2015 Running Recap

I’m a little behind schedule on this post and my mind is far more focused on the year to come rather than the year that has been.  But there are certainly some significant running memories from 2015.  It was not a year of huge PB’s, though I did complete my fastest 5k and marathon.  I think it was more of a year for new adventures, and experiences and isn’t that what life should be?

So, in no particular order, some highlights of 2015:

Traveling

Race expo for the Prague Half Marathon.

Race expo for the Prague Half Marathon. Found my name!

Until 2013, my husband and I had only done one vacation.  That was a trip out east before we had kids.  Once we had kids we chose not to travel for many years.  The reason was twofold.  I chose to stay home for 5 years (a choice I would recommend to anyone if you can manage it, though be warned, it is the hardest job in the world!) and as a result we had one income.  We also did not see the point in dragging small children who still needed naps to new locations.  We wanted out kids to be old enough to appreciate and remember their traveling adventures.

We started traveling again in 2013 when I ran the NYC Half Marathon.  Our kids were 10 and almost 8 at the time.  I rediscovered my love of traveling and also discovered that our kids are amazing travelers.  They have no interest in Disney vacations.  What they love is exploring new places, looking at architecture, finding new trails.  From that trip we knew we had kids who would be happy exploring the world, and that was again the case when in 2014 we took them to the west coast so I could run the Vancouver Half Marathon.

2015 was an even bigger year in traveling and one that I will remember for years to come.  In March we set off to Europe so I could return to Prague, a city I had spent some time teaching in many years ago.  The main point of the trip was the Prague Half Marathon, but in the end it was only a small part of our adventure.  We had a phenomenal time as a family, not only exploring Prague but also spending a week in Nice.  Having a chance to run in these two beautiful cities was such a gift, but the bigger gift was having such a wonderful two weeks with my husband and kids – so many memories that I will treasure.

After the finish of the Prague Half Marathon:

Enjoying the moment,

Enjoying the moment,

A family run in Nice , France:

Running in Nice.

Running in Nice.

As if that wasn’t enough, we actually managed a second family trip, this time to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island so that the four of us could participate in the Canadian Orienteering Championships.  Between events I fit in training runs in each of the provinces, meaning in 2015 I ran in a total of 5 Canadian provinces and two countries outside of Canada.

The kids at the Canadian Orienteering Championships:

The kids at the Canadian Orienteering Championships in New Brunswick.

An amazing morning orienteering on the ocean floor at Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick:

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A beautiful trail for running:

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A gorgeous morning run in Moncton, N.B.:

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Racing

I admit I haven’t counted the races of 2015.  I know there were quite a few, though I am pretty sure not as many as in 2014.  I did run my coldest race ever when all four of us took part in the Winterman race here in Ottawa.  It was -40 C with the wind chill and there was no avoiding the wind since we were running along the Ottawa River.  It was one of my slowest 10k’s ever but it certainly gave bragging rights!

The kids bundled up alongside the Winterlude mascot.

The kids bundled up alongside the Winterlude mascot.

The other big race of the year was my third go at a marathon.  I’m still slow (surprise!) but I did take off 4 minutes despite having a cold, stomach issues and the craziest head winds I have ever experienced.  I definitely recommend the Road2Hope Marathon and I will be heading there again this year, though I have not decided if it will be for the full or the half.  It was a well-organized mid-sized race with a great route.

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The most surprising part of the marathon this time around for me was that I really enjoyed my training.  This is despite that fact that I spent 4 weeks of training with my hand in a cast and 5 days of training sleeping at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario while my youngest son was in being treated with I.V. antibiotics.  I really enjoyed the training plan I used and I will be using a modified version of it to train for this year’s Around the Bay 30k.

