There is a lot of mass to heat If the inside of the pit is 40 deg. Plus a pan full of water to start. When it is that cold I recommend a weed burner to heat the walls and grates .
Also try starting without water, I think you will get a better smoke ring dry.
I mess with my fire a lot. I burn in a u shape so if I need to slow the heat down I pull the charcoal basket and pull the coals back from igniting to much.
You can also add water to cool it down.
You will figure it out in a few cooks