Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 2017 Recap – Part 1

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Every year, I look forward to Marathon Weekend! It’s practically a holiday in my house, like Christmas, and this was the fifth year I have taken part in the festivities as a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador. Simply put, being an Ambassador is freaking awesome, and I am beyond grateful for the experience.

The weekend kicked off with the VIP Reception at the Arcade on Friday night after a quick stop at the Expo to pick up packets for Saturday and Sunday’s races. I was happy that although we were there only a short time, I had a chance to swing by Jill and Brian’s booth where they were promoting their books. Yes, everyone, I have not one but TWO Ambassador friends who are badass authors! How sweet is that? You should check them out!

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As Ambassadors, we are used to seeing one another in various forms of running/athletic clothing, but damn, do we clean up nicely when the occasions arise!

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CHEESE!

Plus, Dan and I get a chance to get all fancy for a night. We don’t have an opportunity to do this often.

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The food, beverages, and desserts (especially the desserts) were fantastic, but being able to visit with my friends was so much better. We are not just Ambassadors for the Cleveland Marathon; we are a running family. AND families like to celebrate together, so it was extremely fitting Melissa’s boyfriend Chad proposed to her on the steps of the Arcade at the reception with all of us around! It was beautiful, and if anyone deserves to be happy, it’s that girl! She is thoughtful and caring and one of the nicest people I know. I cried it was so wonderful! It was also a special night for Jack Staph, Executive Director for the Marathon and a man who has my utmost respect, as he was given an award by the City of Cleveland that night. Congrats, Jack and Melissa! It was a big night for you and well deserved!

Saturday morning was my first race of the weekend. I use the term loosely because I don’t really race it. I’ve managed to sucker encourage my family into walking the 8K with me as part of the Challenge Series. My parents have been good sports over the years, and my sister Sarah was added to the mix this year. I met them that morning at Public Square, and since Debi was participating in the 8K too, she became an honorary family member that day. I though the plan would be for us all to walk together, but my dad told me he had different plans. See, he had a goal in mind for the 8K, and it involved running! No complaints here! We made our way to the corrals, chatted and posed for pics with my awesome Ambassador peeps, and were ready to race. I will let you know that until you line up at the start with my dad, you will never have any idea how freaking hilarious he can be. Trust me, just try it.

The gun went off, and Dad and I were running through the streets of CLE! Legit running for the first half mile! I was super proud of him.

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mid-run selfie was required

We walked for a little bit, ran for a little bit, and talked the whole time. I really loved having this experience with my dad because we don’t get as much time together as I would like. We were making really good time as the miles clicked by. I could tell he was getting a little tired, but he kept going. And let me tell you, when we were running, Dad was fast! Like mid-8:00 pace fast, and the guy never freaking runs! As we made our way back toward Public Square, we heard the drum of John Adams and kicked it in gear. We crossed the finish line in 1:00:19! I was beaming, but I know Dad was a little bummed. He really wanted to finish under an hour, but goodness sake, it was a great run! Not too many people can say they are able to finish an 8K (albeit a little short) in an hour, especially if they have not trained for the event. Way to go, Dad!

After we finished and grabbed some goodies, we went back to the finish line to watch Mom, Sarah, and Debi but not before I had a chance to introduce my dad to some of the great CLE Marathon staff who have become my friends over the years. Some awesome people right there! Shortly after we made it to the finish line, we saw the crew power walking their hearts out and cheered! They finished a lot quicker than we expected and were proud of them for completing the course.

After a little finish celebration and pictures, the fam and I went to the Expo for a bit. After they left, I chatted it up with Ryan and Jess (two of my favorite and most-respected runners), shopped the vendors, visited Brian and Jill again, and went back to the room to crash for a bit until Dan was back from work. I knew Sunday was a big day, and I needed all the rest I could get for the marathon. Little did I know it would be bigger than I expected. More of that in Part 2!

