Another Marathon Update

This weekend, my marathon training plan called for 16 miles, which is the longest distance I’ve ever covered in a single run.

I met my awesome training group, composed of other Moms on the Run ladies, at 7:00 am on Saturday. If you know me, you know this is really early for me, especially on a weekend. During the week I arise at 6:30 am and for this run, I was up at 5:30 am. Brutal, yes, but running the distance on my own would have been even more brutal.

We met up at our usual weekday running location and headed out. The plan was 5.5 miles out, then 5.5 miles back, followed by a quick stop at our vehicles to refuel. Then, we would head out for a few loops around the park to get the remaining five miles in.

Our run was pretty uneventful. We chatted the entire time and the time felt like it flew past, which isn’t easy to say when you’re running for 3.5 hours! This group of women have made training fun, which is something I didn’t quite believe possible when they told me that it would be this way. I am so thankful for this group and know I wouldn’t be attempting this without them. During our run, it was fun seeing other groups out training for Grandma’s in their training shirts; there were a lot of smiles, words of encouragement, and cheers between the groups. The friendliness of the running community is a big part of why I’ve stuck with it so long.

After finishing our run, with a 13:08 average pace, we spent some time snacking, chatting, and stretching before heading out to get on with our weekends. Honestly, I can’t wait to be back out training with these ladies tomorrow. I’m enjoying every minute and mile of their company and can’t wait until we’re celebrating our accomplishments after crossing that finish line on June 17th!
This coming weekend, we “only” have to 6.5 miles, then the following weekend jumps us up to 18 miles. Only three LONGER runs left between now and race day!

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Hot Dash 5k

Our family race for March was the Hot Dash 5k on Saturday, March 18th. The Hot Dash, which offers 5k and 10 mile options, was put on my Twin Cities in Motion. The course was around Boom Island in Northeast Minneapolis.

A friend of mine was kind enough to pick up our packets at Fleet Feet Sports in Minneapolis, so I can’t comment on the packet pickup process. The packet consisted of personalized race bibs and a Storm Creek running jacket.

We arrived at the race site approximately an hour before the start of the race and were able to find easy parking about a block away, in one of the recommended lots. It was a short walk to the race village, where there were abundant porta potties, pre-race coffee, photo ops, and lumberjack games. Packet pickup was also offered the morning of the race, and would have been easy, provided one got there early enough to park close.

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Pre-race photo. I was actually the fastest in the family this time!

Participants in the 5k were asked to line up by 8:45 so that the race could begin at 9:00 sharp, which it did. The start was a bit crowded, and continued to be until approximately half way, which was where the water stop was located. The field loosened up a bit after that and continued to do so from that point on, particularly once we hit the first hill.

The course around Boom Island was pretty and it felt like the race went by pretty quickly. I know that some runners dislike the section that traverses a brick road; I personally have seen people trip on this stretch at other races. However, I found that I felt really good over this section.

I have only two complaints about this race. The first was that people slowed down and/or stopped on the timing mats, instead of running through them. This, of course, backs up the runners who are trying to complete their race. The post-race snacks – water, potato chips, Clif bars, Nut Goodie bars, and bananas – came next and further slowed down the crowd. I feel with the size of the field, the snacks should have been placed further past the food to keep the flow moving over the finish line. A family meeting area, such as a tent, past the finish line chute would have been helpful. Many people stopped in this area to wait for friends and family members finishing behind them, which further back up the crowd.

My other complaint, though a much smaller concern, was that the one beer offering was very hoppy; it’s the one type of beer that I cannot drink. Strongly hoppy beers tend to be a love or hate for most people, it seems.

Once we got past the finish line chute, we wandered back to our car to put on a warmer layer of clothes and sit for a bit while our friends finished the 10 mile. Once it got close to their finishing time, we headed over for some hot dish with hot sauce, which was really good. The hubby grabbed a beer, while the kiddo and I grabbed hot chocolate. We ate and sipped, while listening to the DJ, as we watched for our friends.

