An attempt at documenting my trials at trail running, with a side order of humor.

Why I’m running my second 50miler: See you in Squamish

Well I’m back and ready to do this. I never wrote a race report for the Squamish 50Miler because I was so overwhelmed with emotions when I finished. So here’s a quick recap of how my race went last year and why I’m signing up for 2015!

This August I ran my first 50 miler and it was awesome. The month leading up to the race was full of anxiety. I was riding the roller-coaster of emotions on if I was ready, was I going to finish, were all my ailments going to be healed, did I really want to run 50 MILES and how long is 50 miles really?! Anytime my training and racing was brought up in conversation and I saw people’s jaw drop and say, “you’re running how far?!” I realized why I was running this race it was to prove to myself how strong I was, not just physically but mentally. Athletically I know I’m not the fastest runner out there but I am strong. Mentally I can be strong but there are moments I waiver and doubt my abilities. This was one of the first times I was truly running to prove to myself how strong I was. Once I realized this I continuously visualized myself finishing the race and I would tear up every time.

Toeing the start line I was a bundle of nerves excited and anxious for what the race had in store for me. I had my head lamp on and my ultra vest on and I was ready for anything I felt strong. The gun goes off and my jitters disappear the strength in my legs takes over and I know that this race is going to be one for the books. With the race having 7 aid stations staying focused on small portions of the race at a time felt very achievable.

Coming into the first aid station was quick and easy. I was on schedule, my sister topped up my vest and I was back on my way. After the first aid station racers were sent right into the trails and a bit of the climbing began. During this part of the race I was amazed by the kindness and encouragement of all the racers as we chatted while climbing. Coming in to the second aid station I was already tearing up with my bottom lip quivering (trying to pull it together so that my pregger sister/crew chief wouldn’t also start crying) was the best feeling because at this moment I knew that I was going to finish! From this aid station to the 5th aid station was a blur of moderate pain, of course more climbing and smiles. Coming into the 5th aid station I knew I had some gnarly blisters and was getting pretty hungry. Luckily my sister brought me some chicken nuggets and the volunteers were able to patch me up and send me on my way. Up until this point I was on track to achieve my goal of 12:30hrs. But I had no idea what the back half of the race had in store for me. Let me tell you it was an eye opener! I got my butt handed to me on the 30km and did not see it coming. It was the hardest 30km I have ever ran. I toughed this section out but mentally was struggling to stay motivated to finish. Coming into the last aid station my sister knew I was wiped, I just didn’t have any juice left in my legs. I was also pretty disappointed in myself because I was now not going to be able achieve my time goal. Luckily, I had my sister by my side to say “stop doddling and see you at the finish line.” She certainly has a way with words that one.

Well with 70km under my feet I knew I could steadily crush out the next 12km. This last 12km was painfully slow and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my feet moving. But sure enough those Km’s started counting down and I was getting closer and closer to the finish line. I had 1km left, then 500m, then 100m, then the finish line and then the tears.

What a feeling when you cross the finish line! The pride, the pain and everything in between. My most vivid memory of the finish line is hugging Gary Robbins and sobbing into his shoulder continuously blubbering, ” that was just so hard.”

Next year my goal is to run a sub 12:00 50miler.

Shout out to all the volunteers at each aid station who were amazing and Gary Robbins for the hug. What an amazing experience. See you in 2015!

Stay tuned for my trials as I continue to train for this crazy endeavor.

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With No Effort Comes No Expectations

Wow what a whirlwind the past 5 months have been! I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since the hypothermic half. Well let me catch you up to speed on what I’ve been doing: I completed the busiest semester of my post secondary education, I graduated from the U of Alberta with two degrees (B. Ed/B. PEd), and I was MOH of my sisters wedding. I feel like the past few months have just been one big party. It’s been quite the few months that’s for sure, it’s amazing celebrating all of these milestones. In a sense I feel like its been one big coming of age story and let me tell you being an adult in the real world is not what it’s cracked up to be!

