The race: Riverport Duathlon
The location: Riverport, Nova Scotia
When: Early October
Distances: 2 X 4 km runs and 28 km bike, or 2 X 1 km run and 14 km bike
Why do it: To experience the natural beauty of the race locale
Swag: Tech shirt and draw prizes
Having already run my slowest marathon ever this year, followed by one of my worst half-marathons, I naturally gravitated toward the Riverport Duathlon.
Hey, I thought to myself, here’s my chance to do two sports at once equally poorly.
Besides the distances were short: two, four-kilometre runs with a 28-km bike loop sandwiched in the middle. How hard could that be? Of course, shorter equates more intensity and the intensity somehow causes time to slow down, turning that four-km run into something that begins to approximate the pain of the marathon.
If you’re new to the sport, the event also offers a Do-a-Du with a two, one-km runs and a 14-km bike loop. The Bridgewater Triathlon Club hosts the overall event every year.
I was game for the classic race. But I had questions. How should I dress, for example? Did I wear bike shorts and jersey or running clothes? I couldn’t feature running with puffy bike shorts, so settled on lycra running shorts, which felt sufficiently geeky enough, and a singlet with arm warmers.
I tried to fashion an aero helmet by modifying my road bike helmet with tin foil, but that didn’t work out so well, so I abandoned that plan.
And my bike, well it was what it was: next to the gleaming Treks and Cervelos, the Schwinn looked pretty plain, but it’s served me well. Anyway, ultimately, it’s not about the…I won’t say it.
As it was, I lucked out. The day of the race turned out to be sunny with a mild wind. Traditionally, the duathlon has experienced torrential rains with winds of just slightly less power than that of Hurricane Juan.
It’s a testament that despite the weather the event sells out almost instantly now. Only 80 spots are up for grabs for the “classic” du, and those sold out within a single evening online this year in advance of the race.
In a series of nearly idyllic communities, Riverport may be the most idyllic of them all along Nova Scotia’s South Shore. It’s twisting roads follow the LaHave River and on a fall day when the trees are burning with colour, it’s hard to imagine a better spot.
Nor is it easy to find a flatter run. The two, four-kilometre runs lead you out along the Lower Lahave Road before turning onto the Kraut Point Road, both overlooking the water the entire way.
Following the first run, you jump onto your bike – or if you’re me, you fumble around for a good five minutes with your gear in the transition zone – and then set out in the opposite direction. Crossing the bridge, you head toward Bridgewater on the 322.
In a car, the road looks flat. It’s not. They’re not big rollers, but the hills, with the mild head wind, pick away at you as you head toward the Grimm Road. At least that’s my excuse for watching 10 people in aero helmets zip by me like I was the Wicked Witch of the North on her bicycle, pedaling backyard in the tornado.
They don’t call it the Grimm Road for nothing. As soon as you turn the corner, the climb begins and then never stops. You climb, reach a false flat and then climb. Then you reach a false flat, and then you climb again. And then – oh, look! – it’s a climb. Then – guess what? – you’re climbing.
For all this climbing, you’re rewarded with a downhill that somehow seems to be less one-third of all the climbing you did.
The back end of the ride back seems every bit as hilly.
Back in the transition zone, where I agreeably let another half-dozen people leave before me, I wondered at my wobbly legs. Gamely, I set out feeling like the jello man out for his daily squishy stroll. My legs would not cooperate for another two kilometres. I enjoyed the stunning scenery instead.
Finally, it’s all over. You’re handed a bottle of water coming across the line and then it’s into the hall for some chili and comradeship.
The only criticism I have is the shape of the local roads on the bike. You must pay attention at all times as the pavement is badly broken and littered with potholes and cracks that could easily catch a wheel and spill a rider. It would be nice to see some of the more prominent holes marked.
That said, this event earns it’s designation as a classic race. It’s very well run with lots of friendly volunteers and is unpretentious with very little frills. If you enjoy an old-style event where the racers take pride in their grit on the course and their friendships off, then Riverport is the race for you.