After the race, our group headed over to Bunny’s Northeast for brunch. They offered large portions of delicious food and our waiter was very good. It was a pleasant experience and I would definitely go back.
Overall, it was a great race morning, even with the overcast and windy conditions. I would consider doing this one again in the future. My finishing time was 33:49, which I felt good about considering how I’ve been building long, slow miles.

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Marathon Update – Less than 80 Days to Go!

With less than 80 days to go until the big day, I thought it was time for a Grandma’s Marathon training update.

14 miles

Two weeks ago, a friend and I completed our 14 mile run in the snow. The snow began shortly after we started running, so that we were being pelted in the face by snowflakes almost the entire time. By mile 11, our clothes were soaked, we were numb, our gels were frozen, and our water was slushy. At that point, we stopped for a not-so-quick potty break in the porta potty. We briefly considered quitting, since we were at the parking lot where our cars were, but ultimately decided that we needed to just get the miles done. We slogged through the remaining few miles, then quickly said our goodbyes so we could get warmed up in our cars.

I changed my outer layer to a dry fleece, threw on my winter coat, and cranked the heat in my car. On the way home, I ordered pizza so I could eat ASAP. When I got out of the warm car to get my pizza, I started shivering worse than I have in a LONG time, which is saying lot considering I love being outside in the Minnesota winters. On the way home from the pizza place, I called my husband and asked him to turn on the heat fan in my bathroom so that it would be toasty when I got there.

As soon as I got home, I trucked downstairs to my bathroom, keeping my winter coat on until I got into my toasty warm bathroom. Then, I took a hot shower, staying there until I no longer felt frozen. Then, I bundled up in warm sweats, a hoodie, and my warmest socks. Next, I ate half a large pepperoni pizza. As soon as I was done eating, I snuggled into a blanket and lay on the couch, counting down the time until I could go to bed at 9:00. Yes, I realize one CAN go to bed before 9:00, but I didn’t want to wake too early the next morning and throw off my entire schedule. I was drained. However, I felt pretty good the next morning when I woke up. And, I felt pretty badass for running that far in the snow!

15 miles

This weekend, I met up with five other ladies for our 15 mile run. This one was definitely less eventful. We had good conversation and it really did feel like our three hours on the pavement went quickly. I felt surprisingly good – much better than I did during my 14 mile run – and had fun. What? Who has fun running that far?? Who am I?

The weather was much better this time around, with the weather being around 40*F and overcast, with just a light breeze. No precipitation of any kind this time. The footing was good, being all road, sidewalk, or bike path. Overall, I just felt strong, like I could have run another mile or two had I needed to.

I think another component of success was that I fueled sufficiently during this run. During the 14 miler, I only took one gel because they froze during the run. This time, I took four gels total – one at 45 minutes, then every 30 minutes afterward. I also took Stinger Energy Chews right before running.

So far, I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of gels, because I find I don’t care for chewing while running (other than gum). My favorite gel up to this point is Accel Gel in Strawberry Kiwi, with Powergel Pomegranate Blueberry Acai in second place. I’m finding that I prefer a thinner consistency gel over a thicker one. While GU has some good flavors, I find their consistency to be too thick for my liking. I have a few more varieties to try, but I think I’m close to narrowing down my favorite for the marathon!

The next day, I had some calf tightness and ankle fatigue, but all else felt good. I’m still shocked at how well my body has been handling these miles and I certainly pray it continues to be this way throughout.
This coming weekend is a shorter mileage week, with a long run around 6.5 miles, then we hit 16 miles the weekend of April 8th. Here’s to hoping that 16 goes as well as 15 did!

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Half Fast Half Marathon

On Saturday, February 18th, I ran the Half Fast Half Marathon. I fully intended to do a race recap shortly after the event, but at the time I had very negative feelings about it and I wanted to mull over them before I shared.

I chose this particular race because it offered a 5k, 10k, and a half marathon. There aren’t many races to choose from in February in Minnesota. This allowed my family to do a February race, with us each being able to pick our distance. I chose the half marathon because it fit into my training plan’s required mileage for the weekend; my husband and son chose the 5k.