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Lately, I have been feeling uninspired and underwhelmed about running and training. The biggest battle I have been dealing with is getting a run in. I have pulled out every excuse not to go for a run. I feel like I’m starting to let myself down. If I don’t train hard then I don’t have to have such high expectations for MYM 50. It’s generally what I do when I commit to something. If I have low expectations then if it doesn’t work out I can say it just wasn’t meant to be. Failing is the worst feeling. There is nothing more devastating than putting all your effort into something and still coming up short handed.

Needless to say I need to GET GOING! I found the problem to be that it was putting my runs on the back burner while I dealt with all of life’s little challenges. My plan of action is to put running as my first priority. This will involve me taking care of myself and making sure I balance my life. As much I want running to be my first priority I need to make sure I have a proper recovery and stay injury free.

Well here’s to running! I promise to have better posts once I start adventuring. Time to put on my running shoes and get going! Happy trails.

Hypothermic Half Report

20130218-182229.jpgLast Sunday I had my first race of the season and participated in my first hypothermic half! Usually I dread any race I participate in and set pretty low expectations that way I don’t bum myself out if I don’t achieve the goal I have set. But this race was different. The night before I was jittery before bed and had tingles in my toes because I knew something good was going to happen.
Race day came and it was a typical February morning in Edmonton. It was about -10 Celsius and a tad bit windy but all things considering it could have been way colder so I was thankful for the tame winter morning.
The week prior to the race I had taken off because I was dealing with shin splints (definitely not desirable for a runner or anyone for that matter). So when I was standing at the starting line I did wonder if I had done enough to prepare for the race. But then I realized that it was better to listen to my body and rest it properly than push myself and injure myself. After realizing I had done all I could to prepare myself for this race I was pretty sure I felt strong enough to beat my personal best (2:02).
Starting off the race I felt strong and didn’t get carried away with the first km jitters. I paced myself appropriately to beat my PB. In kilometre 3 I was so proud of myself I started tearing up and had no idea where they came from (the perks of being an emotional girl who can cry from a Canadian tire commercial). I was feeling great from the beginning to about kilometre 7. After kilometre 7 I had to run on some pretty soft snow that felt like quicksand, the more effort I put into moving fast the slower I went. This part of the course dampened my spirits because I was getting frustrated, I just wanted to go faster but the snow wasn’t letting me. The downside to this race was that it was a two lap course and was extremely flat compared to the races I normally compete in. So it was a bit of a mind bender knowing I had to go through the soft snow again.
At the half way point I decided to try putting back a gel. I’m trying to play around with foods and things that work well for me so come MYM 50M I know what works for me and won’t have any doubts with what to fuel my body with. Needless to say gels are definitely not my thing and will need to explore alternatives. They are far too gooey and sticky for me, I felt like a cat eating peanut butter. Perhaps I will try a different flavour.
The second lap seemed to fly by and I was still on pace to beat my PB but it would be tight. Somewhere between kilometre 16 and 17 my shins decided to cause me grief right in the middle of the soft snow portion. My pace slowed drastically and my goal to beat my PB had been lost as I had to walk off the shins for a minute. It was frustrating to know that had I not walked I would have been close to beating it. As I finished the race “sprinting” in and finished at 2:05:30.
I didn’t beat my personal best but for the first time in a long time I was proud of my time and knew that I pushed hard to get where I was considering last year my half marathon time in June was 2:16. I was proud of the improvement but still know that I have a ways to go to get to where I want to be before MYM.

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Put Me In Coach!

I was driving to go play squash the other day and was overwhelmed with nervousness. Generally, I get a tinge of the butterflies before I go play and the same goes for running, followed by a quick trip to the girls room but thats it. But this time I was so nervous I couldn’t handle myself.

I have a strong background playing in elite level volleyball games, but in squash and running I have no one to fall back on but myself. For the past 12 years I had played a team sport where I had a coach and teammates to tell me where to go, what to do, and how to do it. It involved order, structure, and mindless actions. It was just so easy, I just went through the motions. But then I realized I was tired of all the monotony  and just worn down in general. At the end of my volleyball career I realized I wanted to be able to do things for me and when I wanted to do them. There are so many other activities and competitions out there that I needed to involve myself in.

My one problem however was whatever I was going to do it had to be bigger and better from before. I think I decided this just to keep me goal oriented, if there was one thing I learned from volleyball it was that I needed to have goals and some structure to keep me from falling off the track.

