I HAVE NEVER FIGURED OUT why I do the things I do, but when I first heard of the Doxa Threelay at the Ironman 70.3 St. George Expo in 2015, something clicked in my brain. It kept popping in and out of my head for the next several weeks until it finally got hold. I started to drop subtle…or not so subtle hints to my wife about taking a solo shot at this 2 hundred and 80 something mile monstrosity. She was not excited about the prospect. I can’t explain how she can talk me into running 350 miles along the coast of Oregon in 10 days, (See, My Introduction to Ultra-Marathoning, Nov 2016) but then be adamantly opposed to a measly 285 miles, with the majority on my trusty 2-wheeled rocket ship. James Player (and current Facebook friend as soon as I put my name in the hat) had knocked it out the year before so I knew it was possible. Before long I was formulating a plan to make this a reality.
You won’t complain about the scenery!!
My wife could not be there the weekend of the event so she insisted that I have a responsible team assembled to forcibly throw me in the van if I got overly “bonked” anywhere along the route. She decided that my older brother was the perfect candidate….I don’t think she fully realized how many times my brother and I have had death-defying adventures together, sure, it had been a decade or so, but old habits die hard, so I made the call. With Todd as the anchor of the team, I recruited my cycling-nut nephew Josh, who would add some youth to the team and help him with the driving. 3 of the kids wanted to go, so Eliza (17), Seth (11), and Adam (9) jumped in the van with me and we headed off to conquer the worlds’ most difficult triathlon. Apparently Adam got into the Caffeine stash (12 pack of Coke) and nearly drove the rest of team crazy for 25 hours of non-stop talk and generalized craziness. I was told that he had received a lifetime ban from the sport for doping, and would not be invited back.
I picked-up the “Crew” in Salt Lake City, gave the wheel to my brother, who would be slowly following me for the next day and a half, and crawled in the back of the van to try to sleep for a few precious hours while we drove to Duchesne for the early morning start. After a fitful sleep I emerged from the van in a new piece of the world that I had never seen….in fact, there was very few portions of the course I had ever seen, let alone ran, swam or biked. I believe this would be referred to as the “Ostrich-head-in-the-sand” technique….what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me. Sure it was beautiful, but I had a difficult time appreciating the scenery when I was still trying to figure out where I was supposed to swim to knock-out the first 3 of the 36 stages of the race. Let me make this clear, I am not recommending this technique. Yes, I survived 25 hours of triathlon over some wicked climbs, scorching runs, and congested city streets, but I would strongly suggest knowing the course!!! I know it is difficult to drive a 285 mile course….it’s funny how it seems easier to do this sans vehicle….and really let it sink in, but try to do it if you can. If you can’t, you should probably continue to read this blog, because I am going to try to give you a stage by stage account and guide designed to minimizing your suffering. (Please note the word minimize, because you will suffer nonetheless!)
Before I go into the stages, let me give you some preliminary advice…
Gas, tires, windshield….
Have an AMAZING Pit Crew. I have done this race twice, with 2 different crews. Ironically, after Adam finished an intervention program for caffeine abuse, he joined Eliza as the only ones who actually were part of the team both times. My wife, Kristen, and nephew, Andy, were the pillars of Doxa Part II. Your Crew will do much more than follow you, transport your bike, and give you an occasional “way to go”. A good team will feed you, clothe you, change you, and love you….and after 20 plus hours of liquid nutrition, they may even have to burp you. They will make decisions that you cannot make for yourself. Basically the mantra is….Anything your crew can do to make your life easier, let them do it. No, they cannot run, bike or swim for you…but let them do everything else!
Doxa Team, round 2. My wife, nephew and roughly a third of my kids. I recommend at least 3 drivers.
