Ultraman Florida 2024 Race Report

I’ve got this thing about unfinished business. In this case unfinished races. In 2020 while trying to maintain my qualification to compete in the IRONMAN World Championship I participated in IRONMAN Cozumel. Despite contracting a really bad cold while traveling to the venue, I toed the starting line. While the 2.4 mile swim was uneventful I had to withdraw from the race after approximately 75 miles on the bike. It was the 1st time in 11 years, at that point, that I didn’t complete a race. I returned a few months ago and got my redemption by finishing the course, my 17th IRONMAN finish. Race report here.

Next up in the unfinished category was Ultraman Florida. Ultraman makes IRONMAN look like a walk in the park. It’s a significantly less known competition primarily due to the extremity of the event and the amount of people willing to attempt a 3 day ultra distance triathlon. The 1st day starts with a 6.2 mile swim followed by a 90 mile bike.  The 2nd day is a 170 mile bike race on a very hilly and challenging course.  The 3rd day is a double marathon 52.4 mile run. Competitors are given 12 hours to complete each day. IRONMAN is often referred to as 140.6 which is the total swim/bike/run mileage covered. Ultraman is the 320.6!  Details of my 1st attempt at this incredible challenge that resulted in unfinished business can be found here.

Being back in this tight nit community a year later felt really special and exclusive. Unlike most races you can’t just sign up. You have to apply and be accepted.  There is an instant bond formed by everyone participating in this extreme test of physical and mental endurance. The race organizer creates a Facebook group for each event that starts with the title “Super Secret Ultraman…”. Only race participants and their registered support crews are granted access. Virtual bonding begins a few months leading up to the start by collaboration in this on-line community. When you finally arrive at the welcome reception it feels like you’ve know these folks forever.

After last year’s poor performance of only making it 2 miles into the swim on day 1, falling short of the required bike distance by 12 miles on day 2, and only being able to run 38 miles on day 3, (race report here) I knew that I would need to seriously take in my lessons learned and plan differently.  That started with training. There was nothing wrong with my coach for this race last year.  He got me through Kona but I didn’t exactly follow his plan for Ultraman. That was on me.  My crew chief last year highly recommended Chris Draper from Draper Training & Nutrition who has personally completed this event and has also trained many successful finishers. I signed on with him and started following his training plan leading into IRONMAN Cozumel and continuing into Ultraman Florida.

I also did a great amount of strength and mobility training with Matt Davison from Train Dirty Live Clean over the last year. He went above and beyond to have me follow a very healthy eating plan which I was somewhat successful in and finally nailed after his hail marry during my self created training camp adventure. More on that in a bit.

On the topic of nutrition, I finally took race day or race days nutrition much more seriously and was planning on following Chris’ advice on taking in 150 to 200 calories and hour on the swim and 400 calories an hour on the bike both days. This intake would not only get me through the day’s event but would help set me up for the following day’s exertion.

As per my “What would I do differently” conclusion on last year’s blog post, instead of brining my road bike, I used my tri bike to get as much aero advantage as possible over the 260 miles in the saddle.  My increased mobility especially in the hips allowed me to finally utilize a tri bike fully by being in a true aero position most of the time. A better fitting bike and professional configuration by ACME Bicycles gave me high hopes that I would complete the two bike legs of this race before the cutoff times.

Having to train indoors last winter contributed to my poor performance and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. So I strategically planned on spending 3 weeks living and training in Clermont Florida. I rented an AirBNB 1/4 mile from the start/finish line and the lake where the long swim would take place. I felt that training on the actual course as well as at the world class National Training Center nearby was going to make the biggest difference on race weekend performance. Ideally, I would have loved to stay there all the way leading up to the event but I needed to fly home for my book launch and then return to see if I was Built To Finish this time.

I did a pretty good job of keeping up with my training plan leading up to and past IRONMAN Cozumel. This included getting local gym memberships and renting a tri-bike for long rides while traveling during that time. I’ve been focused on races in the past but this was next level dedication for me and a great build up for what I knew would be a very intense training block when I got to Clermont.

