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The Rest

Long ago, I inherited one of my father’s workouts. 8-20 times 400 with 100 meter jog recovery. 400 intervals are not, as a rule, particularly hard for me. But 100 jog recovery is brutal. You have just enough time to catch your breath, say 35 seconds, and then, crap, there’s the line again. It was one of my favorites, though probably not the best workout for me. I was always good at shorter intervals, really anything up to a mile. What I needed in my running life was more long tempos. As I’ve slowly gotten back into marginal shape, I’ve been focusing on longer intervals – 4 mile threshold runs, 2 mile intervals, 1 mile repeats. However, I’m having a hard time pushing those times down because they feel fast, as my top-end speed is so slow. My body does not understand what it means to be fast anymore. I’ve lost a TREMENDOUS amount of speed.

And so, this Saturday I went to the track to do some 400 meter repeats, in hopes of slowly re-establishing some speed. I will never regain my previous speed – or anything close to it – as I am now 36, and 36 is not as fast as 26 or even 16. I peaked on speed at 21, and have been going downhill since, falling off a cliff when I had to shut down competitive running back in 2007 (at age 26).

I was a little bit encouraged by this week’s workout – 8×400 with 100 rest, first 4 in 81.3 with 40 seconds rest, next 4 in 80.1 with 45 seconds rest, then a 3:20 jog, then a 9th 400 in 75.5. And so I decided to do a deep dive and locate all of my instances of this workout, with hopes of using the information to access my fitness. Unfortunately, I’m so far off the scale this will be impossible. I don’t think there has ever been a previous instance of my running this workout where I was not in 16:30 5K shape or better, and I have little chance of sniffing that time without a year of steady training.

Sputtering through the finish, staggering punch drunk, repeating over and over again 3 to go, 3 to go, 3 to go, just 3, just 3, ugh 10 more meters to the…damn…rolling start, one more meaningful breath, and GO. Don’t think, don’t think, one foot, one foot, 300 to go, at the next line just 2.5 more to go, 1000 meters, and with recovery, there it is halfway done, halfway, stay off the rail…at the next line, 100 to go, finish this one out, bring it through the line, bring it through – you’re slipping, going to mess up your average, bring it through and split. Oogh…gasping, just 2 to go, just 2 to go, 2 to go and rolling….

I remember everything.

Before Senior year in High School
7/20/98: 8×400, 74 with 47 jog average recovery – believe that I was told that I was doing the recovery wrong after this. Too much time.
7/27/98: 12×400, 77.6 with 35 second jog
8/3/98: 16×400 76.9 with 37 rest
Before Freshmen year in College (unsanctioned workout)
7/19/99: 8×400 75.6 with 36 jog
Completely different workout, but on an indoor track, meat and potatoes training period my Junior year in college, which was not as good as either my Sophomore or Senior years..
1/22/02: 9×400: 60, 60, 60, 60, 58, 58, 59, 59, 62 with 3:00 rest – “took pace from #5 on and dropped people”. I remember that one. Lane 5 of the indoor track. I loved that workout.
Post-Collegiate:
6/28/03: 20×400 74.4 with 38 rest; I didn’t remember running such a serious workout so soon after I graduated. This was at Mt Hebron, a 440y track! I didn’t realize that it was 440y for another year.
3/6/04: 12×400 73.0 with 42 rest and this is the day I discovered the 440y track size. This was very early in my spring speedwork cycle for that year.
3/26/05: 12×400 in 72.0 with 39 rest on the 440y track – I used this workout as a standard candle to judge my fitness against…until I started having more pain and finding it difficult for my achilles’ to handle the longer intervals.
12/31/05: 12×400 73.1 with 38 rest, on Catonsville’s track 38 degrees and sleet. I remember that workout. That night was also the night that I got sick on Southern Comfort. Next day was 9.3 miles with comment “regular run, hung over”.
3/4/06: 1 mile in 4:56, then 12×400 in 72.5 with 39 rest and 34 degrees. Followed a week later with a 15:23 5K in Baltimore, my fastest time over that distance.
3/3/07: 8×400 74.3 and windy (rest not listed). This was after shutting down my 2006 season with achilles problems. Still hadn’t lost the fitness.
4/28/07: 8×400 72.5 with 40 rest on Mt Hebron’s 440y
7/10/07: 8×400 69.5 with 45 rest. Last 4 averaged 66 seconds. Less than two weeks later I ran the Rockville 8K in 26:09, my last competitive race.
And then today, way off. 8×400 in 80.6 with 43 rest. 11 seconds per lap. That’s a TON.