Packet pickup was available at Tri Fitness’ retail location the two days prior to the race, which made it very easy for me since I’m often in that area. There weren’t any lines when I arrived around 5:30 pm the day prior to the race. The packet consisted of the race number and the long-sleeve cotton t-shirt. While the shirt is a cotton blend, it is a soft fabric and my entire family really likes the shirt for casual daily wear.

The logistics the morning of the race were very simple. We arrived approximately an hour before race time, which gave us abundant time to use the restrooms – there was a porta potty by the parking lot and indoor restrooms inside the hosting school. Because it was such a small race, we very easily could have grabbed our packets the morning of without any problems.

Just prior to the race, they offered a group warm-up inside the school gym, but I chose not to participate. The person leading the warm-up was just too peppy for morning. She was asking people to do squats, jump squats and jump ropes, which is NOT a good idea for me prior to running. More to come on the peppy lady later.

The half marathon started 15 minutes before the 10k and 30 minutes before the 5k. The start line consisted of lining up in the street. The half marathon course consisted of two loops. Having been billed as a “fairly flat” course, I should have known better when we started off by going up a long uphill. The course was HILLY.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the course itself, because it just wound through neighborhoods in the Vadnais Heights area. While it was a quiet course, it was an open course, so it didn’t feel like a race. In fact, it was such a small race that I never saw another runner after mile 6. Yes, seriously.

For most of this race, I felt absolutely defeated. The time limit was 3 hours for the half marathon, which I knew I could meet. All three of my prior half marathons times were sub-3 hour and I’m running much stronger these days, with the consistent marathon training. That being said, mile markers were being pulled up as I approached them and water stations were being packed up as I came up to them. I will say that the volunteers were friendly and encouraging, and I was able to get water at the stops, but it was still discouraging to me. I’ll jump ahead and say that my finishing time was 2:45, so well within the time limit. The field of runners was fast, though, so I was the LAST person out on the course.

Around mile 11, the peppy warm-up leader jumped out of a van and started bouncing next to me. I was at a walk break at that moment, since I’m doing intervals. Right as she bounded up next to me, my interval timer beeped and I started jogging again. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: Hey, how’s it going? We’re not trying to rush you, just wanted to make sure it’s going okay.

Me: I’m doing fine.

Her: Oh, are you using an app or something?

Me: Yes, I’m doing the Jeff Galloway method. This is just a supported training run for me.

Her: Do you want me to run with you?

Me: No, I’m on track to PR.

Her: Are you sure you don’t want company?

Me: Yep, I’m good. Thanks.

Her: Oh… Okay. I guess I’ll just go grab the van.

Honestly, I was pretty crabby and the LAST thing I wanted was some peppy cheerleader type bouncing beside me. I wanted to tell her that I definitely did NOT need someone running near me, considering I’d been running forever without another runner in sight.

When I reached the finish line, they were in the process of packing up. The finish line itself was still up, and they had saved me a baggie of water and snacks. There was one lone volunteer holding my ONE lone medal. I fully appreciate that they saved food and water for me and that the finish line, timing mats, and clock were still out, but it felt like they wanted to pack up and rush out of there as quickly as possible. Again, I was 15 minutes ahead of the time limit and even though I was the last runner out on the course I guess I expected better support.

One of the reasons that the volunteers were likely eager to get out of there was that the awards ceremony and breakfast buffet (not included in the race fee) started at 11:00. It was now 11:45. In retrospect, the fact that the half marathon awards started two hours after the start of the race should have tipped me off that this would be a fast field of runners.

After the finish, my mind quickly went to a very negative place. I told myself I was slow and that I’d never be able to run a marathon; that I was stupid for thinking I could. I don’t go to negativity like that often, and the fact that I did was even more disheartening. After stretching and eating a snack, though, I was able to go back to the fact that my finishing time was a PR by 10 minutes and that there was no reason to feel bad. Had it been a large half marathon, my time would put me solidly in the middle of the field. It’s all relative.

