Colorado Marathon 2022

I ran the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins, CO on May 1, 2022. These are my notes on race preparation and execution (as usual, mostly written to remind myself about the experience in decades to come).

TL;DR

Official: 2:59:59. (One page shows 2:59:58.9, leaving me a full half second to spare!) 29/507, 6/?? AG

✓ Goal A: Sub 3 hours. (By the skin of my teeth!)

✓ Goal B: Sub 3:05 (2019 BQ cutoff for my AG)

✓ Goal C: Sub 3:14:16 (== π, my PR @ NYC in 2019)

Still feeling good mid-race.
Still feeling good mid-race.

Training

We moved to Boulder, CO from NYC in February 2021. Adjusting to the altitude took several weeks, longer than I expected. I spent the next six months or so training for my A event for the year, cycling the Triple Bypass, with a combination of indoor sessions on TrainerRoad and solo rides, mostly up the local climbs. After finishing that event and coming home, I immediately caught a bad cold from my sick (daycare-attending) toddler. I was sick off-and-on for months; I was not fully recovered at my B event in October, the first-ever Boulderthon (though I chose to run the half — plus four miles from home to the start and two miles from the finish to home).

I spent the rest of the year building some aerobic endurance with easy runs based on the McMillan Base Training Plan Level 3, but I wasn’t terribly consistent with my mid-week runs due to work and family commitments. Consistency picked up a bit in January upon starting the McMillan Marathon Training Plan Level 4 Combo Runner, but I was still somewhat interrupted by work stress and parenting, especially with kiddo getting periodically sick. I stuck to the lower end of the recommended distances and times as this was my first “Level 4” training plan.

I started running my long runs with the Boulder Track Club in November 2021. This provided extremely good motivation for running a portion of those runs at tempo or race pace as I am among the slowest of the group. I definitely think my speed endurance improved by running with BTC.

After a half-marathon tune up race in March, concentrating on the first, downhill half, I hit my first 60 mile training week ever, followed by 57 miles a week later, before starting a taper.

Me running at the half marathon.
Leading the pack at the start. I had no business doing this.

I had two embarrassing training injuries of the cycle, but luckily neither of them were overuse injuries. The first was in the final few strides of a wintery morning run: with the source of a breakfast burrito and good coffee in sight, I slipped on some ice at a curb cut and face planted, busting my lip. (Not only did I injure myself, but I was left without breakfast). The second was a chemical hand warmer-induced burn to my right palm: I knew better than to hold HotHands hand warmers directly against my skin under gloves, but I did it anyway. It didn’t seem too hot at all while I was doing it and only one hand was affected.

Knowing that the Colorado Marathon is a net downhill race, I had intended to do more downhill preparation. I wanted to take some days off from work to ride the bus up to Gold Hill and run back home, which is 12 miles and over 3,000 feet of elevation loss. I also wanted to do more work on Magnolia Road, a classic Boulder run on a rolling dirt road at over 8,000 feet of altitude. None of this work happened. Winter training in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains can be tricky, especially during a particularly snowy couple of months.

If there is anything I would change for my next marathon training program, it would be to:

  1. Be more consistent and take on more mileage. For me, this is easier said than done, given work and life constraints.

    1. This will get better as my daughter gets older and more independent (and less sick with a more fully developed immune system!). That said, I also want to cherish the time while she’s young and still adores me.
    2. This will also get better once we move into our house and build out our basement gym.
    3. During this training cycle, I took Mondays and Fridays off from running; I should probably drop the Friday off-day and add more easy mileage. This likely means sacrificing quality evening time with my wife, though.
    4. I should also increase the distance of the mid-week medium-long run.
  2. Do more hill and altitude work.

  3. Do more strength training. I subscribe to the belief that resistance training is extremely important for longevity and endurance performance. Yet, I have done no strength training since before the pandemic. Similarly, this will improve once we build out our basement gym.

I had also wanted to take a day off to scout the course, but I never got around to it.

Day Before

Fort Collins is a little over an hour away from Boulder and the buses to the starting line from downtown were posted to board between 4:15am and 5am. Not wanting to drive in the middle of the night, I chose to stay at a hotel the night prior hoping that I could get to bed early and score some quality sleep. This also allowed me to pick up my race bib at the expo.

The expo was fine, mostly filled by merch from a local running store chain. One thing I should have done was have my ID checked to get a wristband for the beer area, which would have obviated me from having to carry my driver’s license during the race.