Upon arrival I listened to a voicemail message from Matt or Dirty as he goes by with a long list of groceries. As mentioned, he has been trying tirelessly to get me to eat as clean as possible. I do great at home but not so much when we’re out or away which is often. The adult beverages don’t help either.  So my overall grades have been barely passing in this area. I called to thank him for the shopping list but truthfully, I was dreading having to go shopping to fill up the empty fridge and pantry with everything on his list.  Lets just say grocery shopping is not on MY list of household responsibilities. He asked if I was OK with everything on his list and wanted to know when I would be checking in to the AirBNB.  I said that the list sounded perfect and that I would be there by 3 PM and go shopping to which he replied “No shopping …Instacart will be showing up at 3:30. You’re welcome!”.  WT ?!??!?

Like clockwork, at 3:30, hundreds of dollars of fresh, organic, delicious, healthy groceries showed up. Dirty wasn’t taking any chances on me going out or ordering-in during my training camp. So began my 3 week dietary cleanse which would be a great complement to the increase in training that my mind and body was about to undertake. Video of full delivery here.

After putting away all the goodness that arrived, my next step was to get a membership at the National Training Center. While I was going to be doing most of my training outdoors, I needed a pool and a weight room plus I just wanted to experience this incredible facility where many pros and D1 Teams train. Boy was I glad that I did.  The pool alone is worth the price of admission which was beyond reasonable.

The following 3 weeks looked like this:

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
2k swim

20m bike

7m run 3k swim Off 4m run 80m bike 4k swim

50m bike

4m run

1.9k swim

Off 3.5k swim 13m run Off 6k swim

75m bike

100m bike
2k swim 5m run 8k swim

18m bike

10m run Off 100m bike 2k swim


Highlights of the training included:

  • 100+ mile rides on weekends on the actual course.
  • Building up the swim distances and getting in a 5 mile (8k) swim in Lake Minneola, where the race would be held.
  • Making new friends that I would be racing with. Shoutout to Keri Mandell and Leida Velez for pushing me on the bike workouts and to John Riordan for the sag wagon support.  You guys rock!
  • Keri has completed Ultraman Arizona and has done the World Marathon Challenge, 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days.  I was in some badass company.  Yes, it’s on the bucket list.
  • The 75 mile ride on my 2nd Saturday there with my crew chief Bernie Conaster.
  • 1st time ever swimming in a 50yard long form configuration in  the National Training Center.

It’s during this time that I got back into a rigid morning routine that I’ve been lax on for some time now.

  • Rise at 6 (no alarm)
  • Cold Shower
  • Tall glass of cold lemon water
  • Sunlight exposure while
    • Prayer and/or Meditation
    • Posture & Mobility stretching

All of the above before turning on the phone and getting distracted by emails, news, social media and last night’s texts. I can’t speak highly enough about the above routine. If you’re new to cold showers, start with taking your regular warm one and then let it run cold only.  1st day for 15 seconds, 2nd for 30… build up to 2 minutes. Try all of the above for a single week and let me know how you feel starting your day afterwards.

The return to NY included the 1st of two weeks of taper with a highly reduced training load to let the body fully recover and get ready for race day. After the book launch, which was the culmination of a two year endurance event, resulting in a #1 AMAZON Best Seller hit (shameless plug) it was back to Clermont for the event festivities to begin.

My younger daughter Rochelle joined me for added crew support and to document the experience for my millions of social media followers.  Ok, Ok…just manifesting. It works, trust me!

At the opening reception I met the rest of my crew who selflessly donated a ton of their time to support me by driving a support vehicle and offering me pit stops at prearranged times on the bike & run course. The crew chief would also kayak next to me for the entirety of the 6.2 mile (10k) swim and provide hydration and nutrition every 30 minutes or so.

Book fans at race reception. Whaaat !?!?

That’s probably the longest preamble to any race I’ve ever blogged about. Just trying to build up the suspense for all those wondering if Mr. Built To Finish actually finished or not ?!?

Oh wait, I forgot the fun part about shopping for the supplies that I would need for the 3 days of racing. Its not often I get to go through the supermarket with my daughter and load up on a huge variety of junk food including soda, candy bars, chips, cookies and much more. We also got a plastic 3 drawer system to use as storage so that my crew can easily find the items that I would randomly yell out for while stopping every 15 miles or so on the 2 days of biking and then every mile or so on the run.

