Thursday, 28 May 2015

Running up Bison Hill

Locally Bison Hill is well known and revered by hundreds of cyclists and that includes myself.  As a runner I have found myself amongst only a handful of runners to take it on.  The climb starts at the T-junction with Dagnall Road, just a few miles west of Dunstable, Bedfordshire.

Three sections
The climb is 0.8 mile long in which there is a gain of 279 feet.  The climb can be divided into three sections.  The first is more of a gentle incline and is a straight line from the junction to the first bend to the right.  At that point the gradient increases and the road snakes through a leafy stretch with the perimeter of Whipsnade Zoo on the right and a steep bank on the left.  The steepest part is about 20% for a short distance and a little further on is a car park on the left.  As you go past the car park the road levels out into the last section which is just a few hundred metres from the finish.  It might be worth crossing over the road as there is a pavement for the last stretch before the Zoo entrance and the end of the segment.

Today's run - the Bison!
So, to today.  During the afternoon things had not gone to plan.  I had hoped to do a few things on-line but technology got the better of me to the point of feeling a real failure in some ways.  There was only one thing to do - run!  My family already knew that I was itching to run up Bison Hill once again and everyone was agreeable and supportive - I was changed and off in no time at all.

The first two miles are through Dunstable town and out onto a footpath with the bottom of the Dunstable Downs on one side, and the London Gliding Club on the right.  By the time I had reached the bottom of Bison Hill, about 30 - 35 minutes had passed, meaning I was properly warmed up.  Yes, I might have felt warmed up but I was also feeling heavy, thirsty and a little bloated.  I faffed round at the bottom of the hill, by the T-junction and adjusted my old analogue watch so I could time myself going up.  Then there was a break in the traffic and I was off, with a slow, steady paced run up the hill.  Getting to the first corner did not feel good and yet things seemed to improve as the climb proper actually started.  Quickly I got into a good rhythm with my arms swaying back and forth, side to side as I stomped up the hill.

I got over taken by a few cars, some seemed irritated by having to wait for the right opportunity to overtake.  Tough.  By the time I was half way up I knew I was in with a chance of a good time; my rhythm and breathing were good and my pace was consistent.  The biggest "problem" was my rise in temperature, hardly surprising really.  I was wearing a Helly Hanson top and my Ron Hill shorts. I was tempted to pull my top off, I wouldn't have been too cold at all, but that could have meant valuable seconds would be lost.  Through getting so hot, sweat was trickling down the back of my neck and my eyes were starting to sting with a little sweat seeping in.

Once past the car park and the road had levelled off a little I stepped up the pace with a queue of traffic behind me, although I was pretty much oblivious to them.  I spotted a pavement on the authorised and a space in the on-coming traffic so to make sure I could make it to the other side of the road I singled right, just as a cyclist would, and crossed the road.  The end was in sight and I ran pretty much as fast as I could, knowing I'd run quite well.

Mrs Lard and Respect from a driver
I jogged around the corner, passing the entrance to the Zoo and the bus stop.  I did notice some people waiting at the bus stop.  They were obese and dressed in the most awful gaudy colours.  Perhaps it was the original Mrs Lard, with her daughter and grand daughter alongside.  You could see the family resemblance between them and also with Little Miss Lard.  They looked so puzzled as I jogged past them!  A little further on the traffic ground to a snail's pace and as I needed to cross the road, one driver stood out and "flashed" his lights in a kind of Morse code for "Respect" as I think he'd seen me on the hill.

The rest of the run was pleasant, gentle and uneventful, going up and over the top of the Downs and dropping back down into Dunstable.  By the time I got home, I was already buzzing from the Runner's High and revelling in the experience.  What had started as a run in feeling down hearted and a little glum, had turned out to be one feeling so elated and happy, reassured and determined.  Now I need to capture that drive and keep it going as I consider some of the options that might lay ahead in terms of my career.

I couldn't wait and take a look at Strava.  My time had improved from 8:16 to become 7:30 which was a time I was pleased with and meant I retained my lead in terms of the Course Record.  Now I know this has only been run by a few runners and I'm sure there are others around who can beat me.  For now, just for now, I can enjoy the Course Record in running up Bison Hill.

How to run up hill
The benefits of running uphill
Cycling up Bison Hill (The Cycle Hub blog)

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