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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.

Monday, 28 December 2015

No Regrets

I tried really hard.  I gave it my best shot.  Multiple races I went out harder than I normally would, pushed my limits and hit my max early on, hoping to find the willpower to hang on.  In the end it didn’t pan out.  I wasn’t able to achieve a notable World Cup result.

From another perspective, my trip was a success.  I had three objectives aside from my results based goals:
1) To soak it all in, relish the experience and enjoy myself.
2) To ski like myself, unrestricted by nerves with no worries about how others perceive me.
3) To give 100% and never back down from the challenge.

I’m happy to check off all three!  There were times in several races when I hit my max early on, was suffering and the temptation to pull out of the race presented itself.  I never gave in.  At times the race-course or competition level was intimidating, but when I hit the start line I forgot my worries and skied to the best of my abilities on the given day.  In the past I’ve struggled to overcome nerves in World Cup races.  This time around I was able to zone out my surroundings and focus on skiing like myself.

Maybe my biggest trip accomplishment was checking off number 1 on the list.  I’m my biggest critic.  I’m hard on myself.  Never settling and always pushing for more is how I’ve made it this far in skiing, but it’s often not the best approach.  I’m probably showing my age saying this stuff, but as I mature I understand sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the experience.  I always give 100%, but if that effort doesn’t reap the result I’m looking for, beating myself up about it doesn’t help any.  No matter what the results, I didn’t want to waste my time in Europe being down.

Above: Davos 30km Individual Start (photo credit: Nordic Focus)
Below: Enjoying World Cup life in Davos on a sunny training day

Watched HC Davos play downtown.  We earned ourselves some delicious
melted gruyere on toast for being the most raucous fans in the stands haha!

As far as race feelings go, there was one race I felt like I was on my A game for.  I had great feelings in the Toblach sprint qualifier, for sure the best I’ve felt so far this season.  Unfortunately our team’s skis didn’t match my good feelings for the race and that’s just the way she goes.  I don’t feel like I put it together completely in any distance races, however I did have some solid days.  Certainly as good or better than anything I did before Christmas last season.  I have very rarely had outstanding performances before Christmas and as hard as I tried to make it happen this year, it didn’t work out.  Good news is there’s a lot of racing left this season and when March comes around, I will be ready to take another shot at the World Cup.

No snow in Central Europe.  This was the set-up in Dobbiaco Toblach.
I don't think anyone minded the above zero temps on race day.
A last minute decision to classic the distance race rather than DP left me using my pursuit boots, not that I mind at all.
The extra support was nice on the downhills. (photo credit: Nordic Focus)

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Kickin' it in New Venues

Usually I’m starting the season in the west.  Normally in the west of Canada, places like Silver Star, Rossland, and Canmore.  Last year was the west of U.S.A. in West Yellowstone and Bozeman.  This season I’m kickin’ the season off in all new venues.  In my 9th year of training center life, it’s exciting to be exploring new ski locations!

October 30th I traveled with NDC T-Bay to Foret, Quebec for an on-snow training camp.  The man-made loop was 2.36km and I put in 500km over the roughly two-week span I was there.  It was a good opportunity to get some real skiing into the legs ahead of the race season.

NDC teammates getting after it in Foret, Quebec.

I hung out in Quebec City for a couple nights and caught a plane to Sweden where I met up with the rest of the National Ski Team.  The next week was spent training in Gallivare, a small Swedish town roughly 100km north of the Arctic Circle.  The short days (light from 7:30am to 2:30pm) were a new experience me, but it really did seem so dark as all the fresh white snow made it feel brighter.  The skiing was beauty and I was stoked to get the racing started!

White everything in Gallivare, Sweden
Managed to catch a rare sighting of the sun rising above the Canada truck set-up
Bummer was, I would have to wait until the following weekend to start my race season.  I came down with a head cold and was sidelined for the tune up FIS races in Gallivare.

November 27th I stood on the start line of the World Cup season opener in Ruka, Finland and took a couple deep breathes.  Being my first race of the season I had no idea how it would go.  I survived the weekend, completing the Ruka Triple in 81st place.  I was hoping to accomplish more than simply making it to the finish line, however missing the tune-up races set me back and made the weekend more about finding my race form than competing for a standout result.  Positives are I made the time cut after two days of racing and didn’t get lapped out on the third day despite racing on a short 2.5km course and starting at a 2:30 minute deficit.  The hard efforts will benefit my racing moving forward.

In action at the Ruka World Cup (photos courtesy of Nordic Focus)

I’m in Lillehammer, Norway now, preparing for the 30km Skiathalon on Saturday.  The race-course is beast.  Climb, climb some more, fly back down, hard corner and back up again.  Repeat.  That’s essentially how the 3.75km course skis.  Of course, the competition is the other intimidating feature; with 20 Norwegian men on the start list to go along with the rest of the normal World Cup field this is going to be a serious challenge.

Near the top of the course in Lillehammer.  Crossing my fingers race day is this nice!
Who said a challenge was something to be afraid of though?

“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture.  It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge.  It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid.  I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.”
- Summer Sanders

With that in mind, bring on the challenge!

I’d like to send out a big thank you to the Kenora ski community for hosting a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to raise financial support for Kenora’s athletes and myself.  I’m honoured to have your support!

Here’s the video I made in Gallivare to say thank you:

Racing in Finland I often have people inquiring about my heritage due to my last name.  After Saturday’s 10km race the Helsinki Sanomat interviewed me.  I had no idea at the time, but it turns out that’s a big deal as the newspaper is the largest in Helsinki.  There was a small mix-up in names as the article reads, “I do not speak Finnish, but my girlfriend Tarja Kiviranta speaks pretty well”.  Tarja is actually my girlfriend’s mother who grew up in Vammala (Sastamala) Finland.  My girlfriend’s name is Britt and she does indeed speak Finnish very well.  Here's a link to a translated summary of the article on ski-lines.

Article in the Helsinki Sanomat