Run Fluffy Run

Over the past few months, my running has been my primary outlet for all the emotions that have been spinning around following the events of this spring. However, chuck in a whiff of a challenge or a competition and that side of my brain seems to be very much alive and wanting to give the world a good kicking.

I’ve mentioned in the past about the two main fitness sites I use on the internet – Strava, which is for multiple sports and is pretty well known these days, and Smashrun, a site purely for runners, and which is much lesser known.

Both have free membership for the basic information and I highly recommend you check them both out.

Whilst Smashrun has its challenges set up in electronic badges (it’s very cute I guess but effective) which reward individual achievements, Strava has monthly challenges which can be done against other athletes as well as for the individual. Until recently Strava catered very well for cyclists, but there were precious few running challenges.

So when a couple of these came along, I grabbed them both, and set about working on them. Unfortunately they were both three-week long challenges and they started a week apart, resulting in a high concentration of effort.

Elevation is all you need….

Strava usually themes it’s monthly challenges and the ‘Dipsea’ Challenge was based upon the fact that this famous trail race has an increase in elevation of 2200ft. So the challenge was set at achieving 6600ft of elevation in 3 weeks.

So one might plan to aim for 2200ft per week. Or if you’re me, discover you’ve only achieved 1900ft by the end of week two.

For reasons unknown, I decided this challenge was still alive, I mean how hard can it be to do 4700ft elevation in a week…..

Thankfully living on the edge of the Peak District and close to the hills surrounding the Cheshire Plain, there is plenty of interesting running to be done. And with another spell of reasonable weather I set out to find new routes, in particularly ones with big hills and I achieved the remaining elevation in 4 more runs.

The first was a 15 mile jaunt out across Marple Ridge, over Jacksons Edge and across Disley, taking the hills all the way up to the Bowstones, before dropping back through Lyme Park.  The wind was doing it’s best to blow me back down to Disley from Bowstones but it was mission accomplished with a total climb of over 1600ft.

3 days later and I returned to Marple, the Ridge, and the Edge in both directions running a further 11 miles distance and another 1040ft climb and clocked up three Strava course records in the process (how, I don’t have a clue). So over the half-way mark of the outstanding feet of elevation.

24 hours later I was out again, this time in Pott Shrigley, and the 2 mile climb of Bakestonedale Road. I actually started back at the main road in order to maximise the climb, doing a linear there-and-back 10 miler and adding 1175ft to the tally.

Near the top of Bakestonedale Road
Near the top of Bakestonedale Road

On seeing this course a colleague pointed me towards another local hill with very much a challenge to do it. So Friday morning I was back in Pott Shrigley, running over to Bollington and up Blaze Hill, a 1.5 mile climb up to the Macclesfield Hill Tops. I say running, the body was screaming at me before I even started the hill, telling me it didn’t really want to do any more hills, ever! But I persevered with the 7.5 mile loop containing 1040ft of elevation, and amazingly completing the challenge!

Climbing challenge complete!
Climbing challenge complete!

Yes, I use kitten pictures from the internet as avatars for my websites!

Feet? No I mean kilometers!

Now, in a perfect world I’d have stopped then, got an ice cream and slept for a week (having consumed the ice cream). But there was a matter of the other challenge, 148km distance (92 miles) in 3 weeks.

Now the combination of the previous week and my hill-attacking current week had clocked up 54 miles in total, and with 6 days of the challenge remaining I had a lot of work to do. Not least given day 6 I would be cycling around Snowdonia and therefore wouldn’t be running. And Day 5 I’d be driving to Snowdonia….. No pressure!

There is a disused Railway Route, called the Middlewood Way, stretching from Rose Hill Marple to Macclesfield. I have run segments of, but never run the whole route. So I set out steadily on Tuesday to see if there was a pot of gold of either end of this rainbow route which I can confirm there is not! However, having run 13 miles away from home, I still had the matter of getting back again which resulted in a 24 mile round trip which brought me back along the canal, a route quickly thought out because in the time since I’d set out the weather had got rather warmer and sunnier, and I only had a limited about of water with me (schoolboy error, I’ll admit). The logic was that the canal tow-path would be more sheltered than other routes but also I was able to beg some water from a barge-owner part way back.