Ok, Ok, the race…… Friday morning finally arrived and we needed to be at crew & racer sign-in between 5:30 and 6:00 AM.  We were given the first ever tracking device for this race.  It would be worn by the kayaker on the swim and by me for the biking and running portions so that everyone’s fans at home could follow along. It was also a great tool for crews to use to find their athlete if they went off course. After a quick briefing and group picture it was time for the official start.

Thanks to all the time and miles spent training in this exact lake I was not the least bit nervous about finishing the swim leg.  Then again that is almost exactly how I felt last year but I wasn’t going to allow any negative thoughts to creep in. The kayakers all left the shore at 6:45 AM and we got the GO at 7:00 AM on the dot. It took a few minutes for each swimmer to find their support kayaker. Mine was easy as Bernie acquired a special yellow hat just for this occasion.  Impossible to miss!

The course this year was a triangle configuration just over two miles in length that we would need to swim 3 times. The conditions could not be better. There was no wind and the water was as still as could be.  The wind and current appeared during lap 3. Bernie could no longer kayak by my side and was forced into a weird angle in order to stay on course.  While we ended up banging into each other a few times the full swim ended up being mostly uneventful. We executed the every 30 minute feed/drink plan perfectly where he would yell out FEED TIME, I would swim over and take a swig of my carbo powder + electrolyte mix water bottle and eat a Stroopwaffle and/or gel. I was shooting for 150-200 calories per hour and this worked out swimmingly.

Despite the slower 3rd loop due to the increased wind and currents I successfully completed the 6.2 mile swim in just over 5 hours ahead of 7 others. 1st win of the weekend and a swim leg PR (Personal Record). Compared to being pulled out of the water after barely swimming 2 miles last year, I was ecstatic. My crew helped strip my wetsuit off and I got into my custom “Built To Finish” bike kit, courtesy of THE PIV AGENCY, to start the 90 mile day 1 bike leg.

Haven ridden this exact loop a couple of times during training made me feel comfortable that I would complete it in time. Actually, I was a bit over confident. Knowing that it wouldn’t be as hilly as tomorrow’s and experiencing my increased comfort in a fully aero position on my new bike I thought that adrenaline would kick in and I would go faster than I should, depleting much needed energy and muscle for the two days ahead. I told my crew chief that if he saw anything greater than an average of 17 MPH on my Garmin bike computer during my pit stops that he should remind me to slow down.

My crew vehicle

I didn’t fully realize just how tired, especially my legs for some reason, would be when I started riding. This was a strange feeling as I tapered quite a lot and I normally don’t kick a lot during my swim so why should they be that tired? I hoped this wouldn’t turn into an issue over the 6 and half hour I had to cover 90 miles.  I need to average above 13.8 MPH to stay in the game.

The nutrition plan for this leg was to take in 400 calories an hour which would include a full bottle of my Tailwind and Electrolyte mix plus a Snickers bar and/or Whatchamacallit bar and/or Stroopwaffle and/or gel and/or Entenmann’s Chocolate Chip cookies and/or Pringles Potato Chips and/or Pickle spears with the occasional swig of Coke, Red Bull or Mountain Dew.  I knew exactly when to expect my crew and my nutrition as we agreed on pitstops every 15 miles. If my bottle wasn’t fully empty I would get a scolding and rightfully so as dehydration would hurt me significantly today and for the remainder of the race.

Not averaging over 17 MPH was not a problem at all.  If I remember correctly, I came into the first pitstop at just under 16 MPH. At the next one it dropped one tenth and it continued dropping ONLY 1 tenth every couple/few pitstops. As the mileage accumulated and my general fatigue did not I started feeling confident that day 1 would soon be in the books and I would be in bed at a reasonable hour, resting up for day 2.  I completed the bike leg at dusk in 6 hours and 10 minutes averaging just below 15 MPH.  Win number 2 and other PR as this was quicker than completing the day 1 bike leg last year.

