It’s not been a whole lot of fun, organising Hit the North 4 if I’m perfectly honest. Despite the near-certainty that the event would be a big success and would put smiles on the faces of everyone involved, myself included, preparing this one has been a chore at times and my usual level of enthusiasm just hasn’t been there for most of the time.
I think it’s down to the fact that the event is a few years old now and our perception is that we’re at the point where we can’t “get away” with quite as much as we used to and simply blame things that go wrong on our lack of experience. No shortcuts. It’s all familiar territory so therefore it’s a bit less exciting than it once was. This isn’t the Tour De France, but we tolerate our own mistakes less now and don’t want to look inept.
Fast forward to the event itself and its immediate aftermath and everything, on the surface at least, was tickety-boo. Everyone happy. All riders got a mint ball at the finish. All the marshals said “put my name down for the next one”. Our sponsors, especially those who took part or took the trouble to bring trade gazebos and kit to the event, were happy. The caterers did well and sold lots of corned beef hash. The one guy who spannered himself on the new section of trail – the new section where I expected carnage – picked himself up and didn’t need an ambulance and/or helicopter. The bagpiper and Nigel’s drum squad enjoyed themselves and contributed to the atmosphere in a big way. The kids’ racing and skills coaching was handled brilliantly by British Cycling and the youngsters taking part loved it and each received a medal. There’s plenty in the pot to give away to charity, assuming nobody hits us with a bill for something big. I’ve never seen as many photographers at a bike race before. The Mayor came, she saw, she conquered and her Jag got stuck for a bit but we pushed it out of the ditch. Loads of people commented that they’d return to Philips Park ‘just for a ride on the new stuff’ which was a big tick in the box. The sun shone. YES. THE SUN.
Great stuff. Best race on the calendar for a lot of people. I feel great now, the earlier thoughts of jacking it all in because I can’t be arsed any more have (almost) completely evaporated and have been replaced by thoughts of how we can make HTN cooler and more fun for us as well as those taking part.
I know Andrew feels the same way too (because we drank waaay too much beer on Saturday and had a slurred conversation about it).
The size of the event and the sheer volume of people taking part has told us though that if we’re carrying on, we need to look at a few aspects that are starting to creak a bit. The lack of toilets will get sorted out. Blokes can use the bushes but most ladies would rather use a proper facility. And we’d rather blokes didn’t poo in the bushes (not that any did, to my knowledge). We had one toilet on-site plus the ones at the Rugby club half a mile away but the on-site one ran out of bog roll very quickly. Quite rightly, people moaned about it.
Louise and her daughters and Debbie, her mum and Angela, who between them handled the lap counting burden, were stretched to the limit and perhaps as a result some errors crept in. Nobody’s fault but this time the errors were near the front of the race and this meant that one rider, who actually won his category, didn’t feature in the presentation.
300 riders being manually timed for 2 hours simply puts a small number of people under too much pressure both during and immediately after the race so we’re going electronic (with a manual back-up) from now on.
Luckily for us the rider in question was our very own Dave Powell and he was typically laid-back about it. What was also lucky was that the guy whose name I actually read out buggered off home before I picked up the microphone so I didn’t give Dave’s prizes away to someone else… but it was a bit of a cock-up all the same and we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again by making improvements and spending a bit more money on it.
The public address system, bought a couple of years ago from some charlatan on Ebay, is a pile of crap. So we’ll be sorting that out too so that I don’t sound like I’m auditioning for a Napalm Death tribute act.
Hit the North 5. It’s coming. It’ll be a bit shiny, but not too shiny
Loads of cool stuff, results and info about the race can be found on the HTN blog here and I’ll be updating it over the next couple of weeks with various links to reports that people have written and photos.