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My Instagram post (which is the only paragraph caption I think I’ll ever write) basically sums up this race to the best of my ability — “Today I ran with no plan. After the summer off and only 2 months of training my goal was to make the ‪#‎tcsnycmarathon‬ as enjoyable as possible…and to have fun! I ran by feel, determination and some personal competition.  I stopped every time I felt like I needed to pee (3x) and filled my water bottle up at several stations.  The weather was perfect and the experience was unbeatable! I finished strong with an official time of 3:50:26 and I feel very lucky and inspired to have been able to run with ‪#‎teamCAF‬! *end paragraph*”

But if that’s not enough, here’s the full scoop:

The New York City Marathon is hard to describe. It’s something that should be on your bucket list one way or another (lottery, qualification or fundraising). The opportunity we had was unquantifiable. Jen and I fundraised and went as part of team CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation).

I was nervous about the late start (10am) because I am the type of person that wakes up, shoves a bar in my mouth, and heads out to line up for a race. I didn’t know how eating and pooping (to be completely honest) would work with such a lull in time. However, the delayed start also made the race seem like a long run without all of the anxiety and anticipation that comes when you have to wake up and immediately run.

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CAF partners with FDNY and subsequently NYPD, and as part of our team perks, we received SUPER VIP treatment. Race morning we were instructed to meet in front of Park Central Hotel at 6am for the special shuttles that would take us over to Staten Island. Because Jen and I registered so late, normally we would have had to take the ferry over. Luckily we didn’t have to deal with any potential seasickness and were able to travel by land. The bus left around 7am and we arrived to Staten Island around 8am. At this time we thought we would be placed in the Charity Village, however, we were dropped off at a completely separate area reserved exclusively for Team FDNY/NYPD with heated tents, food, coffee and porta-potties.

Here’s how my wake up/eating schedule went down:
5:15 wake-up
5:30 eat buttermilk biscuit with strawberry peach jam and drink cup of coffee
5:50 walk over to Park Central
6:45 get on shuttle
7:00 depart for Staten Island
7:45 wake up from brief shuttle nap and eat larabar
8:00 arrive to Staten Island
8:15 drink cup of coffee
8:30 eat first half of almond butter & strawberry peach jam sandwich on a mini brioche loaf
9:10 eat second half of sandwich

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The morning was warm for being New York in November. There was no wind (even compared to the day before) and I felt fine in my sexy Target throwaway sweats. I ended up wearing my race day outfit (tank, shorts and compression socks) layered with an old stained lululemon tech longsleeved top (to also be tossed), and sweatsuit, plus gloves if necessary.

Around 9:10am we left this staging area and walked towards where we would line up for our corrals. Even though my wave didn’t start until 10:15am, the wave 2 corrals opened at 9:15am and closed at 9:40am. I split up from the rest of the group as I headed towards blue start. I shed my sweatpants. Then slowly my other garments. I kept my gloves on just incase the bridge was exceptionally cold, and in that case at least my extremities would be warm and help make everything else feel ok.

The race is divided into 3 different colors — green, orange and blue. These 3 groups start in different areas, and merge together after mile 2. The difference is how the 3 groups run across the Verazzano Bridge. I was in blue and we crossed over the top. Jen was in green and ran underneath.

The first half mile I was seriously worried. My legs felt heavy and I was worried this was going to be the longest, slowest and most miserable race of my life. I was worried that, even though I tapered the week before, maybe I didn’t take it easy enough the week before (post half-marathon when I only took 1 day off from running).

After the Verazzano Bridge you enter Brooklyn from mile 2 to 12. I knew this going in and kind of just wanted to get out of Brooklyn ASAP because I knew it would take up a good portion of the race.  However, the crowds were robust and I found myself scanning the sidelines in the off chance I might recognize someone (haha).

It’s hard for me to write about the rest of the race because as much as I tried to pay attention, it now all seems like a blur. The second bridge, Pulaski Bridge brought us over to Queens where you spend miles 13 to 15 (I believe).

Mile 15 to 16 is supposed to be the hardest over Queensboro Bridge because it’s an incline and no crowds are allowed on the bridge.  However, I am weird and almost preferred running on the bridges, because it would knock out 1 to 2 mile sections at a time. For instance, I preferred the silence of Queensboro Bridge over First Avenue, even though First Ave was probably the most populated area next to Central Park. But I felt like it just went on and on and on into infinity.

After spending about 3.5 miles on First Ave, you cross Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx, where you’re in and out within a mile and a half. I knew mile 21 we would enter back into Manhattan via 138th Street Bridge. We passed by one side of Central Park on Fifth Ave and my goal was to just keep moving. This drag lasted from 21 to 25 before you round the corner onto Central Park South, around Columbus Circle and back into the park.

