Book Review 2017 – Part XV

I’ve been an Iron Maiden fan since the early 80’s and even had an album by the band Samson, so I was always going to read Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography.


Iron Maiden were also the very first band that I saw live, in Hull back in 1984 on the Piece of Mind Tour. I’m also a big enough fan to know that some of their more recent albums have been a long way short of their classics.

There is so much about Bruce that I already knew, the fencing, author, DJ, pilot, brewer and solo recording artist that it is amazing that he managed to find the time to fit it all in. The book is a great read, and was also written by Bruce himself, not ghost written like most autobiographies. I also never knew about his recent battle with cancer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and even if you’re not a fan of Iron Maiden you will probably still be fascinated. Bruce also decides to leave out births, deaths and marriages, as he said that if he’d left them in the book would have been twice as long. It might have been nice to have had a little more details about his children and wife (wives), but in the end the book is about Bruce, which is what you really want.

25th Parkrun

This Christmas Day I ran my 25th parkrun. I was a bit late to the parkrun party, so while many other runners are logging their 250th, I’m way down the list. In my defense, my local parkrun in Lancaster has only been running less than two years. The first parkrun I did was in Skipton only a couple of weeks after finishing a triple ironman (read about it here), so I was surprised how good I felt managing 30th overall.


After that first parkrun I was hooked, although I’ve not been back to Skipton as it was four laps on some narrow paths. Not great for Nelly, our unruly pointer.


She prefers to run off the lead, but them is the rules at parkrun. Starting from the back also presents a challenge. I’m often seen overtaking people with Nelly pulling me along, while other runners rib me that it’s cheating, or can they borrow her on the uphill stretches. I love running with her, but I’m definitely quicker without her. Me and my beautiful wife did parkrun at Fountains Abbey, where one week I ran with Nelly and finished 40th, and then ran without her and managed 12th, over two minutes quicker. Fountains Abbey was also the most picturesque parkrun that we’ve ever done, which is one reason why we went back.

Dalby Forest also has fond memories, as it was the last day of our honeymoon. It was also my quickest parkrun and I got pipped in a sprint finish as I didn’t realise where the finish line was. Typical parkrun tourist!


Cheltenham parkrun was the busiest with over 600 runners, but with a nice wide start. There was also a bell that you could ring if you got a pb.

Parkrun is an amazing success, going from nothing to over 100,000 runners each week, all over the world. The stats from this year’s Christmas Day were amazing on their own, with 62,000 runners. Parkrun is the sort of thing that should be encouraged everywhere, promoting a healthy lifestyle and friends to be made. I don’t want to hear any excuses, it’s too short, or I’m too slow. Everyone is welcome.

If you turn up at Lancaster say ‘hi’. I’ll be near the back if I’m with Nelly, or near the front if she’s with my wife.

Hopefully, this time next year I’ll have my 50 parkrun T-shirt, and I’ll probably blog about that as well.

Book Review 2017 – Part XIV

I have just finished reading what is quite easily the best fiction book that I have read this year, The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker.


Some of you might recognise the character on the cover a ‘Pinhead’ from the Hellraiser series of films. 30 years ago Clive Barker wrote a novella, The Hellbound Heart, which introduced Pinhead. Mr Barker then wrote a screenplay and when he struggled to find a director who could do it justice, he decided to direct the film version of the book. The eponymous Hellraiser began. Unlike other horrow films, for example Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, Pinhead isn’t the ‘monster’. He is more complex and as with other Clive Barker films, humans are shown to be the real monsters.

The Scarlet Gospels is a sequel to the original book, probably set after all of the other Hellraiser films. I had a quick look on IMDB and it would appear that there are over a dozen Hellraiser films. I gave up at number 6 as they were gradually getting more and more rubbish. Mr Barker had a hand in the first three, so I would suggest watching those and then stopping, although he does have a hand in the remake due next year.

Back to the book, and it grabbed me form the start. New characters are introduced, nut the detective Harry D’amour makes a welcome return, as does Pinhead, who we discover hates the nickname. The book also describes the ‘pins’, which are big long rusty nails that pierce deep into his skull. The basic plot is that Pinhead has murdered all of the magicians on Earth and using their power wants to take over Hell. Harry’s best friend get kidnapped, so Harry and his band of Harrowers descend in to Hell to rescue her.

This book isn’t for everyone as it is an out and out horror novel, with blood, gore and visceral imaginary. It would probably help if you had read The Hellbound Heart or some of the stories with Harry D’amour, although it isn’t essential.

My first Book Review of the year featured another Clive Barker book (read about it Here), and he remains one of the favorite authors, and I would love to see this book made into a film, as long as Clive Barker is involved.

