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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, 18 January 2008

The Patermax Residence.

I arrived in Toronto on December 30th along with fellow teammate C-Butt and coach Bailey. Since we couldn’t move into the Farmhouse (our team’s accommodations for World Junior/U23 Trials) Pate’s family welcomed the TBay boys into their home. We stayed at Pate’s grandparents house for two nights and what a two nights they were. Let me paint a picture for you. Pate’s grandparents house is a large open-concept home situated in the countryside just outside of Toronto in a small town called Caledon. Conveniently, Pate’s home is directly beside his grandparent’s house and sits proudly on top of a hill. It reminds me of something from a fairytale story my mom would read to me when I was just a wee youngster. The big yet cozy, yellow farm-style home on top of a hill with plenty of open landscape around it and a forest visible off in the distance.

As Eric, Chris and I were carrying our bags into the house we spotted Pate zooming across the property on his quad. Eric looked at me, “Pate is definitely in his element”. I nodded and we both laughed while watching Pate do a donut in the distance. The country-side landscape brought me back to my days growing up on Government Road and Mapleward Road out in the country. The tree-filled landscape was completely refreshing.

That morning I awoke to the smell of bacon and Tom sniffing my bed. Tom is Pate’s grandparent’s friendly little wiener dog. The previous day Tom had also sniffed around my bed and discovered my recovery and sport drink in plastic bags. Let’s just say that when I found the drink mixes they were no longer bagged. That morning I got to the bottom of why Pate loves his Maple syrup so dearly. His grandparents love Maple syrup. We had hot cereal with maple syrup, pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and candies left over from the holidays with maple syrup. I think I had a sugar high the entire day after that breakfast! It was delicious!

Once we got back from skiing that day I got a chance to get the full tour of their property from Pate. Chris and Eric had each disappeared with their girlfriends which left me with Pate all to myself. After watching some Family Guy we hopped on the quad (because who walks when you have a quad?!?) and drove down to the shed to take out the snowmobile. We then ripped around the property in and out of seemingly secret trails surrounding the fairytale home. We climbed around on Pate’s old tree fort and raced down the massive tobogganing hill. After putting the snow mobile back in the shed we headed home on the quad, but not before doing some serious donuts on the ice-covered driveway.

And the day wasn’t over! Soon I found myself battling Pate’s little brother, Sam, on Guitar Heroes. I had never played before and he pretty much kicked my ass. Although Sam may never admit it, I did beat him once…out of about 10 matches. Seeing as it was New Years, Pate’s sister had a bunch of her friends over and we had a lovely supper. I felt like I was at a restaurant being waited on by Pate’s parents hand and foot. All in all, it was a busy fun-filled day. To finish it off we watched some Family Guy and went to bed at 10:30pm (real party animals, I know).

All in all it was a great way to spend the two days before moving into the Farmhouse. A big thanks to Pate’s family for welcoming us Thunder Bay hooligans into their home.

Over and Out,
The Michael

The Cold and Quebec

The time has come! I’ve managed to neglect my blog for long enough and the time to update everyone on my adventures has come. I’ll start from where I left off last…the epic journey. It began in Silver Star, passed through Canmore, and ended in Quebec. A total of 8 NorAms in 15 days. My battle worn body completed 7 of the 8 races and let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy task.

By the time we made it to Quebec I wasn’t sure what to think. From one perspective, I no longer had to contend with that crazy thing they call altitude and more time since the tough training in Silver Star meant I should be better recovered and able to race faster. On the other hand, I had just finished racing in 4 NorAms and travelling more than half-way across the country. It was a toss up for sure and the only way to find out what would happen was to race.

First up were the skate sprints and along with them came the cold. I pulled out the windproof craft and my trusty balaclava and set out to challenge the winter elements. Turned out to be my best sprint ever! I guess all my preparatory work the day before really paid off. I finished 25th in Open Men and 7th in Junior Men. Fortunately for me all the Juniors who qualified ahead of me decided to race Open that day, while I decided to pull out my Junior card to gain valuable sprint experience which I am quite deficient in. Props to Thomsen for holding his own in the Open Men category and finishing 12th.

Needless to say, going into the heats I felt pretty confident being the top qualifier. I brought a new aggressive style into the heats and was full of determination to win. My aggressive skiing worked amazingly well, despite almost crashing after a near tangle up situation, and I WON!!! It was just what I needed. A good confidence booster going into the distance races on the weekend.

Next was the pursuit. Seeing as I now have so much experience with these races they call pursuits, I wasn’t even the least bit nervous. I decided it was going to be just like the sprints. Ski aggressively and win. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work the same way in a 20km race.

The morning was just plain frigid as we set up our skis in the proper lanes. I looked around the start area and watched skiers taking off their warm-ups while thinking to myself, “Are they crazy?!? It’s at least 22 below with over 5 minutes to the start and they’re taking their warm-ups off already!” I eventually did take my warm-ups off, but let me tell you, I sure didn’t want to! No matter how many times I swung my arms around and jumped up and down I just couldn’t manage to make my hands warm.

Nevertheless, the race began with a bang and we were off. After a rough start I pulled it together and had a great classic leg. My transition went somewhat smoothly and the skate leg was painful. My feet were blocks of ice and it was difficult to control my skis on the fast downhill sections. I even had a solid wipeout on my first lap of the skate course. The last 200m came down to a sprint for 2nd place in Junior between Lenny, Julien and I. Lenny came out on top and I came out on the bottom. The good news is I didn’t have to pull out of the race due to frozen toes.

Everyone hobbled into the warmth of the Val Cartier Ski Centre afterwards to discuss the day’s battles and show off their wounds. It took about 25 minutes until my feet had gone through the agonizing process of thawing, but I felt pretty fortunate. Harry Seaton’s toes had a new colour, black, and I heard Brent McMurtury’s fingers also took a likening to the colour black. There were even racers sprawled about in the bathroom attempting to use hot water from the shower to warm up. It was definitely quite the battle and a day I’ll remember for years to come.

The following day was slightly warmer (a balmy minus 16) with the addition of a blizzard. The race was a 10km Classic Mass Start. Due to the shortness of the race and the depth of the field of racers, the start would be a critical part of the outcome. I discovered this the hard way. Only 50m from the start line someone’s poles caught the inside of my ski and suddenly I spun 180 degrees and was swarmed by skiers. This was a new experience for me. I have never been facing the opposite way at the beginning of a 100 person mass start race. I don’t even remember how I did it, but somehow I managed to turn back around, ski between lanes filled with skiers and get myself back into the top half all within 100m.

The rest of the race was a game of catch up that I didn’t have the energy for. I finished a disappointing 9th place in Junior Men. It was a tough day, but after already having two great races I couldn’t complain. And that wraps my first time skiing in Val Cartier, Quebec.

The Michael