How to Build a Race Car: A 10-Step Guide

People often look at racing organizations like Formula 1, Indy Car and NASCAR and have this notion of how race cars are built. Visions of multi-million dollar, CAD-generated, heli-arc’d, TIG-welded, titanium and 6066-T6 aircraft aluminum gleaming in an operating room-clean, sound-stage-audio, color-correct lit room filled with technicians whose hands are cleaner than an OCD, germaphobe surgeon in the hygiene aisle at CVS.

Well, that my friends, is a fantasy. Those rooms exist, but people who work in them

Sometimes we get to work in these kinds of places. This is my engine in the assembly room at Golen's Engine Service in Hudson, NH.

Sometimes we get to work in these kinds of places. This is my engine in the assembly room at Golen’s Engine Service in Hudson, NH.

get dirty. They spill oil and coolant all over themselves. Their hands and knuckles get cut up like they boxed The Shredder for 12 rounds. The real process involves a lot of back-0f-the-napkin blueprinting and this-will-probably-hold engineering. Like the time I welded 2 bolts together to make a longer bolt for someone’s alternator. Or the time we got a monster truck running in the middle of a show with a plastic Coke bottle and sledgehammer.

The real story plays out millions of times a year all over the U.S. of A., with varying degrees of success. But, always with an indescribable satisfaction. If you’re not a gear head this will help describe the process. If you’ve turned a few bolts, regardless of the racing discipline of your choosing, this will upturn a corner of your mouth as you recall the struggles in a rosier shade than they were when you flung that 3/4″ wrench at the wall with a force that would make the Big Unit jealous.

1. Dream Big

Things usually look more like this (Home sweet home at S&D Fence Co).

Things usually look more like this (Home sweet home at S&D Fence Co).

You’ve set out to build the world’s first 3.5-second street legal car. Or perhaps the first home-hot-rodded-middle-class-budget corner-carver to tear the ‘ring to ribbons. You let every car forum on the internet know your intentions. It will be a shiny, sleek, aesthetically perfect creation with a meticulously assembled mechanical heart that’ll make the space program blush. Yeah. And I’m a Chinese jet pilot.


2. Bargaining

Realization your budget allows for precisely 1/1,000th of what you have imagined. You bargain with yourself. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that pretty. OK. You start digging for parts on ebay and Craigslist. You figure out where you can cut corners. Maybe you don’t need to deck the block at a machine shop; if you’re really careful you can probably do that shit with an angle grinder, a sanding block, and a steady hand.

3. Cognitive Dissonance

You’ve realized what you initially imagined is in all practicality impossible. This sucks, although you still believe your 1996 Mazda Miata is a denizen of the paved surfaces (no, it’s not). But you believe that shit, hard. The twin-turbo LS v8 swap is approximately fifty times your entire budget–for the next 20 years. This causes stress and anxiety as you settle for a new set of plug wires and a polished radiator cap. You put an SCCA sticker on your back window and call it a night, crying yourself to sleep with whatever the opposite of a boner is.

4. Debt Funding

This Camaro is going to be so fucking savage once you have those fully ported Air Flow Research heads with a 77-angle valve job You don’t even know. It’s performed on a machine which simultaneously uses a 7-axis CNC tool while feeding the operator a Twinkie and jerking him off with life-like feminine hands. You rationalize, you don’t really need to eat that badly. Hell, you could probably stand to lose a few pounds anyway. So, you drop the four grand on the heads, machine work, and hand-o for the machinist. Then marvel at them on your coffee table with your friends for six weeks while you try and figure out how to bolt them onto your rusty, grease-caked 305 with stock fuel injection and cast exhaust manifolds without having to index them.

5. The Build

And so it begins. It’s time to build this fucker. This starts on a Friday night with three to five hours of staring at the car figuring out the optimal way to jack it up before any bolts are turned. After ordering pizza, drinking a beer and getting the entire vehicle 12 inches off the floor, you get out air ratchets and disassemble all of the things.

This F1-R Procharger looked might nice on my bedroom floor for about 4mos. It cost about the same as a decent quality Honda Accord.

This F1-R Procharger looked might nice on my bedroom floor for about 4mos. It cost about the same as a decent quality Honda Accord.

You realize that you don’t understand half the shit you’re looking at, and that there is a third, fourth-dimensional type of bolt head that is neither metric or SAE, which cannot be turned by tools present in our universe. Swearing ensues. Seventy-five percent of the parts don’t even come close to fitting correctly. Dremel tools and angle grinders make them fit in a self-nullifying cycle where parts companies have no incentive to make anything truly “bolt-on”; they know gear heads will just “clearance” shit to make it fit.