From Marple to Macclesfield (and back!)
From Marple to Macclesfield (and back!)

The response on Strava wasn’t so much ‘wow what a run’ but instead ‘why didn’t you run the full 26.2?’

I had considered it but with 3 miles to go (a 10% of the distance) I decided I wanted to be home in one piece. And there wasn’t a t-shirt or a medal at stake either and besides, I had a load more running to be done that week (me, competitive???)

The following evening, my birthday, and buoyed with the incentive of a commemoration mug (of a gala, not of my birthday), I participated in a 5 mile trail race around the Reservoirs at Tintwistle. Now, I’m not saying it’s anything to do with a limited number of mugs, but I ran that course as quick as I could. Not that I’ve used the mug yet……..

A hard-fought mug!
A hard-fought mug!

But back to the challenge and having 10 miles to find within the next couple of days whilst preparing for a long and hilly bike ride. there was a tactical decision to be made regarding how I should do this.

A number of short runs to get to the target distance would be sensible.

I think you can probably guess that instead I went all out the following day to nail the remaining miles as I did a reprise run through Lyme Park, picking up the road I failed to find on my route down from the Bowstones a week earlier.

149km run - 101% of the challenge!
149km run – 101% of the challenge!

So come the end of June, I’m 2 electronic badges better off and 106 miles have been chalked up in the process as well as managing the Snowdonia bike ride. It’s been fun, but I think I’ll be holding off the challenges for a little while.

Smashrun - check it out, it's great!
Smashrun – check it out, it’s great!

Or at least, that’s the plan………….

Anniversary time

It’s taken me a good while to get around to writing this post. As you can imagine, the anniversary of the death of one’s spouse is a very painful time, and with all that 2015 has thrown at me as well, it has only compounded the matter.

It is a time where I need space; a time where the theoretical wooden hut in the midst of an impenetrable forest (with wifi) comes to the fore in my mind. It is however very difficult to get through to other people that I need that space, and the natural habit seems to be for them to smother me in attention and contact, where in fact this causes me a great deal of distress.

Anniversary #3 occurred on a Thursday this year. I had already planned to be away from home, albeit not far, just enough to be out of the way. I imposed ‘radio silence’ as best as I could, leaving computer accounts logged out and the phone on silent and left at home and had a trip out into Derbyshire.

A lunch at ‘the Bee Hive’ in Combs was very pleasant in the warm sun, although tempered by the groups around me also eating which in a way emphasised the lone-nature of my meal. However I hadn’t just gone out to eat, it was a recce – the lanes looked interesting from a running point of view.

At least they did on Google Maps. On visiting the in person, it became clear that the nice-looking lines on a map represented more of a scramble challenge than the hillside run I had imagined. It didn’t stop me having a great walk in the hills though, and remembering to bring the camera with me was a bonus as this is the item I usually forget when I go somewhere nice!

Despite the relevance of the date, the day itself to this point had been uneventful and pleasant and importantly for me, given me a lot of space. Unfortunately getting home had the opposite effect with repeated phone calls enquiring after my well-being; all well meaning, I accept, but ultimately very destabilising.

It was perhaps fortunate that I was at my local bell ringing practice in the evening, and it took my mind off everything, not least the fact that it was about that time in the evening, 3 years ago, that I was sensing there was something badly wrong prior to the devastating news of Mark’s passing away.

It was also timely that I had one of my medical appointments the following morning which allowed me to discuss the events of the past 24 hours and to achieve an approach which would allow me to bury the feelings which by this point were exaggerated to a point of embarrassment.

