The mind game: “If You Think You Can…

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This poem by Walter D. Wintle changed my life sometime around 7th or 8th grade, when I saw it at school somewhere and then took it home and pasted on a wall in my bedroom. I looked at it everyday during my sports seasons and decided I thought I would be a champion in something some day.

Success is a mind game, and this poem says everything I could possibly say about it but so much better and more eloquently.


And the site that graphic came from, www.pravsworold.com, looks pretty cool, too.

I tore my calf muscle…now what?

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Last week, I had the perfect day for my first backcountry ski adventure in four days. I saw it line-up beautifully: home alone while family on trip, legs recovered, great weather, and plenty of snow on a late March day. I loaded up my gear and headed out.

For someone looking for what to do about a torn calf muscle, here is the best link I found for information on torn calf muscle and how to treat. Others interested in reading a story and the road to recovery, keep reading.

calf muscle tearphoto from physioworks

My first run was awesome. Such sweet turns on a mountainside of fresh snow. Popping in and out of the trees. Linking my turns and hitting a few high-speed spots. A couple of months on the lift-served side while kids went to lessons had really improved my skiing.

If you don’t know, backcountry skiing provides a great triathlon cross-training opportunity because you have to hike back up the hill. You don’t get a ride up the lift. For a dad with two young boys, it is also much cheaper than buying a lift ticket!

My second run started great, too. I decided to hit an area that is more open and a bit steeper than the previous run. The snow here had a some soft spots that my tips dug into but I recovered nicely…until I didn’t.  At a point that the pitch steepened, my ski tip dug, and I endo’d, breaking out of my bindings straight-forward and tumbling down the hill. I gathered myself and brushed off the snow. Quick check: neck? good. arms? good. knees? good. Legs? good. Wait…calf muscle has significant pain. Better get moving back up the hill RIGHT NOW! because I have to hike out of here and ski back down the lift-side with what feels like a very bad torn calf muscle.

I got up the hill ok but with some pain. Skiing down was a different story for the top half of the hill, as it was icy and I couldn’t turn well. Further down, I had more room and didn’t have to turn so it was easier. Sitting in my car for the 30 minute drive home, my leg as SCREAMING at me.  I wanted to cry from the pain but was too happy that my knees were intact and I got out of that mess by myself.

At home and with my leg RICE’d as much as possible and self-medicating the pain of a possibly ruined summer, I began my research. Of the many websites I checked, Pysioworks  was the best for me.

I figured I had a Grade 2 tear, based on the description, but I had no bruising (yet).  The Physioworks site has a great treatment plan listed, and I started that immediately:

How to Treat a Calf Muscle Tear

Calf muscle tears are one of the most common problems that we see at PhysioWorks and it is unfortunately an injury that often recurs if you return to sport too quickly – especially if a thorough rehabilitation program is not completed.

Researchers have concluded that there are essentially 6 stages that need to be covered to effectively rehabilitate these injuries and prevent recurrence – these are:

Phase 1 – Early Injury Protection: Pain Reduction & Anti-inflammatory Phase

As with most soft tissue injuries the initial treatment is RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Your calf muscle is a large powerful group of muscles that can produce sufficient force to run, jump and hop. In the early phase you’ll be unable to walk without a limp, so your calf needs some rest from weight-bearing loads. You may need to be non or partial-weight-bearing, when crutches or a wedged achilles walking boot may be the best treatment.

Ice is a simple and effective modality to reduce your pain and swelling. Please apply for 20-30 minutes each 2 to 4 hours during the initial phase or when you notice that your injury is warm or hot.

Anti-inflammatory medication (if tolerated) and natural substances eg arnica may help reduce your pain and swelling. However, it is best to avoid anti-inflammatory drugs during the initial 48 to 72 hours when they may encourage additional bleeding. Most people can tolerate paracetamol as a pain reducing medication.

As you improve a compressive bandage, supportive taping or an elastic calf support will help to both support the injured soft tissue and keep the blood from pooling in your foot.

Keep your foot elevated above your heart (where possible) to allow for gravity to help drain your calf and lower leg swelling.

