Alright, with that in mind, we’ve covered the foundation needed. Now we’ll go through how the race actually unfolds.
The number one first thing is to prep your bike before you go. It’s miserable trying to get organized in the rain/dust/whatever at the race, DAMHIK. This includes Goggle prep, Camelback prep, etc. Do it ahead of time.
The first thing that happens on raceday is a rider’s meeting. You should attend this, because they often will change things at the last minute and explain about it here… and there are also often clues about what the day will be like (watch for the mudhole in the second special test, etc).
The next thing you have to do is get your gas on the gas trucks, if applicable. Many races will send gas out to a remote location so that you can refuel on the loop, and the truck carrying the gas typically leaves before you do. I like to put a second set of goggles in a ziplock and duct tape a Gatorade and a Clif bar to my gas can. You should also do something that makes your gas can easy to recognize- there are only 200 other 2.5 gallon red cans like Walmart sells. Colored duct tape, survey tape flagging, whatever will make your can stand out at a distance. Don't send a gas can out on the truck that you couldn't bear to leave without... the truck sometimes doesn't return until long after you're done, and if you have a 700 mile drive ahead of you, you probably value the time more than the $3 gas can.
You should also write your row number and starting position (ie: 48C) on the duct tape you used on your gas can. Often the race guys will set the cans out along the gas area next to signs with a number… the number equates to the minute (8) not the tens of minutes (4), so that everyone isn’t clumped together when gassing. Sometimes the gas stop is near camp, in which case you get to do this yourself...
You can always tell the FNG’s by them going to the riders meeting in full gear, and warming their bikes up just before key time when they are on row 84 (124 minutes before they start, in other words). Pit riding in any amount is obnoxious and junior varsity, so just chill out, put your clothes on 30-40 minutes before your start, get the bike running 10-15 ahead of time, not more unless you're worried about it starting.
So, now you’re over at the starting line, with 3-5 minutes before your row is called. Seek out the other guys on your row, find out what class they ride, and make friends. Not only are they most likely very nice people, they will be in a position to help you with timekeeping or getting your bike out of a tree or whatever. Generally, you can sort of decide who should get the holeshot based on class and division- it’s rare to have 2 people in the same class on the same row, so often you’ve got an A guy, a B guy or two, and a C guy or two. There’s no reason to kill each other at the start- let the A guy go, and if he’s holding you up, you’ll be able to pass him later. Also, you'll likely restart with these guys a few times over the day, so you can guage subsequent starts on how the trail speeds compared in the first test. This is not motocross- you aren't racing these guys, and everyone will try to help you if they can. Do the same in return.
2 minutes before your row starts, look at the watch you set to key time, paying special attention to seconds. If it’s off, you want to know. You’ll be using this over the course of the day. Typically, I’ll get my watch set to keytime perfectly the night before, and the next morning, it’ll be a second or two off in the morning. No biggy, you just know to watch it as you enter checks that you got to on time. More on this later.
If you have a computer, you will key it to start as the row in front of you goes off. Then you’ve got perfect time… very nice.
So now we’re ready to start racing and timekeeping… later tonight.