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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.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

February to March to April

The season is over, and wow did it feel like a long one. There was so much travel packed in there! Following my European racing adventure there was no time to rest. The weekend after arriving home I was already racing again at the Eastern Canadian Championships. This weekend went very well for me with 3 strong back to back races I finished the mini-Tour event in 3rd place overall. I was pumped to make my first ever Senior Men’s sprint A final and ski a great 30km classic race.

On the podium at Eastern Champs.

After a short week of rest and training, I traveled with some teammates to Halifax for the Canada Winter Games. The Games were exciting and BIG; lots of competitors in different sports and volunteers working hard to make sure the event was a success. The long bus ride (1+ hours one way) to and from the race site was exhausting and made for some early mornings, but the race trails were a lot of fun with plenty of twists and fast rolling terrain. I had a great first race, the 10km Skate, and won a silver medal. I had hoped to win some more medals however exhaustion from all the travel and racing started to hit me and the next two individual races didn’t go so well. The provincial relay race was a bit of a let down as well after our team got off to a rough start. I skied a strong anchor leg with the fastest skate time of the day, but it wasn’t enough to put us into the medal hunt. Despite some not so hot performances, the Games were a great experience and I’m happy I came away with a medal.

A Silver Medal Performance at CWG.

Hanging out with Theodore the Tugboat in Halifax!

I did my best to balance training and recovery in the two weeks before the National Championships in Canmore, AB. With some lagging fatigue I decided to not race the team sprint. It was a tough decision as I love representing Lappe every year, however I had never raced and traveled so much before and my body was just not recovering from hard efforts as fast anymore.

My first race at the Championships was the 10km Skate Individual Start. I had thoughts of a medal in my head as I raced out of the stadium, then upon hitting the very first climb I experienced an odd sensation in my glutes. It was something of a tingling variety with a douse of pain. I finished the race, but it wasn’t pretty. The feeling in my glutes only escalated until I could barely step forward on the climbs during the final lap. I finished a very disappointing 13th place. The 15km classic was only slightly better, finishing 10th. I gave it my all and battled hard, unfortunately I couldn’t avoid fading on my last lap.

Working hard in the 15km Classic.

Things started turn around for me on the Classic Sprint day. My qualifier was nothing special, after having difficulty with skis prior to the start and using a pair glide waxed with Rex Blue. The weather was a real challenge with some skiers on hard wax, some using zeros, and our team, using klister. I had awesome grip and not so hot glide in my quarter-final heat and was sitting comfortably in 3rd directly behind 1st and 2nd at the top of the course. Then we started descending and I realized it would be a battle to maintain my position to the line. Battling draggy skis through the finish stretch I finished 4th. A good effort, but my day was done. To my surprise it wasn’t over yet! A skier in my quarter was disqualified; I moved into 3rd place and advanced with a lucky loser spot. On to the semi-finals! I repeated the same scenario in both the semis and the B-final. Skiing amongst the pack to the top of the climbing section then getting dropped on the downhills and flats. I finished 11th on the day. The good news was I did not slow down from the quarter to the B-final. My body was responding well just in time for the final race, the 50km.

50km races seem to be my discipline. I settled into the pack and conserved energy well throughout the race. I was nervous about being at the front after such a difficult week of racing however I shouldn’t have worried. When the time came to dig deep on the final lap I still had enough energy to ski well and push to the finish. Though I didn’t medal this year, I am content with a 4th place finish. Despite some inconsistent racing at the National Championships I finished 3rd place in the U23 Men’s aggregate and tied for 7th place in the Senior Men’s aggregate. Decent.

Earlier in the season I had decided to race in Sun Valley, Idaho following Nationals. I did not anticipate being so tired going into Super Tour Finals. Though I still wanted to race, I was nervous how my body would recover following 4 hard races in Canmore.

Arriving in Sun Valley I was immediately struck by the landscape and altitude. Breathing was a difficult during my first ski, despite having been in Canmore for two weeks beforehand. My breathing was on the back of my mind though as the snow covered and nearly treeless landscape caught my attention. A warm sun reflected off the white rolling mountains and I was reminded of skiing on glaciers in the summer.

On March 29th we kicked off Super Tour Finals with a Skate Prologue. Man these prologues are hard! I can’t seem to get the pace right. I started very conservative which was good then I got excited on the first climb and used up too much energy. By the middle of the second long climb my legs were burning and I was gasping for oxygen. The final climb and 500m of the race it took everything I had to keep moving forward. My result, 18th. Not terrible, but not amazing either.

My focus of the series was the next race, the 15km Classic Mass Start. My skis were perfect today, maybe a little draggy outside of the tracks, but the grip was awesome. I got off to a really good start and went from 18th in the grid to 3rd place in the first few hundred metres. For the first 2km of the race I was right up at the front of the pack, skiing comfortably. The pace picked up at 5km and I knew I would blow up if I tried to go with the leaders so I settled into my own pace and skied to a 15th place finish.

The lead pack early on in the 15km. I'm on the far left. (Photo cred. to Fasterskier.com)

All in a days work for our CCC trip wax techs.

I was not able to recover from the 15km for the following two races despite having a rest day following the race. Simply put, the classic sprint and skate hill climb were tough sluggin’. Still, reaching the peak of Dollar Mountain was a fitting way to end a great season of racing. I crossed the line in 20th place for the Tour and sipped on a beer while watching the ladies transform from small dots to full figures as they raced up to the top.

Thanks to all my supporters for all your help this year. From sponsors, coaches, and wax technicians to NDC board members and IST members to family and friends, you know who you are, THANK YOU! Let’s do it again next season!

Michael