We hung around to welcome in some other finishers but didn’t stay too long as I needed to eat and get to bed.  Back at the ranch I hit the shower while my crew unloaded the SUV. Dinner was a Chipotle Burrito and Quesadillas while staying as hydrated as possible.  Damn did this taste good after a day of junk food. I needed to fight off all the caffeine in my body from the soda so I took 2 Advil PM to get knocked out and ready for another early rise.

Following the usual sign-in and race briefing, day 2’s 170 mile bike leg started without incident. It was pretty cool to be in a peloton of 44 riders leaving Waterfront Park on the bike trail.  No aero position was allowed and we needed to keep it below 15 MPH for the first few miles as this trail is used by many others. Then the pack stretched out with the fast riders speeding away leaving us slower folks to grind it out from the rear.

The plan for today was almost a carbon copy of yesterday except the course would be 80 miles longer and 3 times hillier! 6,759 feet of elevation gain vs. 2,293. Not pushing it on day 1 combined with rest and recovery resulted in a very comfortable feeling that I would do just fine. My legs felt strong and I felt that I did a good job on nutrition the day before as well.  Having rode some portions of this day’s course during training made the ride and hills very familiar. The only thing I was dreading was the Sugar Loaf Mountain section which was a very long steep climb that would be coming up much later in the day when I would probably be exhausted from the cumulative effect of both days.

I was benefiting by the decision to bring a tri bike instead of a rode bike like I did last year.  I was further comforted by knowing that a spare bike awaited me in the SUV. My crew chief would let me use his as a spare if I encountered a major mechanical issue with mine.  It’s brand new, what can possibly go wrong ?!? Well, I found out at mile 30. While going down hill pretty fast the front wheel seemed to wobble. I immediately got on the brakes, slowed down a bit and all seamed totally fine.  When I got back into aero, I noticed what caused the wobbly feeling.  My left forearm/elbow pad holder snapped. It was still being held on by something but it seamed like only a thread. I had no idea if this was fixable or not but knew that my expert bike crew would.

I rode upright on the hoods until my next pitstop to share the news. “It’s hosed” is something I didn’t want to hear. We all knew that this would not be considered a major mechanical issue and a bike swap would not be permitted so I rode on. I used to be very comfortable in an upright position but now that I’ve been training for months in aero, it was anything but. For the next 70 miles I tried everything, using the far right side that was still hanging on, putting my elbow on my bobbing knee, using other parts of the handlebar, nothing worked. The occasional muscle memory move of putting my full weight on it only made it worse until it eventually fully snapped off, cutting my forearm in the process.

The good news was that I had 100 miles behind me and was maintaining a consistent average pace despite the hills and near 100% humidity. I just accepted that I would not get any aero benefit for the remainder of the ride and would need to suck it up.  One of the next pit stops was memorable. I come to a stop sign, one of my crew jumps in front of my bike with both hands on my bars, another yells for me to get off and stretch, a third brings me a Snickers bar and a fresh cold bottle of my carbo-electro mixes.  They hoist the bike up on a stand that they brought to oil the chain, check on the front and rear derailleur (gear shifter) and both sets of disk brakes. I stretch unused muscles, finish my snack, use the facilities (woods), stock up my bento-box with cookies and hit the road. Another 100 seconds added to my race clock. Well worth it!!

Some of my fingers started going numb from being on the hoods but I knew that all I needed to do was maintain the non-aggressive pace that I’ve held all day and that I would finish day 2 within the 12 hour limit. Hopefully not pushing it any harder would leave me with enough reserves to run a double marathon in the morning.  One of the last major challenges that remained for the day was getting up Sugar Loaf Mountain Road. My added goal was to do so without getting off and walking my bike up the hill like I did last year. I accomplished this during one of my training rides but that was while being significantly less fatigued than I was now.

