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Calibrating the weights

Sunday, November 11, 2012

At the tender age of 49, I took up weight lifting as a means to try to control my weight. It seemed to work for a few months, then stopped working. Six years later, I admitted that the reason it didn't work is because you can't out-train a crappy diet. Since then, I've been on SparkPeople tracking what I eat and getting some exercise every day; but heavy lifting got squeezed out of my schedule about a year ago when I got really into running.

Fast forward to running injuries, and I'm having to admit that another cliche I wanted to ignore is true: Runners need to cross-train to reduce injuries. Strength training is highly thought of. As I think about what I *didn't* injure, I'm pretty sure a history of doing squats and Romanian deadlifts helped me have zero problems with my quadriceps and hamstrings when I first trained to be a runner. I had some calf issues, but I hadn't trained calf raises nearly as diligently as I'd trained squats and RDLs. And ongoing kettlebell work was keeping those hamstrings strong.

So, as I rehab from the bad foot, I'm getting back into lifting weights. I have a nice set of equipment that I bought some time ago. One of the nice things about weight lifting is that there is no technological obsolescence; an Olympic bar purchased in 2005 is every bit as good as one you could buy today. Just dust the equipment off and rearrange the basement to make it accessible, and I'm good to go. Except for the minor detail that I actually have to *use* the stuff.

Re-entry to weight lifting is a time to be diligent. It's easy to lift once and then let it drop again. It's harder to start from being off the wagon and go to lifting regularly, which is the goal. Today is the 4th time lifting since I started, and the 3rd time since I got real about figuring out what my current working weights are.

The heavy lift du jour is the Romanian deadlift. This works the hamstrings, and was traditionally my second heaviest lift, behind only the conventional deadlift. After being pleasantly surprised by how much I could deadlift and unpleasantly surprised by how little I could squat, I wasn't sure where the working weight for RDLs would shake out.

It turned out that 185 was a good working weight for RDLs today. 195 would have been too much. Since my RDLs have historically been just a little lighter than my conventional deadlifts, this supports my thinking that I could have deadlifted a bit more than the 185 I deadlifted a week ago. Next session I'll test that theory.

The pulling exercise du jour was barbell bent over rows. I added some weight; and then some more; and a bit more; and found a good working weight at 105 lbs.

I have never in my life done barbell bent over rows at 105. The last time I was doing them regularly, 85 felt about like 105 did today. Looks like all the pullups I've been doing have been good for more than just the lats.

For a pushing exercise, it was the bench press. I worked at 95 lbs., which was about right for now. It's also about as much as I've ever benched, though I haven't done much with the bench press. I've done more with dumbbell chest presses, which I haven't consistently done with heavier than 45 lb. dumbbells (90 lbs. total), ever. All in all, I'm happy with my upper body strength for this pass at re-entry to lifting.

That was enough for a session, but after I refilled my water glass I decided to do a round of one leg calf raises. They went much as expected. Then I set out to do walking lunges.

Last session, walking lunges with a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells defeated me. Let's think about that. I did them after my squats, with both exercises working the quads pretty hard. Oh, yeah. I remember. Do the walking lunges on the day you do RDLs, which work the hamstrings hard and don't do much with the quads. I also dropped the weight a bit, using a pair of 17.5 lb. dumbbells. (Technically, these are 15 lb. dumbbells with 2.5 lbs. of magnetic plate mates added on to each DB.) That turned out to be a good working weight for 20 paces (10 reps) of walking lunges, and I have just enough room cleared in the basement to get those 20 paces in if I'm careful how I turn.

Now that was enough, and I geared up to go for a 5K walk so I could get my 10K steps in on a Sunday. As I thought about writing this blog, I realized I forgot to stretch, again. Thinking about the blog brought it back to mind, and I took the time to do my stretches. The quads needed them. Light bulb moment; if I'd been in the gym, stretching would have been a natural part of the routine. But I've disrupted that pattern by canceling the gym membership and lifting at home. So I need to establish the stretching routine at home.

This can be done. Blogging about it helps me keep the details in mind, which makes it more likely that I'll keep this up.

Scheduling is looking rather fluid. Running, lifting weights, and other stuff in my life seem to be shifting around right now. It will take some trial and error to figure out how to fit all the pieces of the schedule together so I get done what I need to do, and don't burn out trying to do too much.

