Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blue Skies

Do you ever have those days that go perfectly even if the details aren't perfect?

When I signed up for the Air Force Half, I had no idea how much I was going to look forward to running it nor did I know how much I would enjoy it. This wasn't my first time at the Air Force Half. I ran it two years ago. Mostly I remember the beginning, a huge crowd of people along the course through the first 4 or so miles, the hill at mile 8, and the end. I also remember breaking 2 hours for the first time ever on the half marathon. I liked to tell people that the only good things about the Air Force Half were the beginning and the end. The beginning includes a fly over of some awesome plane and the end has you running through an airplane lineup and receiving a medal from a high ranking air force officer. Last Saturday, I ate those words. I am very happy about that.

I had not run an event in a couple of months as I was building my way back to being healthy after figuring out my body was running way too low on iron. I was a little nervous because my last two half marathons were terrible. I had no energy and running hurt. I was afraid of a three-peat despite the fact that my training runs had been getting faster, and my endurance had been getting back to my before anemia levels. I really had no idea of what the day would bring, and I was excited and little nervous to find out.

I decided to enter the base from Harshman Road this year rather than Colonel Glenn. The traffic was decidedly better, and I highly recommend doing it this way if you plan to travel to Dayton for the event. I got out of my car and looked up. There was the B2 flying overhead. That was amazing! It glided through the skies like no plane I had ever seen. Two years ago, a jet flew over before the start and the pilot hit the afterburners. Awesome :-) That was the beginning I had spoken of.

I checked the verse of the day before heading to the start:
2 Timothy 4:7 "I  have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

The weather prediction was a start in the lower 50s and the low 60s by the time I finished. Perfect. The skies were blue, and the grass and trees were a beautiful green.  The Air Force museum looked as lovely as it always does. I headed over to the start to put myself near the 2 hour pace group. I wasn't planning on a half PR, but I was hoping to break 2 hours if everything felt okay. I saw my friend Carolyn over by the pace group. Her plan was to run her first sub-2. Carolyn and I began the race together.

Miles 1-4
The first 4 miles flew by quickly. Running felt easy and good, and I was very happy that the beginning did not resemble the beginning of my last two events. Around mile 4, there was a glitch. The group we were behind took a wrong turn. A minute or so later, people ran by us and yelled that we were all going the wrong way and that we needed to turn around. This gave us a bonus of about a quarter of a mile. I was little surprised as my past experience with the Air Force event was that everything went like clockwork. Apparently this happened to other groups too. (After the event, I heard that some people went as far as 4 miles out and some even had two wrong turns.) This certainly wasn't my first event with bonus mileage. Since I wasn't shooting for a PR and only went a little off course, this didn't really bother me. It did, however, put a little fire in my belly to move a bit faster. I didn't feel annoyed; I felt energized. Really, I was just happy to be running at a decent clip while still feeling good.

Miles 5-7
At the mile 5 mark, Carolyn looked at her Garmin which showed we had traveled about a quarter of a mile more with the misdirection. Around mile 6, Carolyn and I lost track of each other at a water station. I was thankful to have the first 6 miles go by very quickly with good company, and she was keeping the pace right on target. I turned on my music, but I must have been doing a lot of thinking. I barely remember hearing any of the songs except for David Crowder Band's Open Skies. At mile 7, I took my peanut butter Gu which gave a nice energy boost. It was good timing.

Mile 8 brought the first hill of note during the half. It is an overpass, and it slows down many a runner. I remembered this incline from last time. I also remembered the nice downhill that comes after. On the way down the other side, a fellow runner who looked to be a retired military officer of the army or marine variety said something. I'm not exactly sure what started the conversation, but we chatted for a minute or so. He disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. I'm not sure if he wound up behind me or in front of me, but it was nice to have a brief conversation with someone who was smiling and obviously enjoying the run.

Miles 9-11
What I didn't remember from last time were the next hills that followed. I was starting to feel tired, but my lungs felt strong and my legs felt bouncy. I'm not exactly sure what was feeling tired, but something was. The temp was rising and this portion of the course had more ups and downs than the first 7 miles. It could have been my own doing. I had no idea what my pace was, but I am pretty sure I had sped up. By mile 11, I was confident I would break the 2 hour mark so I made the decision to slow down a little when I reached the final stretch. I wanted to enjoy running between the airplanes rather than gasping for air.

