Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Engine That Doesn't Run and An Asthmatic That Does Run

Rain has been putting a damper on a lot of things for me lately in regards to car work. It’s like, if you live in the south, any plans you have of working on a project car are not going to happen between the months of March through next March due to rain at any given point in time. Saturday, we had to roll the engine over to let the water accumulation drain. After we did that, it was dripping all kinds of yummy goodness onto our driveway.

By the time Sunday rolled around, in theory, it had enough time to drain whatever residual gunk was inside post-rain. Despite the fact we had it covered up all week, water still got inside. I’m not too concerned at this point since we’re going to take it to get hot tanked before we rebuild. There isn’t any serious damage or pitting on the surface, or inside from what I can see, so, hopefully, it’ll be fine once that’s taken care of.

We didn’t spend a lot of time working on the engine Sunday. Really, all we did was roll it back over, remove the cylinder heads (we were able to get one off last week, but put it back on due to storing it away from the rain), remove the oil sump, and clean up a little more inside the cylinder walls some more*.
Engine and mechanical work is something Jesse was really looking forward to, so I kind of had to ask him nicely if he’d let me help, or as I’d phrase it, “Is there anything I can do?” Sure enough, there was: removing bolts from the cylinder head. It was easily my favorite thing (quite possibly because it involved a very large ratchet.) After doing half the bolts himself, Jesse let me finish the rest.

At that point, I was able to say I had my first real experience working on an engine. Sure, last week I did some light housework, cleaning the cylinder walls on the one side, but I got to use a tool, and in my mind, work with tools = real work.

After that, I had the joys of getting to put all the weeks of Body Pump and work with my personal trainer to use by being able to effortlessly lift a cylinder head and Sumo-squat it to the floor. I made a note to tell my trainer not to get any ideas as that was clearly an isolated event. I wholeheartedly believe if I see any squats in my future that involved weights of 30 lbs or more, I will be a very unhappy camper.

Jesse did the same on his side, using the dead blow hammer to loosen the cylinder head and remove it.

We rolled the engine over, yet again, to remove the oil sump. Jesse removed the bolts from his side, while I removed the bolts from my side, streamlining the removal process.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t too dirty inside. Even though there was some residual oil, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Jesse was thinking it would have been.

I learned the joys and convenience of an engine stand as we must have rolled the engine from top to bottom to top again some four or five times in a 2 hour period. Strangely enough, I was always on the draining end of the engine. When Jesse used the level bar to rotate and I stood on the opposite end manually assisting in the rotation process, I always had the joys of random fluids falling inches away from my feet. 

After dumping some oil and a mystery rainwater concoction of thickness, I put down a layer of kitty litter to suck up the mess. I also discovered a fantastic tech tip solving the eternal male problem of oily hands, itchy face. It is a million dollar solution so listen up: keep a Tupperware of kitty litter nearby. I learned this by accident, but realized it is pure genius! When I dumped the kitty litter down, I didn’t have enough to go around, so I spread it out with my hands, which, coincidentally enough, were covered in oil. Upon spreading the litter to cover the entire spill area, I noticed my hands were both clean and dry enough from the litter absorbing the oil, that I could touch a surface without any markings. I’m not going to advise this to go and use your hands to eat or anything of the sorts, but, I will say, if you have oily hands and an itch, rub them in kitty litter to clean them off enough to assess the problem. It works. You’re welcome.

Finally, it was back to cleaning the cylinder walls. I’ll say this: if you can clean a house, you can clean an engine. Really, it’s not rocket science. Just like you use a certain tool and a special fluid to wash dishes (sponge and Dawn detergent), it’s the same for the engine (brush and PB Blaster). Jesse joked about how funny he thought it was that I am always so eager to clean the engine, but run away kicking and screaming when asked to do the dishes. Really, the engine shows some progress. Dishes never end. Just when you finish a load, put them away, and think you’re done, new ones show up. 

We packed up shop for the day to go do the Big Dog Trail 5K at Flatrock Park. I wasn’t especially looking forward to it as the last trail race I did was some two weeks ago (the Chesty Puller Challenge 13.1 Trail Race at Fort Benning), and I had done horribly there. Then again, it was at Flatrock and I have ran Flatrock so many times, I could probably do the course backwards and in my sleep. OK, maybe not that good, but still, I did feel some level of comfort. 

I ran on Tuesday night and felt somewhat sluggish with an overall 13:30 pace. I had told Jesse I would need to shave 6 minutes from my finish time in order to be where I wanted to be on Sunday. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, and really, on the road, it’s not a huge issue to be able to run a pace 2 minutes faster than a training pace, but on a trail, with all the inclines, descents, roots, rocks, mud, puddles, and various uneven surfaces, that is kind of like asking for an act of God. 

