Thursday, July 31, 2008

Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill

Finally off the Flagyl, and the metal taste is slowly leaving my mouth! That means, I'm starting to train hard again. Well, sort of. Now my son is sick, so I've missed a few workouts taking care of him. Priorities . . .

We went to Arkansas this past weekend to Mount Nebo, just outside of Dardanelle. My family--actually, the Carter family (Carter is my paternal grandmother’s maiden name)--has been going to Mount Nebo for a LONG time (over 60 years?). It’s a state park on top of what Arkansans call a "mountain." I still have family members that live up there, and my dad, who turned 62 on Sunday--Happy Birthday Daddy John! (that’s his grandpa name, which was also his grandpa’s name)--has been going there since he was a small boy. And so have I. But it wasn’t until this trip that I decided to tackle the climb up the mountain on a road bike. And, therefore, it wasn't until this trip that I actually decided to give in and start calling it a "mountain" instead of a "mole hill." It only rises about 1800 feet above sea level, but anything with that type of a climb is a mountain in my book. It’s only a 2.5 mile climb, but as the sign in the picture above indicates, it’s the most difficult 2.5 miles most of us will ever see on a bicycle!
To give you an idea, the last 4 miles or so of the climb up Loveland Pass (which was the steepest part of the Triple Bypass) took me 26 minutes. But this 2.5 mile climb took me just under 20 minutes, and I averaged more than 100 watts (that’s A LOT) more than I did on the Loveland climb. There are 12 switchbacks (I think. It's hard to count when you're working that hard), which is a lot for that short of a climb. In other words, it was the most difficult 19+ minutes I have ever spent on a bike! I cut my “climbing teeth” in and around Boulder, Colorado, on climbs like the ones here. Noticeably absent are any 18% grades. Regardless, it was only 20 minutes of a two hour ride. My first two hour ride after the illness.

No running or swimming this weekend. I planned on a long run on Sunday morning, but John and Krisha were both sick the last night so we decided to head back to Texas early in case there were any issues on the road. There weren't, and we made it home safe.

So now I have 10 days until the 5430 Long Course in Boulder. I haven't felt this unprepared for a race in quite some time. It's not an "A" race, but the plan was to go into it a little tired. Right now I'm not tired at all, and really feel under prepared. Hopefully, I can pull it all together and not embarass myself in front of everyone. This will be the first race that Lindsay has actually been to, and it will be Ryan's first triathlon, so those two things ought to motivate me to dig deep. I just need to get some quality training in this next week so that I don't feel too rusty.

One final note . . . The “Carter Family” (and the Waters, Brooks, and countless other Families) lost one of its most cherished members this past year. Alan Waters was way too young to leave us when he did. The last time I saw him was two years ago on Mount Nebo. He was very interested in my running and cycling, and I even caught him out there running one morning after we had talked about my racing the night before. I'm not sure he ever knew it, but from a very young age, I looked up to him. He was always my favorite and seemed more like a big brother to me than an older cousin. After talking with everyone this weekend, it appears that he was everyone's favorite. And for good reason. You were an exceptional person, Alan. We miss you. Even more than we ever thought was possible.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pennies do not taste good

I somehow ate some Giardia bugs recently. Apparently the only way to get giardiasis is to actually ingest . . . well, I'm not typing that here! You'll have to look it up if you want to know. But just to pique your curiosity, I read recently that because of how you get giardiasis, it is also known as "Beaver Fever." So go ahead; laugh it up. I have Beaver Fever! (Now I KNOW you'll look it up!)

I am very appreciative of modern medicine. However, I don't like to put strange chemicals in my body unless absolutely necessary. This is one of those times. I have a half ironman in two weeks, my training has been nonexistent for over a week now (other than two rides that started off ok, but ended sooner than I had hoped), and I lost over five pounds last Sunday. So time to pull out the big guns! The big guns, of course, being a nasty little antibiotic known as Flagyl. Flagyl is a miracle of science that kills everything in its wake (except for me, I hope!). I also hope that a few of my good bacteria survive the "shock and awe" that's going on in my bowels as we speak. No worries, though. I have yogurt in hand. My probiotic troops are waiting in the wings to go back to work once the Flagyl has cleared out all the bad guys! George Bush would be proud (except that I actually have a plan, so maybe not).

