Thursday, 30 December 2010

You Spin Me Right Round Like A Guinness World Record Baby

We did it! Team CoBi are officially Guinness World Record holders for the fastest End to End on a Conference Bike, the first ever Conference Bike record.

Here's to many more...

The certificate is here:

And you can read the record evidence submission pack here.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Final Push (except we didn’t push, we pedalled)

I apologise for cramming the last few days into one post.

We started the day with a superb Pipers Farm breakfast; scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, beans and toast... Piper thought it would be good to have a picture of the butchers on the bike, which indeed it was. What wasn’t so good was Tubs getting his leg over a bit backwards (not for the first time I’m sure) and snapping our Cancer Research UK banner. This was easily fixed with some sticky tape but meanwhile one set of pedals had cracked off the frame so We had to go and see Dave Gillard for another spot of welding. I think Miss CoBi is getting used to it now, and sees it a bit like going to the salon. While there Piper and I had a long chat about the farm and good animal husbandry. Although we didn’t agree on everything I must say I am extremely impressed by the Pipers Farm ethos, especially in regards to creating, sustaining and supporting a real countryside community.
We didn’t start cycling until 11am, which wasn’t ideal, but with Juicy Lucy, Matt, Will and Paul joining us, along with Big Will and Betty Boo we knew we had the A-team, and we had to get to Okehampton this evening. About an hour in, this didn’t look like a problem as we clocked up 47mph; Ed was facing backwards, and for the first time on this ride he actually looked scared. Things were going so well that we stopped into a pub and some of the guys had a pint (being a sensible driver I had lemonade). Not only were we going at a good pace, but the weather was ‘fine’ (not sunny, but not raining... Just a misty, faint drizzle which was quite refreshing). We kept hearing bad things about Okehampton (they called it Soakhampton on the radio) but when we arrived it was not too bad at all. We drove up to the Youth Hostel to see if they would shout us a free nights camping, which they did. Then we drove down to the pub, where I had a minute steak to start and a suet game pie for my main; it was all very nice, apart from the vegetables which were bloody disgusting.

Chris drove us very badly back to the campsite and we put on our swim suits and went to bed.

In the morning we snuck into the showers disguised as ‘Youth Hostel goers’ (I covered my face in mud and feigned a German accent). We met Colin Sanderson; Colin lost his sister to cancer and today was her birthday so he drove all the way down from London to join us and ride the bike, which was really special.

We also met Kim and Guy at Waitrose (these weren’t just any cyclists; these were premium hard saddled cyclists with extra gears). Not long into the day we met Kim’s 86 year old mum; she was quick to mount the bike and became our oldest rider to date (although she only took it round the hotel car park). A short while later we rattled by ‘Jethro’s Place’; Jethro is a local celebrity, and a thoroughly nice chap and that is all you need to know.

The climb into Launceston was really rather steep, but waiting for us at the top were traditional Cornish pasties (apparently Cornish pasties used to be half meat and half jam). We were also joined by the soon to be Mrs Greig, aka Natasha, and Juicy Lucy’s friend Anna the Spanner. Also young Ella (12yrs) gave us her local knowledge, 3 pronged camel bag and legs of steel.
Suddenly Peter flew passed honking his horn (like Mary Poppins but with less hair and a bigger horn); on board he had a precious cargo, the world famous Chithar. Some people say he is half man, half god, some people say he is the messiah, I say he is a good cyclist.

For Natasha’s birthday we went for a traditional Cornish curry; Ed covered the bike in balloons and Ed's Mum made a mess out of the cake (a delicious Eton mess). We let off party poppers and sang many rounds of happy birthday. After all the fun and laughter we headed back to Kim and Guy's house to sleep. Ian refused to share a room with me, but it was possibly the leopard Gecko in the glass tank in the corner that really put him off!

The next day we didn’t really want to cycle down the massive hill we'd climbed the night before so we decided to keep going up; this may have been a mistake as we hit some of the hardest hills we have had to face since Edinburgh. Somehow we managed to cause congestion and tail backs on little farm tracks, which shows you how long it actually took us to make progress. After the worst was over Ian delivered Jamie to us, Ed asked how he had found out about the ride and Jamie informed him that he was a second cousin which was rather embarrassing.

