Archive for the ‘lifestyle’ Category

2013 ING Miami Half Marathon

Travel & Lodge

IMG_20130125_093053My wife and I flew into Miami, Florida on the Friday before the race at approximately mid-day.  We were greeted by a beautiful blue sky filled with popcorn-like, white puffy clouds, and a $40 cab fare from the airport to the hotel.  I booked our hotel several months ago based basically on a single criteria, its proximity to the start-finish line.  Luckily for us, the Holiday Inn Port of Miami was 3 blocks from the start line and 2 blocks from the finish.

My stomach had started feeling a little uneasy the day before our trip but I wasn’t too concerned since I wasn’t suffering from any other symptoms such as headache, fever or sinus issues.  I already had enough on my plate stressing over the recent shin splint appearance, not to mention the normal first-time big race paranoia over training, fitness, and whatever else could theoretically throw a wrench in my plans.

IMG_20130125_134858We arrived too early to check in to our room so we headed across the street to the Bayside Market Place where we decided to have a single, large splurge meal before I had to go on pre-race lock down.  We settled on the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory and while I didn’t necessarily care for the over the top Forrest Gump theme or the lack-luster service, the shrimp scampi was filling and tasty.  We also each enjoyed a Corona-Rita, which is a bottle of Corona beer suspended upside down over a glass partially filled with margarita mixer. If I wasn’t registered to run a half marathon two days later I could have sat right in that chair for the duration of the weekend.

Unfortunately, my stomach’s previous rumblings were not a false alarm and for the next 3 days, no matter what I ate or drank, I would have to make a direct path for the bathroom within 30 minutes or risk public humiliation.

The Expo

I had planned on just relaxing after lunch on Friday and heading over to the Expo on Saturday afternoon so I could catch a talk by Matt Fitzgerald, co-author of one of my favorite books on running.  But as it turned out, the hotel employee who was checking us in was also running the half marathon and we struck up quite the conversation, during which he constantly recommended that we go to the Expo immediately so we could register my wife for the Tropical 5k, scheduled to be run at 7:30 am on Saturday morning.

We took the free shuttle over to the Expo and it was a nicely laid out event with all of the typical and expected vendors hawking their goods and offering free samples of their products. I was adamant about not trying any of the energy gels, shots, gummies, etc so as to avoid any bad reactions, and instead we focused on purchasing a few items of clothing and other memorabilia.

And then it happened! While I was collecting my registration packet my wife told me she was walking over to sign up for the 5k event.  I was excited for her but honestly also slightly concerned about the logistical issues since the race did not start or finish near our hotel.  We wrapped things up fairly quickly at the Expo and headed back to the hotel turn in early after starting the travel day at 3 am.

Tropical 5k & Expo Day 2

We woke up at 5 am on Saturday, choked down some coffee and a PowerBar headed out on our adventure hunt to find the 5k race. We ran into another couple about 15 minutes into our trip, and then a runner visiting from Germany, and then another couple, from Brazil. No one knew how to find or get to the Miami Children’s Museum on foot from where we were. I knew we were in deep trouble when a BMW pulled up beside us and the occupants rolled down the windows and asked us if we knew how to get to the race because they were official event media personnel and were lost.

IMG_20130126_165115We walked about 5k through less than ideal neighborhoods and highways overpasses before running into a shuttle service at Parrot Jungle that took us to the race.  I stayed on the bus and rode it to the finish line of the point to point race so I could wait for my wife. She cruised through in a personal best for her, all smiles, and looking great. Congrats baby! Great atmosphere at both the finish line and the after-party which took place at Nikki Beach.

We left pretty early to get back to the hotel, clean up and shop a little for the kids and extended family before heading back out to the Expo so I could catch Matt’s speech about the “art and science of pacing.”  He gave a great talk, took questions after and I even managed to pin him in a corner for some last minute strategy advice as well as an autograph for my copy of Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon.

Rookie Mistakes

I did the best I could avoiding common pitfalls that sabotage unsuspecting or undisciplined racers.  I didn’t drink any alcohol other than my single beer on Friday. I stayed away from sampling new and exciting products from highly energetic Expo vendors, and then I let my goofy, dumb-ass pride kick in.