Feed you. At every transition and in-between you need nutrition…I do not recommend trying to carry it yourself, remember, “anything your crew can do”. I had hand signals for water, sports drink, or protein shake. Usually I have enough time to shout out my needs as I go, but if they are doing a quick drive by, shaking my hand furiously would let them know to pull-over up ahead and hand off some plant-based protein power!!! If you have ever done any endurance type event you know that you are balancing getting enough calories and fluids into your gut without blowing them all over your shoes. Do not get behind on your nutrition!! This race is dry and hot…at least in the daytime (of course this is high mountains and desert and cold could be just as difficult of a factor)…..don’t expect mid 60’s in the afternoon dipping to a refreshing 55 in the evening. Both years had temperatures near or above 100 degrees in the late afternoon leading to temperatures near freezing in the wee morning hours descending from 10,000 feet into Huntington. I believe California James in 2014 almost froze in a hail storm going down Provo Canyon, and had to be pried out of the hot tub at the Provo Municipal Swimming Pool a few hours later. The take home point is “Be Prepared”, (Any Boy Scouts out there??) The reason for this diversion is to remind you to use your crew, they are like a continuous aid station, they need to be there for you. If they leave you for an hour, to get lunch, take a nap, or go site seeing, they may find you curled in a fetal position down the road with your rear wheel gently spinning in the wind. During year one, my crew grabbed a quick bite to eat, without letting me know. I was truly distressed until they finally showed up happy with their tummies nourished….It is hard to describe how pleased I was to hear the chatter of my caffeinated kid again. During the second year, I begged my crew to eat PB and J’s instead of stopping…I needed the moral support and guidance…the route gets kind of confusing in the city and my mind was growing fuzzy with the heat and mileage. I am thankful that they made the sacrifice and stayed by my side!
Clothe and Change you. If you do triathlon, you know about transitions…you can win or lose depending on how fast you can put on your shoes. When you add T1 and T2 together, it can add 5 to 10 minutes to your overall time. I don’t know if you have considered that during the Doxa Threelay, you will have to worry about T34 and T35. The difference between a 1 minute and 6 minute transition is almost an extra 3 hours on the course!!! I told my brother that I wanted a chair at every transition, he would have to help me with my socks and shoes, get me off my bike, get me back up, and put me back on. He would have to help me with my wetsuit and make sure I got any nutritional requirements that I needed. That is easier said than done. Truth is…I wouldn’t have finished without my crew….They were awesome. I think the spectators and teams were equally impressed with my crew as they were with me. I would ride in, they would catch my bike and dump me in a chair, change my shoes, cram food or liquid in my hand and stand me up and give me a push down the road. Truth be told, I never wanted to stand up after sitting down, but I was never given much of a choice. They have to swallow their pride and be there for you…it is your day….(or 2)….You will get irritable and downright cranky before this is over, explain this to them before the race, anticipate it, because they probably aren’t going to sleep much either and they are going to be almost as irritable and cranky as you. Both years my crews have been patient and loving with me and we cemented a relationship in a way that only suffering together can do! Conversely, you may never want to talk to anyone on your crew again when they leave you in the middle of nowhere because they didn’t like your bad attitude!
Pit Stop, team Doxa at their best!
Running and drizzling cool water down my back….That’s what I’m talkin’ about!
You should also try to have someone on your crew that can do some basic bike repairs, swap out your tires, change a flat, etc. I flatted going into Jordanelle in 2015, and rode the last mile on my rim. (my crew had already left me to get the wetsuit ready to go) When I got out of the water, cold and miserable, my heart was warmed up because the flat had been changed and aired up. In 2016, I switched the wheels from a disc to an 808 a few times along the way, I never would have considered this if I didn’t have a mechanic on board!
The last thing I should mention is that your crew can “pace” you. After 63 miles of running, speed was not much of an issue. I ran miles with my daughter through the night, chit-chatting our way to Doxaman glory. My nephew did a few rides while I was running to continue to feed me while the rest of the crew got a quick break. Having a diversion to get your mind out of the abyss is a real and tangible advantage. Thanks again to the greatest crews in Doxa history. Stage 14 is a long, hard and lonely 7.5 miles, someone who could keep up and act the part of Sherpa would be a great help, sadly I never had this luxury. (but I still wouldn’t trade my crew for anything!)
Enjoying some Daddy Daughter time!
Stages 1-3. You start your odyssey with a 2-mile swim, yea, I know this is really 3 shorter swims, but you probably aren’t going to be taking too much time between the stages, except for maybe a quick hydration reload. I always look at the first 7 stages as a half-iron…give or take, with a restart at stage 8, Jordanelle. A few quick tips, have your crew leave flip-flops at the shore line. This isn’t a tropical paradise. Best case scenario you are tip-toeing through sharp rocks and trying to keep your language G-rated. Worst case, you are trying to dig a fishing hook or chunk of glass from your foot, while your Doxa glory fizzles away into oblivion. No, this is probably not life or death, but I tip-toed with expletives under my breath on try one, and had some ugly green Crocs waiting for me on round 2. I loved the ugly footwear, I even considered repainting my house after my last swim in Huntington. I would slide them on, run to the next start, and leave them floating as I dove in 15 yards off the shoreline to begin the next leg. (I left it to the team to go Croc fishing at every swim start, you gotta love your crew!) Your team should also have some Vaseline or Body Glide ready for you….chaffing is a wicked enemy of an event of this magnitude…if you think it might become a problem, fix it now! Running 60-plus miles is hard. Running it bow-legged because you forgot lubrication is miserable, if not, impossible. And lastly, you are going to be leaving with the slower teams, so there is a good chance you will be swimming solo, if not, find some feet to follow, let someone else do the work. And remember this is a warm up for one of the longest continuous adventures of your life, enjoy the swim!
