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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.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Alaskan Adventure

It started with Alaska Airlines flight credits from cancelled flights to the Bozeman Super Tour in December.  Realizing we would already be in Western Canada and could travel on Alaska Airlines out of Calgary to Fairbanks after Canadian Nationals made me curious.  Could we do this for a reasonable price?

I contacted John Estle, the chief of competition for Super Tour Finals.  He found us a billet, we reserved a car rental and the trip was booked!  We were going to Alaska!

Two days after the 50km at Canadian Nationals, Evan and I boarded an early morning flight out of Calgary and began our Alaskan adventure!  I was stoked!  With a lengthy layover in Seattle, we took the opportunity to go downtown to check out the Pike Place Market.  The smells were heavenly!  Definitely recommend checking it out if you haven’t been.

Lattes and waffles at Moore Coffee Shop in Seattle.  Best latte artwork ever?
All kinds of fresh caught seafood at Pike Place Market.  Coming from winter, the vibrant flowers were shockingly beautiful!

Arriving in Fairbanks, the amount of snow was impressive.  Locals told us it had been an above average snow year and colder than normal temperatures for most of March so I guess that amount of snow isn’t quite the normal, but either way, it was a good with us!  We met our hosts, Barbara Schuhmann and Bob Groseclose, and crushed a long sleep after a lengthy travel day.

Two days later I was on the start line for the skate sprint.  My qualifier was solid and put me in 11th place, in the mix with most of the guys.  Unfortunately luck wasn’t with me in my quarterfinal heat.  Barely out of the start lanes there was a loud ‘CRACK’.  I looked down to see my left pole in two pieces.  It had been sliced in half by the skier next to me.  I did manage to get a replacement pretty quickly, (thanks Camille!) but I blew some energy catching the group, then struggled for position the rest of the way and wasn’t able to make it through the group to advance, finishing a close 4th place in the heat.

Evan’s day worked out much better than mine, with a little luck and a really impressive finishing kick, he finished the day in 2nd place overall!

Evan (bib 13) racing in the semifinals.
Mid-winter skiing conditions in Fairbanks.
The 50km on the weekend will be a memorable race for me, mostly for how hard of an effort it was.  My game plan was to be aggressive and go for a podium.  When Scott and Brian pulled away from the group around 9km into the race, I immediately moved towards the front on the climb and bridged the gap on a twisty downhill section.  Lapping through the stadium at 12.5km we had 20 seconds on the chase pack. 

I thought maybe we’d slow down once we were firmly away, but Scott was on another level.  He kept charging.  I realized around 15km I wasn’t going to be able to hold this pace much longer without producing some serious lactate so I let them go and slowed it down.  Do I wait for the chase pack to ski with them or do I try to hold onto 3rd place skiing alone?  That was the decision I faced.  I still had 35km to go.  That’s a long way to hold off a pack of skiers working together.  On the other hand, I knew I had a sizeable lead on them and it seemed a waste to give it up easily.  Of course I went for it!  Haha.  Why do I always choose the harder path?

The next 25km I skied solo, hanging onto 3rd place.  With 15km to go I had 52 seconds on the chase pack… seems doable right?  Conversely, the conditions were getting really slow and my legs were cramping.  With 12km to go I was toast.  My legs were cramped and I could barely offset.  The chase pack blew by me with 10km to go.  All I could do was watch them go by me.  The slow conditions, demanding race course (1870m of total climb!) and maybe all the racing the week previous had caught up with me.  I had nothing left.

The last lap was brutally hard.  I limped across the finish line for 10th place completely exhausted, but with a smile knowing I had given it my best shot.  As a downhiller would say, “I sent it big”!  I just didn’t quite nail the landing.

Shout out to SMS for the race support!  You guys rock!

BIG thank you to Barbara and Bob for putting us up for the week!  We couldn’t have made this trip happen without you!

I'll leave you with a few more pics from our Alaskan Adventure!


Camille ripping it up on the ice slides.  The sculptures at the World Ice Art Championships were super impressive!

Relaxed in the Chena Hot Springs and hung out at Barbara and Bob's cabin nearby.

Another day in Alaska with the Charger and distant mountain views. 
Thanks Birch Hill crew for the races!