My family said that it was one of the hardest 5ks they’ve done. The 5k course ran up that first hill of the half marathon, then turned around and came down. A friend of mine who also ran the half marathon said the course was so tough that she considered quitting after finishing the first loop; and she’s much faster than me. For some reason, this was just a tough race.

Once the 5k race results were posted, though, I learned that my son won 2nd place in his age group. I emailed the race organizer to see whether he had to be present to claim his prize. They told me that I could come by their retail location to pick up his medal. In that same email, they asked me for feedback about the race, in which I was very honest. The response was apologetic; she (a co-owner at Tri Fitness) stated that they want to be inclusive and welcome runners of all abilities. She was disappointed that I had a negative experience and said that she, as a runner who would never see the podium and has finished last in races, understood where I was coming from. She urged me to try one of their other events.

There were several factors that played into this race and I hate making it sound like the race organization did something wrong, when in fact, they ran a very well-organized event. The small field (38 runners in the half marathon), the fact that it was a hilly course, and that it was early in the year were negatives for my own performance. But, as I mentioned, it was well-organized, logistics were easy, volunteers were friendly, and the shirts were great. I also appreciate the personal email correspondence regarding my thoughts on the race; they could have easily ignored my email.
I’ve learned that I need to stick to larger races for longer distances if I don’t want to be running by myself for long stretches of time. Though, I still prefer small races for shorter distances. Overall, I would consider doing another event organized by Tri Fitness, but only at a 5k or 10k distance.

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The Big Decision

It all started when my mom, sister, and I took a trip to Duluth, MN for my sister’s birthday in August. My sister had never spent time in Duluth, so she wanted to see the sights she had been hearing so much about. We stayed in a Canal Park hotel room overlooking Lake Superior, walked at Gooseberry Falls, toured Glensheen Mansion, walked the sandy beach on Park Point, ate pie at Betty’s Pies, visited Split Rock Lighthouse, and shopped in Canal Park. It was a fabulous time.

 

While meandering Canal Park, I couldn’t help but point out the medallion in the sidewalk that marked the Grandma’s Marathon finish line. I started talking about the marathon and running in general. My mom asked me if I would ever run a marathon; she knew I had intentions of doing one several years ago but bailed ones the training runs hit 15 miles. Mentally, I was having a tough time with running at that point and just couldn’t do it. I had switched my registration to a shorter distance, but ended up missing that due to an ankle injury the night before the race.

 

I told my mom that I wasn’t sure whether I’d ever do one. I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt like I needed to do one to know if I could finish that distance. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure I wanted to put the time and effort into training for it.

 

Then, my mom asked, “If someday you were unable to run a marathon, would you regret not trying?” At that moment, my response was “good question.” Our conversation quickly turned to other topics, but I couldn’t get her comment out of my head. Would I regret it?

 

At the time of our trip, I was in the process of training for both Ragnar Trail Northwoods and the TC 10 Mile. I was building my mileage up to a place it hadn’t been for a few years. Running was feeling good, my speeds and distance were increasing, and I was having fun with it again.

 

All through the next week, I pondered my mom’s question and decided that yes, I would regret never trying. I told myself that I would wait until after I finished the TC 10 Mile on October 9th to make a decision. Registration for Grandma’s Marathon opened October 1st.

 

On October 1st, the only thing I could think about was Grandma’s Marathon. I kept stalking their website, reading everything I possibly could about the race. I researched beginner marathon training plans.  I kept bouncing the decision around in my brain, telling myself both pros and cons. I talked incessantly about it to my husband and running friends.

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The following day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I made the big decision. I registered for Grandma’s Marathon 2017!

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Image borrowed from the Grandma’s Marathon website

I’m excited and scared for this adventure. Training started the week of Thanksgiving and has been going well so far. I am using the Galloway Method, because it worked well for me as I was building distance and speed this summer. Thankfully, I have a great group of women who I will be training with; without that support, I would not have decided to go for it.