Realizing all the pressure is on you is the best most terrifying feeling in the world. Now, its me who is in charge of making sure I get enough training and kilometers in, making sure I’m resting enough,  and I’m eating properly. Some days the laziness overcomes me and I just tell myself I’ll run an extra few km tomorrow. So I leave my run till the next day and I get so mad and frustrated at myself the next day I’ll have a pretty awful run. If I keep putting off my runs how am I going to run a 50 miler?!

The  nervousness also stemmed from me believing that if I am participating in solo sports that I have no other supporters than myself. But thats a lie. I have my fam jam, boyfriend, and friends to encourage/force me to go for a run that day. As a runner you are not the only one out there even when you are out on a run by yourself. There are so many different factors that have got you to that point and that will allow you to finish your run such as the runners you will pass that give you a brief smile and encourage you to keep going, the support crew that will change your socks and give you a hug before the next leg, or the volunteers that set up the course to direct you where to go.

You are your own coach because you got yourself to where you are today, and are the only who will get you passed the finish line. So take care of the little things today before they become big things and appreciate those who support you in your adventures.

The Perfect Run

A couple of weeks ago the impossible happened. I had the perfect run. I don’t know about all runners but I rarely come off a run and say, “YES, THAT WAS AWESOME!”. Generally coming off a run feeling frustrated, or exhausted. I just accept it that not all runs are going to be awesome, some can be really good but rarely awesome. But when I finished that run I knew I had given it all my body could give. I had a 6:20 pace for 10km. Which is definitely not speedy by any means, but it was the fastest I had ran a 10km since before my ankle surgery (8 months ago) and it was the most consistent run I think I’ve ever ran. I was able to hold that pace and stick with it wavering +/- a few seconds. It was awesome.

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I certainly don’t know the recipe for an overall awesome run but I have to say the most important ingredient is positive self talk. During the death race I was so negative about the experience, I hated myself for that as I’m a very happy and optimistic person. I vowed to myself never to focus on the negative and use positive thoughts to fuel my running.

It made me realize how many factors impact your overall run:
how many of us have jumped the gun after eating and not waited for the meal to set and you get those awful cramps, or you drank too much water and all you here is swish swish swish and you feel like you are going to float away, or you didn’t drink enough and feel like you’re in the Sahara desert, or you haven’t ran in a while and push a pace that is just to fast for you to keep up with, maybe you had a bad day at work and are dreading your run, perhaps it’s that you have negative self talk and there is no way you are going to make it up that giant hill

Well I think we’ve all been there!

There are so many things that work against you that it seems impossible you are going to finish that run successfully.

A fousin (fake cousin) asked me if running and training get easier (as she’s three weeks into training for a half marathon) and I told her that training doesn’t get easier because your body gets stronger and your expectations of yourself keep getting higher.

To keep positive it’s about embracing the downhills, digging into uphills and knowing you’re capable to achieve more than what you have expected yourself to.

Thank you 2012, Hello 2013

Every New Years pessimists become optimists and those resilient to change attempt to be open to change. Those excited for 2013 have definitely let you know through Facebook or Twitter. I will admit I am one of them. But here’s the difference I feel that those who are most excited for 2013 are those that are willing to forget about the negative experiences or hard times they went through. Out with the old, and in with the new. Well I’ve been pondering why everyone is so excited to begin their new year and attempt to successfully achieve their new years resolution. I think its because people are hoping to forget the negative experiences and mistakes they made last year and looking forward to a blank slate. But do you really start with a blank slate? It’s not like those around you instantly forget who are. So how are you supposed to remake yourself?

I don’t think you can just forget and move on at the stroke of midnight. I think you have to embrace the challenges that  you faced from the past year in order to successfully be a better person in the year ahead. Being able to reflect on the challenges allows one to see how they  overcome difficult situations. By just forgetting about the past, you put yourself in a place to make the same mistakes you did last year. Its about realizing that those challenges made you a stronger person and you are better because of them.