What I found was interesting was the consultant’s analogy of grief which he’d picked up from a conference in the past. It moves away from the adage that grief diminishes over time. Instead the grief remains the same, but one’s life experience expands, so the grief itself whilst the same large blob takes up the same volume, but in a larger space, as demonstrated by some glass bowls (life experience) and a red sponge ball (grief):

Sponge-ball grief bowl
Sponge-ball grief bowl

And whilst my photo-manipulation skills are unlikely to win many awards, it’s a visual demonstration of the concept which to me holds a lot of truth – others may disagree, but for me the matter of grief reducing over time argument simply doesn’t work.

Etape Eryri 2015: Cycle Sportive in North Wales

The last few weeks have been somewhat *complicated* to say the least, and as a result I’ve not been able to write or update the blog at all. The plan is to pull together a few articles over the next wee while which covers the main things I’ve wanted to say, but been unable to do so. However, I don’t want to have something which makes War & Peace look like a short story either and so I’m grouping it into more manageable chunks.

This weekend just gone I spent in my favourite place, North Wales. Driving less than a couple of hours west from the hubbub that is Manchester takes me into a world of hills, mountains and space. And it’s a great exercise in peace and relaxation.

Having spent many childhood holidays in and around the area it has been the sport aspect that’s brought me back in recent times, with a number of long distance runs being the attraction. Last year I added a cycle ride to that list, and returned again this year for another go at the Etape Eryri.

This is a cycle sportive (non competitive event) held in the Snowdonia National Park, setting off from Caernarfon Castle, along the coast, before heading off into the hills for a jolly before returning to the Castle. In 2015 there were four flavours of pain – the  Toddler course (Bach) which is 47 miles, Teenager course (Canol) which is 76 miles, the Grown up course (Mawr) which is 103 miles, and finally the sadomasochistic option which is to do all three back to back.

This year, like last I took my stabilisers along on the Bach course, although I met up with some colleagues who are far more experienced cyclists who went straight in for the Mawr.

I was a little concerned about how my legs would hold up anyway. The week before had been a ‘recovery’ week from previous events which will have their own write-up, and the net result had been a significant amount of running – 39 miles in 3 days – to clear my head. With only two days recovery time I did wonder if I’d pushed my luck, but thankfully all was well in Wales.

Caernarfon is a place that I visited on numerous occasions as a child. I don’t have many recollections of the town itself, only the marina area, which includes the swing-bridge entry and the coastal road away from the town. I’m sure the town has changed – I don’t think Wetherspoons were there 30 years ago (although I could equally be wrong as it’s not something I’d have been interested at that time!) – but the Marina area looks exactly the same, with car-parking on one side and a windy road on the other.

The weekend started with getting the bike checked out, and discovering that perhaps getting it serviced once in a while would be beneficial, with the gears not really wanting to play ball. But it was good enough to get around without any part of the bike or rider coming adrift from the rest so that was something.

I resisted on purchasing an event t-shirt on the grounds of having far too many t-shirts as it is. But I did get hold of some more gels and energy bars (can not have too many of these) and along with colleagues sat down for the pasta-party – basically all you can eat pasta for £6. It appears I can eat quite a lot of the stuff, but there is definitely a limit!

During the meal I received a message from a friend who was going to be feeding the cat whilst I was away. It seems that I’ve built a new porch since they last fed the cat, and as such couldn’t get in! Thankfully it’s only an overnighter and I’d left plenty of food out before I went anyway. But OOOPS all the same.

My colleagues on the longer ride set off at the crack of dawn (well, not quite – the sun had been up for 3 hours by 7am) whilst I tucked into a cooked breakfast. In a B&B it would be rude to to turn down the ‘&B’ at the end of the day. Given my hotel was within the castle walls, I only had a two minute ride to get around to the start line.

This year, I took the GoPro, although unfortunately it wasn’t tightened enough in it’s mount and filmed about 80 minutes of fast-moving tarmac and precious little else. So I can’t bring you footage of the views – unless you like tarmac, which to be fair is the same as in Stockport, but without quite so many pot holes.

