So with the bad forecast for the half marathon I came up with an idea on Friday to make timing in stormy weather more feasible, rent a box truck. I secured a 16 foot truck for $35 a day and 99 cents per mile, far less than I expected. With that size I would have plenty of room to set up two or three tables loaded up with the computer equipment used for race timing. The only thing that would be left outside would be the timing boxes themselves which are able to be operated with their lids closed, making them pretty weather resistant. I picked up the truck on Saturday after getting permission from the running club to do so.
When I rented the truck I had a funny interaction with the guy that ran the office. When I walked in he had a gamer headset on and he appeared somewhat annoyed I interrupted him. After I took a look at the monster PC he had on the desk which I immediately recognized as a gaming rig I asked him questions about it, letting him know my computer background. Once he knew he was talking to a fellow computer geek the conversation flowed. He told me about the specs of his big full tower box that he built himself which were impressive.
We exchanged stories of our gaming experience. I found out he was an old WoW player and a quite high level one at that. He played the game the first three years it was out. I told him I have been plugging away for a solid 10 years. In addition to completing the paperwork for the rental he took the time to show me some details of Fallout 4, which is what he was playing when I walked in the door. It was a geeky interaction out of nowhere that I appreciated.
On Friday after work I went over to the running store where I stayed until packet pick up wound up at 7PM. I worked on getting current with any entries that came in during the day. On Saturday afternoon I headed back down there to do the same.
Now of course the potential for bad weather was on everyone’s mind. The weather forecast for Sunday was consistently bad but the time frame seemed to be shifting around. Unfortunately it seemed like the worst weather was forecast to hit during the time everything would be set up. The plan was to show up as normal and if the weather conditions were really bad we could slide the race start time back to accommodate it. Cindy and I used the 16 foot truck to hold most of the stuff which was a good thing since I had the most equipment I ever used at a race with four timing systems and 24 one meter mats. We went to bed early, hoping to compensate for the 3AM alarm I had set for Sunday morning. Unfortunately I wound up waking up somewhere around 1AM and not really falling asleep afterward. During my tossing and turning I heard several bursts of storm activity outside.
When we got up I immediately looked at the latest weather conditions. I was not happy to see a tornado watch had been put in place that ran until 8AM. I called the race director who was already in the process of setting up the course just to let him know about the watch and suggest we wait until that watch clears to start the race which was scheduled for a 7AM start. Cindy and I pulled out our race caravan with me leading in the box truck and Cindy following in the Tacoma.
On the way to the race I got a message that they were officially postponing the start until 8 to give the weather a chance to clear, a good move. When we got there the roads were wet but it wasn’t raining and the wind was minimal. However when I looked at the radar before leaving home I saw Naples looked to be on the tail end of a long line of storms that was moving northeast very rapidly. It was not a matter of if the storm was going to hit but when.
Cindy and I started working on setting up stuff. We dumped the timing gear at the start and finish lines. I parked the big truck in position by the finish line and set up tables inside of it. I looked at my temporary timing shelter with a weird sense of pride for coming up with a way to get the job done despite the very challenging weather conditions. We started setting up the registration area over by the bank under a covered parking area that we hoped would provide shelter if the storm got really bad. With the one hour delay we suddenly had a much longer window to get everything set up.
So Chris, who was there to help me do data entry had his iPad along. On it he had the live radar view on loop which showed the line of red was almost on us. The wind started to pick up along with the rain so the group of us around the registration area took cover. As the wind and rain picked up it started blowing in so we quickly pulled all the tables and computer equipment that I already had set up back as far as we could to minimize it’s exposure to the elements.
The storm was bad but didn’t seem like anything beyond a typical Florida summer thunderstorm, until it wasn’t. All of a sudden there was a few minutes where the wind ratcheted up to an entirely new level. The huge flag that hangs over Cambier Park sounded like it was ready to be ripped from the pole. I stood up and leaned on the huge, heavy wood tables in front of me for fear they could actually be blown around. The sound of the wind, which was reported to be 80+ mph, was dangerous.
So we all huddled underneath the overhang for around 15-20 minutes while the worst of the storm blew through. I honestly felt a bit exposed there and had my eyes scanning for any flying debris that could come our way. We took a look at the race banner hanging over the start line in the street. We saw a mangled mess as one of the tether lines snapped from the force. When things started to die down we did a brief survey of our immediate area and things seemed more or less intact with just some palm fronds down at various spots.
Just as we were getting ready to start drying stuff off and resume preparations we got word from the volunteer coordinator that the race was now cancelled. Evidently there was much more extensive damage on the course with not just branches but entire trees down, severe flooding and even power lines down. There was no way the event could take place with those sort of hazards on the course. Later we were told that this storm had the characteristics of something called a “meteotsunami”, which very quickly and dramatically pushed a wall of water from the gulf on shore which caused the flooding. The hurricane force winds were just the icing on the cake.
