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Welcome! My name is Michael Somppi and I'm a competitive cross-country skier. I developed this blog so sponsors, family, friends and fans can keep up to date with my life as a full-time athlete. You can expect regular blog posts about racing, training, and life in general. Check out other sections of my blog by clicking on the tabs above.

Friday, 7 December 2007

My First Pursuit Ever!

December 6th, 2007. It was a chilly day in Canmore, Alberta and I awoke full of excitement and nervous anticipation. Today I would be racing my first pursuit ever! I had practiced the exchange several times, but it still didn't seem to be enough. I feel confident that I am strong in both classic and skate disciplines, but would I be able to do one right after the other? Would I get disqualified for leaving my equipment outside of my exchange box? And worst of all, would I be able to overcome a bit of a bad start position?

The race gun went off and suddenly I was accelerating along with 50 other high performace athletes. The battle for a good track began. I had some difficulty finding openings on my first lap and was unable to move up through the field. Fortunately, I was able to capatilize on some opportunities during my second lap and I made my way into a decent position. I finished the 7.5km classic leg feeling strong, yet full of anxiety heading into the dreaded exchange.

I had some difficulty in my practices with unstrapping my poles quickly, so I undid them in on the final decent into the stadium. I entered the exchange area like a lost child wondering where I should go next. I knew of course where I needed to go, but with the adrenaline rushing I started second guessing myself. Suddenly I had arrived at my box. "Okay... breath Michael... change your skis and grab your poles." I stumbled putting my right ski on. I stumbled putting my left ski on. Feeling flustered, I grabbed my skate poles and looked up to see the group I had entered the stadium with skiing away. I pushed forwards and the chase was on.

In retrospect, my exchange really wasn't terrible. I really only lost a small amount of time, but that was all Pate Neumann needed to ditch me. He was the one person in my stadium arrival group I never did catch up to. The good news was the switch from classic to skate really wasn't so bad. My skate poles felt enormous in the first 100m and my legs felt a little awkard pushing to the side rather than linearlly, but once I got going it was fine.

I crossed the finish line of the 15km Pursuit as the 25th Open Man and the 6th Junior Man. Now that I've completed my first pursuit race and the dreaded exchange once, my fears have been faced and I only have improvements to look forward to. My next pursuit will be a 20km race held in Valcartier, Quebec on Dec. 15th.

Racing in Silver Star

Well, the racing season has begun! It seems every Canadian cross-country skier has raced in Silver Star and now I have finally joined the bandwagon.

My results were as follows:
15km Skate Individual Start: 32nd Open Men, 10th Junior Men (8th Canadian Junior Men)
Classic Sprint Qualifier: 48th Open Men, 12th Junior Men (10th Canadian Junior Men)
Classic Sprint Heats: 7th Junior Men (6th Canadian Junior Men)

The skate race course covered very challenging terrain with a total vertical elevation change of 950m. I attempted to control my pace during the first 7.5km lap, but the unrelenting hills still managed to break me during my second lap. Luckily, I met up with Chris Hamilton during the last 2.5km and we pushed each other to the finish line.

My classic sprint qualifier was quite sloppy due to my inexperience with sprinting. Fortunately, our team video taped the qualifier and we were able to review it before the heats. I brought my newly acquired knowledge to the table in the heats and managed to win the B-Final sprint. I skied the heats with much more composure and confidence and gained invaluable sprinting experience which I will be able to use in the future. All in all, it was a great learning experience and some of the best sprinting I have ever done in a race situation. I can't wait to test out my sprinting capabilities again.

It was a solid start to the season for me and I look forward to improving my results in the upcoming Canmore NorAm and Val Cartier NorAm races.