I had forgotten to execute on my plan to pack some PB&J’s, a standard long-run breakfast of mine. I went to Whole Foods, knowing that they usually stock pre-made ones. I was out of luck and they were out of stock, so I bought the base ingredients and made some in my hotel room.

I wanted to do a short, 20 minute shakeout run to scout the small part of the course in downtown Fort Collins and on the Cache la Poudre River multi-use path. This was fine; I should have been better prepared and manually curated a course that went through the finish line: it would have prepared me for the turns and slight rises of the last mile.

I got a high-carb, pasta-and-french-fries dinner from the hotel restaurant, which was delightfully indulgent.

I rarely ever sleep well before an early-morning race. While my conscious self knows there is nothing to be anxious or nervous about (I mean, this is just a race I’m doing for fun, right?), my subconscious clearly disagrees and gets giddy with anticipation and excitement. This night was no exception and I think I got maybe 20 or 30 minutes of intermittent sleep. This definitely affected my performance.

Pre-Race

With COVID cases on the rise here, I decided to wear a N95 mask for the 45 minute bus ride up the mountain to the starting line. I happened to sit next to the only other person on the bus wearing a mask, and, unlike the rest of the bus, neither of us really wanted to chitchat, which was perfect for me.

Illuminated only by headlights, the bus ride gave a great preview of the route of the race: twisty and turny with a whole bunch of elevation loss. I tried to visualize coming down the mountain as we were going up it.

The sun had yet to rise by the time we got dropped off (and wouldn’t until 30 minutes prior to the start). I walked around the waiting area which was well-stocked with urns filled with hot coffee (!!!) and hot chocolate, and plenty of porta potties. I was on one of the first buses to arrive which I thought would be a disadvantage in waiting around in the cold longer, but provided the advantage of having no line to pee.

As the sky filled with the first light of the day, I reached for my prescription sunglasses attached to my shirt under my outer layers and they… felt floppy. I pulled them out and a lens fell to the ground. Not good. My distance vision is not particularly terrible, but it would absolutely be a negative distraction to live in a fuzzy sphere for 26.2 miles. I asked some of the race crew if they had any kind of tape, and they pointed me toward a first aid kit that I ultimately could not find. Then I had an epiphany: I had medical tape… on my nipples… to prevent chafing. I reached into my shirt, painfully pulled one piece of tape off, and used it to bound the frames as far out of my field of vision as possible.

It worked! And I looked ridiculous. But I could see!

After dropping my bag at the UPS truck and a quick half-mile warmup, I settled into the starting chute between the 3h15m pacer and the very fast looking group of Air Force Academy cadets all in the same USAF running kit.

Race

The first thing I’ll say about the actual race is that the first half is absolutely gorgeous. The route follows the Cache La Poudre River down its canyon; the rapids of flowing water with its wonderful rushing sound is at one’s side for about 14 miles.

The road was closed in one direction to cars and the running course was protected by what must have been around 1.83 billion traffic cones.

The start, for me, was not very crowded. Just over 500 people ran the marathon, but the folks in the first few rows of the chute were well spaced and increasingly spread out as the race progressed. For the first time in my memory, I didn’t go out like a crazy person once the horn sounded. I found a group going at a slightly-faster-than-I-planned pace that protected me from the slight headwind blowing up the canyon.

The course is steadily downhill, with the largest sustained gradients at the beginning of the race. Weeks prior, I had decided that my race strategy was to intentionally make a positive split in order to bag as much time as I could using the decline to my advantage. I’m not entirely sure this was the right strategy (even splits might have been easier on the legs and allow higher power delivery later in the race). I later read a quote from running coach Mario Fraioli who said:

Banking time in a marathon — any race, really — is almost always a terrible idea. Be patient and methodical in your execution. Great racers, regardless of the speed they’re running, are the ones who slow down the least.

Unbeknownst to me prior to this marathon, it turns out that there are two types of elevation to worry about in a running race: hills (the obvious one) and road cross slope (i.e. the side-to-side cant of the road). There were only two or three minor hills on this course and their downslopes more than made up for the minor inconveniences of the upslopes. But the cambered road was the impactful factor at the Colorado Marathon: for almost the entirety of the section within the canyon, the road cant was severe. With the river mostly on one’s left within the canyon, it felt like it was necessary to constantly run up a hill to the right just to run in a straight line.

The last 10 or so miles are unremarkable: a bunch of highway that connects to a multi-use path before getting into Downtown Fort Collins to the finish.

