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Ride Like the Wind: Rev3 Florida Race Report

What. A. Race. It’s nearly three days afterwards and I’m STILL having trouble walking normally. I don’t think i’ve ever been this sore/stiff in my life!! A large part of that may have been the impromptu 11-hour road trip to Louisiana, but it may have also been the fact that I had a killer bike split, followed by my first solid half-ironman run that included NO WALKING WHATSOEVER, not even in aid stations (my usual run-time killer)!

It was supposed to be a quick trip, with a flight into Florida bright and early Saturday morning and a midnight return back to DC. Instead, thanks to Hurricane Sandy messing up the entire East Coast, I ended up driving back to my parents’ house in New Orleans (where I’m attending a wedding this upcoming weekend) and am currently alternating my lululemon pants and bike shorts as my only “pants” for the week (wedding shopping required but TBD).

But before heading up the Eastern Seaboard, Sandy brought some fun to Southern Florida, including lots of crazy winds and big surf. When I arrived in Venice, this was the scene:

After checking out the sand and surf, I listened to the tail end of the pro panel and caught up with a bunch of other Rev3 peeps, including ChloeElaine, Jaime, JordanJoel and John for dinner, where we all speculated on whether or not the swim would go on.

The next morning, the swim was cancelled—but for very good reason. with rip tides and crazy waves, Rev3 definitely made the right call… which means I still haven’t gotten my ocean/gulf swim experience… guess I’ll just have to sign up for Rev3 Florida 2013…

With so many races in October, and with the simplified bike-run format, I was very relaxed going into it: simple transition prep, bottles prepared, all ready to go. we watched the pros start off with a 1.5-mi run for their run/bike/run duathlon before lining up single file by bib numbers for the time trial start, where we would be sent off one person every three seconds. Turns out as lucky #100 I was the first non-relay age grouper! Not only did this mean clear roads and no fighting for space on the road, it also meant this was probably the closest I’d ever come to experiencing the “competing alone, against yourself on the bike” feeling that so many pros mention in their posts.

And so I rode scared. With no one else to gauge effort against, I just put my head down and PUSHED. Ten minutes in I thought to myself, ‘this is not sustainable’. Thirty minutes in I thought to myself, ‘this is really REALLY not sustainable’. But then a girl passed me and I didn’t want to a) be passed and b) worry about drafting so I fired up the cylinders and repassed to retake the lead. Again, I kept thinking to myself that I’m either setting myself up for an epic blow-up or a fantastic bike split. My watts were through the roof and (with the help of a killer tailwind) I was coasting along at 24-26mph on that first stretch. I love riding fast and this was fantastic.

This was also one of the busier parts of town and I have to pause here to mention that the Venice volunteers were AMAZING! Despite some old-fogey jokes cracked at their expense at the athlete briefing, the volunteers were out in full force on Sunday – it felt like every single stoplight, intersection and driveway had a volunteer or a cop car helping protect and cheer the riders. Almost all were cheering while on volunteer duty, which was a huge boost along the bike route. What’s even more amazing is that most of these volunteers didn’t know what a triathlon even was! I met an older gentleman volunteer who used to do triathlons “back in the old days” (his words not mine) and he was joking about how clueless the volunteers were before attending the volunteer check-ins/meetings. This is GREAT news for the sport and I hope the volunteer enthusiasm means that there will be an even-more-awesome Rev3 Florida in 2013!

And then we turned into the wind. At this point I was getting as low as I could into my already extremely aero-bike fit (thank you Josh Frick and CycleLife) and trying to find the smoothest sections of the road to ride along. a few of the men started to pass me but otherwise it was empty road for miles. It turned into a game of “how many laps of Hains Point do i have left?” for non DC-folks, Hains point is a flat, flat, flat and WINDAY 3-mile loop in the district frequented by cyclists.

The last twenty miles took a toll on me mentally: every time I saw an intersection, I pleaded to the course gods that it was a turn taking us back to T2 and out of the headwind: no such luck. It wasn’t until the last three or so miles that we got a brief break zooming back into transition.

