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!

Celebrate with fireworks. Or a fluffy duster.

Friday 8th May 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2 in Europe – VE Day – and as such there has been plenty of commemorative events going on countrywide in the UK, and locally was no different.

There had been a general request for the bells of the UK to be rung to mark the occasion and the majority of my local band turned out which was nice. And the quality of the ringing was pretty good too, which is a great thing to be a part of. It was only for 30 minutes but we did our bit, and we did it to the best of what we could do.

The day itself was pretty disappointing if you were wanting to go out and do anything. I managed some shopping and whilst in the supermarket noticed that Aldi do a ‘Fluffy Duster Starter Kit’ which left me wondering what one moves onto once having mastered this preliminary level of cleaning. Is there an Advanced Kit? Do you need to go on a course to best be able to use it?

I didn’t buy one, so I’ll never know.

There followed an afternoon in the garden trying to make it look less ignored than it had been. Some marigolds were planted. No doubt it’ll be a race between the slugs and the frost as to who gets first blood!

Come the evening and the Great British weather had clearly been reminded, with a proverbial elbow in the chest, that it’s May and therefore supposed to be making a bit more effort about things. The clouds parted and we were treated to a little bit of evening sun.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity, an array of running gear was thrown together and I stumbled up the road, eventually getting into something which represented running. Actually for the first time since the injury my pace wasn’t too shabby either, although a walk-run approach was needed for a while. In fact this is the first technology fail I’ve had when running along a country lane, my GPS watch complained it couldn’t find any satellites. Perhaps the good weather had pushed them south over the horizon, I’m not sure. But I kept on going (running existed for millenia prior to the invention of GPS) and by my estimates I managed an 8 miler in just under the hour, which I was happy with.

The GPS print out I was less impressed with as the was a suggestion of flying over fields and through buildings. Perhaps this is the advent of the ‘modern triathlon’ – running, flying and passing through solid objects – I’m not sure it’ll catch on. But at least with the stopwatch functionality, a couple of clocks and a map of the route, I could confirm the important stuff.

Come Sunday and the weather had returned to thinking it wasn’t May any more – fine if you like clouds I suppose. We were off into Stockport for the main local VE Day commemoration at the Parish Church there. We rang the bells for the service. Then, we went away for the service and watched with an element of intrigue as the pavement kerbs were taped off and  posters were put up advertising a firework display.

Now, Stockport always have to do things a little different. Fireworks in broad daylight would be a ridiculous idea anywhere else in the world. But in Stockport, this is deemed as ‘a really good idea’.

We then watched the congregation herded out of the church on-the-double. It turns out that the council wanted to lock the church during the fireworks, and that if you weren’t out before 4.10pm, you’d be locked in…….

No, I don’t get the logic either.

The town itself was very busy, especially for a Sunday, with traffic everywhere, and the vision of a herded congregation into the path of cars on the nearby road was a little worrying, but thankfully it was so congested that they managed it without anyone being flattened.

And in broad daylight, the fireworks commenced:

VE Day fireworks - the crowds
VE Day fireworks – the crowds

I waited a long time before there was a gap in the traffic so you could actually see the people stood watching. They were kept back away from the fireworks, but the traffic continued throughout regardless!

So what do fireworks in broad daylight look like? Like this:

Fireworks in broad daylight!
Fireworks in broad daylight!

The fireworks were being set off on the other side of the church, but as it was blowing a gale, I figured I’d be safer with a huge stone building between them and me. And they were exploding high above the church as you can see.

If you look really carefully…..

With that all complete, the church was unlocked and everyone piled back in again. We dodged in and around them to get upstairs so we could ring a Quarter Peal of 1259 Grandsire Caters. Which went OK, and was probably more obvious than the fireworks, although judging by the deserted state of the road after we finished, I suspect nobody stuck around to listen!

Castleton revisited

After the vast array of running and cycling, the weather inevitably changed. As such my opportunity to get out for a few days was somewhat limited.

Tuesday was a frustrated day; anxiety was back with a vengeance and although sorting things out at the doctors was as straightforward as it could have been (walk in, get paperwork, leave) I was totally jiggered.

Wednesday I had the opportunity of a day out with friends which I took. Very pleasant it was too, and a great distraction from the goings on around me in my own life. The weather had been surprisingly good, but by the time I got home it was deteriorating and as such I didn’t get out. Anxiety returned, just to make its presence felt.

By Thursday with rubbish weather, I was crawling the walls. Literally at one point as I went up to the local bell chamber (which I look after) to check on some work that had been done by outside contractors. I took the GoPro with me and if I can work out how to edit the footage together into something watchable, I’ll post the link (don’t hold your breath, it’s 23 years since I last edited a video and the tech has moved on…!)

Thursday evening and after our practice night at the tower, I sat down with the weather forecast and some maps. Friday was looking OK. The Peak District was also looking pretty fine as well. A plan came together.

