Riders make their way up the steep Gold Beach hill in a previous Passport to Pain. (Courtesy Photo)

Riders make their way up the steep Gold Beach hill in a previous Passport to Pain. (Courtesy Photo)

Passport to Pain to ride for another year

  • Wednesday, September 11, 2019 3:30pm
  • Sports

The Vashon Island Rowing Club (VIRC) is set to host its infamous Passport 2 Pain bicycle ride fundraiser beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14.

Organizers expect about 400 riders for the event. The heartiest will pedal an 80-mile loop from Vashon’s Jensen Point, climbing 10,000 feet up Vashon’s steep hills on a course called The Idiot. They will be supported by 18 checkpoints along the way, where costumed volunteers in movie-themed sets will serve food and drink — and put stamps in their passports.

Less ambitious riders can tackle a 30-mile, 3,400-foot elevation gain version of the course called The Weenie. Those torn between trying to be an Idiot or admitting to being a Weenie can opt for The Weasel, riding 50 miles and climbing 6,400 feet. Folks who want to be part of the fun but skip most of the pain can ride The Granny, 12 miles with 800 feet of vertical.

All who participate may take part in the catered barbecue back at Jensen Point Park.

Passport 2 Pain, or P2P, has become a bucket-list experience for many riders and a season capstone for others. About half the riders are new to the event each year, and there is a handful of rugged souls who have ridden all eight previous P2Ps. More than three-fourths of the riders came from off-island last year, representing 10 states. Almost two-thirds of the participants chose to ride The Idiot, and 90% of them completed the course, returning to the barbecue sporting the coveted handlebar streamers issued at the final checkpoint.

In the spirit of the event, Jim Marsh, the executive director of the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce, has created and assumed the role of The Devil of Burma Road, stationing himself near the top of P2P’s toughest hill in full devil costume — with pitchfork — to exhort flagging riders over the top.

P2P isn’t a race; no times are kept and riders start off in small groups to keep from clogging the island’s rural roads. Everyone is encouraged to stop and enjoy the checkpoints and the views along the way. Organizers say many riders linger at the finish-line barbecue trading stories, debating which checkpoints were the most clever or outlandish or just plain weird, and cheering later finishers.

The idea for P2P emerged from the bike cross-training that many of Vashon’s rowers do over the summer, making a virtue of the island’s notoriously hilly terrain. VIRC enlists its members and several community groups to staff the checkpoints. Proceeds from the event are shared with participating groups and help the Vashon Island Rowing Club maintain its fleet of rowing shells. One-third of sponsor revenue and all direct donations from riders go to financial aid for the club’s junior rowers.

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