There was a beautiful blue, race-themed tech shirt for sale. And I started rationalizing how it might be easier for my wife to spot me in the race if I wasn’t wearing the official orange shirt like 25,000 other runners.  Plus I could then puff my chest out and wear the orange shirt during our flight home on Monday, bragging to the world about my exploits.

IMG_20130127_051338Well, what do you know?  By about mile 7 my nipples were raw. So raw that I was occasionally grabbing at my shirt to pull the fabric away from my chest rather than let it drag across my chest again.

Since I was feeling flat from all of my digestive issues I made a last minute to decision to abandon my strategy of running with a pace group targeting a 2:20 finish.  Instead I decided to program a 13.1 mile workout into my Garmin, and assign various pace ranges to several segments so I could be reminded of an overall strategy without feeling the pressure of running with a group or constantly glancing at my watch.

Unfortunately, I did not realize or forgot that this would cause the Garmin to not give me 1 mile split times but instead provide only 3 splits referencing the 6 mile, 4 mile and 5k segments I had programmed.  A real bummer not to be able to waste a few hours staring at my first ever half marathon split times from start to finish.

The Race

Finally! We get to what you came here for.

The corrals opened at 5 am and I walked outside the hotel with my wife at about 5:15.  It was literally 10° hotter than it had been the past 2 days and I immediately shed my jacket and took a few last sips of water.

We walked around a bit together as I jogged and performed some dynamic stretches. She snapped photos and did a great job of capturing the atmosphere.  I decided to search out my corral and she climbed the stairs of the American Airlines Arena to stake out an observation post for the start.

IMG_20130127_054044After the requisite opening ceremonies, we were off and walking…..shuffling….walking…….the wait wasn’t too bad however and by the time that I made my way to the timing mat I was actually running.

Maybe the best decision I made the entire weekend was to abandon the pace group idea and just let the race come to me.  I didn’t feel great and the adrenalin wasn’t jacking me up either.  I felt ok, but guarded and cautious, and I was happy that I had programmed a somewhat more conservative approach into my Garmin, as opposed to hitting my goal pace right out of the chute with a group of strangers.

It literally took me until mile 3 before I felt somewhat relaxed. I also made a promise to drink at every aid station, thinking that my constant bathroom issues plus the higher temperatures would drain me faster than I had prepared for.  At the first aid station I grabbed a cup of Gatorade on the run and promptly spilled the majority of it down my shirt on over my face. From that point forward I would walk whatever distance was necessary to drink the actual contents of whatever cup I decided to grab.

As a big race rookie, navigating the aid station mayhem was a bit disconcerting. Large groups of people mobbed the first table at each aid station creating human blockades that obstructed runners who were caught on the inside lane.  Timing my dash into the later tables at each station became a fairly technical game of guess-timating angles, speeds and distances in order to successfully hydrate while avoiding crashing into other runners.

There were a couple of aid stations throughout the course that were not prepared or re-stocked by the time I came rambling by, but for the most part I’d have to say the volunteers, aid and effort were great and I can’t really complain that anything they did or didn’t do had any effect on my results. They had a hard job all day and performed it well. Thanks!

My only other critical observation during the race is in regards to the Galloway, run-walk interval participants. They were strong, disciplined and plentiful.  But they also seemed to insist on running shoulder to shoulder, spanning a large width of the available course at any given time.  And of course, just like clockwork, they became a walking roadblock.  If you’re in a group of 6 plus people who know that you’re going to walk every 4 minutes or whatever your schedule is, can you please be aware of the fact that a long narrow rectangle of people is easier for other racers to navigate than is a wide, unyielding mass of elbows and backsides?  Please?

ING Miami is a beautiful course!

ING Miami is a beautiful course!

I was determined to follow the advice of going out slow and running the first half of the race conservatively.  I ran the first 6 miles without even considering an increase in pace.  And interestingly enough I felt better physically at mile 6 than I did at mile 2.  Over the next 4 miles I knew that I wanted to make a slight effort at increasing my pace but each time I tried to hold a new pace I’d find myself zigging and zagging among the crowd and feeling like I was wasting a lot of energy.  So instead I decided to start surging between every second or third stoplight.  I was feeling great and noticed that I was seeing mostly 10:xx + on my watch instead of 11:xx.