Stage 4. Remember hydration and nutrition. I got behind on my first try, I figured a bottle of water or Powerade at each transition would suffice, it didn’t. I was so thirsty after stages 4 and 5 that I never caught up. It is dry. I live in the high desert, this is drier! Have your team go ahead a few miles and hand you whatever you need. Practice this now, or you are in for a long bout of misery, or a shortened version of the Doxa. Otherwise, this is not too steep, nor too far. You can look at it as a good run warm-up, or swim cool-down, whichever you prefer.
Stage 5. An enjoyable 6.5 mile run, mostly flat with a few rollers. I went shirtless on stage 4 the second time around because I hate trying to get tight lycra to squeeze over my wet body. Besides, it’s early morning in the desert, and heat had not yet came into play. Not so for the next stages. Get your heat gear out, I like it with long sleeves, tight and white, you can put it on while you run, or have your team help. You shouldn’t be too sweaty after stage 4. This is also the time to start applying the sunscreen….if it is exposed, goop it up. Find the strongest, most sweat resistant brand available, it will be your friend until the sun starts to set.
Heat gear on until the sun goes down!
Stage 6. Welcome to the Doxa Threelay Iron Cowboy Challenge. This stage is the second hardest bike stage, and is where you will most likely know if you have any chance at all of finishing. Your legs are still fresh, but they won’t feel that way for long. First of all, this is your first run to bike transition…practice this often before race day. If you enjoy triathlons, bike to run is usually not fun, but is an integral part of the triathlon experience. Unless you are an experienced Duathlete, run to bike is not. Get those legs moving fast and comfortable for the first half, because there is a big climb at the end. The first year I had virtually no idea what was ahead of me, this climb took me a little off-guard, but it was still early and I powered to the top of the 9,546 foot pass. On my second try I knew exactly what to expect and this was not nearly as challenging as it was when I was whacked over the head with it. Although the transition point was mistakenly placed a mile from the top where the road flattens out, which added a mile of running to the next stage, and took a little chink out of my armor. You did catch the 9,546 foot part, right? James warned me that elevation was a factor in his first finish, so I was ready. Honestly, I live at about 3500 ft and train occasionally at 7000 or so, this didn’t seem to effect me, but if you don’t get to this altitude very often, you might want to invest in a mask or do a little acclimation prior to race day.
Climbing Wolf Creek Pass, 9546 ft
Stage 7. Pretty much downhill from start to finish, although it tends to flatten out at the end. It starts out steep on quads that have just taken a beating, so find a pace and style that you can get into a groove and rest. (Rest is a relative term, I tried to convince myself that I was actively recovering, although 7 miles steep downhill is anything but) Enjoy the view, this is one of the most scenic areas of the course, and will get your mind off the sting in your quads. The temperature is nice because of the trees and elevation. (unless you are being pelted by hailstones) Start looking for your personal Nirvana.
Descending Wolf Creek Pass
Stage 8. The last bike leg of your first 70.3 and lead-out to the hardest swim. This is downhill, but not all the way. Take advantage of the elevation and let your legs rest some when you get a chance. The most important part of this stage is feed, feed, feed. It is easiest to get nutrition on the bike, and you are setting up for a two and a quarter mile swim just ahead, its hard to get nutrition in the water…unless you are willing to risk giardia and just enjoy the nutritious reservoir complete with algae and fish feces. (I am not a swimmer and seem to partake freely of this extra nutrition without even trying!) I always look at this like it is the last stage of part 1, it gives me a sense of accomplishment. (You will have ample time to play all sorts of mind games over the next day or two)
30 minute hold at Jordanelle, letting the core body temperature reset
Stage 9-12. The Vortex. Going into my first Doxa I fully expected the swims to be snooze time….let your upper body do the talking, and allow the big muscles of your calves and thighs to soak up the cold water like a giant ice bath. I was sorely disappointed. After squeezing into my wetsuit and jumping into the water, I was waiting for the spa treatment to begin…aaaaah. And it did….for about 2 and half minutes. It was initially great to feel my core body temperature drop to normal and my legs rest, but before the halfway point of the first swim I was shaking violently and could hardly throw one arm in front of the other. I started to have flashbacks of the finish line in Kona, laying on the grass shivering and shaking, with a shiny space blanket wrapped around me like a pathetic burrito. I also remember that only moments before I was melting on the Queen K highway.