A highlight race was also the Sporting Life 10k when I had the chance to pace Evan for his first 10k race:

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Trail Running/Snowshoeing

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This year I stepped out of my road running box and hit the trails.  It started in the winter when I participated in the Mad Trapper Snowshoe Series.  If you ever get cocky about your running, strap on a pair of snowshoes and head out for a 5k.  Within a km you will wonder if you are coming down with some life-draining disease because surely you couldn’t be that exhausted after a mere km.  Snowshoeing is one helluva workout but one I highly recommend to change things up and to take advantage of winter.

I also participated in several trail events, plus hit the trails more often on my solo runs.  I had a blast at MEC’s trail running clinic for women.  I convinced some friends to join me at another women’s event, the Mad Trapper Power in Pink trail run and an amazing time was had by all.  I would do both events again in a second and I encourage all women to give them a try.

Finishing the race, being greeted by my kids, who finished long before me!

Finishing the Mad Trapper NOOTR race, being greeted by my kids, who finished long before me!

Mad Trapper events definitely became the series of choice in our family.  We started with the snowshoe races at the beginning of the year, a rural road run with the 8k Pancake Prediction Run, then joined in on the trail races.  I probably sign up for these races as much for the awesome food and social time post-race as the race itself and have really enjoyed meeting up with new friends.  The kids and my husband are also hooked as all of them prefer to be in the woods rather than running on the roads.

Perhaps my most “out of my comfort zone” event (even more so than a marathon!) was the NOOTR Race – the “Natural Obstacle Off-Trail Race”.  This one involved climbing rocks and steep hills, running through mud pits and streams and just generally having a blast in the forest.  I couldn’t keep up with my kids but I did strangely manage to come in first for the women.

Speaking of not keeping up with my kids, my favourite post race newsletter is definitely the one sent out by Mike Caldwell after the recent Hilly Snowshoe race.  We and others had put in a request for a 3k distance so our kids could come.  Ends up Luke and Evan were much faster than we thought they would be on snowshoes and they whipped through the course pretty quickly.  Here’s a portion of that newsletter:

The 3km option, is not for youth only. Meaning anyone can participate in the 3k event and youth 16 and under aren’t restricted to this race. Youth are welcome to compete in any distance they are comfortable with.  And if that means the kids will be stepping up and beating their parents…. then so be it! (Look out Raz family!)

Yep, our kids are going to be kicking our butts soon in snowshoeing.  Maybe I should just drop down to the 3k distance now if they are going to move up to the 5k!

I have to add these two trail running photos – my favourite before and after pictures.  Do you think it was a hot day?

Before picture

Before picture

After - do we look a little hot?

After – do we look a little hot?

Orienteering

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Orienteering has become the new passion of this family.  My kids are amazing at this sport and my husband is very capable too.  I, on the other hand, well… let’s just say I am slowly learning.  As someone with a lack of spatial sense, this sport is a tough one for me but I am so glad we discovered it.  We are very lucky here in Ottawa to have an amazing club, Ottawa Orienteering.  It organizes regular B events throughout Ottawa/Gatineau and it has been such a pleasure being part of the club.  If you want a family activity or if you just like heading out into the woods on a Sunday morning, I can’t recommend this sport enough.

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I truly feel blessed that I can share the sports of road running, snowshoeing, trail running and orienteering with my entire family.  As a mother of two boys I think that is a special privilege and one I hope we can share throughout their teen years.  When I started running almost 5 years ago it was for me, and it certainly remains a “me” activity.  But I had no idea that it would become a way for our family to be together and share common experiences.  2015 was proof of that, and for that I am grateful.

Happy 2016 to all!

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Christmas Recap

I’m just going to let the photos say it all:

A Christmas Eve trail run in shorts and 17 degrees C:

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A snowshoe/crosscountry ski day on January 4th:

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Than you Mother Nature for a great week of trail running followed by a perfect week of snowshoeing.  Awesome!

 

So What Are Icebugs?

