2016 … sporty stuff

December 30th, 2016 • Posted in News, Random Stuff |

This is what I got up to in the swimming/biking/running realm this year!

It’s been a busy 2016.  I’ve trained harder this year than ever before (650 miles running, 2230 on the bike, 70 miles swimming … need to work on the swimming!), and I hit Ironman Wales in September feeling pretty good.  Getting there involved some other great races, loads of fun — and very tough –– training with the splendid NEWT triathlon club, and of course, a few bits of new kit.  There were more than a few wife’s-raised-eyebrow-at-yet-another-Wiggle-delivery moments.

Cirencester Duathlon was an off-road duathlon in February, cold and muddy and the only mountain bike race I did this year.  Hard work!  And very, very muddy.  I loved it, and it took weeks to get all that mud out of the bike.

Bath Half marathon was one of the biggest races I’ve done, good fun but so many people that the roads felt clogged, and it made me realise how I really prefer smaller scale races.

Talking of which, the Titan Half-iron distance was a brutal race with excellent organisation, great tee shirt and medal, and a stunning course.  60 miles of proper hills on the bike (including Llangynydr), and the half-marathon was misleadingly tough.  Didn’t really do as well as I’d hoped, but enjoyed every minute of it.

The Velothon was a fantastic closed-road bike race … well, they don’t call it a race, but it was!  Very mixed terrain, thousands of participants, and a couple of killer hills, the second of which — Caerphilly Mountain — defeated me.  I was pleased with my time, but disappointed with that 100 yard walk of shame, and because my main target for the year was Ironman Wales (which has one of the most notoriously hilly bike routes of any Ironman) I was also worried that the bike might be a problem.  So I entered…

… the Iron Mountain sportive.  Even harder and longer than the Velothon, it also put my mind at rest.  A great day.

In May I also raced the May 4th Marathon, a mountain marathon in the Shropshire hills.  Tough as hell, with beautiful scenery, it reinforced my love of trail running which will continue into 2017.  Epic bling, too.  It’s all about the bling.

The NEWT relays at the Cotswolds 113 was fantastic fun, as was the Cotswold Lake 62 Olympic distance.  We also had a great time at the Back to the Trenches poppy run in November, 6 cold muddy miles with obstacles thrown in.  Masses of mud, loads of fun with great friends.

And then…

…Ironman Wales.  The biggie.  It was one of the greatest days of my life, and you can read my in-depth race report here.

A fantastic year!  And 2017 is going to be a fun year too.  So far I’ve entered a trail half-marathon in February, the Cotswolds 113 (half ironman), the legendary Blaenafon Triathlon, the Velothon (again … can’t resist those closed roads), and in a year in which I’ve decided not to go full distance … my A race will be the Brutal Half, which includes the small matter of an ascent of Snowdon in it’s half-marathon run.

Hope to see you out there!

Mission accomplished

 

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2016 … in writing

December 21st, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

2016 is nearly done, so as usual I’m spending a few minutes, and a few paragraphs, summing up my year in writing.

It started as a bit of a ‘tie-in’ year when it comes to book releases, with books 2 and 3 of The Rage War trilogy both released this year.  I had a lot of fun writing these books and immersing myself in the Alien and Predator universes, but I’m also pleased to be able to get back to my own original work, too.  The Rage War has been very well received, and I continue to get emails and messages about these books regularly.

Rime was an original science fiction novella released as an ebook from Venture Press.  I think it’s really good, and I’m hoping to look into a print edition next year.

My second thriller The Family Man was released in the summer.  An indirect sequel to The Hunt, I think it’s a better novel, and people seemed to mostly like it.  Unfortunately it didn’t make it into the supermarkets (The Hunt was available everywhere), which obviously had an effect on sales.

I had a few short stories published this year too, including a couple of reprints, in anthologies such as Peel Back the Skin, Something Remains, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol 3, and others.

When it comes to new work, this year I’ve been writing a new fantasy novel with Christopher Golden for HarperCollins (we’ll be revealing more about this next year), as well as developing a couple of new novel projects, writing the Kong: Skull Island novelisation, and beginning work on the follow-up to my forthcoming novel Relics.

2016 has ended with some exciting movie news which I’ll be able to say more about in the New Year.  With The Hunt being pitched to some major Hollywood studios right now, and this new news about a separate project, 2017 could turn out to be quiet interesting!