According to my analysis of the data coming out of my Stryd foot pod, I hit a wall somewhere around mile 20 (32 km). I didn’t bonk or run out of energy; instead, I just ran out of power output. My quads were increasingly sore and activating them seemed to require substantially extra energy and motivation. Another factor was that the temperature had risen from a perfect low-40°F (4.5°C) with protection from the sun given by the canyon walls to a toasty 55+°F (12.7°C) with no shade.

By this point, I had built up a safety factor of over three minutes over a 3-hour marathon pace, so I knew I could slow down a bit and still accomplish at least two of my goals. I started to walk through some aid stations to try to give my poor quads a bit of a rest, but this was not very effective.

My lead over my goal time started to dwindle over the last couple of miles. I almost continuously calculated how many seconds per mile over a 6:51/mi (4:16/km) pace I could add safely to still hit my A goal. At some point, I started to repeat to myself: “If you finish in a few seconds over three hours, you will regret any slack you gave yourself right now. Push.” I would try to surge and muscle through the dull legs for a bit, before falling back to an unacceptably slow pace.

The final quarter mile has a quick succession of four 90° turns. By the first one, you can hear the booming, amplified voice of the announcer at the finish line reading off runner names. Knowing that I had only a second or two to spare to hit sub-3 — and that measurement inaccuracies could easily nullify that — I brought myself to a sprint around the corners and through the final stretch.

While trying to summon as much power as I could, wildly swinging my arms to try to generate additional torque, I looked up and got confused when I saw two RFID reader strips — one several feet before the big “FINISH” banner and one just under it — and two clocks with different times in the only part I cared about: the seconds. In the moment of total exertion, I couldn’t figure out which was for the half marathon and which was for the full marathon (or even if that’s how they were arranged). I crossed both of the timing mats and didn’t know on which side of three hours my performance was on. But I was really quite happy that I even finished (and didn’t have to run any longer) and that I crushed my B and C goals.

Post-Race

I sat down at a picnic table and had a banana. Once I assessed myself, I managed to peel myself off of the bench to go get a delicious, free Odell Brewing Company Mountain Standard IPA — nothing like a beer at 9:45am? — and to listen to some pretty fun reggae-pop being performed on the stage.

I walked over to the information tent to ask for directions back to the hotel, having left my pocket computer in my room. But I noticed that there were tablets on the table with the race results. It was here that I learned I accomplished my A goal — with the barest possible margin — and celebrated with an uncharacteristically loud “hell yeah!”.

A screenshot of the result page
2:59:59, baby!

It was also here that I realized I still had medical tape as a structural part of my sunglasses and I still looked like an idiot.

I hobbled the six blocks back to the hotel. I was able to get a slightly later checkout which allowed me to decompress and take a long, hot shower. After some food and a gift gathering outing, I drove back to Boulder. I opened the door to our apartment and, after providing 24 hours of care to our daughter, my wife exclaimed, “Great! You’re home! It’s your shift!” (mostly, but not entirely, kidding) and passed the responsibility of our sick toddler to me. Isla proceeded to refuse her afternoon nap; I think she was overly excited for me being home.

It’s hard parenting a toddler who likes to be carried in a three-story townhouse with blown out quads.

Next Goals

I’m not sure how much more I want to focus on running. I like it quite a bit, and it is a more money- and time-efficient exercise than cycling, but I also like other activities. Since I am registered for NYC again in the fall and now that I qualified for and might be headed to Boston next year, I figure I’ll continue to be running through next spring.

But, even then, and despite knowing that I haven’t hit my potential, I’m not sure how much more effort I’d like to put into chasing marathon PRs (especially without gravity’s assistance); it might be nice to just enjoy the experience of running through those courses and their famous crowds without any other pressure. At the very least, I’d like to maintain the capacity and capability of running a marathon below, say, 3.5 hours; maybe with some luck in the lotteries I can parlay that into running all of the Abbott World Majors over time.

One unaccomplished goal of mine is to beat 40 minutes in the 10k (40:26 PR in 2019) and to repeat a sub-20 minute 5k (19:38 PR in 2018). Perhaps I’ll focus on these distances with some weightlifting and an eye to translating speed endurance to the half and full marathons.

Overall, I think half marathons are more fun for me: less time commitment and not as mentally and physically taxing, but still a fun challenge.

I had a thought about trying a triathlon next year, which would require me to learn how to swim competitively. Given toddlerhood, I’m not sure that time commitment is in the cards. One day, maybe.

