Friday, August 29, 2014

Butchering the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Though this week's post is about our May marathon in Cincinnati, all my friends out there who completed either Hood to Coast or the Triple D challenge in Oregon last weekend deserve a shout out.  I appreciated all the invites, and wish I could've joined you guys.  Great endurance, everyone!

Our two local Delta teams (out of 40), PDX Porklandia and the PDX Sassy Squealers, regroup after running the 26.2 mile Flying Pig Marathon relay in Cincinnati.
Back: Garth, Patti, Renee, Dayle, Curtis, Sandy.  Front: Lisa, Dawn, Jackie.

At long last... Here is the promised follow-up to my prequel "Is the Flying Pig Marathon ready for us?" (link) blog post, uploaded last May from Minneapolis!

Earlier this year, Delta Airlines employees from our PDX station began raising money for the Flying Pig Marathon foundation (no relation to the Flying Pig Beach Hostel in the Netherlands that I blogged about here, where we had that party last Fall in Noordwijk). Funds raised would go towards various charitable organizations, such as the ALS Association, Alzheimer's Association, Autism Society, City Gospel Mission, Team World Vision, Shriner's Hospital for Children, and dozens of other charities.

A spot on the Porklandia team opened up for me a few weeks before the race. Although my left foot was still recovering from a freak hiking injury caused by a dog who started a rockfall on a VERY sketchy trail (the full hiking story is here, and my foot has fully recovered), I eagerly filled in.  My only "training" for the race was allowing my foot to heal.

On May 3, PDX's Sassy Squealers and Porklandia (and Dawn!) took to the skies to meet up with the 38 other Delta teams the day before the marathon.

The nine of us landed in Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon to check into the Millennium Hotel, complete our registration, pick up our race packets/ bibs/ Delta team t-shirts, and browse the PGE Health and Fitness Expo for impulse racing gear.

The Health and Fitness Expo

Somehow I got talked into buying and wearing this:

Even KATHY insisted over the phone that I buy this pink tutu at the expo (for little Lena's sake, of course) and race in it the next day.

The night before: Evening merriment at the Via Vite Italian Bistro and Fountain Square Festival Stage

Vine video (Shot on Fountain Square's actual Vine Street-- nifty, eh?):  Click the upper left corner to hear the audio.

5:45 am Sunday: Ready, set...

The morning of the marathon was chaotic, to say the least. Thousands of runners were spilling out from hotels and attempting to find their various starting positions. Porklandia and the Sassy Squealers were running the marathon as a relay, so this was the perfect setup for...

Oops #1: The bus mix up

We followed the crowds to the bus stops where we expected to be shuttled to the our respective baton hand-off locations at the beginning of Legs 2, 3, and 4... only to discover that this huge mob of runners was actually headed to the starting line instead.

Our Leg 1 runners Patti and Renee powered away from the starting line at 6:30 a.m. sharp.  The rest of us were left to pass around and squint at our lone map.

By the time we made our way back to the actual pick up point, the final bus for Leg 2 had already departed. I walked even further to a place where several other Leg 2 runners in the same predicament had been calling cabs. I split the cab fare with another team and our taxi driver dropped us off outside the race course.

It was an additional mile walk uphill to our baton hand-off point at the end of Leg 1.

Leg 1 runners Patti and Renee ran up the hill, handed off the batons to to Jackie and I, and we set off!

The hand-off had been smooth, our pace was steady, and Jackie and I were on our way to pass our batons to Curtis and Sandy.  But something wasn't quite right.

The intensity of the crowd strangely began to build to a ridiculous crescendo.  It began to dawn on us where we were, and there was no turning back.  Jackie and I were about to bump into...

Oops #2: Crossing the finish line (instead of handing off the batons)

Enough said. As Leg 3 runners Curtis and Sandy patiently waited for us to hand off our batons at the end of Leg 2, Jackie and I accidentally kept running until we crossed the "Finish Swine" of the entire Flying Pig Marathon!

Embarrassed and bewildered, Jackie and I graciously accepted the cheers of the crowd before pulling aside the nearest race worker. Our mere mention of the end of Leg 2 resulted in a knowing look, and these instructions from the volunteer:

You too, huh? This just keeps happening. Don't worry, we have drivers who are shuttling the Leg 2 runners from the finish line back to the beginning of Leg 3... and the latest shuttle JUST took off. Sit tight. The next van will be leaving for Leg 3 shortly.

What went wrong? Simple-- The race course had split into two lanes at some point. Several Leg 2 runners had been missing a crucial turnoff, following the main crowd of runners to the Finish Swine instead. To complicate matters further, spectators (who probably thought they were standing on the sidelines) were scattered around on the right side of the course itself in that area, obscuring the Leg 2 turnoff lane.

Jackie and I could hardly contain our laughter as the van drove us all back to the intended hand-off point. But not everyone could appreciate the humor in this situation. An ultra-competitive relay runner who sat in the van's middle row was grumbling about how she'd NEVER missed a turnoff sign in previous Flying Pig races. She was visibly upset.