Also, 2017 sees the release of Relics in the UK and US, the first in a new series from Titan Books.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a safe, Happy New Year.

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Ten Years On …

November 30th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Ten years ago last May my mother passed away. Sometimes it feel like just ten days. Three months following her death, I decided to quit work and try to make a living writing full-time. Mum was always very encouraging and a great supporter of my writing, and she’d instilled a love of reading in me from a young age. I’ve mentioned before how she gave me The Rats to read when I was ten years old. And how it didn’t do me any harm. Honest.

I think about Mum every day.

Ten year later I’m still here. Tomorrow, 1st December, is the tenth anniversary of my first day as a professional writer, making a living purely out of making stuff up, writing it down, and selling it.

I remember calling my Dad from work sometime that September and saying, “I’m giving up work to write.” I’d been worried about making that call––Dad is in his eighties now, and I thought he’d berate me for giving up a steady job and income. But his first reaction was, “Your Mum would be chuffed.” That was when I knew it was the right decision.

It was a leap into the unknown. Although I had some money saved, and knew there were a couple of book deals incoming, for the very first time in my adult life I didn’t have a monthly pay cheque. That came as something of a shock, but it was also extremely liberating.

I have never once regretted the decision––not even slightly––and when it comes to writing, the past ten years now feels like most of my adult life. Sometimes I still miss working with other people, but I’m also comfortable in my own company, and with various collaborative projects, the wonders of Skype and the World Wide Web (read in Uncle Bryn voice), and occasional lunches with friends, I’ve never found writing to be a lonely business.

So after these past ten years, and over twenty novels (a few in collaboration), a couple of collections, a few novellas, dozens of short stories, a few screenplays, a handful of movie options, and one Hollywood film, where am I? It strikes me that lots has changed, and yet quite a lot hasn’t. I’m still sitting at the same desk in the same position in the same room … although now that room is also home to a couple of bikes and a load of sport kit that would have left the Tim of ten years ago bemused (and probably my Mum too … I often imagine what she’d say when I’m out on my bike: “You be careful, it’s not you, it’s the other idiots out there!”) . I’m still writing horror … but I’ve also edged into thriller territory, and I’m writing another fantasy novel with my long-time collaborator and American brother Chris Golden.

And, of course, I’m still forever in that ‘waiting for news’ limbo that writers spend most of their time haunting, striding up and down, worrying, stressing, wondering just when the news they’re hoping for will come in and knowing very well that it won’t be quite as soon as they’d wish.

… waiting, stressing, striding …

So what have I learned? Writing is a twenty-four hours a day job. It’s hard work, demanding, exhausting, frustrating, your ego is massaged sometimes, but more often takes major hits that leave it low and in hiding. Only a small proportion of writers make it ‘big’, and most of us write to live as much as live to write. Book deals come and book deals go. And some people don’t view writing as a job at all. I still get plenty of ‘will you write us a short story and we’ll pay you with exposure’ requests (try that next time you’re having your car serviced: ‘Sorry, mate, I can’t pay you, but I’ll tell all my mates you do a cracking oil change’).

I’ve also learned that writers in my chosen genres are among the nicest people on the planet. It’s inevitable that whatever direction your life takes will present you with new opportunities to make great friends, and that’s been very true of my career. I’m never without a constantly fluctuating level of money-concern, but when it comes to friends I am rich indeed.

If you’ve been buying my books over the past ten years, thank you. You keeping buying them, I’ll keep writing them. I once commented to a writing friend how lucky we were doing what we do for a living, and he berated me, and said that we work bloody hard, we take hits, there’s no guaranteed income, we sometimes live on a knife-edge, and in some regards there’s an ongoing process of reinvention required to navigate our muses through the minefields of professional writing. He was right, of course. But I still feel privileged to do what I do.

I hope it continues for another ten, twenty, thirty years. I’ve got enough ideas, for sure. My muse feels younger than my 47 years. Inside, I’m still a kid huddled in my bed between waking and sleeping, staring at the darkness between the partly-drawn curtains, and wondering, What if…?

