The Brutal extreme triathlon – race report

September 17th, 2018 • Posted in News, Random Stuff |

They call it The Brutal.  That really should have given me a clue.  In truth I knew some of what to expect, because I did the half-iron distance last year and loved it so much––despite feeling like (and probably resembling) a gutted chicken by the time I’d finished––that I entered the full ironman this year.  The organisation, the stunning setting and scenery, the low-key atmosphere, the camaraderie, and the sense of achievement after completing the half convinced me that this should be my big race of the year.  And big it was.

So, so big, so long, so epic, it’s a day I’ll never forget.

So, where to begin?  How about the hotel the night before, the fight, the police, the raucous wedding, drunken 2am singing (not by me), the drive-by shootings* (*one of those did not happen).  My lovely wife came up to support, so I thought we’d treat ourselves and stay in the Royal Victoria hotel, only about 200 metres from race base.  It looked nice from the outside.  So did Fawlty Towers.  To be fair it wasn’t bad on the inside, possessing a sort of it-was-grand-here-30-years-ago charm that I guess I prefer to the sterile this-could-be-a-lunatic-asylum aura of a Premier Inn.  It had character.  So we checked in and decided to eat straight away.  It would be a stretch to call the allegedly thrice-cooked chips once-cooked, but the pizza I had was almost definitely a pizza.  Then it was off to do the usual pre-race stuff––register, eye the racing-snake competition and get scared and convinced I haven’t done enough training, rack my bike, go to the briefing, dump my stuff in transition so that I can claim a chair for myself, stand staring at my three big bags and mountain pack slowly convincing myself that I’ve forgotten just about everything.  All went well, and I was feeling pretty relaxed and eager to get going.

We then went back to the hotel to chill with a very small glass of wine (for me) and a nastily larger glass for my wife and a bit of mindless Friday evening TV.  Except we were destined to discover the TV didn’t work.  Oh well.  Entertainment came in another form, however, when a fellow guest had an argument on the second floor and punched his hand through the window, almost showering us with glass as we walked back.  We locked ourselves in our room and piled the furniture against the door (not really, but the thought was there), and watched two police cars and a van turn up.  This was all before 8pm.  It was looking to be a long night. 

Who needs sleep the night before what has been voted by Triathlon 220 magazine as ‘the world’s toughest ironman’? Eh? What am I, a wimp?

Luckily, the wedding guests seemed to have drunk themselves into a coma by about 1pm, their last shred of energy expended in a slurry rendition of a song I’m not sure even they recognised directly beneath our window.  And … I had one of my best night’s sleep before an ironman, ever!  I must have had 5 hours!  I sprang out of bed at 5am* (*crawled), the usual pre race nerves and chafe cream application (I did it myself … it wasn’t the time to get distracted), then it was down for the swim.

Temperature was announced as 16 degrees.  Applying the Brutal Quotient, I’d guess maybe 14, but after a bit of ice-cream head I set off and settled into a comfortable rhythm.  Lake Padarn is a stunning place to swim.  The water is clear and crisp, and whenever you turn for a breath you see staggeringly beautiful scenery.  Two laps and out over the timing mat for another two laps, and I was taking longer than I should.  It’s entirely likely that my 1:26 swim and 4200m recorded on my Garmin was due to my unique swimming technique* (*shit sighting and zig-zagging like someone dodging a sniper’s bullet), or perhaps it was that Brutal Quotient again.  What, was I expecting this to be easy?   

A power walk 200m back to transition with Tracey––up at 5am to support me, bless her!––and then I did something I’ve never done on an ironman, or any race, before.  Any guesses? 

A full change.

About now is when I should apologise to everyone else in the transition tent.  Although a) most other people were stripping off and showing various degrees of naked flesh, and b) after that cold swim no one would have noticed much.  T1 must have been 10 or 12 minutes, but every one of them needed.  I hadn’t really been focussed too much on time, and this was all about comfort.  The ride to come was long* and would be tough*.

*(f%*&^£g)

A quick kiss from Tracey, then onto the bike.  Now, a comment here about the weather: right now it was OK.  Overcast, a little drizzly, but temperature-wise it was perfect, and I was very comfortable in bib short, a skin, jersey and arm warmers.  More about the weather later.  Oh yes.

5 miles into the bike, just after the steepest hill on the route (although far, far, far, far from the longest) I saw a guy by the road who appeared to be in trouble.  Still standing and holding his bike, he was wobbling and pretty much out of it.

“You okay mate?”

“No, I’m not….”

