Book Review 2018, Part VII – The Repairman Jack Series

One of the reasons that I’ve not been blogged as many book reviews as I used to is because I’ve been re-reading the Repairman Jack series of books by F. Paul Wilson.

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There are 16 books in the series (I think), with a couple of collections of short stories, and six books detailed the main characters life before the first book.

The first book written, (not the first book chronologically) is The Tomb, which I first read 30 years ago and was given to me by my uncle. I loved it and immediately picked any other books written by the author, although apart from The Keep, none of them kept pace with the exciting roller coaster ride that is The Tomb. A few years later the author wrote a series of books known as The Adversary Cycle, where in the final ‘end of the world’ book, Nightworld, Jack makes a welcome return, albeit as a minor character. Nightworld was first published in 1991.

For those of us who were big Repairman Jack fans, that seemed to be it, but then 14 years after The Tomb, a second full Jack novel was released. Then over the next 15 years another 13 books were published, before wrapping the whole series up with Nightworld.

Of course by the time the events in the original Nightworld came around, many other life changing incidents had occured, meaning that F. Paul Wilson heavily re-wrote Nightworld so that Jack was now a major character. Also, in 2004, the author decided to re-publish The Tomb, but this time updated with references to computers, DVDs, emails and an additional 30 pages.

Who is Jack though? He fixes situations for people, similar to The Equalizer, but not doing it for free. The Tomb was first published at the same time that Edward Woodward was on the small screen as the Equalizer, not the Denzel big screen version. The books are part thriller, part supernatural and part horror.

Not every book in the series is a killer, but personal favourites of mine are The Tomb, All The Rage, Hosts and Crisscross. There are some plot discrepancies as expect in a series this long. In The Tomb, we hear about Jack’s daily fitness regime and how he hates it, but never misses a day. This never gets mentioned in any other book. In By the Sword, Jack is recommended by a woman living in Maui, who was in The Tomb, but we only find out that she’s now living in Maui in Nightworld, where she admits that she thinks Jack is dead. If she thinks that he is dead, why recommend him.

In Conspiracies, Jack is hanging onto the roof of a moving car and with his free hand shooting into the car. The problem is that he is using his Semmerling, the worlds smallest .45, which has a manual slide, so you need to use two hands to fire it a second time. Minor stuff I know.

In one book Jack comes across a struggling author, with a very similar name to F. Paul Wilson, writing a series of books about Jake Fixx, detailing Jacks life. The TV series Supernatural had a similar plot, and Stephen King added himself as a character in his Gunslinger series.

An interesting aside is that F. Paul Wilson owns the digital rights for all of his books, and has done way before digital books were a thing. This means that he publishes the e-book version himself. In an interview he mentioned that even selling an e-book on Amazon at less than £3 or $3, he makes more than he does with a hardback. Well worth buying. I get annoyed at publishers trying to sell an e-book with a huge mark up (Game of Thrones anyone).

If you’re interested in the Repairman Jack series I would recommend starting with the 2004 version of The Tomb, either digital or in print. The older version of The Tomb can often be picked up very cheap and it is a cracking read.

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Salford Triathlon 2018

If I was to describe this race in one word, it would be ‘WET’. After six weeks of blazing hot sun, the rain came at last, on race day. It chucked it down for the whole race. I think I was wetter at the end of the run than at the end of the swim, it was that wet.

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I was off in the first wave at 8.30am, which is why there isn’t anyone in transition. It also meant that my alarm went off at 5.30. Sensibly my beautiful wife Helen opted to stay at home, missing out on the very early start and also missing out on standing around in the rain for a couple of hours.

The race is based at the Media City, with the swim in the quay. The company where I work is one of the sponsors, so we receive a few free entries, which are used in the relay events so that as many people from work can take part as possible. Last year I did the swim (read about it here) and was slightly annoyed at myself for not doing the whole thing. So this year I paid my £70+ entry fee for the full individual race. At registration I also realised that I had forgotten my race belt, second time this year. Fortunately they were selling them at registration, and I now almost have enough race belts to open a race belt shop.

Getting ready in transition I chatted to someone who was doing their second triathlon. He told me that he wasn’t even born when I did my first race back in 1991. Thanks mate!

This would be the third time of swimming in Salford Quays, and it is amazingly clean, and this year the temperature was a nice and pleasant 20 degrees. Unlike at Isoman (Isoman Race Report) I sensibly used a wetsuit. The start was busy and took most of the first lap to find some space. As usual I took it easy on the swim and didn’t go off too hard and from my time of 25:03 I expect that the swim was a little short. I haven’t swam that quick for years.