By the way, a couple of those are at Long Reach’s track, including the one this week. I’ve never run a workout on Howard’s track. I’ll be honest, I don’t care too much about the redistricting into Long Reach. I have history there.

Mount Rainier

I tend to jot some down notes during my backpacking trips. I didn’t really feel like thinking too hard this time. Last trip was my first solo trip, and that led to all kinds of self-reflection, coupled with loneliness and repressed fear. This time, not too lonely, not particularly scared. Mostly just walked. Chatted with folks when able. Read some books. Walked around. Took some pictures. Nothing really earth shattering. But I did still write a few things down.

7/24/17: Came in at the White River around 0820. 12.3 miles and a few thousand feet to Mystic Lake at 1330. This trail is a highway – encountered on the order of two dozen people on my trip here, very different than last year in the Olympics.
My most interesting encounter was a family with 5 kids ranging from 3.5 to maybe 12 [actually 13]. They are doing the entire Wonderland Loop. Today’s chunk is no joke. It’s very impressive that they are even trying. Sounds like I’ll see them again tomorrow.

7/25/17: Left Mystic Lake at 0800 and arrived in Eagles Roost at 1400, 11.7 miles traveled. Climbed 500 ft, dropped 2500 ft, climbed 3000 ft, then dropped another 1500 ft. Going a bit slower than yesterday. I think I need new rules of thumb. I can do 2.5 mph over all terrain on day 1. 2.0 mph on day 2. 1.8 mph thereafter. Includes breaks. To me, I still think this implies that Wonderland – 93 miles – is a 6 night, 7 day thing. I thought be fine with 12-15 mpd.
Out here, doing the circuit is THE thing. Most folks that I run into are trying it. Some, like the experienced through hiker, are going to do it as fast as 6 nights without resupply. He’s got several long hikes under his belt, including the Long Trail and AT. Others, like some girls I met, are doing it over 13 nights. Some seem doomed to fail, most will make it work. All are very pleasant.
It has been a much more social hike. I have chatted with a half dozen or so folks. I saw the family with 5 kids again – Scott and Clarissa [or something like that] the parents. They were struggling. I did the hike from Mystic through Cataract Valley – about 7 miles – this morning. They left Mystic at 2-3 PM yesterday…got there [to Cataract Valley] at 9:30, in the dark. It was a no-joke hike for anyone, let alone 5 kids. I secretly hope they pop out at Mowich tomorrow (they stay here [at Eagles Roost] tonight); I fear their plan is too ambitious.
[They would, indeed, end their hike at Mowich. An epic journey nonetheless. But 93 miles was going to be too much.]
Meanwhile, I also met Eric and Therera and their 9 month old Zoe (or something). They too were doing the whole loop. Probably easier than the 5 kid family.
I’ve begun to encounter day hikers going from Mowich to Seattle [and Spray] Park. They are slow but more than that, they seem out of place here.
7/25/17 1943: My social skills are marginal in the best of times. Put me in a room with people I know, or in situations where idle chit chat is the norm, I typically do fine. But I can go from normal to awkward in a blink. I may be deftly leading a meeting one minute and mumbling a confused response to a co-worker in the hallway the next.
Add to that physical exertion [such as backpacking], a mixture of introverts and extroverts, and miles between people, and things get worse. I had several pleasant conversations on the trail today. I had just as many awkward encounters. Some people are happy to chat. Others, not so much. You can’t tell the difference. My social intuition declines in proportion to the space between human encounters. On the trail, you might have hours, or, as last year, days between conversations. End of story. Mosquitoes are eating me through my clothes.
7/26/17: At Mowich, waiting for my ride, about an hour and 15 minutes early. This might have been too easy. Only one day “out”, waking and sleeping on the trail. Plus everyone, experts and novices alike are doing the Wonderland. But…the family of 7 is cutting the trip short at Mowich. I’m relieved. That was going to be too much. So, some Wonderland thoughts:
I can do it in 6 nights, which would make me in the top few percent of fastest. I should:
1) Not bring camera – that’s like 4 lbs right there.
2) Not bring [bear keg]
3) Resupply – don’t do 7 days in one bag. Resupply has food, first aid (in case I need it), fresh clothes)
4) Need new, lighter, tent
I should have two tech [fast drying, odor resistant] t-shirts, 3 tech underwear, 2 tech shorts. Everything else pretty good. It would be nice to have clean clothes for bed, but that might be a bridge too far. Crocs are perfect. Bear spray is optional. Fresh fuel in resupply.
One trip would be:
In Mowich, resupply White River.
16.4 to North Puyallup
14 to Devil’s Dream
15.7 to Maple Creek
14.2 to Summerland
Resupply White River
10.3 to Sunrise
12.5 to Dick Creek
8.5 to Mowich and out.
I’d say 7/24 or later to avoid any possible snow.

