Phil Shaw: Worldloppeteer
Phil Shaw has been racing Worldloppets for 30 years, and is no stranger to being at the front of the pack. He has won the Gatineau Worldloppet 50km Classic on three occasions as an Elite racer. With a long-term goal of participating in Worldloppets for at
To complete this challenge, Shaw will have to ski 255 kilometres in 15 days. He will kick off his Worldloppet campaign with the Gatineau Worldloppet 51km Classic on Feb. 18. This will be followed closely by the 51km Freestyle the following day at the Gatineau event. Shaw will then travel to Estonia, where he will race the Tartu Marathon 63km Classic on Feb. 26, before finishing up at the Vasaloppet 90km Classic in Sweden on March 5.
Skitrax chatted with Shaw to find out more about what drives him to keep competing and pushing himself.
How did you get involved in the sport (i.e., clubs, early racing)?
Phil Shaw: My parents were the first people to teach me cross-country skiing. My father was a good skier and my mom too. We would cross-country ski around Shawbridge back in the 1970's, when cross-country skiing was the new sport to do. Jack Rabbit Johannsen (JRJ) was 100 years old and influencing people as young as me to cross-country ski.
My parents and I took a special ski train in February 1975 to celebrate JRJ'S 100th birthday. I remember listening to JRJ'S speech and observing his youthful demeanor. I was inspired!
I had gym teachers in primary, elementary and high school who taught cross-country skiing as a compulsory sport. Fortunately for me, they were gifted teachers and passionate skiers. I was one of their best students. Not so much because I was a good skier, but because I tried and practised whatever they instructed. And I always had the energy and or courage to do what they said.
My love for cross-country skiing wasn't just about executing the instructed technique or trying to ski fast. My love also evolved from travelling to school on my cross-country skis. Instead of taking a 15-minute bus ride with multiple stops, I would often ski to school. And in the fall and spring, I would often walk to school. At a young age, I realized the confidence-building of going to and fro in an autonomous way.
And of the satisfaction of doing it with my own energy. I remember my first cross-country-ski race in Grade Four. We had to ski around a one-kilometre course. I remember that some of my classmates were crying. I also remember flying around the course and being the first child to cross the finish line. I don't remember having felt any pain. I only remember the rush and thrill of skiing as fast as I could. It was a bright sunny day at the Alpine Inn Golf Course in Ste-marguerite in February 1977.
I began to be serious about cross-country-ski training in the late 1980's when I attended Mcgill University. In late September 1986, I tried rollerskiing for the first time. I didn't like the fact that they were unstable and had no brakes. Not surprisingly, we had our official rollerski training around Molson Stadium on the deco-turf. To this day, I find rollerskiing around a stadium way cooler than running around a stadium.
After Mcgill, I joined `Les Fondeurs Laurentides,' presently one of the biggest cross-country-ski teams in Canada. Gérald Guay, the coach, is the reason I went from being a mediocre ski racer to a good ski racer. The seven or eight years that he coached me were the best for my future success as a Worldloppet racer. His coaching was professional. I learned many cross-country-ski racing secrets from Gérald. I learned patience and having lifelong objectives.
Thirty years of Worldloppet competition with approximately 100 events completed. What drives you to compete?
PS: The thrill of pushing myself to the maximum. Seeing the European elite racers. Observing how the winners win. The social interaction before and after the race also motivates me. I am presently learning German as a fourth language. I am also a big fan of the ever-changing scenery and weather. I love the incredibly well-groomed trails at the different Worldloppets. I love seeing thousands of others pushing as hard as they can. To me, it's more expended energy than all the fans watching a particular hockey game. And every single person who manages to cross the finish line is a winner. A healthy way to travel in winter. A nice way to see the countryside. And a good excuse to learn a foreign language.
Why this new challenge – four Worldloppets in three weeks?
PS: I have never achieved skiing four Worldloppets in three weeks. I feel I have the strength and endurance to do it. I also have experience and, more importantly, the desire to attempt this feat!
Have you competed at the events in Estonia and Sweden before? Do you know what to expect from those events?
PS: I have never competed in Estonia before, but I have raced Vasaloppet four times in the past, finishing between 100th and 200th. I expect the competition to be stronger than in the past. More Pro race teams and higher-calibre racers. I expect to have to fight tooth and nail every inch of the way. Scandinavians take the Tartu Ski Marathon and Vasaloppet very seriously.
Which Worldloppet is going to be the biggest challenge?
PS: The Gatineau 51km skate will be the hardest challenge because I will have raced the 51km Classic the day prior.
You have a goal of placing well in each event. Are you focusing on racing one event at a time, or trying to moderate your effort a bit since you are undertaking such a large volume of racing?
PS: I will focus on skiing as best I can one event at a time. I won't be holding back at any race.
With just under a month to go before the Gatineau Worldloppet kicks off, how is your preparation going?
PS: My preparation is going extremely well. I have achieved all my training objectives, and I had good results at cross-country-ski races on Jan. 21-22, 2017 with Skinouk in the Gatineau Park. I am focused, motivated and excited about Worldloppet racing again soon. I am also grateful about my past good influences. I am grateful for my health, and I am especially grateful to be living in Rosemere, Que., Canada – a bilingual community that welcomes rollerskiers on its bike paths and residential streets!
Stay tuned as Skitrax will catch up with Shaw after his Loppet adventure to see how things worked out.
Phil Shaw has an ambitious goal of competing in four Worldloppets in three weeks for a total of 255 kilometres.
Shaw has won the Gatineau Worldloppet three times, but can he ski 255km in 15 days and survive?