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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.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

24 Hours of Domination

Wow! I can not believe we did this. Harry Seaton, Jesse Winter, Luke Viljakainen and I joined forces to make a four man team with the goal of breaking the existing four man record for most km skied at the 24 hours of Lappe. This is no easy task. You must ski the majority of your laps in zone 3 or zone 4 and conditions must be quick. Fortunately we had a perfect year, with the sun only slowing the trails down for about a 2 hour window during the hottest part of the day. The rest of the event from noon on Saturday, March 21st to noon on Sunday featured crystallized snow and icy fast trails.

24 Hour Relay Start. Photo Cred. Paul Inkila.

Me skiing in the sunny blazing fast conditions at Lappe.

To break the record we had to ski an average lap time just over 12 min for the 4.3km course. We began the event skiing average lap times under 11 min, building up a significant buffer going into the night. The wee hours of the night are where teams really run the risk of falling apart. Missing exchanges because of oversleeping or bonking during your hour or two hour night shift are all too common. Our team pushed through the night minimizing our losses with only one poor exchange and only some minor bonks. As soon as the sun started to rise and our night shifts were done, we went back to a 2 lap rotation and our pace picked up drastically. With 2 hours left we had already broken the four man record and had our sights set on breaking the all time record (currently held by a 7 person team). We switched to a 1 lap rotation between the four of us so we could hammer every lap and get a 30min rest then go do it again. After skiing over 100km each I have no idea how we managed to ski close to 10min laps in the morning. I guess our adrenaline was pumping like crazy.

Jesse tagging me in for my final lap of the event.

Jesse dead after completing his final lap of the event.

After 24 hours of skiing, our team demolished the existing record of 517.4km. We skied 556.4km with an average lap time of 11:11.4 over the 4.3km course. Each of us skied over 135km in 6 hours! Props to the Mister Big team put together by our coach who also took down the existing record with 523.2km. Kelly Henry tackled the 24 hour event solo and broke Nancy Viljakainen’s record, skiing 284.8km. I was tired enough after hammering out 143km…I can’t imagine doing double that!

Aside from skiing the most km in 24 hours, the event has another title up for grabs; the fastest lap (male and female). This is a tricky title to win because not only does it require you to ski very fast, but you also have to plan and make your attempt when the conditions are the fastest. The fastest lap can be done anytime in the 24 hour event. Ideally, you should be on a large team so you don’t have to come out until early in the morning when the trails are still icy fast from the night time freeze. Then you can do a few laps to warm up and go for it. That’s how Adam Kates set the all time record in 2006. Unfortunately I was on a small team so I had to be there skiing fast the entire 24 hours. I made the decision after skiing 50km at around 10pm when conditions were getting close to their optimal frozen icy state to go for it. I think that was the fastest I have ever skied 4.3km. I started out at my sprint pace and with the extended rests on downhills due to the fast conditions, I was able to hold it for the better part of the loop. My time was 9:36.5…0.6 seconds slower than Adam’s record. F***. At least I had the fastest time for this year so far. Chris Butler made several attempts as a member of the Mister Big team, but after burning himself out on the opening lap and making a fast lap attempt earlier in the day when conditions were not yet close to optimal, he came up short with a 9:44 lap. Karla Bailey won the women’s fast lap with a time of 11:14.3.

Chris Butler leading Jesse Winter and Scott Sullivan in the opening lap. Jesse took the opening lap win in a sprint finish. Photo Cred. Paul Inkila.

Karla Bailey leading Becky Puiras and Jeff Budner in the opening lap. Photo Cred. Paul Inkila.

At the end of it all, three records were smashed and our four man team was so exhausted we could barely stand up. I don’t know why we are drawn to challenge ourselves in such ludicrous ways as skiing for 24 hours. I will say this, I do not plan on trying to break the four man record we set any time in the near future. Remind me to read this blog post next year so I don’t do anything stupid like forget I said that.

Me, Jesse, and Harry during the final few minutes of the event waiting for Luke to come into the stadium.

The new 24 hour Relay Record holders!

Check out the Lappe website for more 24 hour pictures.

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