February 2012:

February marked the passing of my Nana, my last grandparent. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her or reflect on how she has impacted my life. It took all my energy to carry on going to class and make everything seem normal. But what I took from this was to continue on the lessons Nana taught me. My Grandad passed away 17 years ago and my Nana continued on when she could have easily given up. So with that I knew for Nana’s sake I had to handle each day with strength and poise, just like she did. I carry Nana’s thought with me everyday to be as a strong as she was.

April 2012: 

As I was studying for my last few finals, my ankle jammed and I ended up hopping across the pedway to ER while my boy ended up scrambling to find a wheelchair for me. It was rather difficult explaining to the ER nurses that I was just studying when I ended up in the ER room unable to move my ankle. While trying to convince the ER doc’s that I just needed to be sedated and they could fix my ankle by just popping it into place. Well turns out I’m not  an ER doc so I had to have emergency surgery setting me back a month and a half in death race training. This surgery pushed me to become stronger as a runner. I had to get myself ready to run 50km in 3 1/2 months. I knew I was going to be able to complete the race I just didn’t know how I was going to get to the finish line.

August 2012: 

Race day came and well you can check out the ridiculous race here. Well what coming down off this race I was so disappointed in myself for letting my self get so dehydrated and not finishing in the time I had set for myself. That I didn’t even appreciate the fact that I had completed a 50Km race. The farthest I have ever run. This race is why I am doing MYM in September. I want to prove to myself that with every challenge I make myself stronger.

Well these are the top three reasons why I am excited for new challenges and experiences in 2013. But I wouldn’t be as excited for the new year had I not overcome this past year. I am thankful for 2012 and can’t wait for 2013. I hope everyone reflects on the past year and doesn’t forget the challenges that they have overcome to get to where they are today.

And of course 2012 was the year I started blogging. Thank you to those who continue to pop by and spread the love.

Happy New Year! Good luck with the challenges that 2013 brings!

It Comes Down To Being Awesome

Lately, I’ve been digging up pictures from my childhood and it was obvious in every picture that I am pretty awesome. No matter what the situation whether I was supposed to be in the picture or not, the picture ended up being about me. I know this sounds rather self-centered but growing up I had a strong sense of self. I knew how to make people laugh, smile or gasp. My Nana called me her little ray of sunshine. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted all the attention on me. I just wanted a reaction out of somebody, positive or negative. Even if I knew I shouldn’t have done it, I did it anyways, and I didn’t really care what the consequence was. I guess you could say I pushed limits and my mom’s buttons often. Such as sticking my tongue to metal in -30 degree Celsius weather, throwing my underwear in the garbage at recess while wearing a dress, continuously dumping mom’s contacts down the sink, breaking my arm because I thought I was peter pan, well the list goes on but I think you get the point. I was quite the child. I was constantly curious about if I did “A” what would “B” be.

A prime example of how awesome I am.

And what can I say I have my parents and sister to thank. I am thankful that my parents allowed me to explore, imagine and become my own awesome self (and by awesome self I mean a young kid who ran around naked). However there were limits to exploring and imagining, if I did something outside my mom’s boundaries I was in BIG trouble (Such as don’t take your clothes off in public). Even with the boundaries set I was still pretty hard to manage and a free spirited kid (after all at the age of two I was granted the nickname psychobaby, which I’m pretty proud of). I thank my sister for hating me for the first 12 years of my life. (It’s odd to be thankful for I know) But you see I took away my sisters only childness away from her, resulting in a large amount of resentment, so I understand where she is coming from (but still slightly confused I know I took away being an only child but she got me out of the deal, I didn’t think that was so bad). I appreciate this part because all I wanted to do was prove myself to her and show her all the cool things about me, by doing this I learned what I was truly capable of. But she wanted nothing to do with me. I just wanted to be her friend, and by her friend I mean I wanted to be just like her. She was my ultimate role model. Everything from the way my parents allowed me to express myself to me wanting to be as successful as my sister, has shaped me into the person I am today. It ultimately comes down to the fact that I didn’t care what anyone else thought I was going to do it anyways.

Oh my bad, you’re reading this thinking, “Lisa, how does this relate to running?” Well hold on to your compression shorts. The experiences my family provided for me allowed me to try new things and push myself to limits, it didn’t matter what the outcome because at the end of the experience my family was there to catch me if I fell.