As I approached the base of this steep hill, my pace slowed, and I shifted into a lower gear, mentally preparing for the arduous ascent ahead. With each pedal stroke, I felt the strain in my tired muscles, my breaths becoming deeper and more measured. The gradient steepened, and the incline challenged my resolve, but I focused on maintaining a steady rhythm, my eyes fixed on the road ahead. My sweat rated increased to the point of flowing off my brow onto the remaining cookies in my bento-box. I pushed through the burning sensation in my legs, drawing strength from the determination to conquer this climb. Despite the temptation to just get off and walk, I persevere, I raise my butt off the saddle, leaning forward over the handlebars, pure adrenaline fueling each piston like stroke, slowly, left side around, right side up, right side around, left side up, one, then the other, then again.  Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I reach the summit, to my and other cheering crews,  a triumphant grin spreading across my face as I savor the exhilarating sense of accomplishment that comes from conquering the challenge of the 12% grade, steepest hill on the course.

That feeling was quickly replaced with knowing that I still had more work to do to put a W in my column for the day. “Just keep at it, and you’ll get there”, is all I kept telling my self.  My usual full-systems check came back with positive results. I was tired but not exhausted, nothing really hurt and there was no early warning signs of my past excruciating cramps coming on.  Then I remembered that Sugar Loaf wasn’t the only challenging climb last year but was unsure if there were going to be any as significant between where I was and the finish line.

Then I made a left turn and did not like what I saw ahead. As if out of a biking horror movie, what lay ahead was Sugar Loaf’s evil cousin.  Rinse, repeat everything I wrote above and this hill was also conquered. By this point I was about 11 hours into the day and I was losing a bit of steam.  The only saving grace was that the day, its hills, heat and humidity, was soon to end and the worse was behind me.  Or was it?

Turns out it was. While there were a few more hills, non were as intense as the past two killers. I crossed the finish line in 11 hours and 43 minutes, in the dark this time.  With only 17 minutes remaining to the day’s cutoff, we stayed around to welcome in a couple more finishers that had gone off course and had to double back many miles but still made it before the cut off.  This was win number 3 for me and yet another PR as I was about 12 miles shy of completing the bike course on day 2 last year.  I was on cloud 9 after the finish today.

We got back to the AirBNB a little later than the day prior but with enough time to repeat yesterday’s winning routine. I added in an Epsom Salt bath to further relieve my crying muscles. Every little bit helps.  As hungry as I was for real food, if you can call Chipotle that, my stomach wasn’t having it. At least not all of it. I ate as much as I could and went to bed but could not fall asleep.  I knew sleeping pills would be needed to overcome the excitement of completing the last two days and the nervous anticipation that I was only a double marathon away from completing this herculean event. While I was waiting for the pills to kick in I started returning texts and email but that didn’t last long as my fingers cramped up after only a few minutes. The biking position and extra pressure on my hands did a number on them. As I type this blog, feeling in my right pinky recently returned but my left pinky and right side of my left hand is still at bit numb.

To ensure a sunlight finish, the run portion of this event started at 6 AM on day 3 which called for an even earlier alarm clock than the last couple of days. It took a while for the sleeping pills to kick in so I only managed a few hours of sleep and woke a bit groggy. Note to self – take them prior to a large meal.  After the usual race briefing the 4th and final leg began and the remaining competitors and participants began their quest to complete the 52.4 mile run. Competitors are those that completed the prior two days full distance within the allotted cut off time.  Participants are those that did not but were still allowed to participate in this leg. That’s one of the many great things about this race. In IRONMAN, if you miss a cutoff you can’t continue. Here you can. You just wont get full race completion recognition. That’s what happened to me last year but I still had a great experience.  Please legs, hold up, I kept thinking, I really want to get to the finish line this year! Actually I had two goals. The first was obviously to finish but my back up goal was to PR and beat the 38 miles that I lasted last year.

It was very warm out with no breeze before sunrise. I was soaked in sweat by the 2 mile mark.  By the time the sun came up I was feeling kind of tired but managed to maintain my plan of 12 minute miles.  That’s not fast at all but would get me to the finish way before the cutoff time and would allow for many pit stops and some slower miles at the end. It would also allow me to walk some of the steeper uphill’s instead of running them and exerting more energy.  I didn’t think I would need a pacer (a lot less tired crew member who runs with you to keep you on pace) but my crew was ready for it if and when I changed my mind which I did at approximately mile 15.

