Kelly Family Brentrance

Or Kellentry? Usexit? I don’t know, I’m not very good at this. I do know that I at least outlasted the other John Kelly in DC, but after five and a half years in the DC area (the longest I’ve lived anywhere other than my childhood home in TN), we’ll be moving on in April. That is, assuming our destination doesn’t implode on March 29. Sorry, 29 March (gotta get used to that).

If you don’t care about the why, or any other details, here’s the important info:

  • When are we moving? April
  • Where? Somewhere near Bristol, England
  • Is it permanent? No, temporary while I build out the development team at our company
  • Where to next? Not sure, but hopefully finally to a “permanent” spot where we can settle down and our kids can grow up, likely somewhere in the VA / NC / TN area
  • Are you going to run races in Europe? Dang sure better believe it
  • Why are you moving? Well, that’s what the rest of this post is for

No, it’s not for the treacle pudding

Although that is a pretty big side benefit. And really, the simple answer is “it’s for work.” But like I do with most of my running goals, I thought I’d try to share some of our thought process for what definitely was not an easy decision.

For the past three years I’ve worked at a data analytics startup in DC (QxBranch), working on a variety of projects and getting to use some pretty exciting technologies, like quantum computing. One of those projects was to help provide protection against cyber risk by developing a system that could better quantify that risk and enable insurance that is actually effective and accurately priced.

A new company, Envelop Risk, formed around this technology. The company is located in London, where our insurance partners and most of our business relationships are and where the best opportunity aligned. The company has shown great initial success, and I’ve personally invested an enormous amount of effort, thought, and myself in general into getting it to that point and getting the technology to where it is. In early November, I moved over to Envelop with the understanding that when the timing was appropriate I would move over to the UK to build out our technical team and fully get things off the ground. With a good finish to 2018, we’re in the right position to do that.

Not a bad view either. The Tower of London and Tower Bridge are on the left,
 with the Shard sticking up above the “walkie talkie” from across the Thames on the right.
 On the very far right a tiny bit of London Bridge is visible, which just might 
actually be falling down.

We’re targeting the Bristol / Bath area for the technical team – attractive areas, reasonable costs of living, good sources of tech talent, and a reasonable distance to London. Jessi and I enjoyed our visit to the area about a month ago, and particularly liked a little town called Chipping Sodbury (yes, how very British sounding) as somewhere we might find a place. Also, as a sidenote, if you know of any good software engineers or data scientists in that area who might want to work for a startup (one that is quite understanding of endurance athletes), let me know.

Chipping Sodbury is an old market town, so it even has streets that are wider than 5 feet across!

Once the tech team is in a good, stable spot, we’ll move back to the US, probably sticking to somewhere close to our families in NC and TN.

Home is where the heart is

Doing more to do less

Over the past few years I’ve had to travel quite a bit for work. I guess some people enjoy that. Me, I’d rather be at home with my family or traveling with them. Or at the least doing it for a race. I normally manage to slip a nice run or two in when I travel, but I can assure you, a laptop and the inside of a meeting room look pretty much the same anywhere in the world. One of the primary places I’ve had to travel has been the UK. So by actually making the move I’ll be able to travel less and be with my family more. Just like a meeting room is no better anywhere else, time with my kids is no worse anywhere else.

I can’t remember why I took this picture (I think my son requested it), but this is what we call “red-eye layover face”

I’ve also had to play a number of roles and take on responsibilities that would normally be distributed across quite a few jobs. That’s kind of the nature of an early-stage startup: there simply aren’t enough people for a normal breakdown of roles. By putting some focus on building the team, there will actually be other people and I’ll only have to do one job, again freeing me up to actually have more time at home.

