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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.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Dealing with Disappointment


I recently finished the 2013 racing segment of my season.  It was a disappointment.  After last year’s successes on the NorAm circuit my expectations are now higher and I failed to meet those expectations in the early season races.  The highlight was actually not in a NorAm race, but a 2nd place finish against a competitive field in an Alberta Cup classic distance race leading up to the NorAms.

My aim is for the podium in every NorAm race I enter, however, so far this winter I haven’t been very close to that yet.  In Silver Star I finished 17th and 15th.  In Rossland I finished 8th and 7th.  Yes, I could list all my excuses, things that didn’t go my way; the cold weather affected me in Silver Star, I adjusted my bindings to the wrong setting for the skate race, I crashed in the semi-finals in the Rossland sprint, and my skis were icing badly in the classic race.  That’s all part of sports though; things don’t always go your way.  Sometimes no matter how well you prepare, the end result is not what you intended.

I had a great summer of productive, quality training and therefore I am confident in my fitness and ability.  I made some costly mistakes in a couple races and maybe wasn’t completely on my game to start the season.  I will learn from these mistakes and move on with my season.  It’s still early.  There is plenty of racing to be had over the next 3 months and my goals haven’t changed.

Racing to 2nd place in the Alberta Cup Classic Distance (maybe the Movember stache gave me extra speed?)
Photo Credit: Angus Cockney
On a lighter note, the CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS are here!  Russell and I are getting into the spirit at our place with the fire crackling and our Alberta World Cup Academy Noble Fir all lit up.  If you’re still in need of a Christmas tree for the holidays and live in the Bow Valley, be sure to check out our team’s tree sale on the weekend at the Bill Warren Training Centre.  Open from 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.

Feeling winter cozy in our place! 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

ps. Good luck to all those Fantasy Footballers in the playoff finals this weekend.  I'm getting my teams ready to face off with Harvey's "Tittsburgh Feelers" and Killick's "Killzone Retribution" for the pride and glory of league champion status.  My fingers are crossed...

Monday, 25 November 2013

Early Snow and Shout OUT to Rudy!

Much to my delight, winter came early this year!  Between Frozen Thunder (man made snow loop), two sizeable snowfalls, and cold temperatures allowing the Canmore Nordic Centre to blast the snow guns, we've got some great skiing here!  It's sort of weird to think about it, but I've been skiing for over a month now!  All is going well.

This upcoming weekend my racing season will kick off with some local Alberta Cup races, then I'm off to Silver Star, BC for the NorAm opener.  I'm looking forward to getting the racing season underway!

Big thanks to my equipment sponsors, Fischer and Swix.  I've got my new poles cut to the perfect length, the new boots are in my opinion, the best Fischer has made yet, and my new skis are wax prepped and in the process of being tested.  I'm happy to report they're feeling fast.

Can't complain when you've got weather and snow like this in November
Shout OUT to Rudy Project for the new gear this season as well!  It's always fun sporting new shades when the racing season begins.  I tested out the Air Blast the past two days and find they provide great wind protection and peripheral vision with the large single lens.  They're light, and with flexible arms, they seem to stay on my head a little better than their counterpart, the Hypermask.

Air Blast
Sterling Helmet and Agon Sunglasses
Spinhawk - for when the occasion calls for style over sport
It may not be overly noticeable, but yes, I am taking part in Movember this year.  You can check out my team's Movember page here.  If you want to have a positive impact on Men's Health, please make a donation.

That's it for now!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Summer Tales


Summer really kicked off for me in August.  After a very successful month of hard training in July I travelled to T Bay for a visit with family and friends.  I managed to fit a lot into 8 days at home!  Played a round of golf and had a night on the town with the Five Mile boys, had a very successful fishing day with my Pops, and spent a night camping at Quetico Provincial Park (yes we did it all: swimming, canoeing, bonfires) with family.  Although it was a rest week, I still fit in some good training days including two Lappe Nordic club practices and a trail running race.  It was great to see so many familiar faces from the local ski community.