After we were told of the cancellation I just sat there for a few moments, shell shocked. There has never been a race cancellation due to weather conditions, for it to happen with the biggest event the club puts on just seemed unbelievable. I immediately felt very badly for the race participants, many of whom travel from out of the area to be here for the half marathon. I thought of all the preparation that went into the event by both myself and others. To have all of that nullified by a 15 minute storm seemed crazy.
With a race of this scope there is no rescheduling possible so basically people are just SOL as “acts of God” do not qualify runners for refunds. While I was on site I remote controlled to my home computer so I could quickly get information posted to the official race website. Luckily the majority of racers had been following the updates and did not show up on site.
So the undoing of the race prep began with the crew of volunteers and ourselves picking up everything that had just been laid out. Luckily for me I had not fully set up all my stuff at that point. We packed up the stuff we set up at the registration area and I then took down the tables in the back of the box truck. We drove the truck back to the start line to pick up the timing equipment we set there. I was surprised to see some of the very heavy rubber mats had gotten blown off the stack. As we were throwing the wet mats into the back of the truck a reporter from the Naples Daily News snapped a picture of Cindy and I as we were standing under the mangled half marathon start line banner. That picture wound up on the front page of the sports section of Monday’s paper which was unexpected.
On the drive home we saw all sorts of damage with tons of branches on the roadways along with a ton of uprooted trees. When I saw substantial wind damage at the developments near our house I was quite worried about damage at our house, especially to the chicken coop. We both breathed a sigh of relief that other than some smaller things scattered around the yard our property escaped basically unscathed.
I’m sure the chickens were scared to death. Having the shed/run pull through such extreme weather intact made Cindy and I feel good about the extra work we put in to make sure both structures were built to be as storm resistant as possible. The one nuisance we did have to deal with from the storm was a power outage which lasted around half the day.
By the time we got home the weather seemed almost nice. I pulled out the 24 wet mats and laid them out to dry, one side at a time. We had some other stuff that needed to dry out as well. All day I couldn’t help but feel weird about doing all of that prep and not actually getting to time the race. After the huge timing disaster we had at last year’s half marathon I was really looking to make things run like clockwork this year, despite the conditions. Since this was also the last half marathon I was timing for the club, not getting the chance to get that redemption was a little depressing.
The rest of our day Sunday felt incredibly long, a byproduct of starting your day at 3AM. After getting all of the race equipment dried out and put away I turned my attention to the Tacoma. While we were driving to the race Cindy told me the truck was acting weird and shaking. When she first mentioned it to me I thought she meant just a tire vibration which I wrote off as no big deal. I then got a clarification that it was an engine related problem. The truck was missing and Cindy said she really couldn’t go any faster than 50 mph. The check engine light had come on as well.
I hooked up my car computer scanner and got a P300, P304 and P304 error code which meant that cylinder three and four were misfiring. I cleared the codes and took the truck out for a very brief test drive. The misfiring was still there and the CEL came on again, great. So I did some research about the issue on my phone as Cindy drove us home after we dropped off the box truck at the Penske lot.
The easy causes of the problem are stuff like bad wires, coil, or plugs. Tacomas have a different coil arrangement. Instead of having one coil there are actually three of them, each one drives two of the plugs. The recommendation was to swap coil packs around to see if the problem follows the coil. I swapped the coil pack on cylinder three assuming it also drove cylinder four. After clearing the codes and doing another test drive the misfire was still present although I only got a P304 error this time. After feeding these test results into Google it seemed like a more likely cause of the misfire could be a failed fuel injector, something very much in the realm of possibility for a vehicle with 186,000 miles on the odometer. Unfortunately changing one involves pretty extensive tear down, similar to what I had to do to change the valve cover gaskets. I called it good for the day with the intention to resume diagnostics on Monday.
On Sunday night we watched True Story, our latest Netflix rental. With no naps during the day I knew I risked nodding off during the movie, which I did several times. The drowsiness was not because of the movie which was interesting, seeing Seth Rogen and James Franco play very serious roles in a true life story about a man that killed his family. I had Cindy help fill in some of the blank spots while I nodded off laying on her lap. It added up to a solid B+ film that is a quality rental title.
Having Monday off was quite welcome after the events of Sunday. We headed out relatively early to go pick up some oil change supplies. Both the Prius and Tacoma were overdue for oil changes. We also dropped off the left over race bibs from the race at the running store where runners were able to pick up race shirts and medals since they would go to waste otherwise.
I dug into the oil changes early Monday afternoon, completing both oil changes in the span of 45 minutes. I then resumed my diagnosis of the Tacoma. One of the things I did not do on Sunday was pull the plug in cylinder four to take a look at it. When I pulled the spark plug wire something didn’t feel right. When I looked at the boot of the wire something didn’t look right, the attachment terminal was missing. A look into the spark plug hole revealed it was still attached to the spark plug.
