Love and Racing

Having experienced a major heart attack a couple of years ago, I sometimes find myself wondering, “Uh, oh, what was that sensation?” That sometimes gives me enough concern to go see my physician or do some research in an effort to better understand what’s going on inside — a bit like a good engine builder might do. Here are a few things I have learned in the course of my research.

A heart palpitation is the sensation that your heart has skipped a beat or added an extra beat. It may feel like your heart is racing, pounding, or fluttering. While you’re experiencing palpitations, your heart rhythm may or may not be abnormal.

During my research, I thought it also was interesting to learn falling in love causes our body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals that trigger specific physical reactions. This internal elixir of love is responsible for making our cheeks flush, our palms sweat and our hearts race.

Levels of these substances, which include dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine, increase when two people fall in love. Dopamine creates feelings of euphoria while adrenaline and norepinephrine are responsible for the pitter-patter of the heart, restlessness and the overall preoccupation that go along with experiencing love. When this happens, blood flow increases in the same part of the brain associated with obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Love lowers serotonin levels, which is common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders. This may explain why we concentrate on little other than our partner during the early stages of a relationship. Hey, hold on a second. Let’s read that last sentence again, keys words being, “We concentrate on little other than. …”

In fact, as I look back over all of the above research, I began to notice some similarities in all of these previously mentioned sensations. Heart racing, pounding, fluttering, heart rhythm abnormal, palms sweating, blood flow increases, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, pitter-patter, restlessness and yes, even love. Hell, this isn’t a heart problem, this is endurance racing!

There’s a lot of excitement going on in our heads as soon as we come to the realization that we are actually sealing the envelope with our official entry form for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and dropping it in the mail. But little do we know how miniscule this sensation will be compared to what’s in store.

There’s the excitement of arriving at the track, the pomp and circumstance as bagpipes play and fighters fly overhead prior to the start of the race, and the realization that things are about to get real. When the announcement is made, “Start your engines,” there comes a sense of urgency. For a brief moment you feel helpless, as if you are no longer in control, knowing it’s all resting on the shoulders of your first stint driver. “God, don’t screw this up,” you think, praying and hoping he’s a hell of a lot more confident than you are right now. And it’s not because you doubt your driver’s ability, but worrying about other drivers staying smart.

During the next 25 hours your heart will race, palpitate, and yes, even stop many times. It gets even more intense during those last two hours, let alone those last few laps. Your mind will reflect on those standout memories of past 25 Hours of Thunderhill events, and recall those racecars that broke down, sometimes within sight of the checkered flag.

As it turns out, my research proves your heart is just fine, and no, you’re not in love. You’re just addicted to endurance racing. Time to start preparing for this year’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill!

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