Drws y Coed
Drws y Coed

I could certainly feel the improvement of my fitness over last year, even despite trying to kill my legs during the week. In fact the ride should have taken me a lot less time but unfortunately following the timed up-hill mile (which is in the photograph), another cyclist had a major coming together with an oncoming car on the descent which resulted in a road closure, two air ambulances and a whole host of cyclists carrying their bikes over barbed-wire fences and across scrubland to reach the road after the closure. Thankfully it appears that the doom-monger rumours about the fate of the cyclist were somewhat exaggerated, however at this time I believe they’re still in hospital being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

This incident put a downer on the ride because there was a belief that it might have been a fatal accident (thankfully not) but I kept going and soon lost myself in the beauty of the Llanberis Pass. I soon found myself again at the top of the Pass when I met the strong headwind blowing along the route which was less than welcome! But at least it wasn’t raining.

The final hill in the last 10 miles finished me off in 2014. And again it appeared in 2015. I thought last year I was just weak, but it would seem that the hill itself is rather steep as well.

Etape Eryri Bach route
Etape Eryri Bach route

By the time I returned to Caernarfon Castle just under 3.5 hours after leaving it, I was ready to get off and go home. Which I did!

I got home to find a cat with a full bladder waiting to go out. It seems the litter tray is reserved for when the weather is bad! I also booked the bike in for a service :-)

Summer. Ish!

Summer has arrived.

What I mean is that it’s still blowing a gale but we don’t seem to be at risk of any frosts this weekend. But it’s June so therefore it must be summer.

It’s been a bit of a mess of a few weeks weather-wise. You think it’s going to be OK and plant out all the baby flowers in the garden, only to have them flattened by 50mph winds which we seem to have had for about a month now.

In fact I’ve made a good stab at trying to tidy up the garden, so it’s less like ‘the neighbour from hell’ and more like what is acceptable in a conservative neighbourhood. Not that it should matter that much, but I do like things tidy.

It’s probably fortunate I don’t have god-like powers otherwise nature would all be straight lines and perfect edges.

That aside, I’ve cut the lawn back so it isn’t in the midst of the flower borders any more. It seems mightily frustrating that grass seems to thrive anywhere where you don’t want it, but steadfastly refuses to grow in the lawn itself.

Even the cat seems to approve. When I say approve, he’s discovered he can take refuge in the edges so the wind doesn’t keep waking him up!

The garden fettling has encroached on my sport of course however I’ve managed to get along to my Tai Chi classes and have managed a few longer runs.

The latest visit to the physio was a positive one and after 3 months I’ve been given the all clear although I still have a list of body-mangling leg stretches I need to do  to keep my hips where they’re supposed to be, rather than migrating up into my neck or something equally unplausible.

So a week ago I took my legs for a gentle bounce along the Middlewood Way – an old railway line between Rose Hill Marple and Bollington, condemned by Beecham in the 1960s which is now a route for runners and cyclists and a toilet option for horses, judging by the amount of manure on the path. Having got to Bollington, I ran up a few hills, got completely lost, asked for directions from a couple of dog walkers who seemed completely bemused that I’d be running back towards Stockport, and then continued back home – an 18 mile round trip and the longest I’ve done since the Chester Marathon in October 2014.

I will admit to being a little achy afterwards, but I think that’s allowed.

Clearly having gone a bit mad with the long distance I held off for a few days before going out again – at least it gave me the opportunity to relocate several plants in the garden and to straighten a few others flattened by the wind.

When I did venture out, I seemed to confirm my suspicion that all paths and tracks in Poynton inexplicably end up on the Middlewood Way, as if they get drawn to this mystical pathway. Either that or they were planned by the owners of horses wanting to relieve their animals on the Middlewood Way…….

Actually it was a nice trip out as rather than going along the same routes I’ve used over the past few years, I just disappeared up and down different paths – albeit to still end up in the same place – but the route was different. And the GPS track of the route was different still and involved more yogic flying through buildings, but I digress!