Unfortunately, money actually is a thang

A main driver behind this decision is, unabashedly, an enormous financial opportunity. For years I have worked far beyond the “forty hour week for a livin” with a single goal in mind: to gain financial freedom and be able to then work on whatever I want whenever I want. I don’t want a yacht, or a Manhattan penthouse. I just want to be able to live a financially secure life out in the mountains somewhere and to send my kids to college (ok and a ski boat… I’d really like a ski boat one day). And once I reach that threshold I’ll turn my focus to things that I truly want to work on and that I see large societal value in, or that best enable me to support things providing societal value.

How’s the cost of living here?

Now, without this going into a deep philosophical and psychological discussion, I know that that’s not the best approach for everyone. Some people can truly find something they’re excited about doing every day, have it make enough to support their family, and be happy doing it the rest of their lives. That, is awesome. For me, anything that I have to do is something that eventually I stop enjoying. Maybe it’s a childish “you can’t tell me what to do!” attitude, and maybe it’s a character flaw, but for me even with the best things I still need the power to occasionally say “no I don’t want to do that right now I’d rather try this other thing,” lest I become resentful of that thing I once loved doing. What I’m currently doing at Envelop is truly an interesting, challenging problem, but if I did not have to consider money at all then no it is not what I would work on the rest of my life.

And the approach I’ve taken is undoubtedly high-risk high-reward. There has always been a chance that things don’t work out, nothing ever takes off, and then I’m left looking back at a ton of work that was for naught and looking forward to at least a normal amount of work to continue making a living. But I view it somewhat similarly to setting my sights on something like Barkley, rather than a continual series of smaller more manageable goals. I’ve also been quite careful along the way to be sure that it’s only the outcome of that extra effort that’s unknown, though, without risking our day-to-day needs.

For the first time in this journey, I view this opportunity as having a high likelihood of success in getting us to that threshold of financial freedom in a good timeframe. This is the 5th loop. And this isn’t an opportunity that just falls out of the sky, or that can be found anywhere. It took a lot to get to this point: years of relentless work combined with being in some of the right places at some of the right times (I’ve been at this long enough to recognize that most of the time it does take that rare combination of effort + luck). So foregoing this opportunity would not only spit in the face of all the work I’ve done over the years, it would be passing over something that is highly unlikely to happen again.

Gotta see it through

As I mentioned earlier, there is a huge piece of me in this technology. At this point I feel more personally invested in it than I did in my dissertation. And I absolutely have got to see it through, if only for my own sense of responsibility and pride in my work. I wouldn’t want to sell someone a car that actually won’t run, and I certainly don’t want to pass off something I have built myself without personally ensuring that it’s in tip-top shape and can provide a stable foundation for the future.

Always exploring

A side-benefit is of course having a whole new continent to explore! We’d never uproot the whole family just for that and we do want to some day settle down somewhere for more than just 5 years, but we’ll definitely make the best of the move and look forward to new places, people, and cultures. I have some pretty exciting plans for races and other adventures out in brand new mountains, that we’ve aligned with family plans to explore the continent. And yes, I will still be returning to the US to race as well.

I had an extra day in the UK this summer, happened to have my bike with me, and got to explore about 140 miles of brand new countryside (with some castles thrown in)

Our oldest kid is just old enough to appreciate and remember the experience. The twins aren’t quite there, but I believe that even just growing up knowing that they’ve had the experience will give them a broader perspective on the world. It will at least force them into the knowledge that there are places, people, and ways of life different than what they see in their immediately surrounding bubble, and I hope that it will lead to a curiosity to learn more.

Yes, we know about Brexit

This isn’t about venturing off to Europe or just up and leaving home. The prospect of moving across the ocean with 3 small kids to somewhere where we have no family or friends was honestly a bit terrifying. And while Jessi might think the thought of the kids developing British accents is cute, I plan on enforcing daily afternoon sessions of the Beverly Hillbillies and Hee Haw to ensure the kids don’t lose their cultural identity. 😉

In fact, there are many many reasons not to move: support systems, logistics, Brexit, driving on the left side of the road, learning those small differences in day to day life that can add up to big obstacles. We don’t even know yet if we’ll be able to bring our dog, who has been with us through Pittsburgh and DC since nearly day 1 of our marriage. If she can’t, she’ll be happy as can be staying with my parents on the farm, but it’s a pretty tough prospect for us.