Coming down into the Eden project was stunning; if you have never been then I recommend you have a gander. It was like something from a different world (and that was just the ice cream). We met Maren again and her boyfriend Graham (if Ed and I thought our legs were looking good then Graham made us think otherwise). We also graciously accepted Maren’s friend Michelle onto the bike as well as local legends Anne and Jenny. With a full contingent we arrived into Turo just in time to witness Gay pride; being offered coke in public toilets reminded me of home (I declined, I don’t like sniffing coke because I get bubbles up my nose).

After the penultimate day we went for a Chinese in Redruth; if you ever find yourself in Redruth then please visit the Sunny City. It was like Fawlty Towers; again as with Aaron from Edinburgh it is probably best you ask me about this another time.

On the morning of our last day I think everyone felt quite tired; the night before Kate had rejoined us which was just lovely but it also meant there were ten of us with 2 tents and 5 mattresses. I took one for the team and snuggled into the front seats of the van. Sometime in the night the hand-brake came off but I managed to put it back on just in time (Thank goodness for morning wood).

We rescued Chris Oliver from Redruth station and then we were off; Chris used to weigh 27 stone but had a gastric band fitted and has lost 10 stone. It was brilliant to have him on the bike and he raised the tone of our conversation considerably.
It was such a sunny day, and we were so lucky to be taking the beautiful north coast rode. Cornwall delivered some spectacular views, especially the tin mine shafts which dominate the landscape!

Coming into Land’s End was incredible, we got such a rapturous reception; Henri and Peter managed to kidnap every tourist and added them to our welcome party (it was reminiscent of the North Korean fans at the world cup). On the last descent we got 13 people on the bike, including granddad Guinness (the man who helped create the Guinness Book of World Records now was part of one). Peter popped his cork all over me (not for the first time) and we all got a little sloshed on the cliff.

The last 29 days + 4 have been so utterly incredible; the support, the inspiration, the love have humbled Ed and I. We want to say thank you 1000 times over; somewhere in this blog everyone has been named and thanked somewhere. If you haven’t then please send me your complaint on the back of a self addressed envelope.

Sometimes people just need the opportunity to help, and when you give them one they will always surprise you with how much they have to give. We have ridden Miss Cobi ultimately to raise awareness of the greatest weapon we have against cancer and all adversity, and that is each other.

Goodnight, and don’t have nightmares.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

There isn't going to be a hurricane (thanks for nothing Michael Fish)

Red sky at night shepherds delight. Red sky in the morning shepherds warning. We had both. I wish the bloody shepherds had made their minds up but they were obviously too busy fiddling with their flocks to give us clear elemental sky signs.
The 5.30 start was lovely, we literally bounced out of bed (someone had blown the mattresses up too much) and retraced our steps back to the layby which we had nearly died on the day before. It was good to have Big Will on board, and we soon realised the extra 110 killos he added to the weight would increase our downhill speed 10 fold. Emily, although half the size, had strong legs and wore the lycra well (very well).
We made a brilliant early pace, chewing up the hills and spitting them out again.We only had to stop beause Ian stopped flashing (his lights) so we pulled into a garage and tinkered with Ian’s box (fuse box) until he started flashing (his lights) again. We also picked up team Sowerby (James, Duncan, Eward and Pippa). Now I’m not blaming them, but as the Sowerby’s arrived so did the rain. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I swear I saw little Pippa Sowerby chanting a rain incantation, so I was forced to burn her at the steak. Hilarious jokes aside, once the rain arrived it did it’s shopping, had a light lunch, some coffe, a trip to the gym, a pint at the pub, dinner and a trip to the Sweedish massage parlour – it never bloody left , and it was heavy, windy and cold, the pace began to drop faster than Ann Windicomes cleavage. Not to worry, we had another family to help us, this time the Ireland Jones’ aka the Von Trapps. You would be pushed to find more enthusiasm in a Eunuch's finger than these guys and girls had. I must say, everyone put in a cracking effort; Duncan Sowerby won the medal for consistent pedalling, James Sowerby gave us the sort of push I would like to give David Cameron (off a cliff); Ed, Rachel, and Naomi Ireland-Jones did not want to get off the bike, even Mylene the French pen friend rode the storm couragelously (and this really was a storm).