And when his eyes started rolling and he hit the deck, I knew he was in trouble.  I called the race medic immediately (had the number programmed into my phone.  Top tip: ALWAYS DO THIS).  In my race-head state and still a bit wobbly myself from the swim, the mileage I gave them was 14 (my average pace to then) instead of mile 5, but luckily they called back 2 minutes later to confirm and I corrected myself.  What a numpty.  Meanwhile the guy was sitting against a wall and he’d come around a bit––still dizzy, and with pains in his neck that were worrying me a lot.  So we chatted for a while, talked about races we’d done and wanted to do, all the usual triathlete talk, until the medic rocked up. Phew!  After chatting to the medic about what I’d seen I shook the guy’s hand, wished him luck, and went on my way.  I checked in later, and he was OK, but obviously they’d pulled him from the race.  Sad, but better safe than…

This half hour stop knocked me for a bit, and it took me a while to settle back into my bike.  The beautiful scenery helped.  I really can’t think of a more gorgeous place to race––the mountains, the vast skies, the deep, stunning scenery, streams tinkling by the roadside … just wonderful.  It took my mind off the pain.  For now.

So, the bike was four epic laps, each about 29 miles.  The big part of each lap, and the most stunning, was the climb out of Bedgelert and then up and over Pen-Y-Pas, with a nice descent back into Llanberis. Each lap was around 2,500 feet or so of climbing, the the Pen-Y-Pas climb was a long slow drag, but none of it was too steep.

The first lap felt great, and I’d have done it in about 1:50 without the stop.  A quick bottle fill-up, then I was out onto lap 2.  I saw a guy a few miles in being helped into the medic’s car with blood all over his face, but that was the only accident or mechanical I saw.  Considering the weather later in the day, that was a miracle.  Within a few miles my main concern was that I needed a wee.  I was trying to take on a litre of water per hour to keep up with my prolific sweat rate (sorry about the detail, but hey ho).  Now, around where I live close to Abergavenny there are always field gateways and little nooks and crannies where you can stop, but North Wales seems to be Solid Stone Wall country!  I swept down into Bedgelert––a lovely descent, and a beautiful town with people sitting outside coffee shops having a lovelty cappuccino and cake…––and a few miles later I found what will, henceforth, be known as Tim’s Quarry.  Three stops, three pees, observed only by a confused goat.

At the end of lap 2 I saw Tracey, had a hug, and she helped me with nutrition––more gels, more flapjacks, two more bottles of water, and a bag of mini cheddars which went down a treat.  Then it was on to Lap 3. 

This was getting tougher.

But looming out of the distance, like a giant hauling itself from the rocky terrain of Wales, snarling and drooling and with me, and only me, in its sights, was Lap 4.

This was when the wind picked up.  I’m not sure what speed, but by the time I’d hauled my sorry ass to the top of Pen-Y-Pas and started on that lovely descent back to the end of the bike ride, I was almost having to pedal to move downhill.  Two things struck me at this point (beside the heather, litter, and assorted sheep being blown around by the hurricane force winds):

  1. If I’d brought my Canyon, I’d have been blown off (not in a good way) and ended up in a wall or a hedge or halfway down a rocky slope.
  2. I do this for fun.

It was a tough lap, lap 4.  It made me question things.  Myself.  Bike manufacturers.  The Brutal Quotient, that means that this ironman bike ride is 116 miles, not 112.  But hey, no one said it was going to be easy.  I was very happy to get off the bike and hit the changing tent.  May I hereby issue apology #2 for any of those who caught an eyeful when I changed, but really by now I was past caring, and I’d just spent almost 9 hours on a bike so GIVE ME A BREAK!

Also on lap 4 I feared I was starting to hallucinate.  When one boy racer whizzed past me in a souped up red Renault Clio, so close that I felt the breeze against my legs when he roared by with a splutter of oversized exhaust and fat tyres, I thought it was odd enough.  Then two more came.  Two more.  Two more.  I shook my head, blinked a few times.

Two more.

Is this a North Wales thing?  That all boy racers are legally obliged to buy a red Renault Clio?  Very odd.  Very funny.  Apart from the tosser who almost hit me.

It’s time for the run.  Three laps of the lake, and then up and down Snowdon.  By this time Tracey had gone on her own brutal adventure to climb the mountain on her own, and I planned on seeing her while I was on the way up and she was coming down.  I sort of hoped she might have bought a pasty for me.

The wind was really up now, and the mountain tops were no longer in view.  On Lap 1 I hooked up with Simon and James, a lovely couple of guys who were probably running a little too fast for me, but they dragged me around that lap and we had a good chat. Unfortunately, they were also bearers of bad news––the mountain had been closed due to a red weather warning, and we’d have to finish our marathon with 2 extra laps of the lake.