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Outdoor Fitness

November 25th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

There’s a familiar face in Outdoor Fitness magazine this month!  It’s a real thrill as it’s one of my favourite magazines.  A great piece, too.  If you enjoy the outdoors at all, I’d recommend this magazine.

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Race planning for 2017…

October 26th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Those who know me — or those who read this blog, or follow me when I’m on Fb and Twitter — will know that I have a more than passing love of triathlon.  In fact, it’s become a big thing in my life, and my love of swim/bike/run/eat is growing.  This year I raced Ironman Wales (you can scroll down and read my race report), and I decided to not do a full iron distance next year.

Instead, I’m doing a half distance race called the Brutal. It’s got that name for a reason.

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Honestly, I think it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  The swim is a chilly dip in Lake Padarn in Snowdonia, the bike is two laps around Snowdon’s footprint (almost 60 miles involving over 5,000 feet of climb), and then the run is one lap of the lake and then … an ascent and descent of Snowdon!

Yep.  I’ve certainly let myself in for it this time!

As well as that, I’m racing a flat half-ironman in June (the wonderful Cotswolds 113), and I’m also in for the Velothon in July.  And there’ll be other races too, I’m sure, but for now these are the three booked in.

Can’t wait!

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Researching, reading, and real life

October 20th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Facebook?  Twitter?  I hardly remember them.  #OfflineOctober has been wonderful, and I’m still not missing the whole social media thing.  So much so that I really have to consider to what extent I’ll go back on after October. Right now I’d be happy to dump it altogether, but I know as a professional writer it’s probably advisable to have some presence.

Perhaps I’ll develop and update this website and start a decent mailing list.  That could be the way to go. Thoughts?

Now that I’m not reaching for Facebook every ten minutes to see just HOW MANY people have like that incisive and witty comment I just posted, I’m finding I have a lot more time for working, writing, and living.  I’ve just finished reading the excellent The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood, you should do yourselves a favour and pick that one up.  I’m also enjoying Walking the Himalayas by Levison Wood, and I’m reading quite a bit of research material for a novel proposal I’m working on set on the England/Welsh borders around 1070.

And, yeah, real life.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  But away from the computer screen, it’s great to be living it properly again.

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Life back…

October 6th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

…that’s what it feels like, anyway.  #OfflineOctober is going well — I haven’t felt the temptation to log into Facebook or Twitter, I’m reading more, writing more, and avoiding hearing about what strangers are eating for tea or what Donald Trump said next.  It’s fantastic.  I’d recommend it!

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#OfflineOctober

October 3rd, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

I’m joining my friends Sarah Pinborough, James Barclay, Brian Keene and others in deactivating Facebook and Twitter for the month of October.  It’s a bit like Dry January, I guess … you do it because you know it’s good for your body and mind, and also because you just want to make sure you can do it.  Three days in and I’m not missing either social media platform at all, I’m reading more, writing more, and generally enjoying not being attached to my phone or keyboard.  It feels good.  I’d recommend it.

If you need to contact me, my email’s on the Contact page of this site.  Now it’s back to work!

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Ironman Wales – 18th September 2016

September 30th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Tenby is my new favourite town. I mean it. I’ve never experienced anything quite like Ironman Wales. What an epic day, filled with pain and cheering, sweat and hollering, aching legs and ‘high-five-for-power’ boards, a few dark moments and countless moment of delight. And Tenby was the shouting, cheering, beating heart of it all.

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My wife and kids came down with me for the weekend. We arrived later Friday evening, so Saturday was a bit frazzled––registration, briefing, checking and bagging my kit, racking bike and bags, then watching my son smash Ironkids (6th place, sprint finish, top lad!). After that we chilled a bit, with a nice meal and a glass of wine to try and ease me to sleep. And … I did sleep! Only 3 or 4 hours, perhaps, but that 4:30 alarm call didn’t fill me with despair. In fact, I was excited! This being my third iron-distance race helped, but also the idea of racing one of the most epic, famous, and tough Ironman courses in the world. I was one of 18 members of my splendid tri club the NEWTs (Newport and East Wales Triathlon) racing, so I knew there was going to be a massive support contingent there too.

A few millions quid's worth of bike...

A few millions quid’s worth of bike…

I ate breakfast and got ready, then walked down to transition on my own. I felt good. There were some troubled faces around, but though I had a few butterflies, I couldn’t wait to hit the beach and get going. The atmosphere in transition was electric, and I saw a few mates and made a few more. I was already getting the feeling that this was going to be a fantastic day.

