#REALwomenmove

#REALwomenmove

Real women move.  Yes, they sure do.  But what does this mean to me?  It means that it doesn’t matter what your body shape, size or fitness level is.  It means that you are getting off the couch and doing something.

When you think of an athlete do images of super fit people in Runner’s World come to mind?  Do you think of someone with either huge muscles or no body fat?  That is what media wants us to think.  But to me, it is someone that is strong.  Someone that has the willpower to get out there and try to weather their storm.  Someone who will try  to run their first 5K or a marathon, it doesn’t matter as long as they are becoming a better version of themselves.

There is a giant tree near my home.  I run by it as much as possible.  It is America’s largest Bebb Oak on record.  Some call her Grandma Bebb Oak.  She has her own Facebook page.  To me, she is strong.  Her limbs are heavy and her bark is brittle, but she still stands.   She is said to be well over 200 years old. To me she is strong and she is real.

I used to be a slave to the scale.  If a certain number didn’t come up, I wasn’t happy.  If my pant size wasn’t the right number, I was disappointed.  Now I realize that my body is strong.  I might not have the perfect amount of body fat.  I might be slightly overweight at times.  I have never been accused of being skinny.  On the flip side, I have been labeled as determined, hard core, and relentless.  My legs are more like tree trunks, like that Bebb Oak tree.   But those tree trunks get me to the finish line of 100 mile races.  I think that if you can believe it you can achieve it.

So get out there and do the impossible.  Do what you think you cannot do.  Don’t let others establish your limits because they see you in a different light.  Redefine yourself. Accept yourself, love yourself.   Prove people wrong.  Be strong and prove that #REALwomenmove!

#REALwomenmove is a new campaign by my favorite clothing company, Skirt Sports.  It is based on REAL women, REAL bodies, REAL inspiration.  Skirt Sports believes we all can and should embrace fitness and health.  We should be strong, confident and not judge, but rather encourage other women.  You can read more about #REALwomen move and check out their great running skirts and other great clothing items at skirtsports.com/realwomenmove

***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It’s a company I believe in and am I’m proud to be a part of their family.

Sandy is an Ultra runner who’s on state 35 of her 50 state quest! She loves to push herself and encourage others to dare more than they dream. Sandy shares her running adventures on her blog, TheUltraFreak 

Race Recap: Vacation Races Yellowstone Half

Last weekend, amazing races took place all over the country. Maybe you even participated in one. (If so tell me allllll about it in the comments!) I was lucky enough to be one of those people, and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures from  the Vacation Race Yellowstone 5k and Half Marathon. I had dreamed of doing the Caldera Triple this year, but other obligations (tickets to see Roger Waters) kept me from the mother of all medals. Next year, it’s on!

Disclaimer: while I am a Vacation Races Ambassador, I did pay for my registration for this race and I didn’t receive any compensation for this race review.

I live about ten hours from Yellowstone. Honestly, when the scenery is as beautiful as it was and you’re driving your Mustang, ten hours feels like five.We drove up last Thursday and got into Yellowstone at around seven o’clock in the evening. Along the way, we stopped at an overlook to take in the most beautiful mountain range I’ve ever seen, and keep in mind, Rocky Mountain National Park is my backyard. If you’ve never been to the Grand Tetons, you need to add it to your bucket list.

Jackson Lake and Grand Teton

We came from the south which meant we had to drive through Grand Teton National Park to get to Yellowstone. We decided to buy an annual park pass since we’ll soon be living so close to a national park ourselves. Eighty bucks to support our national treasures was money well spent in our book.

I had signed up for the Bison Double, which meant I was running the 5k Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday morning. My husband and I decided to get up before dawn on Friday to see some of Yellowstone while the light was still good for photography. It was the right choice!

He was the only other guy on the road at 5:30 am. Also, he wasn’t moving for us.

Sadly, the Grand Prismatic Spring was too steamy to see.

Kepler Cascade

Yellowstone Lake and Thermal Vents

A real life postcard.

After a morning of exploring the park, we headed back to the hotel to take a nap and prep for the 5k. The weather forecast at race time was less than dry. I was volunteering at the race expo before the start, so I headed over a little early and met up with the rest of my team at the start. My husband, sisters-in-law, and their husbands all ran the 5k, and exactly none of us were looking forward to running in rainy drizzle and 42 degrees.