I stopped for the bathroom at 4, 10 and 20. I also stopped for water, and at first I would just grab the cups and drink them, but it worked out better for me to stop off to the side for a couple seconds and refill my bottle. Because honestly I didn’t care about my time. I was also worried stopping in the later miles would make it hard to get going again, but I ended up feeling so much better and refreshed after every stop. My goal was to get to mile 10, to get to mile 18, and to get to mile 20. At 23 I knew just a 5k more, and at 24 I was ready to be done but knew I could make it 2 more miles. I started picking up the pace, bobbing and weaving and just flying by everyone. It felt pretty empowering and exhilarating!

I have read a good number of recaps that consider the bridges hills, but honestly, I can’t really remember any of them being “hills.”  They were more like ascents followed by descents (on which I told myself to stretch my legs out).  It’s not necessarily a hard course, just hard in terms of humanity and obstacles (water cups, banana peels, sticky gus, etc.) Because there were ALWAYS people. I would look ahead and think that it would come to a complete gridlock. But it also gave me chills and motivation to know that there were that many people running the race and “I CAN DO THIS TOO!”

I ran based on feel, but after running M2B significantly faster, I knew my threshold. The last two miles I really pumped it, dropping my pace down to 7:44, 7:38 and 7:23 for my last half mile. I’m glad we walked/ran the finish line area before because the finish line was kind of inconspicuous and I knew to expect that the downhill in Central Park would be followed by a subtle incline to the finish line (which I literally picked up my feet and felt like I was climbing with large strides).

After the finish line, rather than having to walk to 77th Street (where people who opted for ponchos got to exit) or 81st Street where the rest of humanity got to exit, we got to exit with team FDNY/NYPD at 69th Street. Afraid I was going to miss my exit, I asked the first policeman I encountered, and he told me I had 2 more blocks to go up, and that I still needed to get my medal. Oh yeah! That thing!

I grabbed my recovery bag and headed out. My question for everyone was “how do I get out of here?” I also walked past Marcus Samuelsson (from the Food Network) who I didn’t recognize or realize at the time besides the fact that his bib said “MARCUS” and I remembered seeing a sign during the race that said “Go Chef Marcus S” (I just assumed it was a local chef). Later, cross-checking on Instagram I confirmed it was him.

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I headed towards the family reunion section “A” where I thought I was going to meet Jen’s daughter, Tyler. I was walking along with the walking dead until I got really tired of walking so slow. And being an annoying and crazy maniac I started to power walk and weave around everyone. I think this helped to keep the blood flowing in my legs… I mean I just ran 26.2 miles…I have no patience!! 😛 When I got to “A” it was around 2:11 and I projected that I would get there around 2:15. But I didn’t see Tyler and couldn’t remember if I was just supposed to meet her back at the hotel. So I kept moving and followed the crowd out of the family reunion section until I realized that it was heading back into Central Park and towards the race. Not seeing an exit that way, I found the next policeman (again, full of so many questions!!) and said “I just need to get to 54W St, how do I get out of here?” She looked at my bib and said, right this way, and let me walk through the center of Columbus Circle that was blocked off to all traffic and everyone else!!!! It was insane.

This race was FILLED with inspiration. I don’t think at any time I wasn’t surrounded by someone from a different country. There were people from Achilles running with guides which provided additional inspiration. It was a great way to experience the entire city of New York, and to see all of the boroughs, especially for my first time. It ended up making the run feel just like a long exploration of the city!

My official time was 3:50:26, but I stopped my watch every time I stopped for a bathroom, so my watch recorded 3:47:49.

All in all it was a great experience and I feel so fortunate to have been able to run the NYC Marathon!

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Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (3:47:49):
1 – 8:46
2 – 8:06
3 – 8:27
4 – 8:28
5 – 8:27
6 – 8:35
7 – 8:32
8 – 8:41
9 – 8:53
10 – 8:37
11 – 8:42
12 – 8:40
13 – 8:58
14 – 8:45
15 – 8:46
16 – 9:57
17 – 8:40
18 – 8:36
19 – 8:47
20 – 8:44
21 – 8:54
22 – 8:30
23 – 8:39
24 – 8:39
25 – 7:44
26 – 7:38
Last .46 –3:23

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Gahhh how is this race already here?! Seriously, it feels like I just committed to run this (probably because I just did…less than 50 days ago).