Miles 12-13
Flat. Almost there.

The last .1 and the Finish
I did enjoy the jaunt through the planes. :-) As I was crossing the finish, the clock showed 1 hour 59 minute and some change. The announcer was cheering everyone on to push to break the 2 hour mark. A 2 star Air Force General put my medal around my neck. As I was walking through the finish area, there was a woman with a very serious expression who was trying to keep us moving forward. I said to her that I was trying as I made a running movement with my arms and gave her a cheesy grin. "This is about as fast as I can go!" She lit up with a huge smile and told me how great it was to see someone smiling.  This year the end was even better than last time.

I grabbed something to eat and drink and then sat for a few. As I headed out of the race area, I looked down at my medal. The Air Force provides really nice bling. I thought about how I would take that medal home and throw it in a drawer never to see daylight again. That didn't sound like the best use for this beauty. As I walked, I asked for help in finding a good home for my prize. A few steps later, I saw a young boy who looked like he could use a smile. I got the go ahead from the adults accompanying him and placed it around his neck. I know it made my day even better. I hope it did the same for him.

Final Time: 1:57:14

Looking back, I bettered my course time by over a minute even with an extra quarter mile. Based on pace, I would have run around 1:55 without the bonus mileage. It was a beautiful day. Running felt good again. The best part about this race was the entire experience.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You Can't Spell Geek without EE

B-?! You have GOT to be kidding me! I need a B to get credit for this class. Was B- even an option?!?! I have to retake this class???  ARRRRRRGH!

And then I woke up.

I guess you could say I was stressed about this class. I have no idea why. I mean, well, yeah, it was a hard class. I spent a ridiculous amount of time studying. It had been over 15 years since I had done a Fourier or Laplace Transform. It was also the last required core course for my PhD. After drinking 4 years of math through a fire hose for my undergrad in electrical engineering, I was pretty much over it. I loved math in high school.  Now, not so much.
The night before this B- nightmare, I had taken the 3rd exam for Linear Signals and Systems. The professor presented the class with a nice little carrot: if you had an A or B after the first 3 exams, you didn't have to take the final unless you wanted to do so. I was 100% certain I would be taking the final. I jumped out of bed and got online to see my grade. I was praying for a B because that guaranteed I would never have to take this class again. I had made a promise to myself that I would give it my best and turn the rest of over to God. That meant if I had a B going into the final, I would spend the next two days studying for a shot at an A and be okay no matter the outcome. I had  just spent the entire weekend and then some studying for the third exam. Motivation was going to be hard to find. Before the summer quarter even began, I had bought the book and managed to make it through the first 3 chapters. I knew relearning calculus while working full time during a compressed quarter and trying to get in some running would be next to impossible. 

I opened the grade report. I blinked. I looked again. And again. How in the world? Next to my number, it said A. I looked again. Really? I don't have to spend the next two days studying? I began to feel a huge sense of relief. Is that a tear?! Yes, yes it was. I felt as if I had been given one of the best gifts ever. Five minutes before, I was trying to prepare myself for two more days of intense studying and suddenly I was free.

I had made an A by exactly .7%. Just barely. 

Had I worked hard enough to earn an A? Yes, I believe I did. I gave it my best shot and invested a lot of time and effort. Did I deserve an A? Based on my performance on the tests and the overall class grade curve, I cannot honestly say I deserved it. Luckily God's grace has nothing to do with what we deserve. 

A grade in a math class is such a small thing, but it was something that was important to me. Having two less days of stress meant a lot to me, and I am very thankful! If God cares about the little things, he certainly cares about the things that matter most.

"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2: 8-10

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-a Twice Today

Standing room only and a loooooong drive thu line!
I saw people smiling and showing America there is hope. I saw Christians supporting other Christians and showing that they will not allow religious persecution in a country founded by believers. I heard people talking about Jesus without fear that others would be insulted. Today was an amazing day!

God is alive, and he is faithful :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ode to Fe

You don't know what you've got until it's gone? Well, maybe. In the case of hemoglobin and running, that cliché is spot on.

Hemoglobin is a protein that is extremely important to running performance. They're the little helpers inside your red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body and also take away the carbon dioxide. Iron is a big part of what makes the process work.