I do want to pause here and say that unfortunately I had a bad experience with a pro triathlete that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. But first: I HATE drafters and I hate drafting. In fact, I’m reckless when it comes to passing because I would rather blow steam getting past someone than worry about keeping three bike lengths between us. I hate the mental aspect of triathlon and would rather be in the zone and focusing on my bike than what someone else is doing around me.

That being said, with about fifteen miles to go, I passed one of the pro females who had started 15-minutes in front of us. I did it quickly and built up a large gap because when we came around a final U-turn with ten miles to go, she was nowhere to be seen. Out on the run, when she repassed me, she started to say “good job“, so I gave her a thumbs up as she passed. I then realized the “good job” was only sarcasm as she proceeded to make a really nasty comment about all the “drafting I was doing”. Shocked, I responded with “are you KIDDING me?!” and then “[stew] you too!

As promised in my somewhat obnoxious/dramatic tweet, here are my splits/watts from Sunday that seem to indicate very little drafting was going on. Let me also remind you that was the very first age grouper to start, meaning that it’s doubtful I even had that many opportunities to draft out there. Anyways, whatever. Maybe she should have focused more energy on her own race because she ended up dropping out halfway through the run.

The out-of-control blow up I had been waiting for in the back half of the race surprisingly never came. As long as I kept tossing powerbar gels down the hatch and a few salt pills here or there, I never felt terrible. I did wonder how on earth I was going to be able to run though…

bike - 2:28:41

I rolled into T2, grabbed my run gear and set off running. Oh boy, this did NOT feel good. The little voices kept telling me to walk but I was determined not too. Game on. Even though I started my watch, my splits were never right: I accidentally started in bike mode and switched over about a mile in but never quite synced up with the mile signs on the course. The only numbers on the watch were low-to-mid 8:00s so I wasn’t feeling too happy about my run performance for most of the run.

On the first loop, there were pros to watch and two manatees swimming side by side in the canal alongside the route. On the second loop, the winds picked up and I tried to keep myself moving by throwing as much Coke and Gatorade down the hatch as possible. With three miles to go, I took a step and it felt like someone jabbed steak knives through the soles of my feet. I had felt hot spots developing on the bottom of each foot but for some reason my blisters decided to peak simultaneously and in full excruciating force (and they now cover approximately 3/4 of each foot, meaning the only footwear i have been able to comfortably wear are swiftwick socks and my dad’s house slippers… sexy.).

The only thing that kept me going is that with the 2x out-and-back course, I could tell that no one else was making much headway on the deficit I had built on the bike (other than thealways-speedy Tara who flew into second for a 1-2 Rev3 podium – holla!!). Knowing this, I went into survival mode and gutted it out to the finish.

run = 1:42:04

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/52411444]

Also: Joel has a great race report from Florida that describes the bike and run a lot better :)

I was so happy to be done and once i stopped puking back up the massive quantities of Coke and Gatorade i had swallowed, I hobbled over to the ocean, dumped everything in a pile on the beach and started wading into the water. Once I got over the OW OW OW as the salt water stung my blisters, I dove headfirst into the chilly water and it felt amazing… until both legs cramped up fully,  another wave pushed me back down and I struggled to doggy paddle back to the shore. Great, i thought to myself, she wins a race and then dies trying to go for a dip in the water afterwards

In all, a great race and a fantastic way to end my season. In some ways it was a reassurance of my performance at Eagleman, redemption for a miserable day in Vegas and a great motivator for 2013. While I was bummed with the cancelled swim, I already know that my swim needs work so why not end 2012 on a high note? So happy to have competed and shared the experience with the entire Rev3 family.

i mean, where else do they cheer on and celebrate the final finisher with as much gusto as if the finisher had just won the entire thing, regardless of cut-off times and time limits? This truly says it all:

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vegas 70.3 world championships: the house always wins

okay, i caved and decided to write up a race report. TREAT YO’ SELF 2012 was officially declared over yesterday when i realized i had one too many P.S.L.s and the excess sugar was making me feel crabby and miserable. or maybe it was the back-up of crazy emails and other requests in my work inbox driving me nuts, but that’s another story. vegas…. vegas, vegas, vegas. something on sunday gave me the itch to go for it and take a big gamble – maybe it was being around all the slot machines and poker tables, or maybe it was the blaring “world championships” signs adorned everywhere, or maybe it was me feeling inadequate about being around so many fit, perfect, body fat-less people. anyway, i made a big gamble by pushing too hard in the first half of the bike and, well, learned the hard way that the house usually wins.