Although we took the ‘short’ cut around Lyme Regis(look up swear word in the dictionary to see a full relfection of my thoughts on this) and had Nick from ‘Farmer’s Weekly’ on the bike, we were not going to get to Exeter for the 5pm press call. So with a haeavy heart (I have had far too many chips these last few weeks) at 4.15 we loaded the bike onto the trailer and headed to the cathedral. Once again we were behind. But we would worry about that tomorrow.
When we got to the cathedral (just after Exeter City striker Adam Stansfield’s funeral) we had lots of photographs taken. Stano sadly died of bowel cancer at 31 and with Ed and Will’s local connection we really wanted Miss CoBi to be visible in the city.
We managed to get through 14 of the ‘worlds greatest sandwich’ (with some gorgeous Ruby Red beef from Piper’s) between about 8 of us which was a great effort! Once again the generoisyt of Henri and Peter was extraordinary, it was lovely to see them again, and ‘Gig Gig’ (granddad Guniess) and meet Juicy Lucy.
We set off for Piper’s farm, stopping for a fuel refill at the TNT depo (thanks TNT!). On Emily’s orders we emptied the van of it’s load and then she emptied Will of his. With pants and socks drying on every surface, and Chip the dog in kanine heaven (many smelly things to sniff at) we began to relax.Ed had a shower before his massage with Deborah and I had my first bath in 3 weeks, before my massage with Deborah. Deborah was very gentle andher magic finger touched me deep inside.
Henri and Peter made the most lovely supper, and the evening was only sullied by the kitchen curtains (I AM JOKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). After a large glass of wine I retired to the living room and fell asleep infront of a crackling fire – ‘oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree ……..’

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Spicy cycle shorts

We stayed at another beautiful campsite, with simple pleasures like running water and toilets; I feel a bit silly having moaned about some of the wetter and colder nights camping considering what is happening in Pakistan (oopps, I just dropped my halo, hang on a second).
The lovely Rosie Marteau and handsome Charles Grummit were waiting for us at Southampton Central along with Sam Brassington who was dressed in a combination of every Stoke City kit for the last 4 years(Mr Brassington has been the first man to scream going downhill, but it was probably his gurd). Sadly only a couple of minutes into the day Rosie’s cardigan got caught in the universal joint and got well and truly mangled.
In all the excitement of the morning we forgot two rider’s who were actually waiting for us at Southampton’s sister station (more like second cousin station)Milbrook. The marmite twins (they were wearing a lot of marmite paraphernalia, they even had marmite water bottles) flagged us down at the side of the road with their unicycle.
As we approached the New Forest Charlie and Ed Wallrock lent us a hand; once again their local knowledge was vital to our navigation, our route plans are about at fixed as an Irish horse race, so we were open to any tips about how to avoid the biggest hills. We were also hunted down by BBC South Today’s weather girl who passes herself off as a journalist on the weekend. She interviewed Ed and got us riding around a pub car park; little did we know that 24 hours later we would be the 7th most watched item on the BBC website!
The New Forest was stunning; ‘wild horses, couldn’t drag me away’ ….. and nestled among the cows and sheep were my mum and dad. They bravely climbed aboard, my mum’s little legs weren’t quite long enough, but she gave us a good mile. Dad has just had his blood pressure pill dosage doubled up, and his cheeks went a purple brighter than the bike, but it was great to have their support.
When we got into Ringwood we passed a horse drawn funeral cortege, so closed our eyes and hoped no one could see us. There was a little bike shop called ‘Common Assault’ where there was talk of a free-wheel replacement (I was cyncical as usual). However, Common Assault, despite the slightly scary name, proved to be the first bike shop man enough for the job, and after 45 mins, some hammering, some chiselling and with oily hands blacker than coal, the bike was fixed. The angle grinder was called for but thankfully not used. We also got £70 quid in the bucket and some Peruvian beer! They truly are biking legends (Particularly Mike, who owns the store) and so if you need anything bike related near Ringwood then use Common Assault (The bike shop, rather than the violence).
Time was ticking by, as it has an annoying tendency to, and bums were getting sore, Sam Brassington started crying more frequently than usual and the light was slowly fading. With 2 miles until Dorchester we had to call it a night, because it was night so we called it one. Miss Fiona Mikel had booked us a table at probably the nicest curry house I have ever been to, so we spiced up our already spicy cycle shorts and took over the Mikel’s Dorchester pad for 5 hours of sleep ready for a 6am start the next day.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Harriet gets moist

