McDowell Meltdown 2018

Our set-up for the race near the Competitive Loop (4 Peaks).

Our set-up for the race near the Competitive Loop (4 Peaks).

Jason leading the pack of Intermediate Single Speeders.

Jason leading the pack of Intermediate Single Speeders.

Antonio after his first lap.

Antonio after his first lap.

Diedra at the start (women intermediate 40-49)

Diedra at the start (women intermediate 40-49)

Mara on her first lap.

Mara on her first lap.

Ben closing the gap!

Ben closing the gap!

Mara at the finish!

Mara at the finish!

Mara came in third (over 14 girls) in her category (13-14 yo girls)!!

Mara came in third (over 14 girls) in her category (13-14 yo girls)!!

Last year, the McDowell Meltdown was JF and Mara's first ever bike race. You might remember that they had registered just for fun. This year, they came in a little more prepared (but not super well-trained since they both got a nasty bug over the holidays). They still did great and had a good time. 

Some of you have asked why Aisha and Mathilde did not do the race. The answer is that they simply didn't feel like it. They might or might not ride the other races in a few weeks. Our girls are free to choose, of course! As for me, I'm not interested in racing (nor am I in racing shape!).

We had never stayed at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park campground (we rarely pay for campsites), but this was well-worth it since they could pre-ride the course during the week and because there are also tons of trails that you can ride right from your campsite. We explored some trails, but there are still lots we haven't had a chance to ride. There are all types of trails, from wide sandy washes to steep rocky trails.

The sites are huge and well-spaced, they all have power and water ($30), but make sure you reserve in advance online because they fill-up pretty quickly at this time of year. If the campground is full, there is an overflow where you can stay for $20/night with no services, but access to showers and dump station.

Estrella Hedgehog - Her first podium

Antonio and Jason's start (Men Single Speed Experts).

JF's start (Rock crushers), in blue in the middle.

The Estrella course is the gnarliest of the MBAA race series. It's chunky, loose and steep.

Jason crushing it.

Antonio not far behind.

JF at the end of his first loop... just before he got a flat tire.

Riding among cacti.

That Finish face says it all. Pffeeww!

And she's started smiling and fast. She even took the lead on the third lap, and never looked back.

Only one of her 5 laps left! Papa is offering her some water, but she is still going strong... and still smiling.

Proud sisters cheering!

Ben at the end of his course. Both Liske brothers crashed, but Ben was able to continue. Charlie had a harder one (and further out on the course), so he did not finish.

Waiting for the medal ceremony.

Cat on a leash with gold medal.

The face of pride! Her first time on a podium and she got the gold! The lesson in racing is the same as in life... sometimes you win...

... and sometimes you lose.

The Estrella Hedgehog is known to be the toughest course of the MBAA race series. It was quite different from McDowell's mostly groomed and bermed course. This one was loose rocks with lots of climbing. Mara knew that this was at her advantage since she is technically strong and climbs like a mountain goat. When she realized she was second after the second lap (she still had 3 laps to go), she got even more pumped and kept riding with her big signature smile and legendary stamina. She pushed and passed a bunch of kids (mostly on the uphills!). Passing is something you don't really learn other than in a race situation and can be stressful and intimidating... There were faster boys and younger kids on the course at the same time as her, so the challenge was real. For instance, when she called "On your left" (which in race lingo means I'm passing you on your left) to a younger kid in front of her, the child moved left instead of right, thinking it meant the opposite... 

JF got a flat tire just at the beginning of his second loop, so he ran back to the Westy with his bike, quickly changed his tube and got back on the trail. Diedra wasn't as lucky... she sliced her tire open further out on the course and had to scratch. 

I didn't grow up doing competitive sports and this is a new experience for me to be part of this world through Mara and JF... I still struggle when I see kids in tears on the course, but I'm also seeing how competition can exist in a very positive environment and how, when a child is old enough for that, it can be invaluable in teaching him many life skills, like perseverance, planning, stress management, focus... and how to lose with grace. Diedra and JF were great examples for our kids today, they took the challenges that were presented to them in stride and both had great attitudes about it. As was the guy who walked through the Finish line with his chain in his hand! 


McDowell Meltdown - Their first Mountain Bike race

Bike prep.

JF's start (in blue in the middle at the back) in the Rock Crushers category.

Antonio was racing in the Single Speed Expert category. Smile through pain!

Jason was also racing in the Single Speed Expert category. One more sports' loop to go!

JF with his it's-finally-over-face!

There was a little jump park and pump track where the kids played all weekend.

Antonio at the finish line. 

Diedra had a great race too!

Yeah, Diedra!

Getting ready for her race.

Game face on.

And it's a start!

The Liske boys' start.

Brothers side by side.

Someone was happy to finish right behind his big brother (and to get a third position!).

This girl was all smiles for the 3 loops of her course!

Keep smiling!

Race to the finish line with a boy in the same age category!

JF and Mara decided to register for the McDowell Meltdown a week before the race, just for the fun of it. They hadn't trained for a race, but had heard it was a fun course and wanted to give it a try. JF has done many trail running races, orienteering and adventure races, but never did an XC mountain bike race. 

When we saw all the teams set-up with matching race gear and the general seriousness of the event, we realized it was more than *just a friendly race*. There were over 850 participants and it ended up being the busiest event the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA) had seen in a long time. 

Mara finished 5th in the 13-14 yo girls (over 14 girls), which was very good for a girl that was doing it just for fun! She actually was faster than almost half the boys in the same age category!

JF finished 10th in his category, which was also pretty remarkable given he didn't train for a race.

The MBAA organizes a series of 6 races every year and we might attend another one in a few weeks.

It was great to reconnect with friends we hadn't seen since last summer, share a few meals (and the race jitters!) and ride with them. The mountain bike trails at McDowell Mountain Regional Park are simply amazing and there are over 200 miles of trails that are accessible from there. Too bad the camping is so expensive ($30/night). There is no boondocking in the whole Phoenix area (except for Casino Parking Lots) that we know of (drop me a line in the comments if you do!), so it's a major bummer because we would have loved to spend more time there.