the house this time was the blazing hot las vegas desert that sucked up every ounce of water in my system and spat me out somewhere around mile 40 where i had a meltdown of epic proportions. but before we go to that dark, dark place, let’s back-up some first.

let's get it started

i woke up bright and early as the 3:50am wake-time felt late given i was still mostly on east-coast time and had crashed about 8pm the night before. it was a quick drive to T1 and a rather anti-climactic set-up of transition. thanks to the transition bags, all i really really had to do was put my bottles on my bike and pump up the tires. transition closed at 6am; my race didn't start until 7:50. as a result, the next two+ hours were spent sitting cross-legged on a blue carpet around a ton of other anxious athletes. surprisingly, people were friendlier than expected and got to chat with quite a few other participants and cheered on the pros as they ran past us and around the monstrous t-1. after what felt like an eternity, my wave finally started to line up and get corralled into the water.

the waiting game

i should have known i was in for a thrash-fest when even the swim to the pre-start area was rough. each wave would basically get set in the water for several minutes while waiting for the wave prior to go off. and since i didn't feel like treading water for 10-minutes, when our wave entered, i beelined for the pilings that surrounded the bridge we were starting under. i managed to get there early enough and seat myself on a ledge to avoid exerting more energy than needed. a few girls clung to kayaks but for the most part we were lined up along the shore and on the bridge.

when the wave ahead of us was sent off and they announced 3-minutes, people SPRINTED to secure a good line on the start. i was slightly ambitious and went farther right than normal to line up with the buoys and got pummeled a few times before the (what seemed like) interminable wait for the gun to actually go off. they gave us the 30-second countdown and girls were inching forward about a meter every 10 seconds. by the time they finally sent us off, the course had nearly been cut to a 1.15 mile swim...

getting violated in lake las vegas

and we were off! i got jabbed in the ribs, an elbow to the face, some girl insisted on continuously shoving her hand up in my biz-ness. SERIOUSLY? i was NOT having this swim. it was a much faster pace than used to for the first 500-meters or so but that was the only way i could keep with the pack and avoid getting swum over completely. maybe i just need to toughen up but these girls were mean - i accidentally/barely grazed the foot of a girl in front of me and she kicked the daylights out of my left hand - so hard it's still sore four days later. sheesh.

somewhere around the final turn back home, i lost the feet of the fastish main pack i had been tailing and instead spent some time swimming off the shoulder of another girl until she slowed down and i decided to forge ahead alone. the only thing that kept me sane were the evenly spaced buoys every 100 so i knew exactly how much suffering i had left. near the end all i could think was GET ME OUT OF THE WATER! and i actually found myself looking forward to the terrible, terrible t1.

t1

i say terrible and here's proof: the swim exit is on your right. transition is on your left.

when i took this photo, i was standing on a bridge that has more elevation than on the entire eagleman course alone. you had to run out of the exit, run up and over this hill, down through some smushy grass destroyed by the 2,000-plus people that had exited before me, before you ran down into the racks to find your bike. but, wait.... there's more! once you found your bike, you had to scale a mountain that was so steep it required not one but two switchbacks to get up it. may i remind you that you're hauling a bike and either barefoot or wearing clunky-ass bike shoes? yeah, not fun. okay, rant over.

biking on mars

my HR was out of control coming out of transition. i knew about 400-m in that the bike was not going to be a pretty affair. something just felt off - either in my bike fit or in my ability to generate any sort of watts at a respectable effort. despite the ominous feeling at the start, i put on my best poker face and attempted to bluff my body -- deciding that i may as well stick to my initial goal watts and soldier onward. (might i add that my "goal" watts were self-inflated heading into this since i hadn't had my quarq for about two-months thanks to some pesky battery issues so i might as well assume that my numbers had improved, right? apparently wrong.) 

