RIP Brendan Roche

Brendan RocheRIP Brendan Roche – he was one of my first roommates when I moved to Ottawa in 1990. He was the kind of person who you wouldn’t see for six months, and pick up right where we left off, like no time had passed. He was a father to three, loved by his partner Christina, special friend of Maryanne and Austin, and the wider RK and KG family. Tracey and I are thinking of you all.

He was a pillar of his community, one of my co-conspirators back in the day, and a text-based gladiator who wielded his singular wit like an axe in the days of BBS’ who never stopped learning.

I was never able to articulate how much his close friendship in those early years in Ottawa meant to me, or how often I’d wonder what he was up to, but I like to think that he knew, and that he knew what I was incapable of saying.

The Serendipitous Runner

By nearly all metrics, 2020 was a raging dumpster fire of a year, but I can say that I ended the year in the best physical shape of my entire life: I walked 4,818 KM and ran over 4,245 KM.  Yes, I said ran.

All this running is the result of a chance meeting.

I’ve been a committed distance walker (or perhaps a distance walker who should be committed, depending on your point of view) for many years. For those of you new around here, in 2019, I walked over 8,200 KM – and I suppose I should point out that I love numbers.

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday, October 29th (2019), I was in the last five KMs of my daily walk, came across my friend Sonia, whom I’ve known for many years through Kung Fu, as she was about to start a run on along the Rideau Canal and she encouraged me to give it a try.

So, I did.

I managed a bit over two kilometers before I had to stop, with my heart jackhammering in my chest at over 160 BPM.

Had I been even one minute faster along my route, I would have missed Sonia and I don’t believe that I would be running today – the thought of trying to run distances at all honestly hadn’t occurred to me as I was fairly sure I *couldn’t* run.

Two weeks later, I met her to make another attempt, managing a bit over three kilometres.

The seed was planted.

I decided to try running occasionally on my daily walks through to the end of the 2019, mainly focusing on running up and down the hills along my route, figuring if I could do those, I could manage running on the flat sections.

At the beginning of 2020, I decided that I would give running a more serious try. Three and a half kilometres non-stop on January 1, Six KM on January 4th, 8.6 KM on the 8th, and the full distance – 21.1 KM on January 22nd – although slowly. It took a while to do it again, alternating running as far as I could, then walking until I could resume running.

This seemingly fast progress can be attributed – I think – to that the year before I’d already been pushing my walks faster and faster; clocking a half-marathon distance (21.1 KM) in around three hours, helping build my leg muscles.

An observation I made early on is that runners are friendly and encouraging folks.  Early on, I noticed when a runner was coming from the opposite direction, they’d make a gesture of some sort; head-nod, a friendly wave, thumbs-up, etc – the first few times, I would look behind me to see if they were waving at someone else – because I can be slow at social things, I realized they were waving at me, so I started waving back. 

One spring day – I was running along the path through a lovely forested section, really struggling to keep my pace up, and felt quite defeated.  Then this young university student comes around the bend, sees me and gives me a big double-thumbs-up with a grin. I waved back and managed to run for another thirty minutes before slowing to a walk.  I find it fascinating how small positive actions from others can really help.

By the end of June, I was running a full half-marathon nearly every three days and July averaged a half-marathon every two days.

From September onwards to the time of this writing (March 4, 2021), I was running a half-marathon Monday to Friday and a 10k on Saturday and Sunday (although I did take a “break” between Christmas and New Years where I ran 10 KM per day).

Somewhere in the summer, I listened to the episode of the Optimize Yourself podcast with guest Wes Plate talking about his personal journey of being overweight, deciding to do something about it, starting to run, and moving on to running ultra-marathons (any distance over 42.2 KM) including running the Moab 240 mile (384 KM!) ultramarathon.