6. Recovery

Staring blankly at things so fucking wrong, all newtonian mechanics and quantum theory must be bullshit for 3 hours, you decide to go to sleep. You wake, restored by sleep, to discover that you had everything on the wrong side. You vow never to stay up until 2 a.m. working on the car again.

7. Goddammit, It Won’t Start

2 a.m.–All the bolts are (mostly) tight, the coolant is topped off, the fuel pump sounds like it’s working, and you can’t imagine a single fucking bolt on this entire car you haven’t turned, so it must be ready to start.

Fuel, air and spark. That’s all that’s required for an engine to run.  You, however, may choose only two. After starting a flamewar on the car message board of your choice, you discover you’ve connected the ignition to a circuit that’s hot in “run” but not in “start.” You fruitlessly try and crush your voltmeter in anger, then rewire the whole thing. With the engine hopelessly flooded, you wait for the 3 gallons of gasoline now residing in the combustion chambers to evaporate.

It’s 3:30 a.m. The car has no exhaust–just open, long-tube headers. After praying to a pagan deity, promising your unborn children to Chthulu and pledging your soul to any hell-spawned demon who will have it, you crank the car over for 90 seconds and blip the throttle three times.

With a sputtering cough and a roaring reminicscent of Manowar playing through Spinal Tap’s concert audio, the engine staggers to life. The deafening roar is exceeded only by your evil cackling, likely screaming something like “It lives! Ahahahahaha!” While trying to hide the massive, awkward boner from your friends you rev the shit out of it, and hold it at about 6000RPM/+200db until the temperature gauge reaches 250. A joy only experienced by those enraptured or who’ve just slept with a porn star washes over you and you go to bed to await the complaining phone calls from neighbors, knowing full-well that it won’t start tomorrow.

8. Dyno Disappointment & Race Day

You agree to pay an hourly fee equal to the GDP of a small Baltic nation to strap your car to a set of giant steel rollers to measure how little power it makes. After four hours of making it worse tuning, you have managed to eek out approximately 50% of the power you told everyone it was going to make on the internet, and blown a head gasket. You declare victory and vow to “dial it in” at the race track where it will run approximately three seconds slower in the quarter mile than you thought it would.

10. Cruise Night (probably three years hence)

You’ve got it all shined up, it looks good and sounds much faster than it is. It rarely overheats. You head off to the local summer evening cruise night to hang out with other people who’ve been through the struggle. While parking, you unnecessarily rev the car in neutral–at least twice–before you turn it off. You spend the rest of the evening engaged in overly contrived, unnecessarily technical, rehearsed bolt-talk with other gear heads, telling each other lies about how much power it has and how fast your respective vehicles are.

Worth it.

Worth it.

You drive home, full of coffee and/or ice cream experiencing a joy that only someone who has gone on such a quest and lost all feeling in their knuckles can experience. Cajoled to a dull grin by the symphony of valvetrain noise and supercharger whine in 4th gear, you secretly hope nothing is on fire.

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Do I Have to Poop?

“He called the shit poop!”

Poop is funny. To deny that, is to deny your humanity.

I saw what could be the dumbest thing I have ever seen yesterday. Mashable

From Mashable. What a load of crap.

reported that someone has created a wearable tech device–which is an early-warning system for having to take a shit. All stop, captain! There’s one on deck! Apparently it detects “activity in your intestines,” and, I shit you not, sends you push-notifications.

Let that sink in for a moment. It tells you it’s time to poop before it’s time to poop. I’m pretty sure I already have one of those. It’s called “feeling like I have to poop.” I could be mistaken, but this is a familiar feeling to everyone who has colon, no?

In the unlikely event you cannot manually detect a little rumbly in the tumbly, I’ve created a very low-tech, hand-dandy flowchart (hehe) to help you manage this incredibly anxiety inducing process.

©2015 DaigleBreathesFire Gastroenterology

©2015 DaigleBreathesFire Gastroenterology

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Control is an Illusion

Fucks given: 0.00

Fucks given: 0.00

Each decade I’ve persisted on this flying rock, more truths have become obvious. I’m a dumb-ass, so maybe other people pick all of these up quickly. Nonetheless I got a set in my teens, another in my 20’s and now a new group in my 30’s.

Almost nothing is a fucking crisis.

The population of people my age who are single and want (or are allowed) to hang out is shrinking rapidly. 

