Latest reviews by Andrea Heser

(2019)
"Top 4 Reasons to Run 4 Miles on the 4th of July with Arizona Road Racers"
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I've ran this race 5 years in a row and I finally set a PR for myself on this course! The Arizona Road Racers 4 miles on July 4th is an Arizona tradition. It's a race that I always look forward to because I get to meet up with friends and enjoy delicious food after. Here are my top 4 reasons to run 4 miles on the 4th of July with AZ Road Racers.

🇺🇸Perfect for People Watching: Everyone is dressed up in red, white and blue. There was even a guy in a full body flag suit, someone raced while holding a full-size flag, and even faces were painted. If you want to smile by seeing fellow racers dressed up, then you'll love this race. This year, I switched it up and dressed up in all BibRave orange. I was channeling my inner firework.

🇺🇸TONS of Free Food: The finish line is like a smorgasbord. Burgers, watermelon, chips, soda and lots of water. The lines get long but they go fast. I think I ate my weight in watermelon this year!

🇺🇸Value for Your Money: I paid $22 to run this race. Ok, so I didn't get a medal or a tech shirt but I PAID $22 and got free lunch and ran a well organized race. Sometimes races aren't about the bling and swag but more about the camaraderie and running with a pumped community.

🇺🇸Excellent Venue: The race location is at a huge public park in Peoria (west of Phoenix.) The parking is free and there is tons of it. Lot's of bathrooms, places to sit, playground equipment for kids too. The course itself is great. It's mostly flat and runs on a New River sidewalk trail. You do have to share the road with fellow non-race runners and cyclists, but overall it's ok and the non-racers didn't bother me.

Of course I'll be running this race again in 2020. Will you join me?

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(2019)
"The Hills Have Thighs 🔥"
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Race Timers did it again with another successful Cactus Flower Series Trail race. Just because these trail races are not ultra distances, don't dismiss them. They are tough, challenging and super fun.

Location: This race is the Desert Marigold 6k which is takes place on the West edge of the Estrella Mountain Regional Park. The almost 4 mile race took me on three trails: Coldwater, Butterfield and Dysart. I remembered to bring $7 to get me into this regional park. That is a standard park fee for parks in Arizona.

Course: The first part of the trail was wide open and was a gradual uphill. Once I hit Dysart, my legs were getting a major workout as the trail got narrower and more technical. I gained some elevation here and needed to walk in some spots. The last two miles were mostly downhill with some little hills. Going to the finish in last .3 of a mile was nice a wide but a slight uphill! I dug deep and finished strong.

Medal: I gained my 5th charm for my dream catcher medal. The next race on December 7th will complete my medal!

Parking: This race is great for parking. There are tons of spots. Nothing in marked so just use your best judgement when parking next to other cars.

Bathrooms: There are only 2 port-o-potties. I suggest to plan ahead and stop at a gas station before because the lines are long.

Finish line: There are TONS of snacks at the finish line. Cookies, fruit, crackers and granola bars.

This race is great because they go green. There are no paper cups on the course. Their aid stations have water but you either have to have your own collapsible cup or other handheld/hydro pack to fill up.

Intimate: Wha? How could a race be intimate? Well, these Cactus Flower Trail Series are. If you like to not fight with 10k people, then try this race. Usually only 100+ people run each race. It's nice if you are the type that likes smaller and more low key races.

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(2019)
"Twists, Turns, Technical & Terrific Spring Trail Race"
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This is race #3 in the Cactus Flower Trail Series and concludes the Spring season. Races #4-6 will start back again in the Fall.

If you are looking for one heck of a technical trail course that keeps you on your toes, then sign up for the Estrella 5k. There were tons of twists and turns and at least 3 other runners around me at all times and I'm a middle-of-the-pack runner! It's not that the course is jammed pack full of people, it's just that this is an exciting little race that actually feels like a race.

Here are my first impressions:
- The course overall was on the flat-ish side for a trail race. There was approximately 250 feet of elevation gain. I felt the glute burn at mile 2 during an uphill part that lasted about a quarter mile.

- The race was overall on the small side and I LOVE that. 91 people ran in the race but it felt like more because I had at least 3 people around me the entire time.