I stayed off my foot and kept it raised as much as possible the rest of the day and Sunday. I went to work and hobbled around as little as possible on Monday (I have a desk job). I was liberal with Biofreeze the entire time. I really LOVE THAT STUFF!  As I wondered how my “it’s going to be the best ever” season was going to pan out, I remained happy that my knees are healthy and tried to figure out how to get healthy in a way that would keep me there. God was teaching me patience..AGAIN.

On Tuesday, I went swimming to see how that would feel. It was good. Not great. But good. I could certainly do pulls and some light kicks.  I could still turn and push with my good leg. Looks like a swim-focus week!

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were big swim days. Kicks and pulls mostly, until Friday when I decided to hit a final personal-best-ever distance of 4,000 yards. I accomplished that, so I turned this disaster in a personal best.

So, the swim kicks are really helping me recover without pushing it too far. Saturday morning, there are the first visible signs of real damage with some discoloration of skin in my leg. I can’t say they are “real” bruises but I suppose they meet the definition . Also, I am walking ok but can’t put a lot of pressure on a calf – raise exercise.


Phase 2: Regain Full Range of Motion

If you protect your injured calf appropriately the torn muscle will successfully reattach. Mature scar formation takes at least six weeks. During this time period you should be aiming to optimally remould your scar tissue to prevent a scar that will re-tear in the future.

It is important to lengthen and orientate your healing scar tissue via massage, muscle stretches and neurodynamic mobilisations. Signs that your have full soft tissue extensibility includes being able to walk without a limp and able to perform calf stretches with a similar end of range stretch feeling.

Phase 3: Restore Concentric Muscle Strength

Calf strength and power should be gradually progressed from non-weight bear to partial and then full weight bear and resistance loaded exercises. You may also require strengthening for other leg, gluteal and lower core muscles depending on your assessment findings.

I am in Phase 3 now, and I can walk with only a minor limp. I hope to try a bike workout on Sunday morning, but I will NOT push it into a pain. I am following the “let heal all the way” principle before I try to restore strength. The swim-focus week proved that I can maintain some fitness during this injury (the multiple exercise option is what I love about triathlon!), so I’m not worried about losing too much fitness. I am a bit depressed because the weather is awesome right now, and I could be skiing again today with 55 degrees and sunny and very little wind — PERFECT! — but I will be at the park with the boys, which is probably better for me overall anyway!

I certainly won’t be running until two weeks from now. I’ve had a slight calf strain previously, and that was “nag-nag-nag” all year long until I finally just stayed off it for three weeks.

A week later, I have a slight discoloration but not a dark bruise. As much as this hurt, it was probably only a solid grade 1 tear, maybe a light Grade 2. What would a Grade 3 feel like?!?!?! Again, I’m just happy I have my knees and was able to get off the mountain by myself.

Below are the rest of the steps from physioworks. I figure I have until mid-May to be at 100% on this.

Phase 4: Restore Eccentric Muscle Strength

Calf muscles work in two directions. They push you up (concentric) and control you down (eccentric). Most calf muscle tears occur during the controlled lengthening phase. Your physiotherapist will guide you on an eccentric calf strengthening program when your injury healing allows.

Phase 5: Restore High Speed, Power, Proprioception & Agility

Most calf injuries occur during high speed activities, which place enormous forces on your body (contractile and non-contractile). In order to prevent a recurrence as you return to sport, your physiotherapist will guide you with exercises to address these important components of rehabilitation to both prevent a recurrence and improve your sporting performance.

Depending on what your sport or lifestyle entails, a speed, agility, proprioception and power program will be customised to prepares you for light sport-specific training.

Phase 6: Return to Sport

Depending on the demands of your chosen sport, you will require specific sport-specific exercises and a progressed training regime to enable a safe and injury-free return to your chosen sport.

Your PhysioWorks physiotherapist will discuss your goals, time frames and training schedules with you to optimise you for a complete return to sport. The perfect outcome will have you performing at full speed, power, agility and function with the added knowledge that a through rehabilitation program has minimised your chance of future injury.


Spring Break update

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Spring Break week is always a transition week for my annual training plan. It is the time when I put together various weeks of single-sport or two-sport focus weeks and roll into “all-three” training.