Trying to stay warm, Kona 2012
Back to reality. Your core body temperature is going to plummet when you hit the water, I suffered immensely and unexpectently during this swim. The second year, I arrived before the lifeguards, so I got a “free” 30 min break before the start which eliminated the core temperature free fall. I wasn’t anticipating the bonus core temperature correction time and was planning for some hot cocoa or the like after the first 600 yards. This might be a good idea, I would at least have this option available. You can also have your crew wade out to the first buoy to give you nutrition, remember the “anything they can do” mantra. Your crew would have to wade because they allowed me to swim around the last buoy closest to the shore, unless I wanted to wade the 20 yards or so to shore and take a break…I didn’t. Just get me out of the water and on to my trusted steed as soon as possible! I figured the short break and decrease in swimming made up for the extra mile run on the top of Wolf Creek Pass! Which brings me to a side note….Yes, this is a timed race, but don’t get bent out of shape about the time. A few people grumbled because I got a few yards cut-off my swim, but at Huntington Reservoir, I forgot to check-in and had 7 minutes added to my time, I also spent 3 or 4 minutes at the Provo pool waiting for anyone to show up….I had left my support crew in traffic a few miles back, and the Doxa Staff (both of them) were trying to take care of the other 40 plus teams and 200 athletes spread over a hundred plus miles of some of the most desolate (and beautiful) country in America! I didn’t know where to go, it was crowded and I didn’t want to leave my Dimond TT beam bike on the sidewalk while I knocked out 300 yards in the Provo pool….another excellent way to end your journey to Doxa greatness is to spend the afternoon filling out police reports on your stolen bicycle! The point of this rant is that every year there is going to be some variability that takes away or adds a few minutes to your time, it all works out in the end. If someone goes under 24 hours to break my current record, I am not going to grumble…there are hundreds of people who could crush my time out there, and I hope they show up and do it, I am constantly amazed what the human body and spirit can do! The take home from all this is don’t underestimate the swim, it is not my strong point, but it definitely took me by surprise! I got passed in year one by Lauren of “Power Couple” fame like I was a piece of flotsam (excuse the language) and had to pedal my butt off to get back out in front. (This was not good strategy, I really was not racing anybody but the competitive spirit always drives me a little harder.) And now on to the last 2/3’s of this behemoth.
Stage 13. Bike to Deer Creek. With the exception of the surprise climbs, I generally do not suffer on my bike. I love my bike, it is my happy place, and Doxa is no exception to this rule. I think this is true of all triathlons….if you want to excel, bike, bike, and then bike some more! This ride is slightly downhill but you will be doing some pedaling. It will likely be hot. You will be tired and undernourished after a few hours of doggy paddle in the dreaded Vortex. This is an easy stage, it should be titled “The Smorgasbord”. Load up because the next stage is the most difficult trail run and has virtually no support. That means 8 miles of elevation change, dust, heat, and generalized pain…..start the preparation now!!! Spin your legs to comfort, once again think of it as a warm-up, this is when you should be mentally preparing for stage 14. The other issue is navigation. You will ride through Midway which has become quite the little city over the last decade or two, it is not a bad place to pre-ride or drive before the big day! The route is well marked, but wind or pranksters can send you off on a snipe hunt, trust me, you don’t have a lot of calories to waste. Try to know the course.
