Today, I experienced my first beach run at Miramar Beach in Destin, Florida. I also chose to go at the hottest time of the day, noon. I opted to run in my road running shoes instead of barefoot or VFFs. This run presented quite a number of challenges. First, temperatures were in the 90s and the sun was beating down on me with little to no breeze to speak of. Second, the terrain wasn't as consistent as I had hoped. I guess the tide had a lot to do with it, as there was very little firm ground to speak of. The water was rather high up on the beack and a lot of the firm sand sections were covered by algae. Which brings me to my third challenge, algae. Not only was a too slippery to run on the sections that were covered by it, the smell of algae baking in the hot midday sun was also quite bothersome. However, I did not witness any oil/tar balls at the beach at all.
After finding one of the firmer sections right at the edge of the water, I started my run slowly heading east along the course of next year's Destin 50 Beach Ultra. This was to be my first reconnaissance run to see if I really wanted to accept this challenge next February and what the most appropriate footwear would be. Because I only had little sleep the night before, I cut my run short, from 10 to 6 miles so I didn't quite make it to Topsail State Park and its dunes. Nevertheless, I did learn quite a bit on this section. Namely, this is going to be one hell of a challenge for anyone attempting the ultra next year. The terrain cannot be described as easy. Whenever you had to run on soft sand sections, it immediately felt like you were running one step forward and two steps back. Quicksand would be another word to describe the feeling. Actually, some of the beach sand was so fine and granular that running on it and sinking into the sand made the same squeaky noise you get when running on a gym floor.
However, the scenery was beautiful. While running along the beach was very tiring, it was rewarding as well. I ran a very slow 10 minute per mile pace, trying to pay attention to all the details of the course conditions. To sum it all up, I did not have any blisters form, but that was probably just due to the short distance of my run as there was plenty of sand inside my shoes and socks. The terrain is very challenging and running 50 miles here will require paying great attention to the details and possibly learning how to recognize and distinguish between the different surfaces as you are running to try to stay on the firmest sections of the beach. However, sometimes all a runner will have is the soft beach sand we all look for when we are just looking to lay at the beach.
Tomorrow, I will run West towards the start of the Destin 50 Beach Ultra race start location and give my VFFs a try on this terrain.