Fort Collins

I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring Fort Collins. Old Town was cute and quaint; I would have liked touring around a bit more. The rest of the city is pretty spread out and car-dependent.

Elizabeth Hotel: The hotel was nice and I’d stay here again; I chose it specifically for proximity to the pickup location for the bus to the starting line, which was just on the next block. The most remarkable part of the hotel was that there were three wedding parties staying at the hotel with one wedding reception in the building, but I wouldn’t have known of it from my room tucked into a wing of the fifth floor. Had I slept, I wouldn’t have been bothered by drunken partygoers; in fact, the loudest noise source was the deep thuds of doors closing behind fellow runners leaving their rooms after 4am.

The Emporium: The hotel’s restaurant was very good and had a nice ambiance. I’d come back. The cappuccino from the co-located Bowerbird Cafe was properly made.

A breakfast spread
Breakfast at The Emporium

Little Bird Bakery: My wife approved of the walnut chocolate chip cookie I bought her. Enough said.

Buying a Tesla Model Y

My Tesla Model Y
Visiting the Lasdon Park Dinosaur Garden.

If you know anything about me, you know how much I hate cars. They pollute like crazy, take up a lot of space that could be used for better purposes, and cause a huge amount of human carnage, suffering, and death. You know that I say — despite parents having irrational fears of their child being kidnapped, poisoned, or electrocuted — that the most dangerous thing a parent can do is put their child into a car. You know that I complain that the government is beholden to car interests and is obsessed with growing car infrastructure, even in New York City where the population of car owners is dwarfed by that of non-car owners.

And yet, I bought a car.

Yuko and I decided to buy a car because we wanted to escape the city on weekends, mostly to visit her parents so they can see their gorgeous granddaughter, but also for an occasional day or weekend trips in the area. I wanted to be able to expose Isla to greener pastures — literally — outside of the city, while preserving as much social distancing as is reasonable. We aren’t alone in our thinking.

Making the decision on exactly what car to buy was a no brainer. First, I knew I only wanted to buy a totally electric car: climate change is real and, in this day and age, the technology exists to rival or surpass the internal combustion engine. I also knew that I wanted an electric car with a range that would allow us to use it not just as a daily driver, but for longer road trips as well. For example, my aunt and uncle live 114 miles away. It would be nice to do that round-trip on a single charge. Next, the car needs to be able to fit a bicycle internally and have rack options externally. Finally, I want the safest car I can possibly get, within reason. (The safest car to get is the most massive SUV possible, but this is impractical for a variety of reasons).

Those requirements narrowed down the field to exactly one car: a Tesla Model Y.

Tesla and its cars are already legendary and have a cult following. Tesla has done more to greenify car ownership than any other company and have inspired a huge amount of competition that will get the job done even faster. Tesla’s long range models all have north of 300 miles of range (according to the EPA estimates, anyway). Then, their cars consistently get great crash test ratings, principally owing to good engineering, a low center of mass due to the placement of the battery, and a large forward crumple zone as there is no internal combustion engine.

The “MY” (as forum-posters call it) satisfies the bicycle carrying requirements without breaking the bank compared to the Model X ($60k+ is already a lot of money to spend on a moving couch, $100k+ is out of the question.)

Another significant advantage for owning a Tesla vehicle is that they are currently the only cars on the road that get regular improvements well after the car is purchased and over-the-air. This is unheard of in the automotive industry. Even the software updates that did exist for other cars — which are very rare in the first place — would have to be installed at a service center using the ODBC port.

However, one downside of purchasing a Tesla is that by doing so, one is supporting Elon Musk. I’m not a huge fan of his personality, his ethos, and his flamboyant attitude. I think he’s a bad role model and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be his employee. That all said, he has accomplished an astounding amount and has consistently produced, in my opinion, some of the best products on the market.

The Purchasing Experience

One other allure of purchasing a Tesla is that I wouldn’t have to interact with any car salespeople. I’m a pretty strong introvert and I never learned how to haggle. In prior explorations of car buying, I had been prepared to pay someone a fee to represent me in the purchase process just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the stress of the whole procedure.

Ordering online was as easy as a few button clicks from the comfort of my own home. No haggling, no pushy salespeople, no price shopping between dealerships. I didn’t even test drive a Model Y: I was confident enough based on my several rides as a passenger in other models that the MY would be more than good enough.

