On the roller derby track Melissa LaMontagne is known as "Mary Jain Pain Train," but off the track she works as a collections representative at TD Banknorth and lives with her husband and two children in Naples.
As she prepares for another season, the 35-year-old mother talked about what competing in roller derby has done for her and how she balances life on and off the track. She has found that being on the Maine Roller Derby team has given her confidence and independence, as well as an outlet for frustration.
LaMontagne isn't the only one in her family with a roller derby nickname. Her 14-year-old daughter Samantha is known as "the princess of pain" and her 12-year-old son Aaren is "a cute pain."
Maine Roller Derby is the state's only women's flat-track roller derby league. After two Portland women were inspired by the A&E series, "Rollergirls," they started gathering interest for a league. Practices started in June 2006, and the league held its first public scrimmage the following January. Maine Roller Derby now has two teams, the Port Authorities and the Calamity Janes.
A roller derby bout is comprised of three 20-minute periods, which consist of an unlimited number of jams. During each jam, five players from each team skate around an oval track. Four blockers from each team skate in a pack, and one jammer from each team tries to pass them. After the jammers' first lap through the pack, they score points for their team for each opponent they pass.
The first bout of the season is on March 22 at 3 p.m. at the Portland Expo at 239 Park Ave. in Portland. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. More information can be found at www.mainerollerderby.com.
Q: When and how did you get started with Maine Roller Derby?
A: I got started in January of 2008. The captain of the Calamity Janes is a really good friend of mine. She kept on telling me, "You should do this." I was in the process of a personal goal of losing weight and getting healthier and so it was my next step in moving towards a healthier person. I joined and I love it.
It was time to do something for me. I've raised my kids for years and worked and actually raised my stepson and my niece for quite a few years too. I went through years when I had four kids all the time and a fifth kid every other weekend.
Q: What have you gotten out of it?
A: I feel like a stronger person. I take little pieces of what people tell me and I use that every day. Our trainer, Olive, is just amazing, and little things that she'll say I think about when I'm at the gym. I think, "You can do this." For me, it's giving me personal strength and independence and knowing, I can do this, I play roller derby. I'm 35 years old, and there's nothing that's going to hold me back except for me. That was huge for me, because I've never been in that place.
Q: Is being aggressive an outlet for you?
A: Yes. I do mortgage collections and right now it's bad out there. There are days that I go (to practice) and I'm aggravated. I can take that out in my skating, not as much hitting people but putting it into my skating, pushing it through my feet and using that for energy.
Q: Have you achieved your goal of getting healthier?
A: When I originally started the whole weight loss thing, I was a lot bigger. I ended up losing 40 pounds before I started (roller derby) and now I've gotten up to a 70-pound loss. I'm much healthier and my endurance is much better and I play hard.
It's physically draining and emotionally draining because you put so much into it, but there's a lot to get back. It's not material things that you get back. It's just very empowering and makes you feel good about yourself.
Q: How much of your time do you put in to roller derby?
A: It's owned and operated by the people who are in derby. They say that when you start and you don't really understand the full gist of that until you start doing it. Everything that we do, we do.
This time of the year it's a little bit more time-consuming because we're getting ready to start our season, whereas when we're on break it's not very time consuming and I have more time to be with my family. It takes up a good chunk of my free time, because I work full-time and I have kids. It's a huge time commitment.
Q: Had you ever skated before?
A: I rollerskated all through my teenage years. I loved rollerskating. It was a huge pastime for me. The only really sport I ever played was field hockey, and that was in high school. Since high school, I have not done any sports.
Q: Is there a typical derby girl?
A: I wouldn't say there is. Everybody is so different, and that's another amazing thing about it. There are 30 or 40 girls and everybody's different in their own ways. Everybody has their own career or are stay at home moms or what have you, but we're all able to put any differences aside and we hang out and play together and we're able to work as a team. It's great.