There’s some first timers in this pic!

The course was beautiful despite it being wet. I don’t have many pics of this race because the conditions made it hard to snap shots. We started on paved town roads for the first mile then transitioned to gravel trail riddled with puddles and mud for the rest of the race. We had to watch where we stepped so we didn’t slip in the mud. I’m glad I’d packed so much gear, options are so important when the weather is unpredictable. Plus I’d bought an emergency poncho for which I was so grateful! I was slow because of the conditions and I wanted to be sure I was okay to do the half the next morning. My husband and I crossed the finish, then waited for the rest of our team. We were disappointed to learn that the 5k medals had been lost in shipping, but we were assured that they’d be mailed to us once they were located.

The next morning, I woke up to a weather forecast calling for hail and more rain before the half marathon. Yes, hail. Well, tiny little pellets, but still, when they hit your cold cheeks, it hurts! I shook out my disposable poncho and layered up. With some fleece lined leggings, a Lioness skirt from Skirt Sports, and three layers on top, I was as ready as I could be for my first wet, cold trail half.

I knew this race was going to be my hardest one yet going into it. I knew the elevation gain was no joke, and that it was mostly on a trail. I also knew I wasn’t able to train for this race like I wanted to. Since February, I’ve had to focus on selling my house, moving, and finding a new place to live.  Doing all those home improvement projects did get me into better shape than I was in after the holidays, but I was no where near where I wanted to be for this race. Getting a PR wasn’t my goal, not getting hurt was. My strategy was to do walk a brisk pace with some splashes of running until the big hill. Then, I’d walk as briskly as I could up that bish.

Around mile five, it started to get steep. The course was still thick with mud, and I tried to stay on the edge of the trail to keep from getting bogged down. Mile six is where it started to get nasty. Hence my face in the photo below. It was yucky, but at least the sun had come out and the rain/hail stopped! Once I got over that hill, I found one of my Skirt Sports sisters on the course, and I couldn’t have been happier! Kim is the best. We’d run the Skirt Sports 13er together last year and running with her is always so much fun.

After I’d made it over the hill and found a friend, the race took on a new feel. The course turned technical with large rocks as we began to descend in elevation. I took my time through the rocks but still stumbled a few times. The views were completely worth it, though, as the course took us beside the river and through pristine forest.

As I was out there feeling better than I expected to be at mile nine, I took a moment to appreciate my body. I have ridiculous expectations of it. I ask it to do amazing feats of endurance without ever putting in the 100% training I should. As I climbed that hill and listened to those around me struggling to breathe due to the altitude, I sent my body some messages of gratitude and I promised to not ask it to do this again without the proper preparation.

We counted down the miles together, stopped for orange slices at the mile 11 aid station, and were fueled by the thought of our medals waiting for us. Unfortunately, the Bison Double medals and the Caldera Triple medals were lost in shipping along with the 5k medals. But we did get our half marathon medals, so it was great to have that waiting for us at the end along with the always yummy post race fuel box and bananas.

It hurt so much but we did it!

Kim and I hugged goodbye before I took a few family photos with our race team. I think some of them may have caught the race bug! I’m already planning to come back for the Caldera Triple next year, maybe we’ll make it a tradition!

It was a fabulous race in one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. Aside from the medals being lost, everything went smoothly and we all had a blast. This race may not be an annual one for me due to traveling, but it’s certainly one I’d like to do every few years. Vacation Races didn’t disappoint, they really now how to pick their locations! It was so gorgeous everywhere you looked that I wanted to share a few last photos with you of your Yellowstone National Park.  Enjoy!

Elk buck

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

Bison herd

You could literally reach out your car window and touch them. But DON’T.

Half medal with Old Faithful erupting in the background

 

As a safety reminder, I ask that when you read my recaps of high altitude races to not underestimate the affects of altitude. I’ve lived at over 5000 feet elevation all my life, and soon I’m moving to 8500 feet. My lungs and muscles are acclimated to the elevation despite having asthma. If you do a race at altitude and you aren’t already acclimated, be sure to train appropriately, take precautions against altitude sickness, and be kind to yourself on the course if you don’t hit your pace goals.Save

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PR Race: 2017 AC April Fools Half Marathon

I’m doing my PR dance all over the place! (Yes, it’s just as awkward as you’re imagining.)

The Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon holds a very special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons.

  1. I was born on April Fools Day! It was actually one of the reason I signed up for the inaugural race way, way back in 2012.
  2. I’ve run this race with many friends over the past 6 years! A birthday race calls for a birthday party, am I right? I’ve had friends from all over the country travel in to do this race with me and I’m forever grateful to every single one of them.
  3. For over the past year I trained the course with my lifelong pal, Chrissy!

Over the years this race has gone from great to phenomenal. The race director really pays attention to feedback and it shows.

What do runners want that this race provides? Great communication leading up to the race, multiple locations for packet pickup (this was added after I registered, I opted to do race morning pickup for a small fee), bag check, starting on time, flat/fast course, on course entertainment, free race pictures, wonderful volunteers, unique medals, costume contests, and yummy post-race snacks, and free beer. Yes, yes, and more yes! Much appreciated!

I live an hour from Atlantic City so I always opt to just drive the morning of the race.

Tiptoeing around my house before I left.

After fueling with a homemade nutrition bar and drinking Spark, I also brought water and an apple for just before the race began. I have a bad habit of not planning fuel well before races and I wanted to avoid that if possible.

The drive was uneventful (just how a drive should be) and parking at Resorts was free (just how I like it). I needed to get there early because packet pickup was from 6am – 7am so I arrived at 6:15 and quickly got set up with my race bib and bag. The bag contained the race shirt (blue – I love this year’s color, design, and fabric) and a few freebies – including saltwater taffy!

I planted myself in a lounge area and waited until closer to the start of the race to go outside. This was the most relaxed I’ve felt before I race ever and I was able to zone out for about a half hour. Having the option for bathrooms inside a casino rather than portapotties is always nice, too, and I stopped by before heading to the boardwalk.

Just after I checked my bag, I ran into longtime friend, Rob! I’d seen him at the Rowan 5k the day before and it was great to see a friendly face immediately. We spent the remaining minutes before the race chatting.

This was the first time I ran this race solo and I knew that I could achieve a PR, given my training and my familiarity with the course. I went in feeling very confident. The weather was fantastic (very different from last year!) and I knew that it could be my day.

I decided to run the first mile and then settle into 30:30 intervals. I wanted to play with my speed on the run intervals and I knew that with short bursts I would be able to keep a steady pace but also push when necessary.

The first 7 miles were fairly consistent. I felt good and strong while running, both on the boardwalk and when we turned onto the street.

I knew where the boards were a bit more springy, where the road slopes to the left, and where to put myself so that my feet were even and I felt secure. I know some people don’t like out and back courses; personally, I love that I had the opportunity to see my friends and cheer for them along the way.

Free race photos! Which is good because I hardly took any pictures during this event – I was on a mission.

Looking at my splits I’m sure it’s clear when I hit the turn-around and was slammed with headwind. Ooof!

Yep, that’s right… 7 and a half. This was also around the time that I started talking to myself. Out loud. With feeling.

“Meridith, you can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. You can and you will! You need to stay strong and keep pushing for that PR. This is all a mental game and you know you can do this.Let’s go. Hustle!”

I made it my goal to stay under 13 minute miles. I was still a little scarred from my Philadelphia half but I knew this course. I trained on this course. And I was positive that I could stay under 13 minute miles and attain a huge PR.

My self pep talks continued throughout the last miles. The volunteers energy at the water stops was contagious and once I hit the main area of the boardwalk, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I know this is totally cheesy but it was as though a montage was playing in my head. There were places along the way that reminded me of Chrissy and our training runs together. There were songs that reminded me of my children. The year we dresses as beauty queens and then the next year when we dressed as the Rockford Peaches flashed through my mind. Even though I was running this race alone, it didn’t feel that way.

I did my best and didn’t give up. When I saw the clock as I approached the finish line, I was elated! An 8 minute PR was mine!