Order Timeline

  • August 18th: I placed my order when the website quoted a delivery estimate of 4-6 weeks.
  • August 25th: A week later, I got a text message giving an update estimate of 2-4 weeks from then.
  • September 3rd: I was assigned a VIN.
  • September 4th: I was asked to select a delivery date between September 16th and 20th.
  • September 13: I was informed that my car would arrive at the service center the next day and was asked to come in earlier, between September 15-17.
  • September 17: Delivery day! Almost four weeks to the day.

Insurance

I shopped around for insurance and found gabi.com to be a useful tool. Ultimately, the insurance agent at State Farm I have worked with for years and with whom I have all of my other insurance policies (including an existing non-owned auto policy), quoted a price that wasn’t unreasonable ($125/month), so I just went with that, out of simplicity.

NYC Monthly Parking

Then I had to find a place to store my giant piece of property that will mostly go unused.

Using the data from plugshare.com, which is an excellent resource for all EV owners, I made a spreadsheet with all of the garages within a reasonable walking distance from my apartment that have an EV charging station. I emailed and called all of the companies’ central offices to ask for a quote; one got back to me quickly (thank you Ayelet at GGMC!), others never returned my calls. I ended up walking to many of the garages the day before taking delivery and just asking to talk to the manager.

Unfortunately for our wallet, we live in the middle of literally the most expensive neighborhood to park in literally the most expensive city to park in all of the United States. It’s no secret that space is at a premium here in Midtown Manhattan. I initially received quotes ranging from $550 per month with no charging charge at the GGMC garage on East 44th Street up to a whopping $1000 per month from Icon at 330 E 39th St (The Tesla parking tax is real!).

Luckily, I stopped by an iPark in what turns out to be an excellent location: as far away from midtown as possible while still being super-convenient. They offered $450 with no charging fee. Done and done. I signed up on the spot.

Taking Delivery

My MY at the Brooklyn Service Center
Picking up the car. It suffers from a well-known color mismatch betwen the plastic bumper to the metal body. It's barely noticable in most lighting conditions, so I don't care.

These are the facts I would have liked to know before the delivery process started:

  • All deliveries happen at the Brooklyn Service Center (SC), which is quite far away. I falsely assumed that the location in Manhattan does deliveries as well, but it is just a showroom.
  • Pick up or else. While you get to choose a date for delivery, the car may arrive at the service center early. According to the Motor Vehicle Order Agreement you signed, you have only three days to take possession of it after it is available. If you don’t, it gets reassigned and you start the waiting process again, regardless of the date you chose originally.
  • Opt-out of arbitration. The Motor Vehicle Order Agreement also specifies that you can opt-out of arbitration, but only in the 30 days after signing that contract. It’s probably worth doing.
  • Bring a checklist and don’t skip anything. Quality control is practically non-existent; there are tons of stories in various forums about things that were wrong with the car at time of delivery, including an instance of the entire sunroof flying off on the drive home. I used this checklist, which worked very well to find a couple of minor issues (minor, but shouldn’t have existed in the first place), some of which were immediately remedied. I didn’t test the mobile charging cable, though, because the car was plugged into a Supercharger while I was inspecting it; lo and behold, the mobile charging cable was partially defective and had to be replaced later.
    • Point out all problems to your Tesla Advisor before taking ownership of the car.
  • All owners do not have to be present at delivery. The people who are on the title but not present can grant you limited power of attorney to represent them. Tesla sent me literally this form so that my wife could grant me power of attorney; note that it must be signed in front of a notary and notarized.

Things I love

  1. Lower carbon emissions. It’s nice to not directly contribute carbon to the atmosphere while still having the mobility that car ownership brings.

    Transport accounted for 28% of global final energy demand and 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2014… The transport sector is the least diversified energy end-use sector; the sector consumed 65% of global oil final energy demand, with 92% of transport final energy demand consisting of oil products.

    - IPCC

    Human-instigated climate change is real. While the biggest impact in mitigating it requires a top-down shift in priorities (e.g. funding for green energy sources, phased elimination of fossil fuel use, agricultural practice changes, avoiding deforestation, etc), doing what we can on a personal level does help some and does raise awareness of the larger issues. A conversion to electric vehicles is a middle ground that allows us to eliminate an important source of carbon emissions, dependency on fossil fuels, and promote growth of non-carbon energy production.

    Owning an EV is only a net good compared to owning an ICE and is strictly worse than not owning a car at all. There are still plenty of side effects of any car ownership: all of the infrastructure that supports EVs still consumes fossil fuels, from EV production through to service and road maintenance, and of course, when charging.