let me describe the scene to you: imagine mars. now imagine mars got knocked out of orbit and was, say, somewhere right between mercury and venus so it was a billion degrees. that was the bike course. of course i'm exaggerating slightly since it i felt like death out there but see for yourself here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rimk6m1eaFk] so somewhere around mile 20 or 30 i must have blacked out. that's really the only explanation because i went into the valley of death with enough gels for 3-hours of biking and managed to come out with two extras despite thinking i was very on top of my regular nutrition. i don't remember people passing me - although approximately half my age group passed me somewhere out on the martian terrain (not really - it was "only" sixteen people - but i did feel like i was moving backward).

i also almost forgot to add that the road was VERY narrow given the number of cyclists out there and, no, it was not closed. a lot of the traffic was boat traffic as people went out to enjoy lake mead. one truck pulling a boat, in particular, did not realize that the boat he was towing was wider than his Ford-something-or-other. as a result, the boat was about five inches from hitting my bike. i screamed, swerved out of the way and one of the women behind me was like "HOLY S&!T are you okay?!" obviously i was but, man, was that scary.

the implosion, followed by crying in a desert

at approximately mile 40 of the bike, i imploded. i could barely hold my low Z2 watts and was sure i was going to careen off the next corner, no one would find me and i would die a slow painful death in the desert. seriously though, i did worry about passing out on my bike, which is one of the most unpleasant feelings when you're alternating between going 40mph down crazy windy descents or crawling back up them at .08 mph.

i may or may not have had a moment of ugly crying where i was like "W.T.F. IS WROOOOONG with me?!?" simply put, i have never felt that bad (or weak) on the bike. my back was killing me, my saddle was rubbing in all the wrong places and i started having trouble holding aero. the last 15-miles were terrible. my pace says it all: 13.94 mph. ouch. the only people i had left to pass were those also eligible for medicare. i have never wanted to get off my bike and throw it into a sane dune more than last sunday.

t2

i don't know what happened in t2 except i ran around in a few circles because i had no clue where to get my bag or where to go next. the chair in the women's tent was so cruel - you sit down to change your shoes and then try to get up... but that's the last thing you want to do. but i peeled myself off of it, tunnel visioned toward the course (missing the sunscreeners - d'oh!) and joined the parade of carnage that was the three-loop run course.

running with zombies

riding past the running zombies as i biked into t2, i questioned whether i would be forced to shuffle-walk the entire 13.1 mile course and hate every second of it. that's why when i emerged from the changing tent, i was so surprised to actually be running. the first and last miles of this course absolutely were the saving graces of this run course. i was able to get moving and rediscover that, yes, my legs still (kind of) worked. loops one and two were decent but nothing to write home about. basically, you would do a segment at a good clip on the downhill, but then you'd have to go back up wherever you came and then i'd spend the entire uphill frantically searching for that damn turn-around (three loops and i could never figure out where they each were) or the next aid station.

at the mandatory meeting, they had promised aid stations "oh, definitely every mile or so." THEY LIED. there must have been a few magical aid stations i missed because there were only three on the 4-and-change mile run course, meaning there were some stretches with nary an aid station in sight. but even when they *did* appear, my late wave and pitiful bike meant three things: no ice. hot water. hot perform. do you know how nasty it is slurp down sticky hot perform? i do.

 dicking around in aid stations

the only upside of the dearth of aid stations was that it kept me from wasting more time on the run as i have the horrible HIM tendency to take my sweet time making my way through the aid station. so even if i was clipping off mid-7-minute miles, i was chucking all that time away as i walked through each aid station like a college kid at their first open bar. water. perform. coke. water. perform. perform. perform. water. at about mile nine or so, i managed to grab an entire bottle of hot perform and forced myself to chug that stuff on the run, meaning i didn't have an excuse for walking through the next aid station.

magical final mile. 

lap three was probably my best because the end was near and i knew i would finish without ending up like one of the many people doubled over puking in the bushes. or laying sprawled out on the concrete. or sitting in a lawn chair with 3 bags of ice on them to cool down their core body temp. at that point in the race, as it was 100+ degrees and on a furnace of a hot hot blacktop, about 1/5 people were probably walking. yes, i definitely felt like death - but at least i could see the light at the end of the tunnel finish line.