The walk down to the beach was great fun. The early morning streets were thronged with people, and I saw a few NEWT mates already cheering us on. I mean, we were easy to see… I was the one in the black wetsuit and white hat.

Once we were hanging our shoe bags for the run back up from the beach to T1, the whole ‘self-seeding’ thing went in the bin, and I found myself down on the beach pretty near the front. I’d placed myself in the 1:20 pen, but was hoping for quicker, so I wasn’t too troubled. Saw some more NEWT mates on the paths and steps above the beach … and what a wait that was. A beautiful sunrise bled across the horizon. Thousands of people lined the cliffs and roads above. And when the Welsh national anthem began, it was a really spine-tingling moment. Got a speck of sand in my eye, I reckon. Then AC/DC’s Thunderstruck blasted the speck away, and we were off.

Those first couple of hundred metres swimming were fine, not too much bumping and punching because of the rolling start, and soon I fell into a rhythm. The first buoy, however, was a real rumble, with scores of swimmers trying to get around at the same time. A few bumps and kicks here, and then I was pushed down the side of the buoy, forced underneath. That was my first mouthful of sea water. Admission: I’d not done much sea training, so that sea water was burning my throat and making me gag. Especially when it was supplemented with a nice dose of fuel from the boats and jet-skis.

Still being chased by that jellyfish...

Still being chased by that jellyfish…

Lap one done, and I was feeling good. I’m always more comfortable on lap two, but by the first buoy I was keen to get it over with. And then … The Jellyfish. Anyone who saw that leviathan at the first buoy on lap 2 will know what I’m on about. Sure, I’d seen a few before. But compared to this, they were like sparrows sitting beside a buzzard. It was a bloody monster. You’ve seen Jurassic Park, right? Or The Blob? This was bigger. More stings. And the first thing I knew was when I punched that bastard in the head.

Could be a contributory factor to my 1:10 pb swim!

I was a bit wobbly up the ramps, then I found my feet and started the run into town. And this was when I began to realise just what the legendary Ironman Wales support is all about. There were thousands of people lining those streets, cheering and screaming, and I ran that 1k run from beach to transition grinning like a hyena in a Beefeater. Especially when I saw my lovely wife and kids cheering me on!

T1 went smoothly, then I was out on the bike course. This was the bit I was nervous about. It’s a legendary ride, with 8,000 feet of climbing over the 112 miles, and although I’d ridden the course three years before during Long Course Weekend, I hadn’t been there since. I’m lucky where I live in Monmouthshire––out the door on the bike and there’s a hill in every direction. Sometimes I’m happy about that, because it’s great training. Sometimes … you know, I just want a bit of flat.

But I needn’t have worried. I settled into the ride quite comfortably, taking on some food and drink and an occasional Saltstick tab to prevent cramping. I was carrying ‘real’ food … homemade flapjacks, ham and cheese wraps, Jelly Babies, and I took bananas at most feed stations, too. Then on a narrow lane out towards Angle a motorbike marshal gave me a blue card for overtaking in a supposed no overtaking zone. So, more about this later…

I worried about the penalty for a while, and vowed that I’d be extra careful with the rest of my race. Didn’t want to pick up more penalties and get DQ’d! I saw plenty of drafting, and sometimes it was just impossible to maintain those distances. But I was cautious––no peeing in public, observing drafting zones, and the bike went well. The course was challenging but beautiful, the hills were fun, and I realised how all that hilly training was paying off. While I’m not exactly Wigginsish on the flat, I often overtook riders going uphill. Some people were even pushing up Wiseman’s Bridge the first time, but though I found the route tough, it was also a really enjoyable ride.

And the support was utterly immense. The towns and villages were thronged with people, lining the streets and sitting outside houses, firing up barbecues and drinking some very tempting cups of tea. I saw a few nasty crashes, a few mechanicals, but overall the race was pretty smooth. Then I passed Tenby and Kiln Park, and there was NEWT Hill. If you’re a NEWT, you’ll know how that short, steep stretch lined with yellow-clad club members and families provides an injection of pure power that launches you on the next 20 miles. If you’re not a NEWT, you’re still cheered and hollered up that hill. It was amazing, and seeing my clubmates and family gave me a massive, massive boost.