Reminder to self: It's okay to have a lifting session with just three lifts. It's nice to have a couple minor lifts to add on, but getting the major lifts in is the important part. And now that I've calibrated where the weight needs to be on most of the major lifts I do, that should become routine.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ELAYNE39 11/13/2012 12:56PM

    Great work out!

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HEALTHIERKEN 11/12/2012 11:12AM

    " . . . It's easy to lift once and then let it drop again. It's harder to start from being off the wagon and go to lifting regularly, . . "
Don't I know it!!!! Good on ya for being diligent with this. You new picture set will be awsome : )

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MEXGAL1 11/12/2012 9:55AM

Have a terrific week.

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MSLZZY 11/12/2012 8:07AM

    emoticon "Use"ing those brain cells
and the equipment. Amazing how much
better workouts can go when you remember
to use the equipment and are prepared. A
little mental exercise can save you from an
injury later.

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RG_DFW 11/12/2012 7:20AM


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BLITZEN40 11/11/2012 10:27PM

    "Obsolescence" is a great word and new to me! I had to stop and think about it briefly. Thanks for the new vocab. I'll be incorporating it into my future conversation. I know little of weight lifting, but it looks like you have a well thought out routine here. Best of luck in accomplishing your goals!

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The return of the intervals

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It's been two weeks since I did walk/run intervals. After I made the decision to rest my sore thigh, I aggravated the bad foot with some too-aggressive walking; it took a few days for the foot to calm down, but now it feels as good as it has since February. This morning the sore thigh felt almost normal, and I decided it was time to try again. Sunshine and a 42F temperature kind of nudged that decision along.

Mr. Testosterone urged me to try run 4, walk 1 intervals. I went as far as programming that into the RunKeeper app; then when I did my warmup, the thigh whispered that it wasn't quite all better yet. So I dithered for a while, then found I could edit the walk 1/run 3 intervals to be the other way around. So I settled on run 3/walk 1, with the running first. I think that will work better when I get out in colder weather.

The actual running went very routinely. The thigh warmed to the work and didn't complain. It mapped out to 4.30 miles in 33:39, for a 7:50 average pace per mile. That was 8 cycles of run 3, walk 1 with a 1:39 run at the end to get home. It felt like I could have kept this up longer, but caution dictated that I follow the protocol.

Got home, and as I was stretching I realized that I had forgotten to stretch after lifting weights on Thursday. That would have made the DOMS in my quads worse than it had to be! Stretching after strength training may not be as critical as stretching after running, but it's still pretty important. I resolved that I would definitely stretch after lifting weights this evening!

The sore thigh has not complained again today. I can feel that the bad foot is still less than 100%, but it's not keeping me from doing anything. I'm committed to a 10K on Thanksgiving Day, less than 2 weeks from now. I'm not going to be able to run the full distance, but run 4/walk 1 intervals are looking possible for then.

The rest of the day was dominated by household maintenance chores, including some that have languished longer than they should have. I felt good about getting stuff done, and was on my way to the basement to lift weights when I thought to look for the Nebraska football game. It was actually televised here. I saw most of the second half, and it was a good game.

I didn't make it to the weight rack. Football is hazardous to my physical activity. Now I tell myself that I'll lift tomorrow, which puts next week on the same Sunday-Thursday pattern as this week. Oh, well. Lifting on top of running might have been too much for one day. (Can you hear the hypocritical rationalization in my voice? I sure can.)

And now it's time to wind down and get to bed. Tomorrow I should know whether I pushed the running too hard today or not.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MEXGAL1 11/11/2012 10:22AM

    Hope your body is giving you a good report today and all is well.
Have a terrific Sunday.

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RG_DFW 11/11/2012 8:09AM

    Good luck

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MSLZZY 11/11/2012 7:29AM

    Sis is right. Listen more. Think less. But
do remember to stretch.

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LAURIE160IN2013 11/11/2012 1:06AM

    Please remember to stretch!

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GREENGENES 11/10/2012 11:29PM

    Great assessment. I really enjoy your analytical approach to your fitness routine. I hope tomorrow brings good news for your body's response to today's workout.

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WATERMELLEN 11/10/2012 9:10PM

    I sure do relate to that hyperselfcritical voice: have one too. Your big sis is right (I listen to her pretty much every day . . . )

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FATHINSN 11/10/2012 9:00PM

    I hope you have a nice recovery for your legs and have good run next time!