Not So Fast

The primary goal for the race last week was to see if I could do it without aggravating my achilles tendons. As it turns out, I had to wait several days before I knew that answer – they felt lousy on Monday and Tuesday, to the point where I modified my normal running schedule to give them another day off. The whole thing was a big bizarre to me because…I ran so slow. So, 5 K, 3.1 miles, or about 40 seconds longer than 3 miles at 6:00 pace. I ran 19:01 for fourth and my tendons felt awful afterwards. Meanwhile, my fastest 3 miles on the treadmill was 17:40 and my tendons feel fine after that – this confused me. 19:00 was my absolute outside number on the slow end. I thought I would run at least 30 seconds faster. But more importantly, I had every reason to believe that that if I did run that kind of time, my tendons would be no worse for the wear. This was a bit discouraging.

I did have a feeling I haven’t had for a long while. It was a few moments before the race; I was walking to join the other runners at the line for the start. A flashback to 10 or 12 or 15 or 18 years ago…

I had picked out the top 5 or 8 runners during the warm up. Runners know their own, and even after 10 years of not competing, I knew who the decent ones were by eye. I had no idea of names or times, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can see the ones who are there for some reason other than to see if they can survive the distance. I knew that none of them were extremely fast (though it turns out that the eventual winner is national caliber in his age group, at 50 year old). I walked toward the line and felt a sort of wistful sadness. I felt the beginnings of a feeling I would also get in small races like these – the feeling that it didn’t matter what the other runners thought about how the race was going to go. The feeling that I was going to go out, do what I wanted, and, in so doing, grind them to dust.

Since I’ve been a more normal person, I’ve learned that when most people go to run a road race, they are not actually doing it to race. Most aren’t even racing against a clock or against themselves, let alone racing against the other runners. Most are going to participate, to be a part of communal exertion for a cause, to encourage friends, to be social while being fit and healthy. If I think about it, it is a noble pursuit. I am an elitist to even consider this a lesser form of existing; if I received a participation medal rather than one that I earned, I would throw it out. This is not what normal people do.

But as I walked toward the line, I felt what I used to feel. My purpose was to cover the distance faster than anyone else. My purpose was to control some aspect of my life, to validate my hours and hours of training, to prove myself in some way, to earn my own approval. I rarely did, incidentally. I was reading through some old race descriptions – I document all of these. It spoke of showing up at a smallish race like this one in Mt Airy back in 2006. There, I flagged another runner in my general category. Normally, you run 400-800 meters in a 100-200 person race, and the pretenders fade away, leaving you to battle your own demons by yourself. This was the week before the last time I ran Damien’s Run. I was in peak form, immediately before my fall, and this other runner was a few ticks above the normal chaff, though a tick or two below me (I’d later learn that his half marathon PR was faster than mine, which wasn’t surprising – I was lousy beyond 10 miles). Anyway, I went out in 4:58 for the first mile, the other guy went with me. The other guy commented that he thought the pace was a bit quick – speaking in a race is a classic tell of weakness. I commented in my description that I disagreed, and proceeded to run the 2nd mile in 5:02, breaking him before struggling home myself.

That is what I wanted to do last week, but alas, I knew full well that was no where near that. I had no delusions. Instead, I went out with the top group, assessed who was who, passed the guys I should have passed, got in line, and ran by myself in 4th for the last two miles. I didn’t give much ground to the people in front, but didn’t gain either.