I've read that when you get bitten by a rattlesnake, you taste copper. Well, I can imagine what that would be like (except, of course, I don't have the excruciating pain associated with actually being bitten by a venomous snake, but that's just details) because everything I eat tastes like pennies! In fact, I don't even have to eat anything to taste those pennies. The Flagyl is doing that for me. I can taste pennies right now. And based on that taste, I doubt Jesus (or cavemen) would have eaten pennies. Trust me. I'm only supposed to be on the rattlesnake venom for another 4 days, so hopefully that taste will go away, and my training will resume.

Speaking of resuming training; I actually feel quite good today. Perhaps Lindsay will give me the go ahead to get back after it. I never thought I would have to ask her to "let me work harder," but right now she's pulling on the reins a bit. Don't tell her, but I'm going to Arkansas this weekend. And my Orbea is going with me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jesus Ate Better Than Cavemen (and so do I)

Leading up to the Ironman, I had some digestive issues during some of my runs (several of my runs, actually). And we all know what happened during the marathon at the Ironman this year! So Krisha and I started talking about what might be the problem. As you all know, I tend to over think/over analyze everything (I even re-wrote this sentence three times!), so I decided to do a little research to determine what might be the best diet for me. I’m sure this will take a little experimentation, but hopefully, I can figure out the best nutrition plan for me.

I’ve read numerous books on this subject already. One of the best, in my opinion, is Chris Carmichael’s “Food for Fitness.” It’s great because Chris takes the mystery out of making healthy choices. Everything we eat “carries” the things we need (and sometimes things we don’t need) to our bodies. The trick is to find the best “carrier” for the job. I’ve been eating according to this book for several years now, and I have become leaner, fitter, and faster. I recommend it to everyone, athlete or not. But there still may be something that I’m eating that is causing distress at times. So, I started looking at specifically what I was eating. I decided that everything is suspect. Even my organic, skinless chicken breasts, although “healthy,” may not be the best thing for me in particular (since, like training plans, nutrition plans are individual). So I started looking at other theories of eating.

A lot of other well respected coaches and triathletes argue in favor of the Paleo diet (aka, the caveman diet). The idea is that our technology to produce food has evolved way faster than our bodies have adapted to being able to digest those foods. In an effort to feed billions of people, we have learned to harvest grains and rice to make breads, pastas, etc., that are very filling, but we were never intended to eat that way. Accordingly, we should be eating like our caveman (and cavewoman!) ancestors: i.e., ONLY fresh fruits and vegetables and lean cuts of meat. No grains, beans, rice, bread, pasta, milk, cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, donuts, fettuccini alfredo, Kraft singles, French toast stuffed with blackberry preserves and cream cheese (mmmm), pizza, ice cream, peanut butter . . . you get the idea. If the caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you because we weren’t designed to eat those things. Huh?

Something about all that just sounds CRAZY to me! For one thing, where did the cavepeople that I came from live? Do I only eat things that were indigenous to that area? So, no bananas or mangos unless my cave ancestors lived in what is now Ecuador or Southeast Asia? And no bread? Or peanut butter? That can’t be right! And that got me to thinking (big surprise!). I can appreciate their logic. I agree that our bodies have not adapted (nor will they ever adapt) to certain examples of things Americans eat (I refuse to call them “food”) such as trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, or xanthium gum (whatever that is). But I still believe that the "technology" of turning wheat into bread is not one of those examples. So what were we “designed” to eat? Well, since I believe that God made me, I turned to the Bible to see if there was anything there that might shed some light on how I should eat.

In the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, Daniel and his boys were held captive by King Nebuchadnezzar. So that they could someday serve in the king’s palace, King Neb wanted Daniel and his boys to be big, strong, and handsome. So he instructed them to eat from the king’s table. Daniel didn’t like this because he found the King’s fatty meat and wine offensive (sort of like trans fats are to me – You’ll never make me eat trans fats, George Bush!!). Daniel told the official in charge of him to test him for 10 days by only feeding him vegetables and water. It wasn’t that Danny Boy was necessarily a vegetarian. He simply found the foods that the King was trying to present to him as unhealthy and offensive. In the end, Daniel 1:15 tells us that after the ten days, Daniel and his boys “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” This is a very good argument for eating like a vegetarian. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we were “designed” to eat like vegetarians. For Daniel, it was a matter of eating vegetables, or fatty, offensive meats. He chose vegetables since there apparently were no healthy alternatives. This is a good lesson for all of us when we are faced with a menu of unhealthy choices.

