By Martin Cleary
William Ng is a biathlete, which means he combines his talents as a rifle-target shooter and cross-country skier to produce the fastest time he can in any given race.
But every so often, the second-year University of Ottawa biology student likes to leave his shooting equipment at home and strictly become a cross-country skier.
Three years ago, he joined a group of his teenage friends from the Chelsea Nordiq club for a 12-hour, “crazy day” of skiing by touching four corners of Gatineau Park. He covered 110 kilometres in total.
In the wake of his best-ever biathlon season in 2022-23, where he represented Canada at the FISU World Winter University Games in Lake Placid, New York, and wore Ontario colours at the Canada Winter Games, Ng decided to sign off on his year by enduring another marathon day of skiing.
On April Fool’s Day, Ng, 20, entered his first Nakkertok Enduro, which was organized by Équipe Nakkertok Racing Group. Ng was no one’s fool.
His goal was to ski for as long as he could in the men’s solo six-hour challenge over a 2.4-kilometre course at the Nakkertok Nordic club.
“My mindset was not to break 100 kilometres, but to do as much as I could. But after the first hour, I realized 100 kilometres was reasonable,” Ng explained.
By doing as much as he could under perfect and fast ski conditions, he completed 44 laps over six hours and accumulated a record 105.6 kilometres. He was one of four skiers to crack the century mark on a fun day of racing, which saw 72 participants ski anywhere from 2.4 kilometres to more than 100 kilometres.
Clara Hegan was the top woman at 42 laps and 100.8 kilometres, a lap count and distance which was shared by Craig Storey and Etienne Grall.
Three skiers were on the fringe of a century – Evan Hovorka at 41 laps, 98.4 kilometres and Samuel Aslan and Steven Paradine at 40 laps and 96 kilometres each.
The idea of skiing for six consecutive hours and achieving more than 100 kilometres in that time span is unbelievable in its own right. But to accomplish that coming off a battle with the COVID-19 virus makes it even more astonishing.
“I picked it up the race weekend before,” Ng said about getting hit with the nasty virus, which plagued the world for three years. “I was sick the whole week before with COVID. I couldn’t function for a few days and I missed quite a bit of school. But I wanted to see how my body worked.”
Ng aided his marathon quest by setting up a food and drink table with granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches and specialty drinks.
“I didn’t go into it as a race. It was a race against myself, to push my own boundaries. How long can I go before my body can’t take it?” he explained.
The ski conditions were excellent for skiing long distances. Ng used his long season of hard training and a good mental approach to travel an Enduro-record distance. In talking with his peers before the race, the feeling was a record ski of more than 100 kilometres was possible.
“I haven’t done an Enduro before,” Ng said. “The distance was based on the conditions. It rained before and froze overnight. Conditions were fast after the course was groomed. In previous years, there was almost no snow. Having extra snow helped get that extra distance.
“Not many did the six-hour race. You needed to have discipline and take in fluids and water to finish six hours.”
Watching the GPS feature on his watch, Ng figured he had a total stop time of 20 minutes to replenish himself.
“It felt good throughout. It was very much a mental game. It was mentally hard. I knew I needed to keep pushing the pace,” he added.
When his six-hour nordic ski challenge was complete, he “felt great.” He had achieved another marathon moment to go with that 12-hour ski in Gatineau Park with friends and a previous 16-hour, 125-kilometre cycle throughout the same recreational gem.
“The athletes organized it and they’re all my friends,” Ng said. “They egged me on. I passed 100 kilometres, but the six hours wasn’t over. I loved it. There were high-fives at the end. It was a fun time.”
Hours later, Ng started to feel the physical pain of a rare, six-hour ski, especially in his fingers from gripping the poles for so long.
“When it was over, I was pretty excited. I put in all the work. I had crossed the line. I had done it. It was quite nice.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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