- This race was the cleanest race I’ve ever been to. It was paper cup-less! I wore my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro so it was ok that there weren’t cups. But I loved how the trail and aid station wasn’t littered with used cups.

- The start time is at 6:30 am which is perfect for a May race in Arizona. It wasn't hot out.

If you are looking for a beautiful race, that isn’t crowded but still filled with tremendous support from the race directors, then sign up for the Cactus Flower Trail Series. I’m not affiliated with them or an ambassador, I just love their races!

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(2019)
"Work The Hills then You Get a Downhill Surprise"
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The Desert Marigold is race number two in the 6-race Cactus Flower Trail Series put on by RaceTimers. I've been loving this race series so far!

Here are my 6 top reasons why I loved racing this the Desert Marigold 6k.

1. This trail race series is adamant about being green. You must bring your own collapsable water cup (or hydration vest or handheld). They provide water on the course and at the start/finish line it’s just there aren’t any paper cups. Same with safety pins. You either have to bring your own, or you can purchase a strappy bib holder from them. I like to use BibBoards. All of this being green means less trash on the course which means the Arizona desert stays more beautiful.

2. I’ve raced in Estrella Mountain park, but never on the West side. It was spectacular! The desert was beautiful and it felt like we were all in this little oasis.

3. That middle uphill that makes you dig deep. Hills are a love/hate relationship for many of us. Since this is a trail race, there must be hills. Well there is one nice big hill in the middle with parts that are 10% to over 20% of elevation grade! It was hard at times, but I dug deep and made it happen!

4. Downhill finish to boost your confidence. I was hoping that after the hill climb, there would be a downhill. I wasn’t disappointed! The last 1.5 miles of the race was downhill with just a baby hill at the end. I ran fast and strong with running 2 minutes faster the last .75 of the race vs. the first .75 of the race!

5. All that swag! Lately, I’ve been not really into swag, sometimes even medals bore me. But the Cactus Flower Series mixes up how they give out medals each year as well as swag. This year the medals form a dream catcher! I’m on medal 2, so I’ll have to wait till the end of the year to compete it. Also, they handed out an apron, technical hat and tech shirt at this race. The apron and hat were totally unexpected but I will totally use them. My husband even wanted both.

6. Finish line food. The finish line is packed with delicious food and snacks such as bagged cookies, chips, crackers, protein bars, oranges and bananas. It was like a mini feast.

Don’t fret if you feel like you have to wait a year to run this course. The Cactus Flower Series starts up again in the fall. So you can run this 6k again on November 16th! I’m curious to see if I could pick up my pace and run faster in the fall.

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(2019)
"Arizona’s Best Secret Trail Race Series"
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The Cactus Flower Trail Series is not exactly a secret, but it sure feels like a secret race. The series has been going on since the fall of 2013 and timed by Race Timers. The beauty behind the Cactus Flower Trail Series is that the races are kept very small and capped at 145 runners. This makes the race intimate and special. Here are my two favorite things about the Saguaro 7k and one super small missed opportunity:

1. Intimate race: Big races are fun, they are also overwhelming. The Cactus Flower Trail Series races are capped at 145 participants. This keeps everything simple, less crowded parking lot, less crowded on the trail and the event clean.

2. Speaking of clean, this race was the cleanest race I’ve ever been to. It was paper cup-less! I wore my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro so it was ok that there weren’t cups. But I loved how the trail and aid station wasn’t littered with used cups. No porta-potties either which meant there wasn’t the extra cost for them, so the overall race cost was kept low. You did have to bring your own pins for your bib too. I forgot mine! Luckily a friend brought extra. I like how the race directors strive to keep the deserts clean by eliminating the extra stuff and asking runners to pitch in.

3. It would be nice to have an earlier start time. 7 am is already too hot now that Arizona is warming up. I totally understand that starting earlier is tough because of sunrise time. But maybe we can start at 6:30 am.

If you are looking for a beautiful race, that isn’t crowded but still filled with tremendous support from the race directors, then sign up for the Cactus Flower Trail Series. I’m not affiliated with them or an ambassador, I just love their races! There are still 5 more this year to run.

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