I need to give a shout out to the Fresh Air trail run series because the race I did was one of the most fun races I’ve done in a long time.  Let me paint you a picture.  It was my last day in town and it poured rain all afternoon.  I was on the fence about running the trail race.  After wavering on the decision, I hopped in the car and drove through the steady downpour to the Kamview Ski Centre.  There were only a handful of cars in the muddy parking lot as I pulled in and I thought to myself, “Why am I here?”  I walked into the Nordic centre and started to remember why I was there… because the Thunder Bay ski community is top notch!  When I questioned if they would still run the race in this weather Fresh Air manager, Al Cranston, asked me, “Would you do a ski race if it were snowing?”  Of course they would still run the race!!!

I headed out in the rain for my warm-up, curious to see what the racecourse would be today.  To my surprise, it was most challenging course I’ve ever run at Kamview!  It was full of punchy climbs (a few were more than punchy!) and twisty single-track sections including a steep single-track descent from the Lookout.  The added difficulty: everything was wet and muddy. 

By the time I was back from my warm-up the rain had subsided and plenty of people had arrived.  I threw on my racing spikes and had a great race!  The atmosphere reminded me of spring High School mountain bike races.  There were lots of smiling faces and even more mud!  Nearing the finish of the race I misjudged just how much mud there was and slid out on a corner, going down on one knee and one hand, essentially taking a mud bath in the process.  It only added to my spring mountain bike racing nostalgia.  So thanks for putting on a great trail race Fresh Air!

Successful fishing day with my Pops
The Nishiki (my trusty TBay all terrain bike) is back up and running with flashy new yellow tires!
I travelled back to Canmore at the beginning of August with Britt where we then proceeded to do more summer activities, like picnicking and swimming at the Quarry, hiking Mt. Rundle, and going for ice cream at Canmore’s popular ice cream bus.  Unfortunately the good times puttered out when I came down with a bad head cold right in the middle of our team’s testing week.  The good news is, pre-sickness, I set a new PB and had my best ever performance in the prologue test.  The bad news is the remainder of the testing was negatively impacted or missed altogether.  The worst part of it all was how long the cold lingered.  I wasn’t healthy enough to travel with the team to Whitefish, Montana for our August training camp.  I was sidelined completely for 5 days and missed the first few days of the camp.  It was a setback that really frustrated me.  I was starting to think I couldn’t get sick in the summer time and was maybe being a little careless with my lack of recovery time.  Lesson learned.

Not all was lost, as I drove to Whitefish solo and met up with the team for a full week of training.  It was a very gradual process getting back to 100% health so training had to be tweaked a little; even so, I put in a good amount of training hours over my week in the summer land that is Whitefish.  And yes, I did get in my fix of swimming and even an afternoon of ripping around Whitefish Lake on a Jet Ski (my first time, it was awesome).

Arriving back in Canmore I finally felt back to normal.  I did a 134km solo road ride as I was itching to make up for the long road ride I missed while being sidelined.  Pushing myself to get up the Silver Tip climb at the very end of the ride, then careening down at 85km/h was more than satisfying.  With summer fading to a close, my attention is once again on ski training.  August was a summertime blast and I am ready to make September a ski training success.

Beauty views from the top of Mt. Rundle with Britt.

Friday, 12 July 2013

One Season to Another


I’m going to do my best to keep this “brief” and get you up to date with what I’ve been up to since my last post.  My last blog post left off with my spring World Cup escapades and I touched on the racing ahead at National Championships.  The 50km was my only real focus at Nationals since I missed out on the other distance races.  I prepared as well as I could given the short time frame I was working with.  Despite the lack of training and excessive travel and racing I did in the last month I surprised myself by finding some good feelings in the 50km.  I skied a strong race, staying near the front for its entirety.  It played out in a sprint finish and although I positioned myself well with 1.5km to go, I wasn’t able to maintain it and was pushed to the back of the group with less than a km to go.  I lost a podium spot with poor strategy/lack of aggression and finished 5th, 2.7 seconds from the win and less than a second from the podium.  It was a let down to finish off the podium.  On the positive side, I had no idea how my body would hold up for 50km when my preparation for the race hadn’t been ideal so I’m happy I had some good feelings out there.