At this age, even in our pathologically individualist generation, most people have paired up, for better or worse. Married/partnered people spend time with other married/partnered people. You’ll get invited to a few things with these people. Mostly, you won’t.

You’ll realize you don’t give a fuck.

There are very, very few real emergencies.

By now I’ve seen some shit. I have come to realize there aren’t many things worth really getting twisted over. It’s powerful knowledge that whether your brain is set on “freak-the-fuck-out,” or “Whatever-Parks-and-Rec-is-on-Netflix,” the outcome will generally be the same. Stress and anxiety exert no influence on the world outside your skull. Shit will either get done, or it won’t. Tomorrow you’ll wake up, you’ll be breathing, and you’ll do what you were going to do anyway.

Stress is just masochistic mental masturbation.

Before my thirties I tried to control my entire universe. People, work, possessions, everything. I thought when I gained control over these things, I would feel how I wanted. I had it backwards.

You mostly feel how you want to feel, and all the things unfold as they will. 

It’s really never about you. The only things that are about “you,” are within you. Stuff other people do which harms you, isn’t about you at all. It’s about them. When you’re younger you can’t see past that, so you take everything deeply personally.

You find that you didn’t realize this, because you we’re all about you too. 

In my thirties I realized it’s bullshit. I have almost no control over people and things. The only thing I do have some control over is how I feel about them. Now I can mostly operate without a middleman, and cut to the chase.

Feel good in spite of, not because of, what the world dumps in your lap.


Focus on shit like this.

The same principles apply to workouts. Young, baby CrossFitters are always trying to control things way above their pay grade. Supplements stacked to the moon. Figuring out which shoe gives you the most advantage. Ten different kinds of tape. Different barbells for different workouts. All kinds of silly shit I stopped doing when I learned to see the bigger picture. Except chalk; that shit is real. Don’t fucking touch my chalk

The only stack you should worry about, is made of pancakes. The only advantage you need to concern yourself with is between your ears. “Work fucking harder.”

Eating well, moving with virtuosity and training hard; these are things we do have control over. Everything else is a waste of fucking time. When I was a new CrossFitter I was looking for the answers outside myself–just as I was with happiness in my twenties–I was focused on shitty, inconsequential, external details.

Almost nothing is a fucking crisis. It’s not about you. Really. Love and appreciate people for the good they bring; don’t dwell on their transgressions and shortcomings. Unless, of course they’re really bad; then pimp-slap those fuckers and go do some goddamn back squats.

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Begin Again


They didn’t even draw a dick on there while I was knocked out. Rookies.

Having my shoulder assimilated into the Borg collective was like being yanked off ground level, and put in a 737 at 38,000 feet looking down on the whole thing. There was no choice any more. I had to choose to find a reason to be happy about what was happening. Most times it wasn’t hard, because I had to modify almost everything, so none of the times, reps, or loads were comparable to past performances. Everything was a new experience. And hey, it didn’t hurt.

It’s important to remember where you’re standing, because it always changes what you’re seeing.

In recent months I’ve trained at a reduced capacity due to the ongoing reprogramming of the bionic shoulder. I’ve still managed to tear myself up in workouts, though. I’ve also managed to enjoy the vast majority of it a great deal. Previously, just prior to surgery when I was still putting out at a pretty high level, even small deviations would upset me because of the skewed scale I was measuring against. I had to re-learn to love the process and being better than yesterday; not hating that I wasn’t better than better.


These are more fun than Nutella covered churros. Image courtesy of CrossFit® and Dave Re.

Everything was a PR after surgery, because I’d never done it before. Cool circus tricks like the 1-arm barbell snatch and 1-arm deadlift, modified workouts with single-arm burpees, or ring rows instead of pull-ups, etc. It’s easy to just relax and have fun when there’s no comparison. Sure, the clock was always running, but there were no benchmarks to compare the times to. But, that ability to compare is a tenet of what we do in CrossFit, so at some point it has to come back.

Comparing my lifetime snatch PR to my 6-months-post-op snatch PR is like comparing your sex life to porn hub; not going to make you feel better. The point of the comparison over long time scales, is data that’s relevant to more than yourself. It applies to the big picture. For us as individual athletes, especially as we age, we need only compare ourselves to yesterday. Not comparing this snatch to my best snatch ever, but this snatch to the previous snatch. Is it better? Great. If it’s not, let’s fix it.

Being as limited as a Ferrari on valet mode, I’ve found great joy in simple things like clean and jerks. Some days they’ve gone great, some days they haven’t. In times gone by, the latter would piss me off like I was the state of NY this Super Bowl Sunday. But now, I can take joy in the fact that I can do a clean and jerk with two arms.

