Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Okay, so I'm procrastinating a big on the last part of my race blog. I will get to it as soon as I have time. Promise.
This morning was the first real cold morning run of the season for me. All summer I was looking forward to the weather cooling off, but I have NOT been looking forward to sub-40's.
October stayed unseasonably warm through Ragnar, so I never had to break out any cold weather gear other than my cheap knit gloves and my arm sleeves (which I probably didn't really need, either).
Halloween had the perfect temperature so no one had to bundle up to go trick-or-treating. However, in the week after the temperature dropped quickly to highs in the upper 50's and lows hovering around 40.
So, I broke out most of my cold weather gear for this morning's run and ended up overdoing it just a little bit. I was remembering all my runs from last year where temps were 30 or below and my hands would be nearly numb by the time I returned home, despite wearing two gloves on each hand. I wore my long sleeve compression shirt under my running shirt and running jacket along with my shin sleeves and two pairs of gloves on each hand.
My torso definitely got a little overheated, since I did unzip the top part of my jack for a couple minutes, but never got so hot that I needed to take off any layers. I noticed that my thumbs were starting to go numb, even with the new gloves I bought last March in Reno (long story for some other time). But, I know I have bad form by usually keeping my arms bent too much and my hands held up too high, so I concentrated on running with my hands down lower, beneath my elbows, and that seemed to do the trick as my hands stayed warm - possibly a little too warm - for the rest of the run.
On the plus side, I didn't need to ice down my knees since they were exposed to 37-40 degree temps the whole way. My IT band didn't bother me at all. On the negative side, my Achilles seemed to bother me the entire time. It usually only bothers me for a mile, then gets stretched out and is fine. Seems like maybe the cold kept it from getting warmed up and stretched out?
At least I have until March to get that worked out before my next race. It could also be a little warmer by then.
Monday, November 07, 2011
Okay, so I'm still trying to write up the last piece of my race blog about Ragnar Las Vegas. If only I wasn't so detailed in my descriptions of all things race related. I'm really trying to cut out all the extra fluff, but it's all the extra fluff that makes a race more of an experience than just a race and also makes it so much more fun and interesting to read about, in my humble opinion. Anyway, I've been so busy - and uninspired to write when i'm not - that it's getting increasingly more difficult to finish it off. But, I should have it done, soon.
On the exercise front... after two weeks off after the relay I've finally got back into running with a nice 5 mile run on Saturday that felt pretty good. I still have some Achilles issues from my pre-Ragnar training, and some IT band issues from the race itself. But, they didn't bother me much on Saturday. My Achilles was a little tender for a mile or so, but then was fine once it was stretched out, while my left knee and IT band never bothered me at all. I'm hoping that's a good sign and I can continue to stretch and run myself through it.
Of course, it's suddenly fall/winter here in Las Vegas and it's gone from 70's in the morning to 39-40 in the morning. I've pulled out all my cold weather running gear and I'm ready to go, even for when the temps drop below freezing. I did it all last winter. But running in the cold, first thing in the morning, definitely makes it extra difficult (mentally).
To make it worse, last night our daughter woke up fussing around 10:30pm and while I was putting her back to sleep I started to get some nasty pains somewhere in my digestive tract. Not sure if it was my stomach, or lower, but it was definitely worrisome. I was hoping not to end up with diarrhea or vomiting in the middle of the night.
Fortunately it never got much worse than some simple cramping pains, but it still felt tender this morning when my alarm went off, so I decided to give it a rest. I didn't want to be sick and not be able to take my daughter to swim class for the first time (first time for daddy).
So, anyway, no running, today, but still got to take my daughter to swim class. I think I'm getting better, just slowly. On Wednesday I should be back to running.
But, what I'm really excited about is my wife's shin splints seem to be gone and she's on her last month of training for the Las Vegas RNR Half Marathon! That's definitely more important that my own training, so I'll be doing all I can to make sure she can get all her runs in. We've got it all mapped out. I can't wait to be there at the finish line!
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Oh, man. I really need to finish up this race report. If only I could find the time. Maybe this will be the time? We'll see how far I get.
