On how Passport 2 Pain was my first group ride

At the beginning of July, two weeks after my first ride, my friend Teresa popped the question: do you want to join me on Vashon Island’s Passport 2 Pain ride in September? We’ll do the easiest version, so it will only be 30 miles and 3400 feet of elevation gain.

Right… only that. Passport 2 Pain claims to be the toughest ride in Puget Sound.

I had this idea that riding hills was much harder than hiking uphill, and would not be possible for me to be ready in 9 weeks. But I am strange in some ways. I thought about it more and decided that the least I could do was try. I signed up.

We started to study the peculiarities of the ride. Vashon Island is famous for its hilly terrain; perfect for both misery and enjoyment. All P2P courses follow the same devilish pattern to gain elevation: go down a hill to a dead end, eat, drink, climb back up, and do it again many times over. The Weenie version, which we signed up to do, has 7 checkpoints and as many hills, a great entry-level course. But sticking to the south side of the island meant that we would be missing out on Burma Road, a famous 17% grade hill included in the Weasel and the Idiot courses. Surely we could at least drive it and see how it looked?

A few weeks later we did the Bellevue replica of the ride. Same distance and elevation. I survived with no issues. I realized there is clearly an advantage to be had when you’ve been climbing mountains for a while. By the end of August I was already thinking the Weenie would be perhaps too easy…

And so we took the ferry to Vashon Island on a Friday afternoon and curiosity got the better of us. Burma Road turned out to be soooo beautiful and tempting.

We got up at 6:00 AM to a sunny and cold morning.

P2P start line at Jensen Point

The support we encountered far exceeded expectations. Fresh watermelon with a handful of M&Ms at one stop. PB&J sandwiches at another. Electrolyte water and cheering everywhere.

Halfway through the Weanie route we were feeling great, and of course decided to keep going a bit further. A hybrid route would not be a bad idea. Soon we were face to face with the very steep segment of awesomeness. ‘This is where it gets ugly’ read the sign. And ugly it got.

Sign at the base of Burma Road

On the verge of losing momentum due to my very low speed, I was forced to get off the saddle, which pumped up the effort. An eternity later I reached the end of the hill just as I was about to lose my fight against dizziness. I was beyond ecstatic. That climb was one of most rewarding physical efforts of my life.

After that we had more than earned our share of the barbecue. Back to the start/finish line we went. Mission accomplished.


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