Welcome to my Blog!

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.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Having Fun and Training Hard

It’s the heart of summer.  I don’t bother to check the forecast anymore.  In Kelowna, it’s above 30C and sunny.  I turn the kettle on at 6:30am and I’m out the door early to finish my morning workout before 10am.  The afternoon siesta is real; prime recovery time.  Early dinner and out for an evening training session when the air is cooling off and the sky is turning hues of pink and orange.  This has become a standard focused training day for me in Kelowna.  Loving it!

Evening ski in our new backyard with my TBay training partner, Greg.
Before any of this BC routine stuff, I was home in TBay for the Alignment Training Camp with a bunch of skiers from across the country.  The 10-day camp had a great mix of intensity sessions and training locations, plus it was extremely well organized!  Big thanks to the volunteers and the NTDC board for your work behind the scenes to make it all happen!

I was stoked to be able to participate in the entire training camp after receiving a new smaller hand brace a couple days before the camp started.  The small brace gave me wrist mobility while keeping my thumb immobile, allowing me to strap on a ski pole and give’r!  It wasn’t perfect, but it did the job.  Literally 3 days after receiving the brace and testing it out, I was racing downtown using a pole in my left hand after going for a month without one.

Sprint Qualifier (Thanks for the photos skinnyski.com!)
Downtown TBay rollerski race!  Had an awesome time racing. So happy my new left hand brace allowed me to participate!  Big thanks to everyone who made this event possible!


Even made the local news, thanks to the hype surrounding the rollerski race!  Really appreciate the coverage from Thunder Bay's media!  Thanks for recording the clip on your phone Timo!

Brian Gregg checking out the view of Sawyer's Bay from the top of the Chest on the Sleeping Giant.  Great to have Team Gregg in TBay for the camp!
Late night cake cutting with the Bride and Groom.  It was amazing to share this special day with you two!  Congratulations Amanda and Nate!

Last day in Thunder Bay.  Kayak around Caribou Island on Superior with my mom.  You'll have to excuse my poor pano skills on this one.  The boat was tippy ok!
Saying good-bye to friends and family in Thunder Bay is never easy.  The time had come though, so I was back on the plane, off to start my BC life!  I hit the ground running, so to speak.  The day after flying in I was doing recon by foot and bike around the Rutland area where Britt and I are living this summer, searching for potential rollerski roads.  I'm feeling pretty lucky because right from our door I found a 4km climb with quiet side roads that have been perfect for rollerski intensity sessions.

Basically, I haven’t stopped exploring since arriving here.  Greg (room-mate, fellow Thunder Bayian and all around killer dude) has been showing me the best spots and I joined the Telemark gang for a quality intensity session up the 1000m ascent to the Telemark Ski Club.  My mom visited town and surprise, surprise… we explored more!  I capped off my 5-week training block in style, with a striding intensity session up the Big White ski hill.

Enderby Cliffs summit with Britt and Cash.  No problem, eh Cash?! 
Rose Valley run.  Greg's new favourite running spot.  I'm holding out judgement until I do more trails, but I have to admit, Rose Valley is going to be tough to beat.
Okanagon Lake views from Knox Mountain
Chilling at Skaha Lake near Epenticton with mom...don't need to leave the valley for a beach vacation!
Okanagon winery life ain't so bad either.  My mom and I certainly enjoyed the views and a glass or two at Gray Monk.

Myra Canyon Trestles Railway Trail.  Super cool 12km restored railway trail with 18 trestle bridges.  Worth checking out!
Striding intervals up Big White to finish off the training block!  Pretty luck to have a girlfriend and room-mate to join me for this stuff!
It’s pretty much been non-stop since I arrived and finally I’ve made it to my second major rest week of the year.  Since my first one wasn’t all that restful with driving halfway across the country, I have every intention of being a sloth this week and letting the body recover well.  Mega-chill time.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Moving, Injury & Chasing My Dreams

April and last year’s race season feel like distant, far off memories with everything I’ve crammed into the past few months.  To make it official, I am racing one more season in pursuit of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  It’s a little scary to think this is my last chance to fulfill a childhood dream I have chased for years, however, my journey in skiing has been absolutely incredible and qualifying to represent Canada would only be a cherry on top.  I have grown and matured through sport, learned to live an active and healthy lifestyle, travelled all over North America and Europe, and developed lasting friendships.  I even met my amazing partner of 11 years through skiing!  I feel lucky to be so engrained in the Canadian cross-country skiing community.  It’s full of good people who support each other and share a real passion for skiing.  All that said, I’m hungry to compete!

I spent April and May in Thunder Bay, keeping it low key and beginning the training season with consistency.  No fancy trips, no mountain crust skiing adventures, just a simple gradual build into offseason training routines.  I worked for LPL Painters whenever the weather and my schedule permitted.  There were a couple busy weeks in May balancing training and work.  Britt and I moved out of the Marler/Martel home and back into my parent’s home.  Thank you to the Marler/Martel family for the opportunity to house sit!  It was the perfect scenario for us this past year.