Next, I thought about what Jesus may have eaten (yes the obvious “What Would Jesus Eat” joke is there, but apparently some guy has already written a book about that too, and I try not to plagiarize). Jesus was not a vegetarian. He ate fish. But more importantly (pay attention Paleo Proponents!), Jesus ate “loaves of bread” (organic and whole grain, of course). And it wasn’t unleavened bread either! Manna, or unleavened bread, did not come in “loaves.” So don’t try to argue that I shouldn’t eat delicious yeasty breads! Most of the breads of the day were flatbreads (or pitas), which were made with yeast. AND there would have been no significance to the sacrifice of eating unleavened bread at the Passover Feast, if they were not allowed to eat leavened bread at other times. So there! Jesus would have sweetened things with honey, not refined sugar, and he would have gotten most of his fat from olives and olive oil.

There are no accounts (that I’m aware of) of Jesus actually eating red meat. There are places in the bible where people ate a “fattened calf” and there were shepherds so they most likely ate lamb. But this was only on special occasions. It seems that even the shepherds only ate lamb on special occasions, and certainly not every day.

Jesus turned water into wine, but as my dad would point out, there are no accounts of Jesus ever actually drinking wine. It was prevalent in the day, and personally, I doubt he would have provided wine for others if it was unhealthy to drink. Some people point to the Passover Feast and claim that Jesus drank wine. However, this is erroneous because at the Passover Feast it would have necessarily been unfermented wine, or grape juice. Regardless, like lamb, wine is something that Jesus would have likely had, but definitely not in excess, and most likely only occasionally.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should ONLY eat what Jesus ate. I’m sure had Jesus lived in Ecuador rather than Jerusalem, he would have loved bananas! What I am saying is that if Jesus ate it, then it’s probably ok for us to eat. Don't forget, Jesus was perfect. More importantly, if it was available to him, and he chose not eat it, or to only eat it every once in a while, that should be a real indication that we should either not eat it, or only eat it every once in a while. For example, red meat and cheese.

So, I’m going to focus my nutrition plan around fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, fish, olive oil, and I’ll limit my consumption of cheese, red meat, and wine, but won’t necessarily cut those out altogether. The only real difference in this and how I have eaten for the past several years is the dairy aspect. Maybe that’s been the problem. I do love cheese (just not the horrible, horrible processed stuff!). And ice cream. And pizza. And French toast stuffed with blackberry preserves and cream cheese (I’m sure Jesus would have loved that too!). But, for now at least, I’m cutting back on cheese and other dairy products. This was a lot of work, and a really long post, just to conclude that I shouldn't eat so much cheese! And I doubt that the answer to my stomach woes is simply "too much cheese." But I’ll let you know what happens.

(P.S. – If you question anything I’ve said above, please do your research before you start arguing with me. I’ve done mine, but I’ll admit that most of what I’ve said comes from my own knowledge of the Bible, and Google. Regardless, feel free to leave comments and I will answer anything you have questions about. That includes my conclusory logic.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Battle of My Left and Right Brains

Yes, I have two brains. Neither of them work properly all of the time, but between them and me, we seem to manage ok. Here is my report from the Triple Bypass. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the ride!