Life without enough hemoglobin is tough. Most runs, I felt just drained.  My normal pace was running about a minute and half slower than usual. I felt like I was dragging through my runs. I was breathing harder and felt like my oxygen had just gone missing. My heart was working way too hard (increased heart rate). I had nothing to give. After 3 months of difficult run after difficult run, I went to see the doc. Diagnosis: anemia. For the first time in my life, I was told to take iron supplements. I also had to make sure I was taking my B vitamins and folic acid on a regular basis rather than just whenever I got around to remembering.

Let's face it, new stuff is scary. I started doing what it is that I do when I feel like I might have missed the clue bus. I started researching. Anemia is a symptom of something else gone wrong. Once you are anemic, they are on the search to figure out why you got that way. There are a lot of things that can cause it. Women are more susceptible due to menstruation. Runners are more susceptible. Vegetarians are more susceptible. While I'm not a vegetarian, I cannot eat read meat due to an allergy and haven't had any in almost 7 years. Red meat happens to be our best and most easily absorbed form of iron (heme). Iron from dark leafy greens and veggies is referred to as non-heme and is less easily absorbed by our digestive system. While I am still not 100% certain at this point what led me to my current situation, I have learned some useful tidbits for runners. Here are the cliff notes for your general edification and perhaps increased running performance.

There are over 400 types of anemia which are divided into 3 groups: anemia caused by blood loss, anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production, and anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells.

Normal Levels of hemoglobin in the blood (source):
Men: 14 - 18 gm/dL
Men after middle age: 12.4 - 14.9 gm/dL
Women: 12 - 16 gm/dL
Women after middle age: 11.7 - 13.8 gm/dL

"...for an endurance athlete, the lower end of normal should be extended by about 1 gram per 100 ml, due to our larger blood volume." - source Pfitz

Lack of iron can lead to anemia but so can lack of folic acid or B12. Iron deficiency is the most common (source).

Within two weeks of taking iron supplements, hemoglobin and hemocrit levels should begin responding to iron supplementation (source). It can take up to 3 months to get iron stores back (source: my doc).

Certain medications / vitamins decrease iron absorption:
Certain antibiotics including Cipro (sourcewhich I was put on for Peru belly and Penicillin (source) which I was put on for my tooth.
Calcium (source)
This means if you are taking calcium in a multivitamin, you should be taking your iron supplement 1 hour before or 2 hours after your calcium.
Some types of antacids can block iron absorption by the body. Pepto-bismol is said to reduce the chance of travelers diarrhea by 65% (source) so I was taking it every day while in Peru. Oops.

Other items of interest:

Vitamin C increases iron non-heme absorption (source). Order the salad with dark leafy greens and mandarin oranges or strawberries.

Training at altitude can lead to iron deficiency as your body tries to increase your red blood cell volume to account for the lack of oxygen (source). If you are coming from somewhere low (say... Ohio), and training somewhere high (say.... the Inca Trail), make sure you get plenty of iron rich foods.

Ferritin is the level of iron stores in your body.  It's important, too.

Having too much iron in your system can cause big problems so you shouldn't be taking iron if you don't need it.

Coffee and tea reduce iron absorption (source). If you like your coffee in the morning, then it isn't a good time to take your iron supplement.

If you don't have insurance or a doctor, you can pay $29 through DirectLabs to get a CBC (complete blood count).

Obviously there is a lot more to anemia than what's above, but I thought this was good info for the runner. It showed me that I still have a lot of good stuff to learn about endurance training and one of God's greatest gifts: the human body. If you are feeling continually run down during your workouts, a blood test might be a good place to start. Your iron level can make a difference in performance (source).

Here are a couple of great blog articles about anemia and running from two top-notch runners:
Lauren Fleshman
Camille Herron

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Angela Ivory

I had spoken to Angela quite a few times at races.  Anytime you went to an ultra in the South, there was a good chance Angela would be there. She was always there with a smile on her face. Angela had an inner strength and kindness. Everyone noticed.