Leaving the eco bunkhouse was sad, but we can’t stay everywhere forever. One little boy turned down the offer of a little ride around the farm houses; ‘I can’t because I am half way through my marmite on toast’, which was a good enough reason as any. Whatever strange delicacy I had ingested at the Harvester passed through me into the toilet bowl of time and looked much better on exit than it had done on entry.
Somewhere between driving the bike up the eco barn’s drive, putting it onto the van and taking it off again at Guilford station another one of our free wheels failed which meant we were down to a 6-man bike again. Sadly we could not really fit in another detour to Get Cycling in York (Ed said he could quickly do the 300 miles but I persuaded him otherwise using two fingers and a tub of Sudecreme). Instead we strapped our knitted mascot Harriett to the seat (Eric would be pleased, we got the Dutch bondage element in after all). Harriet got quite moist in the rain, but then again that’s how she likes it!
We had another fan-bloody-tastic crew on board, including Sarah Davies of G4 Challenge fame, and if we thought we might get lost then we needed not fear, Sarah’s family positioned themselves like beacons in lay-bys along the route to guide us. We soon reached Farnham where the Herald newspaper were ready to ambush us, and we had a few snaps taken outside the local Cancer Research charity shop (we blocked the pavement for about 2 minutes much to the horror of some old dear who couldn’t get passed, she must have donated her sense of humour to Cancer Research some years ago). Actually today was a bit of media frenzy, with interviews on Radio Surrey and Radio Solent.
Early on in the day we thought we saw a yeti type creature lurking in the road-side shrubbery. On closer inspection and much to our relief we realised it was Big Will (Ed’s little big brother). Big Will had bumped into us by sheer chance, which made the large collection of cakes and confectionary he was carrying somewhat of a mystery but very welcome all the same. Not so welcome was our fear for Dan the roller blading man’s life, as he sped downhill on the dual carriageway, but he didn’t die which was a bonus. He's thinking of becoming the first rollerblader to do the End to End so hopefully this will have been an interesting test (You can read his blog of the day here). Another bonus involved us manoeuvring our way through 3 road closures using the very best of local knowledge. The secret password, ‘we want to have tea with Betty and Phil’ got us easily past the gatekeepers in yellow florescent jackets with enough crack on show to entertain Elton John for half an hour, and soon we were in Southampton where the sun wasn’t shining down on me, I wasn’t still standing and I felt I had a rocket man up my jacksy.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Ghana to Guilford