After (finally) finding a place to park, Ryan and I clipped in at about 6:40. The climbing started at about 6:41. The first climb is up to Squaw Pass, which tops out at 11,140 feet. It was gorgeous and not too tough (probably because it was the first climb!). We pretty much rode steady up to the first aid station, which is at the top of the climb. It was cold at the top so I put on my arm warmers for the fast ride back down the other side of the mountain. I was basically wearing the same clothing I would wear on a 100 degree day in Hades, er . . . Texas, plus some thin arm warmers. No big deal, right? Wrong. It turns out, when you are traveling on two very thin wheels at speeds of over 40 miles an hour, it's a good idea to be warm! Just try staying on your bike traveling that fast down a mountain without the ability to keep your front wheel from wobbling because you are shivering so much. The ironic part is that shivering is your brain’s way of keeping you warm so that you don’t go into hypothermia. But when choosing between 40mph worth of road rash (not to mention broken bones . . . even though I just did) and the risk of hypothermia, I choose the risk of hypothermia almost every time (especially since I was in no real danger of hypothermia!). My logical, know-it-all, dorky, left brain was eventually able to convince my touchy feely, over-reacting, hippie, risk-taking (and very cold), right brain that keeping the bike upright was more important, and the shivering in my arms stopped. One down. Two to go.

After a jaunt through Idaho Springs, we started the climb up to Loveland Pass (11,990 feet). The only really bad part of the entire course was when we actually had to get on I-70 and battle the semis. It wasn’t too long though, and eventually, we made it to an aid station 4 miles from the top of Loveland Pass. I knew this would be the steepest part of the day, so we fueled up on turkey sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, watermelon, and Cliff Blocks before heading up the last part of the climb. We guessed that it would take around 40 minutes. I felt really good coming out of that aid station (I’m sure it was the Wonder Bread and processed turkey!), so I decided to go for it. At one point I heard someone tell his riding partner (a very strong female) to “get on his wheel” (talking about me), so there was no way I was slowing down after that (both my brains are prideful!). I pulled those two for a while, and ended up ticking off all four miles in 26 minutes (14 minutes faster than my guess). That’s where we stopped for the above picture.

Knowing that my right brain is not a fast learner, I bundled up for the ride down this time (arm warmers, leg warmers, and my rain jacket). While bundling, I felt like the back of my head was going to explode! I got dizzy, and for a minute wondered if I would vomit right over the side of the mountain. Apparently, neither of my brains like working that hard at 12,000 feet since they live about 6 feet above sea level. They settled down and I felt much better about half way down the mountain, and no shivering! Two down. One to go.

After the descent we went around Lake Dillon and into a rest stop in Frisco. Once you go through Frisco, you get on a trail that leads all the way to Avon (about 40-50 miles away (pay attention Texas, you could learn something from Colorado’s trails!)). It was the easiest climb of the day, but it was by far the hardest climb of the day. It wasn’t as steep or as long as the two we had just done. But I entered a zone, not too far into that climb, that endurance athletes refer to as "bonking." Most athletes overuse the term bonking, so I rarely say it. It’s not just getting tired and not being able to work hard anymore. That's not bonking, that's you not training hard enough. Bonking is actually when your brain decides it’s time to quit, and there’s nothing the rest of your body can do to convince it otherwise. Here is the scientific explanation of what happens when you bonk, which was written by Chris Carmichael:

“The importance of carbohydrate cannot be overstated. Not only is it the primary fuel source for endurance performance, it is the primary fuel for your brain and central nervous system. The brain cannot produce energy from fat or protein on its own; it can only take glucose (sugar) from the blood. This is part of the reason bonking (running low on blood sugar) is so detrimental to performance. The confusion, nausea, and disorientation that go along with bonking are more due to the brain running low on glucose than a problem with energy-starved muscles. When push comes to shove, the brain acts defensively to make sure it gets enough fuel. It forces you to slow down or stop exercising so it can use what sugar you have left to maintain your basic bodily functions.”

In other words, if you truly bonk, you can only blame yourself because you didn’t fuel properly! (of course, if you fake bonk, you can only blame yourself because you didn't train properly!). I’ve known this for a long time. I’ve known that bonking leads to confusion, nausea, and in my case, grumpiness/irritability. But the best part about bonking is that the logical, analytical left brain can’t even figure out what the heck is going on! Logic goes out the window, and the hippie right brain takes over and screams “DUUUUDE! SOMETHING’S WRONG!!! You've killed the left brain! I'm all you have left! We have to stop, NOW! And don’t think I won’t make you puke to do it!” All you can think at that point is, “I don't want to do this anymore or ever again.” You can’t figure out that all you need is a little sugar. And all you want is to do is stop.

