Goodbye to all that

So as we come to the end of 2019 I found myself back here, mainly because I’m in the process of winding up Wirewool Limited (my freelancing company) and with that comes the fun and games of unpicking all of the hosting / websites / domain name registration / email that I’d been running for a number of customers for up to 8 years.

One of the sites was this one, and that meant I was shutting down where it had been hosted so it needed moving.

The moving part was easy enough, (seriously how hard can it be to move a WordPress site). but then I had a look at when I had last posted, and what I had in the last couple of years posted about. There is a lot missing and a lot has changed. Some better, some just different, here’s a vague recap of what our hero has been up to….

So starting with the obvious, why shut down Wirewool?

Well since April 2018 I’ve been gainfully employed by Amazon Web Services as a Solution Architect, sure I could earn more as a freelancer, but only when working, and only if I have work. One of the things that I found with freelancing was that it was very much feast and famine. Also the idea of freedom of work doesn’t apply when you have bills to pay, kids to feed and a house to pay for. I managed to keep it going for 8 years and when a decent offer came along (in fact I had a couple of offers at the same) I took the one that felt like it would be the best for me long term. So far it’s worked out well and now it’s time to shut down Wirewool and remove something that is costing me money to run having finally gone through and tracked down all of the services I’m / Wirewool is using. (Note: something I should’ve done a long time ago, 20:20 hindsight is a wonderful thing.)

Ooh working for Amazon, gosh!

Yep, gone from a one man band to the largest company I’ve ever worked for (and will probably ever work for). It’s certainly interesting, but it’s also pretty awesome. I mean there is the basic stuff you get when you go back to working for someone, like paid holiday and sickness which is cool, and monthly pay (still freak out towards the end of each month as the account drains down) but also private healthcare (more of why this is good later). Training and education are massively important, I work with loads of awesome people to help customers, I’m enjoying presenting, helping to educate groups of people (ex-forces transitioning into a career in IT and also Princes Trust “kids”) on cloud, playing with DeepRacer and showing how it can help with learning AI / ML, helping to organise Meetups, and just well everything. I even enjoyed going to Vegas in December 2019 for re:Invent (and I hate Las Vegas). I even get to do some code hacking every now and then and have access to the best cloud toy box on the planet.

Introducing Brian

Everyone gets baggage that they carry around after a time, just I managed to name mine.

So I’d been feeling rubbish for a number of years, couldn’t shift the weight that I had gained over time, more than just “getting old”, couldn’t really train without taking days to recover (even after a slow 5km run / walk I’d need 3-4 days for my legs to start working again). I’d been to the doctor 6 years or so ago and said “this isn’t right” and they said what do you think it might be “well worst case, a brain tumor” said I and oh how we laughed….

….right until the point where I tried again with the doctors early last year. This time around I was taken more seriously and sent off for a load of blood tests which revealed I had 0 testosterone. Back to the doctors to discuss the result and the possible causes and it was time to test out the private health care I now had access to (see earlier note on private health care and the joys of working for a large company) More bloods revealed I had a prolactin level of 116290 (normal is below 500) and this was high enough that the day after I’d given the blood to be tested the consultant was called by the vampires who were slightly alarmed by the results. So something was wrong. An Ultrasound revealed nothing out of the ordinary with my testicles (one of the possible causes of 0 testosterone) however an MRI scan revealed I had a benign brain tumor that a) I christened “Brian” and b) that it was a macroprolactinoma approx 28mm in size.

No one wants to hear the phrase “brain tumor” when talking about their health but some reassurance from my consultant and some digging around showed it was easily sorted (well probably) and here take these drugs which have some “interesting” potential side effects (never read the side effects leaflets or google for “side effects of drug I am taking”)

So in the first three months of taking the drugs the prolactin levels were back down near normal, I was losing weight and able to train, aside from a few incidents with a black dog (which I haven’t named) I’d say it’s all pretty good, some members of the family may have a different view, and a couple of work colleagues thought I was suffering from a terrible hangover a few times as my body adjusted to the drugs. Anyhew since starting on the drugs I’ve lost 18 kilos in weight, taken 10 minutes or so off my half marathon PB and have managed to get my Parkrun PB to 23 minutes 13 seconds.

Over the years

So I get to this point every year, look back on my fitness activity and think “should’ve done better.” Except for 2019 I’m feeling pretty good about it, but to make sure that I’m not just kidding myself I needed some data and that meant I first needed to import 7 years of data from Garmin into Strava so all of my activity data was in one place. I actually have data going back to 2008 but it’s a bit sparse so for the sake of the table below I’ve dropped it.

Importing all the things from Garmin into Strava was made easy thanks to garminexport (well I had a local archive of 1300+ activities that I had to manually import, 25 at a time, and check were assigned to the correct activity type.)

Amusing to note that as I was adding the entries I spotted a 3km run in 2015 that took me 22 minutes. In 2019 I managed to get my Parkrun PB down to 22:13 ;-)

So with the data all in one place, time to look at it (a bit)…. using this handy site I was able to quickly see annual summary data which is below, the biggest surprise for me is the lack of swimming, oh and a lot of the riding is made up of bike commuting. The interesting part (for me) is the improvement in my running pace over the last few years.

