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Beardcicle Chronicles: Let’s Get Cyclical!


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It is November, almost December, and the riding really, well, to be frank, sucks on a number of levels. The lack of snow, the fact that I have to wash the dust off the bike after every ride, the fact that where the trails aren’t bone dry they are either icy or frost heaved. It all sucks.

On Black Friday, the Mat-Su Ski and Snowboard Club worked with REI to put on an #optout event at Government Peak Recreation Area (GPRA). As one commenter asked, “Are you f#cking kidding me?” Yeah, I get his point. The whole corporatization of rebellion and all.

But they provided cookies and cocoa.

Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers (VMBaH) was asked to help out by leading a bike ride. And, given that REI has been quite generous with providing grant money to the GPRA efforts of both the ski club and VMBaH and because I needed an “excuse” to go ride my bike, I said sure.

Granted, there’s no snow at GPRA, so the skiers settled for a hike while the bikers were few. Temperatures were a bit chilly, but, moreover, everyone who’d been biking up there recently knew how crap the conditions were. But no big deal. A ride is a ride is a ride.

Fortunately, conditions hadn’t gotten worse over what they were on the prior Sunday when I was out there. Some of the frost heaves had been beaten down by riders and most of the worst ones had lines through them now.

We headed out and made our climb up to the new trails (now officially named Monk’s Hood). Monk’s Hood is our semi-black diamond trail with rock gardens, table-tops, and doubles. It is an absolutely insanely fun trail to bomb down. Though, with the conditions, one has to be a bit careful. Icy ruts heading into a bermed corner… well, bad things can happen.

Everyone made it down Monk’s Hood without incident and the group decided to head back up and complete Fireweed Loop before heading back to the parking lot. The layout of all the trails at GPRA is that you climb the first half and descend the second half. Reaching the apex of Fireweed, we spaced out and hit it hard, enjoying the feeling of speed and the cool (cold) wind.


I’d hit and landed every jump and railed every curve on Monk’s Hood. Fireweed shouldn’t be an issue. As the trail descends there is tight, bermed corner that flows into another corner twisting the opposite direction. When conditions are right, you come into this second curve hot and drift around the curve. When conditions aren’t right, you scrub a bit of speed coming into the curve, then hammer the peddles at the apex in preparation for the jump line.

On Friday I came in hot. Way too hot and I knew it. I tried to cut the corner, to salvage things. Instead, I cut the corner, jumped off a rock, and hit a big old patch of ice in the trail as I landed. A poor landing in even the best of conditions — front wheel first and off-balance.

Of course the inevitable outcome occurred. I went down and went down hard. Knocked the wind out of myself. Jammed elbow into ribs. Jammed a rock into other ribs.

When I got home later that afternoon I noted that I had scrapes up and down my left side, even through multiple layers of clothing.

I didn’t feel too rough, though. A bit stiff, but not horrible. I knew that I’d at least bruised some ribs, but no big deal.

I woke on Saturday and felt stiff and sore, but again, not as bad as I thought I would. So, I went back up to GPRA to give the trails another go. Get back up on the horse and all.

I took them slow. Each bump sending little flurries of pain through my ribs. My lower back hurt as well, probably from compensating for the painful ribs and trying to hold myself stiff and upright to prevent the ribs from moving.

I did one turn of all of the trails and called it a day. Breathing was a bit difficult and I was sore.

That night, at around two in the morning, I let one of the dogs into the bedroom. As I was adjusting myself in the bed, I heard and felt a loud pop from the ribs on my left side. There was a sharp bit of pain. Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Sunday morning I woke up in much, much worse pain than Saturday — every movement causing ripples of pain to arise from my ribs. I didn’t go for a bike ride or a run on Sunday.

This morning, Monday, I am still in a whole bunch of pain. And now, something odd: my left heel feels as though someone hit it overnight with a ball-peen hammer. I can’t put any pressure on it.

I’m falling apart here.

I’m getting too old for this.

Or maybe not. Maybe I should think about riding with pads on, though?

Phil was born and raised in the Midwest. He moved to Alaska in 2010 and started his bike commuting life then and hasn't looked back yet. He is primarily focused on how bikes can be used to supplant other forms of transportation, when it makes sense to do so, but he is also interested in how to combine different forms of alternative transportation to create a sustainable and enjoyable commute. Besides cycling, Phil works as a business analyst, is a recovering poet, teaches technical writing, and still harbors a dream to write a great novel some day.

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