The approach to Jordanelle, year 2015
Stage 14. Deer Creek Reservoir Run. Year one, I was a few minutes behind the Power Couple and was trying to get off my bike and on the trail ASAP. As a last second thought, I grabbed a water bottle and took it with me….It may have saved my life. (or at least my Doxa) Just as I was starting down the trail Lauren came running back down the road…she had turned on the wrong trail and wasted a few minutes and precious energy chasing rainbows. For the record, you go left through the gate…it is a trail, not a road…at least at the start. If you can drive on it, turn around you are going the wrong way!! I ran the first quarter of a mile chatting with Lauren before I realized she was going into suffer mode and I had to leave her. Interestingly enough, my shoes made an eerie echo sound on the dirt and it felt like she was right behind me…I kept looking over my shoulder but she was nowhere to be seen. Let me know if anyone else picks up the “Ghost of Deer Creek” on this section of trail! Once again, this is a very hard stage…I think it is the hardest run, with the ascent out of Fairview a close second assuming you are prepared. On my first attempt, I had no idea that I would need crampons to make the run out of the Sanpete Valley. (OK, so it wasn’t quite that steep, but it was still a low point of the journey) Here at Deer Creek there is no shade after the first few hundred yards, lots of elevation changes with some steep ascents and descents, and worst of all, no support! You will need nutrition if you are going to do this solo, during the second go around there was a cooler with water at about the half way point….I would have killed for this the year before! If there is someone on your team that can run this section with you…put them to work. This is Sherpa 101 training, let them carry your water and nutrition. Although running and drinking is always a sketchy operation, it beats being buzzard feed at mile 6. I have never had the moxie to have someone try this section with me, but it would certainly have been nice! Another option is have them walk in a mile or so from the terminus, and then run a couple of miles with you…it is pretty flat near the end. This pulled me from the depths of darkness on try number 1!
Stages 15-19, Into the asphalt jungle. So, you are probably wondering why I am cramming 5 stages into one paragraph? Well, other than cramps in my knuckles from keyboarding all day, (I think this race might be actually easier to complete than blog!) it is really just the longest bicycling stage of the race, with a couple of nice breaks in the pool to cool off! 57 miles from Deer Creek to Mona with a few very nice swims to get your body temperature back off the redline! Provo Canyon is less than enjoyable, you are riding on the edge of a 4 lane highway with standard road debris flipping off your rims. The wind is always pushing you one way or the other and the aero wheels just accentuate your lack of control, fortunately large trucks dragging the latest in watersport fashion rip by you on 30 second intervals to make sure you keep your bike on the right side of the painted line! And the worst part is that the rumble strips are not the kind that separate you from traffic but cover the whole emergency lane every 20 or 30 feet. You may want to have your dental work checked before, and then after this stage. At the bottom of the canyon, you were diverted onto a walking path, but learning from the common axiom, “Never mix a TT bike with a pedestrian path” , they now just keep you on the road as it turns into a reasonably good city-style bike route. The major issue here is not that you are fearing for your life, if you have ridden urban streets, these are not that bad. It’s Provo, not NYC. The main issue is you will lose your chase vehicle. During this 57 mile ride it is not easy access to fluid or nutrition. You are already going to be tanked after dealing with “the ghost of Deer Creek” and your last good feeding was likely stage 13! You definitely want to get some nutrition at the two pool stops and anywhere else along the way. Maybe try to get a bottle or 2 while descending the canyon. When you get to the bottom of Provo Canyon, send your van to the Provo pool to get a lane clear for your swim, and your goggles and whatever else you want waiting for you. While I am thinking about it, the entrance to the aquatic center in Provo goes up a slight incline to the pool and has a sharp corner at the bottom. I have slipped both years running around the corner while leaving the pool, I have never hit the ground but came close times 2. Try to picture the lifeguard screaming “No Running” and you are likely to have infant flashbacks, but will at least stay upright. Once again I wouldn’t want to tell my friends that my Doxa ended by face planting a brick wall while exiting the Provo pool! I just strip off my top and jump in the pool with goggles…heck, it’s only 6 laps. The first year my van wasn’t there and I was running to the pool without goggles! Fortunately my nephew came running in the door just as I was about to take the plunge. I have arrived at the pool before my van both times, and it costed me what seemed like an hour on the second try. Remember to send the team ahead at the mouth of the canyon, you should be OK without them for a little while. The pool to pool ride is quick and urban, you will probably not see your crew until you are almost halfway or further to the next destination. You may want to plan a feed-zone, but you want them to get to the pool before you as well. It really depends on how fast you are going to be riding! I did this shirtless, for the same reason I did on stage 