My first pacer helped get me to the 1st marathon mark. I completed the first 26.2 miles in approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes averaging 12:35 per mile. All I needed to do was repeat that and I even had an extra hour I could have used. There is a section of the run course called the Clay Road. This year the road did not live up to its name and was all sand for a 10 mile stretch.  I think that and the heat are two of several factors that contributed to my melt down.  By the time I was done with this section I was nearing full body shutdown.  My pacers and crew did everything in their power to motivate me to keep going.

After the 40 mile mark all I needed to do was maintain 14 minute miles and I would finish in time. I downed a full bottle of Mountain Dew and a full can of Red Bull.  Both of these kept the motor running for the last few days.  After I felt zero effect from all that sugar and caffein I knew the end of my run was near. My hips were killing me by this point and every step hurt more than the previous. Ultra runners are known to have hallucinations during races.  I was definitely experiencing some of this as well.  I called it at mile 42 but my crew wouldn’t hear it.  There was still about 2 hours left to cover only 10 miles.  ONLY 10 miles out of a 320 mile race! I begrudgingly agreed to walk a bit with my crew chief to see if I could muster up any additional strength to start jogging again. I tried every mental trick in my arsenal but I was completely bonking. Totally out of fuel and in some serious pain.  Not wanting to do any long term damage, I called it, for good this time, at mile 42.5, taking the win of another PR but no cigar this time with a full finish.

I was 10% disappointed but 90% euphoric that I swam 6.2 miles, biked 260, and ran 42.5 going further and faster than I did last year. I gingerly got in the crew SUV and we headed back to the start/finish line to welcome in folks that were still on the course.  The short ride was enough for extreme cramping to set in by the time I had to exit the car. I hobbled my way to the massage tent to take advantage of this complementary service. Me getting onto and off the massage table was a site for sore eyes.

Upon returning to the ranch, my crew unloaded the SUV while I took a shower. Their support was unwavering until the very end. There is SO MUCH to do to support an athlete. I can’t wait to give back to this wonderful community and crew for someone someday.

By the time I hit the couch, my incredible daughter had put the Super Bowl on TV and ordered Buffalo Wild Wings while I maneuvered my way into my Normatec dynamic compression massage sleeves for additional recovery.

This was the highlight of the weekend. Having Bdubs with one of my BFF’s, while watching the big game and killer commercials while relishing in the PR accomplishments of the last few days. I wish I could bottle that feeling.

There was no rest for the weary as the morning consisted of a flurry of activity to clean up and pack up a slightly (ok very) messy AirBNB so we could check out and get to the awards banquet.

After the Olympic like parade of nations it was onto the individual acceptance speeches. I wish I would have recorded these as many of them were tear jerkers but all were incredible. I graduated from being the 1st DNF last year (slowest) to last DNF this year. Progress!!!!

Many thought my speech last year was funny. Here it is….

And here is this year’s….

Well, that’s a wrap. I have sooo many thank you’s for this epic adventure that I hope I don’t miss any.

Thank you Jen McVeay and your awesome crew for putting on a surreal event. Please accept me for attempt #3 sometime soon. Thank you Steve King for your expert announcements and commentary. You make everyone feel like a rock star!

Thank you to all my family and my friends for your unwavering support! Especially those that put up with my absence while we were on vacation together because I needed to train.

Thank you as always to my wife that puts up with my craziness and who joined me for a week during my intense training camp. The cat-boat excursion on lake Minnehaha was so much fun!

Thank you to my daughter Rochelle for your social media prowess and keeping all updated during this grueling weekend. And thank you for joining my race crew to take care of your old man!


Thank you soooo much to my entire race crew. Your expertise got me through this epic adventure. I could not have made it as far as I did without your expert support. Please crew for me next time 🙏🙏

Thank you to all that have read this far for your support. It means the world to me. I don’t have a race on the calendar until the end of September. Something tells me that may change. I’ll be focused on strength and mobility training until then.




  1. Steven you are an amazing person and not only in sport! Its always a pleasure to listening to you and follow your events and achievements .

  2. Nice commentary. I rode and ran alongside you a few times on Day 2 & 3 playing leapfrog. Also enjoyed your book. Good luck with your upcoming expedition

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