"Sitting, tears in her eyes, and gasping for air, she knows that she can't even walk too far before feeling faint.
One day, she'll run again.
She knows in her heart that the new normal has to be temporary.
She will be well again.
Patience she's never had would come in handy now.
Hope is all that remains.
She has to believe." - Angela's Blog

In her lifetime, she ran over 300 marathons and ultra marathons. Angela passed away at 44 years old from cancer on May 31st. She made the world a better place. Be free to run, and save a place for me, lady!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summertime and the Living is Easy?

After the Ice Age, it was time to warm up a little in Destin, Florida! Mom, Mona (Major Mary's mom), Jen, Mary, and I had made plans to meet in Destin at the end of May for a relaxing 4 day weekend of fun in the sun. The weather was perfect. The beach was beautiful. The food was yummy. We all had an awesome weekend!

Mona, Mom, Jen, Mary
Mom, Me, Jen, Mona

Mom in the Gulf

We didn't make this, but I still took
a pic of it. Love the white sands of

Mona, Jen, and Mary preparing a shrimp feast

Lunch with Mary's grandpa.

After a great weekend in Florida, I jumped on the plane to New Jersey for work. I did manage to visit the boardwalk on the Jersey shore which meant seeing two beaches in one week! Nice!

Upon my return it was time for me to start to my final core course in my PhD program: Linear Signals and Systems. At West Point, everyone referred to this class as "red death" because the book for the course was red.. and well, it wasn't an easy course. I had planned for this summer to be less about running and more about taking a break and focusing on math until the end of my class. That meant spending some time brushing up on calculus which I had not touched in over 15 years. Ouch.

In the meantime, I had also signed up for the West Milton Tri (canoe, run, bike) with the encouragement of Vickie who needed a teammate. With very high temps and very low water level, it was one very tough day.

Before the start of a very long and difficult 3.5 mile canoe trip,
90+ degree 5 mile run in the sun, and a nice 17 mile bike ride.

Two days later, I found myself running a 1 mile run at the Dash for Cash. My friend Jen ran as well, and it was her very first time ever running a complete mile in a race! She did great! I also won $5 at the race, and it didn't cost me anything to sign up. That meant it was the first time I had ever made money on a race. :-)

The amount of energy it took me to run that 1 mile, and the amount of energy all my runs have been taking finally prompted me to call my trail running doc. Since Peru, running has been extremely tiring. I have also lost 7 or so pounds despite increasing the amount of food at meal time and decreasing my running. While some might think this to be the ideal situation, it isn't so ideal when it isn't the norm and is accompanied by fatigue. There have also been other things that aren't exactly quite right, but I'll spare you on the details.

Trail running doc did a complete blood (CBC) workup on me, and the results showed anemia.  Apparently my level should be above 12, and it registered as 8.5.  He said it was no wonder I had been feeling so tired during my runs. Now, I've never been anemic in my life, and I didn't have this issue until Peru. So with the weight loss and anemia, my guess is that I brought back a few friends with me from South America. 

So begins the search to figure out what exactly is causing the anemia and to replenish my iron levels and red blood cell count (which can take up to 3 months).  In the meantime, I have ordered a home blood test meter that tests hemoglobin levels. Not sure how accurate it will be, but I'm always up for a good experiment. I'm really a scientist at heart. :-) By the end of August, I should be a mathematician. Hopefully in a few more months, I'll be back to being a runner again as well.  Of all that I choose to be, my complete joy comes from knowing Jesus. 

Onward to my favorite month of the year... July!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

It Can't Always Get Worse


Ever since my return from Peru, my poor body has had a lot with which to deal. The day after I set foot back in the US, my tummy went rogue with what I "affectionately" refer to as Peru Belly.  Apparently anywhere from 50 - 80% of Americans and Europeans don't have happy tummies after or during trips to South America. After 11 days of basically getting very little nutrition from anything I ate, I went to see my favorite trail running doc. He gave me a prescription for Cipro to fix the problem. I managed to take it for 5 days before deciding I had had enough due a pain in my ankle and in my hip and basically feeling like I had no energy. Cipro can have some pretty ugly side effects.