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ONEKIDSMOM 11/10/2012 8:59PM

    Nebraska has played "differently" this year, for some reason. Several come from behind wins. Not your usual roll over 'em with the steamroller of the line game we knew as kids.

Don't worry about that hypocritcal rationalization... it's a hazard of thinking too much... a trait we share. Listen more. Think less. Good mantra for recovery.

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Thursday weights, pep talk to keep lifting

Friday, November 09, 2012

Sunday I did deadlifts for the first time in many months. Next on the rotation of heavy lifts was squats. Didn't lift weights Monday, because you don't lift heavy two days in a row. Tuesday and Wednesday I had evening commitments, so I didn't get back to the barbell until Thursday evening.

Hmm. Tuesday and Wednesday are regular commitments. Friday is dinner with my daughter, thought that may be changing. I guess the rational 3 day schedule for lifting would be Monday-Thursday-Saturday. With the natural running schedule being Tuesday-Thursday-a weekend day, that would make Thursday a two workout day, after I'm able to run regularly again. I'll have to think about that.

Anyway, I thought I knew what was going on after Sunday's good results with the deadlift. I squatted a few times with the empty bar to get the position right, then set out to warm up at 135 lbs. That was harder than anticipated, so lets see what I can do. Throw on another 20 lbs.

I couldn't do a squat at 155 lbs., only a power curtsy. So back off to 145. No dice. Turns out that for right now, 135 lbs. is my working weight for squats. So much for the fantasy of squatting my weight. Then to add insult to injury, it was really freakin' hard to do a few paces of walking lunges with a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells.

Surprise in the other direction: My working weight for shrugs turned out to be 165 lbs. The last time I was lifting weights regularly, I was squatting and shrugging about the same weight. This is odd.

The non-event was that shoulder presses and calf raises went about as expected.

Today I had re-entry DOMS from the lower body work, but not much on the upper body. It seems what I've been doing has been decent for the upper body, but that going down to parallel for squats uses muscles that I haven't been working very hard for several months. Oh, well. I know how to deal with this.

I've also got no DOMS in my lower back. I guess the kettlebell work I've been doing has kept up the lower back muscles pretty well.

I'm finding that I can lift in less time at home than at the gym, if I chop the workout down to just lifting. The major problem at home has traditionally been getting in a pulling exercise, as I don't have a cable machine; but now that I'm able to do pullups, that's no longer much of an issue.

Just have to keep my motivation up so I actually *use* those weights I spent good money for several years ago. They don't do me any good if they just sit and gather dust. And the evidence is that I may need to keep up with the squats to be able to run without messing up my legs.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HEALTHIERKEN 11/10/2012 11:58PM

    Good job, getting back to weights! Mind you, kettlebells definitely constitute weights in my world: )
If walking lunges aren't going well, check out stationary lunges. That's all I ever do now.

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MEXGAL1 11/10/2012 10:12AM


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MSLZZY 11/10/2012 8:02AM


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ONEKIDSMOM 11/9/2012 11:37PM

    Do I feel a bout of sibling rivalry coming on? Face it, I know I will never match you lift for lift... but you might just manage to get me back doing SOMETHING! Because I can't let my baby brother outdo me for too long... without at least giving strength training another shot.

My wimpy old lady goals, of course... but *something*! Good luck bro... maybe we can keep tabs and egg one another along.

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GREENGENES 11/9/2012 9:38PM

    Sounds great!

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NWFL59 11/9/2012 4:55PM

    Wow, it must be great to be able and motivated to do these activities. I have similar equipment but it mostly gathers dust. I'll try for a few days but lose interest all too quickly. Look forward to reading about your progress. Glad you're feeling the DOMS. emoticon

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Deadlifting my weight

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A few years ago, pre-Spark, I taught myself to lift weights. I trained to lift, and managed to get my upper body strength to progress from "bad joke" to "below average." I did better with lower body strength, and made major improvement to my core strength.

During that period, I was trying to control my weight by exercising. I had some results that looked like success at the time, but they didn't last. I told myself that I couldn't get down into the recommended BMI range because I was building muscle weight. I may well have been building muscle weight, but I wasn't building *that much* muscle weight.