It was during this 3 to 4 mile stretch that I began fantasizing about what it would take to still hit a 2:20 or better finish.  Could I turn a fartlek style second half into a respectable finish?  Or if I found an opening in the course could I sustain a smooth transition to another gear and cruise through the final 5k at a 30 minute or better split?

I’d never find out.  Somewhere between mile 10 and 11 my right hip began to tighten significantly.  It was becoming harder and harder to drive my knee through, and I felt like I was leaving my right leg behind me at times.  I’m proud that I didn’t panic or just give up but it would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t frustrated knowing that my chance to turn an average effort into a respectable PR was disappearing quickly.

Garmin 610 Run Data

The final 2.5 miles or thereabouts were really just about not slipping into crash and burn territory.  I kept trying to remember a quote I read somewhere along the lines of, “the runner who can run the longest, and the fastest, while in the most discomfort, while staying the most relaxed will be the winner.”

My idea of winning at that point was digging in for a final, sub 10:00 mile or squeezing through the 2:20 window somehow but it wasn’t to be.  I just lacked the extra gear that more focused training wold have provided and I lacked the mental fortitude to ignore my hip for the final 5k.

IMG_20130127_095205I’m not necessarily disappointed. I beat my realistic goal of 2:30 and I did so knowing that there’s a lot more potential waiting to be exposed. But it won’t happen magically or just because I want it.  I have to make it happen.

Running may very well be the most honest game on earth. It won’t give you anything that you haven’t earned but it will give you exactly what you deserve.

The After-Party

Bottled water. Bananas. Bagels. Fruit cups. Medals. Pictures. Some band playing. Rice and beans. A beer tent that was too far away. A bright sun and green grass. Stretching against a tree. Finally finding my wife. A shower and change of clothes. Three cheese ravioli x 2. A 3 hour nap.

Gear

Brooks PureConnect

CEP Progressive Compression Socks

Garmin Forerunner 610 w/ HR monitor

Splits

Split 1, 1:07:07, 6 miles, avg pace 11:11, avg HR 156, max HR 171
Split 2, 42:09, 4 miles, avg pace 10:38, avg HR 170, max HR 177
Split 3, 32:07, 3.1 miles, avg pace 10:27, avg HR 178, max HR 182

ingmiami2013

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Now that 2012 is a little over a week in the bag it’s time to get serious about planning for 2013.  About three months ago I started mentally preparing for 2013, especially since my first half marathon is right around the corner. But before we get any farther into the New Year why not go ahead and throw down a preliminary look on paper, if you will, of what the entire year might look like.

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  1. January 27, 2013 – ING Miami Half Marathon – This race basically represents the culmination of my 2012 training, as haphazard as it was. Originally I had hoped to pursue roughly a 2:10 finish time based on McMillan’s calculator analyzing my 54 minute finish in a 6 mile race. Unfortunately my training, as well as my injury downtime, held me back from properly preparing for the distance in a manner that would allow me to attack and sustain that goal pace for the duration.  Being flexible and realistic, I look forward to now using the ING Miami as a training race, an experience that will give me valuable practice at properly pacing and understanding my body’s feedback during a 13.1 mile effort. I will consider any sub 2:30:00 finish a victory.basilica de los angeles
  2. February 10, 2013 – La Candelaria 10k – A classic race in Costa Rica that everyone here should run at least once. 2013 will be the 32nd running of the fast course with a major downhill bias, dropping approximately 300 feet from beginning to end, after a mild 65 feet of elevation gain during the first 2 miles. La Candelaria passes through downtown Cartago, which was the original capital of Costa Rica until 1823. Cartago sits at an elevation of roughly 4700 feet above sea level. How I approach this race will completely depend on my recuperation from the ING Miami Half Marathon. If I feel energetic and full of bounce then I will attack the course early and hold on for dear life.  If still feeling a bit tight, brittle or fatigued from Miami then I will enjoy the 10k simply as a fun training run through an area of Costa Rica that I have not explored on foot before.
  3. March 2, 2013 – Chattahoochee Road Runners Club 10k – The CRR 10k will prove to be a challenge; I’m sure of it. Although the course is primarily flat, with a modest elevation gain during miles 4 and 5, and finishing with an aggressive downhill surge, this trip back to the United States will also be somewhat of an emotional event as well as a physical test.  Two of my older brothers and my sister in law will also be racing. I haven’t seen one brother in over 5 years, and the other in close to 10 years. All three of my competitors have raced this course on multiple occasions, and as runners have years of experience more than I. This event is potentially a trap for any specific goal, other perhaps than the challenge of reigning in my pride and running my race.rock clev
  4. October 5, 2013 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Cleveland Half MarathonThis is my 2013 A race!  The October race date provides plenty of time for me to focus on expanding my aerobic base as well as fine tuning my strength program before diving into one of Jason Fitzgerald’s custom, half marathon training plans. There is no course map yet, however Rock ‘n’ Roll describes the course as flat and fast. Cleveland has an average temperature of 52.8 ° F, with an average maximum temperature of 62.1 ° F, and an average minimum temperature of 43.5 ° F. In Cleveland I will aim to apply all the lessons learned from the ING Miami Half Marathon, as well as taking advantage of the course, climate and a much better chassis and engine combo to blow through a 2:15:00 finish and target the original McMillan goal of approximately 2:07:00 or thereabouts.