i passed a lot of people in the final loop, including at least several of the 17 girls i would re-pass during the run.

the last mile or so is downhill and you can basically see the finish line that you've been oh so cruelly forced to pass two times before thanks to the three loops. once i made it to the top of the hill, i decide that i was going to run until i blacked out. i opened up my stride and demolished the downhill. seriously, my last mile was averaging 6:11/mile.

i came into the finish with a grimace and collapsed as a volunteer held me up. i was completely incoherent and felt like my legs were going to give out so the volunteer was basically strong-arming me to keep me up and moving as someone ripped off my chip, they threw medal/hat/tee at me and then put me in this giant stuffy tent with food that only made me want to vomit. some people were, mere feet away from the trays. i fetal positioned next to a stinky trashcan before i realized that the tent was only making me feel worse.

i got up, stumbled and lay down on the concrete outside the tent for quite some time before i realized i still felt terrible and dizzy so i went to the med tent for ice and water since there was none to be found elsewhere. thankfully no IV but just peeking inside the med tent gave some serious perspective on how miserable the conditions were out there.

final thoughts

i debated whether or not to even bother with times but for the sake of full disclosure, i struggled through the following:

  • Swim: 33:59 (non-wetsuit)
  • Bike: 3:15:16 (OUCH - 45-min slower than my last race)
  • Run: 1:57:38 (again, not that pretty)
  • Overall: 5:53:06

i never expected to PR on such a hellacious course but to be a full hour off of my best time was certainly discouraging. if you couldn't tell from the novel above, it wasn't just the time but my overall performance that left me feeling so crummy. i continued to be a baby about it and cried on my walk home back to the hotel. i had left my phone in the car back at t1 (honestly, logistical nightmare) so i showered and dialed my parents from the hotel.

thank god my parents are more sensible than i am because they reminded me that this was only my second 70.3 ever and that i've only been racing for two seasons—which meant (in my mind) that most of the other girls likely had years and years of endurance to rely on. in all, i ended up 31st in my AG, or in the top 50% of those who qualified, which does leave me feeling slightly better about sunday's performance.

i'm looking forward to having fun in my next two races (rev3 half-full and rev3 florida, see previous post) and then spending the off-season building up strength and endurance so i can head into 2013 stronger and faster than ever. onwards and upwards!!

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Olympic Inspiration

Less than 24-hours before I fly out to go race Rev3 Wisconsin Dells!! There has been no shortage of inspiration these past few weeks. On my mind in anticipation of Sunday's race:

"You have to go out there and be a beast. Because if you don't , you're not going to be on the top" - Gabby Douglas

As well as...

Last week's Olympic 10,000M Finish

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKoU6EiZwu8]

Nicola Spirig takes the win

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvvFqv4_GLc]

And, as always, Prefontaine...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFty7To8oQk]

Good luck to anyone and everyone racing this weekend!

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How Do You Know?

It feels like it has been ages since I last raced. And it kind of is. My last full triathlon of any kind was Eagleman about two months ago (really -- has it been that long?!) Then there was another Olympic last month that I opted to just swim and bike and then stopped before the run because I was still coming off a short running-hiatus after E-man and because it was like a billion degrees (lame excuse, I know). But even though I've been biking a lot, mostly the never-ending hills of Skyline (as I attract every single bear in the entire Shenandoah National Park), and even though I've been running faster than I have in quite a few years, I'm starting to second guess some...

For some reason, that little voice of doubt is louder than ever going into this next race. I'll admit, it doesn't totally make sense since it's a Rev3-produced race (awesome race-day execution!) and it's "just" an Olympic distance... so everything should come together as planned on Sunday. (Yup, that's right, I'm headed to the Dells!)

Part of that pre-race insecurity may come from the fact that my trusty Quarq stopped holding a battery charge a few weeks back and I've had to ship it back for repairs. But it's not like I've been flying totally blind: I still have my HR, my pace, my RPE, etc.... but taking away my tool has helped me realized just how much I depend on it during day-to-day training. It really is amazing to consider how using power has fundamentally changed the way I train, race and even prepare mentally. But does it extend my boundaries or does it draw a line in the figurative sand as to what is actually possible?