One of my goals was to deadlift my weight. I developed that goal when I noticed I was deadlifting 185 pounds, and I weighed 190. Not far to go . . . except by the time I was deadlifting 190, I weighed 195. Then when I was deadlifting 195, I weighed 200. I caught up and actually deadlifted my weight for 3 sets of 8 at 205.

The lesson I should have learned from that is, you can't out-train a crappy diet.

I've been off and on the weight lifting wagon over the years since then. Recently, I've been off. I've concentrated on running, I haven't found time to go to the gym, and the weights in my basement were inaccessible due to house repair work. I hadn't actually lifted weights for strength training in several months.

A couple weeks ago, I let the gym membership lapse because I wasn't using it. Last week I cleaned out enough of the basement for the weight rack to be accessible. Thursday I tried a few lifts, going light because it had been so long; on Friday I wasn't sore.

For those of you who didn't catch the implication, lack of soreness on Friday means I wasn't lifting enough weight on Thursday. Re-entry to weight lifting ought to produce noticeable DOMS after the first session.

Saturday I had some Life Happens stuff go on that kept me from the weights, but today I got back to it. I'm working with a protocol of at least 3 lifts, with at least one major leg exercise, one pushing exercise, and one pulling exercise. Today's major leg exercise was the deadlift.

I started with a warmup at 135 lbs., which is the lightest I can load the bar and have it be at the correct height to lift from the floor. 10 reps of that were pretty easy, so I got ambitious and threw on a pair of 25 lb. plates. Can I still do 185? Sure thing. 3 sets of 8, and it didn't feel like the max I could do. So just for grins, let's throw on a pair of 10 pound plates and see if I can pick it up.

I could. I did 3 full reps, then picked the bar up a 4th time to put it on the rack where I loaded it. I might have been able to do 3 sets of 8 at 205, if I hadn't already worked 3 sets at 185.

This is not the most weight I've ever lifted, but I'm pretty happy with this as a first effort after several months without training for strength. I think the next most I've done on a leg exercise since 2011 was some dumbbell squats with a pair of 35 lb. dumbbells.

After the deadlifts, the incline bench press and bent over rows were anti-climactic. They went well, but not dramatically better than expected.

Now I just have to find time and motivation to make this a routine, maybe 3 days a week. I don't need to achieve personal records on anything; I just need to get some strength training in to reduce the chance of injury while running.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    As far as correcting strength imbalances with regard to running, I've found deadlifts and squats to provide the most benefit. This article might be of interest.

I don't agree with their exercise selection (I think they're far too difficult to load), but I do agree with the idea of squats and deads .... but screw the ball, use a barbell. Of course, learning to do these correctly takes time and practice. It took me months before I felt comfortable going deep in the hole with real weight.

Consider a plan like Starting Strength or Strong Lifts. With SS, you can knock out a workout in about 45 minutes, tops. Doing that 2 or 3 times a week consistently will build a significant strength base and help address imbalances.

Keep on progressing.

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COMPUCATHY 11/5/2012 9:02PM

    Sounds like you are doing great and learning a lot! Sending Best Wishes for a great November! Keep up the good work! Thanks for the encouragement! Spark on! emoticon emoticon

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/5/2012 8:49PM


I cannot WAIT until I can DL my own weight.

Last Thursday I managed 135 lbs x 20. I had to pause before the last two, though. And I was sore through Saturday and Sunday from massive DOMS.

At 150 lbs, it won't be long before I get there, I suspect. Maybe a month?

The other thing I noticed is that if the bar is more than about 120 lbs I need a mixed grip or I just can't hold it.

P.S. Tonight I managed step-ups with 150 on my shoulders. So I'm getting there...

It'll be pretty cool when I can DL, squat, and step-up the same amount of weight I have lost. Because that will simulate where I started from.

And seriously, if 150 felt kind of heavy (and it did), how on EARTH did I function at all, at my highest weight???

Comment edited on: 11/5/2012 10:50:55 PM

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MEXGAL1 11/5/2012 10:08AM

    Best of everything to you on getting in the strength training. I hate strength training as I age. It is just a pain in the butt and really do not see results as so much just hangs at this age anyway. But I do bowflex with my girlfriend every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
So let's just do it!
Have a terrific week

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TBOURLON 11/5/2012 9:28AM

    Well I'd like to be able to bench press my weight; now I'm not sure if that's practical or not. I'm female, weigh about 140 (goal weight 125 emoticon ) and I never thought about deadlift before. My goal is to improve my running speed from 5mpg to 6mph. Well, Saturday I ran a 5K and took about 1 1/2 minutes off my time from last year emoticon and that makes me feel SO GOOOOD!!! emoticon

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ELAYNE39 11/5/2012 8:46AM

    Congrats! Great goal. I'm currently reading a couple of books on weight lifting and have realized that I need to lift heavier. I think it's super you can dead lift so much.

