Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome! My name is Michael Somppi and I am a competitive cross-country skier. I am a member of both Canada's National Ski Team and the Alberta World Cup Academy based out of Canmore, AB. 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.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Continental Skiers of 2015

Thanks FasterSkier for the Honourable Mention and congratulations to Dakota, Rosie and Chelsea on their awesome 2015 seasons!
Check out the link here.

Monday, April 20, 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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Patience & Faith

When trying to accomplish something great you must possess both patience and faith.  Patience, for greatness is not achieved in a small time frame but is derived from countless hours of practice.  Faith, for you must believe in yourself and your game plan.  By game plan I am referring to your practice methods and your big picture plan to achieve greatness.

Last year I pushed myself to the limit and then pushed it further during the training season.  In my exhausted state, my performances began to suffer and I gradually lost faith in my game plan.  I ran out of patience and yearned for a quick fix.  My confidence was shattered.

What I have learned from this experience is the importance of patience and faith.  This season I am attempting to utilize patience and faith to help me reach greater performance levels.

How am I doing this?  For me it begins with understanding the big picture plan.  At the beginning of the season I discussed the outlines of a big picture plan with my coach.  We each gave our input on all aspects regarding ski training, such as training hours, technique focuses, intensity focuses, mental health, strength training, performance goals etc.  My coach then worked to develop a big picture plan taking all these aspects into account.  I reviewed the plan, asked questions about anything I didn’t understand and suggested any tweaks I could think of.  A big picture plan like this isn’t set in stone; it is constantly in flux, being modified to accommodate changes in logistics, energy, health, etc.  Ideally however, the method/process and overarching goal of the big picture plan will not change and understanding the method/process of this plan helps me to have faith and confidence in the plan.

Once I have developed my big picture plan and clearly understand the method/process of the plan, then I can make smarter decisions when modifying it because I am better able to keep the priorities of my plan as a focus and the overarching goal in mind.  For me it’s important to maintain good honest communication with my coach regarding my energy levels as I have a tendency to over do it.  My coach can then provide suggestions and remind me to not stray from my plan’s priorities.

Where patience and faith come into play most for me is during the transition period from training to racing.  During the training season it’s ok to be really tired sometimes.  It’s not a big deal if your performance in a workout is not at its pinnacle.  When you hit the race season though, that all changes.  Making this shift is difficult for me.  Coming out of the training season I am generally not performing at my peak right out of the gate, my body takes some time to transition.  There is a recovery period after the training season and a sharpening period over the first few weekends of racing.  After working so hard all year it can be challenging mentally to stay the course when performances are initially below expectations.  I need to have patience and faith that my plan will lead me to success.

To give you a concrete example of what I am talking about, this season I started out racing on the Super Tour circuit in the U.S.  I had completed a very good month of training in November and my body was feeling a little worn out when I travelled to the first weekend of races which also happened to be at an altitude of 2000m (making the recovery process a little slower).  I was ranked in the top 6 for each race.  I finished 35th and 23rd.  Frustration.  Disappointment.  The next weekend on the Super Tour I was again ranked in the top 6 for both races and finished 34th and… 13th.  A glimpse of light.  On to the next weekend, the first NorAm of the season: similar level of competition and I finished 3rd and 4th.  Now I was mixing it up with guys who were dusting me the past two weekends.  In the final weekend of NorAm racing before Christmas, I finished 13th and 3rd.  My 3rd place performance was probably my best effort of the early season.

According to my big picture plan I was on track.  The training I completed in November was critical to providing a strong foundation so I could perform well in January and February.  The tradeoff was jeopardizing my performances in December a little.  For this big picture plan to work I had to be patient and have faith in the plan.  I had to understand why I wasn’t performing to my potential at first and that the present struggle would be worth it later in the season.  When you are a competitive person it’s really hard mentally to perform below your expectations.  Last year I was unable to move past this mental barrier.  I lost faith, lost patience, and lost confidence.  My racing suffered all season as a consequence.  This season I battled to stay patient, maintain faith and be confident through those difficult early season races.  I stayed the course.  Sure I was frustrated, but I didn’t let it shatter my resolve.  As a result, my performances improved according to plan and so did my confidence.