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Count 10 12 79 151 163 53 84 74
413 262 423 399 672 250 394 350
21:53:51 10:50:22 23:56:42 21:09:31 34:24:52 13:34:27 21:50:58 18:00:36
Count 58 37 33 31 85 89 71 131
358 247 201 211 238 457 270 847
35:49:27 26:55:34 23:54:00 23:58:01 30:28:49 52:12:56 27:29:12 78:02:32
Avg / Speed
6:00 6:32 7:08 6:50 7:42 6:51 6:07 5:32
Count 5 1 23 44
8 1 14 55
02:34:34 00:46:34 03:57:34 15:40:27

This is due to my “if you want to run faster, run faster” brain wave I had in the middle of 2018, where I suddenly worked out what I needed to do to stop my parkrun taking so long (and getting longer) and to just generally improve my running, going from a tedious and sometime boring plod, into something that almost feels like running. Just need to apply it to my swimming now ;-)


So recently I ended up involved with a project where we were looking to build a drone of some kind, the people involved were smart and watching one of the quadcopters being flown using first person view (FPV) goggles got me really interested…

…and now here I am trying to learn to fly my quadcopter.

The building side of it was relatively easy, and I’ve already got some thoughts on how to improve the current drone. Firstly by cutting out a load of wiring from the battery to the ESC loom I used, and also adding in some tail LEDs, the latter will hopefully make it easier to keep track of orientation when I’m flying it without using the goggles.

Now it’s a case of practicing the flying and always ensuring I have a stash of spare (balanced) props.

France 2015

So a while back I had the “great” idea that it would be nice to take the girls down to France for a few days holiday during the summer on my own, no backup for the journey!  It would great to spend some time with Grandpa, Jane and Amelie, and in the course of the travelling between us we would record a few firsts:

  • First time I had spent more than a day (where a day is probably about 6 hours TBH) with any of the kids on my own.
  • First time either of the girls had been on a plane.
  • First time I’d used the hold luggage on a Ryanair flight, would it turn up?

In the end it all worked out pretty well, the first couple of days the weather wasn’t so great but that gave me a chance to upgrade the computer with a new hard drive, max out the RAM and install Windows 7 (old build was XP!) without taking time out of the good weather.  Gradually the weather cleared up and normal service was resumed with time spend in and around the pool and generally take it easy.

We all had a great time and I have to say it was actually surprisingly relaxing, the girls loved their time in the pool and enjoyed playing with Amelie.  I enjoyed spending time at Les Grand Coudrais (as ever) the girls behaved really well, and tried all sorts of food you would never get them to eat at home.

To be honest I should also write more here about it all, but to do that I should’ve probably written it on the way home, or just after getting back – I meant to ;-) (no really I did)

I’m very jealous of the lovely part of France that Dad, Jane and Amelie have made their home and if you’re looking for a great place to stay not too far away then I certainly recommend it, but if you want to go in summer 2016 you better book it quickly!

2014 by the (lack of) training numbers.

So 2014 wasn’t the best of year for training (following on from a fairly lack lustre 2013 if I’m honest) so how did I do – let’s look at the numbers.

Swim Bike Run
Count 2 1 41
Distance 0.8 km 28.68 km 274.44 km
Time 00:25:00 (h:m:s) 02:16:50 (h:m:s) 36:30:35 (h:m:s)
Elevation Gain 146 m 1,859 m
Avg Speed 1.9 km/h 12.6 km/h 7.5 km/h
Avg Cadence 58 rpm 150 spm
Calories 1,016 25,352
Swim Bike Run
Count 33 11 60
Distance 48.88 km 428.75 km 368.57 km
Time 20:25:21 (h:m:s) 23:28:15 (h:m:s) 37:39:18 (h:m:s)
Elevation Gain 3,022 m 9,903 m
Avg Speed 2.4 km/h 18.3 km/h 9.8 km/h
Avg Cadence 71 rpm 162 spm
Calories 5,019 15,332 30,600
Swim Bike Run
Count 9 14 40
Distance 7.63 km 277.51 km 259.31 km
Time 3:39:37 (h:m:s) 11:33:00 (h:m:s) 28:40:39 (h:m:s)
Elevation Gain 1,393 m 2,131 m
Avg Speed 2.3 km/h 24.0 km/h 9.0 km/h
Avg Cadence 78 rpm 160 spm
Calories 1,776 8,386 22,499
Swim Bike Run
Count 1 83 55
Distance 1500 m 445.97 km 229.58 km
Time 0:37:35 (h:m:s) 27:17:04 (h:m:s) 28:17:46 (h:m:s)
Elevation Gain 2,015m 1,305 m
Avg Speed 2.6 km/h 16.3 km/h 8.1 km/h
Avg Cadence 75 rpm 158 spm
Calories 412 5,020 2,1374

Ok so stupidly I’ve included 2012, when I was “training” for the Escape from Alcatraz just to really show how badly I’m doing, 2013 was a bit of a surprise, it doesn’t feel like I’ve trained since June 2012 when I crossed the finish line in San Francisco, but clearly I did a few bits and pieces.

So 2014 – the cycling is a line as it covers a lot of commuting on a Boris Bike, perhaps not the best training, but better than nothing and certainly better than the underground, and I would imagine the average cost of my gym visits was in the region of £50 a visit! (if not more)

And on to 2015, well I start the new year working from home for a few months which should give me some training time, been to the gym once already, which is a positive start, in fact since finishing work I’ve done 3 gym sessions, which is probably more than the last 6 months.

Target weight is considerably lower than the 92.1 Kg I was this morning, ideally back under 80 Kg but that will require a major effort. So I’ve sort of set my major goals, now to work out the smaller goals that get me there