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Copyright Ian Coburn 2008

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Olympic Training

The gig was a long weekend (Thursday through Sunday) in Grand Forks, North Dakota, at the Comedy Gallery, which was actually inside the hotel at which the acts stayed. All I really remember about the club these days--even though I played it severalt times--is that the hotel had a pool in the shape of a boot. It was in the height of summer and believe it or not, even then there's not much going on in Grand Forks. Shocking, I know.

I was the feature and the headliner was a comedienne out of Florida named Monique (not to be confused with Mo'Nique). By Saturday morning we were bored out of our minds. Her boyfriend, along to see the exciting sites of Grand Forks, was training for the Olympics as a speedskater. He asked if I could help him out Saturday morning; he wanted to video tape himself skating so that he could check his technique. Normally, I wouldn't get up on a Saturday before noon (or any day, for that matter) but like I said, we were bored out of our minds. So I agreed.

Saturday morning we got up and Monique's boyfriend--we'll call him Eric since I can't remember his name--showed me his "summer" skates, used to train in the off-season. I was expecting roller skates but instead, he showed me solid black skates that had one set of extremely narrow wheels. No doubt these skates were the predecessors to the popular roller blades that came along several years later. The wheels on his skates, though, were far narrower than those on roller blades.

Eric's idea was simple--Monique would drive their van down a country road. I would sit in the back with the doors open and video tape his stride and feet as he skated hard behind us. Sounded easy enough. Once I made certain Eric realized I was not George Lucas, we took off in search of a country road, which consisted of driving about one mile.

We drove several miles down the empty road, which passed a dozen farms. "This is good," announced Eric.

We stopped and opened the backdoors of the van. Eric showed me how to work the camera. I didn't pay much attention; I was more concerned with figuring out how I was going to keep from falling out of the back of the van. My balance would be all fucked up as I focused on video taping, zooming in on his legs and feet. "You take off and then I'll come after ya."

Monique turned the van around and started back down the several miles of country road with which we were now familiar. At first, everything went well. Eric kept a nice easy pace and I was able to monitor him. "All right, let's kick into gear!" he yelled.

Monique hit the gas and Eric came screaming after us. He was freaking fast, man, and took huge, powerful strides. That's when I heard the first dog bark. Then another. Then another. The barking got closer and closer.

"Do you hear those dogs?"

"I don't hear anything," replied Monique.

"Huh. I could swear I heard some dogs barking close by."

As I video taped Eric's feet, I decided to zoom out for his legs. I zoomed out too far and ended up getting a good look behind Eric. Four big dogs were tearing down the road behind him, gaining ground quickly. As I yelled a warning to him, about eight more dogs joined the hunt, tearing out from the farms we were passing. In case your math sucks, twelve large farm dogs of various breeds were now barreling down on Eric.

He was now aware of them and yelled to Monique, "Slow down! I need to get in the van!"

Monique misunderstood and hit the gas. I yelled to her, "No, no! He said slow down!"

She kept her foot on the gas and I watched as Eric became a dot in the distance. He was screaming like a banshee. Finally, Monique realized what was going on and made Uey. We returned to find Eric fighting for his life in the middle of the pack of dogs, barking and jumping at him, with their teeth nashing. He was using all his strength to stay on his feet. If he went down, he would become a human chew toy.

We honked at the dogs and scattered them by driving into the pack. Eric, somewhat bloodied and shaken, with his speedskating uniform ripped in numerous places, jumped into the back of the van just as the dogs regrouped and came after him, again. We zipped away with dogs running after us for about a mile before they finally gave up and returned home.

"I didn't know they used dogs in speedskating. Is that a new thing for this year?"

Eric just shook his head and smiled. "I can't fucking wait for winter."

"Oh, let me know when you start your winter training. I can ride on the sled as the dogs chase you from behind and get some good footage of your stride from behind."

He didn't speak to me again the rest of the gig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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