Random Thoughts with a new Mountain Bike

I'm trying really hard here, can you tell? Recently I purchased a used mountain bike ('04 Kona Cindercone), and I am incredibly excited to get riding. I am planning on making my XC racing return May 22nd in Nanaimo as part of the Island Cup Series. Having said all that, it's funny because I have no front wheel or seatpost yet, so even riding at this point hasn't happened (good thing I'm planning on racing already). Also, while running new cables, I have nothing to cut them with, and I managed to ruin one of the four. The rust is thick folks...
When it comes to putting the bike together, I am trying to do everything as cheaply as possible. This sport can get expensive FAST, so I'm really trying to ease back into it. I'm also having to read many product reviews, and see what is what in the world of mountain biking. 2002 was my last season of riding, I'm trying to figure out what has changed since then.
One thing that hasn't changed is the fact maintenance will increase the life of your bike and components. It sounds simple, yet goes to the wayside all to often. I'm really going to take an interest in all aspects of bike maintenance, there is pride to take in the fact you keep up your own ride.
I am told there is no lack of local trails to hit up (Mt. Work being the go to it seems), so training will have to begin very shortly. I look forward to attacking singletrack again. It's been too long since I've ripped through the dirt, trees whizzing by, blurring your peripherals, you swear you can hear the knobs of your tires grabbing at the ground, and earth is the smell that fills your nose. That is what I can't wait for.
If you have any riding/training/maintenance tips, drop me a line please!