Since I just recently put together a playlist for NWMSF, I decided to do some minor updates and add some additional songs.  I also messed around with my music a lot in SF, so I’ll be taking out some of the songs I skipped, and adding multiples (maybe obnoxiously so) of some of the songs I went back to play again and again times.  M2B was a pretty solid marathon playlist so I incorporated a lot of those songs too.

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Here’s what I’m wearing for Sunday’s race…

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Lululemon Power Y Tank
Hoka One One Huaka
Stance Dreadmill OTC
Body Glide
–Ipod shuffle
Garmin 620 Forerunner
-Probar chews
Gu: Espresso Love, Salted Caramel, Caramel Macchiato & Chocolate Peanut Butter
Amphipod Profile Lite
–Lululemon Turbo Run Shorts

Plus a little lesson on flat lays (or flatlines like Jen likes to call it 😉 )

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1. When you’re mocking your “Millenial” friend 😛

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2.When you lay everything out in the right placement, exactly as worn (“organic” as I call it)

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3. And what you’re really wearing…ugly throwaway gear and all hahahah

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This was my third year running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, my first half marathon of the year and my 18th half marathon overall.

All of the Finish Line girls (me, Andy, Evann and Angela) stayed at the Hilton located on O’Farrell St. so we were a little over a block away from Union Square. I had set alarms for 5:00, 5:10 and 5:15 and finally got out of bed around 5:30 (actually I just sat in bed and ate my larabar and banana breakfast). By 6:00 I was finally dressed, and by 6:15 Fit Andy and I headed out the door. We arrived to the start of the race around 6:23, with about 7 minutes to spare. Andy and I were seated in the first wave, however, the entry to our area was for both the 7-7:59 and 8-8:59 waves which made lining up a little bit hectic.

With the sound of the first alarm, we were off! However, we spent the first 2 miles bobbing and weaving through the crowds. We were off to a slow start and even had to walk a few steps within the first tenth of a mile because it was so congested.

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One of the eerie things about this race is running in the dark for around 50 minutes.  By the time we entered Golden Gate Park (around mile 4/5) it was starting to get lighter. If you followed the @finishlineusa Snapchat account, you would have seen that I tried to take a picture of the waterfall. But because I was running (and the fact I hadn’t mastered the art of taking pics while running yet — something I finally got the hang of around mile 8/9) it was blurry 😛

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We entered the Richmond District around mile 8, which had a fairly steep hill lined by typical SF style homes. But the sky was so pretty with a flurry of pinks and blues, and clouds resting on the horizon.

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Around mile 9 we reached the Presidio, and somewhere around here I lost Andy.  At mile 10 we were faced with the biggest and longest hill of the race.  This hill lasts around 1/2 a mile to 3/4 of a mile. However, at this point I felt like I began to experience a runner’s high. I started to get chills from the excitement, the breeze and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The one thing I couldn’t wait for was the downhill. At one point I looked down at my watch and I was running sub 6….I remembered that last year I felt like I should have excelled during this part of the race, but had issues with my knee. Unlike last year, I didn’t run a marathon the week before and felt fairly energized through this part of the race. I paid extra attention to my form, and just kind of let my legs roll. It helped to pick up speed during the downhill and return to a normal stride that ended up being faster than normal pace just because of the momentum of the downhill.

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I think one of my specialities is pacing myself and leaving some reserves in the tank. For the last 2 miles I felt like I killed it. These miles felt effortless and like I had so much left in the tank to sustain a fast and exerted effort. It was so much fun to run pass people that were trudging through the last couple of miles. Usually I feel like I’m really forcing the pace, but this time I felt smooth and mentally strong knowing that I could do and hold anything/pace for ~1 mile.

One of the most deceptive parts of this race is the finish line. You can’t really see it as you’re approaching the end. It’s a straightaway followed by a left turn and a right turn immediately into the finish line. This was something I learned from running the course last year.

I would summarize the course as a mix of street and greenery, with an equal number of hills to downhills.  The scenery is always changing which makes the course seem to fly by quickly. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first-timers course (unless you’re properly trained for it), but it seems to be a favorite amongst all walks of runners.

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Andy and I did not set any goals for ourselves. Our plan was to just have fun and run by feeling. I knew I wanted to run around a 1:45ish safely, and I ended up just doing that.
Towards the end of the race I thought I saw a 1:39 pacer (don’t know why this pacer would exist) but it was actually 1:50. I think my mind was just playing games, mixed with a little bit of wishful thinking.