And that wrapped up my 2012-13 season.  A quick way to sum it up was awesome domestic racing and poor International performances.  I accomplished the goals I had set out for myself in domestic racing, winning my first NorAm race and claiming the NorAm leader spot for the spring World Cups.  However I struggled with World Cup racing.  I was never able to put together a solid all around performance, something I will be focusing on improving next season.

With the season at an end I travelled back to my Canmore home.  It felt great to shut off the race mindset and relax.  Two highlights were an awesome spring downhill ski at Sunshine with some good friends and a fun crust ski at Mt. Shark with Bob (Shout out to Bob!).

Jesse Cockney all smiles on a sunny spring day at Sunshine.
Great scenery crust skiing at Mt. Shark!
 A little over a week later I was on a plane again.  This time headed to St. John’s, Newfoundland to visit my girlfriend, Britt.  It was my first time to Newfoundland and I was blown away with the city of St. John’s.  It’s incredibly scenic and colourful, plus the downtown core is full of great shops, restaurants, bakeries, you name it.  Here are a few of the highlights: several runs/hikes along the East Coast trail, being Screeched In at Christian’s Bar, watching the Ice Caps final game of the season, fish & chips at Duke of Duckworth, lunches at Rocket, Montreal bagels from Georgetown bakery, and of course trying the variety of local Newfoundland beer (it’s good stuff!).  I also did a local 5km-running race, which was a blast!

East Coast Trail, NL
The colourful streets of St. John's
Britt on Belle Island, NL
My next journey was a road trip from St. John’s, NL all the way to Guelph, ON.  Britt’s summer work placement is in Guelph so we used the opportunity to explore the East Coast while we drove across Eastern Canada to Ontario.  We had a great drive with lots of adventures along the way.  Britt’s Toyota Echo was filled to maximum capacity and made it just fine halfway across the country.

Surpassing the 200 000km mark on the Echo
Attempt at a runner's magazine shot with an iceberg near Twillingate, NL
Beauty picnic spot on the Green Gardens trail in Gros Morne Park, NL
Britt showing off our first lobster at the local diner in Rocky Harbour, NL

On the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia
Flower Pot silhouette on the Bay of Fundy, NB
Top of Camel's Hump in Burlington, VT
I managed to fit in a short visit home to Thunder Bay before travelling back to Canmore, AB to kick off the new training season.  My April rest month was filled with travel and my 2013-14 season started off on the same note.  Our team drove to Vernon, BC for a training camp, utilizing the last of the snow at the Sovereign Lakes Nordic Centre for some on-snow training.  Everything went smoothly, I was able to put into a good number of hours on skis plus some afternoon runs, rides, and strength sessions.

Back in Canmore our team got into some regular training routines.  In June we did a short training camp in Nelson, BC.  It didn’t quite pan out as planned due to heavy rains and the whole flood situation Canmore endured.  We made the most of it, changing our modes of training, and managed to complete our planned training hours.  After Nelson, our team went straight into the first testing period of the year.  We did a classic rollerski double pole test, a skate rollerski prologue test, an incremental test using a rollerski treadmill, and capped off these tests with a local Canada Day running race.  The results were positive including a PB in the prologue test and I’m confidant things are heading in the right direction.

