HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-at-Home Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Ottawa’s Steven Paradine loves a challenge, especially if it involves racking up ridiculous amounts of kilometres on a pair of cross-country skis in a short time period.
Not once, but twice last month, the 52-year-old avid endurance athlete accomplished two separate winter challenges, emerging a double winner by skiing 1,000 kilometres (about the distance from Ottawa to Fredericton, N.B.).
On Nov. 23, Paradine started Natural Fitness Lab’s The Grand Challenge, and 27 days later on Dec. 19, he was the first to reach 1,000 km and earn a gift certificate from Ottawa’s The Grand Pizzeria and Bar.
A few thousand skiers are still working their way towards 1,000 km or as many as they can do during this non-racing season because of COVID-19 and are uploading them to Strava for verification.
Several other male skiers have become Grand skiers. The women’s title is still open.
“The idea was to provide tangible challenges for outdoor athletes when all racing has been cancelled,” wrote co-organizer Dave McMahon.
On Dec. 1, Paradine, who is the Nakkertok Nordic U18 coach, then committed to his club’s Kilometre Board event, which challenged all skiers, who could glide in all locations, to see how far they could go in the month of December.
When the successful Nakkertok Kilometre Board challenge ended Dec. 31 (233 participants, 12 teams), Paradine logged 1,047.4 km to rank first for overall distance. He skied for the Coaches’ team.
No pizza for this grand win, but Paradine skied into 2021 with “solely the bragging rights, which are way more important.” He skied 30 of 31 December days. His longest ski was 111.1 km (7 hours, 20 minutes) on Dec. 29. He rested on Dec. 30 because he was “a little bit tired for some strange reason.”
“My goal of 1,000 km was realistic. It was definitely not easy, when you work full time and have to ski early morning or after work,” said the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada tech advisor.
Paradine is no stranger to endurance events. He has run ultramarathons, participated in the Canadian Ski Marathon (earning eight Coureur des Bois medals) and last year ran around the perimeter of Gatineau Park.
“It was great to see people push through and get best distances,” Paradine said of the Nakkertok Kilometre Board event. His next challenge could be skiing all 200 km of groomed Gatineau Park trails in one day.
Alumni team’s Pierre Grall-Johnson of Ottawa ranked No. 2 for most kilometres. The Thunder Bay-based National Development Centre skier went 879.4 km, beating his goal of 750, and had the event’s longest, one-day ski of 162.5 km.
Alumni teammates Katherine Stewart-Jones, who is preparing for upcoming World Cup races, was third at 717.8 km (goal 700 km, 44.5 km longest ski) and National Development Centre’s Sophie Tremblay took fourth at 714.3 km (755, 100).
Finishing behind Grall-Johnson in the longest ski day column were Jeremy Leigh of uOttawa, 120.7 km; Paradine, 111.1 km; Tremblay, 100 km; and Emilie Stewart-Jones of Alumni, 80.1 km.
Paradine’s marathon effort helped the Coaches win two of the four team categories and, if you applied a five-three-one-point system to the top three in each class, they would have emerged as the unofficial champion.
Coaches won the most kilometres per team class at 8,322.4 followed by the U18 skiers, who are coached by Paradine, at 7.892.6, and Équipe Nakkertok Racing Group at 6,168.5.
The goal total kilometres per team went to the Coaches at 5,521.0, while Alumni took second at 5,013.2 and ENRG placed third at 4,775.
Team Alumni was declared the overall champion because the event was based on the distances achieved by the top eight skiers on each team: Alumni 4,869 km, ENRG 4,466 km, and U18 4,440 km.
The last category was average kilometre per athlete and the ENRG group was first at 474.5, while U18 was second at 358.8 and Alumni was third at 304.3.
Nathalie Rowlinson was first in overall percentage achieved at 243.7. Her goal was 100 km and she went 243.7 km. Ali Pouw was second, 197. 2% (50 km goal, 98.6 achieved) and Masten Brolsma claimed third, 194.9% (100, 194.9).
If you strung all the kilometres together, that hearty group of skiers would have travelled around the circumference of the world and more. The total kilometres achieved was 46,914.82.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.