Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

On September 11, 2001, I was in the second month of pregnancy with my first child. I remember wondering what kind of world I was bringing a child into. Thirteen years later, I think it is fitting to tell a story that reminds us that there are good people in the world.

Yesterday I dropped off one of my children at her gymnastics lesson and headed out for a run. If I’m a very good girl, I can squeeze in 4.5 hilly miles in 50 minutes. It’s not easy to do, especially since I much prefer running in the early morning rather than in the late afternoon. But I like to get in hill work at least once per week, and I like to take advantage of the time that my daughter is in her lesson, rather than wasting it by driving home and back to pick her up. So I set off on foot and huffed and puffed through the 93 degree weather. Yes, 93 degrees.

I only made it eight minutes into the run though, when I happened upon an elderly woman who called to me for help. She was on the sidewalk, clinging to a wall, clearly struggling to walk in the heat. Her car had run out of gas a little way down the road, and when she could not tell AAA her exact location, she set off on foot for help (without her cell phone, purse, or any water). Thank goodness another runner, Carlos, soon came up behind me, and together we were able to support the woman enough to assist her back to her car. Another driver saw us all on the side of the road, and when she stopped we asked her if she had any water. She set off to the nearest store to buy some for each of us.

I called AAA again and gave the representative our location, and then Carlos and I stayed with the woman until the service van arrived with a couple of gallons of gas. During that time, we tried to assess the woman’s physical and mental condition. At first we believed she just needed some cold water and a little rest and then she would be fine to drive again. However, the more we talked with her, the more concerned we became. (I didn’t think she showed signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, but perhaps I should have been more concerned about that. If I thought she was in immediate physical danger I would have called 911, but she kept insisting she was fine, and just needed to rest a bit). Carlos and I decided that we would have the AAA driver fill up her tank with the two gallons of gas and then lead her to the gas station down the road just to be safe.

After waiting for half an hour, I had to run (literally) back to pick up my daughter, so Carlos stayed with the woman until the AAA guy arrived a few minutes later. I drove back 10 minutes after that to make sure everything was okay, and saw that the AAA guy was there with the woman. Carlos told me that unfortunately the woman was not in any better condition to drive, and the AAA driver made the assessment that she required a tow truck to pick up the car and take her home. In retrospect I wonder whether we should have called the police to have an officer assess the situation, because the longer it went on the less clear it was that she had all her mental faculties, and the less clear it was whether that was due to the heat alone or due to a more serious decline in her mental health prior to getting lost and running out of gas. I was reassured by the fact that she recited her address correctly (based on her driver’s license) and she insisted she knew the way home, and at this point I just have to trust that the AAA man and the tow truck driver did what they needed to do to make sure that she got there safely (and got her additional help if she truly needed it).

When I finally got home at 5:30 p.m., I hopped on the treadmill to finish off the remaining 2.3 miles of my run. It wasn’t easy, and it took me a long time to wind down from the day’s adventures. In the end, I am grateful that within the space of half an hour, four people had taken time out of their day to assist an elderly woman in a crisis. And I’m happy to have met Carlos, who will be running the LA Marathon as his first full marathon in March. I’m sure our paths will cross again, and I can rest assured knowing that good people like him are out running, patrolling the streets, ready to help anyone in need.

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“Fundraise for charity in connection with a race” occupies a high priority spot on my bucket list. I’d always secretly admired people who made the commitment to raise funds along with committing to training for a race itself, and I made it a point to donate what I could to each of my friends who sent out a fundraising plea in connection with a walk or run. Finally I’ve gotten the opportunity myself to fundraise in conjunction with the iCureMelanoma 5K Run/Walk on May 3, 2014, in Fullerton, California. So far “Team Book It!” has raised $935 towards melanoma research at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Melanoma Research Division.

Here are some fundraising tips I’ve learned along the way:

1. Choose a race, a location, and/or a cause that have meaning to you. The race I chose is a local trail race that makes it easy for many of my family members and friends to participate. Also, it helps me ask local businesses to support the race and charity, because those businesses know that the race participants are some of the most likely candidates to take advantage of their businesses.