I got my fucking ass kicked so hard it’s still resting on my shoulders at the end of January.

If you walk into CrossFit New England with an ego, you’re gonna have a bad time. I got a chance at some solid self-reflection the past few weeks while I was at home for the holidays, partly by necessity–I still have to scale and modify lots of things, which as a competitor and formerly one of those athletes who were trying to get a ticket to the dance, that can be hard.

It wasn’t intimidating, emasculating, or frustrating, it was fun. I trained with a lot of the old crew, who surgery or not, would’ve been a step ahead. It wasn’t uncomfortable, though–except for the wall balls. Fuck wall balls. I simply enjoyed being able to suffer with my friends. I even got invited to one of the infamous Saturday afternoon CFNE team training sessions. I got my fucking ass kicked so hard it’s still resting on my shoulders at the end of January. Those guys and girls are on a different plane these days. I had to modify/scale just about everything we did. But just like in a CrossFit class, we all did it together.

It felt like the early days at CFNE when I was first started training with that crew. It looked similar, too; me finishing all the workouts last. But I was there, and I got to do the work with my friends. That’s what matters. I’ll get back there, eventually. Maybe.

We need only compare ourselves to yesterday. Not comparing this snatch to my best snatch ever, but this snatch to the previous snatch.

Look outwards from fitness in the gym to life, instead of deeper into the gym and other people’s fitness.

I’m re-learning to love the process. Enjoying the ability to do, is powerful. Stop and appreciate your gym-mates and the support you draw from them (I’ve had a LOT of it) Try limiting how far backwards you can look at your training for awhile, and see just how great you feel.

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F*%# You, Pancreas: Christmas 2014

IMG_4224Christmas. That wonderful morning when I wake up and think, “Sweet merciful raptor-Jesus! It’s the day of eating all the things!”

Bud Light: The water of Christmas in New England

Once each year, beginning on the day the fat man in red comes, I decide to eschew all nutritional prudence, and to actively try and eat at least one of every single item which is available at the holiday events where I find myself in attendance.

For history’s sake, here are links to previous years posts:

Christmas List: Inflammation and Insulin Resistance 2013
Holiday Excess 2012

Fuck Paleo 2011
Holiday Excess 2010
It Begins 2009

I keep track of these items by listing them in photos and hashtagging them on instagram, then compiling the list you’ll find below later one. I think the next step in the force escalation of “DiabetesForXmas” is a real-time blood glucose monitor, which can automatically live-tweet how far into the ‘beetus I have slipped at any one time.


The variety this year was robust. If you’d like to follow the live progress from the last 48 hours, go to my Instagram ( or just search for the hashtag: #diabetesforxmas2014.

This is not for the squeamish and certainly not for the orthorexic fools who continue to eat kale and bean sprouts on holidays while sneering down their bony, emaciated noses at their gleeful, rotund relatives. I managed to top last years list by a slim margin. Next year, I’ll have to wake up earlier than 10 a.m. if I’m to have a chance at a PR. Without further ado, here is the extent of the metabolic derangement for 2014, in chronological order:

December 24
Reese’s peanut butter cup hot chocolate, made with heavy cream
Reese’s peanut butter cup cookie
Bud light
Steak tips
Peppers and onions
Chicken parm
Deviled eggs
Pepperoni garlic bread
Apples with Heath Bar cream cheese dip
Bud light
Stuffed jalapeño
Apples with Heath Bar cream cheese dip
Bud light, more
Chicken parm
Chocolate cake with coconut icing,
Raspberry cookie
Chips and dip
Apples with Heath Bar cream cheese dip
Egg nog with salted caramel Baileys

December 25
Chocolate glazed donut
Maple frosted donut
Coffee with Baileys
Cheese and crackers
Coffee with bourbon
Mauna Loa chocolate covered macadamia nuts
Old fashioned donut
Bacon soda (You fucking heard me)
Homemade ravioli
Italian sausage
Prime rib
Baked potato
Cheese crackers
Bud Light
Chocolates peanut butter balls
Mini Eclair
Cream Puff
Russian tea cookies
Sugar cookies
Chocolate chip cookies
Onion dip
Bud light
Gingerbread cookies
Russian tea cookies
Mini eclairs
Cream puffs
Sprinkle cookies
Swedish meatballs
chocolate cake with egg nog frosting
Chocolate frosted donut
Whipped cream

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Chocolate chip cookies are one of life’s simple, sugary, Maillard-reaction delivering pleasures. There’s a thorough treatise by J. Kenji López-Alt on the scientific manipulation of the ingredients and processes to create the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. It’s dense (oooooh), but worth the read. The lesson, though, is in the very last section–should you ironically decide to skip ahead. The single most influential part of the cookie making process is–you guessed it–patience. Letting the dough rest in the fridge over night or longer deepens and enriches the flavor and texture of the finished product more than any other adjustment.