This scenario was good and bad news. The good news was that possibly the misfiring could have simply been caused by a defective spark plug wire. The bad news was I now had to figure out some way to get the broken terminal off the spark plug so I could remove the spark plug itself. This turned out to be a VERY challenging task that tested the limits of my patience.
At first I tried using a simple needle nose pliers to grasp the broken terminal. Because of the lack of space it was impossible to get a grasp on it. I then began a long and arduous session with a long flat head screw driver. I stuck it into the plug hole and tried to work the terminal back and forth so it would loosen up. I then tried to pin it against the side of the hole so I could pry it upwards. After a couple dozen attempts over the course of 45 minutes I got it to pop off the top of the spark plug. I was able to fish the terminal out of the hole with my retractable magnet.
I then confidently stuck my spark plug socket in the hole, ready to finally remove the plug after all that futzing around. Despite removing the terminal it still felt like my socket was just spinning around on nothing. WTF? I brought out my stick light so I could get a better view down the hole. What I saw was a circle of rubber on top of the spark plug. Not only did the terminal of the spark plug wire break off, the rubber boot that normally surrounds it was down there as well, awesome.
This discovery lead to another incredibly aggravating session of trying to get the rubber removed. I was able to spin it around with my screwdriver but not remove it. I alerted Cindy to my issue and said I needed a small wire hook to snag the rubber. She found an old wire plant hanger in the shed. I was able to snip off one of the wires and then bend the end into a very small hook. As I stuck the wire into the hole my eyes were watering as I tried to focus, it was very hard to see. Finally, finally I snagged the rubber boot and managed to lift it out of the plug hole. Instinctively I said “f you” out loud to the remains of the spark plug boot as I removed it. It was the end result of close to two hours of digging around in a little hole with no clearance and the wrong tools for the job. I finally was able to get a socket on the plug and remove it. The plug itself looked ok but I ordered a complete new set of plugs and wires on Amazon. My hope is the misfire was all wire related and I can avoid ripping off the entire intake of the truck to do injectors.
After the Tacoma work I suggested to Cindy we take out the mountain bikes out for their first test ride of Bird Rookery swamp, something we had wanted to do for a little while. The cool air in the low to mid-60’s left us both feeling quite chilled on the 3 mile ride to the trail head. Once we got off road both of our bikes felt good on the mostly grass trail. In total we went around 2.25 miles into the swamp before turning around.
Doing the trail on a mountain bike is different than doing the same by foot. You obviously cover territory at a much faster clip. I think you also get to see less since you need to concentrate more on the ground under you to avoid obstacles while riding. We stopped several times so Cindy could take some pictures of especially scenic locations.
By the time we started the return ride out we were both feeling some aches and soreness. Mountain bikes are double the weight or more of the road bikes we are used to riding, Riding them over uneven terrain introduces a new sort of effort level which also carries a discomfort penalty for your rear end, back, and hands. By the time we rode the 3 miles back to the house we were BEAT. Our eventual goal is to do the entire 12 mile circuit in the swamp which when added to the ride to and from the house will be around 18 miles. The way we felt doing the roughly 10 miles yesterday makes me only imagine how we will feel when we take on the whole deal. The rest of our Monday, the little that was left of it was more low key with us enjoying a nice dinner and dvr’d tv content to wind up the 3 day weekend.
Of course I saw the news that the Eagles hired a new head coach, Doug Pederson, who was the offensive coordinator for the KC Chiefs. I wish I could say I liked this hire. Eagles fans remember the name Doug Pederson. He was the starting QB VERY briefly right before the Donovan McNabb era began. I remember feeling very unexcited back then when we were told that Pederson, despite not having much actual NFL play time, had been a back up in good programs which somehow meant he should be decent by osmosis. Well the reality was he was extremely unimpressive in his Eagles stint. His starting record as a qb was something like 3-14.
Well Andy Reid always liked Doug and eventually brought him on staff as a coach. First as an “offensive consultant” and later as a QB coach for the Eagles. When Andy was fired from the Eagles he took Doug with him to KC and named his as offensive coordinator. During his three years there the Chiefs offense was ok, but certainly nothing dynamic. Plus since Andy Reid is very much involved in the offensive play calling, being an OC on an Andy Reid team means you aren’t really calling the shots.
The overwhelming consensus is the Pederson hiring is underwhelming. I read an ESPN article that said out of the 6 coaches hired this off season, Doug is the least impressive of them. I assume that Jeff Lurie is hoping that somehow Doug will be Andy Reid-esque since he has been in his company for a long time. We saw how that “greatness by association with greatness” theory worked out in Pederson’s QB career. I have a bad feeling his head coaching career could follow a similar story line. Hopefully I am wrong.