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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.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

2008 Summer Rendition, Episode 4: Dirt Jumping

I almost forgot! We hit up some dirt jumping at the Canmore Nordic Center post-Haig. We rented the standard Rocky Mountain Flow dirt jumpers from the Trailsports and then ripped it up. Check out the photos.

Luke flyin' high off the big set.

Harry rippin' it on the middle set.

Luke wall ridin'.

Me hittin' up the middle set.

Me on the middle set.

A look at the dirt jumps in Canmore.

Harry pullin' up off the jump.

And that was it. I know, pretty sick!

2008 Summer Rendition, Episode 3: Post-Haig Fever

So right now I am currently on the Autobahn in Germany heading to Schladming, Austria. At first it was everything I could have dreamed of: fast cars, more refined “Euro” vehicles, 130km/h speed limit, lots of farm land and lush forested areas... Then came the traffic jam. We are now currently driving 40km/h. High speeds on the autobahn today. So while our team gradually makes our way to Schladming with our German guide, Hans (short for Yohan…don’t ask me?) I will continue with my summer rendition series.

The day after running down from the Haig, I crawled out of bed with heavy legs and mixed feelings of dread and eager anticipation. “Today I will make my body suffer”, I thought. “Today I will conquer the infamous 5x 1min full-out striding intervals”. And that’s exactly what I did. An excessively long warm-up, due to Harry forgetting his training shoes at the house, brought the nerves a little closer to the surface until I could not bear to wait any longer to get the workout started. The first interval up the massive hill wasn’t quite what I expected. In my head I wasn’t really planning on going completely full out on the first interval, even though that is the idea of the workout, but Harry screwed up that plan by taking off like a rocket ship and of course, my competitive spirit took over and I attempted to follow him. I did my best, but Harry went up that hill like a bat out of hell. He rounded the corner, crested the top of the hill and kept going before Eric screamed “STOP!”. I have only done this specific interval workout at this location twice, but that was definitely the furthest I have ever seen anyone get up that hill in 1 minute.

I executed the rest of the intervals in a very textbook manner; I made it a little bit shorter every time. Harry and Luke had a somewhat different pattern however. After lighting up the first interval, Harry bonked hard, then recovered and finished strong on the final interval. Luke kept it consistent and then killed the last interval. Jesse did not join us for the interval session as he did not come up to the Haig with us and this interval session is a specific post-Haig workout used to maximize the affects of recently coming down from altitude. I find it very interesting seeing the different styles each person brings to workouts like this. Despite the fact that we are supposed to be going all out on each interval, it seems everyone, whether it be a subconscious or conscious decision, has a set plan on which specific interval(s) they will save some energy on and which one(s) they will hold nothing back on. Either way the workout was executed, I can say I was impressed with the effort our entire team put into it. It is meant to push your mental barriers and I can confidently say we all did just that. I know Christina was certainly surprised by how painful these intervals were. The short 5 minutes of work time can certainly be deceiving.

With the concept of taking full advantage of recently coming down from altitude, our team tackled zone 3 skate rollerskiing intervals two days later. I know, a bold move, back to back intervals post-Haig. Despite being quite exhausted, I personally believe it was an excellent decision. Using the Canmore Nordic Center’s paved trails made the zone 3 intervals even better. I actually felt like I was racing on snow because of the terrain and nature surrounding the trails. Unfortunately the entire workout didn’t go entirely smoothly. While doing some sprints to warm-up Luke took a spill and Jesse’s knee collided with Luke’s pole tip. 2 months later, Jesse still has the scab to show for the wound. Bunch of jitbag rollerskiers if you ask me.

These two hard intensities wrapped up our team’s summer training in Canmore. Overall it was a great time, as to be expected, and my fitness made substantial improvements. Now it is time for me to end this post because I am getting distracted by the spectacular scenery as we head into the mountains of Austria. More to come shortly.

Auf Wiedersehen,

A castle on the side of the Autobahn.

The Kunterbunt Apartment where we are residing for the next 3 weeks.

The view out our front window.

Outside the Schladminger Brewery. Do you think they have enough kegs?

Monday, 8 September 2008

2008 Summer Rendition, Episode 2: The Haig

Episode 2 coming at you! The Haig! This would mark my third time training on the Haig Glacier and man, was it good. Eric (head coach) had laid out a heavy schedule for me to tackle this week and although I didn’t quite manage to complete it all, I was pretty damn close.