So there you have it. A quick, preliminary view of what’s facing me in 2013. Keeping these dates and races in mind will give me a broader context within which I can plan my training and analyze my progress and or challenges, as they might arise.

Let’s see how much better 2013 can be!

The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.

Well, it’s official. 2012 has come to an end. Maybe not quite as dramatically as the Maya had allegedly predicted, but it’s over nonetheless.

As best as I can tell from my records I began my running experiment in late July, completing 5 runs between 1 and 1.5 miles each. Things started picking up quickly come August, and despite numerous injuries and setbacks early on, I’ve maintained a fairly respectable schedule (by my fairly lax standards as a former couch potato.)

August: 57 miles

September: 81 miles

October: 57 miles

November: 56 miles

December: 74 miles

561884_367390530006994_782436028_nSeptember’s significantly higher volume came as the result of never taking more than a single day off between runs, as well as running on quite a few consecutive days.  In addition, 13.2 miles of the 81 came on a run-walk effort on 9/11. It’s ironic that since my A goal is the ING Miami Half Marathon in January, that the 9/11 run is the only time I’ve ever covered the full distance.

September’s miles came with a high price however as I was constantly plagued by plantar fasciitis, bone spurs and Achilles tendonitis.  Eventually I was forced to receive a series of corticosteroid injections in my ankle and the sole of my foot. Fortunately I discovered that via aggressive stretching, primarily the heel-drop protocol, as well as daily rolling of a tennis ball under my arches, I could eliminate a majority of the issues.

2012 monthly totals

I participated in two official races: the ECO RUN 10k and the City Tour Race.  The Eco Run surprised me by taking us off road for a stint over the sand of the Pacific coast beach at Playa Herradura. Combined with some major late race elevation climbs and the heat and humidity, I was happy to survive and struggled through in roughly 68 minutes.  The City Tour Race was a 10k that wasn’t. The day before the race some logistical issues shortened the race to 6 miles, but along with an obstacle free and mostly flat course, the shortened route provided a great confidence boost as I felt like I was finally ‘running,’ crossing the finish line in 54 minutes.

I experimented with quite a few different training ideas and theories, everything from low heart rate training, run-by-feel, to more aggressive pace based plans. They all provided some benefit and unsurprisingly also had their distinct shortcomings (all as a result of my execution, not their design.) As I continue to grow in both practical experience, knowledge and theory I’m sure I will find or create the recipe that respects my limitations while still challenging me to progress.

2012-11-11 city tour race 10kMy strength training was more consistent but not necessarily any more effective because I mostly remained focused on the same, basic strength exercises that I’ve performed for general fitness. They certainly did not hurt or inhibit my progress in any way. But from the perspective of becoming a better runner, in 2013 I will fine tune my efforts to more closely match my specific running goals.