Being in the first wave meant that in theory the bike course wouldn’t be too busy at least for a couple of laps. The first section was good with a hefty tailwind, but the small rise of the Manchester Ship Canal with a headwind and far too many potholes wasn’t as much fun. Due to road works there was a small route change which threw in a tight corner and more potholes. After a few laps I was feeling like a hamster in a wheel, but I overtook more people than overtook me and rolled into transition feeling fairly good. Despite the wet conditions I only saw one bloke who had come off, although I saw at least a dozen with punctures. Considering the adverse weather I was happy to average 20mph for the bike leg, especially as I was riding my 18 year old Principia, without deep section aero wheels or tri bars.

The run has always been my strongest leg of a triathlon, and after a sub 19 minutes 5k the previous week I donned my racing flats and shot off. The run loop has a couple of tight U-turns and therefore isn’t the quickest, but once again I overtook far more people than overtook me, although many of them were probably a lap ahead of me. I also had a brief chat with another bearded triathlete before pushing on past him. I was very happy with my run time of 41 mins. My fastest 10k for many years.

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The full results haven’t been published yet, but the live tracker suggests that I was 32nd out of 435 finishers, and 7th in my age group (40-49), which I’m also pleased with, seeing as I turn 50 in just over a year. My overall time was 2:28:29. My target time had been to finish in under two and a half hours.

The race was well organised, the marshalls were friendly and cheered me on all the time, especially one loud and colourful man on the far side of the bike course. This is a race that I would definitely do again, hopefully without the monsoon conditions. Nice finishers T-shirt and another medal (which doubles as a bottle opener) to add to the collection.

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As a bonus, the organisers uploaded over 500 photos to the Facebook page, allowing people to download them for free, rather than trying to charge a small fortune. I don’t think that it is too much to ask for a few free photos to be included with the race entry fee, especially as races are so expensive.

Principia – Par Excellence

I’ve blogged about my Principia in the past, but I’ll say it again, simply the best bike I’ve ever ridden. Previous blog here My best bike…. ever

The pink respray just makes me stand out even more!

In the last couple of weeks my Principia has turned 18 years old, moved up to second place in my all time mileage for bikes, and has done 300 Strava rides, plus 150 rides before Strava (dark times).

Some stats: Total distance 17,860 miles.

Total climbing 275,000 m.

Total kudos 12,899.

Mileage is accurate as I’ve always kept records, but elevation required some ‘fudging’. I’ve calculated the amount climbed per km for the Strava rides, and then multiplied it by the non-Strava ride, with a factor of 0.85 as many of the pre Strava rides were done in Oxfordshire, which isn’t as lumpy as Lancashire.

Kudos is easier. I calculated the average kudos per ride, and then multiply it by by pre-Strava rides and add the two together.

Next milestones for my Principia; another 300 miles and he overtakes my old Cannondale to become my most ridden bike, and another 6,500 m of climbing and he will become the most uphill ridden bike I’ve had.

Also, here’s to the next 18 years.

Friday was a bit hit and miss

I’d created a route, and was all set for a tile hunting foray from Penrith to Carlisle, but there was no space on any train going north for my bike, so I cycled home, dejected.

All was not lost as it gave me opportunity to do our weekly food shop and go to the tip, clearing a bit more rubbish from the garden. I did then manage a short ride in the afternoon, in the rain, but my heart wasn’t really into it.

The local athletics club were putting an a fast and flat 5k that evening, and I wasn’t sure if I should go or not. £5 entry fee, plus £2 extra as I’m not a member of English Athletics is a lot to pay for a 20 minute race, especially as there were no medals or anything as a momento. To put it into perspective, there was a charity race on the Thursday, same entry fee, but including finishers medals and a hot pot supper. Unfortunately I wasn’t home from work in time.

Back to the flat and fast 5k, and I gently ran the 2.5k to the race HQ, paid my money and waited for the start. The organisers decided to split the race into two, with sub 20 min finishers first, and then everyone else half an hour later. I thought that this was a terrible idea, but it actually worked really well, with loads of people cheering us ‘faster’ runners on, and then most of the faster runners stayed behind to cheer on the slower ones. All very good. I was in a quandary as to which race I should go in, but as I wanted sub 20 mins I went with the faster race.

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Boy were they fast! I was left for standing, but gradually pulled a few places back and manged to finish in 24th place with a time of 18:59. The winner went sub 15 minutes!