Lunch in Castleton route
Lunch in Castleton route

The route turned into a 55 mile epic involving some amazing scenery in the High Peak. The views from the Snake Pass back towards Glossop were stunning, and in stark contrast to the barren hillside as the approach to the summit itself wound around the edges of the peaks.

One of the views from the Snake Pass (online photo)
One of the views from the Snake Pass (online photo)
Profile up the Snake Pass
Profile up the Snake Pass

The Snake Pas then continues Eastwards and down into the Valley at the bottom of which Ladybower reservoir sits. On getting down here I remembered cycling around the reservoir with a couple of work colleagues  who enticed me out in the months immediately after Mark’s passing.

The return journey took me through Hope and Hope Valley before reaching my lunchtime destination of Castleton.

My last visit here was a couple of months prior to losing Mark, after I’d taken a couple of days off work to clear my head and in the latter throes of the marathon training and I walked up a couple of the peaks nearby. In fact I stopped off at the same pub for lunch and, on checking my phone, was reminded that 3 mobile don’t reach Castleton!

Castleton
Castleton

Fully fed the next challenge was Winnatt’s Pass. Actually I got the falling-off bike thing done before I got onto the pass, whilst I was fiddling with my GPS watch which I’d forgotten to restart following lunch…….

Winnatts Pass is spectacular. And steep!

Aerial shot of Winnats Pass
Aerial shot of Winnats Pass
Winnats Pass - Profile
Winnats Pass – Profile

Getting the photos from the internet reminded me how I really should have taken my camera with me. Beautiful views throughout.

I chose to walk up the steep Pass mostly for safety reasons. I’ve already demonstrated a keen ability to fall off whilst fighting with the cleat pedals on steep inclines (and most other terrain to be fair) and with the Pass itself being quite busy with traffic, I really didn’t want to wobble and fall in front of a car imagining it was a TT motorbike (yes, they travel way too fast on there). Either way, it was still hard work even walking the bike up the hill – calves were working overtime.

On reaching the cattlegrid at the top, it was a remount and pedal off over the hills which subsequently dropped into Chapel-en-le-Frith. From here I chickened out and joined the A6 main road to return me to Stockport, even if I took a detour through High Lane to avoid some of the worst of the traffic. I toyed with extending the route to exceed 100km, but knowing I had a phone call to make, and the fact that my legs were telling me how much they’d like to be  re-introduced to the sofa at an early opportunity, I went back home!

A great day out – 4 hours cycling (plus pub lunch) in some of the finest scenery and with bright, albeit cool weather.

A good way to shift anxiety, but I don’t think I could do it every day…….!

Progress

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of physical exercise.

Over the past couple of weeks, the weather in Manchester has been unseasonably erm nice! Rather than storms battering us all April, the sun has come out on a lot of occasions.

Of course all good things do come to an end. The forecast for this weekend just gone, even last week, spelled enough doom such that I chose not to enter a bike ride in North Wales. To be fair, I’d like to stop falling off my bike before I ride in a different country, but that aside…..

Still, by Saturday, whilst taking part in a bell-ringing competition (not my idea)  during a damp afternoon, on checking the weather forecast, Sunday was given as wall-to-wall sunshine.

This gave a dilemma – to run or to cycle. I figured I’d be unable to moderate my intentions thus doing a bit of both was almost certainly going to be taken out by over-enthusiasm on the first activity.

I decided that as I’d run the day before, and struggled with 2 miles, that cycling might be a better option. So I sat down with the maps and plotted a route that I might actually remember when I came to cycle it. I’m sure I could set up my Garmin Fenix 2 to direct me if I knew how, but I’m rubbish at following such instructions so freestyling it tends to be a more reasonable option.

The route took me through Cheshire, Stockport and Tameside off out eastward into the Peaks along the Woodhead Pass, before swapping sides of the reservoirs and returning home via Derbyshire. The views in the Pass were stunning and I had to remind myself that I had to get home otherwise I’d probably have continued East-wards further into South Yorkshire making for a somewhat longer-than-anticipated ride!

My Sunday morning bike ride!
My Sunday morning bike ride!

Needless to say on getting home I didn’t do a huge amount, aside from prodding a few things in the garden and going food shopping. Oh and eating a lot too……..

So that was to be the end of the nice weather.

However the forecast threw up another gem – Monday morning scheduled to be……. SUNNY!

Now I have a number of routines planned into my exercise regime, driven in part by the software I use to record the data. Smashrun (the statistical runner’s guilty passion) has a ‘fun’ side where badges of honour are given for such things as going out running on 10 days during a month. Up until this weekend I was on 9.

Similarly Strava has a selection of challenges; admittedly not a huge number for runners, however I have recorded a half-marathon every month since June 2014, but due to the injury at Wrexham and a slow recovery, it was looking like that progression was going to stop this month.

