24 Hours of LeMons

January 17th, 2016

Last fall, I flew to South Carolina to participate in the “South Fall” event of the 24 Hours of LeMons series. It had been four years since I was behind the wheel of a race car and the race was not too far from my dad in Charleston, so it was a good opportunity to have an active visit. Over the course of two days, we teamed up with two other drivers to complete 14 hours of lapping in our (supposedly) $500 car. The car had not been tested and none of us had ever driven it (it was a rental), so it was a weekend of wildcards.

A few months removed from the event, the things I remember are the weather, the fumes, and how different it was from the 100+ sprint races I did way back when. We didn’t have as many problems as another car on our team, but a significant gas leak and 115° temps in the car made it difficult to get any truly long stints in. We spent a lot of time in the pits trying to address the problem and/or switching drivers because the fumes were so bad it actually burned your eyes after 30-ish minutes. Our pit stops were also less than optimal, so we only managed to finish 44th in a field of 112. We did 296 laps, our team cars did 316 and 168, and the winning car did 373. I really wanted to get to 300, but I started to run out of gas during the last session and had to limp it home (fueling required the driver exit the car, making it worse to stop).

The race itself was… interesting. Training is not required to participate and the cars are mostly junkers, so people tend to be conservative and there’s a lot of broken cars. I’d heard reports that the events can be dangerous, but I my experience was quite the opposite. CMP is also a very safe track with tons of run-off room, so the event was a good welcome back to the driver’s seat. Were I to do it again, I’d invest considerably more into a formalized pit crew. Either that, or bribe people with beer. Overall, it was a quality way to spend a weekend.

Included below are a few clips of the event. There’s really nothing special, so I sped it up. If anything, the cars are interesting. [Photos]


24 Hours of LeMons24 Hours of LeMons – Seleted clips shown at 4x

Posted by Chris Derecola on Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dallas Cowboys Game

January 9th, 2016

People often ask how I became a Cowboys fan, growing up in the D.C. area and going to college in Philly. The short of it is I grew up in a Cowboys household. How? It’s a somewhat entangled story involving my dad switching allegiances when he was younger because of a traumatic trade between the Eagles and Redskins. The result is everyone in my family immediately are Cowboys’ fans… for better or worse. One member of my extended family, my cousin Chris, also became a Cowboys fan for the same reason despite spending his entire life just outside Philly.

I’ve been to several Cowboys games in my life, including two in Dallas (ending up in the ER before one of them) and the career-ending game for Michael Irvin in Philly. I had not been to the new stadium and my cousin had never been to Dallas, so I decided several years ago I wanted to give him a trip to a game for his 40th birthday. We lived three states away growing up, but I always slept on his floor whenever we visited grandparents. We played video games, made crass jokes, and often laughed until our stomachs hurt. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him that he’s the closest thing I had to a brother growing up. So, yeah… we met in the middle for 48 hours of Cowboys fever.

I’d like to say I have a ton of really cool photos, but I don’t. I didn’t take my camera and we didn’t do much else than hang out in sports bars while we weren’t at the game, so there’s not much to see. Heck, neither of us even remembered to take a picture during the game! We didn’t know when we booked that this would be a season to forget, but at least it was a good game. I’m glad we went – we got to see the stadium, hang out with a bunch of Cowboys fans, and catch up on life.

Year Off Beer

December 31st, 2015

i-would-like-to-formally-invite-you-to-beer-me-J2l…and all other alcohol, that is. Midnight tonight will mark the end of our year without consuming any alcohol [full disclosure: other legal items were enjoyed]. Reading back at my post this time last year, it’s interesting to see how life throws you curveballs. I talked Melissa into doing this, in part to get my health back on track. I’d gained 15 lbs since my all time low and I wanted to turn things around. I lost 10+ pounds in the first four months of the year, but then hurt my back in April. I tried various exercise routines, but nothing really stuck. I did do my first two 5Ks ever, which I don’t think would have ever happened had I not been drinking. I also haven’t gained much weight since hurting it; likely another benefit. All in all, we slept better, we went outside more, and we probably saved a good bit of money. I learned a lot about myself and am glad I was able to stick with it.

The question I get most often is whether I will continue into next year. For awhile, I seriously considered never drinking again. I had my reasons, but I don’t think they were entirely the right ones. Truth is, I now think a moderate amount of social drinking will be good for me. I don’t want to ever get anywhere close to where we were in 2014 and yet, abstinence is not for me. I have actually had two medical professionals tell me, in so many words, that I should have a drink and relax. I wouldn’t call that a license, per se, but it tells me being hard-nosed about not drinking didn’t mesh well for me. The short answer is yes, we will reintroduce it into our lives.

The second question I get most often is how we’re celebrating and/or what drink I’m going to have. The answer is we currently have no plans and, given the drink is probably a function of the place, have no idea what drink I want. In what is likely a sign of things to come, we’ll probably have a quiet night at home or do something low key like stop in a neighborhood bar. Hard alcohol doesn’t appeal much to me these days, so I’ll probably just have a really good beer. We are hosting a small get together at a newly opened beer hall in Seattle, so that’ll be a nice way to take have beverage with friends, take a deep breath, and relax.

As I mentioned, I learned a lot over the course of a year. Included below are a few that really stick with me. Would I do it again? Maybe… but not for awhile.

  • A lot of people told me I’d never make it. I don’t know if that’s an indication of their opinion of me or they’re speaking subconsciously about themselves, but there it was. I was really surprised at how pessimistic some people were. As you probably know, this made me want to be successful even more.
  • Bartenders are your new best friends. They’re either giving you free (non-alcoholic) drinks or giving you emotional support for, what I think, is being an alcoholic. I was surprised, in a very different way, just how supportive they were of complete strangers. Working at a bar has it’s risks and I think I saw a side of them.
  • Dinners out aren’t nearly as… special. Alcohol doesn’t make the world go round, but there’s something mechanical about going out to dinner and then heading home. Having a glass of wine or a nice cocktail just seems to slow dinner, and the world, down. I’ve found taking an Uber can really help make it feel like you’re not just running another errand.
  • People are sometimes uncomfortable… or considerate… about drinking around you. We had to remind people more than once that we were making a personal choice and they didn’t need to change themselves because of it. Then, there are others who will wave their drink in your face or work hard to convince to “just have one.”
  • I was on 25 planes this year. I didn’t drink at any of those destinations, including 50 cent beers on my birthday in Vietnam. It felt really forced.
  • Water is boring. I have one cup of coffee in the morning and that just wasn’t enough to keep my palette happy. I took to drinking a lot of calorie free sparking water because I needed something that tasted. Cranberry and soda became my “going out” drink.
  • I am uncomfortable meeting new people and being in groups. I am even more uncomfortable when I’m trying to figure out how not to be an introvert without alcohol. I never did figure out a way to prevent anxiety when going to social gatherings, especially if it was in public and/or they were drinking. I actually had to pass on, or leave early, more events than I care to admit.
  • There were quite a few events that we passed on because the price included open bar. I get that we can elect not to care, but paying a premium to be around… well, see previous and next comment… wasn’t for us.
  • Drunk people are way more obnoxious when you’re sober.