Skating: The Way We Swerved

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1996

Skating: The Way We Swerved

An Oregon pair finds love--and pain--in the time of urethane
By Bill Donahue

The relationship blossomed just over two and a half years ago on the shoulder of Interstate 5 in Oregon. "She'd been out there skating for seven hours," says Portland in-line skating coach Jonathan Seutter, recalling a practice session with girlfriend and protg Kimberly Ames. "And when she lay down in the gravel to rest, she was crying. Every shred of common sense was telling her to stop, but she got up and kept skating, and I knew then"--Seutter pauses, and his deep, news-radio-clear voice swells with a lover's conviction--"that Kim was a member of the pain family."

What followed has undoubtedly been a little rough on Seutter's ego. Just three weeks later, Ames, a leggy, 35-year-old former distance runner, shattered her beau's year-old world record for the 24-hour skate by 12 miles. Circling a desolate 0.7-mile loop and taking inspiration from her boyfriend and the Interview with the Vampire audiotape, she covered 283 miles.

She's held on to the mark ever since, but now Seutter, an intense, square-jawed 38-year-old, is trying to change things. As the 1996 race season begins this month with a five-kilometer time trial through the streets of Portland, he's aiming to take back his 24-hour record at the end of the summer. "I can no longer think about us while I'm out on the track," he says, a tad melancholic. "For a long-distance skater, that would be suicide."

It seems, certainly, that there might be a bit of romantic strife in suburban Wilsonville. Ames, a chemist for Nike Inc., and Seutter, a self-employed chimney sweep, make their home there, in cramped quarters that smell vaguely of turpentine. ("You use it to keep rust out of your wheel bearings," explains Ames.) Three bicycles and a crate of skate gear crowd the living room, and six spandex race jerseys hang like van Goghs on the wall.

For her part, however, Ames is being a good sport. In fact, she's the one doing the coaching these days, and she says she fully intends to turn Seutter into a sniveling, sleep-deprived zombie, just as he used to do her. "When Jonathan set the record, he pulled over a couple of times to sleep," she says, sounding like a disappointed drill sergeant. "And as a result, he lost valuable time." But, Ames says, her voice softening, "That will not happen again. Sleeping won't be an option. Will it, Jonathan?"

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