My first thought: bollocks.  Snowdon is what makes the Brutal brutal. It’s iconic, and although I was tired and aching and hurting in places I wasn’t sure I’d ever been aware of before, I’d been looking forward to it.  But I needn’t have worried … the brutality of those lake laps were destined to come back and bite me.

My first concern after Lap 1 was to check that Tracey was OK. I called and she was on the way back down, having been evacuated from the cafe at the top and told to get back down ASAP just a minute after buying a big cup of tea and a pasty.  Yes, she got me one too!  But knowing she was Ok meant I was OK to head off on four more 5 mile laps of the lake.

Simon and James were a bit too speedy for me so I told them to go on ahead … and thus began a very lonely few hours.  It soon became dark, and by Lap 3 I had to use my head torch full-time.  There were a few pockets of support––I’d call them pouches instead of pockets, though they were very vocal and fun––but other than that it was me against the elements.  

And the elements were giving it everything.  Wind roared and howled along the lake.  Pitch darkness fell.  A couple of times I found myself walking up slopes with my eyes closed.  The feed station on the far side of the lake was an oasis of human contact, light, and mini cheddars, but I was started to find it really hard going.  At one point, mounting a rise, the wind nearly blew me over, and it took my breath away.

There was about 2 solid miles on the far side of the lake which was tough and technical trail running, terrain lit only by the limited splash of my head torch.  It was slippery in places, and for tired legs this was very hard going.

4th lap was the worst.  I was in a dark place, and also in a dark place. Exhausted, more tired than I’d ever been in a race, I ran 100 seconds and walked for 30.  Then walked uphill, and staggered down the trails, careful not to trip and fall.  It really was …. brutal.

And then the finish line.  There was a marshal with my medal, and Tracey, and that was it.  The most subdued finish line I’ve ever seen, but also the most welcome.  I had a hug from Tracey––I might have sobbed a little––and the marshal, and then wobbled into the tent for a cup of soup, tea, and a sit down.

Bloody hell.  I’d done it.  16:58 hours of racing in the most beautiful, rugged, brutal landscape nature has to offer.  I’d never really had a time in mind, but I’m happy with 17 hours.  48th out of 81 finishers is fine with me.

Physically and psychologically, this was the hardest race I’d ever done, and there were times––long moments––when I really wasn’t enjoying it and wondered just what the hell I was doing.  But as usual you forget the pain and the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment kick in.  Big thanks to my coach James, couldn’t have done it without you, mate.  A big shout-out to the NEWTs, best tri club there is, for all your support and help and for tracking me through what turned out to be a Very Long Day.  Probably for you as well as me!  Also kudos to Brutal Events, the marshals, organisers, and everyone else involved in putting on a stunning event, keeping us safe, and doing everything they can to ensure the athletes achieve their aims.

And finally a massive thanks to my lovely wife Tracey for coming along to support me in every way possible, as always.  I definitely couldn’t do this mad sport without you. Love you.  

On reflection, I’m not too disappointed the mountain section of the race was closed.  It doesn’t detract from how tough this race is. The extra two laps ensured it was iron distance, and that last ten miles for me was the hardest couple of hours I’ve ever spent doing anything, ever.

Brutal by name…

  

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Happy Birthday Tim

July 28th, 2018 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Yes, it’s that time of year again when I get to choose the best cake in the shop for Tim.  I’m not sure how he will be able to resist this year’s effort, so join me in wishing Tim a very Happy Birthday.

Cheers

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2017 –– books and other fun

December 22nd, 2017 • Posted in Book News, Movie News, Movies, Random Stuff |

2017 was probably my most exciting year as a writer.  From the very beginning, I had two potential movie projects being developed, so the whole year was spent waiting for calls and emails (anyone reading this who is a writer will know where I’m coming from here).  Every call from my agent, every email, might have been The One.  The Hunt is still ticking over, but as for the other project …  eventually, that call happened.

The Silence went into production this year.  It has been a dream experience from start to finish, a real delight, and the highlight of the whole year for me was visiting set in Toronto.  There I got to meet the great actors Stanley Tucci and Kiernan Shipka, the splendid director John Leonetti, the wonderful producers Alexandra Milchan and Robert Kulzer, as well as so many crew I forget many of their names.  Everyone was very welcoming, from Stanley (a lovely guy, and just as cool as you’d imagine), to the catering van staff, to the extras hanging around set with limbs hanging off.  An incredible experience from start to finish, and the real excitement has only just begun.  The movie is in post-production now, and 2018 will bring test screenings, trailers, all the exciting press and reviews, and then finally the film’s release.  Me?  Excited?