So, after my first leg I was tired from hills and worried that my legs might cramp up from sitting in the van. However, that didn't happen. The weather warmed up significantly from morning to afternoon and the last runner in our van (Devin, the runner for leg 6) had hydration issues on his run even though it was almost all downhill. When he hit the exchange point he was desperate for water and very fatigued. He could run, but running not being his primary form of exercise, he didn't completely think through proper hydration. The same problem plagued him on his very last leg as well.
The 6th exchange was a major exchange, so van #2 took over and we headed off to exchange 12 to get some food and some rest and wait for them to arrive.
It was at Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort which was gorgeous. However, the food was limited and expensive and practically non-existent. There were plenty of other teams already there when we arrived, but the grill by the pool still only had salads available and their sandwiches and hot food were still not ready, yet. On top of that, the hotel security kept waffling back and forth on the Ragnar runners using the pool. The race manual said that we would have access to the pool, but as we were making our way down, we were told that security was kicking all the runners out of the pool area. Later on, the runners were back in the pool, but we could see security guards conferring on what to do about it.
I tried to nap, but I am a terrible napper. Every 5 or 10 minutes I would sit up and fiddle with my phone before lying back down and trying to nap again. I entered my food into my SparkPeople mobile app and realized I was really low on my calories, especially with another 5+ mile run to go that evening. So, I grabbed some m&m's and a lemonade to give me a quick energy boost and make sure I was ready.
When our 12th runner finally arrived, it was past 5pm, so it was time for all our runners to don our safety gear. Until 7:15am all runners would have to wear their reflective vest, headlamp (or a flashlight) and a flashing red LED "tail light". Anyone else who exited the van would have to at least be wearing their reflective vest, otherwise we could pick up infractions and possibly get disqualified.
My wife had said that she and my daughter would try to come cheer me on for one of my first two legs, but the timing was difficult. My first run had been at 10am, but it was far away and she didn't have time to get our daughter up and dressed and fed and then drive an hour and half. Then, we seemed to be falling behind on our expected race pace which was pushing my second leg later into the night. It was estimated at 6:40pm which was makeable, but it was all the way across town, so if it got pushed back much later she wouldn't be able to do it and also make it home in time to get our daughter to bed anywhere close to her bed time.
One of our timing problems turned out to be that our 6th runner, Devin, had given an estimated 10k pace time of 7 minutes/mile. However, that was his average mile time, not his real 10k pace. So, that threw off all of the timing. Also, he wasn't drinking enough fluids which was causing him to dehydrate and suffer and slow down on all his legs. Fortunately, the last couple runners in van 2 ran really well on their first legs and we nearly caught up to our estimated time. I had been texting back and forth with my wife throughout the afternoon, giving her updates on our time and she finally decided that she would try to make it out to my second leg.
One other cool side story is that, two years ago, the Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort was offering steep discounts to locals, so my wife and I took advantage of it and celebrated an early anniversary and "babymoon" there when my wife was 8 months along. We had such an amazing time, and being their for the race brought back a lot of very happy memories for those short couple of hours.
When it was time for my second leg, it was dark. From the map, the course seemed like a pretty simple run through the city along the blocks near the edge of town with just a couple of turns. That was pretty much the case, however the proximity to the edge of town and the darkness made it a little more harrowing than it would otherwise have been.
Leg 15 (my second leg) was 5.4 miles and, according to the elevation profile, was fairly flat with no real downhills and mostly a long gradual uphill to the next exchange. The exchange was right in front of a school and like every other exchange, it had a big line of port-o-potties.
This was my saving grace for the entire race. The organizers definitely knew that their runners needed to stay hydrated, but that driving around in vehicles means no real access to toilets. So, every single exchange point had a line of at least 10 port-o-potties. I always make sure I am hydrated for my runs, and combined with a nervous bladder, I needed to make use of them before each one of my legs and I was especially thankful for those blessed port-o-potties!
As I waited at the exchange point, I noticed my left knee seemed to be stiffening up. I did a couple quick stretches, but it didn't really feel that much better. I didn't have time to do too much, tho, because it was time to run.
Our previous runner suddenly appeared out of the darkness and approached the exchange point. One logistical nightmare of this exchange point was that all the vans pulled into the parking lot next to the exchange point using a driveway that was maybe 25 feet in front of the exchange point. So, as our runner went to cross the driveway, another van was pulling into the driveway and not really paying attention to the runners. The van was moving very slowly and cautiously, but obviously was not clearly seeing everything around them. Fortunately, everyone around the van was yelling at the van to stop and he stopped just at the last second. Our runner still had to dodge the van - it was close - but crisis averted!