Due to a slightly unfortunate error on the part of the CoBi UK we had 5 keen riders who made an earlier start in Windrush Square than was intended, arriving at 8am to be greeted by an enthusiasm sapping downpour. At 8.50, after some frantic phone calls, Ed rushed out in his short shorts, his untanned thighs shining, to find them huddled under a tree. Thankfully some cups of tea, bowls of Dorset Cereals and Nutella covered toast restored at least part of their earlier vim and vigour. The sight of the bike always perks up all but the most downhearted, so when we unloaded Miss CoBi from her trailer bed and pedalled her back to the Square it was as though the sun came out from behind a cloud. This effect was amplified by the fact that the sun did actually come out from behind a cloud and Windrush was looking lovely. If you haven’t been to Brixton recently, do go, because the newly refurbished square is great, with grass and fountains and the like with the excellent Ritzy Cinema looking out over it.
The bike attracted a lot of attention, even early on a Sunday morning, from market stall holders to weed sellers and from church goers to walk of shamers, who often get the “I’ll never drink again” expression when Miss CoBi pedals past. Jack was bedecked in the red, yellow, green and black of Ghana, a flag we got during the World Cup to show our support for a decent team.
As we left London got further into Surrey the Ghana flag attracted a few less donations. We’ve definitely noticed that while the South East does still contain many lovely and generous people, who honk and wave merrily, there are a couple more here who are more impatient and less understanding. We’ve still had only one or two one or two fingered waves but we’ve added a couple to our tally down here. Another person who didn’t quite enter into the spirit of the ride was the landlord of the almost appropriately named Bell Inn, just outside Epsom, who quite forcefully pointed out that the (empty) benches outside the (empty) pub where we stopped briefly for a bite of Mick’s cup cakes weren’t a picnic area.
We pushed on towards Leatherhead, with our now leather backsides protecting us from the worst of the saddle pains. The town were mostly hiding from the drizzle in restaurants and the shopping centre, but Miss CoBi made short work of the one way system and the ramps, and the impressed townsfolk donated heartily.
As we left Leatherhead the drizzle turned into a fully fledged downpour, but with our weatherproof radio from Pure blasting out the tunes, it was unable to dampen our schizzles or nizzles. Onwards we passed Fetcham and Bookham, looking out all the while for Tagham and Bagham and Loveham and Leaveham.
Distance in Surrey is measured in golf clubs and when we were about three courses out we had a brief halt in one of them to let the traffic past and drum up some support. A seven seater bike proved to be surprisingly difficult for the members to get their heads around as their donations were slightly below par if the contents of the car park were anything to go by.
The Borough Guildford had a few more hills to throw at us before finally letting us enter her environs, which we tackled gamely with the help of the mind reading 20 questions devil machine. It didn’t actually get what Mark was thinking of first time, suggesting soap, but perhaps because as well as button his mind was occupied with thoughts of hills, pain, bums and baths (Maybe that was where soap came from).
After about 60 more questions the Welcome to Guildford sign came into view and we pedalled into the town, getting our witness signature in Jamie Oliver’s place before saying goodbye to most of the hardy London folk who’d joined us for the day. Shall in particular deserves special mention for cycling the whole way in jeans, complemented with a leather jacket during the rainy bits, which was an awesome effort by any standards.
We were staying at the Camping Barn in Putternam, a beautiful old barn skilfully converted into a soggy walker’s paradise. It had a shower room and large platform beds (but the website suggested we bring our own mattresses which we did). After dumping our stuff we headed to the only food vendor we could find, another bloody Harvester. After our difficult experience in Stoke I was reluctant, but there was little choice so we took the gastric plunge. The place was practically empty, but somehow there was a half an hour wait until we could be seated, perhaps the ghosts of dead customers still waiting for their food were taking up all the tables. Once again we were met with a super-duper friendly, friendly I want to be your all singing, all dancing, all fluffing soul mate waitress. I must say that after we had been seated our order was taken pretty quick and the food (if you can call it that) soon followed!
The bunkhouse rode the night’s storm like a ship (Titanic?) and it was warm and dry. Some poor twit (naming no names) was sleeping on the dodgy air bed, which deflated on cue after 1 hour of sleeping activity. The afore mentioned twit was also given front row seats at the world snoring championships. Ian Clegg ducked out early and retreated to the van, but Ed, Paul and a random walker performed the snore chorus’s back catalogue until 7am. You can buy the CD from any bad record shop.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

All I want is a bike somewhere, far away from the cold night air, with one enormous chair, oh wouldn't it be lovely

Waking up in my own bed was like returning to the womb. I had tea in my very own, very large, very 'now' bang on trend London mug. I had a shower and marvelled at the little pieces of me still clogged in the plughole (it was so good to be home).

We had an 11 o'clock date with cancer (I have already copyrighted this phrase for a book title before you whipper snappers think about stealing it). We were heading to the Lincoln's Field Institute in High Holborn, which was our penultimate institute tour (the ultimate being Southampton, where we will be rewarded our PHD).