4, tight lycra and wet bodies don’t seem to go well together. I think I went shirtless on stage 19 for the same reason, but this is a long ride, and it is likely hot. I would recommend, toweling off and donning the lycra before the bike to Mona, but weather or lateness may make waiting until the run another option. Stage 20 is a 33 mile flat ride that seems a lot longer than that…remember it is really the end of a 57 mile ride. This was probably my low-point of 2016, although the last steep climb to the pass above Huntington was a close second. So why was this such a hard stage for me? Nutrition. I didn’t follow the advice I am giving you. I hadn’t had a really good feed since stage 13 and I had totally forgotten about my salt. Nutritionally speaking, I have done this whole race both years on plant-based protein shakes mixed in soy milk, powdered Powerade mix, and 1 gram NaCl tablets. My stomach is always full and I don’t want to use up any gastric space with a non-caloric substance, such as H2O. I don’t know how many calories you leave on the Doxa course, but you could certainly lose some weight by doing it on a regular basis! During the last part of this ride I noticed my heart rate dropping, my power tanking, and my head spinning. I missed a shift on a little riser while drinking and hit the pavement, fortunately nobody ran me over, and it didn’t take me long to get back on the bike (there’s an old saying about that) I did realize that I had all the symptoms of hyponatremia, and started to gobble up the salt tablets. 10 miles and 5000 mg of NaCl later, I was starting to climb out of the funk! For the most part your van can stay with you over the last stage, they may get behind some traffic or miss a light, but you can start trying to catch up on anything you might have missed during the crazy urbanness of the last 50 miles! If I were to change one thing about Doxa, it would be the mad dash through Utah Valley. Cars and bikes don’t mix very well, and racing bikes in traffic is most generally a bad idea. I really never felt in harms way during these stages, but I have been riding long enough to know that eventually someone is going to get nailed. Utah has some crazy beautiful back country, and there is probably a way to get just as much pain and suffering without worrying about 50 bikes time-trialing through Happy Valley! But I digress…this is a fun race, and there are risks involved. Keep your head up and keep on pedaling!!
Stage 20, Mona to Nephi. This is a long run that starts hot and ends cool if you are on pace with this Doxaman. You can see your destination in the distance as soon as you start, and you are leaving the craziness behind you and will settle in to an idyllic peaceful pace. On year one I suffered so much behind Deer Creek that I was concerned that my running legs were shot and this would be the beginning of a lot of miles walking. Fortunately when I put one foot in front of the other, they surprisingly moved me forward, not fast, but functionally. I have yet to walk a step during the Doxa, but my pace has ofttimes been less than stellar. The sun was going down and I had time to let my mind unwind. I had pacers with me off and on both years, they would carry my nutrition and keep my mind away from places I didn’t want it to go. It is a few miles from the outskirts of Nephi to the bike transition, so don’t let your guard down too soon.
Stages 21 and 22 are the lead up to the “Big Hill”. This is another long bike stage, right after the last long bike stage and your legs will be reminding you of that fact from the get go! It starts with a police escort up Nephi Canyon. In 2015, I had a difficult time getting nutrition because my van was behind the police car. In 2016, the police car followed the van so they could feed me as needed. It would be a good idea to talk to your escort and make sure he/she is OK with them handing you nutrition. Both years the police have been very nice and supportive. It is kind of ethereal climbing the canyon with the flashing police lights pulsating off the walls. They will leave you as you get near the top. This climb is not very steep and I could pretty much stay in my aero position all the way to the top, once you crest you have a nice descent into Fountain Green where you will change stages. I would just ride past the transition area and have my van check me in, no reason to dismount. You will continue to descend to the bottom of the Sanpete Valley before heading north and then begin climbing the other side. You will be wearing your night gear and navigating by a few hundred lumens coming from your bike. The desert cools down quickly at night and heat should cease to be a factor until you arrive at Huntington Reservoir in the wee hours of the morning! Remember to rest your legs on the descents, I try to stay aero, but also use my pedals sparingly as we are coming to the most difficult section of course and you don’t want to start this on spent legs! On year one, I had no idea what I was riding into, but on the second try I started to caffeinate for the first time about 30 minutes before the climbing stages. I think a couple of Red Bulls was my zinger of choice, although I’m sure whatever would be fine. You want to finish these stages ready because this is where the Doxa gets ugly!
Once in a blue moon…Ascending Nephi Canyon
Stage 23, Running the “Big Hill”. A 4 mile run seemed like a piece of cake starting in 2015, but 1281 feet later I was stumbling up a steep hill that had no end in site. In 2016, I was riding an artificial stimulant high and sprang up this section like a gazelle. Needless to say, I recommend the latter. This is steep and the bike portion might be worse!!!