Needless to say, I began to wonder how far I could run.  In late September, I gave it a shot. I got up early, stuffed food into my belly, and went out the door.  I learned a lot that day; that I could run over 30 KM without needing food or water, that I could finish a marathon in a bit over five hours, that the day was too hot to be out running, and that by the time I got home, I was completely burned out at 66.4 km. So, I slowly walked up and down the driveway util I hit 66.66 km because it amused me.  My amazing partner Tracey kindly went out and got some celebratory hamburgers and poutine from Koven for dinner.  I haven’t repeated an ultramarathon run… yet. I think early this spring I will before it warms up too much. I repeated the run on March 27th, finishing the 66.66 (which I’ve decided to call the Hellish Run because I’m silly) in a bit under nine hours, and covering the full marathon distance in under five hours.  I really run out of steam a bit after the marathon distance.  I didn’t need water until I got a bit dizzy at the 38km mark, and ate a couple of energy bars once I covered the marathon distance.

Running in many ways can be as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one, even now, hundreds of runs later. When my brain wants to stop, I am reminded that it’s The Blerch speaking (Thanks, Oatmeal!), I ask myself if I “can run just a bit further” and eventually finish my KMs for the day.  There has been trip and falls, an alarming number of bloody nipples, lost toenails, muscle pulls, and sore body parts.  There has been high heat, pouring rain, thunderstorms, ice, crazy wind, deep snow, and intense wind chill. 

Even with all this challenges, it’s all worth it to me.  There is a sense of self-satisfaction upon completing every single run, regardless of the conditions.  Every run – like every walk – is different, and I get to see our beautiful city, its people, and myself change over time.

Today marks 190 days of continuous running on the schedule I set myself (a daily half-marathon Monday to Friday and 10 KM on Saturday and Sunday), and I still love it. Some days are harder than others, like today’s run with -27°C windchill and winds gusting to 39 KM/hr, but I also get to start my day with an accomplishment.

My journey from a daily walker to a daily runner was a serendipitous event that changed my life, and I am so profoundly grateful it happened.

The support and encouragement I’ve received from my partner Tracey, my off and online friends, and family have been so very helpful. Thank you all!

2020 By the numbers:

Distance Walked: 4,818 KM
Distance Run: 4,245 KM
Total distance: 9,063 KM

Average distance per day: 24.76 KM

140 half-marathons (123 non-stop)
81 10 KM runs
64 4.2 KM “loop runs”
31 runs of “other distances” including the 66.66 KM ultramarathon

If you’d like to see my progress as I continue my daily runs, you can follow me on Instagram where I post each run result, good, meh, or bad.

2020 Reading List

From a reading perspective, I spent a lot of my time in 2020 revisiting already familiar stories. I’ve italicized books that were re-reads and have bolded the books I thought were the most interesting to me this year.