However, buoyed on from the 47 mile bike ride yesterday, I planned a 13.1 mile route for this morning. It was a well thought out route (shocking, unlike me I know!) which had numerous abandonment points such that if my legs couldn’t go the distance it could be shortened to something much less as a circular route.

As it happens, although it was hard work, and required a number of walked sections, I completed my April 2015 half-marathon challenge in 1h40m6s. In the sunshine. Hurrah!

One aspect I did note during this was my pulse rate and therefore blood-pressure. My previous runs have had a very high pulse rate whilst running, often taking me right up to my estimated maximum heart rate. I’ve always thought this a little odd as it seemed to gravitate to that point during all distance runs, rather than if I was just tackling a difficult climb for example.

Since my issue at work a couple of weeks ago I’ve noticed that my shorter runs were exhibiting a lower average heart rate. And today, again the same, my maximum being some 20 bpm lower than my previous norm.

So perhaps the mental explosion inside me a fortnight ago was actually coupled with a physical symptom as well and that it had been building for a lot longer than I had realised.

Mount St Helens and the bicycle

It has been a little while since the last post, so I’ll try to bring the blog back up to date.

I think it’s safe to say that 2015 has continued in its turbulent nature. I guess it was only a matter of time with the two deaths, funeral and injury which occurred in March actually sank in. Now I’m normally one for passively letting things run through me; occasionally they snag on something and that gives a bit of grief that needs resolving, but usually things are dealt with rather low key.

Unfortunately, pressures at work, borne out by there being not enough pairs of hands or hours in the day, combined with a somewhat unsteady foundation of issues in the home life – including no stress-relieve outlet of running due to the injury, resulted in something going pop. To be fair, the day prior at work, I felt that things weren’t great, I even commented at one point that I was on the verge of just going home. But I kept on as that’s what I do. Unfortunately, the following day, with another ‘drop-everything-and-do-xyzabc-as-well’ resulted in a moment similar to Mount St Helens in May 1980, occurring in my head.

It’s probably fortunate that I remember little of the day, other than lots of different people telling me that I really didn’t look well and that I should go home, which is, coincidentally, where I’ve been ever since.

Whilst the physical injury is still not completely fixed, it has abated enough to allow me to get out. When I say that I can ‘run my rage out of me’ it really does seem to be the case of doing that. I can feel the stress/anger/frustration almost seemingly flow around my body like a river of lava and it is relentless. The pressure value seems to be accessed via expending physical energy and over the past two weeks I’ve run 42 miles and cycled over 190 miles. Which for somebody ‘a bit crocked’, is something of an achievement.

The fact that he weather has been kind has been rather helpful, and whilst it would have been nice to have taken a camera with me on my travels, you’ll just have to accept my word that the views from the Cat & Fiddle last week were fantastic, and that I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else at that time. Even if, by the time I returned home that my legs were like jelly!

Cat & Fiddle route
Cat & Fiddle route

Not that it has all been straightforward. I decided to swap over to ‘cleat pedals’, where one clips into the pedal. This is good for maximising pedal power. But not so good when it comes to falling off the bike, which I have done on multiple occasions in the last week, sometimes with an audience, sometimes without.

Indeed, travelling up the aptly named ‘The Climb ‘o Doom’ where the gradient was sufficiently steep for me to unable to pedal, there was a definite Wile E Coyote moment where I stopped, looked at the camera, before plummeting earthwards with a loud crash.

Either way, I have a sore left arm and dented pride! I’m told this is a normal learning curve, it’s just I’m older and less wise than those who have previously made this transition I fear!

Running has been much slower progress, with the legs struggling to get up to the mileage they were previously comfortable at turning out. It looks like this will be the first month since June 2014 when a half-marathon distance will not be completed. A shame, but one has to look after the body and if it really doesn’t want to go, pushing it is only likely to do damage.

Sadly the early summer weather seems to have ended, at least for the time being. I’m currently 1 run short of getting my 10 runs in the month (the joys of SmashRun) and I’m itching for another bike adventure, albeit a little one. I guess I’ve been inspired by reading about James Brooman who is currently RUNNING ACROSS AUSTRALIA. Check out his blog and if you’re on Strava, you can follow his progress on there too. It’s the sort of crazy thing I’d love to be doing but the sort of thing I’d immediately talk myself out of, being a really stupid thing to do!

So that’s really been the last couple of weeks. Of course the plan is to get my mind fit again (or as fit as it will ever be) whilst my physical fitness also improves (gravity allowing). I’ll probably grab the highlights from the London Marathon later on tomorrow rather than listening to the commentary which tends to annoy me more than anything. I enjoyed a documentary about Paula Radcliffe today which really helped me to remember why I enjoy running but also that it’s part of a bigger picture, rather than the be all and end all.

Which, overall, is probably the thing I’m taking away from April 2015.

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