How long would it take to ice skate from Prince George to Fort St. James?
Scott Fast knows the answer. He covered that 160-kilometre distance in less than eight hours on his speed skates.
That’s 100 miles in the Imperial system, and it took 400 laps around the outdoor ice oval at Exhibition Park to get that far. He started at 10:29 a.m. and the skies that day (Jan. 24) were overcast and it wasn’t that cold (-8 C), but it started snowing at about 2 p.m., and never stopped.
“It was snowing hard and it was windy too and by the time I got to the last hour there was three inches on the ice,” said Fast. “When I got to 80 kilometres, halfway there, it started snowing and I was like, ‘I just need to finish this, I don’t care what the weather’s like.’
“I was supposed to have friends come out and do it with me but the weather was so bad in the back half of it I told them not to bother. That three inches of snow made it quite a slog at the end. My goal was eight hours and I was really happy I could do it in less than eight hours in those conditions.”
The 41-year-old Fast had an audio book on his headphones and listened to the novel throughout his seven-hour 44-minute trip to keep his mind occupied. He averaged 21 kilometres per hour.
“A hundred was fairly easy and I knew if I got to 120 I could finish it,” he said. “The problem is you’re always going left so the (iliotibial) band on your left leg gets so sore. I couldn’t even do crossovers at the end.”
Fast, a former Caledonia Nordic Ski Club caretaker who used to live in the club’s trail-side cabin at Otway Nordic Centre, would normally be competing in long-distance cross-country ski races but COVID has cancelled all of those events. He and his friend Cam McNamara, a three-time solo champion of the Prince George Iceman, skated 100 km on Dec. 28 at the oval and Fast was convinced after completing that challenge he wanted to attempt a much longer test. He and McNamara skate at the oval at least three times per week and do at least 25 km (100 laps) each session.
Fast is a maintenance worker for the city, driving the Zamboni in the arenas during the winter and looking after sports fields in the summer. He took lessons from Prince George Blizzard Speed Skating Club coach Carol Dennison and Prince George Hall of Fame whitewater paddler/distance speed skater Lyle Dickieson two years ago and got hooked on the sport.
”(He learned) the basic D pattern and that’s what I focused on a lot, getting your leg up and kicking it,” said Fast. “It’s a D shape where one skate is on the ground and the other is parallel right behind you, so I just focused on D-pattern skating the whole way to save energy. It’s the most efficient and the fastest technique.”
After going 100 miles Fast was feeling quite sore and couldn’t bend down to fill his dog’s food dish for two days, but he had his weekend off work to recover. Fast is planning to enter a 108-km trail run in Kimberley this summer and is already thinking about his next long-distance skate, but it probably won’t be in Canada.
“One of my goals is to go either to the Netherlands or to Norway because they have some 100K and 200K lake races and I’d like to do one of those someday,” Fast said. “That was kind of my motivation for doing this, to see if I could do that. Maybe if COVID restrictions lift I’ll do that next year or the year after.”