Anyway, off I went on my second leg. I made a left turn at the end of the block and started uphill. I felt tired and was hoping the whole leg wasn't this steep of a hill. I could tell I was a little slow. I checked my phone and turned on my compass and Google Latitude so that my wife could see where I was. She was still en route, so I was hoping she would make it in time see me run.
After a couple blocks I turned right and headed north again up a street that slowly began to get wider and busier. The course also flattened out, nicely, to a nearly flat uphill. I was looking around and noticed a car parked on a side street. It didn't immediately look familiar, but it looked like it was parked and waiting for someone to run by. Then I saw the occupants get out and it was my wife and my daughter! I saw them and waved and yelled, "Hello!" They both looked and waved and yelled back. My wife later said my daughter yelled out, "Daddy!"
Seeing them gave me an instant energy boost. I had been worried that I was getting tired, but now I had new life breathed into me and instantly felt energized. They drove past me a couple more times and then headed home, but it was awesome and I was so happy they had been able to see me and cheer me on. I had missed seeing my daughter the night before the race and then didn't get to see her the morning of the race, so I was really happy to have seen her, even if only in passing.
The rest of of the leg went well. I slowly passed runner after runner. Another runner had come up behind me, but then didn't pass me. This route had a couple of spots where we had to cross semi-major and major intersections with stop lights which were very annoying when they turned red and we had to wait for them. At the first one, the guy who had come up behind me said "I'll jaywalk if you jaywalk" and we both crossed against the light together. Good times!
A big section of road in early part of the race had no sidewalk, just gravel and dirt along the side of the road. A lot of runners were running in the rocks and dirt. I tried to run on the very edge of the pavement as much as I could, only dodging into the rocks when a car came, or when passing other runners. Fortunately, this ended after a mile when more sidewalk appeared.
The block after we jaywalked, the sidewalk was gone again and we had to run off in the rocks again, this time on a slight slope. Thank goodness we had our headlamps because towards the end of the block there was a large hole in the ground that we had to run around. Even tho mine was fairly dim, I was still able to make it out and dodge around it.
A little less than halfway thru the leg, I found I had ditched the guy who I had jaywalked with, but another runner had come up behind me and then passed me. He a little ways ahead of me for most of the rest of the leg until we had about two miles to go. He started to tire, some, and I had also sped up, knowing we were nearing the end. We hit a nice dedicated two-lane bike path and also a slight downhill. I caught up and passed him and another runner. I made sure I encouraged them as I passed them both.
We hit the "One Mile To Go" sign and I was picking up my pace slowly but surely as I like to do at the end of my races, but just as I was really picking up my pace... we hit another traffic signal at a major intersection. We ended up waiting at least a minute for the light to change which was irritating and a real buzz-kill. I tried to get back on pace when the light changed, but it's always hard to do that. I think I was pretty close, tho, but I'm sure I was a little slower.
The rest of the leg seemed to take forever with the road winding towards the next exchange. I knew it was going to be right around one of the next turns, but just couldn't tell where it was. I figured it would appear fairly quickly around a corner.
Sure enough, that's what happened. The first sign was when I passed the "forward observer" whose job it was to radio to the exchange point to let them know the team number of the runners (from our race bibs) that passed them and as they approached the exchange point. The volunteer at the exchange point would then announce the team number so that runner could step out and be ready to receive the baton exchange. It worked great and really helped cut down the congestion at the exchange.
I sped up and kicked it in to the exchange point. I felt pretty good about that whole leg. I had felt tired until I saw my wife and daughter after which I felt pretty good and seemed to feel better and better as the leg went along. The last two miles I felt the best and the fastest.
My second leg wasn't quite as good/fast as my first leg, despite being much flatter and mostly consisting of some slight uphills. I ran just .1 miles further, but ran it in 48:46 with a final mile time around 9:00 (i forgot to hit the split button on my watch, so i don't know the exact time). However, the final mile also included at least a 1 minute wait at a stop light. So, my actual running time for the whole leg and for the final mile was actually at least one minutes faster than that.
