Bucket List Heroes

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(This is part three in series looking back at the 2012 Sunshine Sea 2 Sea AR)
FLORIDA -- The grueling nature of three day adventure race makes even the best racers push beyond their normal thresholds of pain. Part three of our series looking back at the 2012 Sunshine Sea 2 Sea focuses on a couple of guys who gutted out the race in unique ways.
For Mike Dickinson, he knew going into the race that he was in for a world of hurt.
"My knees hurt," Mike said in a pre-race interview. "But I'm not getting any younger and I want to do an expedition race."
Mike had good reason to be achy before the race even started. Certain cartilage we all may take for granted day to day in our bodies is all gone for him.
Team S and S from the 2012 Sunshine Sea 2 Sea AR "When I had my knees scoped in 2009, my orthopedic doc informed me that I was cartilage free in both knees," Mike said. "Osteoarthritis had finally taken its toll."
To a layman, such a condition would seem to be the end of any type of racing career. Let alone competing in a race with such physicality at the Sea 2 Sea AR. Mike, however, doesn't see it that way and isn't as completely pain stricken as you might think.
"I can ride endless miles on the bike and, as long as I don't stop, there is remarkably little pain," Mike continued. "But on most days just regular activities hurt. Every step on foot hurts."
Mike was obviously prepared mentally coming in about how hard a challenge this would be. Of course in Adventure Racing, it helps to have a patient understanding teammate that you know you can trust even at the worst of times during the race.
Surprisingly, Mike and his teammate Libby Fly (Team S & S) had never raced together prior to the Sea 2 Sea AR. In fact they hardly knew each other.
"We both had several other 24 hour races under our belts but this was our first race together," Mike said. "This surprised several of the other racers. They didn't expect us to still be talking to each other by the end."
S and S preparing for a trek section They agreed on a few goals before the race. Skip trekking sections when necessary (to protect Mike's knees), compete for 72 hours, get to the finish and make any cut offs imposed by the race director. They managed to meet those goals while still talking to each other at the end.
"As we walked to the beach during the final challenge, I said to Libby, 'It wasn't always pretty but we got it done'. While we never considered dropping out, there were at least a couple times when I'm sure she considered killing me and leaving my cold dead corpse on the side of the trail."
Mike did note that he learned that a two person team (no matter how well they know each other) is always vulnerable. Once team dynamics break down, every conversation or discussion turns into an argument with no third party to mediate. He says he would never attempt another expedition race with fewer than three teammates.
S and S finishing the Sea 2 Sea AR During the same conversation on the beach, Mike also told Libby that he couldn't have gotten through the race without her.
"That is always true in a long race but there was more than one time where I got frustrated, cranky, and just didn't care anymore," Mike said. "She would simply inform me that we were going to get the next CP and to quit my whining."
The duo certainly survived the race together despite those obstacles going in. One moment I witnessed was on Saturday morning after paddling in to the Welaka TA. Mike was given the new maps for a long bike ride and went to work with other navigators on the different route options. When Libby asked where the bathrooms were, she was jokingly told there were showers there if she wanted to clean up.
After ten or so minutes, Mike had his route down and was excited to get back on the bike and press forward. Then noticing he hadn't seen his teammate for a while he asked where she was. That's when Libby came walking back looking clean, happy, and rejuvinated after a rare in-race hot shower.
"That's my teammate," Mike told me with a proud happy smile on his face.
As was discussed in our last Sea 2 Sea article, blistering of feet throughout the race is a major concern. Despite his other physical issues, Mike reported no foot problems.
"We heard horror stories about racing in Florida; the sand will eat your feet, the sand will wreck your bike..." Mike said. "We were good about taking care of our feet. Cleaning them, relubricating, and new socks every chance we got. We had no issues."
Some other racers weren't as lucky when it came to avoiding blisters (or as dedicated to avoiding them). One racer in particular was the talk of post race with his impressive foot condition.
RMR 4X4 Bart West is a retired podiatric surgeon. In case you aren't sure, that basically means he is a foot doctor.
Bart and his teammate Sean Eden made up the team RMR 4X4 in the 2012 Sunshine Sea to Sea AR. The boys from Alabama were a treat to be around keeping anyone near them laughing and spirits high throughout.
They had a huge struggle towards the end when Bart's foot blistered up bad enough to really slow them down.
"I had switched shoes six weeks prior to the 'barefoot style'," Bart said. "At three weeks my blisters were healed. I did take pre-race precautions using moleskin but it was just one of those fluke situations."
"I have some biomechanical issues with my gate that added to the problem," the Doctor continued. "However, if I did this race three more times I probably would not have had any blisters."
Bart credits over 30 back procedures for his high pain threshold but his real disappointment was that as his feet got worse it slowed the team down too much on the final trek section.
Racers react to Bart's Blisters As the racers lined up to see the damage to Bart's foot, they all commented that had never seen such blistering from a race.
"My skills did help me debride my wound," the Doc said. "I've treated patients with sports related issues and, of course, ones with much worse wounds than my ulcerated blisters."
So it is possible to think that maybe this injury happened to the right man.
"My feet are way better now," Bart said a few weeks after the race. "I employed some wound care techniques from my training, rested them a week, and went back to training."
Despite all that the race was success for the team in many ways.
Doctor West attending to his wounds "The volunteers were awesome! Really. I know that is somewhat of an expected comment, but I cannot say that about all races," Bart said. "With my nerve damage from multiple back/spinal surgeries, back fractures, fractured rib, (and the list goes on); this race was a definite bucket list for me."
And actually the team is one of the few that can technically say they truely went all the way from sea to sea.
"We were one of the three teams that actually punched CP3 in the Gulf of Mexico before the restart," Bart concluded. "That is very gratifying."
Mike Dickinson and Bart West chat about their journey
Mike Dickinson and Bart West chat about their trip from sea to sea
Stayed tuned as our race director takes a look back at the 2012 Sunshine Sea 2 Sea and gives everyone a taste for what to expect this year.

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