The shuttle van stopped at the beginning of Leg 3 long enough to hand off our batons to Curtis and Sandy, and then drove us back to wait for everyone at Finish Swine.  Curtis and Sandy ran Leg 3 AND continued on with Leg 4 runners Lisa and Dayle, just for fun.  What a supportive team!

Post-race festivities, prizes, and refreshments

Irresistible rockabilly ruckus from Northside Garage

PDX station manager/ marathon cheerleader Dawn checks on the status of our remaining runners from Legs 3 and 4.

PDX teams Porklandia and the Sassy Squealers join forces to cross the Finish Swine together

The overly dramatic finish

Our two PDX teams didn't break any records that day, but no matter.  Dozens of charities benefited from the money raised!  And our Delta Airlines' runners proved that nothing could prevent us from finishing the race.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

From Mexico this week: Looking back at our 2013 missions trip

Our work here in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico this week is finally complete. Both Aloha and Tigard Churches of God journeyed down here again from Oregon to expand a house for Ophelia (mother of Jose, pictured a few times below, of Welcome Home Outreach Ministries) to shelter her family of 10. And we started building a house for another U.S. work team to complete next week!

It may be a while before we gather everyone's Mexico pics from this week. In the meantime, I've dusted off an unpublished Mexico post that Kathy wrote last summer. Many of these photos have never been shared publicly.

I think we'll all agree that this post  written by Kathy  was worth the year-long wait!

Our 2013 Mexico work team at Welcome Home Outreach Ministries:  Elaine, Cara, Katie, Eddie, Josh, Wendy, Kathy, Tim, Garth, Patricia, and Leah

At 5:00 on a dark August morning, there was excitement, energy and sleepiness.  Two groups, Aloha Church of God and Tigard Church of God, had met to begin a week long, life change journey together.  Destination:  Vicente Guerrero, Mexico in Baja California.  The van was loaded and we were off.

The first driving day proved to be uneventful and we made it safely to First Church of God in Tulare, CA.  The second day we headed to San Diego to pick up Garth who had to fly due to his work schedule.  So where did we meet Garth?  The only logical place:

In-n-Out Burger, San Diego

With our tummies full and after another very necessary stop, we were on our way to Vicente Guerrero.

After witnessing some crazy and intense driving, we had finally arrived to Welcome Home Outreach Ministries.

On Sunday morning, we worshiped at a local church.

Calvary Chapel Church in Vicente Guerrero

We then spent Sunday afternoon and evening relaxing and exploring the town.  On Monday we would begin our house building project; the main reason we had come to Mexico.

The house we began building on Monday was located in a very poor community where the typical house is made from sheets of plastic and whatever other materials can be found.  This particular house would be a simple one-room home with three windows and one door made from cement blocks and mortar.

With most of us not knowing what we were doing, our foremen/teachers, Jose, Josiah, and Mateo quickly taught us the ways of manual cement mixing and brick laying.

Throughout the week, each of us also took turns helping out with the children and doing chores around the home base of Welcome Home Outreach Ministries.

The kids took an excursion to the beach after work on Wednesday.

A couple of evenings during the week we had the opportunity to visit some local ministries.  The first one we went to was a nursing home for the elderly homeless or the elderly whose families no longer want them:

Pastor Juan, the worship leader from Calvary Chapel, had a vision from God to begin this ministry.  He even went to nursing school so he could better care for his patients.  The one thing that stands out about this nursing facility is that 100% of operating costs are based on 100% faith.  The patients don’t pay a monthly fee so Pastor Juan relies on donations for food, utilities and medical supplies.  With an amazing faith in God, monthly needs are usually met.

One other night we visited a voluntary men’s rehab center and were able to participate in one of their worship services.  It was inspiring to hear their testimonies of life before Christ and the transformation taking place now.

Garth had the privilege of sharing an encouraging message with the men.

This rehab center is different than what we find in the states.  The men come here choosing to seek help and can stay for as long as they need to.  There is no 12- step program, but a daily routine of morning worship, studying the scriptures and an evening service.  As with the nursing home, all expenses are based on 100% faith.

A favorite place or two to eat dinner was at Tico's Pizza and El Pollo Loco taco stand.

Tico’s makes a jumbo pizza that has 35 slices.  The biggest we’ve ever seen.

El Pollo Loco or Papa Reuben’s, as the locals call it, makes the best quesatacos ever.

All that good food fueled us for the rest of our busy work week:

By Thursday afternoon, the house was complete with windows, a locking door, a roof, stucco and paint.

Esteban, his wife and their six children (soon to be seven) were delighted when Garth offered a prayer of dedication and handed over the keys.  This family of 8 was thrilled to enter their 450 sq. ft home that had a solid foundation and a roof over their heads.

It was a week of hard physical work in the hot sun, but a week we would choose to do again.  Not only were Esteban and his family’s life changed, ours were forever changed as well.

Saying goodbye to the neighborhood kids as we closed the van door to drive home to the States.