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Skating: The Way We Swerved

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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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