The National 400 is an Audax event which happens annually and alternates between the north and south of the UK. All Saints Academy, Ingleby Barwick played host to the start of this year’s event, 26/27 July 2014, and I had volunteered to be an extra pair of hands at one of the western controls as I was specifically looking forward to a night time stint.
Rob was our control manager, and his team was Joyce, Conrad, Chris, Denise, Corrine and myself. Tasks were divided between cooking and cleaning, serving and tidying, control admin, mechanical support and water bottles. I was on the serving and tidying team, running backwards and forwards taking food orders, picking up, serving, providing hot and cold drinks, desserts and clearing tables.
Our first rider; Ian, arrived at 7:30pm; just 9.5 hours after leaving Ingleby Barwick and 237km into the ride. Our last rider had become slightly lost and added extra kilometres to the route, arriving at 12:30am; 5 hours later. In between the bulk of riders came through between 9pm and 11pm and this was the busiest time for making everyone welcome and fed/watered.
We only had one mechanical; which Denise sorted while the rider ate. The food was cleared from every plate; homemade pizza; baked potatoes, bean-on-toast; apple or peach crumble and custard. Tea/Coffee/Cola/OJ/Apple/Water/Milk… the choice was diverse and there was plenty of good quality food without meat for everyone. As well as some meat-eating specifics like a homemade chorizo pizza.
There were seven of us manning this fully catered halfway control offering hot food and somewhere to close eyes and rest; and I don’t think we could have managed with less in the team. It felt quite hectic at one point; but thankfully the riders had spaced themselves out.
The weather had started so well, but from about 8pm it was raining and every person on our doorstep was drenched. This seemed to be the reason we had quite long wait times; riders were reluctant to head back out into the sodden skies.
We had one rider we couldn’t track, but thankfully we had a text at 1:45am letting us know the rider had packed in riding and was making their way home; so after a beer and chat we were settling down for some sleep ourselves by 2:15am.
I was up at 4:30am with Rob and after a coffee and packing his car we headed off back to our families feeling like a job had been well done, riders were happy and the team had worked together excellently.
Volunteering on Audax events can be very tiring; but I have found it really rewarding; especially seeing the tired and bedraggled faces arriving; and waving off fairly cheerful and strengthened cyclists into the second half of the event.