In the afternoon on Monday, July 21st our team ran into the Haig Glacier camp. Eric had scheduled in 3 hours for me, but I knew the run up wouldn’t take nearly that long. Fortunately, Timo (assistant coach) and I took a wrong turn at Turbine, and found ourselves crossing over into British Columbia…hmmm…I think we might be in the wrong place… The past two times I had run up following other teammates, so when it came time for me to lead, well, I dropped the ball. In the end it worked out fabulously, as Timo and I made it back to Turbine, found the correct trail, and arrived at the Haig Glacier camp in just over 3 hours. I got my training in, and explored a new trail!

Tuesday brought with it the real beginning of the training camp. Time to ski! The conditions were fairly good all week. A few days the snow was a little soft and sloppy due to overcast weather, but we managed to avoid the rain. The rest of the days provided clear blue skies and brisk morning temperatures which allowed the snow to stay frozen and provide fast skiing conditions until the hot sun seized the day.

A beautiful day up on the glacier.

My body adapted much quicker than last year to the high altitude, which allowed me to increase my training volume and speed by a reasonable margin. After hearing some words of wisdom from National Team members Dave Nighbor, Sean Crooks, and Brent McMurtry, I decided to prioritize and put my focus first, on my skiing workouts, and second, on any PM workouts I may have. This was an important task for me this year, to ensure I maintained focus throughout the entire week and got the most out of skiing as possible. Looking back on the week, I felt that I completed this task very well. I made some positive gains in both classic and skate technique, and put in some solid volume, skiing a total of 213km. With the three PM workouts added in, a one hour run, strength circuits, and a core strength session, my total volume for the week added up to 28.25 hours, a 2 hour increase from the larger of the two previous Haig training camps I have done.

The best ski of the week for me had to be the final day. Two days before, I was starting to feel the exhaustion hit me and my morning rusko was high. After some talk with Eric about it, I dialed back my planned 4 hour ski to 3 hours. Saturday I was forced to do the same and cut my planned 2.25 hour ski 25 minutes short because I was simply too exhausted to get anything more out of skiing that day. It seems the decisions to dial back the training hours were the right ones to make because on Sunday, as Pauli Kaki would say, “I felt like I million bucks!” I polished off a 51.5km ski in 3 hours and 40 minutes with relative ease.

A big thumbs up after the big 51.5km ski.

Monday morning I reluctantly crawled out of bed and headed over to the main cabin for breakfast and chore sign up. At first I thought I had lucked out, “cleaning the barbeque, what could be easier?” I thought to myself. A few minutes later Jodi informed me the barbeque didn’t really need to be cleaned. Joel then promptly told me no one had picked the shower yet…great…I went for best chore to worst chore. I think I got played on that one because I later saw Mark Doble cleaning the barbeque. Oh well, I suppose it’s the least I could do. As our hosts for the week, Jodi and Joel did an amazing job, providing gourmet meals, excellent grooming, and all that jazz.

Once our chores were completed and the non-direct group (a.k.a. girls) was given a head start, the run down began. It’s funny how running down from the Haig often turns into some form of race. Last year after the second Haig camp, Jesse and I ran down in 1 hour 36 minutes after practically sprinting the last 3km. Afterwards, Eric got mad at us for going out of zone 1. This year, our entire group stayed together, including Eric, and our time was 1 hour 38 minutes. Let’s just say the final few kilometers were a shade out of zone 1. I suppose after doing so much slow, volume training on the Haig combined with the highly competitive nature of athletes, it’s not really surprising we’re all just itching to hammer.

Well, that was it! The 2008 Haig training camp was nothing short of a success.

Peace out,

Harry rockin' the skate ski.

C'est Jeux (a.k.a. Christina) enjoying her first Haig experience.

Luke...umm...yah, that's Luke for ya.

The coaches. I'm sure you can guess who is who.

Friday, 5 September 2008

2008 Summer Rendition, Episode 1: Go West Young Man!

It’s been a while…much has happened… In light of this fact, I will be posting a BRAND new series of articles called “2008 Summer Rendition” to bring everyone up to speed on all the exciting stuff that’s been going on. I have inevitably procrastinated this moment for far too long, so here goes.