Although not a PR, I ended up getting a course PR for this Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:44:25):
1 – 8:50
2 – 8:32
3 – 8:17
4 – 7:54
5 – 7:54
6 – 7:33
7 – 7:38
8 – 8:03
9 – 8:06
10 – 7:42
11 – 8:06
12 – 7:00
13 – 7:06
Last .28 – 1:37

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Thanks again to Finish Line for the opportunity to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in SF! #FNLrunsSF!!!

See last year’s recap // See 2013 recap

Here’s my playlist for this weekend’s race.  I’m pretty sure 85% of it consists of Big Gigantic (thanks to Kendanimall and KAABOO when we saw them live).  The rest is kind of electronic/EDM…just the stuff with the higher BPM to keep cadence, rhythm and pace up up up.

What’s your favorite new song to listen to while you run?

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Last week I received the news….”regrettably, we are unable to accept your application…”

And while my goal (since I qualified) was to run Boston, I feel like I always had a tinge of doubt that my time would be fast enough to make it. 3:34:32 — what a bittersweet time.

When I set out to run Mountains 2 Beach earlier this spring, I had no idea I had anything close inside of me to qualify for Boston. My goal was to run a good time, with the subset of qualifying for Boston as result of that.

Secretly I wished there would be a general decline in racing. With marathons that used to rely on the lottery system accepting all registrations, I hoped there would be an overall lack of interest in racing anymore.

However, after reading the Runner’s World article before I even entered my registration, I knew I would probably be at least 30 seconds to a minute short. Come to find out, I was exactly 2 minutes, with BAA accepting applications up to 3:32:32 for my gender and age group.

Although I wish I could be running Boston with Kate and the rest of my club that qualified, I’m not bummed.

All I can say is: M2B round 2.

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I seriously cannot believe how fast this year has flown by. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago a few of the Finish Line Women (me, Fit Andy, Evann and Angela) found out we’d be running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. In reality, it was around June, and I felt like I had all the time in the world to get back on the training wagon. And while I’ve still been running (around 15-20 miles a week), ideally I’d like to (at the very least) get back into consistent 20-30 mile weeks.

Even with my best intentions of sticking to a plan, lately I have been “the worst.”  So I’m going to put it out in public… here is my training plan and goals for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on October 18th!

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Training Plan —
Mon – PM run
Tues – PM run
Wed – PM Yoga Sculpt
Thurs – AM run + AM Yoga Sculpt
Fri – Rest or AM Yoga Sculpt
Sat – Long run
Sun – Rest

Goals —
A goal – Overall PR, sub 1:40
B goal – Course PR ~1:45
C goal – Finish strong in the 1:40-1:50 range.

This will be my first half marathon of the year (yikes! when did I stop racing?!). With this increase in running activity, stay tuned for more running focused posts! (yes this might actually return in a “health and fitness” blog 😛 )

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Thanks to Finish Line for the opportunity to run this race again, as well as Nike and GoPro for hooking it up FAT!!  Stay tuned, hopefully I can share some training runs captured on my new GoPro Hero4 Session!

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"Mountain 2 Beach Marathon"

Mountains 2 Beach (M2B) is a full, half and 5k race. I ran the marathon, which starts in Ojai and finishes in Ventura. It is also known as the third fastest qualifying race for Boston.  I had the most ideal situation in terms of where we stayed and getting to the race. Jen, her friend (Wendy), and I stayed in a VRBO (vacation rental by owner) 1/2 a mile away from the start. I’m pretty sure I had one the latest wake-up calls of anyone running the marathon (a majority of people stayed in Ventura and had to shuttle at either 4am or 5am). With a 6am race start, I woke up at 4:45, ate my banana and almond butter, made a cup of tea (because I was so cold!) and left the house around 5:40am. I did a light jog to the starting line, and got there about 8 minutes before the race began. I shed my throwaway gear right before I got to the race (it was a lot warmer than I anticipated). I ended up entering from the front of the line and stopping right behind the first wave.

To BQ (3:35) I would need to run an 8:12 pace, so my goal pace was anywhere between 8:10 and 8:15. I didn’t know if this was actually possible, but I decided to trust my coach and give it a try. Even if I blew up, I would know where to go from there the next time.

The first mile of M2B is an out and back. My race plan was to go out 10 seconds slower than goal pace, but to average around an 8:10-8:15 pace between the first 2 miles. I think this was very crucial. It set the tone for the entire race as disciplined and not faltering towards other people’s paces.

At mile 2.5 the race moves to the bike path, which also signifies the start of the downhill. My goal was to run this section (2.5 to mile 5) 10 seconds ahead of race pace.