For instance, I completed the Tour of Sufferlandria 2016 in January, had some cross-country focus weekends, got sick for a week, had a couple of big swim weeks, was sick for a week but it trashed two weeks of training, and then a run-focus week to ramp up the run while I was travelling and away from my bike.

Yesterday, I was finally able to hit the backcountry side of Pebble Creek Ski Area. (check out the Snowtrooper Review).  Honestly, a day backcountry skiing counts  minute-for-minute for running; hiking uphill is a great workout. This was my first backcountry ski in about four years.  It was beautiful on the first run! Such sweet turns in a few inches of fresh. Saw an old friend, actually the guy who inspired me by his Strava posts to finally visit the backcountry again. The second run, I crashed hard, and tore my left calf as I tore out of my bindings. OUCH! I can barely walk today. First injury in probably 12 years. Last injury was a nasty pulled hamstring that was not exercise related.



My leg hasn’t bruised yet, and I’m hoping that it won’t because that then (theoretically) means it is a minor tear. But the pain is not minor, I assure you!  But at this point, I am looking at no real running until the end of May probably, full eight weeks away. I hope to be biking by next week, leaving a whole week off the bike. This week will be all swim with no wall-pushes….that’s the plan anyway.  Then, build to the bike and eventually run again after a COMPLETE healing opportunity.

The impact of this injury should be minimal. I wasn’t planning any big races this year. I am just going for some local challenges, another Yellowstone challenge, and a new Teton challenge.

Even though it hurts immensely, I’m staying positive because it could have easily been a ripped up knee.


Final Training for Bear Lake Brawl and the YNP 70.3

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I am now just under a month until the YNP 70.3 Personal Challenge on August 13, 2015 and two months to the Bear Lake Brawl.  Spring Training season went great, but things got really busy at work in April and have been going non-stop since then. Just today I finally felt relieved to sit at my desk and know that I don’t have any projects due immediately.  Of course, that kind of work schedule had some negative impacts on my training schedule, specifically the consistency of training.

Thus, I find myself basically starting over in the training realm for the YNP 70.3 and the Bear Lake Brawl (Sept 19, 2015). The YNP 70.3 is a personal challenge “race-cation” event that I have been thinking about doing for several years now, and THIS IS THE YEAR it happens! But honestly it is a rehearsal race for the Bear Lake Brawl, rather than doing the Utah Half that I don’t want to do again because the swim venue is not so great.

The overall training plan takes me through September 19, the day of the Bear Lake Brawl.  And there are two big bike events  I want to do also as training items but are really their own events in and of themselves.

The spring training plan was very successful with only one three week block. I am going to get two three-week blocks as a final prep for the Bear Lake Race (Goal is a 5:00 overall versus 5:10 last year). Here is how the weekly efforts break-out:

July 20: Slightly-lower volume following the high-intensity spring training philosophy with weight lifting, with some swaps to include high-altitude swim and run at Camp Perkins.

July 27: Slightly-lower volume following the high-intensity spring training philosophy with weight lifting, with some swaps to include high-altitude bike and run at Island Park.

Aug 3:  Increased volume high-intensity training, with a 75 mile bike to prepare for the other bike events.

Aug 10:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday off, and then YNP 70.3 on Thursday. Then five mile hikes for recovery into some backcountry fishing/camping on Friday and Saturday. Come on Sunday and probably do a short bike/run to get back in gear.

Aug 17: High intensity level volume with no bike or run Thursday or Friday so I can do a local Grand Fondo on Saturday (actual Grand Fondo is Aug 15, but I am doing it on my own because I will be in Yellowstone on actual race day). Sunday off for rest.  I am really excited about doing this because it will really challenge me personally and should put me into a new level of bicycling. My current longest ride ever is 75 miles.

Aug 24: Easy bike/runs first half of week with increased swimming and lifting. Then some higher volume high intensity training in the back half of the week, with a 102-mile bike loop around Oxford Peak to check-off my first century ride.

Aug 31: High volume High intensity training with weights. Labor Day weekend has some longer volume efforts at altitude again (Island Park, ID at about 6,400ft).