Diet and nutrition improved but were not consistent; a recurring theme in my year in review analysis. I made a concerted effort to implement a Paleo inspired diet, and lost about 20 lbs.  When asked, I describe my approach as 80% paleo, 80% of the time. I am carrying 170 lbs on a 5’10” frame, but am still a bit soft and know that my body fat percentage is higher than it should be or needs to be.

As far as shoes, apparel, gear and accessories are concerned I spent way too much money.  But on the other hand, the monetary commitment is a motivating factor in my desire to now reap dividends from properly utilizing my tools, toys and indulgences.

I have a high-end GPS watch with heart rate monitor, and enough shoes, shirts, shorts and tights to last until this time next year before considering any additions or replacements. The priority now (as it should have been all along) is on making it happen!

I will save my 2013 goals, plans and aspirations for another post. But I would be remiss if i failed to mention and thank some of the people who have made my running a positive and life enriching experience.

Let me conclude by offering my sincere wishes that everyone can look back on 2012 and if not necessarily happy with every race, result or effort, can at least recognize what happened, why and how to make adjustments that will improve your chances for continued and greater success in 2013!

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A detailed training log for the week is here.

It’s a crazy time in our household right now. Sometimes it’s hard to find time for a run, but it always seems that a stretch out on the road is just the right trick to mentally relax and escape from some of life’s daily nonsense.

My wife started a new job this week; congratulations baby! I’m so proud of you.  Our kids are in the final trimester of the year, looking forward to their 3+ months of vacation starting the third week of November. But not so fast! Their weekend was interrupted on Saturday by the Cambridge English language evaluations. Students who pass this testing throughout their primary and high school careers will receive international certification of their diplomas that enables them to continue their educations in English speaking countries without having to repeat any course work. We are also in the process of trying to obtain financing to purchase a new home, in a foreign country.

On other entertaining fronts, the New York Yankees were promptly and decisively eliminated from the MLB playoffs, the Presidential debates kicked it up a notch and Lance Armstrong was all but asked to join Julian Assange in hiding within an Ecuadorian embassy.

This week I ran three times, an easy paced 5k plus hill sprints, a 5k time trail which I finished in 26:55, and a 7.3 mile easy pace run today, which I broke into segments based on the location of the first few aid stations in the ING Miami Half Marathon.

There are fewer than 100 days remaining before Miami, so my focus will change dramatically after November 11’s City Tour 10k.

If all proceeds according to plan I will have four runs in the coming week, in a 3, 4, 3, 6 miles format.

There were quite a few events this weekend but the race that caught my attention was the Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational where Sara Baxter destroyed the previous course record. You can catch the entire 16 minutes of action here.

 

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A detailed training log for the week is here.

Like many people who become involved in a new activity I love to research and read all the information I can get my hands on. Where I often fall short, however, is in translating my enthusiasm and new found knowledge into action.

From too many different sources to list, all respectable, qualified and accomplished in both endurance training theory and real world results, I have learned that my easy day runs must be just that: easy, slower than normal pace, and within roughly a 60% to 70% window of my maximum heart rate.

Surprise. Surprise. After almost 3 months of training, I really have not been applying this to my own running.  I made a concerted effort last week to make this happen and as a result I ran my first half marathon distance.

While you really don’t need to hear it from me, her goes: most people run too hard on their easy days and too easily on their hard days.

Make your training count! Have a goal and purpose for every run that you do, and recite that goal aloud before taking your first step.

Reward your efforts with quality food and your body will thank you.

 

Red Meat or Tofu? It Probably Doesn’t Matter

In a classic example of the fighting the wrong battle while the war rages on elsewhere, many of us are often caught up in the arguments for and against eating meat, vegetarianism, vegan lifestyles or even the fruitarian viewpoint. While we slug it out with one another in the trenches, belittling each other’s choices and creating an ever greater divide among us as consumers who like to pretend we are making more informed decisions, the government, politicians and agribusiness giants are busy raking in millions, laughing all the way to the bank, and potentially poisoning all of us, while forever altering the genetic code in ways that evolution never intended.

Genetically Modified Organisms and Foods (GMOs GMFs) are escalating at an alarming rate, entering our food production and distribution chain without the slightest pretense of legitimate testing or oversight. Despite corporate and state claims to the contrary, just recall any memories you may have about the tobacco industry’s scientists and attorneys when you weigh idea of fair, balanced or objective scrutiny and safeguards in relation to this industry.

Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives is a great primer on the topic if you’re interested. The film is a production of the Institute for Responsible Technology and can be viewed online. However, you can also order a dvd copy which brings additional bonus footage and four additional mini presentations on related topics.

An excerpt from the film’s website:

When the US government ignored repeated warnings by its own scientists and allowed untested genetically modified (GM) crops into our environment and food supply, it was a gamble of unprecedented proportions. The health of all living things and all future generations were put at risk by an infant technology.

After two decades, physicians and scientists have uncovered a grave trend. The same serious health problems found in lab animals, livestock, and pets that have been fed GM foods are now on the rise in the US population. And when people and animals stop eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their health improves.

This seminal documentary provides compelling evidence to help explain the deteriorating health of Americans, especially among children, and offers a recipe for protecting ourselves and our future.

 

My latest running gear purchase arrived on Friday: a pair of Skechers GOrun. Like many, I was very skeptical of purchasing a ‘serious’ running shoe from Skechers, a brand more commonly associated with fashion, casual and lifestyle shoes.  After having read several very positive reviews from online resources that I respect, however, I decided that the GOruns would make the short list of potential future purchases.

I was debating between the GOruns and a pair of either Brooks PureFlow or PureConnects. My final decision was based on the following two factors: I have read reviews of the Brooks from online retailers, running magazines and retailers like Running Warehouse and Amazon. The reviews I read regarding the Skechers GOruns included several semi-pro runners, coaches, and enthusiasts so I felt I was getting slightly more personal feedback.  Reason number two, to be completely honest, was simply price. I have already invested a lot of money (for me) in this experiment and an opportunity presented itself where I could purchase the Skechers for about $30 less than either Brooks model. Done deal.

Maybe you’re wondering why I needed or wanted another pair of shoes if I’ve already made a few purchases. Especially if I want to save a few dollars, the easiest way is just not buy anything!  True enough.  I rotate several pair of shoes during my weekly runs, which include the Reebok RealFlex, Inov-8 Road-X 233, and Inov-8 F-Lite 195.  Each pair has its pros and cons, the Reeboks serve as an everyday casual shoe, as well as pulling duty on many of my longer runs where their extra cushioning is appreciated.  Having said that, I can at times feel a little lost in the Reeboks, my foot moving a little too much as the foam compresses and rebounds. The Inov-8 F-Lite 195 are my most extreme minimalist shoe, giving me immediate, unbiased, and unforgiving feedback.  I use them now mostly for my shorter, recovery runs, 5ks and also for cross training. My favorite shoe of the bunch is the Road-X 233. Minimal but not extreme. Flexible but with a little stiffness in the sole that I appreciate when pushing the pace or trying for a few extra miles.

The GOruns are just enough of what you need without anything more.  They are the perfect shoe to slide into place between the softer ride of the Reeboks and the precision handling of the Road-X 233s.  The uppers are incredibly light and with a roomy toe box the shoe almost feels like you are wearing a sock with a sole underneath.  The sole of the shoe is slightly curved, with a cut away or ‘missing’ heel.  When you stand tall, erect and with your feet close together you can actually fall backwards with the slightest lean since there is no heel to stop the momentum. This design also really seems to guide your foot into a mid-foot or forefoot landing, compared to other minimalist shoes that are still all too easy to heel strike in, if you are determined to do so.

Today was my first run in the blue and grey pebble crushers and I can say without reservation; all systems go.  I ran a 1 mile warmup, followed by 2 x 800 @ half marathon pace with 800 recoveries, 2 x 400 @ 10k pace with 400 recoveries, and wrapped things up with the run home of approximately three quarters of a mile.  No hot spots, no friction, just nice, care-free propulsion and landing without anything interfering with my perception of the foot strike and heel pull.

If you’re in the market for a light weight trainer or racing shoe, give the GOruns a spin. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

P.S. I purchase many running shoes one half size larger than normal to allow my toes to spread out, as well as accommodate any swelling that might take place during long, hard runs. The toe box on the Skechers is generous enough that I did not find this necessary and have a great fit with my normal shoe size.

 

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