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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, 20 April 2015

A Toast to the 2014/15 Season

It was one hell of a ride!  The season felt very lengthy from those early season Super Tours that have faded to a distant memory, through the heart of the winter racing across Canada on the NorAm, to a month long European stint and a memorable National Championships in my home town, T Bay!  Let’s count ‘em up: 21 distance races, 10 sprint races, and 1 team sprint.  32 hard, lung-busting efforts.  I’m feeling exhausted thinking about it!

Without question it was the most consistently strong racing season of my life.  Before I begin to rehash any of this I want to thank those who have supported me through it all: my coach, Stefan Kuhn, who was a constant source of cool confidence for me, the Alberta World Cup Academy who provided the support I needed to be successful, my girlfriend and mom for the emotional support I needed to keep me going, and my family as a whole for their unwavering support through all the years of racing.

I’ll pick up where I left off last, NorAm racing.  After Westerns comes Easterns.  It always feels good traveling to Ottawa for racing, I guess it’s because it’s something I’m familiar with.  I kept the ball rolling from my Western’s success and started off with a win in the skate sprint.  I skied a strong 15km skate to grab 2nd place behind my teammate, Kevin.  By Sunday my body was exhausted and unresponsive.  I had done a decent training load leading into the weekend in preparation for some European racing later in the month.  As a result, two races were all I could handle.  I was slow off the start line Sunday and found myself further back in the pack than I’m used to (it was a mass start race).  I pushed myself to ski into a better position before the climbing section, fighting my way up to 2nd place.  The move worked well, as I was able to follow Kevin stride for stride and conserve a little energy, until I caught an edge on a fast downhill and went down.  The entire lead pack blew by me and I panicked.  I charged back up to a few stragglers in the group, but I was gassed.  Thoughts of dropping out fluttered through my head.  I pushed the bad thoughts away, put my head down and battled through it.  In the end I crossed the line in 3rd place.  It may not have been one of my better performances of the season, but it’s one of the ones I’m most proud of.  My body wasn’t there, a high-speed crash set me back, yet I battled through it and finished on the podium.
On my way to a sprint win at Nakkertok (Photo Cred. Fred Webster)
Soon after Easterns I was on a plane to Europe.  My trip took me from Falun, Sweden for some training, to Ostersund, Sweden for a major World Cup weekend, across the Baltic Sea to Latvia and Estonia for Scandinavian Cup racing, and finally to Lahti, Finland for the traditional World Cup weekend.  I managed to stay healthy, aside from one bout of food poisoning, which was a victory in itself.  I didn’t perform well in my first World Cup opportunity in Sweden.  In retrospect, I think a short time trial post-travel could have helped.  My nerves weren’t helping me either.  After that I started to find my groove and had some solid races.  The 30km skate mass start on the Scandinavia Cup was my best with a 21st place finish.  The take home message for me was racing against Norway is really hard and I need to continue to improve my fitness if I want to be finishing in the top 10 in Scandinavian Cups and top 30 in World Cups in the near future.
Working the downhill during World Cup racing in Ostersund, Sweden.
Taking in the sunset in downtown Ostersund.
After a long season racing all over the place it was amazing to fly home and finish the season with National Championships in Thunder Bay.  What an opportunity for all the local athletes!  A humongous thank you to all the volunteers who made this event possible.  Thank you for your tireless hours spent shovelling snow in anticipation of warm spring weather, the investment into a brand new piston bully combined with careful grooming through the wee hours to give us perfect tracks for racing, the professionally executed timing to give athletes quick, accurate results, and the effective organization of the event to keep everything running smoothly.  The Lappe standard was truly upheld and if anything, set to an even higher bar.

I was a little unsure how my body would hold up after the travel back from Europe and all the racing I’d done recently.  One thing I did have going for me was a strong resolve to race hard and give back to the local ski community by winning at home.  My resolve outshone any fatigue for the most part as I collected 3 gold medals and the Senior Men’s aggregate title in what will be a memorable National Championships for me.  Starting the Championships off by winning the team sprint with Andy, putting Lappe Nordic on top at home, was special.  Throwing down a gutsy performance in the 10km to win by a large margin was awesome and completely exhausting.  Mostly, I hope I never forget the feeling of skiing into the finish of the 50km, looking to my right at all the familiar faces cheering, raising my arm in a salute to them and crossing the line victorious.  It is a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Reppin' my old Lappe suit and leading the team sprint with my roommate, Russ, in the draft.
Digging deep in the 10km Skate up the Grunt.
On top with my club teammate, Andy, in second and my AWCA teammate, Kevin, in third.  Awesome day!
Grabbing the classic sprint B-Final win to help secure the leader bib over up-and-coming ski star, Scott Hill.
Out in front off the start of the big 50km race.
Leading after one lap.
Practicing my chugging skills for the after-party.
Setting the pace up the grunt later on in the race.
The moment I've dreamed of and worked so hard to attain.
All smiles on the podium amongst talented Canadian skiers.
My biggest fan and supporter, my mom.
Thanks to all the photographers at Nationals for the great photos!  It was a memorable season and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead for the next winter of racing.

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