The only issue I ran into was at the beginning of the path when everyone was so crowded. Then there were poles at each intersection where the path stopped and started but everyone worked together to notify each other. There were also large mile markers that kind of protruded into the path. Lastly, there was a water station in the early miles that kind of clogged everyone up. I was kind of worried that I would get bogged down and a trapped, forced to run one (slower) pace whether I liked it or not.

Around mile 3.5 “the loop” starts, and you run in a big circle until you exit around mile 8.5. However, during this loop you encounter a gradual uphill portion from mile 5 to 6.5 with one more significant hill towards the end (just for that kick :-P). I was to run this 20 seconds slower than goal pace. I just made sure that my watch didn’t show any slower than 8:30-8:40 through this section.

From mile 6.5 to 8 the course flattens out, and I supposed was to run even splits — somewhere around 8:10-8:15. I kept popping in and out with the 3:38 pacer. However, I felt like I couldn’t look at any of my surroundings, I could only focus my gaze on the person’s legs in front of me. When I would try to look up and out, I would get dizzy from so much going on.

From 8-11.6, you encounter the bike path again, signifying the start of the downhill section. It’s a very slight negative grade, with subtle rolling hills. Our coach advised us to not get too aggressive, but to be more reserved and run 3-5 seconds faster than our goal pace.

Miles 11.6 to 21 provides a 10 mile section of downhill, where we were allowed to go 12 seconds faster than pace where our legs felt good. I kept this in mind, trying to stay around pace or slightly faster (but nothing faster than a 7:55 pace).

At this point I moved in front of the 3:38 pacer, but not for long. Around mile 12.5 I did what I wasn’t supposed to and stopped to go to the bathroom (oops). However, I knew that if I didn’t go, it would be the only thing I could think of, and my bladder would bother me the whole time. I knew I would run faster even if I sacrificed 30 seconds.

After the bathroom I kind of dropped my pace to catch back up with the 3:38 pacer (yea like 7:30-7:45 on the watch). I tried to keep it reigned in because I knew eventually at some point I would meet up with them again. Eventually I did, and at some point I weaseled my way in front of them.

However, around mile 18 my morale was starting to get low and I was just getting bored. Luckily, the 3:38 pacer came up behind me, and I tucked back into their group. I invisioned other people in the group towing me and it helped me mentally to have someone take the lead at this point.

The pacer advised us that if we were trying to qualify for Boston, not to pass her until we reached mile 22.  My goal was to get to 21 and then to adjust my goals depending on how I felt. My coach gave us instructions to 21-22 at goal pace or 10 seconds slower, depending on how we felt. The best advice I took from this was just to take it mile by mile, and that’s exactly how I ended up approaching it.

Mile 22 we popped down onto the boardwalk. This was refreshing until we hit the last out and back portion (~24-26) which felt soooo long and brutal.  It seemed like we would never turn to make it back to the finish line. Eventually we did, with about 1.5 miles to go. However, after you came out from the Ventura pier, there was still half a mile to go. It seemed like it was soooo far away because you could see the finish line but it didn’t seem like it was getting any closer.

My mantra was – you can do anything for a mile and a half. You can do anything for a mile. You can do anything for half a mile.

I didn’t realize how close to 3:35 I was cutting it. At the end I felt like I was going to puke, but I just put my head down and tried to focus on moving my legs quickly and getting the damn thing done!

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (3:34:32):

1 – 8:14
2 – 8:10
3 – 8:09
4 – 8:08
5 – 8:07
6 – 8:33
7 – 8:22
8 – 8:14
9 – 8:09
10 – 8:10
11 – 8:17
12 – 8:00
13 – 8:11
14 – 7:59
15 – 8:08
16 – 8:03
17 – 7:58
18 – 8:08
19 – 8:06
20 – 8:13
21 – 8:10
22 – 8:12
23 – 8:11
24 – 8:10
25 – 8:08
26 – 8:08
Last .29 –2:03

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I would HIGHLY recommend this race to anyone looking to qualify for Boston or to have a really great race. Whether it was the course or just everything panning out for this specific day, I had an amazing run. The biggest pressure for me was not qualifying for Boston, but to do my best and perform well. I liken the marathon to being a final exam, where you worked hard for 5.5 months, and you don’t want it all to go to waste.  This race definitely did not and my running club (Seaside Striders) pulled out with 7 PR’s, 6 BQ’s and 2 people under 3:20! All-in-all it was a great day at M2B!

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Slowly but surely sharing all my M2B stuff.  I had more songs on this playlist (over 4 hours worth), but edited this to match what I ended up listening to.  I finished this list and then restarted it again at “Lean On.”  See the full playlist here.

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