To me running is about being liberated from any expectations and being awesome, the exact things my parents allowed me to be. It’s about going for a run and learning a little more about yourself whether it’s how mentally tough you are or what your body’s limit is. Often times if you see me running I am giggling to myself (a mix of a runners high and how easily distractable I am), I know it may look odd but I am having a good time and whats the point of keep the goodness bottled up inside. Running is the awesome adventure I give myself. And the best part is that every run is different, even if I’ve ran the same route numerous times. It’s because I expect something different for myself each time. I am awesome because I was able to put aside the chaos and insanity of my day and go for a run no matter how long, far or difficult. I did that, I made the decision to free myself and eliminate the daily restrictions. I did all of this. And all of this is awesome.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

WHEW! It’s been exactly a month since I started this blogging adventure and I can’t believe that people around the world have been able to read my blog from Germany, New Zealand, Australia to the States. I thank you for supporting me in this little expedition. The support I have received from writing this blog has been pretty awesome and inspiring! I know I’m a bit inconsistent in publishing new posts but my goal is to become more regular once I get these finals out of the way. I also haven’t been on too many crazy adventures hopefully the holidays will grant me the opportunity to go on a few excursions.

Thank you again for the support. Feel free to suggest a topic you want me to write about!

Until the next post! And in the meantime this clip pretty much sums up why I run: Love

-Hasta la Vista

Find Your Feet

Hump day is upon us and every body is counting down the days till the weekend. Don’t get me wrong generally the weekend is better than the week. But each day brings new things that not everyone takes the time to appreciate.

I’m nearing the end of my first month of training, at the beginning I found myself scrambling to put a quick run in. I would manage my time poorly and then end up running my weeks goal in one day. I just couldn’t get motivated to go for a run. I thought that I would be more productive sitting at my desk either studying or writing a paper than taking 45min out of my day to go for a quickie. Truth is I should have broken up my day by going for a run. Being so active I find myself struggling to sit still and can’t get any work done. I also find running and exercise help me focus once I hunker back down to study. I am finding it easier to get motivated to run as I can feel my body getting back into running shape and being able to go further than the run before.

The boyfriend texted me a couple weeks ago saying we had 295 days till the big race. I had mix emotions about that number as I thought well if I round up (simple math isn’t my forte) that’s almost a year, I’ve got loads of time and then I thought about it again and went wait that’s less than a year, thats not enough time (just a small example about what goes on in my head in a span of a second). I thought about it again and realized I don’t want to be underwhelmed or overwhelmed about the number of days I have till race day. I want to be in control and take charge about how I feel each day, so that I know when race comes that I’ve prepared myself.

Quick Detour:

In Grande Cache, the night after the CDR I had the privilege of bumping into Dag Aabye and his daughter outside the Grande Cache bar. This man is everything you want to be in a person. The whole time we were talking with him I was just in awe. Everything he said was liquid gold. He is the oldest man to have completed the death race and pure inspiration. We ended up talking about future races and what his next plan was. He stopped the conversation and said it doesn’t matter. I was rather confused at this point, an athlete that doesn’t care about what he’s going to do next? How can it not matter. He said

“Look down. It does not matter where your feet were yesterday, or where they are going to be tomorrow. It matters where your feet are at this moment in time.”

Since my encounter with Dag I keep this quote in the back of my mind. I finally realized what he was saying. Just be in the present and appreciate everyday, the rest will follow.

I use this as a simple reminder to take time out of my day to do something for me whether its a run, walk, or workout. Every little bit matters when you are working towards your ultimate goal.

Thank you Dag.

Stop Judging Me: An Unsettling Realization

I was studying for my nutrition midterm when I came across a topic I did not take very seriously: Eating disorders. Prior to studying for this midterm, I believed eating disorders were for people who suffered from bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. I just thought to myself why do I have to study something that only affects so little of the population and is this really relevant to real life? I was still ignorant to the belief that this was applicable to me but I went on studying through it anyway. After reading about the percentages and ratios of how many people will be affected by these disorders I came across these…