Much of my focus this fall season was the marathon. Long runs, pool running, core strength routines… they took up much of my time. But I did manage to squeeze in a few other activities including some orienteering events. I also became an Icebug Orienteering Ambassador.  I picked up a pair of Icebug Zeal OLX shoes for a discounted price and was excited to try a very different shoe from any of those found in my road shoe collection.

Right now all of you road runners might be wondering what Icebugs are.  You are not going to find them at many of your local running stores.  Icebug is a Swedish shoe company that makes running shoes as well as boots specifically for slippery conditions. This is a shoe company that focuses on traction and the proof is in the shoe.  The OLX’s are clearly made with orienteering and obstacle course racing in mind.

When I first tried my Icebugs I was in the midst of choosing marathon shoes. I was used to feeling some cushioning and a certain glove like feel around my foot. I’m going to be honest, when I put on the Icebugs my immediate reaction was a fear that I would not like them. They felt so different from any of my road shoes. The uppers felt a little stiffer, there wasn’t that soft feeling of the shoes I was wearing on the road. These shoes also let you feel the ground beneath your feet, so there was not the airy, cushioned feel that I had grown accustomed to on my long runs.  But they were remarkably light, and I love a light shoe.

Next step was to try them around my rural property. These are not shoes you can break in while walking around the house unless you don’t mind perforating your floors. There is a reason the OLX’s have traction – check out the metal studs:

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If metal studs are a bit more than you need, there are plenty of Icebug shoes with serious lugs to get you through tricky terrain.

As soon as I started moving in the shoes I knew that I would in fact love wearing them.  To start with, they are incredibly light for a trail shoe. For me, the ultimate test in a shoe is will I forget about them once I start running. In my opinion, if my mind goes to my shoes – whether running trails or roads – there is a problem. Shoes should be your quiet workhorse partner, getting their job done without interfering in your quest to finish.  As soon as I was running I was virtually unaware of the Zeals.  The 6mm drop falls right in my comfort zone and the uppers felt snug without being tight.

As I ran around the rough, uneven ground of our open pasture any of my initial concerns disappeared.  I then tested them on our rough gravel driveway and was quite pleased to discover that the studs were not uncomfortable on the harder surface.  And, on a purely vain note, I admit I loved that they actually made my feet look small.  When you are 5’8 and wear a 10 1/2 shoe, you can’t help but be pleased by a shoe that doesn’t make you feet look even bigger!  These shoes kind of have the look of a comfy sneaker.  Don’t let them fool you though, they have plenty of protection at the toe and around the sole for rough terrain.

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The next test was trying them in an orienteering event.  The first thing I enjoyed was the traction I felt when stepping on top of slippery logs.  Remember when orienteering you are often not on a beaten (or even semi-beaten) path.  I usually try to go over old, wet logs in order to avoid slipping, but with the 16 carbide tip steel studs I had no worries digging into the wood.  As well, these shoes give you a real feel for the ground and nice flexibility.  Unfortunately for me, with all my road running this past fall I was suffering from a mild case of metatarsalgia (pain at the ball of my toes) and found that I sometimes needed a little more cushioning, depending on the day.  Without that issue however, I really enjoy feeling the terrain.

It was at this first event with the shoes that I discovered the main problem with the Zeals.  To be honest it is a bit of a bizarre one, though luckily a very easy fix.  For some reason, the laces that come with the shoes will not stay tied, even when double tied.  I double tie all my running shoes.  It is such a habit that even when trying on shoes in a store I double tie.  I have never, ever, had my laces come undone during a run.  So I was a little surprised that within the first 20 minutes of my orienteering event I discovered that both shoes were untied.  This is frustrating enough when running on the road, but when orienteering it adds extra challenges. Firstly, if you are orienteering in Eastern Ontario, there is a very good chance you are running through poison ivy.  About the last thing I really want to do is tie up laces that may have been dragged through poison ivy oil.  Secondly, when orienteering, you are carrying a map, a compass and an S.I. on your finger that looks like this:

