This was my fourth running in five years of the Cambridge Winter Classic 5K. The race always takes place on the first or second Sunday in December.
Early in December you can get a relatively mild day or the deep freeze. This year it was relatively mild at 39° and a light breeze. If this was October we would have been freezing, but with Christmas only three weeks away, 39° felt pretty good. We even had some sun.
Running Cambridge Winter Classic 2017
Derm Cahill parked at my house, and the plan was to drive in and park at my office. When we got to the end of Third Street, an officer told me I couldn’t go 100 feet down the road to my office. We did one loop around the block into a one-way street and then back to the officer.
I told him there was no way around and he told me the road was closed for construction. As he watched, I pulled a U-turn in the intersection of 3rd and Broadway and headed west. Normally I would have drawn fire for that move!
I know the area well and was able to find a spot quickly. It didn’t take us long to get ready as we are used to this weather now.
The people in front of us started to move their car and told us there were some definitely legal spots down the road. Since Cambridge would ticket The Pope on Easter, I decided to move.
We found the table that the race director set aside for us non-affiliated runners, dropped our bags and headed for the facilities. Skipping the detail, all I will say is that women leave the most disgusting messes in porta-potties. Let’s just say it was beyond a few drops of pee on the seat.
We headed back to the table and went for a short warm up jog. It was too cold to stand around for long. Ipswich Ale was poring, so we we grabbed some chachkas and checked out what they had for us. They had their 101 IPA, a lager and a Pilsner.
I’m glad to see brewers making Pilsners again. They are lighter and have lower alcohol which make them great for hanging out after a race. They are also more challenging to brew as a bad flavor cannot hide behind the hops.
Around 9:20 we headed for the start on Sydney Street. The crowd seemed light on the mall and it seemed light at the start.
We entered near the start and only walked back about 20 people. Derm asked if we were back far enough. He didn’t really want to push it. I assured him that when they called the runners to the line, the crowd would move up and we could stay put.
I started my watch and we did some light stretching. Paul Clark called the runners to get ready, and no one moved up! My watch only had three bars, so I knew it would not be accurate.
Paul yelled out “go, go go!” and we were off in a flash.
We ran pretty quickly down Sydney to Pacific Street. People were passing us, but the plan was to not push until Mass Ave. Just after the turn onto Pacific Street my watch locked onto the satellites.
Derm was following my lead, so I moved to the right as we approached the left onto Albany Street. We weren’t running hard, so I didn’t want to get slowed down as everyone crowded the corner. There’s more than one way to make a turn.
As we ran down Albany Street I took in the now familiar converted factory buildings. I’m sure MIT owns most of these now, but I bet there is still a lot of cool stuff being invented and manufactured behind those walls.
A runner I know from Everett ran by me and said “Hey you’re training for a marathon!” We don’t even know each other’s names but we go to the same races all the time.
We were about a quarter mile into the race and I could feel the run. My watch said our pace was 13 and change, my legs told me we were under nine minute miles. We took the left onto Mass Ave tight to the curb but had plenty of room.
Hauling Mass Ave
We got over to the right of the yellow line and laid it down. Derm and I took turns on point and just hauled ass down Mass Ave. The crowd was sorting out now and there was room to move.
Some people passed us but we consistently weaved through the crowd and made our way to the turn onto Putnam Street. Way past the one mile marker on Mass Ave my watch chimed Mile One at 8:57.
We had settled into an aggressive pace and were making up for lost time. As we approached the turn onto Putnam Street I called out to Derm to get ready and stay wide to avoid the crowd.Then I told him to stay to the left to avoid the water stop crowd.
Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see a water stop. At 39° it wasn’t really necessary anyway. Putnam is a neighborhood street with parking on both sides and things got crowded again.
We continued to make good progress. At the official Mile Two marker my watch said 1.8 miles. I had little hope of getting an accurate result from my watch.
When my watch did chime Two Mile, we had a 7:20 pace! We had really hauled Mass Ave!
With my watch being so far off, it was difficult to tell exactly where we were. Somewhere beyond two miles, but not close enough to Three to kick.
Derm and I were talking about this and another runner asked about the distance. I told him I would guess we were around 2.5 miles. Still too far for two old guys to kick yet. Some runners were passing us, but we knew what we had to do.
The last mile had been 7:20 and we started to pick up the pace part way down Putnam Street. As the last turn came into sight we decided to kick.
It wasn’t a huge surge, but we definitely kicked in the after burners.
Coming around the last turn we were right of center but away from the curb. The kids were zipping past us but we were not dragging ass by any means.
As we approached the finish I could see it was less than 24 minutes on the clock. I thought we would be lucky to get under 25.
There wasn’t any of that lightening fast last minute kick for the last 100 feet, but we did the last mile at a 7:18 pace and finished at 23:06.
My official pace was 7:26 which is my second fastest 5K of the year. The other race was on a known short course, so this race was my 2017 5K PR.
Cambridge Winter Classic 5K Party
We quickly moved through the finish area. A nice girl gave us each a bottle of water with a pleasant smile. I thanked her and kept on walking. I needed to keep moving.
Derm wanted to walk around the block, but I convinced him to take the first right towards the beer garden. Usually there are a few food vendors with samples and I wanted to eat something. Turns out, there wasn’t any food.
We had a case of Nature’s Path Organic Superfood bars on our table. They had a crew at the next table also. So we added some bars to the beers we slipped into our bags and started making friends.
People would stop at the table and meekly take one bar. I’d call out to them to help themselves and take a few more, some did. Somehow I find this fun to do. I did it at The Cambridge Fall Classic when there wasn’t anyone from Nature’s Path Organic. I got to talk to almost everyone at the race.
A few more people showed up that Paul had invited to the table of mis-fit runners and we traded stories with them. Eventually Emily McDivitt and Liz Emerald showed up. Just like my friend from Everett, I see these ladies at all the races.
They didn’t stay for long, but we got to get a group photo.
We were beginning to get cold and I had to drive us home, so we headed out soon afterwards. It was an easy drive home without any closed roads.
Thank you to Paul Clark for setting us up with a table and putting on another fine race. Thank you to the citizens of Cambridge for putting up with us crazy runners yet again. We still block less traffic than MIT!
Run well my Friends!