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Thoughts from March 2010

king of the hills

This is Mark

Mark

You might remember him from former features such as Bag-on-the-Head:

Bag head

Or maybe Speedos: The Final Frontier

Speedo slouch
Well, Mark's latest role is to become King of the Hill.

This hill in particular

Big hill

In less than 3 months, Mark is going to be cycling the Etape du Tour in the Pyrenees. This includes the Tourmalet, which Lance Armstrong once described as a 'monster'.

The Etape is the toughest stage of the Tour de France open to non professional cyclists. For those not familiar with this particular stretch of the race, think 180km cycling, half of which is uphill with around 4100 metres of climbs. Or roughly 13 times the height of the Eiffel Tower if that's how you like to measure stuff.

Not mark
(N.B this not Mark)

Around 8000 cyclists will start the race. In 2007, only 4000 of them managed to finish. Thankfully, there is a sweeper bus that follows you round the course at 17kmph so you don't get left on the side of the mountain. If the bus overtakes you however, you're outta the race.

Mark and 12 of his friends are undertaking the greatest challenge of their collective legs' lives to raise money for an excellent charity.
On the road

Until a few months ago, none of them had a racing bike between them and apart from the odd Sunday jaunt or commuting to work, none of them had done any real cycling either.

They did their first race last weekend and managed to finish without anyone crying.

Race day

According to their training schedule, April is all about practicing cornering, riding 100 miles in one day and eating a banana whilst slipstreaming

Fuel
We'll keep you updated on his progress each month until the big day.

For now, here's a taster of what's to come

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eco loo

We all know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night, needing the loo, not wanting to leave your warm bed and head downstairs to a cold bathroom.

So imagine there are no lights, it's -14°C and instead of quickly nipping down the stairs, you have a 20 minute trek along a rocky track ahead to your toilet - which happens to be a riverbank.

Family - eco loo

Oh and that same riverbank feeds into the river where you get all your drinking water, wash your clothes and so on.

Well, for Doris and hundreds of other families in the high Andes of Peru, that's how it is.

However, thanks to the work of the innocent foundation and Practical Action, that is all about to change.

My loo

Practical Action are introducing 300 'eco loos' to families living at 5000m (about 4 times as high as Ben Nevis). These dry toilets are ideal in an area where water is scarce.

Helen from Practical Action has just got back from visiting Peru and has been blogging about the eco loos here.

Toilet

As well as improving sanitation conditions and not polluting drinking water supplies, these new loos mean that the waste produced can be used to fertilise crops.

Now that's what I call recycling.

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