10 tips for 10 days

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Race day for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is almost here! We are 10 days out, so it seemed appropriate to share 10 tips for the next 10 days.

  1. Pack for any and all weather scenarios! We all saw what happened last year – ice, snow, rain, sleet, thunder, wind. And the year before that turned out to be crazy hot and humid. This is spring in Cleveland, and you don’t know one day to the next how the weather will behave. Do yourself a favor and plan for anything, so you’re not rushing to the store trying to buy clothes to accommodate.
  2. Don’t try anything new on race day. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothing, shoes, food, race fuel; just don’t do it! One year, I made the rookie mistake of wearing my new compression socks I had never raced in because I heard that were great for running. After one of the worst race experiences (not entirely from the socks but they certainly didn’t help matters), I swore I wouldn’t do it again. Although it’s enticing to want to try the goodies you bought at the Expo or things that just shipped from Amazon, save yourself the trouble and race how you trained.
  3. Check out this year’s race course maps. It’s important to know where you will be running, as well as elevation changes, water stops, gel steps, first aid stations, and bathrooms. Also, the Shore way is out, and the new finish at the renovated Public Square is in! For those running the 5K and 8K, it’s no longer at Edgewater Park but downtown like the rest of the events. Like me, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the changes.
  4. If you’re looking for an easy carb-loading solution for Saturday night, try the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Pasta Dinner! The dinner will be held May 20 from 6:00-8:00PM at the Hyatt Regency in the Arcade. Tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for children, and it’s an all-you-can-eat dinner with salads, various pastas, rolls, beverages, and desserts.
  5. Know the packet pick-up times at the Expo. If you’re running the 5K or 8K, you can pick up your packet on Friday, May 19 anytime between 11:00AM and 7:00PM, and there is race-day pick-up option on Saturday beginning at 6:30AM. Running the 10K, half, or full? You can pick up on Friday or anytime on Saturday, May 20 between 10:00AM and 6:00PM. There is no race-day pick-up for Sunday’s races. Make sure you bring your ID, and if you can’t pick up your own packets, someone can do it for you as long as they have a picture of your ID.
  6. If you’re gunning for a goal time in the half or full, consider running with the Pace Teams! Pace teams are there for motivation and to help you meet your goal. Why not take advantage of them?! I used it last year to help me get my first sub-4:00 marathon and plan on starting with the Pace Team again. Pace Team members carry a sign to make them visible along the course, so you can’t miss them. There’s a whole slew of them for various times ranging from a 3:00 marathon to a 5:25 marathon. For the half, pace times range from 1:30 to 3:00.
  7. If you’re spectating, get a plan together. On the Marathon’s website, they list the best spots to watch the race and list the neighborhood parties. Plan where you need to be to help motivate your runner when he/she needs it most. Seeing your smiling face may be the best part of the race!
  8. Know the official energy gel and sports drink sponsors. If you’re like me, you can only use certain gels, or your stomach officially hates you during the run. Know what will be provided along the course to help you prepare. This year, the official energy gel is Honey Stinger (can I get an AMEN!?), and the official sports drink is PowerAde. Gels will be available at mile 8 and before mile 19. As for hydration, there are 18 stops along the marathon course, 8 for the half, and 3 for the 10K. Each will have water and PowerAde.
  9. Get your race morning schedule together. If you’re staying downtown, this should be easier, but if you’re traveling into Cleveland on the day of the race, pay attention to which roads will be closed and when. If you’re running Saturday, plan to be in Cleveland by 7:00AM at the latest, as the races start at 8:00AM. On Sunday, get into the city before 6:00AM because that is when roads start closing. Sunday’s races start at 7:00AM.
  10. Prepare to party your butt off and celebrate your accomplishment! Join runners and spectators at the Great Lakes Brewing Company 26.3 Mile Finish Line Rock Party at Public Square that features live music, food and beverages, and a beer garden for those 21 and over (ID required). It’s open to the public, so everyone can enjoy it.