My knee never bothered me during the whole leg, even though it had felt stiff while waiting at the exchange. And my Achilles, even tho it felt tight for part of the first uphill on my first leg, hadn't bothered me at all during the rest of my first leg or any of my second leg.
--to be continued--
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Our Ragnar team was made up of 12 runners. 9 men and 3 women. Van #1 (which I was in) consisted of 5 men and 1 woman while van #2 was 4 men and 2 women.
The order that we ran in had to be the same throughout the whole race (except for injury subs), so that put me in legs 3, 15, and 27.
I had provided an estimate of a 9:30 minutes/mile pace which is approximately how fast I can do my mid-week training runs without exerting myself too much. My legs were all between 5-6 miles which is about the same as most of my weekly training runs. I had also done 3 runs over two days twice in the previous 3 weeks, so I was confident that I should have no problems, tho I figured I would probably pretty tired for my third leg. However, with my first leg the hilliest and my last leg mostly downhill, my legs seemed perfectly organized so that I as tired from leg to leg, each one would also be easier and faster than the one before which would allow me to stay on pace even on my last leg.
My legs were as follows:
Leg 3: 5.3 Miles - difficulty: Hard
Leg 15: 5.4 Miles - difficulty: Moderate
Leg 27: 5.8 Miles - difficulty: Moderate
All of us in the first van were a little nervous at the start with just two of us having run in Ragnar Relays before. But, our team captains did a great job of sorting out all the details and we stayed well-organized from start to finish.
It was cold at the Start line. Probably in the upper 50's (and dry desert air always feels a little extra chilly) just before sunrise. However, once the sun came up it warmed up pretty quickly.
Our first runner (Greg) started at 8:02 with a 4.3 mile leg. We cheered him on before scampering over to the van to head to the first exchange point.
There are so many details I could talk about, but for the sake of space (and time) I won't describe everything that I can still recall (which is a lot).
Our second runner (Jorge) ran 6.8 miles through the desert - out of sight of nearby Lake Mead - before coming to the second exchange point which was placed facing uphill. So, Jorge had to finish his leg with a quarter-mile uphill. This would not be the first evil-planned portion of the race course. It was also warming up quickly and was now easily into the 70's (it had just been in the 50's two hours before).
He sped up the last stretch to the exchange point and then handed off the slap-bracelet and I was off! I forgot to start my watch due to the chaos of the exchange, but i remembered after maybe 5 or 10 seconds.
A lot of our runners ran while listening to music from their phone or an mp3 player - and a majority of the other runners I encountered did, too - however, I was one of the few who did not. A habit I've formed Partly because of my previous racing experience in high school and also for safety reasons on my daily early morning runs. I'm used to running without it and I find the cord and player strapped to my arm distract me and hurt my form.
Anyway, up the hill I began my first leg. I tried not to start off too fast, but I wanted to run on pace or a little faster. I don't run many hills in training, but most of the streets are at least slightly inclined, so I get at least a decent amount of hill training. Nevertheless, these hills were a little bit of nasty. I've been on steeper ones, but these were long hills lasting about a mile.
As I pushed up the hill I stayed focused on the runners directly in front of me. There was a girl in an orange shirt that was about a hundred yards ahead and one other girl that was closer. Slowly I reeled them in and began to catch other runs as well. Just before the top of the hill I had almost caught up to the girl in the orange shirt.
However, I could tell I was pushing a little extra hard up the hill and knew I needed to rest on the downhill to be ready for the second hill. In most of my races I seem to pass a lot of runners on the hills, but get passed on the downhills. This was especially noticeable during the ET half marathon. I kind of resigned myself to this fact on this leg and sure enough, Ragnar would be no different. I still increased my stride and sped up, but I wasn't trying to significantly increase my pace. The girl in orange slowly pulled away from me as we cruised down the hill.
As I made my way down the hill, I kept hearing a funny noise and wasn't sure what it was. I had my cell phone clipped to my waistband just in case and it kind of sounded like my music player was on. Part way down the hill, I caught up to another runner and just afterward I decided to pull out my phone to see if that really was the cause of the noise. I fumbled my phone and it went rolling into the street. Fortunately, there were few vehicles coming the other way (we ran almost exclusively on the left side of the road, towards oncoming traffic) and i quickly stopped to pick it up. It was fine, fortunately, and I picked back up and re-passed the guy I had just passed and continued on. The only thing hurt was my pride from fumbling my phone.