  2. Crash safety: Tesla vehicles routinely get the top marks from the IIHS crash testing. This article breaks down exactly what design characteristics contribute to this high level of safety.

  3. One-pedal driving. By default, the Tesla software heavily engages the regenerative braking system when pressure is removed from the accelerator pedal. This allows the driver to use a single pedal to control the forward velocity of the car. It feels like the slot cars I had as a kid that use a trigger to go around a track.

  4. Software updates: As mentioned earlier, my car has already gotten better in the one month that I’ve owned it. Two software updates have rolled through that added new features and made bug fixes. Another huge one is coming that enables Autopilot in city environments.

  5. The Supercharger network: In the NYC area, the Supercharger network is good enough that I mostly never have to worry about range: I could always drive to the nearest Supercharger. While a 0%-100% charge takes 75 minutes, it’s rare to need to do that; 150 miles of range can be had for 20 or 25 minutes. No other EV has as reliable a charging network that is as fast, ubiquitous, and whose presence is growing.

  6. Having a ginormous map: When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was the massive National Geographic Atlas of the World on our bookshelf. I’d just flip through the pages and study the maps. Having a huge map in the car feels similar and totally beats navigating using a tiny phone screen.

  7. The minimalist interior design: My mother-in-law recently leased a Mercedes Benz C63S AMG, which has 503 horsepower and a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds. (Why she needs all of that power is beyond me. Plus, the cost of all that power is a ridiculously bad 18 mpg city fuel economy.) The cockpit is complicated as all heck, with buttons, knobs, switches, touch interfaces, multiple screens and a huge range of configuration options. In contrast, the MY is ascetic: has almost no buttons, has no knobs or switches, and has exactly one touch interface that is the screen. (And it has a better 0-60 time).

  8. Truly keyless entry. A lot of cars have what they call “keyless entry” by supplying you with an additional fob with a transponder inside. Tesla takes this a step further and makes your phone — which these days, everyone already carries all of the time obsessively anyway — your key. Not having to carry a separate object for the car is pleasant.

  9. Car control from the phone: I used to think people who got remote starters installed in their car were silly. Now that I can control a whole range of functionality remotely, I totally get it. Being able to see how charged the car is or turn on valet mode from a distance has actually turned out to be pretty useful, especially since the car is several blocks away from my apartment.

  10. The idea of going car camping: I’m excited to eventually make my daughter my backcountry camping partner. (We’ll see if this actually works out!) There are a few milestones along the way, though, and one of the introductory ones might be driving to a campsite and sleeping in the car. Tesla models can be plugged into a standard RV charging outlet and there is no internal combustion engine that needs to run to keep the air conditioning on. Plus, an Exped MegaMat Duo 10 sleeping pad fits almost perfectly in the back with the seats folded.

  11. The built-in dashcam and video security system: These should be standard equipment on any car these days.

  12. Minimal scheduled maintenance: No oil changes, no oil or fuel filter changes, no coolant replacement, etc. This is especially nice living in NYC where getting these things done is a real hassle. There are still a few things to do once in a while, though.

  13. Mobile service: A repair technician will come to your car (for some types of repairs or diagnosis), often for free, without you having to do anything. This is superbly convenient.

  14. Chill Mode. In any car, I like to drive in a way that maximizes comfort for my passengers and maximizes energy efficiency. Chill Mode reduces the otherwise crazy acceleration available and allows me to not have to worry about this so much. Yes, the MY’s 0-60 time is impressive by most standards, but I keep Chill Mode on all the time (though it would be nice to have a way to quickly toggle it!).

  15. Valet Mode. Keeping the car in a valeted garage means that a bunch of people routinely drive it. Valet Mode keeps my favorite addresses hidden, reduces the top speed available, and prevents access to the glove compartment. This adds a little extra comfort in handing over the key to a stranger.

Things I dislike

  1. Range anxiety: The stated range for the car when I purchased it was 316 miles. (It has since increased a few miles with a software update). When I charge to 90% of capacity, the stated range is 291 miles. But these numbers are based on perfect conditions of driving and do not take into account any external factors, like elevation changes or your driving style. So, it’s easy to become paranoid about available range as superchargers are still not as ubiquitous as gas stations.