As for the cause of melanoma research:

Melanoma Cancer is rated as the fastest growing cancer in the U.S. and worldwide. In fact, recent statistics reveal that 1 in 50 people will develop invasive melanoma in their lifetime.

Some of you may know that I used to be an estate planning lawyer. One of my clients, a long, long time ago, came into the office for estate planning. One of the paralegals in my office pulled this person aside and offered advice about getting evaluated for potential skin cancer. Two months later (thankfully after the estate plan was in place), the person passed away from a particularly aggressive cancer. The risk of developing skin cancer is especially significant for endurance athletes like runners and triathletes who spend a lot of time in the sun. I had no qualms about supporting the important research being done in this area.

2. Investigate the charity and how the funds raised will be used. Is the affiliated charity a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity to which donations are tax deductible? How does the charity rate on Charity Navigator and similar sites? What percentage of the funds raised will go to pay for the race, and what percentage will be donated to the designated charity? In my case, it is the goal of the race organizers to pay for the race expenses through sponsorships so that all of the registration fees and donations go directly toward melanoma research.

3. Make it a group effort. I am lucky that my book discussion group decided to read Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run in conjunction with running this local 5K. That’s allowed us to solicit donations from my friends and family PLUS the friends and family of my friends. Don’t discount the fact that race registrations also benefit the charity involved. Team Book It! has 25 members with the hope of more, and all those registration fees benefit the charity.

4. Make friends with the race director. The race director is your best resource for materials and methods to ask for donations from local friends and businesses. Often a race director will have drafts of letters and sponsorship materials that you can pass along to potential corporate sponsors and business donors.

5. Capitalize on connections. Either you or your team members are bound to have connections to local businesses that will be happy to support your race efforts. Do you buy your running shoes from a local running store? Do you work out at a local gym? Is your friend on the board of a company that promotes health and fitness?

6. Use social media. What else are Facebook, Twitter and other social media for than to promote just such fundraising campaigns? I cannot imagine a better use of social media.

7. Don’t be shy. Now is not the time to be modest about your fitness efforts. Post about how hard you are training to do your best at the race. Ask for support! You might just be surprised how many people are willing to chip in what they can to support your fundraising and training efforts!

8. Consider unique fundraising methods. If you have a unique skill, take advantage of it! Can you run a bake sale where the proceeds benefit your charity? Do you have crafty friends who would be willing to donate hand-crafted items to be sold online to benefit the cause?

9. Pay your friends back in kind. If you want your friends and family to support you in your efforts, make sure you give back what you can when they ask the same.

10. Thank each donor personally. Pay attention to the donor roll or ask the race director to give you the names of people who donated to your fundraising. Write a personal thank you note, or, if you think the donors would not mind, thank them on social media for their contributions. It’s not about the amount, it’s about the fact that the donors were kind and generous enough to give what they could to support you, your race, and your charity of choice.

If you feel strongly about melanoma research and/or supporting random bloggers’ efforts at fundraising, please consider making a tax deductible donation to Team Book It! through that link. Can you help us push our donations for melanoma research over $1,000?! Thank you. (Please don’t be shy about leaving a comment to tell me that you donated! I really mean it when I say I would like to thank you personally!)

Have you ever raised funds in connection with a race? Do you have any advice to offer?

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I desperately wanted to play hooky from my responsibilities on Monday to stay home and watch the live stream of the Boston Marathon. I was a good girl though, and had to satisfy myself later in the day with watching this clip of the men’s finish (via Beth of Shut Up + Run):

I don’t know about you but I cried when Meb started crying at the end. Fast forward to today when my friend Andrea posted this next video from the director of a popular local race, the Hollywood Half Marathon. Watching Ken made me cry too — a good, happy cry. Although Ken missed qualifying for Boston by 23 seconds (now THAT makes me want to cry), he traveled to Boston anyway to offer free hugs to the runners:

I know what it feels like to get a little energy boost from just such encouragement during a marathon. Any time a runner takes to stop for a high five or a hug comes back to him or her in a surge of goodwill and positive energy. Way to go, Ken!