Coffee break at Metropolitan Moose with the boys midway through a 157km road ride.
A new aspect for me this season is I’m going for it solo.  After 10 years of life as a training center athlete (7 years NTDC Thunder Bay + 3 years AWCA) I feel I am qualified to be the captain of my own ship.  As such, I spent a good amount of time this spring planning and organizing my season ahead.  Part of my reasoning for taking this path is due to another big change… I moved to Kelowna, BC!

Britt graduated from Thunder Bay’s Northern Ontario Medical School this spring and begins her 5-year residency in Emergency Medicine in July through UBCO and the Kelowna General Hospital.  So proud!!!  We made the move on June 19th, taking 4 days to complete the drive and enjoyed a few stops at our favourite bakeries and hiking spots along the way.

Dr. Britt Bailey!
Our favourite bakery in Revelstoke.  Definitely worth checking out if you're in the neighbourhood!
We love Lake O'hara!  Cold temps, hail and snow won't stop us!  We ran 11km into Lake O'hara and post-holed through the snow to Shaffer Lake.  Will have to go back when the snow has melted to make it to Lake McArthur.
Let’s rewind for a minute.  The title of this blog post reads, “Moving, Injury & Chasing My Dreams”.  We’ve covered moving and chasing my dreams… so…what’s the injury part?  Ok, let me give you a quick recap to build the emotion into it because amateur sport is a passionate pursuit.

In April I focused on recovery and maintaining fitness by easing into offseason training.  In May I followed my training plan to a T; building the hours, strength training, and amount of intensity up gradually.  I was happy with how my fitness felt and confident in my plan.  I joined NTDC Thunder Bay for two of the normal testing workouts to gauge my fitness.  I ran a solid time in the 3km uphill running time trial and beat my previous year’s May time by 10 seconds in the 13.5km skate rollerski time trial in spite of strong head winds.  Confirmation: my shape was good.  I felt ready to build on a quality month of May.

Chatting with Andy (Shields) in my cool down from the rollerski time trial I caught a rock in my ski’s wheel and it stopped dead.  Maybe my reaction speed was slower because of fatigue.  Maybe I made the wrong decision trying to hop on my right ski while I was fully weight transferred in hopes the rock would dislodge and my wheel would roll freely when I landed.  I hit the pavement heavy on my left hand and right elbow.  I began to pull myself up and immediately looked at my left hand. My stomach turned as I saw my thumb was clearly out of place, and I said to Andy, “I think I broke my thumb”.

My ogre hand before my thumb was put back in place.
The long and short of it is I dislocated my thumb at the MCP joint.  I received a full cast at the outset because the emergency doctor said there was a chance I tore ligaments badly enough to require surgery.  I saw a specialist a few days later and was extremely relieved to hear I would not need surgery.  I had the cast removed and switched to a brace at the Hand & Limb Clinic.  After spending June wearing a brace and doing modified training, I’m itching to get back to using my left arm for rollerskiing.  If my legs had a voice, they’d be screaming at my thumb to heal faster after many hours of single pole skate skiing and running.

Now that we have the injury story out of the way, let’s look ahead.  After a sneak peak of living in Kelowna, I flew back to Thunder Bay yesterday for a good friend’s wedding, further assessment and therapy for my injured thumb, and the alignment training camp (all 3 of Canada’s training center teams converging in Thunder Bay for the first time to do a 2-week training camp! ‘Bout time!).

July 12th I will travel back to Kelowna, hopefully with a more functional thumb, and really begin my BC life!  I’m looking forward to joining up with the Telemark Ski Team and AWCA for some awesome training!  I already had the opportunity to join the Telemark crew for a 1000m climb on rollerskis to the Telemark Ski area.  What an incredible training location in Kelowna’s backyard!

Thanks for reading!  I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to chase my dreams and have so much support in my athletic pursuits!

Exploring Kelowna's trails on a 31km run with my new roomie, Greg Kilroy!

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!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Rediscovering My Speed

Rediscovering my speed on skis has been an incredibly huge relief this March.  It’s been a laborious process that began in January after I hit rock bottom in December.  I could have easily given up.  Quit on the spot.  I put so much into my offseason training this year that to fall apart like that in December was a crushing experience.

On the flip side, it was a big learning experience.  I am proud of the resolve I have displayed to maintain focus on the big picture and make smart training decisions to build myself back up.  My biggest goal this training season was to improve my fitness by increasing my annual training hours.  Obviously I hoped racing fast would go hand in hand.  In spite of my December collapse, I am still accomplishing my number one objective this season: I will break the 800 training hour mark for the first time in my skiing career.

Training hours mean nothing if they aren’t producing results though.  This March, I have finally started to find my speed and every time I race and recover, I feel stronger and faster heading into the next race.