Sept 7: Decreased intensity with level volume as a beginning of taper.  Two easy 6-9 mile runs at Camp Perkins (7,200ft elevation) during the weekend, and maybe an open water swim in the lake.

Sept 14: Taper week. Mix of short high intensity bursts with significantly decreased volume and a focus on gear maintenance.

Race Day – Sept 19.


Training Philosophy for the period

Here is a summary of my philosophy for this coming training preparation/focus period that I wrote last week before a ramp-up on run volume while at a business conference with no swim or bike available:

Restarting a final training cycle of the summer to get the YNP and then Bear Lake tris along with the Grand Fondo 4 Peaks ride.

1. Complete the YNP tri in 6 hours.
2. Complete Bear Lake Half in 5:00.
3. Complete Grand Fondo 4 Peaks ride.
4. Complete first century ride – Downey – Malad Summit ride.

1. Re-implement 4x3x3 training philosophy: 4 sports x 3 workouts per week x 3 types of workouts.
– 4 sports: Swim, Bike, Run, Weights.
– 3 workouts: HIT, Tempo, Long
– 3 sessions per sport per week.
** Not in play during travel weeks.

2. Weight
– get down to 182 for YNP 70.3 while maintaining power from starting point of 193. I was at 182 when the spring training focus ended due to travel requirements and loss of consistency.
– get down to 178 for Bear Lake Race while maintaining power.

3. Endurance
– rebuild endurance slowly and dealing with the heat, building to 1:52 half marathon down to S. 5th tracks and back to home.
– start bike endurance with Robber’s Roost and build to 65 miles – Mink Creek, Crystal, through Arbon Valley.
– build swim endurance to 46:00 3k in Reed pool.
– during SIPH TEPW trip to Boise, build with 6 and 9 mile runs, no half-marathon there this year.


Fun With Charts!

Here are some cool charts from SportTracks because every triathlete is a data geek.

Training Load expectations through August 12 and the YNP Tri.  I think this shows good, steady load progression.

Steady training load increases.

Steady training load increases.

This is my training load in an annual view to provide relevance to previous periods. You can see last July’s high load and the load from the Tour of Sufferlandria in early February, and that I will surpass that if I hit all my workouts.

Training load for July 2014 through August 2015 shows August 2015 is highest ever.

Training load for July 2014 through August 2015 shows August 2015 is highest ever.

Here is the Performance Chart, showing I will break new highs on the performance metric, although I don’t always agree that this is an extremely accurate metric.

Current performance metric.

Current performance metric.

Performance metric from July 2014 to present.

health year july 18 2015

You can see how my weight and BMI reacted very well to this high intensity training in March and April, and then how I gained the weight and fat back during a high op-tempo work period mid-April through end of June.

weight dec14 to july15

bmi july 18 2015

The Sawtooth Personal Challenge

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The second race in the 2015 Personal Challenge Series is the Sawtooth 64, in the heart of the Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho. I did a version of this last year, and it was awesome (except the swim); I thought about it all winter, and it was the catalyst for ensuring the YNP 70.3 happened this summer.

Pre-Race: The night before the race will be spent at Camp Perkins, a church camp I absolutely love because it is such as serene place. Campfire songs are the best!  And the cabins are great even though they are as basic as possible. Hint: camp does have some nicer accomodations if you prefer those.

The Swim:  Last year’s attempt in Alturas Lake was too much for me….I was not comfortable at all in that water. Perkins Lake will be a completely different story, as I am familiar with lake from canoeing it alot in the past summers. The trick to using Lake Perkins for the swim is the transition to the bike because transition at Camp Perkins itself means the bike starts on a mile of gravel road. So, the swim starts where it does because it is close to a paved road. The distance between the lake and the road is about 50 yards and completely doable.

The swim itself will be great. The water is clear, and you can see about 100 feet in front of you and certainly down to about 20 feet, including all the fish(!). It’s a swim out to the inlet and back, then down to the outlet, coming in right at 1.2 miles.

The swim venue. The swim start is off to the left and goes in front of the dock in the bottom right of this picture.

The swim venue. The swim start is off to the left and goes in front of the dock in the bottom right of this picture.