Having gone for a flat run (mostly) during the week, I planned something a little hillier today and with the opportunity to get lost en route.

Confirmed, it was very hilly. Confirmed, I got lost.

But it was 14 miles of lovely views from the hills above the Cheshire Plain and forest paths before descending into Lyme Park. And no horses. Actually there was one who got in the way on the main road, but we’ll ignore him. It was blowing a gale as I went up the hills though, and the final ascent towards the Bowstones felt at times that I might end up being blown back down the hill (I’m only little).

I must start taking the camera out and sharing some of the views. I feel very lucky to be able to run from home to some great scenery without having to drive out there first.

Linux Mint on HP Stream 11

I’ve not done a tech post for a little while and having spent some of yesterday getting my laptop up and running with Linux I thought I would share my experience in case it’s helpful to another person.

Background

I’ve used Linux as my main operating system and off for a large chunk of the last 20 years. There have been a number of reasons why, incorporating enthusiasm for meddling with tech, but also frustration and annoyance with the Microsoft Windows approach during that time. As it happens Windows 7 brought me back into the Microsoft world, with a computer system which was predominantly stable and well-behaved, something which prior to that could not really be said. However, I tend to run lower-spec machines which choke on the heavy-weight world of up to date windows software making them slow and unwieldy to use. Coupled with the fact that at each new windows launch they seem to obsolete hardware I have at my disposal, their progress forward isn’t always reflected in mine!

I had a trusty old Samsung netbook N210 which had foolishly come pre-installed with Win 7 and was akin to an ant trying to shoulder-carry a tortoise. It sort of worked, but was hideously slow. A swap to Linux and an extra gig of memory gave me a portable machine which worked.

Alas, as with anything electronic, they can go wrong over time, and due to the age/cheapness of it, it was not practical to repair.

A New Machine – the HP Stream 11

I went searching for an up to date equivalent machine and found the HP Stream 11 with good reviews. It is lightweight, fan-less (read quiet) and great value for money. It comes with Windows 8.1 Bing Edition – basically it’s a free-to-suppliers copy of windows 8.1.

HP Stream 11 - stock photo
HP Stream 11 – stock photo

Now I will say that I’ve not played with a windows-based mobile phone with touch-screen so I can’t say how good that aspect works. What I can say is that for a non-touchscreen laptop, the way ‘apps’ appeared taking over the screen, sometimes switching between each other and having duplicate versions of Internet Explorer depending on whether it was launched from the task bar or from the email program, it really acted as a source of major frustration to me. The native Start menu was replaced by the new tiles-based arrangement which again, from the point of me using a laptop, slowed me down trying to find my apps.

And to top it off, my trusty USB Canoscan scanner was now obsolete in the Windows 8.1 world!

So, my attention was turned to making this device more to my liking, which would ultimately involve Windows 8.1 exiting stage left, and Linux replacing it.

Preliminary Steps – Back up the Stream 11 to USB

This guide is to set out what I did in the hope that it will help someone else looking to install Linux onto an HP Stream 11 as it’s not as simple as it could have been. However I’m not taking any responsibility for you following this and something going horribly wrong, I’d expect this to be looked at by people with a little bit of Linux background who know what they’re taking on. If you do this and your computer stops working or you lose data, your freezer defrosts unexpectedly  or your VCR starts eating jam sandwiches, it’s the risk you take.

Now the HP Stream 11 has a very healthy backup system on it. As well as having a hidden partition to restore from the HP software will allow a full external backup to a USB device. Before you start messing around with the software, do this.

Do this now! You will need an 8GB or larger USB storage stick and go to the HP Support app on the computer and follow the recovery media instructions – it will wipe the USB stick to do this so don’t use one with other data on that you want to keep. What this is actually doing is copying the hidden recovery partition to the USB stick such that if the internal drive was erased, you can get the machine back to factory conditions again. To be honest, it’s well worth doing this regardless of if you are going to do something to the computer system as it’s the only external backup you will have.