It was really great on our last trip to be able to get a group run in and meet some people who could answer some of our many, many questions. Looking forward to seeing more of them!

There’s a common saying that when one door closes another opens, but the flip side of that is true as well. Once a door is chosen a lot of others likely close. The tradeoffs are something that Jessi and I have considered and discussed extensively, and we’ve come to the clear conclusion that this is the best decision for our family.

What about the Stanley Cup?!

The previous three places that I’ve lived (Raleigh, Pittsburgh, DC) have all won the Stanley Cup within a few years of my arrival. Unfortunately no NHL city put in a bid big enough for us to head there next, so we find ourselves going somewhere with no franchise (do they even play hockey in the UK?).

About a decade ago on Pitt’s campus after either a Penguins Stanley Cup or Steelers Super Bowl.
And no, I’m not getting arrested in this picture or doing anything that could have made that a possibility. But do they set things on fire in the streets for English football championships too?

So what will happen to all of that hockey good luck? I’m not sure to be honest. A few years ago I attended my first ever professional soccer game, a match hosted by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A year or two later Chelsea won the English Premier League. Like hockey, soccer (sorry, football) is a sport that I never cared about as a kid (I have horrible luck with the sports I actually cared about), so who knows… maybe there’s good fortune on the way for Bristol football fans? Or I guess there’s rugby too. Or cricket…

29 thoughts on “Kelly Family Brentrance

  • January 1, 2019 at 12:59 pm
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    Best of luck to you and the Kelly family! I am eagerly anticipating the European race reports and FKTs. Are you going to try Fell Running? And I am not suprised at all to learn that you have a FI/RE (financial independence) philosophy. It seems to go hand in hand with your mindset and occupational choice.

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    • January 1, 2019 at 1:50 pm
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      Thank you, and haha my basic understanding is that fells are just what they call hills, so I would assume so! And I actually didn’t know the term FIRE. Cool stuff!

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      • January 1, 2019 at 1:56 pm
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        I’m no expert on fell running, but it looks like running up and down hills really fast and off trail. So, Barkley in fast forward? Here is a quick primer on FI/RE: basically living below your means, saving lots of money and investing it wisely so that you can retire early and do what you want, not what your employer wants 🙂 https://www.playingwithfire.co/whatisfire/

        Reply
  • January 1, 2019 at 1:21 pm
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    Welcome to Europe John! Hopefully you’ll make it over to Ireland for some runs and races.

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    • January 1, 2019 at 1:46 pm
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      Thanks, and I definitely hope so! I still really need to do some more research on Irish races.

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      • January 4, 2019 at 11:13 am
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        There are a couple of rounds similar to the Bob Graham in Ireland (the island); the Denis Rankin in Northern ireland and the Wicklow Round south of Dublin. It’s about 60 or 70 miles to cycel between them 😉

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        • January 4, 2019 at 3:24 pm
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          It’s sounding like this Kelly might just have to have to make a few trips over to Ireland. Thanks for the pointers!

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          • March 31, 2019 at 12:38 pm
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            If you are coming to Ireland contact NIMRA (nimra.org.uk) and/ or IMRA (irma.ie)

  • January 2, 2019 at 7:40 am
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    Hello and welcome to the neighbourhood!
    I’m a physicist/programmer/ultrarunner living in Oxfordshire who would be curious about your startup.
    Please send links 🙂

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    • January 2, 2019 at 11:03 pm
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      No, it’s not warm. It’s just generally not ice cold. And typically quite good. 😉

      Reply
  • January 2, 2019 at 2:13 pm
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    Good luck in your move! Here’s a good website for races across the Channel https://www.betrail.fr/calendar Let me know if you happen to come to Belgium, I’d like to shake hands 🙂

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    • January 2, 2019 at 11:05 pm
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      Thank you that looks quite useful. No races planned in Belgium at the moment but I imagine we’ll pass through there at some point!

