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YOMP = Your Own Marching Pace, ergo To YOMP = to travel at Your Own Marching Pace. “My own marching pace.” “My own marching pace.” “My own marching…”

I repeated those words to myself over and over again as I tried to run with my bike, laden with camping gear, through soft sandy dirt interspersed by patches of snow. I was close to the top of Big Pine Mountain - the highest elevation on our route through the San Rafael Mountain range. It was getting dark and I didn’t want to be trapped overnight at the highest and coldest point. It had already taken me nearly 12 hours to cover 95km of my planned 186km for the day. Day 2 of the Rapha Yomp Rally was pushing my physical and mental limits beyond anything I had ever experienced before. But ... fear is a strong motivator, so I put my head down and focused on marching.

misty mountain

Looking back, if I had known the challenge that lay ahead, I’m not sure I would have said yes to the Yomp Rally. This realization has given my experience so much more impact, because, for the first time in my life, it’s an effort of which I can be unequivocally proud.

Rapha’s Yomp Rally is a self-supported, bike-packing rally. Riders are encouraged to finish in 5 days so they can join the dinner party on Tuesday evening. Riders must follow the same route: north from Santa Barbara, through the two primary mountain ranges of the San Rafael Wilderness area - the San Rafael Mountains and the Sierra Madres. The start in Santa Barbara leads straight into a climb up one of California’s most famous climbs, Gibraltar, after which it heads northeast of Santa Maria to the entrance of the wilderness area. Once in the wilderness, riders pick their way through the San Rafael mountains to the highest point, Big Pine, sitting at 2100m before descending down, climbing the dirt section of Gibraltar to loop back through Santa Barbara. The final stretch continues south on a mix of gravel and pavement to, eventually climb up Mulholland from the PCH to finish at the Rapha store in downtown Santa Monica. A total of 630km, 13,600m of climbing and a challenging remote section that demands complete self-sufficiency.

miranda portrait

My brief foray into the gravel world quickly taught me the need to be ambitious with your goals. If not made big enough, crazy enough, you’ll finish knowing, always knowing, “there’s more out there”. So ... There's only one way to approach these opportunities. Try for the impossible to see what happens.


Goal for YOMP Rally: Complete the ride in 3 days. I would have to average over 200km/4535m a day.

 And so it began.

Canyon Grizl and banana

Friday, May 5. DAY 1:

The feelings of anxiety were increasing more and more leading up to the event, so it was a relief to wake up and it was finally time to begin. I’m so inexperienced in events of this kind that prep time is torture. I don’t know what I’m supposed to bring, I can’t guess the weather, judge how much food to pack ... There is one thing I do know: this will be the most time I’ve ever spent sitting on a saddle.

I arrived at the starting point feeling the novice I was. I was a gravity rider in the midst of endurance GOATs like Lael Wilcox. Luckily, I found Andrew Jackson. He is a friend who, much like his brother, is someone who makes me feel at ease right away and with whom conversation flows effortlessly. We rolled out of the Handlebar Cafe’s parking lot in the rain, I was happy to be moving and Andrew and I built into the first half of the climb together. Through-out the event I looked forward to the times Andrew would catch me and we’d take a minute to swap stories.

Goal for Day 1: Make it to the entrance of the wilderness area, approximately a 215 km ride and climb close to 5000m.

Los Olivos (135km in) was the last chance for food and bottled water. So Goal 1 of Day 1 became: make it to Los Olivos before the stores shut to resupply with enough gear/food to last the remaining 80km of Day 1, camp for the night and then ride Day 2’s goal of 186km. My brain seemed to have lost its Planning Function. So I just bought a bunch of water, some pickles and a honey bun and strapped in for the last 80km of the day.

At 185km, I filled my bottles in a creek, convinced a guy in a SUV not to follow me for the remaining 20km. I know he was just being nice because it was dark out…with no cell service…in the middle of nowhere…but I preferred to stay alone. I did dip a little at this point. Couldn’t I just sleep here instead of pushing on another 30km which, on a loaded gravel bike, takes a shockingly long time. Eventually, however, I rolled off the highway onto Old Sierra Madre Road in the deep dark and found a place to use my bivy for the first time ever. Too tired to cook my Rustic Three Cheese Lasagna I took some ibuprofen and climbed into my sleeping bag. I was sticky and tired, but able to fall asleep content in the knowledge I had completed, successfully, the biggest and hardest ride of my life.

miranda pines

Saturday, May 6. DAY 2.

I was eager to get going. Judging by my Day 1 success, Day 2 should also be possible, although I did anticipate it to be the hardest day as it was 100% off road and completely remote with limited water and little shade.

Goal for Day 2: Ride 186km/4500m to finish in a hotel in Carpinteria, just past Santa Barbara. Shower.

The day started well with a beautiful 1200m climb up a road which wrapped its way around the edge of the mountain - higher and higher. Much of California, in my experience, is loud, crazy and full of traffic. I have often tried to picture California before all the people, and this place felt as if I’d been transported back in time. Remote and rugged beauty sitting in silence. My spirits were good, the body felt ok, and mentally I was doing great by focusing on the present undertaking, not the enormity of the future.

