Keepin’ it 400: Good Words with Brickyard

Photo: Joe Stradinger

Depending on which team you’re on, All-Galaxy jammer Brickyard has been either a godsend or the bane of your very existence since moving to Minnesota back in 2015. She was skating with the Minnesota Rollergirls’ All-Star team almost immediately. Her Atomic Bombshells have won the Golden Skate two seasons in a row. The Bombshells are loaded with talent, but no skater incites dread quite like Number 400 (at least to this Dagger Dolls fan). 

After what feels like a lifetime, Season 14 is finally upon us. Brickyard and her Bombshells begin their defense Saturday at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. I met up with Brickyard over some coffee this week. She told me how she got into roller derby, the positives of being shut down on the track, whether she’d suffer a week-long sunburn or eat a whole bag of Jolly Ranchers, and much more. I told between 15-500 stupid jokes during the interview, including my millionth failed Triumph the Insult Comic Dog reference, but I did you a solid and left those out. Consider it my good deed for the day.

We begin at the end of last season.

I’m having a bad day anyway, so let’s relive last season’s championship bout when you beat my favorite team.
I think Milham was the one who was jamming for the Dagger Dolls, and she got a penalty at the end of the bout. I remember having this feeling like, I knew we were going to win and I knew we were going to take advantage of it; but at the same time, I also knew how awful it was going to be for her. It’s not her fault; but, as a jammer, whenever you get penalties at those points, that’s when it’s like “Oh, I lost it for my team, it’s all my fault!” I remember feeling happy, but also sad for her. I really wasn’t sure if we were going to pull that one out. It was very exciting.

In a small league like this one, what do you not know about your opponents by then, and vice versa? Are there any surprises you can whip out in a title game or decisive jam?
I know a lot of teams will spend a lot of time trying to shut down one person in particular, so you won’t really know that’s coming until you play them. You don’t practice that during shared practice times, when everyone’s out there together. That usually not only surprises people, but also really works. We all know each other so well, so if you know what a jammer’s going to do every single time, you can counter that.

But let’s be real: in your bouts, it’s probably going to be you they’re game-planning for.
We’ve had a few bouts like that, where I knew that I wasn’t going to be effective because they were shutting me down pretty hard, but we focused on our other jammers. I’d go out there, and I would just keep them from scoring a lot of points on me, and then we would put our really strong blockers out there with our other jammers, who are also amazing at roller derby. Playing for the Bombshells, we have so many people who can jam, that we can always work out something. I love it when I’m getting shut down. That makes me feel happy. It’s fun to have to work hard, and also see your teammates being the ones who score points.

Fill in the blank: I am the __________ of roller derby.
I am the … scrappy, determined one … of roller derby.


RELATED: Once You Go Track, You Never Go Back


Photo: Ryan Siverson (Sorry Pipes)

I read in your bio, said you tried to play football early on but they wouldn’t let you? That’s some BS.
I tried in elementary school, and I was told to be a cheerleader. That didn’t last very long. I tried again in middle school, and I got a big group of girls together, and we all petitioned to be in football together. We got shut down, because they said we had to have a woman stay in the locker room with us and they didn’t have any female coaches. Things have changed since then, luckily.

I started playing soccer after that, because I realized it wasn’t going to work out, and I got to tackle people in soccer.

You and your team should have taken on the boys over recess.
I did do that. We used to play football at recess all the time. I actually got in trouble for beating up some guys. Recess was fun back in the day.

With the name Brickyard 400, am I to assume you’re a NASCAR fan?
I appreciate people who know about NASCAR. I grew up in the country, out in Indiana, and one of my best friends’ dads was obsessed with NASCAR. We would play with his little prized NASCAR toys, and he would get really mad at us, and we would watch NASCAR all the time. Because I’m from Indiana, and a lot of people don’t know what NASCAR is, it’s a joy when somebody realizes what your name means.

How’d you end up in St. Louis with the Arch Rivals, then?
I went to St. Louis with my husband. He got a new job, and I didn’t want to live in Indiana anymore, so I moved there. This was when I transitioned from doing organized sports. I ran track in college, and I was doing marathons and triathalons and all this random stuff. I hated it. I mean, I enjoyed it, but it’s kind of boring being all by yourself. Team sports are much better.