      Reply
  • January 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm
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    This MCRRC fan is sad because I still haven’t managed to meet you! I did, however, visit Frozen Head a few months ago, and it is both beautiful and frightening. I stood in Upper Kelly Camp briefly but did not touch the yellow gate for fear I wasn’t worthy (I’m new to trail running and have yet to do my first ultra). Thank you for all your thorough and thoughtful posts, and I look forward to reading about your adventures on the other side of the pond. Best wishes to you and your family!

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    • January 3, 2019 at 6:25 pm
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      There’s still time! I need to check the MCRRC calendar actually, particularly to see if there’s anything kid appropriate. Glad you enjoy the posts and that you got to enjoy Frozen Head! Thank you very much for your comment and best of luck with your adventures on the trails.

      Reply
  • January 3, 2019 at 4:22 pm
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    Good luck. MCRRC will miss you!

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    • January 3, 2019 at 6:27 pm
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      Thank you, and I just hope I can find another great local group like MCRRC!

      Reply
  • January 4, 2019 at 12:00 am
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    I lived in England for 10 years and miss it tremendously. I’m sure your family will settle well there. Having kids creates lots of opportunities to meet people and start conversations. I wish you all the best!

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    • January 4, 2019 at 3:20 pm
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      Thanks! Kids definitely make the move much more of a challenge, but you’re definitely right that they’re a great way to make connections and meet people too.

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  • March 26, 2019 at 8:59 am
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    Just read your excellent blog on badass runners which led me here to discover your impeccable choice in places to live! I’m an ultrarunner based in Bristol and would be more than happy to welcome you to the area and introduce you to the trails and running scene here if it helps. Hope the move goes smoothly and give a shout if there’s anything you need

    Reply
    • March 26, 2019 at 9:52 am
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      Thank you very much! I’ve had a bit of an intro there but would certainly be great to connect once I’m over there. See you on the trails!

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      • March 26, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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        You’re welcome. Good to hear you’ve got some contacts already. We moved to Paraguay for a few years when our three kids were little so I know what that family upheaval thing feels like.

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        • March 26, 2019 at 11:39 pm
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          Yes, it has been quite the logistical challenge. I think we’re finally all sorted, though, and just need to arrive and settle in!

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  • March 31, 2019 at 6:41 pm
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    Hey John, looking forward to seeing you at a few races over here. James Elson, who ran a loop at Barkley yesterday, is RD for Centurion Running over here. South Downs Way 100 is a lovely run he organises in June. Arc of Attrition is probably our toughest 100 and Lakeland 100 is beautiful too. I hear you may be doing The Spine and that is about the most epic it gets in England. Be nice to touch base with you and go running sometime whilst you’re here. Best of luck with the move.

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    • April 1, 2019 at 12:39 pm
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      Yes I do know James, and I’m definitely looking forward to the Spine! Thank you and I hope to see you over there.

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  • April 4, 2019 at 7:16 am
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    Hello John I have just read your race report from the BM this year, very revealing and inspiring. I see that you are heading our way to the ‘mild mild west’ in England. A very warm welcome awaits you here, Bristol and Bath are extra special cities. Chipping Sodbury is a good middle location for these centres and Hobbs bakery on the high street is renowned.
    We do have a strong endurance community here, with triathletes and ultra runners doing all kinds of stuff. The main Bristol ultra event is the Green Man Ultra which is a shortish 46 mile loop around the city perimiter-a great way to see Bristol through it’s back yard.
    Good luck with your move. Hope to catch up when you make it here.
    Bristol England. Europe-still.

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    • April 4, 2019 at 11:49 am
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      Thank you! We actually ended up with a place down in Pensford, which will make for an easier commute for me. We’re on our way in two days and I’ll look forward to a new area to explore!

      Reply

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