efficient on my transatlantic flight: 8 hours, 4 movies. Finished just on time for landing. I had a little nap on the Chicago-Toronto plane and then settled myself in an airport coffee bar to work on a few translations, waiting for Pocket with whom I had to take the shuttle to Kitchener.
Her plane was meant to be 15 min late.
I waited for 2 hours at the arrival gate, scanning every face that was passing by me, nervously checking my phone and the temperamental wifi connection, while jetlag was weighing heavier and heavier on my eyelids...

... *Beep* "Where are you?" Hellaluyeah!

After a few minutes of panic, not understanding why we couldn't see each other although we were both at the information check point, we realized we were in two different terminals (QED). I booked our shuttle while Pocket was crossing the airport, we jumped into our private shuttle and instantly blacked out for the whole 1 hour and 30 min of ride to Kitchener.


Took our room card, got almost lost in the maze of corridors leading to it, and drowned into the fluffy sheets of our respective 160x200 beds. We woke up eight hours later, fresh as daisies.
We were chilling in our room waiting for some news from the others when the phone ran: "Hey it's Karo! There's free breakfast downstairs, 'closes in 5 minutes."
What's better for optimal wake up than a full speed sprint on the carpets of the 4th floor?

by Karo'Bolage
Once our stomachs stuffed up we went for a walk downtown to visit the surroundings: The Asian supermarket, the German shops, the main street, and Victoria Park with its geese and ducks.
A couple of hours later, we were back at the hotel and decided to have a snack in the crêperie across the street, when the second half of the team (the one stuck in the plane with the damaged windshield) hurtled down the street in a black rental car, honking and weaving. The team was (almost) complete!

To digest the crêpes and fight against jetlag, most of us headed to the gym studio in the basement of the hotel for a little cardio and/or swimming-sauna-jaccuzzi session. The 7 min station on treadmill got the better of my knee but I should have known better: cycling, stepping and rowing are super fine, but running is not - body's used to skate, not jog! As a consequence I was going to deal with a knee tendinitis the whole tournament -- and beyond... (But would make it shut up at game times with a couple of magic pills.)

To recover from that tiring workout, we went to an Asian place to eat our last supper. The last convoy, made of Bee and Coach Daniel, finally arrived in the meantime. Now the team was complete for good. The 11 of us and our Bench Coach.

THE TOURNAMENT (subjective overview)

The venue was a big hockey rink with a polished concrete floor, the grip of which varied with the weather. With humidity increasing over the weekend, the floor became a little more slippery as days went by. Tri-City did an amazing job with a very efficient and smooth organization.

Being low seeded, we had to play an extra game, which made two bouts for us on the same day if we won that qualification... Which we did after a very tough game against DEMOLITION CITY. In retrospect, it was our most physical game of the tournament.

Bombshells in White - by Karo'Bolage
Our second challenge was a re-re-match with the DC ROLLERGIRLS, our most concrete objective of the tournament: The aim was to win, after our close loss at the Beach Brawl.
It was our first ever game we played in white! By chance, we had printed our numbers on white tank tops just in case. The cut may be dubious, but they were far lighter than our usual jerseys and therefore much more comfy!
I took a sternum check during that bout. I saw it coming, so I didn't resist and let myself follow the trajectory of the blocker's shoulder, to absorb the impact. I fell flat on the upper back, got back up, went through the pack, skated a lap and... saw the distraught faces of my team mates, paralyzed on the bench. Ah-must have been a little violent. Reassured them with thumbs up, but it didn't convince anyone and the refs insisted on making me take a concussion test before the next jam.
"But I didn't hit the head!"
"Seems like you did, follow my finger. Alright. Now I'm going to ask you a couple of questions, answer without overthinking. Which city are you in?"

With all the hubbub I naturally answered "Berlin!" mistaking with Which city are you with. Captain Bones was laughing out loud, Ref sighed.
"Okay... Let's try again: Your color and number?" "Red-no.
(checking my jersey) No. White. WHITE! I play in white and my number is B612! Am I good to go?" #angelface, thinking "what were the odds?!" "Yeah. Let's blame it on the language barrier."Yeah, right.
And then we won, and we slowly started to realize the overall situation: WE HAD BEATEN THE NUMBER 1 SEED during the quarter-finals game. Which meant we were heading to the semi-finals. Which meant too that, whatever happened next, we were in the Top-4!

