MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- His heart is racing and his entire nervous system is pulsing with adrenalin. He revs the engine of his dirt bike easing the tension before the race begins. This rider isn't a full-time member of motocross circuit, but a McConnell AFB officer who uses the sport as the ultimate stress reliever.
2nd Lt. Michael Reardon's involvement with motocross provides him with more than a source of weekend thrills; it's an effective stress reliever.As the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron's deputy chief of program development, he sees the sport as the perfect adrenalin rush.
"As soon as that gate drops, your body is so full of energy," said Reardon. "You can just ride on forever.
"If I'm stressed out from work or have too much on my plate," said Reardon "I can always just load up my bike and relieve some of that stress on the track. I get in my own little world and don't have to worry about anything else that's going on."
People often ask Reardon why he participates in such a high risk activity. He usually replies "it's only dangerous if you let it be dangerous. The sport is much safer if you don't exceed your own limits."
'Staying within your limits' is a concept that Reardon's stepfather, John Blakely, emphasized when teaching his children to ride. It may have influenced Reardon in acquiring his conservative riding style.
"I have always been very careful as to how I approached the sport with regard to my children," said Blakely. "This sport isn't basketball; you can really get hurt or die, so it's imperative to ride smart and safe. I taught him about how to approach difficult track obstacles objectively."
According to Blakely, Reardon has experienced quite a few crash and burns throughout his 14 years of dirt biking, yet he never experienced a serious injury.
Growing up with a background in motocross has provided Reardon with a series of life lessons that continue on today.
"This hobby requires intense focus and mastery," Reardon said. "Each type of jump and turn, you begin to master them at different speeds. If you're going too fast your riding is going to get all 'out of wack' and the same goes for your work."
To improve his technique and receive feedback, Reardon sends his stepfather videos taken from a camera attached to his helmet.
"Michael would not only listen to my advice, he would actually remember to use it on the track," said Blakely. "That quality and some good luck have gone a long way in keeping him safe."
Another element that has attracted Reardon to the world of motocross is its sense of community. Racers often have hours to wait between racing events - plenty of time to meet fellow competitors and spectators.
"It's nice to know that in this community, people are pretty accepting of you, regardless of your origins," said Reardon. "I find myself meeting all kinds of people from different backgrounds"
Motocross is only one of the outlets Reardon sought out for recreation. He also snowboards, shoots pistols competitively, and has a history with soccer, football and track and field. He pushes other Airmen to find their own forte.
"I like to encourage my Airmen to come out and find something that they like to do, and it doesn't necessarily mean that they should hop on a bike," said Reardon. "I just think it's healthy for them to take their minds off work and get involved with something outside of the base."
Whether it is motocross or collecting stamps, a hobby requires some form of investment. According to Reardon's philosophy, a little devotion can go a long ways.
"There's commitment everywhere, whether it's with your work, hobbies, family and relationships," said Reardon "so don't be afraid to be committed to something. You'll have highs and lows, but ultimately if you stick with your commitment it's going to be beneficial and rewarding to you in the end."