Sawtooth 60 Swim (1.2 miles; start south point to inlet point and back, then to outlet and back)


Transition 1: This is pretty simple. Get out of the lake. Go uphill a bit to grab the bike. Leave all T1 gear in a pile near the road. Family or friends come and get it a bit later. There is nobody there early in the morning because everyone else is sleeping in, snoozing and snuggling in a camper or tent while the mountain bluebirds chirp away.

The Bike: Starting near Lake Perkins, the bike course heads out to the main and takes a right to head up and over Galena Summit (8,701 ftt). From there, head down to Galena Lodge and then back up and over Galena Summit. Head down, down, down to Fourth of July Creek to turn around and head back to Camp Perkins. Go past the bike start to head all the way down to the Alturas Creek Campground. Start Transition #2.

The view is as breathtaking as the effort to get up.

The view is as breathtaking as the effort to get up.

Galena Summit at 8,701 ft.

Galena Summit at 8,701 ft.

Transition #2: This is a bit tricky because I wanted the run to be completely on trail. Last year, I ran about two miles on a gravel road, and that section is ok but can be replaced by two miles on a trail and able to top out on a trail pass that will be very intriguing and motivating. So, at the campground, change gear and lock up the bike in the Xterra. Then I will drive two miles down to the trailhead to be able to cut out that gravel road section and start directly on a trail.

Is driving to the trailhead cheating? No! Personal Challenges are courses done as something to challenge yourself in whatever way you want to be challenged. I think the challenge of getting to the trail pass at elevation 8,550 certainly offsets a three minute drive. If anything, the short drive will kill my momentum.

Sawtooth 60 Bike ( 52 miles; start at Perkins Lake, end at Alturas Inlet campground)



The Run ( 13.4 miles start and end at Alturas Creek trailhead)

This is an absolutely AWESOME trail run. The elevation rise is very gentle, and it follows the creek the entire way. Fresh water is never too far away for either drinking or splashing. The temperatures will remain relatively cool. When I ran this last year, I had so much positive energy in me that I never felt any pain during that run; it was a truly joyful run.

This year, I am changing the course to allow the distance to take me to the top of the trail pass at 8,550 feet. I think the last half mile going up a steep portion of the trail will be a definite challenge and certainly require some walking, but I am looking forward to jogging downhill the entire second half. I get excited about racing at higher elevations, so I am pretty excited about this route.



Post-Race: Recovery drink (beer, of course!) on the Camp lodge porch that looks like this.

The view for post-race relaxation.

The view for post-race relaxation.

Undoing three months of work in three weeks

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Consistency is the key to training. I proved that to myself in March when I had a great three-week block. Then that fell off a bit in April until it fell off a cliff in May because of various travel and work requirements. I came back into a good block a little fast and paid for it.

Here’s the proof of the training load and fitness drops from SportTracks:

You can see the drop in training load throughout May.

You can see the drop in training load throughout May.

You can see the drop in fitneess in May.

You can see the drop in fitneess in May.

So what? Well, when I got back home and wanted to start back into a solid block of training, I went out on a good run and it felt great. Then my Garmin 920xt Recovery Advisor said I had a 3-Day Recovery. I thought it was funny until two days later when I was still very sore and my bike ride on a beautiful day was painful on sore legs.

My Garmin told me I had a 3-Day Recovery!

My Garmin told me I had a 3-Day Recovery!

My point is that you really have to ease back in after three weeks of inconsistent training. I

Mountain Cruises Personal Challenge – The YNP 70.3!

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“If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”
– Jim Rohn

Going to the big triathlon races just isn’t for me. First, it costs too much, and I can’t stop thinking that thise race fees are better spent on experiences and necesary gear for my young boys. Second, there are too many people and the morning setup takes far too long. The event itself, meaning just the race, is exciting and everything, but the crowd and costs put it over the edge for me.

I am more about doing my own thing in an uncrowded place with probably a few friends and on a timeline that doesn’t include much waiting around for the masses.

Thus, I am implementing the Personal Challenge concept.

