Sacrifice and Hope

“Are you running a zoo?” I’m stood at the checkout of Aldi with two hundred bananas – but surely the dozen cakes, two jars of coffee and mini packs of haribo sweets give the game away… I’m organising an Audax.

St Helen's Audax

At the end of the 2017 season of Audaxing in the UK, St Helen’s Church and VeloClub 167 collaborated in the organisation of a pair of long distance cycling events; the Humber Bridge 100km and the Humber Bridge 200km. These events attracted over 120 entries from as far afield as Cumbria, Wales, the South East and Northumberland.

Audax start

For me, being an Organiser is a mixture of sacrifice and hope. There is joy in the sacrifice, but not a religious self-flagellation: more a bittersweet joy of giving up something I really love doing, so that others can have a good time.

This involves choices: I could have made this a low key affair. I could have recruited a team of volunteers to cover for me while I rode the event. Instead I was blessed to meet every single rider personally, to set them off… and patiently wait for them to return: hoping they are all okay and hoping that they are having a good time and hoping that they are safe and hoping that the route is good and hoping that I’ll have enough of the right food to feed them when they get back. Sacrifice and hope.

Audax sign on

I wonder whether I was lucky, or blessed, that nothing went horribly wrong. There was plenty of scope for this to be an utter disaster. For example I’d ‘route checked’ several times and felt confident that everything was nice and accurate – but when a friend rode it with fresh eyes he found loads of problems and made a significant contribution to the route-sheet being friendly and decipherable. Another potential problem was the Humber bridge itself because with two weeks to go I had a telephone call from the bridge authority ‘Events Manager’. I hadn’t asked permission to run my event over the bridge! A quick turn-round with the forms – and – thanks to the Audax UK insurance I was cleared to go ahead. Never mind the near miss with the Hull Marathon using the bridge the following day.

Waiting patiently

Organising an event could be a smooth operation for detail focussed people, but for big picture people like me – where the idea of failure never crosses our minds in the planning stages – there is a massive potential for failure. The route. The Humber bridge. The parking: with two weeks to go I had so many entries I was worrying about the car parking! Thank goodness South Hunsley School stepped in with a solution to avoid me becoming a pariah in the village.

St Helen's Riders

Another aspect of organising – and this blog is not a detailed checklist of things to consider – were the wonderful volunteers who baked and helped on the day. My church community really gave me a massive boost by surrendering an entire day of their time to support this audax; there were at least twenty people involved on the day and I was blown away by their enthusiasm for our sport. The baking was tremendous and on top of that they showed an honest interest in each rider, really keen to hear that they had enjoyed themselves.

I was also delighted that Jess and Will had gladly agreed to photograph the start. Will is a professional photographer and the quality of his work is stunning. There is a high quality Flickr album of the photographs by following this link.

Bike Prayer

The telephone rang. “Hi Graeme. There’s a problem in Goole. The bridge through the docks is shut.”

This was the moment when panic struck and the blood ran from my face. Over a hundred cyclists were heading for Goole and the bridge was out – the first riders through, Gill and Ian from Selby, had called to break the bad news to me.

Do I drive to Goole? What do I do?

A web search revealed a map to the footbridge crossing in the middle of Goole docks – something which turned out to be a highlight of the ride for those who found it. I started texting riders who’d given me their mobile numbers. I share instructions on twitter, facebook and through the yacf cycling forum. In the depths of my anxiety something spoke to me… pray. In church, I walked to the altar and kneeled down. “Lord Jesus, please keep everyone safe. Please help them to find their way: I trust in you even in my failure. Jesus – I pray that everyone finds their way home safely and in joy. Lord, in your mercy – hear my prayer.” What else could I do?

I waited with breath held – waited for the first riders to return…

(I think I’ll leave the feedback to the comments section where I’ve posted some of the really lovely emails I’ve received since the event.)

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21 Comments

  1. Dear Graeme,
    We really enjoyed the Humber 100, and it was a great intro to Audax. Rebecca doesn’t think she has cycled so far.
    We think you should keep this route as a calendered event though! We would say,however, we wished we’d gone the extra KM and stuck to the rivers after Goole. The drizzle and headwind on the A road across from Goole was hard work!
    The section from Welton to Howden was really lovely.
    Also we know you are tied to a Saturday, but that’s great, as you get Sunday to recover!
    Well done, long may it continue.
    Kind regards,
    Graham and Rebecca Lloyd

  2. Graeme

    I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my first Audax, excellent organisation, an excellent route and excellent cake to finish with.

    Very well done, please put me down for next year.

    Big thanks to all involved.

    Cheers

    Andy

  3. Hi Graeme, as I have commented on several threads and, face to face on Saturday both the start/ finish and, the route were fabulous. I normally donate towards the food at the end of an event but could not see anywhere to do so, I would gladly have contributed towards the cost of the fabulous spread. Well done to you and, your team for organising/ managing such a fabulous day on the bike.
    Kindest regards,
    Bill Richardson.

  4. Graeme,

    Would like to say thanks for another great Audax, route was nice & the cake again very welcome!
    Looking forward to riding your events next year again and as a new member of vc167 look forward to riding with you at some point

    Regards

    Richard

  5. HI Graeme
    You may consider keeping the same Routes or a derivation of same. One of my Audax’s has been run on the same route for ten years.
    We are a pretty conservative lot and do not mind riding the same route, as well as exploring new areas.
    There is some thing to be said for a proven ride as it some time takes a lot of time to get a route 100% correct.
    Hope to see you next year with friends.
    Regards
    Alan

  6. Dear Graeme, Thank you for organising the Humber Bridge 100km event. I have always had some reservations about riding events in areas I am unfamiliar with as past experience has shown that route details are often written for those who know the area. Your route details were clear and concise which made for a stress free and enjoyable day.
    The refreshments before and after the event were excellent, would you please pass on my sincere appreciation to the ladies and gentlemen of the Parish who provided and served the food and drinks.
    The event was a great success and I would recommend it to anyone.
    Thank you once again.
    David Core.