Photo from http://ol-wiki.de/index.php?title=Bild:SPORTident_Chip_6.jpg

This is the piece of technology you need to “punch” each control to prove you completed the course.  In order to tie shoes, you need to put all of this gear on the ground (poison ivy alert again!).  The third time my shoes came undone, I only picked up two of the three things I needed.  It wasn’t until I reached the next control that I realized I did not have my S.I. chip.  I did try to retrace my steps but lets face it, finding one of those in an autumn forest carpeted in leaves is much like looking for a needle in a haystack.  At that point my event was done and I was out an S.I.  With no chip, there was no way for me to officially continue and I had to take a DNF.  It is possible a few swear words were used.  Now, I am going to admit that I was not having a good course.  That could be translated to I was completely lost for a period of time.  O.K. possibly a long period of time.  I was not going to be winning this class (not that I win any class)!  But I would have liked to finish.

I did contact the company and discovered that they too had experienced difficulties with the laces.  My husband also had the same problems with his pair.  They sent me a link showing a better way to tie laces and my husband has had some success with this method.  I, on the other hand, have decided that I am too old to relearn how to tie shoelaces.  Some things are just too engrained to change.  Instead I simply changed the laces and the problem is solved.  My current laces don’t exactly match the colour scheme, but they make them unique!

Do the pink laces work?

Do the pink laces work?

Once the lace issue was solved, the shoes worked well for several other orienteering events.  But what I was really waiting for was the chance to try them in some truly slippery conditions, whether it be snow or ice.  This unusually mild and dry  fall and winter didn’t help on that front, but this week I finally got the chance to try them in less than ideal footing.  My husband and I headed out around our rural area in our matching Zeals – his minus the pink laces!  The first test was our slippery rural road.  I have run that road many times with a bit of snow, slush and ice and I can tell you my feet usually slip out behind me.  Definitely not a problem in the Zeals.  Then we ran up a long, steep trail.  The unfortunate part is that the Zeals give you no excuses.  Normally I could just say, “Oh, I’d better take this slow, wouldn’t want to slip!”  Sorry, that excuse is gone with these shoes – you are not going to slip.

Snow, water and mud all in one run.

Snow, water and mud all in one run.

I was a little worried about what they would be like in the colder temperatures.  This was my first run in them with the temperature hovering around 0C.  The snow was covering the huge puddles from the previous days’ rain.  I ended up ankle-deep a couple of times but the water drained quickly and I had no problem with my feet getting cold.  Wool socks of course helped too.  We also tested some downhill muddy trails topped with wet snow, again no issues.

I’m still waiting to try these on ice.  I have little doubt they will be amazing.  What I really want to do is what you see in this advertisement for Icebug shoes:

Hey, if a pair of shoes can get me up a hill of ice and leave a bunch of guys in the dust  snow, I’m all for them!

In short, if you are going to be on rough or slippery terrain, particularly orienteering or obstacle course racing, these are comfortable, high traction shoes that simply need better laces.  My biggest recommendation is to get out and run in them – don’t just base your opinion on how they feel the moment you put them on.  Try them on for a run and you should be pleasantly surprised.

 

The family at the Nakkertok B meet

The family at the Nakkertok B meet

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As an Icebug Ambassador I purchased my Zeals for a reduced price.  All opinions are my own.

Blog For a Waaaay Below Average Trail Runner

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So, I sort of suck at trail running.  I have only two gears; really, really slow and falling down.  The latter I actually do quite quickly and with troubling regularity.  But I am not prepared to give up on trail running.  Instead I will continue to plod along – literally – and enjoy the ride.  I would love to say I also get to enjoy the view but the fact is if I take my eyes off the rocks, roots, mud and fallen branches, I will simply fall down again.

This past Saturday was the Mad Trapper Transition Race at The Ark.  In a real winter it would have been a snowshoe race (which, by the way, I also suck at), but in this bizarre mix of early spring/late fall weather there has not been any snow to talk of, so the snowshoes remain in storage.