I can’t say much about what I saw on set, but I can post this photo of Stanley and me, and I can tell you that it is going to be am amazing film.  Everyone involved is passionate and excited about the project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better cast.  Really, the whole The Silence experience is a dream come true. And if I look tired in the photo, maybe it’s because I didn’t get the make up off properly.  And that’s all I can say about that for now…

As for more bookish things, 2017 saw the release of Relics, the first book in a new trilogy.  It was well received, and the second novel, The Folded Land, is due out in March 2018.  My novelisation of Kong: Skull Island was also released this year.

As well as The Folded Land, next year also sees release of Blood of the Four, the big new fantasy novel written with Christopher Golden, from HarperVoyager. We’re very excited about this book, and Harper are pushing it as one of their lead spring titles.  Look out for this in March of next year.

There are other screen projects in the offing, too, but nothing I can really talk about just yet.

So that’s another year done, my 11th as a full-time writer.  It’s been a good one, and there are also a couple of exciting book projects ticking over for 2018 that I hope I’ll be able to tell you more about soon.

For now, Season’s Greeting to you all, and thanks for continuing to read my books.  You keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

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2017 –– triathlon and other stuff

December 20th, 2017 • Posted in Random Stuff |

It’s been a busy year for me with training and racing!  At the start of the year I decided to raise money for DKMS (the Delete Blood Cancer charity), after we sadly lost a very good family friend just before Christmas 2016.  I attempted one challenge per month for the whole of 2017.  January started with a 50 mile bike ride, and other challenges included half marathons, a couple of half ironmans, sportive bike rides, ascending the height of Everest in one month (on feet and two wheels), and running the 20 mile Monmouthshire 3 Peaks.  Some months were tougher than others, but I got it done.  Good fun.  You can still donate here.

I did some really tough races this year.  There was no ironman, but instead I entered one of the hardest half-ironman races there is, the Brutal in Snowdonia.  Brutal by name, brutal by nature, it started with a 1.2 mile swim in Lake Padarn––the coldest swim I’ve ever done––followed by a 60 mile 2 lap bike ride, taking in Pen-y-Pass and other tasty hills around Snowdon.  And then the run. One lap of the lake, and then up and down Snowdon.  Utterly brutal.  Totally brilliant.  I took just over 8 hours, and placed 29th out of 90 finishers.  I was very pleased with that, and I enjoyed the race so much that I’ve entered the full Brutal Iron Distance for next September.  This will likely see me doing at least some of the Snowdon ascent/descent in the dark.  Can’t wait!

In March I took on a solo circuit of the Monmouthshire Three Peaks, running as much of the route as I could.  This takes in the Blorenge, Sugarloaf and Skirrid mountains, a really hard few hours but very rewarding and lots of fun.  I parked at the bottom of the Skirrid, ran through Abergavenny to the base of the Blorenge, and from when I started ascending the Blorenge to when I finished I can’t have seen more than a dozen people.  Glorious.

May saw me racing the legendary and epic Blaenafon Triathlon.  Third time at this race for me, but the first time from the new Abergavenny base.  Not my best race of the year… I forgot the Saltstick tabs that I usually take on a hard hilly or long race to prevent cramps, and by the time I’d finished the hard bike ride –– up the Tumble, then up and over Llandynydr –– my legs were cramping.  A run up and down the Sugarloaf mountain didn’t help.  Lessons learnt here, for sure.

In June I raced the Cotswolds 113 middle distance, finishing in a little under 5:30.  Good race, great support from the NEWTs, I’ll be hitting the same route next year in the Cotswolds Classic.

In July I took part in the Velothon for the second time, taking on my nemesis from last year, Caerphilly Mountain.  With 80 miles in your legs, this is one of the hardest climbs around.  Last year I ground to a halt and fell off 100m from the summit, this year I did it.  Job done.  I finished the ride in under 5 hours too, very pleased with that.  I’m not sure I’ll do it again next year … the entry fee is a lot for riding roads I can train on anyway, but it is a really good event, and riding closed roads is always fun.

I did a couple of half marathons this year, as well as a few training runs that hit the distance too.  Most fun was the Broadway Half Marathon in the Cotswolds last month, proper muddy and hilly and the first time I’ve lost a shoe in mud. I found it again, eventually, but it was a soggy muddy run to the finish.  Loved it!

I’m enjoying triathlon and training for it as much as ever, and next year I’m not letting up.  As well as my main long race, the Brutal, I’ll be racing the Grafman and Cotswolds Classic (both middle distance) as well as others, and I’m hoping I’ll have a few more adventures on the way too.