At about 55km I passed through Painted Rock in the Los Padres National Forest, and I was hit with what would become the worst hour of bike riding I have ever experienced. The ground, once muddy but now baked hard, had been shaped by cattle into steep, harsh bumps. It was relentless, painful and my pace became excruciating slow. It was pretty dry and I was wildly unsuccessful at finding water refills. I began to ration everything I had left. One bottle was filled with a drink mix that changed water into more of a gel-like consistency. It also had a purification tablet and was now warmed by the midday sun. It was like sipping hot pool water…

At 85km came Chokecherry Springs and fresh water – finally! Now I was only 10km from the summit of Big Pine Mountain. Only 10k more of climbing, I had fresh water and after that? A HUGE descent back to Santa Barbara. My optimism was back! I filled my bottles and set off for the last push to the summit. And that optimistic high rapidly dissipated. Severe storms had wreaked havoc on the roads which steadily became worse and worse. The piles of rocks, over which one had to climb, became bigger and more aggressive. The fallen trees, thicker and higher. Underfoot the terrain became a mix of patches of snow and soft sandy dirt. Unable to ride, I was constantly on and off my bike.

At 95km I finally reached the top. I was 12hours in, exhausted and nervous. It was getting dark and I had a huge descent in front of me. Oh well ... at least it was downhill…

I had missed, apparently, the memo alerting us to budget between 4-6 hours to cover the storm ravaged descent. The wash-outs got worse. It had long gotten dark, I hadn’t really eaten or had anything to drink in a while. I pulled over to plug my phone in and the next moment I was on my hands and knees puking up hot pool water.


At 119km, I took, once again, an ibuprofen for dinner and crawled into my bivy, next to my pile of puke and broken dreams. I didn’t sleep much. I was shivering and uncomfortable in my lumpy ditch. But, and it was I now realize, a part of me felt proud. There were so many times I thought about pulling over, but I willed myself to continue, not wanting to give up. I’d never achieved such tenacity before. I had often caved in mentally and quit, before my body declared it over. So ... while this state of exhaustion was not something I wanted to repeatedly seek, this overcoming was something to remember with pride and for inspiration.

snacks along the way
pushing through the night

Sunday, May 7. DAY 3

I reassessed my plans. Falling short on Day 2, meant Santa Monica was out of the question today.

Reassessed Goal for Day 3: Ride 200km/3500m to my friend Mckay Vezinas in Newbury Park.

I had another 30km left of picking my way through wash-outs and sinkholes before I finally reached the bottom. Full of a disgusting amount of Mcdonalds, I was back feeling good and beginning to simply enjoy the ride, and relish being anywhere but that frigging mountain.


At 100km, climbing Sulfur Mountain (north of Ventura) offered some enjoyable gravel and good views. Santa Paula brought a brief stop to eat Pringles and Ritz crackers. It was getting dark and I still had 50km until Mckay’s house. This section included a climb so steep they had to walk it during the Tour of California. I tried not to feel overwhelmed again. Time to plug in an audiobook and focus on moving forward, being present and not getting lost in the dream of finishing.


My light died on the final trail section before climbing into Newbury Park. I was so close! The trail entrances had become overgrown and damaged during the winter. I was suddenly plagued by a return of irrational fears including coyotes and getting lost. Once again, I had to double down to find the will to push a little further, and managed, somehow, to find my way through the overgrown mess onto the road out and towards the lights. Cindy, Mckays mom, had a warm meal, a comfortable bed and my first shower ready and waiting. Nothing felt better than lying down in a proper bed. By this point, at 3 days, 530km and 11,950m of climbing, body & mind were feeling pretty mangled.

ride camp
early morning snack

Monday, May 8. DAY 4

It was hard to leave the comforts of Mckay’s house and get back on the bike. The good news was, I had only 100km of fairly familiar terrain left as I’d ridden most of it before.

Goal for Day 4: Finish

I rode through Point Mugu State Park and onto the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). Cindy’s freshly baked cookies kept me going up the first big push of Mulholland.

By this time, my body was really uncomfortable. My knees were angry, I couldn’t feel my feet and neither standing nor sitting was comfortable. Andrew caught up to me just outside Calabasas and gave me a small amount of solace when I found that he, too, was experiencing all the same physical ailments as I.


Refueled by olives and potato wedges, I left Calabasas and focused on one pedal stroke at a time, climbing up dirt Mulholland to crest the hill and drop into Santa Monica. I made a point to enjoy the descent - while dodging distracted drivers in luxury cars - to make it to the doorstep of Rapha’s Los Angeles clubhouse.

I was done. I finished it. I didn’t finish it in 3 days, but that didn’t matter, this wasn’t a race it was a rally. And I rallied. And I tried as hard as I could. In fact, I tried harder than I knew I could.

This was a really unusual event for me. It wasn’t a race. There was no registration fee. It was entirely up to the participants, not the event organizers, to dictate what our experience would be. If it had been a race and I had ended the ride by looking at a results sheet, I know I would have felt some level of failure, no matter what I knew of my ride and personal achievements. Instead I ended with a swollen body, numb and painful feet, twitching muscles, an insatiable appetite, and an immense sense of pride that I had said yes. It was special. Thank you and hats off to the Rapha Yomp Rally. To the company, the staff and to all the other amazing riders I crossed trails and trials along the way.

rest and bike