And 365 Days Later…

It’s cliche as hell, but a lot can happen in a year.  Profoundly life changing events, changes of habit, moments of happiness, moments of sadness.  I say that despite turning 30 this year, and realizing it’s been 12 years since I graduated high school.  It feels like time has absolutely flown by, and yet when you break down the last 365 days into their individual triumphs and defeats, it feels like the longest time span imaginable.

But yeah, today marks officially one year since I committed myself to getting healthier.  It was November 14th, 2017 that this whole thing got started.  It was around that time I got promoted to the Systems Department and moved back to a regular day shift.  I’m not sure what prompted the shift from apathy, eating my feelings, and general laziness to becoming active, watching what I ate, and working to better my life – but that starting weight has been the biggest motivator.

Start Weight – 270.9
Current Weight – 211.3
Goal Weight – 200?  190?

As of this writing, I’ve officially lost 59.6 pounds over the last year.  Even now it blows my mind.  I put on my winter jacket for the first time (I hate snow) this season, and it was loose.  Like, almost awkwardly loose.  My work pants are several inches too big now.  Shirts that used to fit snugly hang weirdly on me now.  It’s a problem, but I guess if I had to take a problem it’d be that kind. 

It was May 31st that I first ordered my Saucony running shoes.  I haven’t actually put any effort into running, because of my flat feet, but I’ve walked.  I’ve walked a shit load.  I’ve walked in the sweltering 90+ degree heat, pouring rain, and sub-freezing wind.  Since May of this year, I’ve walked…

427.9 Miles

According to Runkeeper anyway.  Not bad for nearly 6 months.  The shoes are shot at this point, so new ones will be getting purchased before spring time.  Now that the weather has turned to garbage, I’ve signed up at Planet Fitness to keep this train rolling.  I’ve been lifting free weights in the apartment the last few weeks, and I can already see some slight (super slight) definition in my arms.

It was around May that I also picked up my Fitbit Charge 2.  I’ll admit I fought the suggestion of getting one by my girlfriend at the time, but I gotta hand it to her – she was on to something.  It’s a fitness tracker, not a smart watch, which means it focuses on fostering healthy habits, not apps or distractions.  Tracks steps and heart rate throughout the day, which gets you a more accurate picture of your caloric burn.  

Which leads into the next key player of this thing – tracking calories.  I’ve stayed diligent these last 52 weeks in keeping track – honestly keeping track – of how many calories I put into my body.  That’s the real trick.  It’s easy to “forget” to jot down that donut you had earlier.  It’s easy to track your calories with a little bit of a conservative edge.  But all that does is hurt your bottom line.  You’re using those numbers to make smart choices, and if you’re working off bad information, you’re more likely to make more bad choices.

Even if I’m an absolute pig one day (which has happened), I accurately and honestly track those numbers down.  Seeing me be 1500+ calories over my goal for the day sucks, but it is what it is.  And cheat days aren’t the end of the world, let’s be honest.  It’s when every day is a cheat day that you need to correct yourself.

And then there’s the stress and bullshit of everyday life.  It isn’t easy watching what you eat, remaining active, and trying to stay focused when there’s negative things going on in your life.  Whether that be drama with friends, stress from a new job or new position at work, or a depressing breakup with your significant other.  Been down those roads a couple times the last year.

I’ll be honest, I was emboldened to kick my healthy habits into overdrive when I found myself in a relationship after quite a few years of being single.  It makes sense, there’s a sense of “I can do anything” and “I’m on top of the world” and “I want nothing more than to impress this person” that drives you forward with more energy than you can imagine.  Looking at my weight loss you can see when that happened, I went from a minor, gradual decline to a sharp, rapid one.

But long story short, things happened and that situation had to end.  And regardless of what side of a breakup you’re on, there’s obviously a mental component to the aftermath, but there’s also a physical part of it too.