Where is our snow???

Where is our snow???

One of my favourite things about Mad Trapper races is the fact that you choose your distance the morning of the race.  I opted for the 10k race knowing I needed a long slow run for the week.  Trust me, 10k at The Ark is a loooong run due to the constant elevation changes.  Since it was a double loop course though, I knew there was an option to call it a day at 5k and get inside to enjoy some lasagna and brownies.

I was hit with a cold prior to the race and was not feeling my best.  As soon as I started running I could tell that my breathing, heart rate and legs were all going to cause problems.  I started towards the back and then let people pass.  I still feel like a newbie at trail races, slightly (maybe more than slightly) intimidated by those fearless trail runners who charge along the hilly single track like it is a flat stretch of highway.  The first couple of kms found me in a bit of a negative head space.  Most of my mental conversations revolved around one question – why can’t I be a faster trail runner?  Another form of that question popped up  – why is everyone a faster trail runner than me?  But, alone in the woods (which is what happens when you are slow, and is in my opinion an advantage of being slow), I started a different conversation.  I was out there for me, for my fitness, for my happiness.  I got out of bed despite not feeling well with a plan to run 10k.  How long it took me to complete the goal was irrelevant, it just needed to be done.  So while early in the race I considered stopping at 5k, I knew as I approached it that I would continue on.  I was going to be last, there was no doubt about that, but I also knew I was going to finish what I set out to do.  Once I changed the conversation in my head I was excited to take on the second loop.  I hiked when I needed to and ran when I could and finished happy.

So how “last” was I?  Only my husband was waiting for me at the finish line while everyone else was inside enjoying the awesome food that Mad Trapper races are famous for.  Since this is a low-key, hand timed race, my time didn’t even make it on the results page :).  I can tell you there would have been a time in my life when that would have mortified me.  But then again there was a time in my life when just the idea of lining up at a start line of a small race would have been out of the question.  Let’s face it, the big races offer some anonymity as a safety blanket.  But I think I am too old for thinking like that now.  I just want to be out there and hey, as long as there is a bit of food left at the finish line all is good!  I even requested a prize for being in last place and proudly accepted it in front of all those faster runners!  I could argue that the fact I wasn’t feeling well could have been part of my slow time.  I’m sure if I hadn’t had a cold I would have shaved a few minutes of my time, which would have put me in… yep – last place.  So I am owning that last place with a smile on my face and the knowledge that it will probably happen again.

To everyone out there who finished last (or even back of the pack) lately, here’s to us!  And if you would like to have some company in that final position, why not join me at future Mad Trapper races – we’ll grab the last of the brownies together!

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And the final runner comes in!

And the final runner comes in!

Recipe for a Perfect Weekend

Here is my idea of a great two days:

  • Race Saturday morning – make it a late start race (10:30!) with a Christmas theme.
  • After said race head to Cora’s for a giant brunch.
  • Nap (I admit, this may be the best part of the weekend).
  • Sunday afternoon, head for a trail run with the kids, but they get to ride their bikes because it is spring in December.
  • Come home, have popcorn and watch awesome finale of Dr. Who.

Why aren’t all weekends like this one?

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December Plans

December is traditionally a rest month for me. It’s the end of racing season, work gets busy, Christmas comes quickly and time seems short. I always get a few runs in during this final month of the year, but nothing significant.

This December will be different, however.  At least that is the plan; sometimes my plans have been known to fall apart. I just know that I don’t want to start over again in January, particularly knowing that I will have to take two weeks off mid-month after surgery to fix my finger that didn’t heal properly after a dislocation.

So instead of resting, my plan is to slowly build my mileage back up in order to be prepared for the Hypothermic Half Marathon at the beginning of March and then Around the Bay 30k at the beginning of April.  And while those months seem far away, when you count by training weeks (as I now seem to measure my life), those races really aren’t that far off.

