Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This was the most aggravating day I have ever had!

Quick note: I am not saying this is the worst day I have ever had, just the most aggravating.

The day began like MOST others.  The main difference was Chrissy wasn't feeling well so she was staying home.  I also had an afternoon meeting anyway so I was driving solo regardless.  I headed out early to try and make up time for having worked a short day the day before, and was having a nice, low-traffic commute to work (keep in mind, early for me means I left the house ~4:15 am).  I am MOST of the way through my commute when traffic comes to a screeching halt on Rt 32.  WTF?  I turn on the radio and find out that there is apparently an overturned car.  I spend most of the next 45 minutes IN PARK on Rt. 32.  There goes my plan for arriving early!

I get to work, have some minor annoyance emails to deal with, but then find out that someone has been accessing a page that they shouldn't have even been able to which has caused them to know 'administrivia' type information that they shouldn't.  JOY!  So, I have to lock that down, and make an apology of sorts to the people potentially affected.  This day is not looking up.  This is then followed by a chain of aggravating software development related decisions that stretch through most of the day.

At lunch, I also check my email to see if I have finally gotten the go ahead from Summit Point to register for Group 2 on November 9th.  Not only have I not received a response AT ALL, but registration is now FULL.  I even picked up an upgraded brake package for the Rabbit that I now won't be able to try on the track till at least MARCH :(  I really needed another track day to unwind, especially with how this day was already unfolding.

Now it's time to leave for my meeting.  Two of my co-workers and I are all going to the same meeting, but are going different places afterwards, so we all drive separate.  I was following one of them when I heard a loud noise as I drove over something in the road.  I hadn't seen it because I was following my coworker.  It was only later that I found out what it was I had run over.  More on that in a bit.  Due to some traffic, I pass my coworker and get down the road ahead of her a bit.  As I am driving along (at 60 mph) I notice the ride feels a little (not a lot, just a little) rough.  I am a little concerned, but it could have just been the crappy road surface, until the smell of burning rubber hits me.  I pull over (on the shoulder of 295), hear some horrendous noise from the right front, stop, and watch as smoke is rising from the wheel well.  I get out, walk around the car, and what do I see?  THIS:
Tire Down
That black clump in the bottom of the picture is rubber from my tire!

In case you can't quite tell, that is the sidewall of the tire that has mostly separated.  YAY!  Also of note, just after I saw the tire, my coworker went zooming by.  (To her credit, she did call once she got to where our meeting was to make sure everything was ok).  I pulled out the jack and lug wrench, loosened the lugs, and started jacking up the car.  This is where my haste comes into play, as the car rolled off the jack in my first attempt.  Fortunately, the wheel was still on the car and I was able to get the jack set in place again and start over.  Ok, tire off, go pull out spare....hmm....crap...this feels a bit mushy.  Sure enough, 20 psi :-(.  I throw it on anyway, and work my way to a convenient gas station (driving a bit faster than I should have to get there, but felt safer being at speed in traffic than going slowly even with flashers).

I get to the gas station and it requires $1.00 for the air pump.  I don't have any cash, so I have to go inside, pull cash out at the ATM (with an ATM fee of $3.00 from the ATM itself), and then buy something so I can get change.  I go out, fill up the spare, and head off to my meeting.  I made it JUST on time (finally, something good for a change).  The meeting/briefing then went horribly because I was very scatterbrained, and I also had to go back to my office after the briefing.  I was talking to my coworker before I went back to the office and found out that what I drove over was a folded up umbrella.  Best I can tell it punctured the sidewall (and maybe actually made part of that full tear).  So, now I head back to the office and just as I am considering leaving find out that THE BAY BRIDGE IS CLOSED!  FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.

I finally decide to suck it up and take the LOOONG way home (via Aberdeen) and head out of the office at 4:45.  I am a few minutes out from work when my wife calls to say that the bridge is no open, so I turn around and head that way, knowing traffic will suck, but it will still be better than going the long way.  5:39-5:40 I stop at the WaWa just before the bridge for some food and a drink, back on the road really quick.  6:15 I am FINALLY on Kent Island.  I also stop at Mr. Tire, and wouldn't you know, they don't have the tire I need in stock.