Soooooo, good luck, enjoy these last 10 day, and get ready to run CLE!

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that’s a wrap

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On Saturday, I wrapped up my Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon training cycle with 22.5 glorious miles on the treadmill at Planet Fitness in Lorain, and all things considered, it felt pretty damn good! I made sure I dialed back the pace and just cruised. I get asked a lot how I keep myself engaged and sane on the treadmill. Thankfully, I am able to read magazines while I run, so now, I am well-versed in spring fashion, workout tips, and Hollywood gossip. I’ll watch a little TV, people-watch around the gym, and reward myself with music for the last 5 or so miles. I also “compete” with other runners on the treadmills next to me (sorry, not sorry), so that keeps it fun. I had someone pay me an awesome compliment when I finished the first 10 miles and needed a water bottle refill – “You run the shit out of that machine!” Why, thank you, sir, and yes, I do.

The run certainly wasn’t easy, but I walked out of there feeling strong and accomplished. Do I feel 100% ready for Cleveland in 2 weeks? I’d say I’m feeling 85-90% confident that I will run a “good” race. I don’t feel I trained as well as I should have this year with everything else going on in our crazy, busy lives, but I know it was well enough to not totally fall apart on the course. I’m expecting it to hurt, but the feeling of crossing the finish line for my 7th marathon/5th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon will be so rewarding!

Another thing I always look forward to near the end of the training cycle is the Ambassador Meet-up, which was held at the tail-end of April. It had been a long time since I saw some of my ambassador friends, and seeing them was like a jolt in the arm and just what I needed to carry me through the end of training. They are supportive and motivating, and we’ve come to build this little running family. Basically, they make my heart smile, and I can’t wait to take the streets of CLE with them! 13 DAYS!!!!!!

20 mile drop race recap

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A little over a week ago on April 23, I ran the Lake Health Running Series 20 Mile Drop. I freaking love this race for a few reasons.

1. It’s the perfect training run for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and it’s not that expensive of a race at all. Even with signing up later, it was $65 with a discount code.

2. It’s challenging! Don’t let the Drop part of the name fool you; the course has some hills and elevation changes to keep your legs guessing.

3. And last but most certainly not least, this race goes through my hometown neighborhood in Painesville, so my family is able to cheer me on right near their house. I also get all nostalgic running through my hometown.

Race day conditions were sooooo much better than last year when Mother Nature dropped a snowstorm the day before the race and graced us with bone-chilling temps. I got my usual escort to the starting line (Thanks, Dad! You’re awesome!), made one last bathroom stop, and walked to the start. I was happy when I saw a few peeps I knew (what’s up, Rachel and Sara?!) and chatted for just a bit before we were off and running.

The plan I told everyone was this would just be a training run for CLE, and I wasn’t going to push the pace. That in fact is a lie; I just didn’t want to hear the bitching. I wanted to see how well I could do this year with running it well last year (2:53 and change). The first mile was done before I knew it, but it was too fast to be sustainable (just a hair over 8:00). Time to back off because I still had 19 miles to go. Around miles 1.5-2.5, there was a significant climb, but thankfully, I didn’t feel tired or winded after. This shocked me because I keep feeling as though I was not as well training or running as well as I did last year. Small victory, even though it was early in the race.

Around mile 4ish, I hung with a group of three ladies and chatted a bit. It’s always nice to have someone to talk with during these long runs because it breaks the mile monotony. The one lady and I pressed ahead, and she was pretty awesome. I didn’t catch her name, but she was a 40-something, elementary school gym teacher in Kirtland. And she was killing it! For the next 4 or so miles, we hung together and talked. I wasn’t paying attention to my watch, but when I finally did, I told her to leave me in the dust because I was way under my planned pace and didn’t want to burn out halfway through the race.

