Hammer Half Marathon – Race Recap


The Hammer Half Marathon in Ventura CA is a small race that raises funds for Habitat for Humanity. I had Sunday morning free and was happy to be able to participate. The course is a familiar out and back (or up and down) on the Ventura River Bike Trail.

For us Californians, it was a chilly and wet morning for a race (and I think it kept some people away). I ran my warmup, did some drills and strides and, wearing layers, was nice and warm…so I took off my jacket and long sleeve shirt and ran in a racing tank and shorts. It was funny to observe the looks of all those around me…they seemed to think I was crazy. It was about 46° at the start of the race. While waiting to start it was chilly and my hands were cold for the first mile but after that I was fine. HaHa…I was remembering how cold I was in Boston last April and today’s weather was nothing compared to that.

The First Half of the Race is a gradual climb up. I’ve never been a very good uphill runner so I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I wanted to run a pace that would be on par with a Boston Qualifying pace. As usual, I started way too fast, but was able to settle down pretty quickly. I felt good all the way up…except for almost slipping on some mud! As a few people passed me, I was tempted to speed up, especially as I was feeling pretty good. But I stuck with my goal of trying to run strong and steady.

Happily, when I hit the halfway point I looked at my average pace and it was 9:16. That was great! I need a 9:20 pace to run a marathon in just under 4:05 (my qualifying time and PR). That 6.5 miles was my best uphill effort ever! The Final Surge data says I did 9:19 instead of the 9:16 that I saw while running, but either way I met my goal for the climb.

The Second Half Downhill was a test of fitness. Immediately upon turning I picked up the pace and ran with a much harder effort than I did in the first half. I was trying to catch those runners who’d passed me on the way up…unfortunately I closed the gap but didn’t catch them. I usually dislike this portion of the course, because while it is downhill, it is very gradual and on tired legs it can actually feel like I’m going uphill. Last October I crashed and burned in this segment of the Ventura Marathon. So part of my run today was to prove to myself that I can indeed run well on this part of the course. I am very happy with my effort.

We’re standing in the rain for this celebratory photo

Overall…I placed 3rd in my age group (50-59). I would have gotten second if I could have chased down one of those people I was trying to catch! This was my 3rd fastest half marathon, but the other two were either flat (with a gradual descent towards the ocean – and I basically had the same time as this race…just 6 seconds slower) and the other race had an elevation drop of 3,000+ ft (a Revel downhill race). This was a far harder race as half of it was uphill so I am very happy. My daughter and son also placed in their age groups making it a very nice family outing.

Next up will be the LA Marathon…six weeks from today.

Author: nlswitz

I'm a pastor at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and Preschool in Oxnard, CA. Our church is small yet powerful, our preschool is amazing, and I am so happy to be a part of it all. I run and a coach other runners. Join me as I share thoughts on life in the church and along the roadways and running trails.

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