Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome! My name is Michael Somppi. I am a competitive cross-country skier and a member of Thunder Bay's National Development Centre. 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, 26 February 2016

It's Tour Time Baby!

Four days until the Ski Tour Canada kicks off in Gatineau!  Wow, that’s really soon.  I need emoticons for this haha.  Great news to share, I made the team!  I will be representing Canada over the 8-stage World Cup Tour, taking place in Gatineau, Montreal, Quebec City and Canmore.  I have always idealized the notion of being an all-around skier, capable in all disciplines.  For this reason, I avidly follow the Tour de Ski and dream of competing in it.  Ski Tour Canada is essentially the same thing, only better because it’s hosted in Canadian venues!  I am extremely thankful to all the organizers for making this event possible and I’m stoked to have the opportunity to compete in the Tour!

The past month has been entirely Tour focused for me.  I’ve been racing my heart out on the NorAm despite struggling with my energy levels to earn a spot on the Tour team.  My energy has been gradually improving and I’m elated to report I had some killer vibes in my final tune-up intensity yesterday (cross my fingers, knock on wood, wouldn’t want to jinx anything).

You can follow the Tour at skitourcanada.com and watch the live stream at www.cbc.ca/sports.  Unfortunately the Tour ain’t free for us athletes.  Expenses will be in the ballpark of $2500 - $3000.  If you’re interested in becoming a part of my support team, please shoot me an email (mxc_somppi@msn.com) and I’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible.

Go Canada Go!
A bronze for me and a podium sweep for NDC TBay in Mont St Anne!
Eastern Canadian Championships 15km Skate Victory!  A big day for me towards qualifying for Ski Tour Canada.  Below is a photo from the race.  I was ecstatic to claim my first big win of the season. 

Lead pack of 5 in the Western Canadian Championships 20km Classic Mass Start.  I had a blast skiing in the lead group with my club teammates Evan and Andy.  Unfortunately I hit a patch of ice on the final descent into the stadium, costing me a podium result and a chance for a Lappe podium sweep.  You can see the look of exasperation on my face as I wind up 4th place.  Big ups to Evan for claiming his first NorAm victory!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Rocky New Year

Well… it’s been a bumpy ride for me since I returned from Europe.  I arrive home on December 21st, sick and exhausted from the travel.  With the holidays in full bloom, I hustled around town Christmas shopping and visiting family.  As soon as I felt healthy enough I was back training hard, trying to squeeze in some volume, strength, and Lappe’s annual Boxing Day race.  I was rebounding pretty well until I came down with a random stomach bug that wiped me out completely for a day.  Two days later, on New Year’s Day, I was on the road to Houghton, Michigan.

This was all a bit crazy, but I couldn’t rationalize missing out on a chance to race US Nationals when it was only a 7.5-hour drive away.  At this point, some low-key volume training in Thunder Bay and a break from intensity would have been best for me, but the races weren’t going to wait on me so off to the States I went.

I was racing with low energy in Houghton and every race I had to really dig deep, yet I managed to have some decent results.  I certainly was hoping for more, but based on the circumstances I am satisfied to walk away with a couple top tens and a podium.

15km Classic: 10th place
Skate Sprint: 8th place
30km Skate: 3rd place

Above: Start of the 30km Skate Mass Start at US Nationals.  I'm bib #102.
Below: Leading the race with fellow Canadian, Kevin Sandau.

US National Championship 30km Podium
Ok, made it through US Nationals, now time to take a little break right?  Nope.  I had 6 days to try to recover then prime myself for a NorAm weekend in Thunder Bay… why do I do this to myself?  Ha ha.  That’s easy to answer, I love racing!  Sometimes to the point where it’s counter productive as in this particular scenario.

I felt so primed for Thursday’s skate sprint!  The qualifier felt awesome until I crested the main climb and the fatigue kicked in.  All through the heats it was the same thing.  My body would fail on me before I expected it to and there was just no fighting past it.  I ended the day in 7th, missing out on the A-Final.

Friday’s 15km classic was where I really fell apart.  First big climb I could feel it.  I had nothing in my legs.  I had been running on fumes and the tank was finally empty.  There was no fight left in me.  I ended up 9th place, a full 2 minutes behind in a race I had expected to be battling for the win.

I was done.  Cooked.  No 30km Skiathalon for me.  As fate had it, the 30km was cancelled due to cold temperatures anyway!  Time to take that rest I needed when I first arrived home from Europe.  Time to recover properly.

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