I don't know about you, but I struggle when it comes to gauging effort by heart rate. Sure, it's a decent barometer... but I find that if I actually bike my "Z2" heart rate, my power doesn't always correlate nicely. I still haven't grasped (most likely because I am training by power and not heart rate) where my target heart rate should be in any given set. And although we're now leaps and bounds away from the original point of the post here, I guess what I'm trying to say is that all of this confusion has resulted in me clueless as to how Sunday's race is going to treat me.

So how DO you know you're ready for race-day?

Is it a certain workout? Certain number of watts for certain number of minutes? Hitting your intervals in the pool and paces on the track?

We were actually firing off tweets about discussing the 140.6 distance at the time but I think their comments apply across the triathlon spectrum: Jordan suggests faith, Katie says a strong support system and trust in your coach and Jamie implies that you have to love training and put in the work.

I guess I adhere to a combination of all three but, as a data geek, I can't help but let my pre-race mood fall based on the cold, hard numbers. And since I don't have those this time around, I've decided that my new pre-race mindset moving forward should be based not on numbers but on Mental Toughness.

The following thoughts came from Joe Friel originally and have been saved in my GoogleReader queue for quite some time now. I read for the first time a few weeks ago, and I've probably subconsciously skimmed it forty other times as I wondered what I should do with the post briefly, before just checking the "Mark Unread" box instead and leaving it for later.

In his post, Joe Friel mentions that people often ask him about the hows and whys when it comes to pushing yourself though athletic suffering. He describes an HBR article covering a study comparing Olympic medalists and successful business people, both of which tend to share the following traits: 

  • have the ability to psychologically manage pressure
  • pay meticulous attention to goals
  • have a strong inner drive to stay ahead of the competition
  • be internally rather than externally focused
  • be self-directed
  • concentrate on excellence
  • not be distracted by others
  • shrug off their own failures
  • be masters of compartmentalization in their lives
  • rebound from defeat easily
  • never self-flagellate
  • have a relentless focus on the long term attainment of goals
  • carefully plan short-term goals
  • never stop striving for success
  • reinvent themselves following a success
  • celebrate their wins
  • analyze the reasons for their success
  • be very confident of their abilities

And while I think all of the above are spot on, some of these traits are also what lead to folks like me turning themselves into little self-doubting balls of stress leading up to the day of the race.

My goal, then, from now to Sunday's finish line, is to focus the most of the highlighted traits above... and to worry a little less about the others. There is no "Perfect 10" in triathlon (or gymnastics for that matter, but you know what i mean) so I might as well prepare myself mentally for having the best day that I can, regardless of who else shows up and regardless of the distance I've been training more these days. Or as I wrote in my pre-race notes to my coach, "TUNNEL VISION".

Sounds like I'm just having a touch of performance anxiety... yep, that's probably it.

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making the rounds

there are no words. andrew starykowicz's UAE horror story from the abu dhabi tri

LOVE: jesse thomas' "bieber zombie mode" at rev3 quassy

kelly williamson on toughing out a rough day at quassy

lastly, quassy from a different perspective: run course lead biker

gem: "pace bunnies"

a day in the life of rinny: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4

in memory of freeskier sarah burke: the light that will not go out

"the best job": love this mom-focused, olympic-themed P&G commercial

jordan rapp, eloquent as ever

twenty rules of life and triathlon

cool youtube channel by pair of extreme runners

fantastic feature on simon whitfield

another horrible running tragedy- prayers for the family and how to stay safe out there

slate on long-distance running

infographic: TDF doping matrix

that's bananas: bananas > gatorade

crotchfest 2012: HILARIOUS but PSA: do not eat and read this one

high dive: beautiful photography

random but: the lost tributes of the hunger games

the story of sam wiggins, rescued pup

physiology vs psychology in the effects of hot temps

olympic outfits (GBR is my fave of the group)

improving long course bike speed

hilarious craigslist add for used yoga mat

swim strokes: paddle vs. propeller

"I've had to learn through experiences not to be afraid to fail. you don't know what the future holds for you. You can hope your dreams come true, but you have to be fearless. I don't want to look back and think, What if?" - Nastia Lukin

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