My fastest ever 5k as a Vet 40, shocking, even if Strava thought it was only 4.9k.

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No where near my all time pb for a 5k, currently at 16:05 which I did almost 20 years ago. Never say never, but I very much doubt that I will better that, especially as I turn 50 in 14 months. If I can keep my current speed until then, I’m hoping that I might be able to pick up a few Vet 50 trophies.

I’m not sure if I’ll do the race again, as they are putting it on each month. I think I’ll stick with parkruns, same distance but free, and I can run with Nelly (our silly old dog).

999 Rides

This isn’t about phoning 999 for help (911 if you’re in America). No, it’s the number of rides that my trusty commuting bike has done.

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It wasn’t intended to be a commuting bike. I bought a cheap frame to replace my old Cannondale, using the groupset and wheels. Unfortunately the Forme doesn’t have much va-va-forme, so I started to use it for touring. When I moved to Hull it became my long distance commuting bike, 18 miles each way. Back in Lancaster and I upgraded the groupset to 10 speed tiagra, and then started to commute between Wigan and Leigh.

Any commuting bike will soon rack up loads of rides, hence why I have no completed 999 rides.

Some stats for you: Distance – 17,000 km. Climbing – 115,000 m. Kudos – 18,000. Ave distance – 10.7 miles per ride. Climbing – 6.7 m per km. Climbing – 115m per ride.

Distance per ride, climbing per ride and climbing per km are all shrinking as my current commute is only 11 km each way, with only 50 m of climbing.

I’ve had this old beast for 5 years, and it’s performed admirably, although the end could be near. In three weeks time my work moves to a new office and I will no longer cycle there. The end of an era, although I’m sure my old friend will still get some use.

IMUK 2018 – Supporter

Once again I didn’t race IMUK, but as usual I was supporting for a couple of hours. When I’ve been a supporter before I’ve always cycled to Adlington and been part of the famous COLT Alley on Babylon Lane. The photos below were from last year.

This year, due to time constraints, I drove down to Horwich, had a quick 17 mile tile hunting loop around Bolton, and then stood on the Chorley New Road near to the roundabout for the Bolton football stadium.

While this didn’t have the atmosphere of COLT Alley, it was a good place to be as there wasn’t anyone else near me. The triathletes had also done about 11 miles at this point and there isn’t much to look at or many supporters once you’ve left Pennington Flash.

With 19 people from COLT there were many to cheer on, although I tried to clap for every single person, not just those from COLT. I gave a special cheer to those sporting good quality beards, especially one bloke from Rochdale Tri. Nearly everyone acknowledged me, which put a huge smile on my face. What was also good was that most of the COLTs would recognise me before I spotted them, making my ‘job’ easier.

Chris ‘Hippy’ Wild was first COLT past me, although I would have missed him if he hadn’t shouted, as there was a very angry shouty woman in a camper van complaining about her life in general and the poor choices that she had made.

Some of the COLTs I had no idea who they were, so a simple ‘Go COLT’ had to suffice. I thoroughly enjoyed cheering people on for a couple of hours, making a welcome change from racing. I also didn’t take a single photo as I was too busy cheering, oh well.

What about next year? Will I be racing? While I would love to cycle up COLT Alley I’m not a big fan of the M-Dot commercial enterprise, and the high cost of entering. I did enter last year, but pulled out (read about my Ironman journey here). I also worry that if I raced at IMUK people would find out that I’m actually a bit shit. I might do Lanzarote next year as it would be 20 years since I raced there, my one and only M-Dot branded race, but I might change my mind.

To finish, big well done to everyone who raced. You are an Ironman!

Book Review 2018 – Part VI

Earlier this year I read and then reviewed Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier by Terry Darlington (Book review here), which I think is his third book. As I enjoyed it so much I decided to have a look for his first book, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne.

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Much like the other book, this is all about life on a narrow boat with a whippet. The big ‘hook’ with this book is that they made their way across the channel, in a narrow boat. Of coarse it took two years of planning, and most people telling them that they would die, but they made it. I don’t think that I’m giving anything away there. The book is written with great humour and a very unique style, which I greatly enjoy. They travel around the UK to begin with, from Stone to London and back, gaining valuable boating experience on the Thames and the Bristol Channel.

The canals of France are also very different from the narrow canals in the UK, as well as very few people having seen a whippet. You don’t need to be a fan of canals or boating to enjoy this book. One of the best books that I’ve read this year.