7:10-ish....I FINALLY make it home.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Friday at the Track

When I first registered for Friday at the Track at Summit Point Raceway I was disappointed that I had to run in Group 1 with an instructor given my past track experience.  That said, it was still well worth it and my prior experience definitely did make a difference.  For starters, the instructor normally takes the first lap or two behind the wheel in the first session but mine let me jump right in behind the wheel and drive from the get-go.  Unfortunately, although I turned the camera on for the first session, I forgot to hit record :(

Summit Point Friday at the Track 10/12/12
To see all of the photos, see my flickr album.

On each run, the instructor reviews your performance on your safety, mental alertness, and handling of the car on a 1-5 scale.  The first run, the instructor gave me 3s across the board (which he said was SOP for first timers at FATT).  The second run he upgraded me to 4s.  The Rabbit has fresh pads and brake fluid but there was some green fade on the first run.  My brakes were apparently smoking visibly, but they were strong and held up.  After the first two runs, it was time for the lunch break.

After lunch, with the car still taking a break before the next session, it was time for me to hit the skid pad.  There is a circular stretch of blacktop that is wet down by sprinklers where you steer a Ford Crown Vic while the instructor works the gas and break.  The basic idea is to keep the car as close to following the inside line as possible while the instructor intentionally makes the car under- and over-steer. This was incredibly fun and challenging.  Despite the fact that you are fighting to keep the car going in the correct direction, you can't help but laugh and grin constantly.

Immediately after the skid pad session, it was time for me to hop in my car again and hit the track.  I guess I should say that the track time REALLY shows how much of the performance on the track is the driver and how much is the car.  There were many cars that would easily pull on me on the straight: Corvettes, some fast Minis, an Aston Martin, Audis, BMWs, and more.  I would often end up catching those cars and having them hold me up in the corners though.  Once the video footage has finished uploading, you will see that there were a few laps where I was almost keeping pace with a Corvette and an Audi S5, and was faster than them everywhere except the straights.

So, back to session #3 on the track.  This run I had a new instructor because my instructor from the first two runs was now running one of the skid pad cars.  The session started off with a bang with me putting down good strong laps, and then suddenly the car wigged out.  I lost all power, and the oil pressure light went on as I pulled out of turn 2 and tried to accelerate.  I pulled off the track right where I was, shut down the engine.  We were far enough off the track for me to pop the hood and check the oil.  Everything seemed fine, nothing was leaking so I turned the car over again.  It turned over and ran fine but suddenly died one more time.  I gave it one more chance to turn over and it fired up and ran smooth.  The oil pressure light stayed off and the instructor gave me the option of continuing on, or just trying to limp back to the pits.  I decided to cross my fingers, hope it was a fluke and press on.  The rest of that session, the car ran great.  I watched a car slide off track in a corner right in front of me but that was just because he locked them up in the braking zone.  He was able to get back on track and continue on, and to this point, at least in Group 1A, the day had gone well.

My instructor from Session 3 was actually surprised by how composed I was on the track until I explained to him about my past track experience in Germany.  As the checkered flag flew, he said he had no problem signing me off to advance to Group 2i, so I would just need to find another instructor for session 4 of the day and get them to sign off so I could advance.  He also filled out the last part of the review which is a rating of how much of my car's capability I was using.  The first instructor had forgotten that section.  He rated me as a 7.5-8 out of 10 for how much of my car's performance I was making use of.  I then had to track down my instructor from the first two rounds and have him check off the same value from my first two runs.  I was now one step closer to being able to move onto Group 2i!