“If there’s one single thing you can do improve the flavor of your cookies, it’s to let the dough rest. They bake up darker and more flavorful. That butterscotch note that was barely hinted at when you baked the dough right after mixing? It’ll blow you away with its intensity and complexity by the second day.”

-J. Kenji López-Alt

We’ve been told our whole lives that patience is a virtue, and we should have it. Lots of it. I could speculate forever as to why, but with only a little introspection it becomes clear just how powerful patience really is.


You must wait. The pay-off will be worth it.


You just have to wait. If you want instant gratification, you can’t have the best. You must develop a sense of satisfaction in the waiting. The anticipation can be a pleasurable part of the experience.

We learn this lesson through fitness all the time. Counter-intuitively, you can’t get to a two-minute Fran in a hurry. One of the worst things you can do with a barbell is rush it–like you’re pulling a baby our of a pool of acid. You know goddamn well what happens when you slow down the pull off the floor. When you just keep waiting; until that bar is right in the pocket. Then you jump. When you exercise that patience the lift feels like you know what the fuck you’re doing.

Patience in everything. Training, cookies, barbells, relationships. Approach all things like a lovingly crafted cookie dough. When you’ve finished making it, it’s not to time to unceremoniously devour it. Let that barbell rest, like the dough in the fridge. Much like playing the lottery, half the fun is the anticipation. The 24-48 hours of “what if” and imagining just how good those cookies are going to be when you finally make them.

Whether it be a cookie or a clean, not only will you appreciate it more for the patience, it actually will be better. Better, and more appreciated–with patience.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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The Zen Buddhism of Jump Ropes

The Rogue SR-2 speed rope is a thing of mechanical beauty. To be lusted after, attachment be damned.

The trouble with attachment is that it’s much harder to undo than it is to avoid. This is clear in even the smallest of things. I learned this, quite innocently from a speed rope.

It was quite possible to live with nothing more than the badass monkly robes on their backs. Boom. Freedom from attachment to anything but your zenned out monk-piece.

Buddhism teaches that attachment leads to suffering. Anyone who’s been around other humans knows that. It’s not interpersonal, per se, but attachment to anything which is the source of suffering; people, stuff, ideas, etc.

There’s a CrossFit parallel with buddhism. As there is with everything. I’ll make one if I have to. I could probably find a way to relate Dr. Loren Cordain to bran muffins.

This was an easy concept for early buddhists. It was expected people would welcome traveling holy men and offer them hospitality. So then and there, it was quite possible to live with nothing more than the badass monkly robes on their backs. Boom. Freedom from attachment to anything but your zenned out monk-piece.

Things aren’t so simple these days, here in Santa Cruz. Despite their earnest claims otherwise, the unkempt, attachment-less gentlemen downtown are not holy men.

This thing was a gleaming, anodized beacon of machined, aircraft aluminum and precision ball bearings.

My first 4.5 or so years in CrossFit, I never owned a jumprope. I just used what was available wherever I was working out. It was an easy, attachment-free existence. There was no (jumprope related) suffering of any kind. Well, except for that time I did that last chance qualifier workout with the Berg in 2009. It was very free; I didn’t need any specific rope. I was even somewhat flexible on the length (that’s what she said).

Then I caved in. I ordered a Rogue SR-2 speed rope

I’m a gear head. What can I say? This thing was a gleaming, anodized beacon of machined, aircraft aluminum and precision ball bearings. Being a speed junky and builder of race cars I’m about as able to resist that as I am a Nutella and peanut butter waffle (you fucking heard me).

So it was pretty good. And by pretty good I mean it was absolutely fucking amazing. I loved it so hard. Then, I lost it while traveling. I found myself sneering at those plastic handled (yet perfectly capable) ropes you find everywhere. I avoided jumping rope–because I didn’t have my precious. I was attached to it. To it’s beauty, it’s quality. That attachment–not appreciation–became a hinderance instead of an advantage.

The path is to accept, not need. Welcome and enjoy conferred advantage, when it comes to you. But do not become dependent on it. Appreciate but don’t become attached. Or, as my spiritual advisor, Tyler Durden said, “The things you own end up owning you.”

You can also read this on Medium, here:

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