Once completed the USB stick will be machine-bootable. That means that if it is plugged into the machine when you start it up and the machine reads the USB stick, it will start up from the USB stick itself, allowing the restore option to become available.

Before I did anything else, I made sure that the USB stick would boot the machine. Better to find out now!

The boot menu
The boot menu

As the machine starts from being switched off, press the Escape key several times to bring up a menu which will allow boot options and access to the BIOS. F9 should provide a list of bootable devices including your USB stick and if you select that it should start the program whilst ultimately asks if you want to restore your machine. If that all works, the USB is good to go and can be stored somewhere safely.

Choose your flavour of Linux

For as long as I’ve been using Linux, there have been many different options each with their own advantages and disadvantages. My current preferred option is Linux Mint, which is based on Ubuntu (itself derived from Debian) but is lightweight, robust and pretty. Gone are the days of text-based installation routines and if you’ve installed windows before, this will not phase you too much. Helpfully, Mint (and others) can be run as a ‘live’ session from the USB stick allowing you to try it out without installing on the computer or making any changes. So that’s good too, if you try it and don’t like it, you’ve not done anything other than downloading it in the first place, and it doesn’t cost anything.

You can find Linux Mint here.

The latest version of Mint at this time is 17.1 “Rebecca”. Now there are different ‘looks’ to it, and I used the XFCE 32 bit version. XFCE is lightweight and clean and simple. Now I had to go for the 32 bit version because for some reason the 64 bit would not boot from the USB on my Stream – apparently there’s an issue with Gigabyte motherboards, but either way, that’s how I’ve ended up with that.

The image comes as an .iso file which needs to be transferred to another USB stick (not the recovery one that you used before!). Under Linux I use the USB Image Writer application. Looking at the Mint User Guide, they have recommended http://infrarecorder.org/ for windows users to create the USB live image.

BIOS changes and boot into the Live Image

Reboot the HP Stream 11 and use the Escape key to get to that menu you saw before and press F10 to go into the BIOS. You will need your Linux Mint USB stick in the USB port (I tend to use the USB 3.0 one). The BIOS is a place which gives the computer itself a number of settings and we are going to change a few here to make sure we can work from the USB.

Go to System Configuration and boot options. You will need to ENABLE LEGACY BOOT, DISABLE SECURE BOOT and under the legacy options at the bottom change the boot order to start with the USB stick (you’ll see below it is only in second place – F5/F6 keys change the order). Note that if you choose not to get rid of windows you will need to change these options back so it is able to boot again.

System Configuration screen in the BIOS
System Configuration screen in the BIOS

Save your options F10 and exit the BIOS, the computer should now boot from the USB stick and into a Linux Mint live session. note at this time no changes have been made to your internal disk on the computer.

Now at this stage you might find the internal trackpad to be well, useless! This can be fixed but at this point if you have a spare USB mouse I’d plug that in so you can mess around with the system to check it seems OK.

Liking Mint, want to go forward? Good, keep reading.

Installing your new operating system and going beyond the point of no return

OK this sounds a bit scary, and it’s supposed to be. Due to the small MMC drive and complications with this type of system and dual-booting, I have got rid of windows entirely and gone to Linux. By doing this all the data on the MMC drive is going. So if you have any personal data on there which isn’t backed up elsewhere it will go. Should it not work out for you, at least you have created the USB recovery stick (you have, haven’t you?!!) so you can restore the computer to factory settings, but that won’t include your data or programs you’ve installed on windows.

So if you’re happy to move forward, click on the ‘Install Linux Mint’ icon on the desktop and follow the on screen instructions. When you get to the point of formatting the disk, choose the ‘erase everything’ option and let Mint work out how it wants to structure the disk. It will use the wifi built in to download some extra stuff but the install should all go fine.

Once finished the install the machine will reboot, you’ll need to remove the USB drive and it will start up with your new Linux installation.

