By Jeff Hoyt
For The Beachcomber
For the past nine years, Vashon Island Rowing Club has staged the Passport2Pain bike ride, inviting cyclists from around the region (and beyond) to take on the island’s steepest and most challenging hills.
The event quickly gained a reputation for being one of the toughest in the Puget Sound with riders also declaring it to be some of the wackiest fun they’ve ever had during an organized ride. This year would have been the tenth annual P2P, an opportunity to celebrate a “Decade of Pain.”
Then, 2020 turned into an entire “Year of Pain.”
As organized bike rides across the country were deleted from event calendars like they never existed, the creative minds at VIRC got busy to find a safe way to offer a physical challenge that could meet the moment.
“We knew that we couldn’t have our usual P2P with large groups riding together,” said P2P Co-Producer Zabette Macomber, “but being outside with one other rider to challenge you to go up another monster hill? Perfect!”
In the end, it was decided that this year’s P2P would become a private and personal odyssey for participants, with riders encouraged to seek out hills and elevation gain anywhere they can find them on Saturday, Sept. 12. Riders can attain P2P’s sought-after Tourist, Weenie, Weasel or Idiot designations by tracking their ascents of hills closer to their homes.
This special “VP2P” ride will sport a reduced entry fee of $60 with proceeds split this year between the rowing club, the Vashon Food Bank and the Vashon DOVE Project. Island entrants are asked to begin their ride closer to home and not the usual start at Jensen Point.
Despite the obvious restrictions, VIRC organizers have plenty of ideas that should make this most unusual version of Passport2Pain memorable.
Vashon Island Rowing Club’s Junior team will combine in an effort to cumulatively summit Mt. Everest three times — that’s 87,105 feet of elevation gained in a single day on Sept. 12.
“P2P is such a huge part of what VIRC has become,” said Coach Ben Steele. “The juniors know it not only as an opportunity to challenge themselves but as a chance to raise money and support the club and other island organizations.”
Participating junior rowers are collecting pledges toward their climbing efforts from friends, family and island businesses. Anyone interested in supporting their “Triple Everest” attempt can do so at passport2pain.com.
In order to replace the delightful and inventive checkpoints, the support that comes from mutual suffering and the camaraderie of the post-ride barbecue, organizers will add to the virtual festivities with a closely monitored Instagram feed and a live simulcast of the event on Voice of Vashon. “KVSH” will become “KV-P2P” for a four-hour broadcast, co-hosted by Jeff Hoyt, Tara Morgan and Jim Marsh.
“We’re asking riders to download the VoV app and tune in during the ride,” said Marsh, also known to riders as The Burma Devil. “We’ll air call-ins from riders and on-air challenges to friends, near and far, to hit vertical goals for the day. Who knows? The Burma Devil himself might even show up!”
The live broadcast, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on VP2P Day will feature music from a playlist curated by the riders themselves and filled with songs that would help anyone ascend the toughest of hills. The radio show will also include drawings for prizes that include P2P hats, socks and t-shirts, free registrations for P2P 2021, molded water bottle cages from new Island business Normal Bicycles, a gift certificate for kayaking or e-biking with Vashon Adventures and more.
“P2P has always been a serious challenge dressed up as a fun party,” said Co-Producer Colby Atwood, “so some of the prize drawings this year will be for people who send us a picture of themselves riding their Virtual P2P in a movie-themed costume.”
Passport2Pain is the twisted brainchild of Vashon Island Rowing Club, which wanted to turn their brutish off-season training rides into a way to increase financial aid for the club’s junior rowers while also helping to maintain their growing fleet of boats. VIRC’s share of this year’s proceeds will go toward keeping the club’s coaches on staff until normal operations can resume.
— Jeff Hoyt is an audiobook narrator by day and a VIRC rower by (earlier in the) day.