Unfinished business (VIN and VCL decoders)

Now that my period of intensive marathon training is over I have some time to return to other goals. One goal from earlier this year was to make a mobile-friendly version of my Vehicle Certification Label (door tag) decoder.

The argument for such an application was that if you are out looking at a Mustang to buy where you have direct access to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and Vehicle Certification Label (VCL) you might want to run the numbers right while looking at the car and making that purchase decision. This might prevent a situation where you are looking for an all original car but something has been changed (like the transmission) that would only be otherwise detectable if you can decode the VCL. In this situation you might only have your mobile device/phone. The simplified interface of a mobile-friendly decoder makes this a much more achievable task.

I originally described this as a project relative to fox-body Mustangs only. As with many of my projects, the scope has increased. I would like to ultimately include most, if not all, “late model” Mustangs by transforming my existing door tag decoder into a modular approach that can cross model years. Specifically, my goal is to be able to decode 1979-present Mustangs. As I mentioned in that earlier post, compiling a data source for this has been challenging. But, I am well on my way to getting it done. I have a first pass of VCL codes for 1987-2006 cars minus 1994 and 1995.

To kick things off a few days ago, I implemented VIN decoding for all 1987 to 2006 Mustangs on both the full and mobile sites. You may not have noticed it since it only appeared as a subtle change on the navigation menu. On the mobile site I have also added “beta” versions of the new VCL decoders for 1992, 1993 ad 1996. The full site versions of these are out there but hidden from public view.

For my faithful blog readers, here are links to the “hidden” pages that will become part of the forthcoming “Mustang Decoding” section of triplewhitefox.com:

1992 Vehicle Certification Label Decoder
1993 Vehicle Certification Label Decoder
1996 Vehicle Certification Label Decoder

The process of assembling each decoder is somewhat involved. Basically, I gather the data from several sources, load it into a database, write the decoder and then start testing it against real labels. Each decoder will have instructions to report codes not found in the list. My hope is that people will use it to report issues and problems and the end result will be better and more complete data.

Shortly, I am going integrate the new decoders into the full site replacing the existing 1993 only decoder. I plan to add more as I complete them. Also, the overall site navigation and style will change slightly along the lines of what you see in the “hidden” pages referenced above.

If you want to help out, right now I don’t have any source for data for the 1994 and 1995 cars. If you know of any let me know.

Running 26.2

My marathon was today. I finished! All 26.2 miles. Being my first marathon, finishing was my main goal. My secondary goal was to finish in under 4 hours 30 minutes. This was a softer goal but given the pace at which I had been running my longer runs that seemed attainable. I am proud to say that I finished in 4:21!

It was a pretty cool experience. The energy of the dense crowd at the beginning was intense. I started way at the back which might sound like a bad thing but I thought it would be a good thing since it gave me an opportunity to pass more people in the later stages.

I found myself running a little faster than the pace I wanted to be keeping. After about 3 miles, things thinned out. They thinned out further when the half marathon course split from the full marathon course. That’s when I really settled in.

I passed the 5:00, 4:45 and finally 4:30 pace teams before mile 12. I thought about keeping with the 4:30 team. They were a large team and had a lot of spirit. But, I felt good enough to put some distance between them and me. Miles 12-17 were great. I kept my pace and many others around me were at the same pace.

Not surprisingly, miles 20-25 were the toughest. At that point, the course went along the river and it was a lot of up and down hills through parks along side the river and over and under bridges. A lot of people choose to walk up the hills over these miles. But, I pushed ahead continuing to run even if my pace slowed a lot up those hills. I walked through the aid stations as I drank water and, in one case, a short distance afterward but I was afraid if I walked too long I would not be able to start back up. My legs were really feeling tired.

The enthusiasm of the crowd through the last 1/2 mile was incredible. Total strangers cheering me on. At the start of that last mile I was able to call my wife on my cell phone to let her know I was close. That provided more motivation knowing my family was waiting for me at the finish. Over the phone I could hear the cheering at the finish. Rounding the last corner with the finish in site I felt no fatigue, no pain. As I crossed the finish my name was announced for all to hear. And, then I spotted my family waiting for me.

Running green

So, by definition, running is green, right? Well, not when you always drive to the place where you run. Add to that the fact that the extra distance I drive effectively doubles my daily commute. Not green.

My problem has been that the usual routes from my house to the reservoir at which I do most of my running include some very heavily traveled streets. This coupled with that when I run I don’t like to stop (at intersections) and I dislike running on concrete (sidewalks) mean that running the route I drive was not an option. Therefore, I had been looking for a way to get from here to there without getting injured or even killed.

It took some time but I found a route from my house to the reservoir that doesn’t include those heavy traffic areas; just crossing two of the streets in question. For the most part, I can run without seeing many cars at all. My route involves residential neighborhoods and a road that is owned by the water company and mostly closed to vehicular traffic. The road alone was a great find. It covers two of the six miles of my route.

The route took me a couple of weeks to work out with some exploring while I was running, some by car and some with Google Maps. The tricky part was that in two areas I have to cross between streets using wooded areas with paths which weren’t obvious at first (or on maps). One is what appears to have been a through street connecting two neighborhoods which was closed to prevent through traffic. The result is that there are heavy trees on one side

Cut through from tree side

and a barrier on the other
Cut through from barrier side

Through this process I found that mapymyrun.com was valuable in researching routes and especially this one. On the site, routes are shared by runners and I knew that someone must be running this route that I was searching for. I found a route there that was close and it helped me navigate and locate the cut-throughs.

A little creativity can be a good thing. This exploring sure has helped pass the miles especially on the 10+ mile runs. mapmyrun.com is a good resource if you are into running. I have also used it when I was on vacation to plot out routes of specific distances in unfamiliar locations.

Today I did my last run before my first marathon on Saturday. I feel like I am as ready as I can be. Right now my goal is to stay healthy.