  7. Graeme – the simple joy of getting out on the bike – can’t be beaten. One point in relation to next year, and apologies if you are already familiar with this. It is possible to repeat the same calendar event, only thing that needs changing is the info controls. My Seaham Sircular is essentially the same route for the last few years, just infos have changed.

    regards,

    Dave Sharpe

  8. Hi Graeme,

    Thanks for putting on this event. It was a great route with lovely scenery and the route sheet was easy to follow.

    With 90k to go and struggling into a head wind on my own I caught caught by late starters Andy Berne and Mick; also Deano. They let me tuck in at the back and it was exhilarating riding at speed in this group.This enabled me to finish not too far behind Bob Johnson who was giving me a lift home.

    Great cakes and refreshments at the finish so thanks to the local ladies for this.

    Regards,

    Geoff

  9. Hi

    Thank you so much for a great Audax. Looking forward to seeing what routes you plan for next year!

    Angela

  10. Dear Graeme,

    Apologies for not putting my thanks together sooner! I thoroughly enjoyed the Audax last Saturday and join in with all the others in saying thanks to you and your team all for the whole event. We are quite new to the Audaxing world and I’m always struck by the efforts and friendliness of organisers and the many who help out,.

    Riding across the Humber Bridge was on my “to do” list and your event gave us a good reason to push our distance a bit further, still pales into insignificance in comparison to many but a distance I never dreamt of riding before this year!

    We’ll look out for your next route!

    Yours
    Sharon Puleston

  11. Graeme,

    Thank you ever so much. It was a fantastic event. Hopefully we entertained everyone who helped at the church. I’m already looking forward to next year’s

    Regards

    Andy

  12. Well thank you Graeme for putting on such a great event. Had been meaning to email you before now but been manic since getting home Sunday evening.

    Sorry to leave you so early in the pub. I’m sure you survived.

    Thanks again and to all the helpers.

    Anne

  13. Hi Graeme & all the volunteers.
    Yet more thanks to add to your collection.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the 200km Humber Bridge Audax. A great day pedalling with excellent camaraderie on a super route. Finished on a high crossing the Humber Bridge as the sun set with a V formation of geese flying overhead. Rode as a team with 2 friends sharing the time on the front to cut though the headwind and giving each other support and encouragement.
    I am very appreciative of all the background work required to organise this super event. A huge THANK YOU to all concerned.
    Warm regards
    Anne

  14. Thank you so much for arranging this ride, it was very enjoyable–especially the venue.

    All the best,

    Gary McMahon

  15. Dear Graham

    Just wanted to say that I had a great time doing the Audax last Saturday.

    A brilliant route and a very well organised event.

    Thanks to and all the others for your hard work in putting it on and looking after us riders before and afterwards.

    Best regards

    Scott Yates

  16. Hi Graeme

    Thanks again for organising the events on Sat; I hope everyone returned safely, and had fun of course. Special thanks also to your helpers, especially the blueberry muffin maker who should be given honorary club membership!

    I see there are suggestions to keep the footpath diversion through Goole in the route. It’s always nice to get a different view of Goole docks😀. However, in Pete Coulson’s days he would have identified it as a longer option and requested an info be included!

    Best wishes

    Bob

  17. Hi Graeme!

    How are you today? Hope you get a chance to relax!

    Thanks again for organizing a great ride. We all enjoyed our day out in South Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire!

    Don’t worry about our little diversion – all part of the fun and it allowed us to set personal distance records!!

    I have attached some photos – might get us in Arrivee magazine!

    Best Wishes

    on behalf of the Linthorpe Dismounters

    Charles Rhind

  18. Hi Graham, just to say thanks for a wonderful ride yesterday in the much underrated East Riding of Yorkshire. We met some really friendly new cycling friends and old stalwarts like Keith Buck and his amazing wife!
    The ride over the Humber Bridge was a real highlight but so were some of the gorgeous views of rivers, estuaries and hills, plus little gems like Walcot village and the quaint village hall at Blacktoft.
    So we Linthorpe Dismounters from Middlesbrough and surrounds felt it was well worth the effort to travel down to your beautiful church and just like your North Yorkshire Moors Audax the food at the end was tremendous.
    Thanks to you and all your supporters for making the day so memorable,
    Cheers from Dermot, Ailsa, Ally, Dougie, Amanda, Ray, Charlie and Mark and as they say in The Netherlands, mooi leuk ! Tot ziens, from two-thirds of The Linthorpe Dismounters .

    PS The staff in the PO at Keadsby were so welcoming and could not have been more pleasant and helpful, please pass our regards on to them if you are in touch.

  19. Thank for organising a great event, despite the headwind back from Sherrif Hutton.

    Arriving at the Goole bridge was interesting! Faced with a large barrier and not having seen any cyclists going back in the other direction, I started to follow the diversion signs. Greame’s prayers must have kicked in at this point, so when at the next roundabout the road veered off in the wrong direction I decided to check google maps. This revealed no any other river crossings anywhere near. I returned to there bridge and found someone who advised me that ‘the diversion was 30 miles’, followed after a brief pause by ‘or there is a pedestrian route over the lock gates’! With relief and a prayer of thanks I set off back towards the lock gates. Meeting a fellow cyclist over the lock I discovered that emails had been sent out, hence the lack of cyclists going the wrong way! (Note to self – always give organiser your phone number!)

    1. “Always give your organiser your phone number” – what great advice! The riders who did take the road diversion added about 13 miles, but seemed to enjoy themselves. 🙂

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