After a break, it was time for my final session of the day.  I found an instructor, and we were off.  My run was going amazingly well.  This is the session where I was actually being held up by the Audi S5 and Corvette at times and was turning in similar lap times to them with their advantage coming from their speed and acceleration on the straights.  With just minutes left in the session, the Mustang GT driver that I had spent time talking to through the day lost it between turns 4 and 5 after dropping two tires off the track.  I didn't witness the actual spin, but I came around the corner right after it happened and the red flag came out. He can be seen off in the grass near the end of my session 4 video (which finished uploading as I write this).  Fortunately, he was OK, but I felt really bad for him.  The track was red flagged, and since I had to stop immediately rather than have a cool-down lap, smoke was coming up from my front brakes and over the hood of the car.  Once the red flag was lifted in favor of the black flag, we pulled the rest of the way around the track and into the pits to end the day.   My instructor for the fourth round also gave me 5's across the board and signed me off for group 2i!

I was ready to roll out and call it a day, but none of the scheduled drivers for the skid pad had shown interest in going down, so I jumped at the chance for another trip down to the skid pad.  This time, I was the only student in the car so I got to take advantage of the full 20 minutes, and the instructor let us have some fun.  After that, I turned in my card and called it a day.  I can't wait to go again (although I first need to get my issue from Saturday sorted out first, but a blog post about that will wait till another time.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Taking Praise for My Work - Impostor Syndrome Part III

First, for background, read Impostor Syndrome and Impostor Syndrome Part Deux.

I received some significant praise via email from someone recruiting me to work in their office.  The praise was to the effect of "getting you over here is more important than -something else important-" and my Impostor Syndrome brain freaked the fuck out. My train of thought was literally "Holy crap, holy crap, I better be as good as they think I am." I had a follow on conversation with that person and more praise and confidence in my abilities were rained down on me, but that "Holy crap" voice kept going through my head all day anyway.

I also received some other praise today at work and the person explicitly said that I take criticism better than I take praise, and I really wish that wasn't the case, but it is true.  Leading up to my gastric bypass I even had to talk to a clinical social worker (it is part of their program to make sure you are ready for such a life changing event) and when asked to describe good qualities about myself, I became very uncomfortable and had a difficult time answering the question. 

So, has anyone else out there with impostor syndrome come to grips with how to accept praise or even better, overcome the syndrome?  

Enough about that.  One more day of work this week, and then Friday I will be out on the race track having some fun doing Friday at the Track at Summit Point raceway in WV.  Expect a blog post, photos, and video of that excursion when I get a chance.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

H2O International

This was the third year I have gone to H2Oi and the first year I registered the car in the show. This is also the third different venue I have seen H2Oi at and was my FOURTH show this year. (Waterfest, Vagfair and Dubs on the Boards being the other three)

Dubs on the Boards had its problems this year with people not knowing how to park, but it didn't turn into as much of a cluster fuck as H2Oi did due to shear magnitude.

This year H2Oi was at Fort Walley outside ocean city. The BABBQ on Saturday seemed to run well, but when Sunday rolled around things got bad. The first show arrivals were given plenty of room but then later arrivals ended up with nowhere to park and they were sent to spectator parking. At least this year didn't have a field become unusable because of rain.

The organizers have solicited feedback on how to run the show better but since this will be kind of lengthy I will post it here and send them the link.

Idea 1: measure out and mark the show parking area. Chalk, paint, whatever. Mark it so cars face opposite directions with a smaller gap between trunks and a row to drive in front. This would allow for better use of whatever space there is. This goes along with idea #2.

Idea 2: park classes together. Since the parking is now marked you can direct different classes to different rows. 

Idea 3: option of off site parking for spectators. This one is less likely to be implemented/have an affect unless the show is somewhere in OC proper.

Idea 4: Allow show cars a window of 1 hour before any spectator cars are allowed in.

That said, I don't envy them. They have a tough task. I didn't have any issues w/ this years show but I wasn't out getting stupid drunk Saturday night so was in place in the show car area just before 9am.
Maybe non of my ideas can work for the venue but I thought I would share my thoughts.