Anyway, my achilles feels OK now. My next training segment goes until our vacation mid-July. It will nominally consist of:
Saturday alternating between long-ish run (up to 10 miles), 5-ish mile tempo run on weekends when my wife works and I have less time, and track interval workouts before the rest of my family wakes up
Sunday 6-7 easy miles
Tuesday 4 hard-ish miles on the treadmill, until it’s under 24:00, then re-evaluate
Thursday 3-4 easy miles (when possible)

This would peak me at 25 mpw with some intensity. I’ll try to find a low key race in early August (not too many that time of year), then re-evaluate, possibly converting the easy Thursday evening run into a longer Thursday lunch run (as I lose daylight), boosting the other runs in intensity, and getting more serious about the exercise bike in the evenings. It would be nice to show up at a race like the one last week, assess the field, smirk inside, and win. That remains unlikely. But it would be nice.

Eleven years ago, I ran a 5K called Damien’s Run. Let me back up a bit. For the entire first hald of 2006, my running career was teetering on a razor’s edge, held hostage by my slowly declining achilles tendons. I was receiving regular massage and stim, I was doing tons of auxiliary treatment, and this was keeping them just barely serviceable. I was running 80-90 mile weeks nonetheless. A month before Damien’s Run, I ran one of the best races of my life – 52:45 for 10 miles in Broad Street Run. A month or so before that I ran 15:23 in Shamrock in Baltimore. I was likely in near to the best shape of my post-collegiate period.

But four days before the race in question, I was running an easy-ish 12 miles after work with a running buddy of mine and I badly sprained my ankle on a tree root. I know the spot to this day. It was nearly 5 miles from the parking lot when this happened. I managed to hobble back, but I knew it was bad. I had already spent $30 on a pre-registration for the race. And one of my principle rivals, Carlos, was going to be running it. Never learning the lessons of sunk costs, I took off a day or two and ran the race anyway. I never could establish a good rhythm, finishing 6th in 16:01. The winner was way out of my league, 14:30 something – I should have run around 15:40. It was some podunk 5K, like all the races I ran on my minor league circuit. It wasn’t worth it.

That ankle sprain destabilized the entire joint. My achilles went from whimpering to screaming. I took time off, then tried to ratchet back up the miles in preparation for my seeded entry into the Chicago Marathon that fall, even getting to 90+ mile weeks a few times by mid summer. Then one day tried to run at marathon pace around a dirt track on the Eastern Shore…and could not. It felt like my foot was going to rip off my calf. While I did have a meaningful two or three months of high level racing in the spring of 2007, Damien’s Run was the beginning of the end of my running career.

After that, I went from boot to self-injected acupuncture to boot to shockwave therapy back to boot to debridement to boot to sort of moving on with my life by around 2009. In the spring of 2010 I stumbled upon decent shape (we’ll call it 17:00 5K shape), but never raced; the tendons flared back up and I shut it down for weeks. In the fall of 2012 I was able to run consistently for a couple of months and actually raced – a 4 mile in 23:20, not so bad. But then things tightened back up, and I had a kid a few months later.

I am now in the best shape that I’ve been in since summer/fall 2012. It is only because of consistency, I’ve been running regularly since the fall. After all these months, my mileage remains at around 15 miles per week on 3 runs a week. Nothing. But my body is accepting it greedily. My pace is steadily improving. I feel faster than I have in a while. Some days, I actually feel fast…I have decided to run a race so that I can put a line in the sand for the future…just in case. I looked at the calendar, and low and behold, there’s Damien’s Run, now held in my favorite place in Maryland (Patapsco State Park) and at a time when my girls will be up and ready to watch it. I decided to give it a shot. It happens next Sunday.

And so, a couple of weeks ago I transitioned from running haphazardly to training. I am still doing 15 mpw; I don’t want to risk it just yet. I have, for months now, been running faster on a treadmill at the YMCA every Tuesday night; low impact stuff. I cranked the pace down further, most recently running 3 miles in 17:40. But the treadmill isn’t real running (no wind resistance for one), so last weekend, I went to the track. It was a horror. I did 2×3200 with full (8 minute) recovery. Both splits were slower than 12:00, I’m embarrassed to even say them. To put it in perspective, I came through 20 miles of my first marathon faster than 6:00 pace. That Broad Street Run was 5:16 pace for 10 miles in a row. Not being able to run 2 miles in 12:00 was very humbling.