And then it turned out that the noise wasn't my phone. I had my bib pinned to the leg of my shorts, but only on three corners. The noise was the fourth corner rubbing on my shorts. How did I confuse that with the sound of distant music?
Anyway... The second uphill seemed steeper than the first. I was breathing hard and it was definitely getting more difficult. My team had stopped the van part-way up the hill and cheered as I ran by and yelled for me to do some funny pose - which I obliged with a Gong Show split kick jump (poorly executed, however). I was getting tired at that point, but the cheering and the distraction helped motivate me for a short time.
The road then bent to the left and seemed to level out. I wondered if I was getting close to the top of the hill. However, having checked out the map and the elevation chart before I started, I knew that the hill leveled off at some point and then picked back up again before the top. Sure enough, right when I would have expected to crest the hill, I turned a corner and there appeared more hill that got steeper. If I hadn't of studied the chart, it probably would have demoralized me, however, I knew it was coming and also knew this meant that I was getting close to the top.
A few of the runners I passed I encouraged by saying "Good job" or "Keep it up" or "You can do it" or "Almost to the top".
Again, I was closing in on the girl in orange the whole way up the hill. However, as we neared the top, I didn't get quite as close to her as I did on the first hill.
Finally, I crested the top and I knew the rest was all downhill. I increased my stride and let my legs loosen up a bit before speeding up for the remainder of the leg. It wasn't more than a few hundred feet before we hit the "One Mile To Go" sign. I hit the split button on my watch so that I could time myself for the last mile of the leg.
The girl in orange again distanced herself from me, but I was happy to say that no runners passed me during the entire leg and I had passed at least 5-10 other runners (possibly more, but I didn't keep count. Looking at the tally marks on the other team's vans, tho, obviously, a lot of them did).
I finally hit the first exchange and handed off to our next runner (Ryan) and then hit my watch.
I had finished my 5.3 mile leg in 45:52 which a last mile time of 7:25. That speed put me at a pace of 8:39 for the whole leg. That's pretty darn good! When I ran my 10k back in July, I ran it at a 9:15 pace to finish in 57:32. This course had steeper hills than that race and than any of my training runs, very few of which I ran at this pace. I know the last mile was downhill, but I still don't believe that time is accurate, tho looking at my overall pacing - and knowing how tired I was getting on the last hill - it could very well be accurate since it had to balance out however slow I was on the uphill.
I didn't shoot the lights out, by any means, but it was definitely a successful start and I was delighted with my time. The only question now was what effect the hills would have on my legs during the rest of the van ride over the next few hours.
--to be continued--
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Whew, it's been quite the weekend. I've been busy and I still don't really have time to get this all typed out, but if I don't start now I will never get it posted. Without belaboring the intro, here is my Ragnar Relay race report.
Date: 10/21/11 - 10/22/11
Location: Las Vegas, NV area
Race Coordinator: Ragnar
Event: Ragnar Relay Las Vegas 2011
Start Time: 8:00am
Total Distance: 188 miles
My Distance(s): Leg #3: 5.3 miles, Leg #15: 5.4 miles, Leg #27: 5.8 miles
Weather: 60-90°F and dry (very low humidity)
Wow, so... where do I even begin!
If you don't know what a Ragnar Relay is... it's a scenic, outdoor relay race that covers 200-ish miles (mileage varies per race). Teams vary from 6-man "Ultra" teams, to 12-man regular teams. Teams can be co-ed, or not. Races are broken down into 3 groups of 12 legs for a total of 36 legs. Each person runs one leg in each of the 3 groups - for 6-man "ultra" teams, each person runs two legs in each group. Every runner for every team provides their estimated 10k mile pace and then Ragnar organizes everyone into waves that start every 30 minutes. The slowest teams start first and the fastest start last, beginning at 6am and lasting well into the afternoon on the first day of running. For this year's race, there were 475+ teams.
That's the basics. The rest is a jumble of logistics. For more details on what goes on at a Ragnar Relay check out www.ragnarrelay.com .
So... Last year my SIL started to get a team together, but it died pretty quickly because it was last minute and our possible runners all began dropping out before we could get any momentum, so the whole idea died pretty quickly and I forgot all about it... until the end of August of this year when I had finished all my scheduled races.