The second lap, and that final 40 miles, was tougher. Someone had gone around and made the hills steeper. At the top of Wiseman’s the second time I met Jon, a guy I’d met at the top of a horrible steep hill in the Titan triathlon a couple of months before. Hill buddies! I finally rolled into Tenby and T2, and went to the penalty tent and served my 5 minute penalty. While I was there with the penalty guy the Race Ref turned up, and the three of us chatted about what a tough job they have. They said how unpleasant it is having to DQ people. Hmmm. More on that soon, too…

Onto the run! And this first little jog through Tenby was a noisy, rowdy delight. Cheeks aching from smiling, I made the first hilly lap out to New Hedges and back into town. I saw Mark, an old friend I’d bumped into the day before who I hadn’t seen for almost twenty years, and that was nice. Then running around one of the quieter backstreets bits of Tenby (and there aren’t many of them), my family were waiting outside our apartment. Our friends the Coopers were there too, they’d come all the way to Tenby for the day to support––good mates, eh? That was a great moment.

I saw Mark again once or twice through Tenby, he must have been one of the fastest runners there that day, darting back and forth through town to catch me two or three times per lap!

Lap two was harder. Loads more support, some getting steadily more drunk in town, and I made a cheeky diversion towards the finisher’s chute before veering away again. Saw my family and the Coops again, and loads of NEWTS, and a few other mates in the crowd.

Everyone has a dark time during an Ironman. Mine was lap 3 of the run. I was hurting, my legs were weak, and however much I drank I felt dehydrated, water swilling around in my stomach and making me feel queasy. Seeing some friends on the run helped––some of the other NEWTs racing, Jeff Johnson from the USA, my hill-buddy Jon, and others.

I saw everyone again back through Tenby, and the town was alight now, darkness had fallen and the whole place was illuminated. It was ablaze with a staggering amount of support, on fire with good cheer, and this was it, this was me heading back down and towards the finish line. That was a real moment. The crowd cheered, I heard that wonderful, “Tim, you are an Ironman!” and then I saw my wife and kids right next to the finish. I gave my wife a hug and kiss and my legs went. Desperate not to resort to ‘the crawl’, I shoved myself from the hoardings and crossed the line. Arms up. Cheeks hurting from smiling.

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

Ironman Wales, done. Swim 1:10, bike 7:15, run a tough 4:50. With transitions (and penalty) a total of 13:45. I’m no racing snake, but my target had been 14 hours, so I was a very happy man. And yes, of course, I’m already thinking how I could probably go sub-13 if I work hard to improve my run…

Back at our apartment on one of the quieter streets, we cheered on the runners from the balcony, and I even managed a curry and a couple of beers. I was high as a kite and exhausted, aching and sore, and I felt bloody wonderful.

(A brief aside, and a low point … on the Monday I discovered I’d been DQ’d. It took ten days to clear it, and I now have my time reinstated. Turns out they didn’t record me taking my penalty, so they DQ’d me for that. It also turns out I should have never been given that penalty in the first place, so it was a double error. I’m so glad that they scrapped it, but it wasn’t a nice few days).

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This was my third Ironman, but definitely the best. The support in Tenby is beyond description … you really have to experience it to understand. The whole town devotes itself to the race, and I heard at the briefing that 1% of all residents actually races.  It’s quite evident that the other 99% commit themselves to supporting every single athlete.

It was one of my best days ever, made even more epic by the friends and supporters who went down to cheer us on. There was some great racing by the NEWTS, including Linda Spillane, an age group winner! A special shout-out to my old mate Mark (who seemed to be everywhere in Tenby!), my friends the Coops, all the NEWTS and other guys I know from triathlon who screamed my name just when I needed it, and especially to my lovely wife and kids. They were on the beach at 6:30am, at the finish line at 9pm, and at every point in between. They’re wonderful.

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Flash Drives

July 18th, 2016 • Posted in Random Stuff |

I don’t usually endorse products on here but … this company were kind enough to send me some personalised samples of their flash drives — with my web address and other info on.  A particularly nifty one is a pen that also houses a flash drive.  Check them out!  They design to order, and do some great stuff.pro_pen_flash_pen_drive

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