 

Also, I couldn’t even attempt this feat without the support of my awesome husband. He knows I’m crazy and loves me anyway. He listens to me complain about sore muscles and get excited about new shoes, reminds me to drink more water and to foam roll, and will be there marathon weekend to support me, cheer for me, be my chauffeur, and possibly pick me up off the course. Now that’s love!

thatdbegreat

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2016 Races – A Quick Recap

I had every intention of doing a recap of every race I ran in 2016, but time just slipped away from me. Here we are in January and my 2016 race season is complete, so I’ll pick up where I left off and do a quick run-down with a few thoughts about the races I ran.

Fete des Lacs 8k

I used this race as a supported training run in preparation for Ragnar Trail Northwoods and TC 10 Mile. This was a very small race, with only 36 runners in the 8k and 66 participants in the 5k. My five family members made up 4.9% of racers!

Because I was utilizing the Galloway Method (run/walk method) to train for the TC 10 Mile, I decided to approach this race using 4:1 intervals; meaning I ran four minutes, walked one minute, and repeat. It feels a bit silly to take my first walk break four minutes into the race, but it really did make a difference in how I felt afterward. I didn’t feel like I had to take a long nap, which is huge!

I was hoping to finish in 1:05:00, but ended up coming in at 59:25!

Shawn Silvera Memorial 5k

This was a memorable race this year mostly because of the rain. The morning started off cool and soggy. Parking for the race was in a grass field next to the YMCA and it was muddy when I arrived; I knew to park strategically so that my little car wouldn’t get stuck as it got softer and wetter. I was able to park, grab my packet and throw it back in the car, and take a quick photo with some Moms on the Run friends. Soon, we were off and as we ran, it started to rain harder and harder until it was absolutely POURING! But, it was really fun!

My finishing time was 34:41, which I felt was pretty good considering I used my 4:1 intervals and was drenched. I’d do this one again in a heartbeat, even with the rain.

Moms on the Run 10k

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My finish line photo

This race is the season-end race for the Moms on the Run spring/summer program. While they offer both a 5k and a 10k, I chose the 10k as a supported training run for TC 10 Mile. Again, I stuck to my 4:1 intervals. The course was pretty, being in Lake Elmo Park Reserve, and the weather was perfect for running; cool and foggy.

I was hoping to finish in 1:15:00, but ended up coming in at 1:13:57!

Ragnar Trail Northwoods

Ragnar Trail Northwoods was a bit outside of my comfort zone, being a trail relay race that involved camping. I have a LOT to say about this inaugural event, so I’ll be doing a separate post on this race. I will say, though, that I LOVED it and have every intention to return in 2017. Stayed tuned!

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Coming in from Loop #1, where I rolled my ankle.

The Darkest Night of Your Life 4k

This was a night race (starting at 9:00 pm) that I ran with Kiddo. The course went through an unlit golf course. As a fundraiser for homeless youth, they chose not to have lighting on the course so that participants could experience the darkness as the homeless do. However, I chose to wear a headlamp because I refused to risk injury before the TC 10 Mile.

Kiddo and I ran this hilly, dark course in 24:59, which is my fastest race pace yet.

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Post-race selfie with the Kiddo

TC 10 Mile

Yes, the race that I spent all summer training for. The TC 10 Mile is the FIRST race that I completely followed a training plan for. Because this is such a popular race, names are drawn via a lottery and I chose to put my name in because I had continually heard how beautiful the course was.

The race really went off without a hitch for me and the time seemed to go by quickly. I stuck to 4:1 intervals, which I had done in training, and never felt like I was going to die; a feat in itself because this course has some hills.

While I didn’t break my own time goal, I did finish in 2:01:47. To be honest, I’m not sure I would run this one again, only because it’s a large race that is a bit of a hassle to get to and get home from. Thankfully, my beloved hubby drove me there, cheered me on the course, and drove me home.

