Saturday, May 20, 2006

Shaking, baking and fighting cancer

Shaking, baking and fighting cancer
By Claudia Bigelow

A Millwood doctor will attempt to walk the entire 18 hours during this weekend’s Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fund-raiser to be held at the Johnson-Williams Middle School.

Carolyn Wilson may be the first person in the country to repeat the performance of the man who started Relay for Life 20 years ago, said Bette Marchese, one of the local co-chairs for Relay for Life.

Dr. Gordon Clatt in Washington State walked 81 miles for 18 hours and raised $27,000 in 1985. “That was the beginning of Relay for Life,” Bette said. “That’s exactly how the event got started. And I don’t think it’s ever been repeated.”

“I think it’s great especially in a county the size of Clarke that we’ve got someone who’s going to do the same.”

Carolyn, 46, is a gynecologist in Winchester who lives with her family in Millwood (husband Chip Schutte and children Sara, Grace and Scott). She has been into endurance sports all of her adult life. She started running marathons in medical school.

She’s one of a half dozen Clarke residents who call themselves “ultrarunners,” she said. For fun, she participates in 32-mile marathons. Sometimes she runs in 50K and 50-mile marathons.

Last October she was in the Iron Man Triathlon on the Eastern Shore where for 13 hours she swam 2.1 miles in the Choptank River, got out and jumped on a bike to ride 112 miles through a wildlife preserve and then finished with a 26.2 mile run on foot.

“See why I think that’ll be a piece of cake” to walk for 18 hours, she said.

But the doctor has never done an event for that long of a period. “That’s why I’m excited.”

Carolyn is participating in Relay for Life with her mother’s club, the Greenway Garden Club in Clarke County. They’re calling themselves, Team Greenway.

Most members are well over the age of 50, “and they can’t do it,” she said, meaning the relay all night long.

But some of the members will come down to the middle school this weekend and take turns walking with her for an hour, she said.

Carolyn said her motivation is not just for the sport, she wants to support a good cause.

“My father had lung cancer...Chip’s sister had colon cancer,” she said.

“Every week I talk to patients regarding their own or family member’s cancers.

“Anything we can do for cancer research is important.”

But will it be healthy for her to walk for 18 hours?

She says she has never had any injuries in her marathons. Ultrarunning usually takes place off-street at a non-competitive pace and does not pound the joints like other running events. “I’ve never had bad knees or bad ankles. The only time I got hurt was when I fell off my bike and broke my arm.” They go over back country courses, she said. Most ultrarunning races are not about how fast you go but just that you simply finish.

“It’s out to have a great day in the woods.”

At the middle school the Relay for Life will start at 1 p.m., Saturday, and besides the relay, there will be many games and activities for families and children. The different teams will set up camp and offer fund-raisers.

Each hour the relay walkers will be doing fun things like wearing hats, costumes and cutting up. There will be the crazy hats lap, the Country Western Lap, the Mexican Fiesta Lap, the 1950s lap, and on and on.

Carolyn doubts she will participate in the foolery. She will enjoy the companionship of the others and she will be smiling as she always does during endurance contests that she so loves.

But it will be a challenge, and she’ll need to just keep going.

She’ll eat little (Cliff bars and peanut crackers) and drink a slimy thick drink called “Clip,” that she specially orders. It tastes terrible but it gives an ultrarunner easily digested proteins and other nutrients.

And she can stop for a couple of personal minutes at a Porta-John when the need arises.

But otherwise, the doctor will be walking for the cause straight through -- and no doubt -- there will be a lot of people cheering her on.

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