This weekend was a little better – 3×1600 all around 5:42 though still with 6:00 rest (aka, full recovery). Not as bad. But the times aren’t that important now. More important is re-acclimating my psyche to an intentional subjection to pain. Not having enough air in my lungs. Various places in my body going number. The voices in my head telling me to stop, telling me it’s not worth it, telling me I’m weak, telling me there is no point, telling me I’ll put forth all this effort and nonetheless look like a fool. Well, fine, I am weak. But I’m still finishing the intervals. These voices were there in every race I’ve ever run; hell, they’re there whenever I do something hard. I never listen to them. I needed those workouts not because they would improve my fitness substantially in three weeks, but because I could not expect to tolerate that pain in the race if I had zero exposure to it in five years, 10 if you’re talking about the real stuff. The whole trick to being a runner is convincing your body to hurt worse than it wants to for longer than it can. That’s what all that training is for.

The course is generally flat. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I am trying to decide if I should wear racing flats or stay with more supportive shoes (the achilles heel remains my Achilles heel after all). Either way, I will get a bump of adrenaline during the race. Something old, some old magic, will awaken. Though the race itself is greatly diminished in the last few years (the winners barely crack 17:00 these days), I nonetheless have no chance of winning. I do not expect a miracle. I don’t expect to not sniff 5:20 pace for 10 years, only to magically be able to string together 3 of them in a row to come away with the win. It’s not going to happen. But I’ll probably run around 18:30 give or take. 17:45 is probably the absolute fastest. 19:00 is the absolute slowest.

These days, I come home from a run and my two year old gets all perky and asks, “Good run, Daddy?” They may never know me as I really am, having amputated all four of my existential limbs from my body – Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, and Road Racing – long before they were born. And they may never see me powerfully striding away from all opponents, dominating the hobby joggers and elderly while out-dueling the handful of semi-pros for a victory in any sort of real race. My tendons may fall apart again in a week. But please God, just one race for old time’s sake. I just need to make it until the 4th – my 36th birthday by the way.

(And, if that works, I’ll add another few miles on Thursdays, start alternating Saturday between an interval workout and a long run, and then target an early August race, 30-60 seconds faster than this time. But it never works. But it might. Then there’s another day, 30 mpw, and a crack at something respectable in October. Then train through the winter and see what happens in Shamrock in March. You know, I’m only a few years away from being in the Masters division. Yes, I always chain together this many low probably events into completely unrealistic scenarios.)

Podcast Power Ratings

You should subscribe to exactly what I listen to, and then we can talk about them all the time. Though I tend to not remember the specifics of what I hear for more than 5 minutes after I hear them.

Top Tier: I listen to every episode of these podcasts, flushing other ones to make time as needed.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: At the top of the list because when he drops a 5 hour episode, I stop listening to everything else until it’s done. Yes, he’s over the top. Yes, he focuses on gore and yes, he can get repetitive. Yes, it takes an hour for you to figure out what the topic is, then the next two hours feels like introduction, then you’re done. But it’s still high quality, well presented, good production value, always informative.
Revolutions: From the creator of my old favorite “History of Rome” podcast, Michael Duncan does a great job summarizing (with some impressive depth) events surrounding some of the world’s great revolutions. There was a time when this was the only podcast I listened to at 1.0x speed, just because I didn’t want to miss details.
Reply All: Always intriguing. Light, funny, well done.
Radiolab: Interesting, balanced, amusing.
Crimetown: Interesting stories, told well.
S-Town: A one time event; heart rending, a spiritual successor to season 1 of Serial.
The Fall of Rome Podcast: Patrick Wyman is a real historian, and this history goes into greater depth than the other two above. The production value is lower and he can be a little dry, but the content is heady as Wyman focuses on the forces behind the key historical figures and events.
Common Sense with Dan Carlin: Carlin’s libertarian political/society podcast, but aptly named. Lots of well thought out ideas. And anti-Trump.