Before going to Peru, my tooth that has had problems for many years after a dentist (in Tennessee) got hold of it decided it couldn't take much more. Luckily it played nice while in Peru, but a week or two after returning, it swelled under the gum line. My dentist sent me to an endodontist, neither of which could tell me what exactly had gone wrong with the tooth. I'm fairly certain it was from the trauma many moons ago. The dentist told me that I had some bone loss in the jaw from what was going on in there, and the endodontist prescribed two more antibiotics. (Did I mention that I really dislike taking antibiotics?) A week after a root canal, it was time for my dentist to clean out the gum area around that tooth.  He then held up a prescription for another antibiotic! It had been two days since I finished the last set. I asked if I could skip it, and he said no after thinking about it for a couple of seconds. That meant 4 antibiotics in a month and half!  During that time, I also attempted to run a couple of races which was a bit like torture. Two days after finishing my final antibiotic, I decided to go ahead and run the Ice Age 50K. I had originally signed up for the 50 mile, but I knew that was just too much after all that my body had gone through. 

At mile 21 of the Ice Age, I had decided that a DNF (Did Not Finish) was preferable to running another 9 miles. I felt TERRIBLE. It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful course, and I felt like death warmed over. I tried listening to music. I tried listening to an audio book. I tried listening to nothing. I just could not get out of that place in my mind, and I could not ignore how terrible I was feeling physically.  I prayed... a lot. I asked God to let me know whether or not I was supposed to finish this race because I just could not keep going feeling the way I was feeling. I needed help. Not 10 minutes later, I ran into Rick. I had spoken a few words with Rick miles before, and as I was running by him, I asked him to run with me.  He said he couldn't, but he picked it up to a run anyway. Turns out that Rick was having a rough time as well.  As we started talking, I was finally able to get out of the mental valley in which I had been stuck. We ran past the aid station / start area and started on the third loop. Once you start that final loop, there is really no turning back. As Rick and I talked, we realized that we had both been considering a DNF before we ran into each other. I was very happy to be in the final loop because in my mind I had already DNFed. Had Rick and I not found each other and started running together, I would not have finished that race. He said he wouldn't have either. The third loop, though physically very difficult for my tired body, was actually a lot of fun. Rick and I crossed the finish line together. I really would like to return to Wisconsin and run the 50 mile sometime in the future.

The story doesn't really end there. After so many antibiotics, my body was not only missing the bad stuff, but all my good bacteria had been killed off as well. That meant more health issues. Today, everything seems to be on the way back to normal, but my running is still not where it was before departing for Peru on March 9th. Running is still a bit of a struggle, and paces that would have been non-taxing previously take more effort.  Instead of 80% of my runs feeling good, 80% of them feel difficult. I am still running and still moving forward. I am working on adjusting my mindset and letting go of the fear that things will not continue to improve. This struggle is nothing compared to the struggle of some. I often think of Angela Ivory and the struggle she must face against cancer. There isn't a day that goes by that she isn't in my prayers. Please put her in your prayers as well. 

Philippians 3:12-21
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hoka One One - Stinson Evo Review

After road running during the winter months, my trail season begins around spring. I love the shade of the trees and the new experiences on the trails. It keeps things fresh and different. I spent many a mile in the Bondi Bs (read my review) over the winter months. In fact, I managed to get over 800 miles in one pair which meant that per mile, they were the cheapest running shoes I have ever owned. That is pretty funny considering how expensive they are compared  to the shoes I was wearing previously.  For example, the Saucony Kinvara cost me about 20 cents per mile since I would barely get 300 miles out of a pair. The Bondi B's were 16 cents per mile. I could have gotten a few more miles out of them had I not found them another home in Peru.  Now someone else is getting some miles out of them.

When it came time to hit the trails, I decided to stick with Hoka. I had ordered a pair of the original Mafates from The Clymb for 1/3 the full price. Unfortunately, they felt stiff and uncomfortable after the Bondi Bs. The stiff tongue on the original version often dug into the top of my foot. The new 2012 versions of the Hokas were released a few months ago, and the Stinson Evo caught my eye. I was feeling a bit reluctant because I knew there was no way I would find a brand new version at any discount. The allure of a trail shoe that resembled the Bondi B and the fact that I was able to get so many miles out my last pair of Hokas was enough to get me to bite the bullet. I managed to find the women's version of the Stinson Evo in the size I needed at Zombie Runner.