So when we got to Copper Mountain, we stopped. And I ate. And then, I was fine. We cruised on up to Vail Pass (10,560 feet) without any other issues. I was happy, level headed, and having fun again. Stupid right brain! All we needed was a gel! Stop overreacting! We aren’t going to freeze to death, and we certainly aren’t going to starve to death! (Does anyone else find it strange that the RIGHT side of our brain is the hippie? Genius. God is hilarious.).

This has gotten really long, so I won’t go into much detail about the last 25-30 miles other than to say that it is NOT all downhill like the deceitful map shows. And the map conveniently left off the headwind as well. In all, I only burned around 4500 calories over the 121 miles (that extra mile was from our parking spot to the start) and over 10,000 feet of climbing. Right at 7 and a half hours. Average speed: a smokin’ 16 mph.

My right brain wants to do it again next year. We still haven’t convinced the left side. He’ll come around though. He forgets things easily.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Off to Colorado

Tonight, Krisha and I (and John) fly out to Denver. We're staying with our wonderful friends Ryan and Gayle (and Austin and Wyatt). We haven't met Wyatt yet, so we're excited for that. And we haven't seen Austin since last fall, so that's just as exciting.
Friday, I'll be at CTS to get the new road bike fitted, and to do some training with Lindsay. Then on Saturday, the real purpose of the trip. The Triple Bypass! No, not open heart surgery. I can do that in Dallas. What I can't do in Dallas is ride a bike over the Continental Divide. I talked a little about it in my last post. The ride climbs more than 10,000 feet over three climbs and 120 miles. It starts in Evergreen, and ends just outside of Vail. For those of you who have made the drive from Denver to Vail, this ride is not as easy as taking I-70. I-70 was built so that you don't have to drive the route we'll be riding. I can't wait!
If you're keeping up with Le Tour right now, check out this article by Chris Carmichael, which compares the Tour to the Triple Bypass.
See you next week . . .

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stop all your whining!

Athletes are a whiny bunch. Most want perfect conditions all the time. Well, too bad. Especially for me. Because I live in Texas. Where it's windy and hot. Always. If you live and train here, don't be surprised when you go outside and your skin melts. It's Texas! I bet our Alaskan friends don't go outside in winter and say, "Holy crap, it's cold! And dark! I thought it was noon?" Of course it's cold and dark at noon in the winter! It's Alaska! But more on that later . . .

I had last Friday off for the 4th of July (hooray, America!). I like to take advantage of long weekends by getting in lots of good miles on the bike, even if it's only two weeks after an Ironman. Surprisingly, though, I was feeling quite recovered from the race, so I got up early on Friday and met some guys in Dallas for about a 60 mile ride. I felt pretty strong all morning, and was really impressed with how quickly I seemed to recover from the Ironman. Last year it took me two months to feel strong again. This year, two weeks (or so I thought)!

Our plans for Friday included celebrating the 4th (and another Ironman finish for Brian and me) at my parents' house, which is about 35 miles away. So Brian thought it would be fun to ride to their house. I agreed. I'm not sure what happened, but sometime between my morning ride and noon it got really, really hot. And humid. And windy. I know what you're thinking . . . "at least there was wind to help cool you off." Um, if you're thinking that, then you've never been here. The wind makes it hotter. Not to mention slower. If you want to understand how this feels, set up your trainer in a steam room, and then have someone blow a hair dryer in your face while you hammer away for about 2 hours. Needless to say, by the time I got to my parents, I was wasted. Regardless, it was 90 miles and a little less than 5 hours of riding, so that's still a pretty good day. Besides that, I hear Kona is fairly hot and humid as well so I might as well be prepared for that day, whenever it may come.