Sport is not rosy all the time.  You could replace sport with life in that sentence if you want to get philosophical.  The greats don’t win every time they compete.  In fact, even the greats lose more than they win.  I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I've lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan.  If you want to achieve something great not only do you need a well thought out plan, you also need patience and faith to help get you through the hard times that you will face along your path to greatness.

Skiing to my first NorAm victory of the season and first EVER NorAm sprint win this past weekend in Canmore.
Used my new-found sprinting confidence to claim another win the following day in the 20km Skate Mass Start.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Making Memories

Say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn months!  My favourite time of year is here.  Crisp cool mornings and warm afternoons.  Snow in the mountain peaks (or just everywhere in Canmore) and hues of yellow, orange, and red in the leaves.  Football season is upon us and my fantasy team has been drafted!  Not feeling overly confident with my roster this year…

Training has gone about as smoothly as I could hope for with limited sickness and injury.  I spent June in Canmore building fitness, making progress in the gym with a new strength program and learning the basics of climbing at the indoor climbing wall.  July was a busy month of training in Canmore with plenty of quality intensity sessions and routine strength sessions combined with solid volume.  I was a lucky guy to have Britt visit me for the month of July.  The hot weather had us making regular nighttime visits to the quarry for a cool off swim before bed.  Before the month was out we took a short road trip to Vernon accompanied by our friend, Jack Carlyle, to visit the resident banger Dudley Coulter.  A good time was had by all: soaking in some Okanagan Valley rays and shredding the mountain bike trails at Kal Park (well, let’s be honest, getting shredded up by the trails…).

Britt and I travelled home to Thunder Bay near the beginning of August for my sister’s much anticipated wedding!  It was great to visit family and meet my new brother-in-law’s relatives.  I can vividly recall my sister walking down the aisle with my father, an acoustic rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” being plucked in the background, looking beautiful, all grown up, and full of joy.  It was an emotional moment.  All in all it was a joyous celebration and I was bummed I had to jet out of town so quickly after the wedding.  Fortunately before the wedding I had enough time to spend a weekend at Britt’s camp on Lake Superior, catch up with a few friends, catch a few fish with Andrew (the groom) and his two best buds, and face off with the local NDC guys in a couple running races.  I’m happy to report I am now the record holder of the Lappe 3km Uphill Running Time Trial, being the first person to crack 11 minutes!  Who knows how long this will stand, but it was good for the ol’ confidence to dust my previous best time by over 30 seconds.

The reason I had to rush back to Canmore was our team’s Haig Glacier training camp.  The first few days were a little bumpy for me as I had to fend off an upset stomach, mild fever and loss of appetite, but I was able to push through it without missing much.  The focus was volume and volume was accomplished with roughly 50 hours of training in two weeks.  It’s always nice to strap on the skinny skis and train on real snow in the summer months.  I capped off the training block with a maximal effort on the roller ski treadmill, then enjoyed a few days of rest and recovery, hence the writing of a blog post haha.

The summer months were awesome and I’m looking forward to more good times this fall.  I’m super stoked on my schedule!  I travelled to Thunder Bay yesterday to spend the rest of September living with Britt and training in my old stomping grounds.  Then I’ve got a flight to Salt Lake City at the end of the month for a two week training camp in Park City, Utah where the warmer weather will be a welcome treat in October.  A long drive back to Canmore post-training camp and a week of recovery will bring me to skiing on Frozen Thunder and the first local races of the season.  From there it’s only a couple weeks of training in November and the competition season begins!

This is all starting to get a bit wordy so I’ll leave you with a bunch of photos because I know that’s the real reason you clicked on this post.

Top: Patrick and Kevin making their way up Powderface Mountain
Bottom: Seb and Kevin at the summit of Mt. Allan (2819m) 

Backflip central at the Calgary Stampede
Top and Bottom: Britt hanging out on Wind Ridge

Can you guess what we're about to do?
Top: Look Ma, I'm Flying!!!
Bottom: Britt taking over the parachute controls like a boss

WOOHOO!  Mission accomplished.
Top: The boys out in Kal Park, Vernon
Bottom: Jack and I goofing around on a run near Mara Lake

Top: The wedding party looking bright and summery.  Congrats Krista and Andrew!
Bottom: Britt and I dancing the night away

The best day of our glacier camp caught on camera by my awesome roommate, Russell!  It's easy to take the Haig Glacier for granted as I've been up there a number of times now, but it really is an incredible place.