Miles 10-14 were a blur because I started to get really antsy. I knew my parents would be waiting for me around mile 14, and I was just like, “Holy crap, just get there already!” When I came out of the bike path into the neighborhood, my mom and dad were there smiling and cheering me on. I was starting to feel a little fatigued at this point, so it boosted my spirits. The best part of the whole race happened when my dad, who is not a runner, hopped in to run with me. All the feels!

Although I felt myself getting tired after mile 15, I kept moving forward, and my pace was great and consistent. This changed as soon as I hit the damn flag for mile 17. Muscle cramps in both calves and a cramp in my left foot stopped me in my tracks. I had to stop and stretch, walk, and then get back to running. This would be the recurring theme for the last three miles, and I know I stopped at least 5 times. I felt defeated and wanted to cry, but I told myself I better get my shit together and finish this race. My parents got to see me in this sad state when I hit mile 18, and after talking with them after the race, they said they wanted to stop and help me.

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pain train at mile 18

I was so happy when I reached mile 19 knowing I was so close to that finish line. I wanted to be able to run the entire last mile, but I had to stretch out one last cramp around 19.5. One-half mile to go! You can do this! When I hit the last turn, I regained focus and made my way through the muddy grass to the finish. 2:56:34. It wasn’t the race I necessarily wanted being that it was 3 minutes slower than last year, but I know I spent more than 3 minutes taking care of my legs on the course. All things considered, I did pretty damn well, and it was good enough for second place in my age group! WOOHOO! I could get used to this placing thing. Thanks, Lake Health Running Series, for yet another great year. I’m already looking forward to 2018!

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“It’s a major award!”

 

Team Lesco is T1D Strong!

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On May 21 while I’m running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, my family in Seattle will be completing a special race in honor of my sister-in-law, Tracy. A little over a year ago, Tracy was in the ICU trying to wrap her head around her diagnosis – type 1 diabetes (T1D). Prior to this, she was healthy, ate well, exercised, and had no indication that her body was sabotaging itself. There is no cure for T1D. It’s not like type 2 diabetes we hear so much about that can be cured with diet and exercise. The pancreas stops producing insulin, which is required to turn food into energy, and blood sugar levels must constantly be monitored and insulin given to live. Although devastated, Tracy persisted. She adapted to the new normal and became an advocate for diabetes management and research. In less than a years’ time, she went from hospital bed to totally kicking ass at the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Arizona in January and setting a PR. We were all so proud of her, and she is definitely T1D Strong! I also had the pleasure of completing the FroYo Run with Steve and her in July 2016 and the Seahawks 12K earlier this month. The difference was night and day, and I had trouble keeping up with her this time on the rolling hills.

Tracy, my brother Steve, and many of her family members will take to the streets of Seattle for the Nordstrom Beat the Bridge, which raises funds to cure, prevent, and better treat T1D. Unfortunately, I am unable to join them, but I’m running my marathon and wearing purple in honor and support of my amazing sister. A race takes on a new meaning when you run with a purpose, and I am proud to be a member of Team Lesco.

If you feel inclined to help our family and others throughout the nation, I encourage you to donate to Team Lesco. We are raising money for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), so one day, they can help find a cure for T1D. The goal is for type 1 to be type none! Here’s the team link: http://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR/Walk/JDRFNorthwestChapter4700?team_id=230175&pg=team&fr_id=6468

the mountains are calling

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Lately, I have been mentally and physically drained, so I was really looking forward to my vacation in Washington to visit my brother and sister-in-law. After a flight snafu (I hate you, Spirit Airlines!), I made it to Seattle on April 7. On top of seeing my family, there were three things I wanted to do while there – baseball, craft beer, and running. Happy to say I nailed all three.

I consider myself to be a pretty in-shape runner, especially around home, but throw in some elevation and hills with a sprinkle of trails, and I’m an amateur at best. But that’s okay. I needed running to feel fun again instead of a chore, and it certainly was.