    The car does have a few features that make it somewhat hard to run out of battery, especially if you use the navigation system:

    1. It will display the estimated percentage of battery that will be left available upon reaching the destination, and how much battery will be left after a round trip. In my experience, this estimation has been very accurate.
    2. It will automatically reroute you to a Supercharger if it predicts that you will be unable to make it to the destination.
    3. It will warn you as you leave the range of all known Superchargers.
    4. It will suggest lowering your speed to specifically make it to the destination (which works because slower speeds are significantly more efficient; thanks inverse square law!)
    5. Even when not using the navigation system, the “Energy” tab displays the estimated available range, based on recent driving history.

    Even knowing this, range anxiety can persist. It takes time and experience to trust all of these features.

  2. Lack of safety features that are standard on every other car in MY’s class. The complete absence of blindspot warning and rear cross-traffic warning is inexcusable. As far as I can tell, it comes down to the fact that Tesla doesn’t want to pay royalties for patents. Elon Musk claims that a reconstructed birds-eye view is coming in a future software update.

  3. Lack of regular cruise control: Enabling “Traffic-Adjusted Cruise Control” also enables automatic braking. Ordinarily, this sounds great, except for the presence of phantom braking. See the section about Autopilot below. Absence a perfectly working TACC, I just want a regular, old, “stay at this speed” cruise control.

  4. Back seat passengers cannot control climate and heated seats: Since all of the controls are accessed via the touchscreen upfront, the rear passengers have to ask the forward passengers to manipulate the climate controls. If the rear passenger(s) have their phones enrolled via the Tesla app, they can turn on and off the heated seats and change the temperature, but they cannot control the rear vent.

  5. Easy-to-curb rims: Most car manufacturers supply the car with tires that exceed the dimensions of the rim. This protects the rim against running into a curb, as the tire’s sidewall will come into contact with it first and provide feedback to the driver. Not so in Tesla vehicles, resulting in rims that are easily scratched.

  6. Tesla communication: Getting in touch with a real human at Tesla is a challenge. This is in comparison to my previous car, where I could drive to the dealership in town and speak to the dealership owner and mechanics directly,

  7. Lack of Android Auto: Modern Android Auto integration into cars where the manufacturers care about this is really great. Tesla went their own way and created their own human interface without rich phone integration. As it turns out, I rarely need to use my phone while I’m in the car (and never while in motion!) because the main console has everything I need and more.

  8. The cult following and its opposite: Tesla is under the spotlight right now as it is pushing the entrenched automobile industry in a radically different direction. This has created two distinct camps in online message boards: those who are fanboys and will defend Tesla to a fault and those who just want to vent their discontent with Tesla. This gets annoying and distracting from productive conversations. A lot of these people don’t even own a Tesla.

  9. The fragile frunk hood: Unlike the hood of a normal car, which is normally made out of robust steel to protect the internal combustion engine, the MY’s frunk (front trunk) hood is thin aluminum. This means it is very easy to dent the hood through normal operation. Tesla even has specific instructions in the manual as to how to close the frunk to try to avoid dents.

  10. The huge number of gimmicks. Summon (which usually fails). Smart summon (which doesn’t have an actual purpose). Fart mode (no explanation needed). The fact that Tesla is hiring a whole team to produce games. All of this is wasted engineering effort that could be better spent elsewhere.

Autopilot

Autopilot deserves its own heading because I love/hate it. It is supremely useful in the narrow window of conditions it is good in and it has such a high amount of promise to improve. But, there are so many problems with it that I often don’t feel comfortable trusting it while my family is in the car.

There are some distinct classes of problems that we’ve experienced so far:

  1. Phantom braking. When traffic-aware cruise control (TACC) is engaged, the car sometimes senses an object that it needs to avoid by slamming on the brakes. This most often occurs just before overpasses or just as we reach the crest of a hill. We’ve been lucky that there were no cars behind us during these episodes.
  2. Swerving during lane expansions: Many on-ramps do not have a broken line to demarcate the travel lane from the on-ramp. In these cases, the car will swerve toward the on-ramp to center itself within the existing lane marking. This is pretty dangerous when there are cars merging into traffic; this basically prohibits using TACC in the right-most lane or requires manual intervention for each exit.
  3. False stop lights: Admittedly in beta, the car can sense and react to stop signs and traffic lights. Sadly, on multiple occasions, the car sensed a red light intended for the off-ramp of an exit and proceeded to brake for a stop in the middle of the highway.
  4. Navigate on Autopilot erratic behavior: When Navigate on Autopilot is engaged, the car should automatically perform a lane change into the exit lane and change lanes to maintain speed. This has gone wrong in a bunch of ways, from the benign (moving to the passing lane which would cause a missed exit) to the downright dangerous (in an exit where two new exit lanes suddenly appear, the car moved into the first exit lane, swerved into the second, only to abort that lane change and swerve back into the first).

