Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Motorsport Safety Foundation Certification

Recently an organization has emerged hoping to bring some standardization to high-performance driver education by establishing a system for training and certifying coaches. It still in its early stages and is a bit rough around the edges but it is a worthy goal.

I recently attained a Level 1 and Level 2 certification through One of the groups I coach with. It was a pretty good experience but lacked the sophistication of groups like the BMW Club who have been doing organized coach development locally for years. 

There is a wide range of experience and skill among most coaching staff members and anything that helps improve the quality of coaching is a positive.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August BMWCCA Driving Events

While work kept me for attending any of the the motorsport weekend activities, I find myself able to join the BMW club's High Performance Driver's Education program as an instructor for their Advanced Datacoaching at Laguna Seca Raceway this Thursday and Friday.

It's a great course. We use the Aim Solo data logger to collect extensive vehicle dynamics information while the student is out on track and analyze the data when the run in over and the student has time to process the information effectively.

Given my current condition, this is going to be a real test of my fitness.

Thursday  - Up at 5am
Drive to Laguna Seca - Arrive 7am
Instruction begins, 4-5 laps with each student (2) to asses level of driving skill
Class Room Instruction until lunch at Noon,
After Lunch, Class Room Instruction and maybe on-track drills depending on student skill level
Class ends at 5pm and I drive back to San Jose

Friday  - Up at 5am
Drive to Laguna Seca - Arrive 7am
Instruction begins, data analysis, application
Class Room Instruction until lunch at Noon,
After Lunch, Class Room Instruction and on-track drills with students
Class ends at 5pm, hand out certificates and I drive back to San Jose

That's a lot of time in car which wears me out the most. Not as much as a traditional Driving Instructor, but still a bunch. On the other hand I get a few free laps on Saturday and Sunday afternoon so It's a trade I reliably make.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Watch Repair

My TAG Heuer Senna Chronograph fully disassembled

I've been wearing the same TAG Heuer mechanical watch for nearly 10 years. I've take it SCUBA diving, shooting, rock climbing and a number of other non-watch-friendly places and it's held up pretty well for a mechanical watch. Over the last couple of years it's lost a little accuracy - finally requiring a reset every couple of weeks to maintain accuracy.

After a long search and a bit of clandestine testing I decided to trust World Time, a local certified watchmaker to adjust the timing of my watch. They tested it prior to adjustment and it was pretty far out of adjustment. On the watchmaker's advice I opted for a complete disassembly, cleaning and reassembly. It took a few months and I just got the watch back today.

It looks nearly new. He re-brushed the case and band so it looks and feels new again. He fully disassembled
After reassembly it looks almost new - but carries nearly 10 years of memories. 
it, cleaned and lubricated all the moving parts are reassembled it. Along the way he replaced a cracked jewell and the cap and tube (the second time for this repair).

He then measured the performance and adjusted it in six different positions. It took a few months but I'm pretty happy with the results. Time will tell (pun intended) if it's as accurate as indicated.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

2 Year Anniversary

It’s been 2 years now since I got sick. For reasons nobody can explain the Mitral valve in my heart failed – I spent 2 months in the ICU and 5 months in the hospital in total.  For some reason this year’s anniversary has been incredibly difficult emotionally.

I’m still pretty fucked up – my kidneys are working at about 50% of normal yielding a Creatinine level of 2.0-2.2. I struggle every day with pain in my feet, sometimes so bad I struggle to walk and I’m still taking Percocet nearly every day to deal with it.

I can’t believe recovery is still such a major part of my life. When this happened Doctors warned that recovery would take a long time but this now seems endless.

 Here are a series of photos the tell some of the story

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Lexington Reservoir still looking pretty empty. The water should be up to about where I was standing when I took this.
So, I'm back on the bike with some regularity after the last surgery. Not fast and not far but out there trying. Today was my longest and hardest ride so far. 18.8 mile taking nearly 2 hours. I climbed over 700 ft which is also a record. I rode from home to Lexington reservoir, a ride I used to treat as a rest day or recovery ride. Today it took all I had to finish - and I walked most of the last climb. I'm surely going to feel this one tomorrow.

It's still really humbling out there. I'm pretty slow (sub 10 MPH average for this ride), regularly getting passed by just about every one. But I have to keep the ego in check and let them all go - trying to keep up quickly drives my heart-rate to the max and beyond. It's going to take a while to achieve any real level of fitness.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Slowly healing

Surgery was 8 weeks ago and the stitches were removed 6 weeks ago. The toes look great, pink and healthy, no signs of infection and getting better every day. The pain however has not relented. Even the missing ones seem to hurt - though they are not there anymore. Sometimes they feel like their on fire and sometimes like they are getting poked with an icepick. Painkillers help but bring significant risk of dependence. I'm probably going to try Lyrica - a new drug developed to reduce diabetic nerve pain. I'm not diabetic but the damage to my feet is basically the same so it may offer an alternative to opioid-based painkillers. We shall see.

I've been back on my bike each weekend for short (60-90 Min/15-20 mile) rides but the foot pain is still limiting the time/distance. It's also really hard to stay below my Cardiologists recommended maximum heart rate of 155 BPM. I use a Heart Rate Monitor and have an audible alarm at 156. I find myself using that as a speed limiter - pedal hard till it beeps, back off a notch and hold it right at 155. I don't think this is what the Dr. was thinking when he set the maximum rate. Looking at Strava from before the valve failed I used to regularly log 60-90 Minutes of a 2-3 hour ride at nearly 190 BPM

Now that all the surgery is complete (knock on wood) and my feet are about their final size I finally got a couple of new pairs of new shoes. I chose the stiffest shoes I could find to provide as much support for all the lost toes as possible. I ended up with one pair of low-cut leather hiking boots and a pair of Giro cycling shoes. Both are really stiff and have been more then a little difficult to break in. I'm doing regular physical therapy to improve the strength of my remaining toes so that I can ultimately wear "normal" shoes with out injuring anything.