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Brace yourself for one final post that draws analogies between writing and running….

When the dust settled on National Novel Writing Month, approximately 13.4% of NaNoWriMo participants had “won” the challenge by writing at least 50,000 words of a novel in the allotted 30 days of November 2013 (41,940 winners out of over 312,000 registered novelists). As one of the winners, I would like to share some tips for NaNoWriMo success.

1. Understand and embrace the commitment. When you sign up for the challenge, you commit yourself to writing for approximately three hours per day, every day, seven days a week, 30 days of November. Maybe you can write faster one day, maybe it takes you longer another day, but my average settled at three hours per day to meet the goal of 1,667 words per day. Three hours per day is — do the math — 21 hours per week. That’s like taking on a part-time job in addition to your other responsibilities. Ask yourself how you are going to make the time. Will you write in the morning before work or before the rest of your household wakes up? After everyone goes to bed? In pieces throughout the day on your commute, during your lunch break, or while waiting to pick up a child from an activity?

1a. Get your support crew on board too. Explain to those around you what your commitment will be. It helped to talk things over with my husband so we were both on the same page about what our priorities were. I also expected more of my children during the month (and continue to do so, since they rose to the challenge well!) My kids are old enough that they can be expected to help sort and put away their own clean laundry, or pitch in with the cooking.

    Marathon analogy:

When I sign up for a full marathon, I know that I am committing myself to training approximately seven hours per week (running, biking, swimming and strength training). It is NOT fun to run a race undertrained and underprepared. You’ve got to dedicate the time and energy for weeks of training in order to enjoy the race and come out uninjured on the other side.

2. Use October to your full advantage.

2a. Do the writing groundwork in advance. Official NaNoWriMo rules state that you cannot write any of your novel during October, but you may outline your novel and brainstorm character histories and plot lines. Do it! You cannot afford to waste any precious time in November deciding on a storyline.

2b. Cook and clean. Freeze some meals in advance to save time on writing days. Make double batches of soup for dinner and freeze the second batch for later. Get your living (and writing) space in order so that it requires the least amount of maintenance during the month of November.

    Marathon analogy:

Use your training rest days to cook and clean. During taper as you cut back on mileage and find yourself with nervous energy, tackle that drawer of papers waiting to be filed, or clean out your sock drawer.

3. Do not waste time beating yourself up. Save that time and energy for writing. I discovered that I did not enjoy writing first thing in the morning. I value sleep too much to get up extra early to write, and I had too much to do to get three kids dressed, fed, and driven to school to spend any time writing at the start of my day. By the time I sat down to write (sometimes not until 8 in the evening!), I often felt like I was already behind for the day. I had to silence the inner critic that tried to chastise myself for not getting to it sooner. I quickly realized the obvious: the less time I spent worrying about not having written, the more time I had to actually write!

    Marathon analogy:

If you miss a training day, don’t waste any energy beating yourself up, just get out there and run the next day! For some people, missing a day makes it “easier” to miss two days, then three and so on and the training program completely falls off the rails. Or maybe you get sick or injured and you have to miss several days of training. There’s no shame in adjusting the training plan to get back on track. Instead of beating yourself up over lost time, applaud yourself for re-dedicating yourself to your training!

4. Put some words in the bank. It is way more fun to write 3,000 words one day to get a little ahead than to have to write 3,000 words to catch up (although if you have to do that, then DO IT. See number 3 above. Don’t beat yourself up. Catch up!) I wrote a little bit each day, and banked some words on days that I found myself particularly inspired or with extra time to write. That gave me a break on days that I just wasn’t feeling it or I had unexpected things come up.

    Marathon analogy:

There’s no sense in overtraining for a race, but there’s a lot of sense in exercising on days when you know you have the time and energy, and not taking your rest day(s) early. I can count too many times when I thought, “Oh, I could run today but I think I’ll take a rest day to do XYZ and then run tomorrow” and when tomorrow came around, I woke up not feeling well, or had a child stay home sick from school. I never regret doing a workout, but I often regret not doing a workout.