I’ve been supremely attentive while Autopilot is active and can now anticipate when most of the above problems will happen. Even still, I don’t like scaring my family with unexpected or sudden movements, so I’ve significantly curtailed my use of Autopilot while they are in the car in heavy traffic or in construction zones.

Autopilot is really good for those long stretches of isolated highway where there is little traffic and where you are sitting in the middle lane of a three-lane highway. It does a good job of following the car in front of you and, if necessary, change lanes around slower-moving vehicles. It also does really well in stop-and-go traffic. In the short while that I’ve had the car, I can see how driving with Autopilot in this scenario allows the driver to feel much more relaxed during and after the trip: I definitely expend less energy in doing mundane lane and speed keeping.

Accessories

So far, I have bought a few accessories for the car.

  1. Matte Screen Protector: The glossy screen attracts a lot of noticeable fingerprints and can have a significant amount of glare early or late in the day. This matte screen protector helps on both fronts.
  2. SanDisk 128GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive: To enable sentry mode and the dashcam. There is a whole website that discusses at length exactly which storage device to buy for these functions, but it really overanalyzes the issues of wear and durability. It suggests purchasing an Endurance SD card, intended for continuous recording, in tandem with an USB SD card reader that can withstand hot and cold temperatures. Some people go as far as buying a huge SSD. In fact, there are exactly two flash drives mentioned in the car’s manual that are stated as working just swell; this is one of them.
  3. Emergency Kit: I believe in the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.” I assembled and installed an emergency kit consisting of a first aid kit (FAK) and a break-down kit. The FAK which will likely be used for run-of-the-mill boo boos, but also includes tourniquets, chest seals, hemorrhage control items, a CPR mask and other such supplies. The break-down kit includes some LED flares, a tire pressure gauge, a mini compressor, some space blankets, a headlamp, and similar items.
  4. 14-50 Adapter: This adapter for a common receptacle type used to be standard issue in prior Tesla models and allows the car to be charged more quickly.
  5. TT-30 RV Adapter: I bought this in preparation for hooking up at an RV campsite. Sadly, I bought the cheap one off of Amazon, which I wouldn’t recommend. The right one is the TT-30 adapter from EVSE Adapters, which has temperature monitoring and proper communication to the car about amperage.
  6. 25’ 12-gauge extension cord: For plugging into a household garage outlet while the car is outside. Be sure to get at least a 14-gauge cord, as most cords are not rated for continuous operation at 80% of the circuit maximum (about 12 amps). A 12-gauge extension cord buys some extra insurance. Remember: a warm cord is okay, but a hot cord is not.
  7. A generic game controller: for better control of the in-built games.

Useful Resources

  • Plugshare: The authority on locating all types of charging stations, free, paid, private alike. The app has a handy feature to be able to communicate to future visitors of a charger as to its condition. Be sure to download the app from each of the major charging providers in the US: EVgo, ChargePoint, and EV Connect.
  • supercharger.info: The most up-to-date list of planned, built, and live Tesla superchargers.
  • Tesla Motors Club forums: The best way to interact with other owners to get tips and ask questions.
  • Sandy Munro’s teardown videos: This gentleman is a veteran of the automotive industry and runs a company that, among other things, provides competitive intelligence to goods producers about their own and their competitors’ products by tearing them down and analyzing their construction. This is a YouTube playlist of 42 videos where Sandy (and his hidden team) break apart a MY piece by piece and describe what they see. As someone who really likes taking things apart just to see how they are built, but who doesn’t really want to take apart their very expensive car, I consider this video series a goldmine.
  • Untangle Club’s videos of how the cooling and heating systems work: An often-cited feature of the MY (and now recent Model 3s) is the use of the “Octovalve” and a heat pump to flexibly move heat from parts of the car that need cooling to parts of the car that need heating, reducing the use of the expensive resistant heating. These diagramatic videos were the best way to understand all the modes of this system; it is much more accessible than the relevant patent filing.
  • Electrek’s Tesla coverage: Subscribing to their Tesla-specific RSS feed is a good way to stay on top of Tesla developments, in particular new software releases and any newly discovered defects.
  • Auto Detailing Wiki: An amazingly thorough wiki on how to clean your car, from the folks over at /r/autodetailing.