Which reminds me . . . Would everyone please stop whining about tough conditions and especially about difficult courses!?!? Triathlons are hard. All of them. Especially Ironmans. But even sprint distances with short pool swims are hard. If they aren't, then you aren't trying hard enough! Training is also hard. And if you aren't training in difficult conditions, then you aren't going to be ready for race day when it's hot, cold, sunny, rainy, windy, whatever. The last time I was in Boulder, Ryan and I got back to the Res after a long day of riding during an unseasonably windy day. As we were stretching, a guy came up who had just finished his run. He said he was a pro duathlete (admitted that he "can't" swim -- that's a topic for another post). He was supposed to run 15 miles or so that day, but it was "too windy" so he was calling it a day. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? Too windy? I'm an age grouper who works more than "full-time" as an attorney, and I was out there enjoying a great day of training. Here's a guy who's a supposed "professional" and he doesn't want to run because it's windy?! Really? I wonder why I've never heard of this guy? In the words of the great Steve Prefontaine, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Everyone that does this sport (especially those that do it for a living!) have been given a special gift. Don't sacrifice it because it's windy! Show me a pro who won't train when it's windy, and I'll show you a soon-to-be-age-grouper. And by the way, when you do become an age-grouper, don't expect to win in my division just because you're a former pro. I train in the wind! And the Texas heat.

Which reminds me . . . Saturday I realized that I'm not so recovered after all. All I had was a 50 minute run, but my legs felt like bricks. It was hot (of course), and I was slow. I (stupidly) did not take water with me (it's only 50 minutes . . .), so I lost 4 pounds in that short amount of time. I ran the last mile (which is pretty much all uphill) in 7:38. Pretty off-pace, but as tired as my legs were, and as dehydrated as I was, I actually expected it to be slower. Sunday was a little better. I did a 90 minute brick (60 on the bike followed by a 30 minute run). Felt good on the bike, and heavy/sluggish on the run (again). And yes, it was hot. But I'll get over it. And, most importantly, I worked hard and finished all of my workouts.

This weekend we're headed to Colorado for the Triple Bypass. 10,000 feet of climbing over 120 miles. Plus, it might be windy, cold at times, hot at others, and possibly rainy. All the ingredients for an epic day. Too bad my "professional" friend from Boulder will miss it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beware of Cyclists!

I rode my bike in to work yesterday. Yes, I still live in Rockwall/Heath (25 miles East of Dallas), which was the number one question from everyone that saw my bike at the office. And no, I can't really disagree with Bicycling Magazine that Dallas is the worst city in America for cycling (WHO'S NUMBER ONE!?!?!). But still, since they opened a new gym in my building downtown, I no longer had the "where would I shower" excuse. So I gave it a try. Long story short, I'll be doing it again. This gives me the opportunity to get in a couple of 40 mile rides during the week, and still be at my desk by 9:00. I can't wait! But here's the long story anyway . . .

I couldn't figure out how to safely get across Lake Ray Hubbard, so my lovely wife dropped me off at the Bass Pro Shop (Stop laughing! That wasn't supposed to be funny! I do live in Texas. On a lake. And actually she dropped me off on "Bass Pro Drive." Ok, that's a little bit funny.). The plan was to ride along the I-30 frontage road, then turn North on St. Francis, and take that up to White Rock Lake (yes, another lake. This one's smaller, though, and lots of people run or ride the trail that goes around it (about 10 miles), so I wasn't quite as out of place there as I was at the Bass Pro Shop). That part of the plan worked perfectly. It was safer than I expected it to be. In fact, I think it may be one of the safest routes I ride. Take that Bicycling Magazine!!

But then I got to White Rock Lake, and the "safety" of a biking trail. As soon as I got on the trail, a lady on a bike (I'm sure a very nice, courteous, sweet lady) checked for traffic from her right (I was coming from her left) and proceded to pull out in front of me nearly taking us both out. I had made it safely past Bubba's jacked up dually on Bass Pro Drive, SUV Mom putting on her makeup and racing to get to work on time, the alleged gunfire that occasionally breaks out in the areas South of White Rock Lake, and most importantly, those bike chasing dogs that have been known to take me down (and ruin a good pair of wheels!). But once I reached the safe haven of a bike trail, another cyclist almost takes me out. Gotta love irony. But hey, at least she's out there! Keep it up ma'am! But please, look both ways next time.

Once I got off the trail and back onto the busy city streets again, I didn't have any other issues. Other than getting lost (Thank God for Blackberries and Mapquest!). While trying to find my way, I came across two Dallas Policemen on mountain bikes, so I stopped them. "Good morning, Gentlemen! Can you tell me the safest way to get to downtown from here?" Their answer: "In a car." Touche, Bicycling Magazine. Touche.

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