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NWFL59 11/5/2012 6:57AM

    Glad you had good success with your return to moving heavy objects. I still don't know what DOMS stands for, but glad you experienced it. emoticon

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ONEKIDSMOM 11/5/2012 6:54AM

    That's deadlifting a chunk MORE than your weight. Well done! emoticon emoticon

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_LINDA 11/5/2012 12:59AM

    WOW! Very impressive results after being away from it so long!!! You are AMAZING! Way to get back into it!
Between the ST and running, you are going to be uber fit!!

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GREENGENES 11/4/2012 10:57PM

    Sounds like a great plan. Back in the day I couldn't understand my friends in grad school who liked to go "lift heavy objects" and now I am one of them. I was pretty dumb back in the day.

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BLITZEN40 11/4/2012 10:13PM

    Way to go doing so well with weights after taking a break! The cardio fitness you got from running all this time likely kept you in better shape than you thought. It's always nice to do so well right out of the gate when restarting an exercise program... it encourages you to keep on going! emoticon

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Friday long walk, disrupted eating pattern

Friday, November 02, 2012

Today was a Friday off work. The major task of the day was replacing the tires on my car, which I expected to involve an extended period of sitting on my butt and waiting.

So with the sore thigh indicating I shouldn't run, I set out for a long walk in the morning before getting the tires replaced. Went over the elaborate version of my local neighborhood running route, with all three little hills. Deliberately pushed it for walking, both for time and to see how I'd do.

I ended up walking 4.7 miles in 63 minutes, for an average walking pace of 13:24 per mile. That's faster than I normally walk, and a bit of a surprise that I could maintain that average for an hour. Okay, I did have one segment of running, under 10 seconds, to prove to myself that the thigh still had problems; but the rest was really walking.

The sore thigh didn't complain at all. The bad foot has complained a bit about the aggressive pace. I don't think I'll be as aggressive with the pace tomorrow, but perhaps I'll go for a longer distance. After all, I have a 10K coming up in 3 weeks and it's been a long time since I walked or ran that far in one stretch.

Went to get new tires at Sam's Club, and ended up sitting on my butt for about two hours. Good thing I got my 10K steps in before then. The good thing about the wait was, I wasn't eating. I was reading a book, and I didn't think about food. When the tires were done, I went back home for a late lunch. This worked out OK in part because I had thoughtfully had a snack (cottage cheese and a banana) before heading out to get the tires, just in case they took a long time.

The end result of this minor disruption in routine was that I scrambled to eat enough in the evening to fill out my recently reduced calorie range. That's okay; I've been in that position before, and I know how to manage that without turning it into a binge. It's a lot better than a disruption in routine from eating too much too early.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HEALTHIERKEN 11/4/2012 12:51AM

    I Nordic-walked 4 mi. in 62 minutes today and thought I was doing pretty well. You did almost 5 mi in just a minute more. That's hoofin' it!

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GREENGENES 11/3/2012 3:25PM

    Great. That is quite a walking pace. No wonder your walk/run times are faster than my run times.

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HAKAPES 11/3/2012 1:43PM

    It sounds you have good awareness of yourself what is a real obstacle, and what is just a bump on the road. I enjoyed reading your blog! Let's ride forward!

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MEXGAL1 11/3/2012 10:29AM

    Good for you to get those steps in before having to sit and wait. I hate sitting and waiting. Seems like such a waste of time.
Have a terrific week end.

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COMPUCATHY 11/3/2012 8:29AM

    You did really well with a day that could have really thrown you off! Congratulations! Your planning and effort really paid off! Hope you have a great weekend! Let's rock November! Keep up the good work! Thanks for the encouragement! Spark on! emoticon emoticon

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ONEKIDSMOM 11/2/2012 9:36PM

    Good job. You're got your head in the game, as you put it. emoticon

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MSLZZY 11/2/2012 9:14PM

    You did well.

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UMBILICAL 11/2/2012 9:09PM

  Good idea

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