Racing provide so many opportunities - it's a chance to express athletic talent, hang out with friends, and exponentially push the learning curve like no training session can. Race days help us clearly identify areas of strength, and areas where we can continue to improve. These consistent reality checks inspire and motivate more sincere and effective training.
I had a good reminder and learning moment in this past weekend's Sagebrush Scramble MTB race. It was so clear that when I fell victim to trying to go fast or catch someone up the trail, I flailed and felt frantic. The end result was not very effective. But then I quickly gathered myself, mentally regrouped, and focused on one or two concepts that I practice and focus on in training, whether a component of pedaling technique while climbing or a descending or cornering skill. Before I knew it, I was gaining on that rabbit up the trail without even thinking about it.
Mentally put the blinders on, stick to your game, race your race, lean on all those things you trained and practiced in training sessions, then let it rip, have fun and leave it all on the course.