I feel so, so good about this race. I knew that I would be able to do well and I’m really proud! I hit a lot of PRs last year but my half PR was a bittersweet because I didn’t have a good race experience. This is what I wanted my experience to be and what I wanted it to feel like and I could think of no better place to do it!

Immediately after I got my medal, my IG friend Angela found me! I don’t know if I conveyed just how grateful I was that she did that; I was so happy to see a familiar face! We were able to catch up for a few minutes and then parted ways. I also got to catch up with Hollie both before and after the race, which is always great!

I went along to grab a bagel, drink, and Johnson’s popcorn. There were other treats as well but I wanted to get my bag from bag check and my free beer at the bar! Priorities!

Happy, happy, happy! This race was everything that a PR race should be! I’ve already registered for lucky number 7, the Atlantic City April Fools half on April 15, 2018. Who’s with me?

Vacation Races, Here I Come!

Sometimes, begging actually works. I don’t recommend you use the tactic often, but I’m not above begging for something I really want, even if that something doesn’t exist. Believe it or not, begging can be a very effective tool. Case in point, after running the 2016 VR Rocky Mountain Half Marathon, a.k.a, my favorite race, I basically begged the Vacation Races race series to let me be an ambassador even though they didn’t have an ambassador program.

Pro Tip: When begging, bargain by making promises to spend money on their races. 😉

When I heard from the Race Director a few days later, I was ECSTATIC.  After applying and hoping, it’s official, I’m a VR Ambassador!! I can’t wait to represent the series at this year’s Yellowstone Half and the Rocky Mountain Half. Maybe (hopefully) a few more!

 

I wanted to be an ambassador for Vacation Races because I think they put on the best races in the country. The courses are spectacular, the race organization is top-notch, the medals are absolutely THE BEST, the aid stations are the best I’ve ever seen (water, energy drink, bananas and oranges), and I feel that you really get your money’s worth with a fantastic overall race experience. Honestly, I’d take a VR race over one at Disney any time. I can’t say enough good things about VR, and I can’t wait to share more stuff from my favorite race series with you. Details about the program are still coming out, so I’ll share any codes I get in a future post.

 

Have you ever done a VR race? How did it go for you?  Is one of their races on your bucket list? 

Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon 2017

Going into the Fort Lauderdale A1A half marathon, I had two goals. Have fun and get it done!

I can say, without a doubt, mission accomplished.

But of course, there’s a story that goes along with every race and this one is no exception.

This race was a last minute add in my established race schedule. A couple of weeks ago, we decided to take a last minute trip to Florida in celebration of my 12 year old’s birthday. He had big fishing plans. I had big relaxing on the beach and by the pool plans.

However… my parents live in Pompano Beach and they have been pushing this race since they watched the marathoners run past their house in years past.

Mer's mom was out cheering for the runners doing the #a1amarathon this morning! Way to go runners!

A post shared by scootadoot (@scootadoot) on

And just like that, I was signed up for the A1A half! Now, I haven’t been actively training for the half marathon distance but I knew that I could go into it with the expectation of just enjoying the run and soaking it all in.

My mom was my personal chauffeur for the weekend and she made sure I got to and from both the expo and race without having to think about logistics. Isn’t that half the battle when it comes to planning for race day? I’m so grateful for her!

We visited the expo on Friday afternoon, right as it opened. My expo experience was quick and easy. It had great embellishments like a wrapped Lexus with all of the runner’s names, as well as a wall from Dick’s Sporting Goods that had the names of the runners.

We were asked to write on the wall why we run.

The bib pickup was at the back of the hall and was arranged by last name. A photo ID was required for pick up and there was a bit of a line but it moved along. The t-shirts were at the next table over – separated by men and women cuts.

I’ll be honest, the shirt sizing feels off, which is a nothing new to me. I was going to inquire about switching up a size but there was a sign that said that shirts could only be switched on race day. I didn’t plan on carrying a shirt with me to the race so, oh well. Sticking with it! Along with the shirts we also got a goody bag filled with lots of things from the race sponsors and coupons.

There was a heat advisory for the day of the race. Race organizers did a great job of keeping everyone informed through email and posts to Facebook. I was surprised that they don’t have more of a presence on Twitter, since that’s something I’m used to with big races. Given that it was going to be so warm, I made sure to hydrate the day before the race and planned to stop at every water station.