Stage 24, Biking the “Big Hill”. I think the steep part is only about 6 miles, but wow what a brutal 6 miles they are, steep and nearly 10,000 feet above sea level! In 2015, my bike had a 42-23 as my lowest gear, I could barely push it and it was killing me. I swapped this for my nephews’ bike that was a little more reasonable and wobbled to the top on a steed I had never ridden and the geometry was not ideal. I also didn’t think about caffeine until I was near the top…quite honestly it was too little too late. The following year, fully caffeinated, I brought a climbing bike with a fat pancake on the high-end of the cassette. That said, after climbing for nearly a lifetime I asked my crew how far I had ascended, when they answered 1.1 miles, we had a heated argument because I figured the odometer in the van was broken and their GPSs’ had gone haywire. (I was really convinced that this was the case because there is no freakin’ way that I had only covered 1.1 miles) But although my pit crew had obviously becoming delusional, I still had to climb the rest of the way to the top. Sure enough it was exactly 5 lifetimes before I finally crested the hill. Truthfully the only thing that kept me going was the fact that after the summit I felt that the Doxa was in the palm of my hand…a few minutes of pain and then a descent to glory! And truth be told, if you get this far, you are going to finish!!
Stage 25. Striding it out 4 miles downhill in the quiet of the night and crisp air of 10,000 feet is wonderful. Truth be told, after ascending the last climb almost anything would have felt easy. This stage, fortunately, is not too steep nor too far. It is definitely another good place to get nutrition so grab a pacer and enjoy! It is also the start of the last dozen stages, there are 7 swims in the first dozen, 7 bikes in the second, and 7 runs in the last. I was afraid of this going into the first race, but like I said, after you get over the “big hill” you got this baby licked!!
Stage 26, The Descent. First of all, I have argued with my team at this transition both years because they want to dress me like an eskimo for the downhill, usually we have come up with some kind of compromise. Let me make this admission for the world to hear, I was wrong! I think ideally you can dress warm and still be aero, I probably spent more energy and time shivering then I would of if I took the time to get properly attired. You are close to 9500 feet at the start, and in the cold mountain air, both years that meant the temperature was in the high 30’s. After the hard climb and easy descending run, your core body temperture is about as comfortable as it has been since you started…piling on clothes does not seem to be the answer. Put them on; extra socks or booties, tights, long sleeve jacket, gloves, and something for your ears or any other part of your anatomy that tends to stick out in the wind. The first few miles are rolling, I actually stopped in 2016, because I was convinced my tire was rubbing. (You may get delusional, but I have never had hallucinations!) It looks downhill, but it is not. When you hit the descent, you will know it! This is a steep, dark drop, you will probably be doing it at night….have your headlight fully charged and get your chase vehicle right behind you!!! Watch for wildlife!! Let me make this clear, it is a little bit scary to be in a tight tuck, in the cold, in the dark, going over 50 MPH, with eyes shining at you from the side of the road. In 2015, my brother and crew chief was convinced that I was hurling myself downward to certain destruction!! This section could be even a little more scary than the urban landscape of the Wasatch Front. I slowed this down a bit in 2016. I repeat, watch for wildlife…hitting a moose or deer on this descent could snatch away your Doxa from the jaws of victory! You are almost there, don’t mess it up!!
Stages 27 and 28, Day one finish. 11 miles of theoretically easy running. The first 5 or 6 miles are a pretty good downhill. The first year I ran a big chunk of this with my daughter, and felt astonishingly good. Someone could also coast along with you on a bike to keep you company. You have Huntington Reservoir at the end of the road which marks your last swims and a possible rest!!! Good Luck! It is a great motivator to think that you may be able to lay down for a few minutes or hours and take a nap, you were probably fighting the desire to do this while descending through the darkness of the last stage…Please don’t! You can take off your warm weather gear, the temperature is back into the 40’s or 50’s and keep nourishing your body. If you felt behind on your fuel intake, the last few stages offer a good chance to catch up. For the first time since the gun went off, you are not sweating like a pig. I mean don’t bloat yourself, you still have 11 miles to run, but if all goes well, you will get a little time to absorb some fluid while waiting for sunrise on the shores of the lake! This is where it started to sink in that I would soon be a Doxaman, although I still had more than a marathon to go.
Stretching out the legs
If you earned it, you are going to be awarded a coveted break at this point. I got an hour to rest in 2015 and slept like a rock. When I awoke, I was a new person running on fresh legs! I finished the Doxa competing with the other teams that had reached the lake, and for the most part leading until I arrived in Price! However, in year 2 I had more time to rest, but I couldn’t sleep…maybe I over caffeinated getting ready for the “big hill”. When I woke up, I felt like I had just ran, biked, and swam more than 200 miles the day before. This was particularly depressing because I was expecting to feel great as in the year previously. I am honestly not sure why it was so different, but at this point you are going to finish, so whether you feel great, or not so great, keep putting one foot in front of the other! I think if I do this again I would plan for some kind of nice sponge bath or shower before I changed my kit and crawled in bed, this may help my troubled sleep. Also remember to check-in at the lake! My team was so used to seeing deserted transition areas that they wrote down my time at one of tomorrows deserted swim transitions in the dark and crawled in the van and tried to sleep. There will be people waiting for you, this is a major transition, especially if you have merited some downtime! Find them, let them know you are there, it is still dark and it is pretty easy to just find the bed you have been fantasizing about for the last 6 hours.
