Thanks for posting that, Ned. Racing has been a really great experience for me. I've only been riding for a few years, starting with dual sport.
But two years later and looking for something a little more out of it, I rode my first race, and it left such a huge impression. It's very hard to put it into words really. As I pushed my bike to the start row of my first race at 40 years old and found a place, I never felt more alive, more nervous. It was a chilly crystal clear day in March and everything felt so surreal, the colors and sounds were so much more clear and vivid at that moment than I can ever remember. It was almost like I wasn't even there, but instead a passenger seeing the world through someone else's eyes. Being right in the middle of a sea of 200 dirt bikes in the clearing at the forests edge warming up their engines, rev limiters, the smell of two stroke exhaust mixing with the cool mountain air, clear blue sky above, green grass below, it was totally awesome and beautiful. Sensory overload. And then when the call came for everyone to kill their engines and the race was about to start, the sudden silence was just as imposing as all the revving bikes moments before. When the flagger starting calling off the rows my heart rate jumped to another level and as I waited back on row 8, one row every minute, my row getting closer and closer to launch, it felt like I was on a freight train with no way off now. And when the flag dropped for my row, I still had no idea what I was in for in that race.
I finished that race and it was one of the most grueling and exhilarating few hours of my life. Racing is *hard*! I thought maybe that race was just an anomaly, they can't all be that hard, but I never got to try it again until the next year when I did my 2nd race. After the 2nd race, I knew it was no anomaly after a similar experience. If anything, the 2nd race was harder than the first. Racing really is *hard*, that is confirmed.
How could anyone be in good enough shape to finish one of these events with anything left in the tank. I did one more race that 2nd year and was finally feeling like I was maybe getting the hang of things, at least to the point of being able to manage the adrenaline on the start line.
Then last year I jumped in head first and did the full 16 round series, plus 2 races out of series, check my signature for the blow-by-blow. But I have to say that it was that very first race that got me hooked.
Racing is brutally honest. It's a reality check. It's a great way to challenge yourself. It's a great way to meet like minded people. Over the past year of racing, I've met a lot of great people I wouldn't have otherwise. I've even had close competitors in points help me swap parts on my bike moments before the start just so I could make the start of a race after a starting line mis-hap damaged my bike. That first race I did several years ago, everyone were strangers, but even that day I made some new friends. But now I go to the races and I feel like I'm going to an extended family reunion where we all catch up, BS a little, then embark on a spirited woods ride through the mountains of NC with 200 of my closest friends.
I still like other forms of riding, and dual sporting is still a lot of fun for me, maybe even more than it was before. But racing has added a whole new dimension to riding for me. I'm so glad I did that first race a few years ago, and I'm even more glad I was able to do a full season of it last year.
Thanks for starting this thread, Ned.