In my case, my resting heart rate was nearly 30 BPM higher than normal.  My sleep cycle was trash.  My weight loss stopped.  In fact, I gained 5 pounds simply because I didn’t care anymore.  I was depressed and just wanted to drown myself in all the bad habits I had moved past.  Emotional eating, smoking again, sleeping the day away.  I just didn’t care because all my attention was on the pain I was in.

But I never lost sight of the progress I had made.  I forced myself to get back on the horse, shut the hell up, and get back to business.  If you ever find yourself falling back into old habits – don’t beat yourself up about it.  We found our way out of the darkness once and we can without a doubt do it again.

So now that the winter months are upon us, walking outside as a form of cardio is out.  Unless you wanna deal with slush and all that garbage, anyway.  So that’s where a gym membership comes into play.  I’m still working on when I want to go – morning or nights – but the ability to get your cardio in while inside, plus hitting your strength and weight training, is a must have during the winter.  This is without a doubt the worst time to get in shape or try to maintain your weight.  Outside activities, if you aren’t already into them, like snowboarding or skiing, are hard to pick up and commit to.  But the gym is just down the road, and some of them are open 24 hours during the week.  Pretty killer.

And so, here’s to the last year of proving the haters wrong.  And here’s to the next 365 days of refining, weight loss, hydration, and getting SWOLE.  If the last year is any indication, nothing is out of reach.  

A Journey of a Thousand Steps…

Begins by staring at the road in front of you and debating whether you’re dumb or not.

Narrator: “He was definitely dumb.”

So first things first, come to terms with the fact that this very well might be the most involved thing you’re ever going to do to your car.  But come the end of this journey, you’ll be able to laugh at your boys who think doing their own oil changes is worthy of recognition.  Nah brah, I pulled the fucking engine, how you like me now?

You also need to really be dedicated to this shit.  Too many times you’ll see project cars for sale with the engine out – because Joe Blow Shadetree Mechanic thought it would be a walk in the park and got halfway done, gave up, couldn’t afford it, etc, and just decided to dump the car to some other unlucky schmuck.

Okay.  Got yourself psyched up?  Good.  Let’s do dis.

Jack up the car, blah blah blah.  Always worth mentioning, use jack stands son.  The car might be up there for a few hours days weeks, so make sure its stable.  Next step is pulling the bumper, which is pretty easy:

The hardest ones to get to are the ones in blue because the TT’s intercoolers are in the way just enough to make things hard.

Once the bumper is free from the car, make duly sure you’ve already started labeling and taking pictures.  This process is long, and it will help immensely to have documentation of what you’ve done so far.  You’re also going to want to disconnect the “aliens” or headlight washers from the reservoir.  You’ll probably lose a bit of windshield washer fluid.  I should give credit to the thread I got the above diagram from as well:

You’ll come to find that just about anything you’re doing to this car, there’s forum threads out there for it.  Unfortunately, not many include photos, and some aren’t as detailed as we’d hope.  So now your car is looking like the above pic.  Nice!  The next step is to remove the crash bar – that silver thing across the front.  Couple bolts later, good to go.

While you’re at it, pull the headlights as well.  Three bolts apiece, unclip the wiring harness, and out they come.  Now for our next trick, the front lock carrier:

Picture care of ECS Tuning, this is the frontal support that holds your radiator, AC condenser coil, headlights, basically everything.  Why it’s called the “front lock carrier” I’m not sure, but this has gotta come out since we’re pulling the engine out the front of the car.

This was fairly straightforward.  Two “triple square” bolts up top, three bolts around the crash bar supports, and two more bolts around the sides.  There’s a video that helped me do this part, so I’ll link it below:

If you follow the vid, you’ll notice he unbolts the radiator and leaves all that jazz in place.  You can do it that way, or you can unhook and drain the radiator and disconnect the AC condenser then pull everything as one single piece.  Doing it this way requires you to discharge the AC system, which is probably illegal to atmosphere, but take that with a grain of salt.  Once the radiator, AC condenser and front lock carrier are off, we can get to the funnest part!


Yep, That’s The Engine

So a couple months ago, two words that every petrol head fears was in the back of my head.

Head.  Gasket.