My SIL Tracy is a runner, having just set a half marathon PR in Arizona a few weeks back, and my brother Steve has the uncanny ability to transform into a runner when the mood strikes, like during a visit from me. He and I kicked off my first morning there with 4 miles around their neighborhood. Our pace was nothing like I am used to at home, but I felt accomplished with the elevation changes and the fact I wasn’t sucking wind like I would during previous visits. They live in the mountains about 25 minutes outside of Seattle, and the last time I was there and ran, I couldn’t even go 2 miles without stopping.

Next up was the Seahawks 12K! Tracy and I were already signed up, and on a whim, Steve did, too. This would be his longest race to date. The weather gods were smiling on us that Sunday because although it was crisp, the sun was shining, something they haven’t seen in a while in Seattle. This race was the most fun I’ve had running in I don’t even know how long! We weren’t worried about pace. The crowd and overall atmosphere of the run was entertaining. The views were freaking gorgeous, as the course took us along Lake Washington and around the Seahawks training facility. I’m pretty sure I smiled the entire time! And we didn’t run a shabby race either – 7.65 miles in 1:11:09 according to my watch.

My plan while there was to get in my long-overdue long run. You know what? It didn’t happen, but that’s completely okay. The trail run Steve and I had on Tuesday was much more rewarding and enjoyable than any long run on the pavement would have been. We drove to the area where Tracy and he lived when they first moved to Washington and ran the Redmond Watershed Preserve. The scenery was beautiful and peaceful, and the trails weren’t completely killer. We clipped through the woods for 6 miles, and I loved every minute. Plus, running on the trails, even though they were considered easy, made me feel kinda badass.

So that’s the running, but what about the baseball and craft beer? I have been wanting to go to a Mariners’ game since I first visited, and we had the opportunity to go to the home opener on Monday, April 10. And they pulled off a win!!! It was a great experience and made me think of all of the times we had with my dad going to Opening Day at the old Cleveland Stadium. Sweet nostalgia.

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And craft beer. Lots of it. We stopped in at least half a dozen breweries to grab a flight and did a little shopping at the beverage stores, which made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Stouts, porters, IPAs, red ales, pale ales, barrel-aged goodies, even a few barleywines, we tried a lot. I think part of my liver is still in Snoqualmie.

Thank you, Steve and Tracy, for a much-needed vacation. Love you both and can’t wait to see you again!

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my cle marathon history

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If you’re like me and counting down the weeks until we run CLE, you’ll know that we are just about 7 weeks from the big day! The time is flying by, and race day will be here before we know it. At least we are finally moving from winter to spring and getting some nice weather for outdoor training. I’m pretty much over the treadmill.

Over the last two or so weeks, I started thinking about my experience with the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. It goes deeper than the 5 years I have been an ambassador. Here’s a little Cleveland Marathon by the numbers.

2009: This was the first year I participated in a RACM event. I was fresh into running, having just started in February, and wanted to dip my toes into something besides a 5K. A friend at the time was running the half, so I tagged along with her to run the 10K. I felt nervous and out of place around all of these people who looked like “real runners.” That feeling went away quickly after I started running and kept receiving words of encouragement from the participants and crowd alike. I crossed the finish line in 1:02:08. This race lit a fire under my butt to run longer.

2010: To date, this is the only year I have not participated in some fashion. Personal life got in the way, and I actually took a break from running.

2011: My very first half marathon, a running milestone! This was also one of the first races where I felt confident in my training. I was by no means fast, but I was consistent and ready. I had a feeling of euphoria when I hit the 11.5 mile mark with not having run anything farther than that before. It was like venturing into uncharted territory. My legs felt great, I wasn’t tired, and I didn’t have to walk. The only thing that took away from my happiness was a dreaded bathroom break around mile 12. I should have known this was a foreshadowing of things to come in CLE. Finish time – 2:17:45

2012: This was the year I ran my very first Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon! (I completed my first marathon in Honolulu in December 2011) I won a free race entry from Jessica McCartney, and I thought, “What the hell?!” With a free entry I might as well go big. I had some IT band and knee issues during training that set me back a bit, but I felt like I was up for the challenge of 26.2 miles. Unfortunately, my stomach had other plans. Everything felt pretty good aside from the warm weather, but once I hit the half split, I was a hot mess. I can honestly say I hit up every single port-o-potty from the halfway point to the finish and made my way through the miles with a run-walk combination. Each step was a struggle, and I cried when I hit the finish line, thankful to be done. That was 5:22:22 on the pain train.

