Destin 50k- My 1st ultra!

I have crossed over to the "Dark Side".  On February 15th, I completed my first ultra, the Destin Beach Ultra Runs 50k.  This event features several options for the ultra runner; including a 50k, 50 mile, 100 mile, and 24 hour race.  All the races are held entirely on the beach, yes I said ON the beach.  One could not ask for a more beautiful course.  Beautiful sand, sun, and water for the entire course. 

Beautiful views were always available.  

The view from our hotel room.  

We arrived Friday night with plans to run the Son of a Beach 5k on Saturday.  We decided to stay at the host resort (Topsail) and if you plan on running any of the Destin Beach Ultra Runs events, I recommend that you do as well.  We stayed in the Tides building, right on the water.  We could see the 100 mile and 24 hour race right outside our balcony and also enjoy looking out over the water.

Enjoying lunch right after our Son of a Beach 5k packet pickup.

Why the Son of a Beach 5k you ask? Because running a 50k on Sunday just isn't enough.  The 5k started and finished at the Back Porch in Destin and featured the best post 5k party I have ever attended. The course was beautiful, the beer was cold, the food was great, and if you were fast enough, the awards looked pretty amazing. 
Ready to run the Son of a Beach 5k

DisneyBride sporting the 5k medal.

 With Zane (Destin Beach Ultras RD) at the finish line

5k awards

Plenty of beer and food was available.

Following the 5k and afterparty, we headed back the the resort to pick up our packets and attend our 50k runners meeting.  The race is a small event, so it is just packet pick up.  No expo, and the merchandise was limited to just a couple of shirts for the race.  The shirt that came with my registration was nice, so I passed on purchasing another one.

The runners meeting was very helpful.  It was nice to be in a runners meeting where the Race Director had a cheesy sense of humor.  It appeared that many of the runners were frequent fliers, the entire event had an atmosphere of a big family reunion.  After a  presentation from the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Zane (RD) provided us all the information about the course, aid station sponsors, and what to expect that we could ever want. It was extremely helpful.  The only bad news provided was that one of the dunes on the course had burst and one of the water crossing was going to be far longer and deeper than in any of the previous years.
Zane provides last minute tips during the runners meeting.  

Before heading to dinner, I went down to the beach to watch the start of the 100 mile and 24 hr race.  Watching the runners complete a couple of laps was pretty impressive.  These runners were absolutely flying down the course.  I can only imagine running a 2 mile loop for 24 hours.  Not sure that I'll ever have that kind of dedication.

The start of the 100mile and 24 hour race.  

We headed back to our room to relax and prepare for dinner.  We decided that since we didn't want to fight Valentine's Day crowds at the local restaurants, we would opt for the race dinner. This was the only disappointing part of the entire weekend. The dinner consisted of a salad, tempeh tacos (vegan), chicken, and cheesy pasta (gluten free).  This was not a runner's dinner.  It was food that I assume the cook prepares for elderly couples on a daily basis.  The chicken was like a hockey puck, and all the food was too spicy.  I love spicy food, but I don't want it the night before a 50k.  Also, I don't particularly care for gluten free pasta.  I would have preferred a more traditional pasta dinner.  Perhaps it was only me.

Flat DisneyGroom

Since the 24 hr race and the 100miler was happening on the beach directly behind us, DisneyBride and I walked down to the beach for a while and watched the headlamps go back and forth in the dark.  Not only was it overcast (no moon), it was extremely windy, chilly, and damp. The sand was not packed down - so it was hard enough to walk. Really, it was uncomfortable just to stand out there - I couldn't believe how tough those men and women were to be out there overnight - doing the same 2 mile loop over and over. After we went back up to the room, we could still see the headlamps like tiny dots moving to and fro on the beach. I packed my drop bag and laid out my race wear.  After checking my drop bag about a dozen times, I headed off to bed.

Drop bag, this was a 1st.

Race Day

At O'Dark Thirty: Me and my running buddy, Michelle, heading down to the start.  

I had my normal race day breakfast of peanut butter and jelly washed down with a some Mountain Dew.  After I was fed, dressed, and ready we made our way to the start.  The 50 mile and 100 mile competitors had already started their race.  Shortly after our arrival at the start line, the National Anthem was played and we were off.  

The course was an out and back 30 miles, but at the beginning of the race the 50K runners did a one mile out and back in opposite direction first. This was to get us to 31 miles. 

The weather and the course were beautiful.  I would run this race with my running buddy Michelle.  We are both horrible running enablers, convincing not only each other, but our friends to constantly run races.

Checking in.