We met the super-duper Nancy of CRUKWALTON twitter fame outside the centre; Nancy has been so wonderfully supportive and has given us lots of tips which have gone towards making our project a success, we owe her many thanks.

Lincoln's Field does a lot of work with Fruit flies; the most wonderful thing about fruit flies is that a generation occurs every two weeks, which means gene therapy experimentation produces clear results in a short space of time. The idea is that DNA can be spliced into new pairings using a heat sensitive enzyme found commonly in the body. The new DNA sequence can then send a signal which in turn repairs the gene mutation. We thought it was pretty extraordinary that researchers can literally order any DNA sequence they like, for as much as £1 per sequence.

We learnt a lot more about the relationship between cancer and stem cells, which we had touched on in Birmingham. Stem cells are very clever little buggers; as you know they have the potential to be anything the body wants them to be, liver tissue, lung tissue, willy tissue etc. They are also the cells most vulnerable to mutation, and more likely to manifest the 'selfish gene' profile (all our cells have an almost primordial memory telling them that they need to divide and multiply, it is only though top down Gene control that they are prevented from doing this, however there is also a lot of self-organisation among cells which means they can be a law unto themselves). If a mutation occurs in the Stem cell genes which disrupt the top down governing then the self organisation of the cell can cause malignant cancer, uncontrolled growth, invasion of 'normal' tissue and metastasis (spreading to other locations). So lung cancer is not lung tissue which becomes cancerous, but rather stem cells which were supposed to be lung cells becoming cancerous. For example, in the skin there are stem cells below the surface waiting to become new skin cells. If we expose ourselves to high doses of UV radiation then the DNA sequence in the Stem cells goes wrong so that when the stem cells go to become skin cells they actually become cancerous. The problem is, when stem cells divide they make one new cell, i.e. skin, lung, willy, but also another one of themselves - this causes aggressive cancer proliferation. If the right DNA sequence can be inserted into the affected area then the mutation can be repaired.

Once again we were overawed by the work being done; we really felt part of one massive puzzle!

With another lovely lunch inside us we departed for Covent Garden to meet our Juice Doctor friends and rattle our buckets. I won't lie it was hard to get into the market square, but never one to admit defeat I navigated us through the countless bollards. Sadly we encountered some street entertainer abuse 'do I come into your office for charity'? No, you are obviously a mean balloon man who would never do anything for charity. We quickly forgot about Mr Nasty and hooked up with the Juice doctor ambulance (there weren’t as many pretty nurses as we might have liked, so we made do with Paddy).

Juice Doctor gave out 1200 bottles for free, which was amazing, and it was great to have them supporting us through the busy London streets. We had our picture taken outside the transport museum, and ferried around my favourite demographic; hen party ladies. We rode down Whitehall and tried to do a circuit of Downing St - maybe it was the sub machine guns but I don't think the police were pleased to see us. Instead we cycled around Parliament square, now guarded day and night by bailiffs.
We crossed Westminster Bridge and anchored ourselves on my old stomping ground, the Southbank. A little boy ran up to us and said ‘my mum had cancer so I’m allowed to come on’, we couldn’t really argue with that so he hopped on and was soon joined by his two brothers and his mum, now in remission which is great news (she said it was worth all the chemo to get on the bike, I think she was joking). We also bumped into Jacqui Cutcher (sporting a new hair cut and highlights) and Martyn Cutcher, it was their wedding anniversary, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The Southbank skate park was very tempting, but we had forgotten our baggy trousers and beanie hats, so we weren’t allowed in. Instead we were granted permission to cycle round the ‘Watch this space’ astro turf area outside the National and then we watched Motion Houses ‘chaser’ which was brilliant. We had a quick fish supper by Waterloo station where we said goodbye to Lotte who had been helping us all day.
We crossed back over the bridge and took two lovely Australians to Leicester square; they were very fearful about the result of the election – according to them both candidates for PM are clinically mad. I pointed this was better than our election where all three were pretty much brain dead.
We whiled away the next two hours combing the West End and delving in to centres of vice and scandal. By 10pm we went to pick up the van; the bucket felt about as heavy as Edinburgh, so hopefully we got close to the £2000 mark today.