Once all the testing was complete I enjoyed a lighter training week, focusing on recovery before July’s volume block.  I went on a 3 night family trip to Jasper with my mom and sister.  We stopped in at the Icefields Parkway on our way and it was a little shocking to see how much the Athabasca Glacier has receded since I was there in 2000.  The highlight of the trip was a hike up to Sulphur Ridge combined with a soak in the Miette Hot Springs.  The 360-degree mountain top view at the top of the Ridge was stunning and the hot springs were the perfect way to relax after a good hike.  The mountain goats provided entertainment on the mountain and in the parking lot.  We watched a herd of goats play king of the castle on a boulder in an alpine meadow during our hike, then had to defend our picnic lunch in the parking lot from them afterwards.

Marker showing where the Athabasca Glacier was in 2000.  Shocking!
My sister and mom hiking up the final section to Sulphur Ridge
Awesome views from the top of Sulphur Ridge!
Goats playing king of the castle on a boulder in a mountain meadow.  My sister and I could barely stand on that boulder together... don't know how the goats do it!
Lunch with a friendly goat?  Visit Jasper, AB. 
Now, the training season is well under way.  I’m 5 days into a heavy two-week volume block and everything has gone smoothly so far.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my latest training adventures.

Friday, 29 March 2013

World Cup Trials and Tribulations


If it were easy, everyone would do it.

I recently won a very tight battle on Canada’s NorAm circuit, claiming the leader spot and start rights for the final World Cup races of the season.  Less than a week after duking it out with each other at the Canadian Western Championships Mini-Tour, Graeme, Jesse and I travelled to Finland as the top three NorAm skiers ready to take on the World.  Each of us had big result based goals for the trip and would be disappointed with achieving anything less.

Unfortunately, as I have learned time and time again, breakout results or performances are a rarity and what is more real and definitive is the slow process of steady improvement.  My skiing career has tended to follow this slow steady upward trend to a tee.  There are highs for sure, that sometimes to an outsider looking in may seem like breakthroughs, but to me they are not.  I know the work I have put in and I know what I am capable of when I am feeling at my best.  The real challenge becomes conjuring these performances and good sensations on a regular basis and at the biggest competitions.

I am disappointed with my trip to Europe because I feel I have squandered the World Cup opportunities I was presented.  I wasn’t able to put all of the pieces together for a top performance.  To have a great performance in skiing, the body, mind and skis have to be at their best.  I had days where 2 of the 3 were good, but it’s impossible to perform at your peak without all 3.

Although I didn’t have any breakthrough performances like I was hoping for, it wasn’t all for not.  I started 7 World Cup races while in Europe and each time I hit the start line I was a little less nervous and able to focus more on myself rather than my surroundings.  I watched World Cup skiers’ technique carefully and have pin pointed several things I need to work on for next season.  My weaknesses and strengths have become more obvious and I know where my focuses should be to make the biggest gains.  All the travel, race logistics, and cuisine are more familiar to me now.  The next opportunity I have to race on the World Cup there is no doubt I will be better prepared to find success.

And if nothing else, it was a memorable experience to compete in the most historic World Cup events across Scandinavia.  I raced in Lahti, Finland, completed the famous Holmenkollen 50km in Oslo, Norway, and competed against the top 50 in the World at World Cup Finals in Stockholm and Falun, Sweden.

High speed sprint course in Lahti, Finland.

The view from our Holmenkollen Hotel overlooking Oslo and the fjord.  Taking in the rays of sun on days like this felt like spring had truly arrived.

At the harbour in Oslo with Graeme, Lenny and Jesse
Vigeland Sculptures in Frogner Park in Oslo, Norway

I’m back in Canada now.  I travelled directly from Sweden to Whistler, BC to compete in the final races at the Canadian National Championships.  I arrived here the day before the 15km classic and opted to not race as I was exhausted from all the racing and travelling for 24+ hours.  Yesterday I competed in the classic sprint.  It wasn’t my best day but it was a good tune up for the 50km skate.  Tomorrow will be my last race of the season and I will be sure to empty the tank completely in the 50km with the hope of a podium performance.