I went to see a derby bout, just randomly with my cousin, and I got up the nerve to sign up for their “Are you interested in roller derby?” sheet. I got an email about it, and I went on Craigslist and found somebody who was getting rid of all of their gear. I was like, “Great! I’ll take everything that you own!” I showed up for tryouts without skates, and someone let me borrow their skates, and I made one of the teams.

Barbell Fett holds the Golden Skate after the Season 13 championship bout.

How well do the running and hurdles translate to roller derby?
I think my footwork isn’t as great as it could be, because I didn’t do anything like hockey, but I do think there’s a lot that has to do with that quick-twitch motion. So all the sprinting work I’ve done, and just being in sprinting shape. A lot of people think you need to have endurance for roller derby, but really you want to be able to go hard for a minute, then rest, then go hard for a minute. I’ve been told that I run on my skates a lot, which I don’t know that I’m doing. I think it’s because I’m so used to that sprinting background.

How high a hurdle do you think you could clear wearing roller skates.
I think I could clear … the men’s high hurdle (42 inches).
Me: Holy sh-!
B400: Well, don’t hold me to it right now! I think, on a good day, if I wasn’t coming off an injury, I could at least attempt to do it.

How hard do you train in the off-season now?
What off-season? (Laughs) There’s not much time when we’re not skating, for the all-stars. I skate all summer. When I’m in my peak, so at the beginning of the season, ideally, I work out every morning on top of practice. I also do lifting three times a week, and I try to get in speed work twice a week, then I usually try to do some type of endurance long run. I work out like seven times per week.

You go through phases. Sometimes you get into it, and it’s great, and all of a sudden you get to a point where you know your body needs to rest and you have to cut it down a lot.

Your bio says you’ve run “countless races and marathons.” How many did you do before you stopped counting?
Recently, when we moved, my husband wanted to get rid of some of our race medals because we’ve got so many that we don’t know what to do with them.
Me: What?! I would never lose count of the number of races I’ve done! (three)
B400: I’ve probably done about 45-50. Back in the day, I was doing a lot. When we lived in St. Louis, there was a 5K every Saturday. That place is just inundated with races. We would just run ’em randomly. We would just choose them and do it.

Do you do the extreme 5Ks, or any of that stuff?
I got into off-road triathlons for a while, because I got really mad that people who won triathlons were the ones that had like $10,000 road bikes. That just  really, really made me unhappy because I didn’t want to spend that money. Off-road triathlons are great because you have to have a mountain bike, but the rest of it is trail-running, and then you’re swimming in a dirty pile of water somewhere. It really takes down the advantage for the people who have the really nice equipment. You’re running through this mud, and you’re all dirty and you’re torn up and you’re falling and you have to mountain bike on this horrible trail.

The last time I did it, I fell about four times. I had blood running down my legs; and, at one point, I was sliding down a hill and I had to grab my bike and pull myself back up. It’s just so much fun, but it’s not as sustainable if I want to stay healthy.

Fill in the blank: I run the fastest when ___________ is chasing me!
I run the fastest when … the fear of failure … is chasing me.

LIGHTNING ROUND!
Favorite fantasy novel:
The Wheels of Time

Favorite folk band:
Bigfoot Yancey

Favorite cat:
There are so many cats. I love so many cats! NyanCat is probably my favorite cat.

Favorite cat or cat-like character in a fantasy novel:
Let’s just go with Puss in Boots.

Favorite folk song about a cat, or that mentions a cat:
How about Heywood Banks, “The Cat Got Dead.”

Can you sing me a bar?

You suffer a sunburn just bad enough to be really itchy and annoying. You must suffer that for a week unless you cure it, but the only way to cure it is by eating a whole bag of Jolly Ranchers. What do you do?
Oh God! You know what, I’ve been sunburned so many times in my life that I’ll just deal with that. Can you imagine what [the Jolly Ranchers] would do to your teeth and your mouth … I’ll just take the sunburn.

Last question: Who gave you the “Welcome to Minnesota!” hit when you first got on the track in Minnesota?
Haha, oh man, that would have to be Second Hand Smoke. (Editor’s note: SOUND FAMILIAR?!) It was during my first season and I was jamming. She came out of nowhere and blindsided me. It was the type of hit that makes your whole body shake. I remember flying across the floor and laughing because it was just such a great hit. I definitely had to sit a few jams to recover!

You can find more information and purchase tickets to this weekend’s bout on the Minnesota Rollergirls website

Minor clean-up edits were made after this article’s initial publication.