KILLAMAZOO, the team we had to fight against in semi-finals, was my worst nightmare: a whole roster of big, strong girls directly referring in my mind to the fresh trauma I still had difficulties to overcome: picturing myself crushed by a derbygirl two times my size falling on my ankle, again and again. I had been struggling since February to get back into physical shape and I was still caught in a mental maze. Being rostered on that game was a make or break: Either I was going to be petrified on the jammer line or fight for my life.
Not having been successful in the last two games, I made my first appearance on track pretty late. To my greatest surprise, I got LEAD. And started jumping, and juking, and rotating, and shoulder playing. And then got LEAD again on my second jam. Something had clicked. I still don't know why or how, but it was all coming back to me. In quite a chaotic way, piece by piece, but the puzzle was making more and more sense.
Being subjected to long jammer rotations, nervousness slowly got the upper hand with the waiting on the bench, and my gameplay efficiency decreased a bit as the game went by. But I didn't really care. It was working. I felt I could have fun on track again. I felt I could be actively useful to my team. I felt the connection opening. At last!

WE WON THE SEMI-FINALS, which meant two things: 1) we were qualified for Champs in Nashville in November and 2) we had secured a medal to bring back home:
Let's celebrate with BURGERS AT THE IRISH PUB!
The 12 of us were starving. Obviously my order was part of the 4 ones that had been forgotten by the waitress. We were served when everybody was finished.
"Hey Pocket, you didn't eat your cheese?" - lusting after her blue cheese leftovers. "Neh, too much!" And the two Frenchies preyed on it in the blink of an eye. #nomnomnom #trueclichés
Waitress came back to mechanically check on us: "Everything's fine?" and then turned away without waiting for the answer. "Yeah. it's o-kay." I mumbled with my bitchiest tone... And against all odds she turned around. "Everything's wooonderful, thank you a lot for asking!" #allsmiles #itskozmicbitch.

FINAL ROSTERS - by Karo'Bolage
We were a whisker away from making it. 3 little points. We gave RIDEAU VALLEY the victory. We led the whole game, and cracked up at the very end. 4 games in 3 days with 11 players requires a little mental endurance... Let's say we were 10 min short. We had off-guard and/or unnecessary kamikaze moments and made a couple of hasty tactical decisions that sealed our fate. It was a little sad but I kind of knew the outcome 10 minutes before the end.
A win would have been great but what we had achieved with a reduced roster throughout the weekend was already huge. not only did we show the US what we had under the hood, but we also proved for good that the whole European derby was underranked!

In retrospect, not winning was probably the best option for us: Going too far too fast is a dangerous game. At least, we will go to Champs as challengers, having nothing to lose and everything to win. Being the challenging team always puts you in a better mind set.

Thanks again to all the supporters, in front of your screens and in the venue.
With a special mention to the DC Rollergirls for their adorable letter and their drawings on the whiteboard of our changing room...
...And for the stickers which we honored in putting them on our right knee pads for the finals. Proof here:

As for my personal performances, before entering the track on that last day, I was worried that my semi-finals feats were just a one-off. Vocalizing it and having my team mates (both from Berlin AND Team France who'd come visit!) keeping it positive was of big help: It wasn't a one-off. The fire was still recovering, there were ups and downs, but THERE WERE UPS.
It was there, it was back. Still raw and needing to be tamed: I would have to raise the bar to a better consistency of efficiency. But the hardest struggles were behind. I had managed to break through to the other side!
My stats on the tournament were negative. I didn't study them in details, I'm not mentally strong enough yet. However, I trust sensations more than numbers. And not only did I get my mojo back, I also implemented things I had never done so far, managing to consciously and repeatedly pull penalties on the opposing blockers during my jams to ease the task for our next jammer, Master Blaster, our main scorer on the tournament - and the best scorer overall since she got MVP!
I'm aware those game summaries are very self-focused (but I'd warned you!) But finding myself again was the best gift that tournament and that team trip could offer me, worth all the medals in the world. #SparklingRainbowShitAgain
For more objective and detailed versions, check out the WFTDA summaries or WATCH THE GAMES!
Trusting sensations more than numbers. THIS.





Final results of the KITCHENER D2 PLAYOFFS


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