It almost seems to be a taboo for Canadian youth not to head west at some point to explore the vast countryside and breath in the exhilarating mountain air. There’s just something about the majestic Rocky Mountains that attracts the free spirit in young people. And I am no exception. On July 7th, we packed up the Peace Train (formerly known as the Meatwagon…our team van) in the early hours of what would eventually be a hot summer day. With bikes and skibags on the custom roof rack or “trailer” and an enormous heap of bags and sh** in the back of the van, we were set. Eric yelled at the top of his lungs, “Take us West Skeletor!” and just like that, we were off. I suppose an explanation is required, Skeletor is the Peace Train’s new hood ornament. Basically it’s a skull with a pirate eye patch and if you happen to lift the eye patch, SURPRISE, there’s a little dude sitting inside! I know, it’s pretty sweet, eh?

The drive was epic as per usual. We made it to Swiftcurrent, same as last year, and stayed in the same motel as last year the first night. We all thought we had forgotten Christina back in TBay, but really, she was just passed out in the back of the Peace Train all hopped up, or should I say doped down, on Gravol for the entire drive. This is where she received the sarcastic nickname, Cheerful, from. The long drive is definitely worth it though. Once you spot the mountains, your cramped legs and general boredom completely vanish.

We spent the next two weeks doing dryland training in Canmore. I love training in Canmore during the summer for one main reason: it breaks up the long off-season into smaller, more manageable pieces. With different scenery and training locations, I’m never stuck doing that same old route over and over again until I go insane. The entire two weeks was filled with solid training, but there were a few workouts that were off the chain! The first workout I recall being tossi maatava (translation: extremely great) was a continuous zone 3 ski striding workout at the Canmore Nordic Centre. It was the first time our team did a continuous zone 3 this year and I could not believe how great it felt. The biggest difference between doing a continuous style as opposed to specified intervals is the feel of the workout. When doing continuous efforts it feels more like a race, more natural. Rather than constantly looking at my watch to see when I could stop going hard, I was watching the trail for the spots we had decided to start/stop at. It was a great feeling to not be so dependent on my watch for once.

Two days later was the “man up” workout, a three hour classic rollerski up Highwood Pass, predominately using double pole technique. I managed to only use kick double pole on a few flats and gradual climbs, while double poling every single massive hill. It was a tough challenge, but a good one. The final climb to the top of Highwood Pass is approximately 3.5km long with a reasonably steep average grade. To complete the challenge one must double pole this entire climb. The outcome: two heroes, Harry Seaton and myself. We defeated Highwood Pass with a total elevation climb of 925m over the 3 hour ski. A big shout out to Phil Wood, who completed the challenge of double poling the final Highwood Pass climb last year.

The Rocky Mountain Sheep that literally stopped me in my tracks during the Highwood Pass ski.

They're everywhere! At least these ones were a little smaller so I didn't feel like I was going to get charged and trampled.

Harry after conquering Highwood Pass.

Me after maning up and conquering Highwood Pass. Usain Bolt totally copied my pose. This picture was taken before the Olympics...what can I say, I set the trends.

The team standing on top of Highwood Pass.

The final workout that sticks out in my mind was the long road ride our team did. There’s just nothing that can compare to climbing up mountain passes and taking in stunning scenery and then flying back down again. Our route began in Canmore and first went West along the highway, then around Minewanka loop, straight to Tunnel Mountain, through Banff, up Mount Norquay, back to Canmore and to cap it all off, we climbed Silvertip Mountain before heading home. The best part of the ride had to be Mount Norquay. Going up the switchbacks, I always feel like I’m in some European stage race or something. And riding back down at 75km/h, passing cars, then slamming on the brakes to make it around a switchback isn’t so bad either. I think I set a new personal record for highest speed on a bike during this ride. I took all the corners just right coming down Silvertip and I’m pretty sure I broke 80km/h. I guess I’ll have to get a bike computer for next year so I can be certain.

Overall, it was a good two week training block before heading up to the Haig Glacier. Chillin’ in Canmore, doing lots of train bridge jumping, long board sessions, hustlin’ at the pool table in our house, and eating at the Grizzly Paw generally tends to bode well with our team.

Episode 2: “The Haig” in stores…uhhh…I mean, on my blog SOON!

Me at the top of Corey Pass. We attempted this hike/skiwalk last year, but took the wrong way and missed the views. We really missed out last year! Wow! It was crazy up there. You can see the trail we came up on to the right of me in the picture.

Luke setting up for a backflip off the train brige...oh sh**! There's a canoe. Don't go yet Luke! No worries though, he didn't land on the canoers...phew.