I will mention here that the course features about a dozen water crossings.  From ankle to knee deep water, and in length from 2ft to about 10ft.  Thankfully, the chest-deep water crossing we were warned about the day before had been plugged.  One crossing on race day did have a pretty swift current. The Sheriff's Department was onsite to help guide runners to the more shallow portions of the crossing.  Sometimes you loved having some cool water on your feet, other times you dreaded the water.  

My view for the race-amazing!

It's about 5.6 miles until the 1st aid station.  Since the tide was low, the running conditions were amazing.  We arrived at the 1st aid station and I was looking forward to enjoying some delicious food. 

The first aid station was sponsored by Stinky's Fish Camp.  They provided some pretty amazing homemade strawberry fruit leather (fruit roll-ups), and granola.  I choose to skip the granola, grabbed two pieces of the fruit leather, a Cliff shot, and headed back onto the course.

Great aid station volunteers!

We settled in pretty quickly with our 1:1 ratio (run 1 minute, walk 1 minute) on the course.  As the sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature increased.  Again, running on the beach is absolutely beautiful.  After passing the 1st aid station, we started seeing some of the leaders of the 50 mile and 100 mile race.  These runners looked amazingly fresh.  Side note: again this race seemed like a big family reunion.  I have never seen so many runners congratulating one another.  Not only from the back of the pack to the front, but the front of the pack to those of us at the back.  It appeared that the runners really just enjoyed the event and want to make sure that everyone was having as much fun as they were.

We arrived at the second aid station and I was anticipating the delicious food.  Since I remember that the aid station was sponsored by Another Broken Egg Cafe, I was anticipating bacon.  I was not disappointed; they had some pretty amazing bacon and potato wraps.  After enjoying a wrap and taking a couple of pieces to eat on the way, we headed off for the turnaround.

 Great wrap!

Fueled by bacon!

Again, running on the beach is beautiful.  As we made our way towards the turnaround, the tide slowly started coming in.  The higher the tide, the more difficult the course becomes.  Think about running in either baby powder-like sand or in the saltwater.  It was about this time that I really started looking forward to a dry pair of socks and shoes.  

Arriving at the turnaround I was happy to see that they had a couple of chairs available.  I quickly found my bag, took a seat, removed my wet shoes and socks, toweled off my feet, reapplied some TrailToes, and put on new shoes and socks.  I had packed some sunscreen in my drop bag, and I'm really glad I did.  The sun was brutal and shade can be found nowhere when you are running on the beach.  This aid station also had a nurse available to help anyone in need. This aid station had some salty snacks, fruit cups, and Cliff shots.  Only thing that could have made it better was if they had a hot food option at this stop as well.  

The turnaround.

Turnaround volunteers.

Leaving the turnaround, I tried to keep my feet dry.  I finally had dry shoes and I wanted to enjoy them.  That only lasted about a mile and a half.  It was high tide and packed sand was hard to find.  I alternated between running in the loose sand and dodging waves.  However, wet feet did not bother me nearly as much as I had assumed it would.

Back at the bacon aid station, I decided I needed (yes, I said needed) another bacon and potato wrap.  It was just as good as it was the first time.  I also decided it was getting hot enough that the long sleeve shirt needed to go.  Refueled with bacon, I headed back out onto the course.  It was about this time that a couple of other runners started asking to run with me and my friend.  It was also about this time that the heat and other conditions started picking off a few runners.  

JazzHands  - just because...

Man did it get hot quick.  I polished off both of my Orange Mud bottles in my vest getting to the last aid station.  Stinky's Fish Camp had some amazing shrimp and grits to get us to the finish line. 

They were also the only aid station that had beer and soda.  I passed on the beer, knowing that it would be at the finish line.  I did ask for a soda and all they had was Diet Coke.  BTW, who drinks Diet Coke during an ultra marathon??? Apparently Stinky's felt we all needed to watch our figures.  It was cold and wet, so I did drink it.  This was also the aid station with the greatest number of spectators and they were very vocal.  It appeared that several runners had crews there to provide support.  The crews all appeared to be well stocked with beach appropriate drinks and cocktails.  It was one big party.   

Great shrimp and grits.

The last leg seemed longer than 4.6 miles.  It's also about this time that I  really started to get sick of wet socks and dodging the waves. I also started thinking that perhaps training for a 50 miler next time is not all that crazy  (I may need to get my head checked out). 

Approaching the finish line, I was also thankful that the Race Director put the extra mile at the beginning instead of teasing us at mile 30 with the finish line.  

As I got near the finish, I could finally see my lovely DisneyBride. 