My March race schedule began with the Sleeping Giant Loppet 50km Skate.  It’s my hometown’s premier loppet and yet I’ve never raced the full 50km.  This is the first year it fit my race schedule and I was stoked to be part of it!  My body felt amazing off the start line so I pushed the pace out front for much of the first half of the race, hoping a fast paced race would favour my fitness.  I realized around the 30km mark that I wasn’t going to be able to break away for the win: the conditions were too fast, the course was too flat, and it was clear my competition (Andy, Evan and Matt) were also feeling strong.

Leading out the start of the Sleeping Giant Loppet
Photo Credit: John Sims
The pace slowed and we skied together the next 10km waiting for someone to make a move.  We hit the lake with 10km to go and Matt jumped, catching the rest of us off guard.  I chased him down and he went again.  Matt kept the pedal down, attacking relentlessly into the final kms.  He didn’t succeed in dropping anyone, but it was enough to take the sprint out of my legs.  Andy and Evan found another gear in the final meters, while I took a pole tip to the arm from a recreation skier I was attempting to pass and crossed the line in 4th, a few seconds behind.

Frustration and disappointment were the first emotions to hit me.  After racing hard for 50km and feeling so good off the start line, finishing 4th place in a sprint finish sucks.  Looking at it from another perspective, it was the first sub-2 hour 50km I have ever skied and I was a big reason we skied the race that fast.

Winning toques as part of Lappe teams entered in the Loppet!
Photo Credit: John Sims
The next weekend I won the Lappe Invitational 10km Skate.  My first real win of the season!  Although it was only a local race, it was a good confidence boost heading into National Championships.

In Canmore for Nationals the racing kicked off with a team relay ski cross.  The two race courses were roughly 2.4km prologues with a few obstacles like rollers and a small drop.  I teamed up with Gavin Shields for a 3rd place finish and silver medal (2nd Canadian team).  It was only day 3 in Canmore for me and the altitude killed me.  Regardless, we were stoked to win a medal for Lappe!

Tagging off to Gavin Shields in the Club Relay Cross
Photo Credit: Rod Somppi
The next day I went out fast on my first lap in the 10km skate.  I was feeling awesome until again, the altitude hit me and I struggled to breathe in enough oxygen to match my energy output.  I dug deep to finish the race and collapsed across the line, gasping for air like an asthmatic.  I finished 5th place and won a bronze medal (3rd Canadian).

By day 6 in Canmore I felt much more adjusted to the altitude for the 15km classic.  I started conservatively with a challenging race course and conditions to battle.  It paid off as I moved up over the second half of the race to finish 8th place (5th Canadian).

Classic sprint day was the biggest surprise for me.  My qualifier was average, finishing 18th place overall and feeling the fatigue in my legs from the 15km the day before.  For what felt like the first time this season, luck was with me in my quarter-final and semi-final heats as my body magically felt refreshed and I moved through both heats into the A-Final.  My first Nationals A-Final appearance ever!  I faded a little in the final and finished 6th place (4th Canadian), but before this I hadn’t even made it out of a quarter-final heat this season!

Finding some speed in the classic sprint to finish 6th on the day!
Photo Credit: Rod Somppi
The 50km Skate was my focus race.  After two days off racing, I felt ready to take it on.  Conditions were fast racing in the early morning and I did my best to impersonate Alex Harvey, using the downhills and my ski speed to glide to the front of the pack to conserve energy and take in feeds.  BIG shout out to my team-mate, Alannah, for being exceptionally on point with feeds!  I must have taken 10+ feeds through the race to keep my energy levels high.

Leading the 50km through the stadium
Photo Credit: Pam Doyle
My only mistake the whole race was in the final kms and it cost me a shot at gold.  Andy Shields attacked at the top of the course on the second last climb.  I was skiing in 4th position and had the energy to respond.  Without thinking, I stuck like glue to the skier in front of me.  Suddenly, he slowed.  I looked up and saw the top two guys breaking away.  I was too close behind to immediately jump around.  I was forced to slow down, lose my momentum and ski wide around to crest the climb.

I tried to close down the gap, but with only a km to go of mostly downhill, I didn’t stand a chance.  I skied into the finish lanes for bronze, watching the two guys ahead of me sprint each other for the win and wishing I could have been beside them, fighting for gold.  It was my best race of the season, but it left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

Bronze medal in the 50km!  Awesome to have two Lappe skiers on the podium, with Andy Shields in 2nd place!
Photo Credit: Pam Doyle
My consolation prize helped to wash the taste from my mouth.  After 4 strong performances, I am the 2017 Senior Men’s Aggregate National Champion.  Thanks to my family for all the cheering and support in Canmore!  Big thanks to the NTDC Thunder Bay staff for providing us killer skis all week in spite of being worn out from a long race season!

Next up for me, Super Tour Finals in Fairbanks, Alaska!