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Pre-Race selfie in front of US Bank Stadium

Anoka Grey Ghost 5k

My favorite Halloween themed race! The course is the same as the parade route, so it’s lined with spectators the first 1.5 miles, then scattered with spectators the rest of the way. The costumes are amazing and the atmosphere is fantastic. I love this race.

Finishing time was 33:35

Hale to the Bird 5k

Hale to the Bird is our Thanksgiving morning race of choice. While it has grown from 200 participants to over 500 in the past few years, we still love the small town feel of this one, even having done it four years now.

Kiddo ran the entire race on his own – the first one he has ever done so for – and even won a raffle prize of a live 6′ Christmas tree!

My finishing time was 33:40

Jingle Bear 5k

The finale to my family’s racing year was the Jingle Bear 5k. This one is another smallish race (around 600 participants), with a Christmas theme. I went into this one with the intention of trying for a PR, so I started out FAST and did not go with intervals.

While I had my fastest 5k of 2016, I didn’t have enough in the tank for a PR that day. Either way, I’m super happy with how my running year went and my finishing time was 33:17.

Overall, it was a great year of racing!

What was your favorite race of 2016?

 

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Esprit de She 5k

The Esprit de She 5k is one of my favorite races. I am a “Founding Finisher,” meaning I ran it the first year it was offered at the Maple Grove, Minnesota location.

This race has always been run on a Thursday evening, which was no different this year. However, the location of the start/finish did change this year, though only by a few blocks. I felt like logistics worked well, once I figured out where everything was. Signage directing runners to packet pickup was lacking, and the volunteer I asked didn’t know where it was. Thankfully, other runners were able to direct me.

Packet pickup was a bit chaotic, as it was in a small area with numbers descending left to right. After getting my bib and shirt, I had to jump in another line to pick up the cycling skirt I received for early registration. The plus side of packet pickup being in the building was the presence of real restrooms.

After getting my gear, I walked it back to my car a few blocks away, then went back to wander around the vendor tents situated around the park green. Vendors offered food samples, a warm-up Zumba session, and post-race yoga.

The race was released in wave, as it was last year. If I remember correctly, the first wave was released a few minutes past the posted start time. This year, the course was different, meaning that it veered onto a narrow running path sooner than the old course, so runners weren’t as spread out yet.

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That’s me in the blue tank.

I’ll admit that due to the crowded course, I went out faster than I meant to. I get a bit claustrophobic in tight crowds of people, so I tend to run faster, dodging around people until I find an open spot to run with space around me. Overall, though, the course was a nice one other than the crowding earlier on.

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Hair flying as I pass through the tight part of the course.

Going into the finish line, there was a tight 90* turn, which slowed a lot of people down exactly where you don’t want runners slowing in front of you. Had I had more energy in the tank for my usual sprint to the finish, this would have been rather annoying.

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You can see the 90* turn into the finish in the background.

Medals, water, and Aspire sports drinks were handed out at the finish line. The medals were large, but I feel unnecessary for a 5k. After collecting our finish line goodies, we jumped into the food line. The first two years, this race offered amazing turkey burgers from a local restaurant afterward; it’s what made my friends and I sign up for the third year. For year #3, we got kale salads afterward, which was a HUGE disappointment. Salad is the LAST thing I want when I get done running. This year was a slight improvement, with wraps being offered. We also had a choice of cantaloupe or carrots.

After my friends and I sat on the grass to eat our wraps, we jumped into the alcohol line. Registration includes two glasses of wine or champagne. However, after standing in line for more than 10 minutes without moving an inch, we ditched the race party and headed to a local restaurant (the same that has the amazing turkey burgers) for a beer.

My finishing time for the race was 35:33.

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I look more exhausted than I felt.

I’ll definitely run this race again next year because I love evening races and the positives have always outweighed the negatives. However, I hope they organize packet pickup so that it’s less chaotic and figure out a better way to managed the lines for post-race spirits. Also, the cycling skirts were a horrible fit/cut that was not accurately portrayed on their sizing chart; I will never wear this item and will be giving it away. The race tanks were awesome, though, as they have been every year.

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