Safe for Now: Listen to most, pleased to see new episodes.
The Bill Simmons Podcast: Light and easy, sometimes funny, often about the NBA, good for listening to while doing labor intensive tasks they may force you to miss a few minutes at a time.
Serial: Absence makes you forget. Season 1 was a force of nature. Season 2 wasn’t. Not sure if there will be a season 3.
PTI: Sometimes funny, informative for keeping up on the day-to-day of the sports’ world. Repetitve after 15 or so years, but still decent. Light listening.
This American Life: Thought provoking, but often depressing and highly slanted. Slanted toward things that I happen to agree with mostly, but you can’t really make believe that they select a full spectrum of stories to represent “this american life.”
Pod Save America: Funny, liberal political show. You listen to it and wonder how the Trump people can exist.
99% Invisible: Generally interesting. A little dry in presentation. Subject matter is tangentially related to stuff that I’m interested in. Listening to it at the behest of a friend.
Transforming Grace Podcast: I’ll be honest, I skip the ones not done by Glenn Parkinson, pastor at my old church. He’s just so excellent. But I am like 3 months behind always.
History Matters Podcast: Legit PhD historians talking about history, though perhaps overlaughing at things that aren’t particularly funny. Some interesting parallels, and occasionally you’ll hear a point that seems so ironclad that you have a hard time seeing why it can’t be policy.

The Cut Line: Things I’m going to delete now that I’m done with this list.
The Ringer NBA Show: I want to like the Ringer’s NBA show. I just don’t like that guy that much. Much preferred Zach Lowe. Maybe I’ll see if he’s still around.
With Friends Like These: Reportedly about some liberals getting the opinions of conservatives, then hashing out the differences and coming to some mutual understanding of their positions. But not really about this. And the liberals come off as preaching and condescending in the end. A good example of what people dislike about the left without also being funny, clever, or particularly informed (like Pod Save America).

TBD
The Liturgists Podcast: Recently subscribed after Gungor concert. Will see if I like it.

Weight

Weight, past 11 years, closest to today’s date (+/- 4 days):
2007: 167.6 (first year I couldn’t run)
2008: 161.8 (training)
2009: 161.4
2010: 166.0 (first year I permanently was not in racing shape)
2011: 166.4
2012: 165.4
2013: 167.4
2014: 167.4
2015: 167.6
2016: 167.2
2017: 168.6

If anyone wants $15, I will pay that to get all thousand or so datapoints entered into Excel. This requires a plot. I wonder how closely it mirrors global temperatures.

Automata

Some jobs don’t require humans. In the last 300 years, the number of humanless jobs have increased exponentially. This increase has led to an increase in the overall quality of life of mankind. Without first beasts, then machinery, humanity could not support the billions of people on the planet as we currently do – few would say that agricultural automation has been bad for mankind.

At the time, they did. At the time, machines that would spin cloth were thought to be disruptive to the economy. But we would not have drawers full of clothes without them. Automation has, without question, improved quality of life. More goods, and higher quality goods, at less cost.

But in every age, there is a subset of the population resistant to these enhancements. Don’t automate Wendy’s ordering, for instance, because that will put 18 year olds without a GED out of a job. They need some way to make money. Don’t automate manufacturing jobs, because where else will those people work? But time and again, more automation has led to cheaper, higher quality goods. Do we intentionally hamstring society to provide busywork for the uneducated?

But what about those people who lose their jobs to automation? In theory, we should start working less hours, while the machines generate the wealth (in the form of inexpensive cars or clothes or hamburgers) on our behalf. In theory, there should be less of us – birth rates always decline as a function of societal wealth. But in practice, there will be millions left in the lurch until society adjusts to the new norm. Millions that would prefer their well-being over the “greater good”. And rightfully so. Millions didn’t get an education for one reason or another (some would say it was their fault for not working hard – I wouldn’t always agree with him), 50 of whom can be replaced by a single machine. So do we “make work” to keep them busy? If we had a different sort of government, we might find ourselves with a new WPA, where the state flushes the economy with jobs for the greater good – while bankrupting itself. If we had a different sort of government, we might have a guaranteed minimum income; enough for those left in transition to survive, but still too little to disincentivize some from wanting to earn more through more education and hard work. But nanny states are expensive.

I don’t know the solution. But to me the solution is never willful ignorance. One way or another, time and technology marches on.

By the way, side note…the only way to curb inequality is through cataclysm. Perhaps we’re on the right track after all.

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