Now a word of caution here. There’s something on the eMMC drives which the Linux kernel is struggling to interpret and as such the boot time is longer than windows as it’s trying to do something (I’m not sure what). Once it’s gone through this there’s no other such a problem but just so you know, it may take 40 seconds or so to boot up.

Update the system

Once up and running there’s a few updates that are going to be required to make sure the machine is working as well as possible. It’s going to involve some downloads but it’s not complicated.

1) A new Kernel. Rebecca comes with the 3.13 kernel installed. A newer kernel will have stronger hardware support as this is a new machine. Kernel 3.19 enables the brightness function to work for example. To get this kernel we will run the Synaptic application. On XFCE this is on the system menu. I installed the following applications:

linux-generic-lts-vivid (3.19.0.18.5)
linux-headers-3.19.0-18
linux-headers-3.19.0-18-generic
linux-headers-generic-lts-vivid (3.19.0.18.5)
llinux-image-3.19/0-18-generic
linux-image-extra-3.19.0-18-generic
linux-image-generic-lts-vivid (3.19.0.18.5)

There’s something in one of the packages which without it being there the system cannot find the root partition on booting the new kernel. Let it do its stuff and then reboot and all being well the system will come up with the new kernel in operation. If there are problems, the old kernel can be accessed from the GRUB2 boot menu and that will work as before. I have found that on a cold reboot that the GRUB menu does not show on screen yet it does from a warm boot. I don’t know why this should be different.

2) Better Wi-Fi The Realtek drivers for the wifi are a bit flaky still, so lets get some better ones. I found this from the web which you will need to do from the terminal:

apt-get install gcc make
wget https://github.com/lwfinger/rtlwifi_new/archive/master.zip
unzip master.zip
cd rtlwifi_new-master/
make
sudo make install

Reboot your system

3) Trackpad woes The trackpad under Windows is a little frustrating to be polite about the matter. However in order to make it work properly under Linux, we need to change a couple of things. Again, do this in a terminal:

Copy the file /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf to /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf.

(I had to create the xord.conf.d folder under /etc/X11/ first)

Open the new file (under /etc/X11) and change the line “MatchDriver “synaptics”” with “Option “ClickPad” “on”” and the line “Option “SoftButtonAreas” “50% 0 82% 0 0 0 0 0″ to “Option “SoftButtonAreas” “50% 0 50% 0 0 0 0 0″.

On rebooting, the trackpad works again, although it a little uber-responsive at times for my liking. But at least you won’t need to tie up a USB port with a mouse any more.

HP Stream 11 - XFCE desktop
HP Stream 11 – XFCE desktop

And that’s how I set up Linux Mint 17.1 XFCE Edition (32 bit) on my HP Stream 11. There are other ways and some people seem to have managed to do things that I couldn’t do. But it is possible to get a good working installation of Linux on this great little notebook.

Potatoes, anyone?

Sometimes the contents of the TV channels leave a lot to be desired. In fact at one stage in my youth I became convinced that hte major breweries might sponsor Saturday night TV to be so appaling it would make everyone want to go out and get drunk.

Not your most usual conspiracy theory I’ll admit.

Tonight’s programmes seemed to be looking in the same vein. Any number of police-relate programmes, antiques, dressing up babies like divas. It really took a new low.

BBC 3 were busily broadcasting the Eurovision semi-finals. I’m not a great fan of Eurovision, however it would appear neither is the BBC given the dismal quality of the programme, with matey presenters trying to be light hearted and humerous, but falling well short of the mark, hitting only cringe-worthy. The whole thing seemed to take a stranger turn by announcing that Australia would be part of the competition this year.

Does anyone have a map of the world they could send to the organisers, just to clarify what constitutes Europe this year. I know we’ve gained a number of new members recently and that Eurovision has traditionally included countries outside of Europe, but surely it’s gone out of control now?

Perhaps they could rebrand it the world-cup-song-contest, and hold it with the football in Qatar in between matches and invite the remaining countries to submit a song.