5. Have some go-to plot lines in your pocket. By that I mean, when you’re under a time crunch or you simply don’t feel like writing the next scene in your novel, go to that “easier” plot line that you know you’ll enjoy writing. Maybe by the time you’re ready to go back and fill in the chronological gap in the novel, your brain will have worked out the block that made that scene more difficult.

    Marathon analogy:

Maybe you just can’t face that speed workout on your training calendar, but it’s a gorgeous day to get out on the bike. It’s okay to shake things up and trade days in the workout plan. In fact it’s often smart to listen to your body and your brain, and do what appeals to you that day, as long as you get all the workouts in eventually.

6. Silence your inner editor and critic. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo — that makes the whole experiment worth it — is that it frees you to write for the sake of writing, without having to worry so much about the quality of writing. It’s that worry that stops people from writing anything at all, or causes any writing progress to stall. Now I know it sounds strange, but I think that freeing myself from worrying about the quality actually led me to produce about the same quality that I would have if I had agonized over every word. As a new novelist anyway, I felt that the quality of writing would not have been better if I had been writing, say, 500 words a day rather than 1,667. I’m not saying the quality is great or not great — just that I do not think it would have been better had I taken four months rather than one. Freeing myself from my inner editor allowed me to see where the story would go without my forcing it, and sometimes it surprised me in a good way!

    Marathon analogy:

There will be tough training days where your legs feel like lead or your lungs burn. Instead of asking yourself why you’re so slow, congratulate yourself for getting out there and putting the time in. That workout was what your body needed and could handle that day (maybe you were starting to get sick and didn’t know it, or you had overtrained the day before). Beating yourself up over a bad workout (or a bad race, for that matter) isn’t going to serve any purpose other than to sabotage your fitness efforts.

Final thoughts on NaNoWriMo? I’m glad I participated. I’m glad I “won.” Whether or not I ever complete the novel (it has at least another 50,000 words to go, and I have yet to decide whether it merits investing the time and energy to complete it), I learned many wonderful and helpful things:

1. You are a writer if you sit down and write. (Just as you are a runner if you put one foot in front of the other no matter the running pace).

2. There is value in committing to a project and seeing it through. (My first marathon still ranks as one of my favorite races, even though it wasn’t my fastest — it was just thrilling to train properly and finish the race).

3. It’s okay to put a scary goal out there, to say it out loud in front of witnesses. It’s motivating to share your goals and dreams with others. There might be naysayers, or people who do not realize what that commitment means, but there’s power and momentum to be gained by putting it out there anyway. You might feel vulnerable and exposed, but you might just receive unexpected support and assistance.

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At this point — a week into November and NaNoWriMo — I suspect some readers of my fitness-related ramblings now shout at the computer: “Stop writing about writing! Stick to your theme! You’re not allowed to write about anything other than subjects covered in your tagline: Fitness, Fun, Family, Food. Notice the absence of another F: Fiction!” (I kid. Generally I find readers to be exceptionally kind and generous people, as most runners and triathletes happen to be.) However, at the end of the day yesterday, I found myself shouting, “Enough!” I crashed from the high of hitting 10,000 words in my novel-in-progress, and I burned out big time. I didn’t want to write any more of the novel, write yet another blog post with strained analogies between writing marathons and running marathons, read about writing (I’m currently reading Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within and I recommend it), or even think about the plot of the novel.

So what did I do? I picked up Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by elite athlete and vegan, Scott Jurek. He talked about how he started to get more and more involved in long distance running as a way to train for competitive cross-country skiing. His friend Dusty took him out for long runs on animal paths that made great running trails. Just as I thought what a nice diversion this book was from all things writing-related, on page 50 Jurek described the experience of trail running with his friend:

I know a novelist who says he was never happier than when he was working on his first book, which turned out to be so bad that he never showed the manuscript to anyone. He said his joy came from the way time stopped and from all he learned about himself and his craft during those sessions. Running with Dusty that spring — not racing, running — I understood what the writer had been talking about.

