Advent of Code Day 6: How I got hooked on AoC

06 Dec, 2019
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This is the story of how I got to know Advent of Code, how I gradually got sucked into the spirit of it, and how I’m getting up waaayy too early and loving it! Competitive… Who? Me? 🙂

2019 is a special year because that is when my relationship with AoC started… 

Once upon a time (June 5, 2019), there was a lady (me) who got invited to a mysterious BBQ at her Unit Manager’s place (Serge). She was curious and also a little bit scared, thinking: “what? BBQ at a manager’s home?”. The moment she stepped into the house, there was a force, a.k.a. the smell of the BBQ, which pulled her into the back garden. She stood in a group of people whom she had never met before but she had to pretend to be cool. Gradually she started to be herself with some help from alcohol and she noticed one man sitting in the middle of the crowd. Another strange force, which was not the BBQ, dragged her close to that man and THE conversation started. He, Marcus Martina, who ended on 2nd place of “some kind of competition” in 2018, told her his experience during the competition with a shine in his eyes and a bit of self-pity for falling only 1 point behind the first place. But there were three words he kept repeating all the time during this conversation: “Advent of Code”. Finally, the lady felt she had to ask THE question: “what is Advent of Code actually?” That was when the seed was planted of the relationship between her and Advent Of Code.

So, November 28 (or 29) 2019, Marcus all of a sudden asked me: “Are you going to join Advent of Code this year?”. Since it had been a few months since our conversation I had to take a moment to process this question and remember what Advent of Code was again. Then the whole picture of BBQ at Serge’s home appeared in my mind. “Ah! Is that the competition you mentioned at the BBQ?”. “What? BBQ? AoC?”. I saw Marcus get really confused. “You mentioned it to me there. Do you still remember? You told me you were 2nd and you got up at 5.30 AM for the puzzles”. Then the confused look disappeared and he replied with excitement: “Yes. That’s the one!”. After looking at the puzzles for 2018 and the enthusiasm spread in the “#codechallenges” Slack channel, I decided to sign up and join the leaderboard!! But I told myself I WILL NOT GET UP BEFORE 6! Little did I know…

On the 1st of December the AoC started and day 1 was on Sunday. I got up on my normal weekend time and slowly opened my laptop with eyes still half open, half closed. I mean, who gets up early at a weekend for puzzles, at least not me for sure. Then my boyfriend asked me a good question: “which place do you want to be in the end?”. After analyzing the leaderboard from last year, I decided: “Around no. 5 would be nice but for sure not below 10”. I kept this attitude for, hmmm… 1 or 2 days. Then something happened!

On day 3, Tuesday, after I finished my routine: got up around 7:30 AM, solved the puzzle and looked at the leaderboard, I was no longer in 5th place any more! WHO WHO WHO took my place? Then this name, so sharp and obvious on the board, which caught all my attention: “Vincent Huiberts”. A colleague from my business unit, XSD! After some chats, I found out we are using same language, Kotlin, and spent similar time on the puzzle of day 3. Then the 2 point difference lighted the fire in my heart, not because of anger but because of my competitive nature. 

On day 4, Wednesday, I got up slightly earlier than normal, around 7:15 AM. Instead of starting puzzling, I opened the leaderboard. “Oh my god, so many gold stars already and one of them is from Vincent”, I screamed in my mind. Damn! I’m falling more behind. I had to share my disappointment with somebody. Who? Let me share it with my biggest competitor Vincent, and we had an early morning chat again. But I got a really important clue during the chat: he always starts at 6:37 AM because that is when his train departs. OK, I need to change my strategy: I need to wake up early!!! But how early? At the end of the day when I went to bed, I kept changing my alarm time up and down, caught between the desire to win, and the desire to sleep: I ended up setting it to “5:55 AM”. My boyfriend: “Really? Are you serious? I thought you said you will not get up before 6 o’clock.”. I stayed silent…

On day 5, Thursday, the puzzle of that day had a super long text. Maybe it was not too long for everybody, but for me it was long! After reading back and forwards a couple of times, I somehow still could not get what the problem was. And 6:37 AM was approaching!!! After some struggle to understand the text, creating a solution and debugging my code, finally a gold star!!! But where is Vincent? (keep refreshing the leaderboard..) Ah, Vincent! And the score difference got 7 points less!! But still 6 points to go!! Meanwhile, Marcus is still on the glorious no.1 place. 

Then today, Day 6! I got up at 5.55 AM again while my boyfriend complained about my alarm volume. I opened my laptop again waiting for the puzzle to be released.

Finally 3..2..1… Here we go! A short text! My chance came! After around 37 minutes, a gold star and Vincent was just on the train! Woohoo!

And my boyfriend got out of bed, laughed at me, shook his head and quietly said “Geek”. It was just 6.37 AM so I decided to fall asleep again. I knew it was difficult to sleep again after such mental work but I managed, like I always do. When I opened my eyes again, I saw a message from Marcus “you moved (back) from 6th to 5th place”. What? I opened the leaderboard page again and I indeed saw myself on 5th!!!!! But Vincent was only 1 point behind me. So what should I do? Get up early again tomorrow: but tomorrow it’s weekend!? I thought I will never be crazy to get up early in the morning before 6 AM to solve the puzzle and I also thought I will never get up early in the weekend for the puzzle either. However my 5th place is still in danger. Never mind…. I WILL GET UP AT 5.55 AM THIS WEEKEND FOR AoC! 

That is my story about AoC so far. I am addicted and it makes me suffer from getting up early. But I love it! It is funny to look back how I changed my attitude from “It would be nice to be around 5” to “I just want to get my no.5 back” and from “I will never get up before 6” to “I will get up at 5.55 AM at a weekend”. Probably one day no.5 will be no.?. Probably one day I will also get up at 5.30 am to drink a cup of coffee and wake up myself completely. You will never know. That is all AoC’s magic.

P.S.: This is my first blog ever and it is for AoC!


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