Consider me triggered, fam.  For those of you reading this without a single mechanical inclining in your body – the head gasket is a thin piece of metal sandwiched between the block and the head of the engine.  It seals those two important parts of said engine, to prevent stuff from leaking out or between each other.  Simple enough, yeah?  Well, when that thin piece of metal breaks or begins leaking, it’s bad for everyone involved.

Especially one’s mental stability.

Long story short, I did some testing and determined yes, the head gasket in the TT is probably shot.  Smell of coolant outside on cold starts, slow loss of coolant from the reservoir, brownish deposits in the coolant, inability to hold pressure when a vacuum is applied, etc.  I was in denial for a while till I ran a sniff test, which sealed the deal for my psyche.

Air from the coolant reservoir is pulled through a special liquid that reacts to exhaust gases (hydrocarbons, to be exact).  In the presence of exhaust, the liquid changes color from blue to green or yellow.  I ran the test twice and both times the liquid turned bright yellow.  No bueno.

So from there, the decision came down to this:

Do I fucking send it for the next 1.5 years, and hope the leak doesn’t get worse?  Or do I pull the engine, fix the head gasket, and have a fun project for Winter 2018?

Obviously the choice was to pull the engine.  I’ll try to blog the steps taken, with pictures, of the entire process.  There’s no real how-to on the internet for pulling an engine.  It seems daunting when looking at the mess of pipework, vacuum lines, and components, but I’m finding that by focusing on one thing at a time it’s not too bad.

A lot of internet gatekeepers will try to say, “If you need instructions on how to pull the engine, you shouldn’t be pulling the engine.”  I say fuck that, everyone needs to start somewhere.  Prior to doing the timing belt on the TT, I had never done a timing belt before.  Prior to doing the exhaust, I had never replace an exhaust system before.  So fuck the haters, and their inability to help the noobs.  By all means, use these coming posts as a starting point for your engine pull.  It’ll be more than I’ve got currently.

A Storied Past

Over the last few days, I’ve been finally taking care of some work I’ve been meaning to do on the TT.  In particular, doing the front brakes and testing the car’s coolant for exhaust gases (to see if the head gasket has failed).  I figured while I was doing the brakes I’d paint the calipers red to match the powder coated rear calipers that I put on a couple years ago.

It’s been a multi-day project, only because I’m lazy and did one side at a time – waiting a day for the paint to dry for each side.  But while I’ve been waiting, I had the urge to go back through and try to categorize and put all of the work I’ve done over the last three years into a single database of sorts.  A place for me to see the work, see the age of the work, and keep track of the cost and timing of everything.

It’s been a long road thus far, and I’ve done a lot of work.  From more serious work like servicing the timing belt and replacing the soft top, to smaller things like oil changes and car washes.  I dug out the spreadsheet I put together when I first bought the car, where I cross-referenced the CarFax with the actual garages that did the work, and contacted each garage in hopes they could forward me the service records they had for the car.

Some of it was boring same ole same ole:  5K scheduled maintenance.  25K scheduled maintenance.  35K scheduled maintenance.  Etc.  Some of it was intriguing though: Interior trim repaired after 1400 miles.  Clutch/flywheel replaced after 22,000 miles.  A storied past.

It got me really thinking.  The car has nearly 100,000 miles on it now.  That’s nearly four trips around the planet.  I’m the fifth owner of this little black roadster, and I sincerely hope to be its last.  It was first purchased in April of 2004, which makes it over 14 years old at this point.  In April of 2004 I was just finishing up my sophomore year in high school.  I wouldn’t have my driver’s license or my first car for another year and half.

It’s interesting to think about the car’s history before it came into my possession.  I have no idea who the previous owners were, what they did for a living, or how old they were.  Maintenance was clearly lacking from some of them.  It wasn’t modified, but it was driven hard.  Can’t help but think about who left the baton underneath the driver’s seat – why they had it, what they thought when they realized they left it there for me to find.