The Stinson Evo feels a lot like the Bondi B but is a little stiffer, has a different lacing system, and has more of a tread on the sole. They are lower than the original Mafate and do not have the stiff tongue. I really wanted to like the new lacing system.  I always replace road shoe laces with lock laces, but lock laces are a bit too flexible for those ooey-gooey trail runs, in my opinion. These laces are not bungee so there is no stretch. Unfortunately I could never get them tight enough to feel like the shoes were fitting properly. Hoka, however, provided a normal pair of shoe laces for those of us who weren't feeling the love. After almost 100 miles in the Evos, I went ahead and replaced the laces with the regular pair. I am glad I did. That's a good thing since once the original laces are out, you can't put 'em back.

The other thing Hoka did was include two types insoles: regular Hoka insoles and the thin version.

Since I put in my Ortholites, I have used neither of these. I also should note that Hoka changed the sizing a bit from 2011. My 2011 Bondi Bs are size 8, and I ordered a 7.5 in the 2012 Evos. The fit seems equivalent.

At this point, I have about 150 miles on the Evos. I go out of my way to take care of them. If they get muddy, I make sure to clean them shortly after my run is complete, pull out the insoles and throw everything in front of a fan to dry. It's worth taking the extra effort when you shell out a chunk of change for a pair of shoes, and the Evos still look as good as new.

These trail Hokas are light for trail shoes. The women's size 7.5 comes in at 9 ounces (without insoles). The Bondi B size 8 women's weighed 7.4 ounces. (Yep, I used one of those old school postal scales that can be easily calibrated, and next I will do a math problem using a slide rule.... Continuing on....)

The picture to the left will give you an idea of how the 2012 Evo compares to the 2011 leather version of the Bondi B. I also have a pair of those that I picked up for less than half the normal price at LeftLane Sports. It is safe to say that I am a fan of Hoka shoes. See you on the trails. Time to fly!
'11 Mafate(8), '11 Bondi B lthr(8), '11 Bondi B(8), '12 Stinson Evo(7.5)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Amazon Rainforest

After spending days up in the mountains, coming down to the Amazon Basin was a huge change. It went from cold temps to "wow it is hot and huuuuuumid!" After a short bus ride from the airport, the group wound up in Puerto Maldonado for a stop.

Team Loco
We also happened to catch a very cool military parade that was cut short due to a huge downpour (yes, it is a rainforest)...

After the parade, we headed for the boat and a 2.5 hour boat ride into the Amazon Jungle. 
There was a very nice breeze while traveling by boat, and it felt wonderful! At this point, I guess I should mention Spot. Being the engineer type that I am, I rented a Spot GPS unit for 3 weeks from I knew that the cell coverage along the Inca trail would be iffy at best. (In fact, there was no cell service for 3 of the 4 days.)  I also assumed that the Amazon would have very little service which certainly was the case. Spot has GPS and communicates via satellite. Anyone who was interested in our little journey was added to the email list and received regular location updates, and I am happy to report that Spot worked very well during the entire journey.
Spot the Team Loco Mascot
After leaving the boat and walking a little distance, we arrived at our next home away from home: Refugio Amazonas.  I thought I must be in heaven. Who knew such an amazing place was in the middle of a jungle!?

The entire lodge was incredible. It was made out of wood and fit right in with nature. It was a work of art. 

Mary walking from the main lobby area to the lodging area

Walk way to the rooms
The rooms!
The restroom - cold water only, but that feels
pretty darn good in the Jungle.

Pisco sour - the awesome bartender makes
Jo's favorite drink!
Did I mention there was a
full service bar? A drink that
looks like a parrot...
Above the tree line

Electricity was provided by generators during certain 2 hour periods during the day. Our Amazon guide, Paula, gave us a tour of the trees, wildlife, and a fruit farm, and took us caiman spotting during our second night at the lodge. Here are a few pics from the Amazon adventure:

Paula tells us about the fruit farm
Marg enjoys a boat ride in the rain
Hey Jo!

Tarzan Mary
What a view from the boat!

Here kitty kitty....
That's not a kitty.  It's a caiman! Nothing better than a
cool evening boat ride in the moonlight looking for these
little fellas.
And, of course, no blog post about the Amazon would be complete without a picture of a monkey.  Without further ado...

I never really thought I would actually see the Amazon Jungle or Machu Picchu for that matter. Thanks for sharing in the blog journey of my Peru experience! Adios!