And I have a new toy to help me on my way!

Happy Christmas!

 

 

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The Silence set visit and USA trip

November 8th, 2017 • Posted in Movie News, Random Stuff |

I’m just back from a very exciting trip to Toronto, where I visited set of The Silence movie. It was a strange, surreal and frankly brilliant experience, and I’ll write about it in a lot more detail closer to the movie’s release date (no spoilers here!).

Suffice to say, I was made to feel very welcome by all involved, and it was fantastic to meet everyone there.  I met so many people that names became a blur, but special shout out to director John Leonetti, genuinely one of the nicest guys.  It was a real pleasure to watch a true professional at work.

And then there was Stanley Tucci (see pic) and Kiernan Shipka, two lovely people who I’m so thrilled are in the movie. I didn’t meet the rest of the superb cast (details here) — they weren’t there for the scenes being filmed — but the visit cemented my belief that the book is in the best hands possible.  I firmly believe it’s going to be THE horror movie of 2018. Watch this space for more.

After Toronto, I flew to Boston. It was great to visit my American brother Christopher Golden and his family, see loads of old friends at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, and then stop off in New York on the way home. I spent some time with my excellent agent Howard Morhaim, and had a load of really productive meetings with editors.

The trip of a lifetime. Loads more about the movie soon, but meantime why not check out the book before it hits the big screen?

Take it easy.

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DUSK now available as an ebook

August 23rd, 2017 • Posted in Book News, Random Stuff |

The first book from the new incarnation of Dreaming in Fire press is out now, and it’s the British Fantasy Award-winning DUSK!

Here are the Amazon links. Please check it out:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Find out more on its dedicated book page.

I do hope you’ll pick this up! Please let me know what you think.

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A Year of Challenges — half done!

June 18th, 2017 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Those who pop along here regularly will know that I do enjoy the occasional horrific challenge, such as an Ironman triathlon or running up and down mountains.  I do it for fun.

I also do it for charity, and this year I’m raising money for DKMS (Delete Blood Cancer) in memory of a dear family friend we lost last Christmas.  I’m aiming to raise £2,000, and I’m almost halfway there.

So, here’s what I’ve done so far…

I started off in January with a 50 mile bike ride.  It doesn’t sound much, but coming out of the winter it was hard, cold, and it got dark very early!  A tough one because of that.  Job done.

In February it was time to hit the trails for the Hoka One One trail half-marathon in Margam Park, South Wales.  A lovely race, the weather was nice, if a bit misty.  It’s by no means a PB course, with lots of climbing and muddy trails, but that’s the sort of running I love.

In March, I went off-piste a bit and undertook a mountain (almost) marathon.  Only 22 miles, but tough enough to warrant the term!  I undertook the local Monmouthshire 3 peaks, a 22 mile route taking in the Blorenge, Skirrid and Sugarloaf mountains.  It was really tough, but it was great doing something a little different, including navigating and carrying enough food and water for the whole challenge. I loved every minute of it, and hope to do it again soon.

April was a full month challenge, in which I rode 400 miles on the bike throughout the month.  I must admit, the final weekend was a long ride on Saturday, and then a 30 miler on Sunday to make up the miles!  Good fun, and good for my triathlon training.

And May was the first tri of the season, the epic Blaenafon Triathlon.  It’s the longest running triathlon in the UK (about 34 years now, I believe), and it’s renowned for being really, really hard.  The easy bit is the pool swim, then it’s on the bike for 28 miles of mountains roads.  Once off two wheels and onto two feet, it’s a 9 mile run all the way to the top of the Sugarloaf mountain and back down again.  A scorcher, painful, hard work, and damn right I’ll do it again next year!

June brought an easier, flatter triathlon, the brilliant Cotswolds 113.  It’s a half ironman, almost completely on the flat, and I was thrilled with a time of 5:27 (I’d aimed to go sub-5:30).  Great fun, and wonderful support from my friends in the might NEWT (Newport and East Wales Triathlon) club.

So that’s the first 6 months of my Year of Challenges done.  Looking to the future, the next six months will bring the Velothon Wales, the Brutal Half (a half ironman … with a run up and down Snowdon), as well as other events I have yet to decide upon.  But at least one of them will be a trail marathon to round off the year.

Here’s when I ask for your help.  I admit that I’m doing these events because I love them, but I’m also very keen to raise money for worthy causes. I’m still determined to raise £2,000 for DKMS, so if you’d be kind enough to donate you can visit my page here and do so.

Here I am, looking forward to giving you the full 12 month roundup at the end of the year!

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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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