With just 2 toes remaining I need all the support
I can get. The stuffy is Staph bacteria -
the cause of my amputations

Friday, December 18, 2015

Stitches out

Yesterday all the stitches were removed - not exactly a painless process - but a real milestone. Now I use band-aids to protect my toes instead of heavy bandages which means i can now wear regular shoes instead of The surgical shoes i've been in for the last couple of weeks. I can also shower now and within a couple of day i'll be able to really get my feet wet - I.E. swimming, surfing, hot tubbing -- many things that I've been prevented from doing for that last couple of years because of the open wounds on my feet.

When I was in the hospital, just after I woke up, I had a number of weird dreams about swimming and river-rafting. Not white-water rafting, just floating down the river. They were so vivid that one of the first times I remember using my iPad (with my badly atrophied fingers) was to try to look up river rafting companies on the American River. I've never understood what was behind those memories and images but they were incredibly powerful and remain so today. Now that I can actually get in the water,  I'm pretty excited.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The final surgery

Last Friday marked an unexpected milestone on the road to recovery. It was a long awaited surgery to remove a toe from each of my feet. Both these toes were badly damaged by gangrene and after the black caps fell off they left open wounds and exposed bone on the end of each toe. After many weeks of waiting the wounds wouldn’t heal and continued to bleed regularly. Closing these wounds would also allow me to  stop taking the heavy doses of antibiotics that I’ve been on since leaving the hospital over a year ago.

The surgery went as planned – in fact it really went better than planned because after the surgery the pain was much less than expected. The unexpected part was the results of testing the amputated toes – we had expected to find infected tissue all though out the amputated tissue. Instead we found infection only in the exposed bone, not in the rest of the toes as a number of MRIs had previously identified. This is fantastic news as it pretty much confirms that all the infection in my is now gone and no additional surgeries are planned.

We had expected to find the infection throughout the toes and were going to “watch and wait” as I reduced and ultimately stopped the antibiotics. Now with the confirmation that the infection is really gone (and this is pretty strong confirmation) I can get back to healing without fear of more surgery and amputations.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Data Coaching at Thunderhill Raceway Park

Izzy gets branded
I finally returned to track events last weekend. Not as a driver but as a coach. I been coaching drivers "in-car" for 5+ years but this was my first time coaching from a classroom with nothing but a lap-top. I've used a Traqmate system in my car to for many years to record and analyze performance data, but this weekend we used the SOLO/RaceStudio systems from AIM. It's a powerful system offering many more ways to analyze data that the Traqmate software. I'll be using it from now on.

My office for the weekend
Data-coaching works best for drivers who are already smooth and consistent. Novice drivers still benefit most from in-car coaching to get the basic and intermediate skills. However once a driver can reliably lap within a second or so they are ready to start using data for performance analysis. By using a reference lap as a target it is easy show areas for improvement. I set the reference lap in Kathy's totally stock 328ci. While the time was slower then the M3s and Corvettes driven by our students there are still a bunch of information to be gleaned from my lap.

Students getting ready
Right off the bat its easy to see the every student slows down too much for most corners and they slow in the wrong places. By showing that a totally stock 200k mile street car can go faster in the slow sections students can immediately gain speed all around the track. Then we focused on where the braking takes place. In many places students slow down too early and have to wait to get back on the throttle. We were able to show that by slowing less (often starting braking at the same point but carrying speed deeper into the corner) they were able to gain more speed Another area of focus is to ensure they are on the gas as early as possible as they enter long straights. Data shows when drivers hesitate applying full throttle in that situation it costs 3-4 mph for the whole length of the straight which translates to nearly a full second of lost time. We were able to show the slowing earlier, getting on the gas earlier yields real results.
Analysis - Note the track map, that is Thunderhill's new 5 mile layout -
It's awesome, now that Miller is gone it's my favorite track

It's quite remarkable how clearly these systems illustrate the impact of small mistakes and provide clear methods to address them. I really enjoyed coaching and each of my students gained at least 5 seconds per lap on track that they had each driven 10+ times.

I rode with both my students a couple of times (One drove an E92 M3 on Hoosier R6s, the other a Z51 Corvette on Pilot Sport 2s - both very powerful and fast cars) and felt pretty good during the sessions, but afterwards I paid the price for the physical exertion necessary to hang on in a car regularly pulling 1.4G in the corners. Wearing helmet really worked the neck muscles. I used to work my neck muscles regularly with a 10lb plate duct-taped to the top of an old helmet. I think I need to restart that if I want to do this again.

Monday morning was really tough, I was tired, sore and basically worn out. It took all I had to get out of bed and go to work. Even then I was tired throughout the day. I'd like to keep doing these events -- but I have to figure out how to feel stronger during and afterwards. This weekend was a true milestone; I feared that I could never get back on the track. Even though it was only for a few minutes, it represents a bit of normalcy after a long painful period.
Izzy sets the reference laps - and melted off its new center caps

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


I had my MRI yesterday to determine the fate of my toes and I'm still waiting for the results. I've logged into the site at least 5 times today hoping to find them but it look like I'll have to wait a little longer. I'm pretty sure the results will mean amputation but you never know. Mostly I'm hoping to stop the endless stream of antibiotics and get some energy back -- that's the biggest problem for me know.