200 Strava Swims

Yesterday evening I notched up my 200th Strava swim. I’ve been on Strava for five and a half years, but it wasn’t until February 2014 that I got myself a Garmin swim-watch. Before then I would only manually upload swims if they were ‘epic’. The first swim that I uploaded was in January 2013 and it was 6km. My longest swim was 11.4km and was part of a continuous triple ironman (you can read about it here). Below are a couple of photos of that swim.



This year my target has been to swim 100miles, and with three weeks to go I only need a couple more swims, which will be the furthest I’ve ever swam in one year.

My 200 Strava swims total 478km, making each swim on average 2389m. I also manage to collect on average over 20 kudos per swim. My Eddington scores (explanation here and here) are only 4 miles and 6km, although for time it is 53 minutes. It will be a long while before the distance markers increase, but I only need to swim at least 53 minutes two more occasions for my score to reach 54 minutes.

I don’t yet have any big targets for 2018, although my wife seems to think that I should have a go at the Frog Graham! Windermere one way could well be another challenge, but we’ll see what develops.

Not much more to say really, except that I love swimming and even after all these years of triathlons and open water swims, I still get incredibly nervous at the start of every open water swim.

Book Review 2017 – Part XIII

Thirteen book reviews, that’s more than one a month and I’m catching up on the books that I’ve read. Two more books to review here and they are both long distance cycling ones.

First up is I’ll be Home by Christmas, by Matthew Blake. As the title suggests, Matthew was indeed home for Christmas, although it was four years after he set off. It’s been over a month since I finished this book, and I’ll be honest I’m struggling to remember anything about it, which is awful. Was the book just not very memorable. Is this the book where the writer was arrested crossing South Sudan? Is this the guy who set off overweight and could hardly ride a bike? I should probably write my book reviews a bit sooner after finishing them. What I will say is that I’ve never read a long distance cycling book that I’ve not enjoyed in some way. Maybe someone out there could read it and tell me a few of the highlights to nudge my memory.

tues blog

The Hungry Cyclist by Tom Kevill-Davies on the other hand I do remember. Tom likes to eat and to ride a bike, so he combined the two. He began his journey cycling from New York to Seattle, before heading down the west coast and into Mexico, crossing South America and finishing in Rio.

He meets loads of interesting people, as you generally do when riding a bike. He also adds many of the recipes he tries at the end of each chapter, including beaver tail soup! Probably one that I won’t be trying at home, although the rice dish he shared with Puerto Rican construction workers in New York did sound good. In Mexico he falls in love with seafood tacos as he cycles down the Baja Peninsula.

Obviously he couldn’t cross the Darian Gap, but he does cycle through Columbia. He then heads inland, trying guinea pig in Ecudor, before taking a boat down the Amazon, stopping in Manaus. A friend that I did my PhD with had a stop over there and dexcribed it as an absolute hole. Tom eats street food outside a brothel in the depths of the dodgiest areas of the city.

I really enjoyed this book, and as you can tell it was memorable. Tom’s route is also something that I would like to try, although without the Amazon boat section.

Book Review 2017 – Part XII

I’m still way behind with my book reviews – maybe I should write more or read less.

First up this time is Just a Little Run Around the World by Rosie Swale Pope. What an amazing story. Before her epic run, Rosie did a little bit of everything, including some freelance writing for a couple of running magazines. When her husband died she looked for something truly epic to do in his name. Running around the world fits the bill, especially taking the northern route, which involved winters in Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

new book

Rosie might have only managed a half marathon a day, but you try it with a heavy rucksack, which she soon ditched for a trailer. It resembled a coffin on wheels, but contained everything she needed and she could sleep in it as well. As I said earlier, an amazing story from an amazing woman.

Next up we have The Man Who Cycled the Americas by Mark Beaumont. I’ve read all of his books and followed him avidly on Strava as he was cycling round the world in 80 days. I’ve long held ambitions to cycle the Americas, so here is another book on the same topic.

There is an added twist with this book, in that Mark not only cycles the whole continent, but he summits the highest mountains in the north and in the south, although by foot and not by bike. In Alaska this is Mount Denali, and in the Andes it is the Aconcagua. Mark has very little mountaineering experience, but he is fit, and both climbs are with organised groups.

I enjoyed this book more than his race across Africa, mainly because he was taking his time and could interact with the locals. As with all of the other books in the area, he doesn’t cycle the Darian Gap, taking a boat instead. One day I’m sure there will be a road linking Panama and Columbia. Maybe it will be built for when I cycle there.