I won’t put pressure on myself this month, but I will maintain regular running, pool running or snowshoeing.  And I won’t be short of fun events to do.  This Saturday for the first time ever I will be heading to the Santa Shuffle with my family.  I have always skipped it before, usually ready to enjoy my month off.  But it should be a fun event, in fact it is not even timed.  It is, though, for a good cause and there will be this cute medal waiting at the end:

We will also be participating in another Mad Trapper Race, The Transition Race.  This event earns its name because in mid-December it is anyone’s guess what the weather will be as we transition into winter.  As a result, this could be a snowshoe race or it could be a trail race, but one way or the other there will be a race, a hilly one at that :)

And finally this month the boys and I have to fit in our virtual run for our “A Christmas Story” medal that just arrived in the mail.  You have to be a fan of the movie to truly appreciate this medal.  As for us, we can’t wait to add it to our tree.  Here is the newest addition to our collection:

This will hang proudly with our previous two “A Christmas Story” medals:

Perhaps you have noticed a leg lamp theme?  You have to see the movie to get the reference.  I’m sure it is the only movie out there where a leg lamp plays a major part in the story line!

So happy running to all during this last month of 2015.  Whether you are taking a rest or training full-out, enjoy the moments and remember, the spring race season will be here before you know it!

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Marathon Recovery Day

I finished my marathon two weeks ago and today was recovery day.  Hmmm, isn’t that a little late?  Yes, but it was nice.  When I came back from Hamilton I had to hit the ground running.  There was work, family life, all the normal stuff.  There were also appointments, thanks to the surgery I must have in January to fix my finger that didn’t heal after this trail running injury:

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For whatever reason this finger never straightened despite splints and physio and now looks like this:

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The weekend after the marathon we also hosted my son’s 2nd annual Windcrest Farm Orienteering Event for charity.  We hoped for 25 or 30 participants, instead we had about 70 people come to our property to learn how to orienteer.  There were kids and adults running and hiking everywhere, looking to find their way through one of 3 courses that Evan had mapped.  Everyone had fun on a wonderful November afternoon and I’m thrilled to announce that through the generosity of the participants just over $300 was raised for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

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The next day we were up early again for some orienteering over in Quebec:

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Then back to work, plus parent teacher interviews, and my husband was out-of-town for the week.  In the two weeks I did manage to fit in 3 nice runs, none of them more the 5k, including a relaxing trail run in unseasonably warm weather:

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And through it all I was still fighting to get rid of that unfortunate cold that hit the week before the Road2Hope Marathon.

Finally, today, there was NOTHING on the schedule.  Ok, there was lots I could have been doing, but I decided that this was recovery day.  I essentially slept all day.  The most strenuous part of my day was watching a movie.  I can tell you, it felt good!  And it felt deserved, so no guilt :)

But now my mind is definitely starting to think of the New Year.  I find it difficult not having a running goal and a set training schedule.  I felt a little lost after the marathon.  I even searched for another marathon somewhere relatively close but I guess there isn’t enough demand in Ontario for December marathons or even half marathons.  Tomorrow I am missing my usual November half marathon (and the final one in the area for the season) since we are heading as a family over to Quebec once again for the final orienteering meet of 2015.

The season is winding up.  I know I will do a December Mad Trapper race, appropriately named the Transition Race as it may be a trail run or it may be a snowshoe run as we transition from cool fall days to snowy paths.  The boys and I will again do a virtual run in order to get our third “A Christmas Story” medal.  This one will also look great on our tree:

As always, if you haven’t seen the movie, the images on the medal will mean nothing to you.  If you have seen the movie you are having a nostalgic giggle right now!

And so I am looking to April and May for my next two goals; a sub 3 hour 30k at Around the Bay and a sub 1:56 half marathon at Ottawa Race Weekend.  There, it is in writing now so it is official.  Rest time is over, I have goals to achieve.

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