Luxury accommodations at the Rushton van
Stages 29 to 32, the last swims. If you are getting out of bed and heading to the lake give yourself enough time to put on your wetsuit and get ready, I would say 15 minutes or so. You shouldn’t be worrying about the core body temperature drop unless you didn’t earn the downtime. Also, because this swim is shorter, warmer, and broken up by a quick run it probably won’t produce the same effects as The Vortex no matter what time you arrive. I always wonder whether I should strip my wetsuit for the 2.6 mile run between the 1st and 2nd swims, I always have, but I have never practiced running in my wetsuit. I don’t need any weird chaffing at this point and I have a great crew to strip it off and help me put it back on again! Conversely, I am a lousy swimmer and I swim much better in that buoyant beast, but if you are a great swimmer, you can check the water temperature and consider doing the first 435 yard without having to worry about it. Heck, you may want to do the whole thing that way. Alas, I have never been so brave.
Stages 33 and 34. Twin runs totaling about 8 miles, largely rolling with no net elevation change. This is early morning in the desert, it is not too hot and you are on the home stretch. Feeding and nutrition are not that important, it is more likely you will want some fluid to soothe your dry throat than to actually keep you energized and hydrated. If you caffeinate, you should already be flying high since before the swim. This is high Utah desert at its best! Enjoy.
High desert…Huntington to Price…and the finish line!!
Stage 35, The bike revisited. Remember your bike?? You really haven’t ridden it since Stage 22 because the climb is certainly not riding and the descent is like, you know descending. It feels good to ride…this is short, and I have honestly blown myself up going all out on this 10 mile sprint! I like to bike and so what? a 5k to the finish, the euphoria of being a Doxaman starts now!
Stage 36, The Finish. This is always harder than I am expecting. It is mostly uphill and my quads are quivering from my impersonation of Champs d’Elysee at the Tour de France. They have a parade going on and we are allowed to run the parade route. I have always just stuck to the designated path, I am not sure that I want hundreds of people watching me stumbling along having no clue that I am not just finding my way home from the bar, but have actually accomplished something quite remarkable…this is mostly something you do for yourself. I hope (as do the organizers) that this event continues to grow! It is truly a most unique experience in the triathlon world, but lets face it, at this point who has heard of a Doxaman? I am very proud of that moniker, but in general even the most seasoned triathletes answer “really, so what?” To be truthful, I should probably figure out the parade route and then make my decision based on which one is shorter. Even after 285 miles, I don’t mind trying to save a few steps. I would definitely put up with the blank stares of the spectators if I thought I could cross the finish line 30 seconds sooner! I will leave this as an individual decision and leave it up to someone else to determine any possible time savings. Crossing the finish line is awesome, but it always feels like I left something undone, I often want to ride back and check on the other teams, but you have to realize your team is just as tired as you, and really want to get back to their normal lives. Sure they enjoy basking in your Doxa glory, but for only so long, get them to a nice restaurant and see if you can remember where you stashed your credit card!
My first Doxa Finish!
#doxathreelay #doxaraces #ultratriathlon #vegan #doxa
7 thoughts on “Finishing the 285 Mile Doxa Threelay as a Vegan Team of One….A Complete Guide to Soloing the Most Difficult Triathlon in the World”
Thanks for sharing your journey and insights. I wish I would have read this before I registered to do it this year. I’m really regretting my decision;) Don’t worry, your time is untouchable. I’m hoping for around 30 hours.
Reblogged this on WELCOME TO RUSHTON PODIATRY.
Congrats on your finish last year! Knowing the course would be a big advantage for you to try this solo, no big surprises!!! But you also realize how hard it is! Good Luck!
Great story. We did it as a two man this year and it was tough. Brutal to do as a solo competitor. Maybe someday.
Thanks for reading, I am glad you enjoyed it!
Oh my gosh!! The pictures are incredible and after reading your story, I’m still wondering how you did it, ha! This is amazing. The picture of you and your daughter is beautiful. I loved reading about how your family took care of you along the way. Great job!! WOW!