The Personal Challenge is any race you decide to plan and execute on your own, basically a Do-It-Yourself Race. No expensive race fees. Limited or at least combined travel fees when you do the race in conjunction with a different trip. And, a venue that might not be otherwise possible. These then become a “self-supported” event that you have to plan your own logistics like transition areas, resupply stations, and bathrooms.

Let me introduce you the Personal Challenge Series, brought to you by Darin Letzring at AmphibOps.com and Mountain Cruises.

YNP Tri Personal Challenge Series widescreen copy

Situation: This year’s Personal Challenge Series highlight is the YNP 70.3, a half-distance triathlon race in the Yellowstone National Park (70.3). That’s right! A triathlon in Yellowstone National Park!

Mission: Complete a triathlon in Yellowstone National Park.

Intent: Complete a half-distance course that is entirely within the Park (incidentally, also completely above 7,700 feet elevation), highlighting some of the park’s features while maintaining the safest race day possible in the park.


ynp bridge bay

1. Pre-Race: Camp at the Marina Campground to make an early morning start. Some marshmallows and fresh air should provide my body a great pre-race evening.

2. Swim: With a 0530 start at picnic area at the east end of the Marina, an out-n-back swim out of the marina and into the lake, following the causeway to a turn-around point just past the end of the causeway where the treeline starts. This swim area is mostly 3-4 feet deep and should be fairly protected from the wind. A wetsuit is definitely REQUIRED. Distance is 1.2 miles and expected time of 30 minutes. See the swim course on Garmin Connect.

ynp him swim

3. T1: Transition is based out of my Xterra in the marina parking lot near the swim start. I should contract with Nissan to make it a commercial.

4. Bike: Taking my bike off the Xterra in the marina parking lot, head east to Fishing Bridge and continue to Canyon, cruising next to the Yellowstone River through the beautiful Hayden Valley after seeing the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Canyon. Nearing Canyon area, slow down and meander through the Yellowstone Falls parking area to glimpse the falls and get some refreshments from my mobile aid station (family in the car). From the falls, continue north to the intersection and turn around to go back south through Hayden Valley again; hopefully beating the the bison to their daily road crossing between 9:00am and 10:00am.

Fishing bridge 1

At Fishing Bridge, go across the bridge and out toward’s Mary’s Point, cruising along the lake the entire way. Winds should still be fairly low until 9:00am or so. Turn around at the point where the road turns directly east and starts heading uphill, coming back into the wind a bit and with the option of hitting the mobile aid station at the Mary’s Point pull-out.

The turn-around point for the YNP Half-Distance Triathlon 56 mile bike ride.

The turn-around point for the YNP Half-Distance Triathlon 56 mile bike ride.

Head through Fishing Bridge and turn towards the Marina. The main safety point here is to be off the roads preferably by 9:00am and absolutely no later than 10:00am because that’s when the roads get dangerous with higher traffic volume from all drivers and large campers in particular.

ynp him bike

View the bike course on Garmin Connect.

**  Take a look at what it’s like to bicycle in Yellowstone National Park at www.mountaincruises.com.  **

5. T2: Again at the Xterra at the Marina Campground. Lock the bike on my bike rack on the car. Put shoes on. Start running.


6. Run: The run will be a two-lap cruise from the marina, across the causeway, around Gull Point, over Bridge Creek, and back to the marina. There are many other options for the run, but this one is the option that provides the most safety in relation to bears. Yes, bear safety is the primary concern here. I personally will not be able to run very fast at this point if a bear chases me, so I need to be sure I don’t get in that situation. Also, Gull Point provides a rest area and some beautiful views of the lake. The barely-improved roadway on most of this path is a near-perfect trail run condition.

See the run course on Garmin Connect.

ynp him run

7. Post-Race: hang out at the marina picnic area for a bit, then head to Lamar Valley for a few nights in the backcountry for the world’s most awesome Cutthroat Trout fishing, staying at campsite 3L2 on Cache Creek and only a short walk to the confluence with Lamar River.  The most awesome triathlon will be followed up with my very favorite fishing trip in the world.

Fishing at the confluence of the Lamar River and Cache Creek in Yellowstone National Park.

Fishing at the confluence of the Lamar River and Cache Creek in Yellowstone National Park.

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