My game plan was to run hard and not stop. My competition was steep. I was up against some seriously amazing runners in my age group. I did something a little unusual and went to the front of the line to get out quickly and avoid the crowds on the thin trail. It seemed like I was the only female for quite some time, but that changed quickly as my breathing became more labored and I was soon passed up by my neighbor, Stephanie, and Karen, one of my friends from the Galloway program. I could tell that between the strenuous cardio and the high pollen levels, this was going to be a very ugly run. 

The first mile passed quickly with an 11:32 pace. I was pleased with this and kept pushing. Another half mile passed and I was feeling very sick, like I wanted to throw up. If I were in a marathon or a half, I would view this as a major red flag, but in a 5K, I see it more like barf and move on if need be. Fortunately, barf did not happen, but move on did. I moved on for another quarter mile until the asthma started to flare up.

Now, I haven’t had an asthma attack during a run in about a year, but my case is mild enough that I have learned how to manage it with a series of breathing techniques I’ve accidentally taught myself over the years that just so happen to work. Instead of going into panic OH-MY-GOD-I’M-GONNA-DIE mode, I looked ahead to see I was very close to the water stop and had just finished mile 2 at a pace of 11:36. At this point, it was no longer a case of struggling to breath, but a fight for a win.

Karen was not too far behind me. She started running trails and she’s naturally great at it. She finished the 10K with roughly a 12:00 minute mile pace, so, I was worried she’d beat me in the 5K. Still, she cheered me on as I zoomed down a hill to pass her, while cautiously advising I watch my breathing. She told me earlier if I was wheezing, I was going too fast, which was completely true. I was going too fast, for me, anyway. Jesse was right behind me, also cautioning me not to push myself. 

Still, I continued along the course, going up hills, slipping on mud, and sounding like a freight train about to explode- a wheezing, coughing, grunting mess, yelling at myself to keep going and to beat the suck. I didn’t look back to see how far anyone was and just kept pushing. I saw the finish and tapered down to get through, slowing down as I crossed, to a light jog to bring my heart rate down and reunited with my inhaler.
Not too long after I crossed the finish, Jesse crossed, then Karen, and so on. We all sat around post-run, cheering for our other friends as they crossed, snacking, and hydrating. I was shaking from my inhaler, but was good for the most part. I told Karen I ran my fastest trail run ever, with an overall pace around 11:33 according to my Garmin, as my splits were 11:32, 11:36, 11:39 and I said I was running “Crusher Camaro consistent,” but despite the time and consistency, I felt it was a bad run because I was having breathing difficulties. Looking back, however, it was not a bad run at all. In fact, it was a KILLER run! I PR’ed, I was extremely consistent, I didn’t fall, my body didn’t hurt anywhere at any point, and I managed to work through adversity. 

The cherry on top, however, comes in a bucket list item: place in age group. I constantly joke, “I drive fast to make up for the fact I’m a slow runner.” Well, now my saying is no longer true. Not only did I do what I strived to do, shaving 6 minutes from my run time on Tuesday, I also managed to earn the spot in 3rd place for the Female 30 – 39 age group. I was 1:23.23 slower than Stephanie, which is awesome because she is such a great and consistent runner. Charlie always tells me how great she is because she wins races and gets medals. Well, Charlie got to see not only me get an award, but Jesse also took 3rd place in his age group of the Males 30 – 39. It was a double-win for the Teagues! 

As if that wasn’t awesome enough, all my Galloway friends who showed up to try their first trail race placed in their age groups. 

In the end, it was a good day with some car work and some race wins and really, you can’t top a day like this. Best day ever status, for sure!

* Usually, Jesse is around when I document updates and I often have to consult him on nomenclature because I am pretty car-illiterate. While I do believe working on this project is helping me get a better visual and understanding of mechanics, I still have a difficult time remembering what parts are called. Since he is not here at the time being, I have to rely on Google images of 383 Big Block Chrysler Diagrams to figure this stuff out. If I’m wrong, I’ll correct myself later. I really do make an effort to be as descriptive as possible, for both myself and anyone interested in this, but I that there are probably many occasions I might not be right and for that I apologize. 

** You may happen to notice the really awesome t-shirts I have on. You know, the cool green Gremlin towing a Prius shirt or the Muscle Truck shirt? You may recall the episodes of Roadkill where that happened. Well, my shirts came in. As did the extras I made for Mike Finnegan, David Freiburger and the Roadkill crew. Yep, they're even cooler in person than they look on my portfolio. If you happen to ever see these shirts, oh, say, for sale somewhere, just know yours truly did the designs. 

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