Alright, Universe! I get the message! I will write! And furthermore, I will embrace the analogies between writing and running, just like ultrarunner Scott Jurek did!

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National Novel Writing Month Word Count as of midday, day 6: 10,584 words. I’m on track, people! I sat in front of the fireplace today and wrote for three hours. Every day I think I’ll take less time or write more words overall than the day before, but that’s pretty much how long it takes me every single day to crank out the necessary 1,667 words.

Having completed one-fifth of the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing 50,000 words, I feel pre-eminently qualified (ha!) to write about what NaNoWriMo has taught me so far.

1. With writing just as with exercise, it’s a lot more fun to knock it out in the morning than to put it off until the end of the day. Mind you, that’s not saying it’s any easier to do the work then, just that it’s less pressure and more rewarding to complete it early in the day.

2. The words that flow the fastest are the ones that come from your own experience. You always hear the advice to “write what you know” and now I know why. I simply have to trust that I have a unique experience and a unique perspective to offer.

3. While I’m on the topic of inspirational advice, let’s go with “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” True for the beginning runner, true for the beginning writer. Do not fear the blank page.

4. You know those photos that circulate every once in a while — the ones that show what you think you look like when you run (a graceful Olympian) and what you really look like when you run (a flailing maniac)? That’s how I feel as I’m writing. I feel like a poser, wannabe writer who is sure to be found out as the flailing maniac she really is. But then I remind myself of lesson #3 above. Repeat to self: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Everyone has to start somewhere. I wouldn’t fault a beginning runner for not having perfect form at the start of her running journey. Why would I expect to be able to write perfect prose right out of the gate?

5. As a writer it’s hard to “show and not tell.” I tend toward very concise writing and speech, and my first instinct is to say, for example: “She worried what would come next” instead of “She hunched her shoulders and furrowed her brow in nervous anticipation.” When I worked as a lawyer, one seasoned paralegal offered me some advice on how to explain legal concepts to a client: “Write like you’re explaining the law to your grandmother.” I need to write for my grandmother. Set the scene. Describe the smells. Paint the characters. Don’t assume the reader sees any of what you see in your head.

6. Find your motivation. I know why I’m doing this, this mammoth marathon writing project. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing a novel and now is as good a time as any to do it. But that’s the big picture motivation. I find that the little picture motivation, for me, is the ability to log my word count for the day and see that blue progress line turn green when I’ve hit 1,667 for the day. It shouldn’t surprise me. After all, I log every mile that I swim, bike or run. Of course I take pleasure in logging every word written!

What lessons have you learned recently about running, about writing, about life? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo and/or NaBloPoMo (please tell me you’re not doing both), how’s it going for you?

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I lost $118.15 today! Wait, make that: I lost my mind and spent $118.15 on registration for the Long Beach Marathon! Prices go up $10 tomorrow so I figured I’d be crazy if I didn’t sign up today. So that’s how, just five days after my second marathon, I find myself registered for 26.2 #3, to take place October 13, 2013.

If only my running speed could match the speed with which I can go from thinking “Marathons are ridiculous. I was crazy for signing up for this” to “I love a challenge! I can’t wait to run another full!”

I wasn’t joking when I said my emotions were pretty raw after the Mountains2Beach Marathon. I kind of knew that I wouldn’t let myself end my full marathon “career” (ha) on a race where I bonked, but at the same time I felt a little betrayed by my body and disillusioned by running. (That “betrayed by my body” stuff comes from a history of infertility and autoimmune thyroid disease. Exercise helped me take back some feeling of strength and empowerment, and when my body couldn’t keep running strong for the full race, I felt a little betrayed again. Which I fully realize is just messed up, because HELLO, my strong and powerful body just carried me 26.2 miles!)

The day after the marathon, my family and I played tourists in Ojai. As we wandered around downtown, we came upon a used book sale at the local library. Now that combines two of my passions: reading and thrift shopping! I spent a long time browsing all the titles until I came upon one that caught my eye:

Never Stop Running book

Never Stop Running! No matter that it was a book about politics. It was a sign. Do you believe in signs? For me, it’s not a belief that someone’s sending me a sign so much as a belief that we are open to seeing what we want to see in a given moment. I obviously wanted to Never Stop Running!

