This past weekend, I drove down to Destin beach in Florida to get in a few training runs for my next race. It’s the Destin 50K, just under 3 weeks away now. I’ve done this race before and this year will be my third time running it. I have big goals for this one so I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the terrain. I did back to back long runs and both couldn’t have been more different.
Saturday, I got there noon-ish after a 6 hour drive. I quickly checked in to my hotel and changed into my running clothes. The forecast called for upper 50 degrees and mostly sunny skies. The person at the front desk of my hotel even commented on how it wasn’t looking like what was expected. Cloudy, windy and slightly on the cool side.
I got to the beach and made my way towards the water, to find that harder surface more suitable for running. First let me point out that the beach here is different than others. It doesn’t have a perfect, gradual slope into the sea in most areas. It’s flat with the really loose sand then it drops off about knee high (think of a tiny cliff). Then you’ll get a small area of the gradual slope.
But, my timing for this run wasn’t the best. It was high tide. So the water comes up to those little cliffs. Within minutes my shoes had already been splashed with water. Within a few miles sand was packed into my shoes. I’m not talking there were lumps here and there. My feet were packed tight. I couldn’t move my feet or toes. I brought two pairs of shoes to test on both runs to see which ones I would wear race day. I know the tide probably had a lot to do with the sand situation, but the first shoes weren’t gonna cut it. These shoes have a more open mesh in the toe box compared to what I would wear the next day.
I ran an hour and 10 minutes one way. Turned around and met a 20+mph headwind. The tide was getting worse. Just before I made my turn, I ran past one other brave soul running. When I turned around, I caught up to him about 20 minutes later. His face and hands were red from the gripping wind. Miserable looking. I imagine I looked the same way to him, haha! Come to find out he’s also from Atlanta and training for the same race. He came down for the weekend like me. Small world.
On the way back fighting the wind, I realized how different of a runner I’ve become recently. I spend a great amount of time doing core and strength exercises. I’ve been able to tell before how much that has helped me improve, but battling these conditions made my strength even more evident. I was able to keep my form together and hold a steady pace. Also my attitude has tremendously improved. Yeah the conditions sucked, but I didn’t dwell on them. I honestly smiled when I remembered to, sang out loud some and focused on staying relaxed.
It took me an hour and 20 minutes to get back. I was tore up. I went 15-16 miles but it felt like more. With the high tide, I probably spent 25-30% running with my feet in the water. I could easily put this run in my top 3 most brutal.
I got back to my hotel. Did some light stretching, drank some Endurox recovery drink and spent a few minutes in front of the heater on full blast. I was really cold and just wanted to take a warm shower. I went to the bathroom and turned the faucet on. Once the temperature was perfect I tried to turn the shower on. I pulled, pushed, twisted and did everything I could think of to turn the shower on. No luck. I feel like such an idiot when I can’t figure out a shower that’s not like what I’m use to. Haha! Well screw it, I thought. I hopped in and took a bath. I was probably a little kid the last time I took a bath.
Surprisingly it was very relaxing. As I laid there I thought that my run couldn’t really get much worse. Other than a hurricane. But realistically there was no way it could have been more miserable. If I could handle that run, I could handle anything on race day. The crazy thing was, was that I enjoyed most of it. I even felt like I could have kept going. Tough run but was high on accomplishment. I couldn’t wait to see how my next run would go.
That evening the skies cleared up and I got to enjoy this sunset:
Sunday I woke up butt ass early. I wanted to get finished with my run in time to get some free breakfast. It was just before 6 when I got running. The tide was low, there was a lovely starry sky above me and close to zero wind. I had on my other pair of shoes too. This would be the time when the race would start, so this run was more ideal for race day.
I settled into a steady and easy pace. I marveled at the moon hanging above the sea and let the waves put me in a rhythm. It was very peaceful to be out there in the dark and alone. I felt like I had the whole beach to myself.
Time passed and a glow started to emerge on the horizon. Some clouds started to roll in. As I ran on, the sun turned the clouds a beautiful pink, red and a purple/blueish display. I couldn’t help to think how amazing it is that running can take you to wonderful places. Pretty much every person I tell that I’m doing this race on Destin beach thinks I’m insane. But I think they’re the ones missing out. Running on one of the most beautiful beaches in the US, can’t beat it.
I went an hour and 35 minutes one way, then turned around. I did about 21 miles I would guess. The main thing I learned on this run was about my nutrition. I typically take a GU every 40 minutes in a run. But lately on my long runs and especially this second run, I have been craving energy closer to every 30 minutes. I’ve kind of fought the urge to satisfy that hunger until that 40 minute mark, but this run I listened to my body and gave it what it needed. I never had a sluggish moment at all towards the end of this run, which happens sometimes with me in long runs. And I would contribute my more frequent in-take of GUs to be the reason behind that.
I finished this run strong and very satisfied with both of the runs. Even though I went longer the second run, I didn’t feel anywhere near as wiped out as the first. Oh and that free breakfast I mentioned…nothing to write about, haha! When I got back home, this is what I wrote my coach;
“Great weekend of running. Learned what shoes I’ll be wearing, re-familiarized with the course, learned to satisfy my body with gels rather than waiting til a certain time, push through the difficult times to the better times, core work has really paid off, and staying positive plays a bigger role than most would think.
I’m damn ready for the race.”