Having flicked through the available options I ended up with BBC Alba, which on my TV system is next to BBC2.

And by default I’ve just sat through a programme about potatoes.

I’m no stranger to BBC Alba which is of interest to me for the music content; often in the early evening there is an acoustic folk/roots concert broadcast which is usually very good.

But now I am, it would appear, an expert in potatoes. At least I would be if I understood Gaelic, which is the language the channel is broadcast in!

Of bikes, bridges and racing rats

Well it has been about 10 weeks since my injury-inducing run at Wrexham and after rather a large amount of physio I had at least got running again, although was slower and seemingly quicker to tire than before, despite the amount of aerobic exercise I’ve been doing on the bike as well.

I’d run 8 miles in the week and that had gone OK, save for the bizarre GPS trail that my Garmin had reported. However, the bike ride I did on Wednesday really tired me out. I mean to the point where afterwards I wondered whether it had been too much.

Just outside the Cat & Fiddle
Just outside the Cat & Fiddle

The course I’d mapped out was a challenge, that was a given, with  several hilly bits to train my legs back up to being able to tackle Snowdonia next month. As it happens I missed one of the turnings; what appeared to be an obvious junction on the map was less than apparent in real life which resulted in the route being about 7 miles shorter and resulted in the last few miles actually being a lot flatter than had been in the original plan. In retrospect this was a good thing as my legs were finished by this point!

Even 2 days later I felt drained. I don’t know why it was so exhausting, only that it was!

In the end I managed a leisurely walk around the Roman Lakes in Marple, a wildlife area which I’ve intended to visit for the past few years but never actually managed to get around to it.

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Having run the Buxton Half Marathon in 2013 I had intended to tackle Eyam in 2014, a couple of weeks before my Edinburgh marathon attempt. Eyam is another tough course and there seems to be a bit of a friendly rivalry as to which is the tougher run. However the 2014 plans were kiboshed with the piriformitis/sciatica which followed Wilmslow 2014.

It was only last week that I remembered about Eyam Half Marathon again and whilst I questioned whether I would manage such a race, it sowed the seed of a plan although with the aftermath of the bike ride I really doubted it would happen.

In the end, with the closing date being Friday, I decided to enter, on the grounds that it wasn’t as hideously expensive as a lot of the commercial races – Eyam is organised by the village to raise funds for the village – and if I had to drop out of going, it wouldn’t break the bank quite so much.

Eyam is a historically interesting place; in short during the plague (spread by rats) Eyam Village had the plague but the neighbouring villages did not. A decision was taken that Eyam would cut itself off from the rest of the world to contain the plague so that the other villages would not be infected. It resulted in potentially more deaths in the village itself as people could not get away, but it prevented a much more serious spread of the disease.

Driving over, I actually felt quite apprehensive. I’ve not felt nervous about a half-marathon in years. And with speaking to a load of the runners and finding out they were all fell-runners I did wonder if I’d bitten off more than I could chew with this one. Indeed the car park was at the bottom end of the first major climb. Which was significant!

The course itself consisted of a number of very steep uphill sections interspersed with longer less-steep downhill bits. And actually  I was going fine until the final uphill section when my legs decided they’d really had enough and wanted to go home! So I was reduced to a fast walk at about the 11 mile mark although I picked it up again just before the final mile which was very downhill.

Eyam Half Marathon route map and profile
Eyam Half Marathon route map and profile

I discovered that actually I could do downhill quite well in this race and overtook everyone who had passed me whilst I’d wimped out to a walk! In fact I was still accelerating as I returned to the village and across the line in a time of 1h39m42s according to my watch (official results yet to be published online).

So was it tougher than Buxton? Hard to say, they’re different with Buxton having longer more gradual climbs rather than the steep ones of Eyam. They both sport some amazing views over the Derbyshire countryside and I can whole-heartedly recommend both, but neither are for the faint-hearted!

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