The Finish Line at last! The race director personally shakes your hand and gives you your medal.  DisneyBride watched him.  Runners don't see this - but he stood out there for HOURS and HOURS as runners from all four events: 50K, 50Miler, 100Miler, and 24 hour race all finished.

My hard-earned bling.  A very hefty and large 'dogtag' with enamel on both sides.

The finish area was full of spectators and the medical tent seemed to be busy, but not overwhelmed with runners trying to take care of what appeared to me to be mostly foot issues.  By the time I crossed the line very little hot food was available.  I grabbed some beverages, a couple of slices of cold pizza, and headed back to the water to take a "redneck ice bath".

Who needs a tub when you have a beach in February?  

Following the ice bath, I felt it was time for some beer.  Heck, I ran a 50k, a couple of beers were in order.  The pool deck was the party area.  A band was playing music, draft beer was available, and (now cold)  pizza and ravioli was served.  

The atmosphere at the finish line was a lot of fun.  Runners talking about the highlights of their race, talking about past races, and looking forward to future races.  After a couple of beers, we all headed back to the room to relax before heading out to dinner.

The following day, the race weekend concluded with a lunch at The Local Catch.  This was a really thoughtful finishing touch to a great weekend.  We sat around a big table with fellow runners.  While many people at lunch arrived as strangers, very quickly it felt like a large family dinner.  Talk about training, what went right and wrong, and talk about what race to run next year were plentiful.  There were door prizes, and both DisneyBride and myself were each lucky enough to win a pair of Hoka One Ones at the lunch. Over half of the runners I saw the entire weekend were in Hokas. I wouldn't have thought they were the best shoes for the beach - but I guess I was wrong. Hoka was a race sponsor, as was Run With It, a local running store, where we went afterwards to pick out our shoes.

I look exhausted!

DisneyBride is excited to win the Hokas as well.

I look forward to running this race again in the future.  I will note that DisneyBride managed to win an entry into the Destin Marathon also directed by the same gentleman that directed this race.  So, we are planning to head back if not for the Beach Ultra, then the other. I'm really excited to run in Destin again next year.    

Recommendations for beach races:
  • For Runners
    • Take advantage of low tide.  Having nice packed sand with minimal chance of the tide catching you is ideal.  Enjoy it while it lasts.  
    • Grease yourself up.  Sand will end up everywhere.  I do mean everywhere! I'm glad I planned accordingly.  
    • Incorporate some training runs on the beach or at least a trail with very loose sand, whenever possible.   

  • For the Race Director
    • For a race that prides itself on aid station food, perhaps add a hot food option at mile 16 aid station.
    • Having Coke or Diet Coke at all the stations would be nice.
    • It would have been nice for us slower runners to enjoy hot food (pizza and ravioli) at the finish line party.  I was solidly at the back of the pack.  
    • Receiving my medal from the Race Director was a nice touch, please continue the tradition.
    • Please strive to keep the family-like atmosphere, it was inspiring to run with such a small and supportive group. 
    • Keep the Monday post-race lunch.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with many accomplished ultrarunners.  
The runners of the 50 mile and 100 mile have access to 2 restaurants during the last 20 miles.  The restaurants actually take orders on your way out and have the food and/or drinks waiting on your way back.  I guess this is an incentive to get runners to take on the longer distances.  I think it may have worked. I see a 50 miler in my future.

Have you taken the leap into ultra races?

If you have ever run on the beach, what tips do you have?  


Wow, this is great! Congrats on the Ultra, and on the beach yet! I did the RNR one mile on the beach last year and that was hard Looks like there were a lot of positives to this race series. I like the idea of the director personally handing out the medals. That is cool. I have NO desire to do an Ultra but I know Lacey has been thinking about them! Congrats again! -M


Congrats on completing your first ultra. Training for that kind of race must be difficult, especially with the beach thrown in there. I have no ambition to run an ultra, but right now I do have a big goal.....I hope to run all the marathon majors by the time I turn 65. I qualified and will run two this year, Boston and NYC and plan to run London and Berlin (or Chicago) next year. Then it's Tokyo and Berlin or Chicago! Are you doing Dopey again next year?


congrats on finishing this race! Running on sand sounds super tough but you did it. and the food sounds phenomenal! and the RD personally congratulating every finisher-that is truly amazing.


I didn't think I would ever run an ultra. You are just waiting for the right race. Thank you for the kind words. -DG


I hope to run Dopey again, I guess I'll have to see how registration goes. I hope to run NYC sometime soon. Good luck in Boston! -DG


Thank you! The sand was not as bad as I had feared. The RD put on an amazing race and I hope to run another one of his races again. -DG


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