The race was schedule to begin at 6am, which meant that I set my alarm for 4am. Super mom was able to drop me about a block from the start line (because she’s awesome). I assumed that she would drive home and then come get me later, after the race. Instead she parked her car nearby and stayed for the entire race. (Again, because she’s awesome!)

At local races I’m usually able to walk around and stumble upon people I know but in Florida I was in a sea of unfamiliar faces. I knew a few of the BibRave Pros were going to be at the race so I shone the bat signal into the sky (aka – I sent a message out on social media) and soon Samantha found me! I can’t even tell you how great it was to see a smiling face in the crowd of people.

@nacole99 and @scootadoot selfie time!

After the Star Spangled Banner was performed on saxophone (that was something different from the norm!), it was time to join the self-seeded corral.

I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to be setting any records, so originally I placed myself near the 2:45 half pacer and figured I would see if I could hang with him for awhile (thanks for being so welcoming, Gary!). We started to run, people waiting to start the Susan G. Komen run were cheering along the chute, and I had a smile on my face.

And then, 2/10 of a mile in, this happened…

What the what?! Dumbfounded. I think that’s the right word to describe exactly how I felt as I just watched more and more and more of the train slowly make its way down the tracks. Should I pause my watch? Keep it going? Is this train ever going to end? 

You could feel the tension in the crowd as we watched the train crawl by.

Unimpressed faces, all around.

Thankfully the race organizers decided to bring everyone that was stopped by the train back to the start and we were able to begin the race again. There was an audible collective sigh of relief when they walked through the crowd to reel us back in.

Walking the wrong way across the start line…

As we started again, they played Quad City Dj’s “C’Mon ‘N Ride It (The Train)” and I couldn’t help but laugh. I already had it in my mind that I was just going to have to roll with whatever this race threw at me and this just confirmed it. 13.1 (13.3?) we’re coming for you!

The first couple of miles were along Las Olas Blvd., a cute little shopping district. Since we wound up starting a half hour later than planned the sun was coming up and it was warming considerably.

The first water stop was short on volunteers I wonder if they thought that the runners had all passed through with the first wave of people that made it before the train. The volunteers that were there hustled to make sure that everyone got cups of water. I was very grateful for them!

Just before mile 3, my mom was waiting by a drawbridge and I was so happy to see her along the course! I got a little teary-eyed as I continued along on my way but then reminded myself that I needed to stop so I didn’t dehydrate myself, especially as we turned onto A1A, right along the beach.

The sun was strong and I was looking for some sort of respite. Thankfully, right past mile 4, we turned into Hugh Taylor Birch Street Park and its beautiful canopy of trees. Whew!

2 miles in the shade – YES PLEASE!

We looped through the park and eventually came out around the area we entered.

I was very impressed with throughout the entire race was the flow of things. Even though the runners were on the road, they had some lanes open to cars. There were police and other volunteers stationed at each intersection and I felt safe the entire race.

Around mile 7 I was getting a bit more sluggish and decided to switch from 2:1 intervals to 1:1 intervals. That was a good decision on my part and pushed me through the second half of the race. On the way to the turnaround I saw both Christine and Samantha in their BibRave shirts. Always great to see familiar faces!

I bopped to my music, thanked every volunteer I saw, pressed on multiple signs for a power boost, pet dogs, and oh, stopped at the unofficial beer station!

Sure, I’ll drink your beer random strangers! Please and thank you!

I believe that the beer station was around mile 11 and by this time, I was ready to be done. It was humid and hot and my glasses were fogging.

I knew my mom was ahead and that thought kept me running with my 1:1 intervals. Also, this view!

Annoyingly, even though I used Glide, I knew I was chafing in multiple locations. You know, naturally in all the places that I forgot to apply the Glide.

Around mile 12, I spotted my mom once again and I was so very happy to see her! I handed off my iPod and focused on finishing the last mile.

There were a multitude of photographers on the course and they snagged nearly 20 pictures of me through the race! Even though it wasn’t a fast race for me, I actually purchased the pictures because I look like I’m having a blast in nearly every single one of them. And I was! The double thumbs up was strong this race.