I don't know what it was, but something reminded me about the race and I went and checked out the Ragnar site to see if the Las Vegas relay had already been run or not. I found that it hadn't and just innocently signed up as a "runner looking for a team," just casting my line out to see if anyone would bite, but not really expecting a response.
Maybe a week later I received an e-mail from a team looking for runners. We e-mailed back and forth for a couple weeks until I was comfortable (and had broken the news and gotten the okay from my wife) and finally decided to go ahead and sign up.
Once I signed up, it was a whirlwind of activity. The team was trying to sign up runners to their remaining slots before the end of "new runner registration" and trying to get all the details worked out. Then, in September, the 6 of us that were local all decided to meet for dinner so we could get to know each other and get some details worked out. The 6 of use were all running in our first Ragnar, but 5 of our runners from out of town had all run in a few and were experienced Ragnar runners.
After that it was just a countdown to race day and deciding whether to rent minivans or 15-passenger vans, who would bring water, and getting all the other details sorted out.
The week before race day I slowly began laying out all the clothes I would need for the race. I put out 3 sets of running clothes, plus a jackets, sweat pants, gloves, headbands, extra pairs of socks, extra pair of shoes, flip flops, etc. I wanted to be able to wear clean, dry clothes for each of my 3 legs.
On the day before race day, I bought some various snacks (granola bars, Marathon energy bars, and some Powerade) and 3 cases of water bottles and then went down with Ryan (one of my teammates) to pick up one of our 15-passenger vans.
That evening, most of us met for dinner at Antonio's restaurant: Sienna Italian Authentic Trattoria (how awesome is it to have a teammate that owns an Italian restaurant!). We carbo-loaded and discussed our last minute plans on where to meet the next morning so we could all get to the van and to the race starting line in time for the pre-race safety briefing.
Two of our teammates coming down from Utah had car trouble on the way into town and weren't able to make it dinner, but they did make it in for the race.
I got home from dinner on Thursday night just after my daughter went to bed which was very disappointing because since I would be getting up super early the next morning, I wouldn't be able to see her before I left for the race.
I got everything all packed up and ready to go and was in bed by 9:30pm.
I woke up a 3:15am on Race Day - Friday morning. I packed my stuff in truck, kissed my wife goodbye, and headed off. I bought ice for my cooler for our water bottles, and then picked up Devin (one of our Utah out-of-towners) at 4am. Our team was split into two vans - one van for the first 6 legs, the other for the next 6. We would then switch off after every 6 legs. Devin and I we met the everyone else from the first van at Ryan's house in the south part of town at 4:45am. (since the runners from the other van didn't need to start until leg 7, they didn't need to meet until 9am). We packed up van #1 and headed out at 5:15am for start line at Echo Bay on Lake Mead - an hour and a half drive (approx).
We chatted excitedly as we drove, trying to rest, but were too amped to sleep. I hadn't met most of our team until the night before our race, and hadn't met Devin until that morning, but everyone was awesome and we all got along fantastically. After an hour or two, it was as if we were all long-time friends.
As we neared Echo Bay we saw our first runners on the course - the ones that starts at 6:00am. Before we knew it, we were in the parking lot and heading to check-in with all our safety gear and then to the safety briefing and then to pick up our packet with all our bibs and our slap-bracelet baton.
Then... we were ready to go. We stood around behind the start line, chatting and waiting for our 8am start.
When the announcer asked for all 8am teams to line up, it was electric and everyone was buzzing. Our first runner, Greg (60+ years old and running in his 8th Ragnar) was all set to go and took his spot under the Ragnar Start Arch. The announcer read off the names of all the teams starting in our wave. A lot of them had hilarious names like: "Curry in a Hurry" and "My Third Leg is Harder Than Yours" and "Sofa King Fast" and "Saints & Sinners (Run, Repent, Repeat)" and "Run and tell that....homeboy!" and "Morning Wood, We Run Hard" and "That's what you get for waking up in Vegas," etc, etc. And then, before we knew it, it was time to start!
--to be continued--
Course Map (courtesy ragnarrelay.com):
The Start Line
Our slap-bracelet "baton"
Waiting behind the Start Line
Our team being announced (Greg holding his arms up)
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