  1. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey : January 9, 2020
  2. How to be an Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise : January 14, 2020
  3. Pray Lied Eve 2 by Lydia Peever : January 19, 2020
  4. Sandworm by Andy Greenberg : January 20, 2020
  5. Do You Talk Funny? By David Nihill : January 23, 2020
  6. In The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn : January 26, 2020
  7. Witch: A tale of terror by Charles Mackay : February 6, 2020
  8. Ice Ghosts – The Epic Hunt of the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson : February 7, 2020
  9. World War 1: The “Great War” by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius : February 10, 2020
  10. Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin : February 15, 2020
  11. At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft : February 17, 2020
  12. Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov : February 18, 2020
  13. Why I’m not longer talk to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge : February 19, 2020
  14. The Martian by Andy Weir : February 20, 2020
  15. Invisible Man by H.G. Wells : March 1, 2020
  16. The Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels : March 3, 2020
  17. Chemistry and Our Universe by Professor Ron B. Davis Jr. : March 4, 2020
  18. Neuromancer by William Gibson : March 10, 2020
  19. Count Zero by William Gibson : March 12, 2020
  20. Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson : March 14, 2020
  21. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson : March 16, 2020
  22. The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jen Gunter : March 22, 2020
  23. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells : March 26, 2020
  24. Tell me a story – Science Fiction One by Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, Robert Sheckley, Terry Bisson, Avram Davidson, and Philip K. Dick : March 27, 2020
  25. For We Are Many by Dennis E. Taylor : March 30, 2020
  26. Influence: Mastering Life’s Most Powerful Skill by Professor Kenneth G. Brown
  27. The Wrong Kind of Women – Inside our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood by Naomi McDougall Jones : April 3, 2020
  28. Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal : April 6, 2020
  29. Foundation by Isaac Asimov : April 10, 2020
  30. Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon : April 14, 2020
  31. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy : April 15, 2020
  32. Alien 3 Original Screenplay by William Gibson : April 19, 2020
  33. Light Falls – Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein by Brian Greene
  34. Part Time Gods by Rachel Aaron : April 20, 2020
  35. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson : April 22, 2020
  36. Magic Kingdom for Sale SOLD! By Terry Brooks : April 24, 2020
  37. The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo : April 27, 2020
  38. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson : April 29, 2020
  39. Outland by Dennis E. Taylor : May 4, 2020
  40. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams : May 7, 2020
  41. Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer : May 8, 2020
  42. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving : May 10, 2020
  43. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty : May 11, 2020
  44. Hellgoing: Stories by Lynn Coady : May 12, 2020
  45. Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis : May 14, 2020
  46. Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper : May 14, 2020
  47. Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler : May 16, 2020
  48. Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman : May 19, 2020
  49. Alias Grace by Margret Atwood : May 23, 2020
  50. Without Remorse by Tom Clancy : May 28, 2020
  51. 419 – How Far Would You Go For Revenge? By Will Ferguson : May 31, 2020
  52. How the Earth Works by Professor Michael E Wysession : June 2, 2020
  53. Think Do Say – How to seize attention and build trust in a busy, busy world by Ron Tite : June 8, 2020
  54. Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy : June 10, 2020
  55. Off To Be The Wizard by Scott Meyer : June 14, 2020
  56. Becoming Superman – My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski : June 15, 2020
  57. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice : June 18, 2020
  58. Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham : June 22, 2020
  59. The Stand by Stephen King : June 28: 2020
  60. The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer : July 5, 2020
  61. Necronomicon by H. P. Lovecraft : July 8, 2020
  62. How We Learn by Professor Monisha Paspathi : July 21, 2020
  63. FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer : July 27, 2020
  64. The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon : August 2, 2020
  65. The High Middle Ages by Philip Daileader : August 15, 2020
  66. The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy : August 17, 2020
  67. The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack : Aug 19, 2020
  68. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman , Dirk Maggs : August 22, 2020
  69. The Oppenheimer Alternative by Robert J. Sawyer : August 23, 2020
  70. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan : August 26, 2020
  71. A Quiet Life in the Country: A Lady Hardcastle Mystery, Book 1 by T E Kinsey : September 7, 2020
  72. Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius : September 9, 2020
  73. Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy : September 14, 2020
  74. Verbal Judo, The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George J. Thompson PhD , Jerry B. Jenkins : September 21, 2020
  75. The Persian Empire by John W. Lee : September 23, 2020
  76. Red Rising by Pierce Brown : September 24, 2020
  77. The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition by Don Norman : September 30, 2020
  78. Executive Orders by Tom Clancy : October 3, 2020
  79. The Art of Closing the Sale by Brian Tracy : October 11, 2020
  80. The Second World War: Milestones to Disaster by Winston Churchill : October 16, 2020
  81. Ancient Civilizations of North America by Edwin Barnhart : October 22, 2020
  82. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne : October 27, 2020
  83. Build to Last by Keith Callahan : October 30, 2020
  84. Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Rob Grant , Doug Naylor : November 2020
  85. A Wizard of Earthsea: The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1 by Ursula K. Le Guin : November 6, 2020
  86. The Dip by Seth Godin November 10, 2020
  87. Lovecraft’s Monsters by Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Karl Edward Wagner, Elizabeth Bear, and Nick Mamatas and Ellen Datlow (Editor)
  88. Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA by Amy Shira Teitel : November 20, 2020
  89. The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey : November 24
  90. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher : November 30, 2020
  91. 1066: The Year That Changed Everything by Jennifer Paxton : November 30, 2020
  92. A Promised Land by Barack Obama : December 4, 2020
  93. The Shadow over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft : December 12, 2020
  94. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn : December 14, 2020
  95. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan : December 19, 2020
  96. One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith , Richard Proenneke : December 27, 2020
  97. Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell and Craig Sanborn : December 29, 2020