2013: I couldn’t let my absolutely awful race in 2012 break me, and I wanted redemption in 2013. This was also my first year as a RACM ambassador (official blogger back then), so I joyfully signed up for the full again. Training was going well, and I was getting faster. Impinged fat pads slowed me down a bit during training, and I went to the start line feeling a little unprepared. Although super hot, the race went well for me…until the damn second half when stomach trouble reared its ugly head. Although not as bad as the 2012 race, it still slowed me down, and I remember crying on the course. I thought I had this under control but apparently not (it would take until the next year for me to get smart and take Imodium before the race). I finished in 4:49:20, not as well as I had hoped but a whole hell of a lot better than the year before.

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2014: My 3rd attempt at the CLE marathon and Dan’s first. We trained together for this race. I needed him to help me get faster, and he needed me because I had marathon experience. On race day, the weather was cool and crisp, and I was well prepared for this race both mentally and physically. Miles clipped by, and this was the first time I made it past the halfway point without a bathroom break! This was also the first time running 26.2 miles where it felt, if I dare say, easy, and this was probably my most enjoyable race to date. I crossed the finish in 4:24:52 with a leap across the line and a smile on my face! 2014 was also the first year I tried something new and added a race on Saturday. My parents, Dan, and I walked the 5K, and I loved that even though my parents are not runners, they still participate and support me.

2015: Again a CLE ambassador, my plan was to run the full, but I switched down to the half before race day. No worries, I suppose. On Saturday, I ran the 5K with all four of my kids. Yes, ALL FOUR…even my daughter who hates running. They all had a great time and liked getting medals and snacks at the end. On Sunday, I lined up for my second CLE half marathon, which made me laugh considering I had run the full three times already. Everything was going well, and for me, I was running fast. I ran out of steam a little near the end, slowing down a bit, but I still managed to run a race I was proud of. 1:55:54 and it was my first time running a long distance race under a sub-9:00 pace. PR party for me!

2016: The. Most. Cleveland. Race. Ever! The terrible weather conditions started on Saturday when my absolutely awesome parents joined me in the wind, rain, and cold for the 8K/5K. Dad and I walked the 8K, running at times because that’s how he does it, and Mom and our family friend Julia walked the 5K. I remember just about crying to my dad that I put in so much work training for the marathon to have it derailed by weather. He told me to just go out and do my best. And that is exactly what I did. My plan was a sub-4 hour marathon. I had quite a few people tell me it would not be possible, and I kept using that as fuel when the weather got worse and my legs got tired. I ended up having to walk for a hot minute on the dreaded Shoreway, but through my happy tears, I mustered the remaining leg strength I had to cross the finish in 3:57:19. I did it! My first sub-4 hour marathon!!!!

So what will 2017 bring? I was dragging my feet a bit with signing up. I knew I was planning to run the full marathon but as undecided about the Challenge Series. Mom and Dad agreed to walk with me again, so that made my decision easy. Full Marathon/8K Challenge Series it is! I’m trained up to 18 miles and feel pretty good about where I stand with my training cycle. It’s true I was better prepared last year, but I don’t feel as though I am too far off. As much as I want to run CLE all out and see how fast I can go with the new course, I need to play it smart with having the Green Jewel 50K about 3 weeks later. An injury in CLE means no ultramarathon, which is a bucket list item for me. For the next 8 weeks. I need to remain focused, continue to get my training runs in, and step up my nutrition game. Seven more weeks. We’ve got this.

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