Thanks to everybody who chimed in with good advise.
I'm going 29 HT
I started out on a HT, and understand the difference in demand on the rider. You have to work a lot harder on the rough stuff, but in trade you get more "feel" and a huge advantage in the climbs. I'm 26 years old, in good physical shape, only weigh 145lbs, and so I can climb like a bat out of *beep* when I need to. This summer I'm working on technique and endurance. I will be timing my rides to measure my progress, and my goal is 1000 TRAIL miles. That won't include riding to and from work and such. I've ridden both bikes numerous times and have decided that the FEEL of the 29er is just right for me.... now just gotta decide the trim level!!! haha
As I said in my initial post, I'm not planning to race, but I am hugely competitive, so I do have an interest. Not to call anybody out, but somebody made a comment that buying a race ready bike would be like driving a STOCK CAR (not a nascar) to the grocery store. I am a gear head, car enthusiast, bike enthusiast, *beep* I like anything with wheels, I would drive an 850hp race car up and down the street all day if somebody would let me. The point is, when we spend our hard earned money on thing we simply "WANT" and don't need, it's o.k. to go overboard because it excites us and keep us interested. In some cases (those of you who race) you may NEED to buy these things to get that competitive advantage, but for the rest of us its just a very expensive hobby that keeps us in great shape and gets us out of the house to have so freaking fun.
Do I need a 2x10 drivetrain... no
Do I need a full carbon frame... no
Do I need a new bike at all... no
But I'm gonna get one because I want to and I have the means to.
I don't like hearing people "get snotty" about these sorts of things because in the end, this is something that we all enjoy. A job for some, a passion for all of us.
So lets all enjoy this awesome sport, and I'll see you on the trails!! and then we can grab a beer and argue about who's bike is better!!! HAHA!!