My introduction to physical activity was dancing. Twirling and tapping were my first memories around learning how to appreciate your body. But here’s the thing, my body was not designed to be a prima ballerina and it’s not that I expected to be a professional but being able to excel in dance is what I strived to do (well most of the time). The problem was I was six inches taller than my peers and a lanky string been trying to gain coordination while also learning choreography. As a result of my height and potential lack of coordination I was thrown into the back of every formation. I was a Willy Wonka in the world of Oompa Loompas (minus the orangey skin).Then add on the expectation of wearing tights and leotards in a glass fun house and it was a recipe for disaster. Growing up with all my dance peers, I watched them struggle with accepting their bodies trying methods of purging or ignoring food altogether. I was always so confused as to why they thought this and why they were punishing their bodies, I would always compare myself to them in the mirror but I knew it wasn’t a fair comparison to them because I was much taller than them to begin with.

My parents did a great job of handling body acceptance. We ate dinner as a family on the nights that granted us that opportunity allowing for open conversations (which I feel is extremely lacking in today’s time.) If I didn’t want to eat something they didn’t force it on me and food was never used as a punishment or reward. These few things established how I saw food in a positive light, food is a fuel not a vicious virus that is going to make you look like Ursula.

As I continued through my growth spurt playing squash and volleyball (both sports requiring tight fitting uniforms). I still felt proud of myself. I rarely thought about weight and knew the best choice was to eat an apple for morning break instead of a bag of chips. I felt like I was ahead of all my friends as far as nutrition and sport were concerned. I remember this one moment in Grade 11 I was about 5’8 at the time and my friend was around the 5’0 (I was 5’0 in grade 5) complaining when she weighed herself that she just broke the 100lbs mark. I was pretty confused as I had broken that barrier leaving elementary, why were these girls complaining about their weight? It just didn’t make sense to me at all.

After those few anecdotes studying nutrition and looking at those spectrums have brought me here today. When I saw those spectrums, I felt awful about myself. Somewhere between leaving high school and now (the age of 23) I have come to the point where I don’t view food or my body as positively as I should. I shocked myself when I didn’t fit perfectly into the extreme left of either spectrum (granted I am knowledgeable enough that I’m not on the extreme right either). I became slightly depressed as I realized I was an elite level athlete and now training for an ultra and I don’t respect my body. Also the fact that I am going to be a physical education teacher and as a role model if I am not confident in my body how are my students going to feel in their gym clothes.

I was pretty ashamed to write this post as I feel like being a runner/ athlete you’re expected to have a confident view about your body, eat quinoa and cous cous and know exactly how many calories you’re putting in your body and how many you are expending. But I don’t. Don’t get me wrong I don’t gorge on McDonalds. I’m not a calorie counter (simple math has never been my thing), extreme dieter, binger or purger (I don’t have the self discipline and I actually love food too much).

I have a healthy BMI, low blood pressure, and a normal body fat percentage. The fact is I am normal, just plain ol’ me so why am I frustrated at the fact that I can’t stop eating after a 10k run? (Well Lisa you just ran 10k that’s why!). It’s not that I am depressed about my weight and I know that if I want to really lose weight how hard I have to workout. I know roughly what I need to eat in a day to fulfill my energy expenditures and making sure the foods I eat are nutrient dense (low amounts of calories ratio to amount of nutrients offered in a food). And that if I don’t eat short meals through out the day, I get hangry. But that doesn’t eliminate the fact that I stand on a scale every other day expecting some miraculous change to happen in weight loss. It is just that I don’t think I appreciate my body the way I should.

Needless, to say this past week I have started to gain a more positive perspective, I know the change is not going to happen overnight and it is going to take time. I need to practice what I preach, as I said in a previous post listen to your body. I hate placing blame on the media but in this case I feel it necessary. Food is very rarely described as fuel. But that’s what is. Its glorious fuel that helps us rebuild our body tissues to make us stronger human beings. The same goes for water, it’s the catalyst for all the magic that happens in your body (it is the backbone to all the critical chemical reactions). I do not think that this is endorsed enough. Food + Water = Fuel. It’s that simple it’s not about calories it is about what is good for your body and what it needs at that moment. Be conscience of what you eat and love your body. My hope is that we teach eachother (especially young girls) to appreciate food to nourish and replenish our bodies.

Ps. if this strikes something in you spread the love and share this with your friends!

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

– Buddha


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