Have you run Long Beach? Have you bonked in a race and come back to conquer the distance successfully? Do you believe in signs?

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Attention marathon fanatics, trainees and wannabes! There will be a special one-night showing of the new movie Spirit of the Marathon II on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 7 p.m. at theaters around the United States. I watched the movie trailer and started crying, so I knew I had to buy my ticket right away!

I loved the first Spirit of the Marathon movie which followed six runners training for and racing the Chicago Marathon. It’s currently available to watch instantly on Netflix and I recommend checking it out if you haven’t seen it already. Then get ready for Spirit of the Marathon II which centers around the Rome Marathon.

2012 Rome Marathon

For the special event on June 12:

Audiences will be transported to six countries for an intimate “up close and personal” look into the runners’ lives and the challenges they face – both physical and emotional – on an epic journey where finishing the Rome Marathon is anything but certain. The event also features inspirational interviews with marathon greats Stefano Baldini, Paula Radcliffe, Frank Shorter, Kathrine Switzer and others as they offer perspective and insight into this legendary race and its history. This one-night event will include behind-the-scenes interviews, deleted scenes and memorable outtakes from the filming of the documentary.

(NCM Fathom Events).

Have you seen Spirit of the Marathon? Does the Spirit of the Marathon II trailer make you cry too?!

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I just realized I left out the best part of my Spring Blast Half Marathon race recap! Mike and my three girls often cheer me on at races and act as my support crew by handing me replacement bottles of sports drink along the course. For last Saturday’s half marathon though, I brought my own bottle of sports drink to grab at the aid station at the halfway mark, and left Mike and the kids sleeping at home. By the time I got home after the race, my girls were out playing in the yard and they ran up to the car in the garage. I rolled down the window and my 8-year-old exclaimed,

There’s our champion!

It makes me well up just to think about it now! Such a wonderful, sweet thing to say!

We all went in the house and my 4-year-old presented me with a picture she had drawn for me while I was gone:

Rainbow over heart flowers

Rainbow over heart flowers

My 11-year-old asked me how the race went and gave me a hug, and my husband made me a plate of scrambled eggs with a side of fruit and a mug of hot chocolate! I am so thankful for my amazing support crew!

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Running emboldens me and humbles me at the same time. I can go from the high of finishing a great race to the low of gutting out a tough training run. Through it all I open myself up to feeling vulnerable, to meeting new challenges, to learning more about myself and the sport. And inevitably along the way I find little nuggets of encouragement, often when I need them most (Thank You Kind Sir, Twenty Mile Run to the Ocean, Twenty Miles on Coyote Creek Trail).

On Saturday I finished up week 11 of 16 weeks of training for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. Five more weeks to go. I’m vacillating between “Let’s do this already” and “I can’t believe it’s coming up so fast.” I’ve completed four of five 20-mile training runs. As the training ramps up and up and up, I find myself doubting my plan. Can I complete it without getting injured? Is it wise to follow an advanced marathon training plan for my second marathon? Saturday’s 20-mile run to the beach went well but left me feeling spent (as a good long run naturally should!) As I sat on the beach, warming up after soaking my tired legs in the cold Pacific Ocean:

Note that I am wearing a Saucony running visor. Then read the next sentence!

Note that I am wearing a Saucony running visor. This will be important.

I received word that I had won a Saucony running outfit from one of Another Mother Runner‘s “hump day giveaways”! I had just run 20 miles wearing my Saucony running visor, and I won a Saucony outfit!

Saucony spring running outfit compliments of Another Mother Runner!

Saucony trio compliments of Another Mother Runner!

Would you believe that I do not own any running capris? Or a running top that has a zippered storage pocket in the back? Or a windbreaker running jacket? How lucky am I?! It’s lovely to receive this much-needed running gear. Even more lovely is the encouragement it gives me. I choose to take this lucky win as a good omen, one that says, “You’re on the right path. Keep going! You can do it!”

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