The finish line was a little confusing because there was a Publix inflatable we ran under and then a bit further up the actual finish line. I just kept running until I saw the timing mats and medal racks!

I see the finish line! I think! Maybe?

The medals for this race are completely different each year and I love the beautiful stingray design of this one!

Plus, it opens like a locket to reveal more beauty.

The finish line party was impressive! Tons of vendors giving away lots of drinks and food. I was all about the hydration so after grabbing water, I also chugged a chocolate milk, and then beer with my momma (although even I couldn’t drink it all)!

I’m so grateful I had the chance to run this race! Even though it was hot and I thought I was melting, it reminded me how much fun I can have while running. It was a bucket filler race and I’m so glad that I did it!

Next on my race agenda is the Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k back here in good ol’ New Jersey. What is on tap for you?

A Walk in Her Shoes Feeds a Village

We love doing good, don’t you? We knew you’d say yes! We knew that because our readers are the kindest and sweetest. It’s true. Pat yourself on the back.

We know you like to give back, especially when it’s super easy to give. And we especially love when our training miles count for something. That’s where this fantastic charity event comes in. It’s called the Walk in Her Shoes Challenge, and its goal is to bring awareness to the struggle women and girls face in some of the world’s poorest communities. The Challenge’s goal is to bring equal opportunity and human dignity to women and girls in developing countries. Here’s a quick video to learn more.

One of my Skirt Sport Sisters started a team called the Sole Sisters, and we’d love to have you join us. It’s free, and you don’t have to donate or raise funds if you don’t want to, but your walking and running miles are valuable and count toward the Challenge. You can join our team here. We have already raised enough to build a well for clean drinking water! What I love about this Challenge is that it helps women and girls get access to necessities like clean water, good hygiene and basic medical care so that they can spend more time in school and earning a living than gathering food and water. It’s an empowering program that helps enrich communities around the world.  If you’re so inspired, you can donate to our team by clicking on the graphic below.

I hope to call you teammate soon! Do good, feel good, always, Scooters.

What are your favorite charity events? Have you ever participated in a virtual fundraising event before? Tell me all about it!

Building Each Other Up

I met Nicole DeBoom when I stopped in the Skirt Sports warehouse to pick up a Christmas gift for Mer last year, and my girl crush started then. Not because she’s the Ironman winner, a successful entrepreneur, or because she is hilarious, but because she is real. Authentic. I know that word gets thrown around a lot these days, but you know when it’s genuine and when it isn’t. Nicole is the real deal, and so is her message.

At a recent event, she shared a few stories. Stories about how she made her first running skirt an wore it as she won 2004 Ironman Wisconsin, and of her calling to help women change their lives. And in this video, she shared the story of her daughter’s birth, and, trust me, it was one for the books. My sides were aching by the time she finished. She is the cutest.

Earlier this year, she started a Podcast called “Run This World” where she talks with “…visionaries who are creating change in the world”. Nicole and her guests go deep, and they aren’t afraid to be honest about the struggles they’ve had on their journey. They share their stories with us, and in doing so, empower us to tackle our own challenges with grace and self acceptance. This is why I enjoy working with Skirt Sports, because they are genuine in their goal to help women feel feed good in their skin and in life.

Nicole in the skirt that would inspire Skirt Sports

Nicole in the skirt that would inspire Skirt Sports

My favorite episode so far was an interview with Kara Burns titled “From Prison to 26.2”. By the title you can guess what it was about. I was so touched by Kara’s forgiveness of herself and her determination to move on from her past. Kara reminded me that no matter how hard we think something is, it can be overcome with discipline and determination. She was so honest about her mistakes and their consequences, and she didn’t shirk from  the pain she caused those she loves the most. She is a beautiful soul, and I hope to meet her at a Skirt event one of these days. Her positivity and was truly inspiring.

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Every episode has the same root message, love and positivity. We can always use more of that! Nicole and her guests inspire us to pursue our goals and keep sight of what’s truly important.  Next time you go for a run, check her out. Each episode lasts about 45 minutes, so they’re perfect for tuning in while you get in a few quick miles. I highly recommend it!

 

What do you like to listen to while training? What’s your favorite Podcast?

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