I wonder about the front-end collision the car was involved in years ago.  Insurance was never involved so I have no idea where the car was worked on, or what was replaced.  But the skid plate is completely gone and the battery box is broken in multiple places.  In fact, a lot of trim is missing from under the hood.  The covers for the battery and the power steering pump in particular.  Where did they go?

It’s fun to think about where the car’s been and what it’s seen.  The work that’s been done over the years, and who has had their hands on it.  The conversations that’ve been had in the cabin.  The abuse it’s endured, the care it’s received.

To some people a car is just a piece of property that gets us from Point A to Point B.  Something remarkably uninteresting and resigned to its job as a utility and nothing more.

But to others, it’s an unfinished book.  A book with pages missing from its earlier chapters, but a book that we’ve taken authorship of nonetheless.  And I just hope that I can make this little TT’s future chapters as interesting as it’s past.

2018, Year of the Best

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, which isn’t terribly surprising.  I’m not one of those peeps that make a point to write something at least once a day.  I’m like, once every 6 months at this point.  But yeah, I figured it’s update time since I’ve got a free minute and there’s nothing else pressing at this point.

Soooooo, life is pretty grand!  The jist of this whole post is that 2018 is literally going to be my year.  We’re mid-April but things have been pretty stellar since this year started.  Let’s break it down:

I quit smoking.  This has been a thorn in my side for at least the last couple years.  There’s been a solid two stretches that I’ve quit before – the first being in 2011 when I was dating my ex, and I quit for her.  Naturally when that ended, I picked it back up.  The second stretch was while I was my last job.  Naturally when that ended, I picked it back up.  So now we’re on the third real attempt at kicking the habit, and so far so good.  I’ve had some fall-off-the-wagon moments, but there’s a concerted effort going on so I’m feeling pretty good about it.  The real difference this time is that I’ve improved my coping mechanisms in dealing with stress.  People that have never smoked or never tried quitting don’t get just how addictive nicotine is, but believe it, it’s insane.  I had a lot of reasons to quit, but never truly had the motivation to until recently, so I’m pretty thankful for that.

In addition to quitting smoking, I’ve really focused on improving my health in general.  I started buying groceries, which for me was unheard of.  Cooking at home, and paying attention to the nutrition and healthiness of my choices.  It hasn’t been easy, by any stretch.  When your body has been running on processed foods, fast food, high fat, high calorie options for years, it doesn’t just go willingly into this new era.  It hits home when I think about this article I read years ago about what’s called an Extinction Burst.  Basically, it is what happens when your body forms a habit and you attempt to break that habit – when the habit is threatened with extinction.  Your body deals with being cut off to a point where it throws a tantrum in one last attempt to get you to go back to the habit.  The link explains it a lot more in depth, but it’s a truly fascinating read.

So I’ve been eating better.  I haven’t had a soda in over a month, I drink water on the regular, been cooking at home a majority of the week, and I’ve even been a lot active physically.  Hiking a couple times a week, and a couple days ago got back on a bike for the first time in years.  You might remember back in the day I was riding my bike like a mofo, you know, 30 mile tides and all of that?  Well my most recent ride was barely 5 miles and it absolutely wrecked me.  I hurt all over.  Granted it was a mountain bike that is far too small for me, but that just made it clear how out of shape I’ve gotten.

I’ll be honest, midway through that last paragraph I tried to find the posts about my weight loss and all that jazz.  In particular, these two posts:

Fuck Your Title (04/09/2013)
Fuck Your Title – Redux (04/09/2015)

Ironic that they were both the same day, two years apart.  And here I am getting back on the health kick three years after the last.

But anyway, I was trying to find those two posts and ended up copying a bunch from The Wayback Machine, since my database got deleted when my hosting lapsed a while back.  It was fun reading my thoughts from years ago, so I guess it isn’t such a bad idea to keep blogging.  Just gotta make sure I don’t lose months or years worth of entries.  We’re self-hosted now, so I can’t foresee these latest posts disappearing, but I’m definitely going to be keeping better backups.

So I got sidetracked finding those posts and now I can’t remember what I was on about.  Guess it’s a good point to wrap this up then, deuces!