Race Report: Fox Cities Marathon - Appleton, WI - 9/28/2003

Discussion in 'General Fitness' started by Robert Karp, Sep 30, 2003.

  1. Robert Karp

    Robert Karp Guest

    What: Fox Cities Marathon - Appleton, WI Where: Riverside Park, Neenah, WI When: Sunday, September
    28, 2003 Weather: 45°F, Partly Cloudy, NNW winds 10-20 mph and gusty Information:
    http://foxcitiesmarathon.org/index_main.asp

    This was my first attempt at the full marathon.

    Before I begin, I must share some sobering news. There was a death associated with the half-marathon
    event that was part of the day's schedule. I quote from the local newspaper:

    "Cuong V. Nguyen, a 31-year-old Green Bay man participating in the
    13.1-mile half-marathon, collapsed on Midway Road less than a quarter-mile from the finish at 10:14
    a.m. He was pronounced dead at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton."

    Needless to say I was shocked to hear about this afterward. I know these things happen but it's
    still startling to me.

    Some background information on this event. Last May I ran my first half-marathon. Crossing the
    finish line was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. I was pleased, proud, and on top of
    the world. That feeling lasted about an hour. As I stayed and watched the full marathoners cross the
    line I felt less and less like I had done anything worthwhile and more and more like I hadn't really
    done anything at all. It wasn't those finishing in 3:00:00 or 3:30:00 or even 4:00:00 but rather
    everyone crossing later on, those pounding the pavement in 4:15:00, 4:30:00, etc. Male, female, old,
    young, stocky, lean, tall, short, etc. I thought these are the true runners, the ones with the guts
    to stick it out for 26.2 miles. Their times didn't matter; in fact I think I felt more respect for
    the ones struggling to cross the line in under 5 hours. What sheer determination. I knew right there
    and then that I had to run a full marathon but I also really and truly doubted I could do it. I just
    couldn't fathom how anyone could slug it out for up to four hours or longer. So I didn't say
    anything to anyone about this. In a few weeks I confided in my wife, Renee, and made a deal with
    myself. If I could muster a 20-mile run by July 6 then I would register for the Fox Cities Marathon
    and tell family and friends. Well, July 6 came and went and thanks to my wife's tremendous support
    all went well that day and the many weeks afterward. Before we knew it, it was the day before race
    day. Hard to imagine the miles getting there.

    This was my first true out-of-town race by which I mean we don't have any family in the immediate
    vicinity and our hotel isn't going to be within walking distance of the start line. We drove in the
    day before and immediately went to the packet pick-up and registration. Next we took the bus tour of
    the course. There were only 20 or so people on the bus and I was surprised by that. We met some
    interesting folks. I'm glad we took the time to view the course because although it was advertised
    as "flat" (aren't they all?) I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. Much was flat, to be sure, but
    there were plenty of rolling hills and a monster compound hill just before mile 16 (and I do mean
    monster) and a very steep, but short, bridge overpass at mile
    14. I wouldn't have wanted to be surprised by either of those obstacles in the race itself.

    After the tour we went back to the expo itself where they had a body fat analysis. I'm not certain
    how accurate it was but as I scored
    15.7% I am choosing to believe it was dead on (LOL). My wife scored really well, too. We stopped to
    chat with the Pace Setters people who were offering pace groups in 10 minute increments but after
    chatting for awhile I decided to stick with the advice I was given by a friend well experienced
    in marathon running and that was to eschew the pace groups and to run my own race.

    We got up early on race day and drove to the finish line where shuttle buses took runners to the
    start line which was several miles away. My brother-in-law ("Mike") was running in a relay team and
    Renee decided to go to his starting point (about mile 6) to see him off and wait for me to appear.
    In addition to Renee, my father-in-law ("Dad") and mother-in-law ("Mom") will be there to cheer both
    Mike and me.

    The weather was cold and I mean cold. Although it was about 45°F or so, there was a very stiff wind
    out of the north that made it feel much colder. Plus this was our first really cool spell since last
    winter so not many of us had yet acclimated to the change. When I arrived at the start line area I
    found a spot to spread a blanket and go through my usual stretching and warm-up routine. Then I hit
    the portable toilet. This was the first time I had to use the facilities before a race because I
    hadn't run a full marathon before and in all of my prior races I was either a local or the hotel I
    was at was literally right across the street from the start line. My point here is that it wasn't as
    easy a thing as I thought it would be. I'll spare the details but I had to negotiate my warm-up
    suit, running shorts, and underwear all within the confines of the portable toilet and let's just
    say I wish there was an easier way! Anyway, from there I found the bag and tag area and shed my
    warm-up suit and checked my bag. Now, stripped down to my running gear, I was really cold.

    I went to the herd that was to be the start of the race, wedged in somewhere about a third of the
    way in back and tried to keep warm. There will be about 2,500 people at the start. About 800 are
    running the full marathon; 1,500 people the half, and the rest are walkers. I'm wearing the Timex
    GPS Speed and Distance monitor which I will rely on for distance and split information even though
    the course is well marked. As we near the start time I turn on the GPS device to ensure it's working
    and ready to go. It is and so am I.

    After a moment of silence to honor someone of note from the local community that passed away
    recently, someone sings the National Anthem and the gun sounds that starts the wheel chair
    contestants. Now I'm really starting to feel anxious but also fidgety. I plan on negative splits
    which I've written conspicuously on my forearms. I need to start slow and gradually progress from
    there. I know someone who barely finished under 4 hours in their inaugural marathon because they got
    a little too comfortable at mile 14 and turned on their jets prematurely only to crash and burn
    somewhere after mile 20. I'm truly concerned about that happening to me today.

    Finally our gun sounds and we're off! I get to the line in about 30 seconds or so and start my
    watch. The field is crowded but moving steadily. The starting area is very pretty with water on both
    our right and left. But I am still mighty cold, in fact I would say my hands and feet are all numb.
    I'll be happy when I get warmed up.

    I've set a goal of 3:45:00 which I realize is aggressive for a first marathon but I've already run
    the distance in training as well as five other runs of 20 or longer so I think it's attainable, but
    a stretch. Right now I'm just trying to find a rhythm and not step on anyone or get stepped on. The
    first mile comes up pretty darned quick and I sneak a peek at my watch which reads 8:50. That's
    about where I want to be and indicates I'm starting out all right.

    Miles 2 through 4 are pretty nice scenery and uneventful. I'm trying to find a rhythm and get warmed
    up. I'm beginning to regain some feeling in my feet and hands which is good. Up ahead I can see
    people I met yesterday. Everyone seems to be going out much faster than I am. I keep telling myself
    that's acceptable. We don't want to burn up later on. Mile five finally arrives and I can compare my
    first split to what I had planned. We're at 41:47 versus a planned 43:45. I'm a little worried. It
    didn't feel like I was going out faster than planned.

    After mile 5 we start out on the long NE segment that will take us eventually all the way up to
    Kaukauna, 11 miles away. It's a nice flat residential area with many older homes to look at.
    Somewhere close to mile 7 is where Mike's relay leg begins and where I expect to see Renee. Sure
    enough, there she is yelling that I look smooth and good. I can't believe what a thrill it is to see
    her. I just wasn't expecting to have that kind of reaction. Mom, too, is there from having seen Mike
    off and she offers some words of encouragement. This is really stimulating.

    Mile 9 is another high point and one that I have been anxiously awaiting since the start of the
    race. Mile 9 is where the half marathon branches off. I remember when I did my half in May that I
    felt a little envious as I watched the full marathon crowd continue on their way while I peeled off
    with the rest of the half bunch. I recall wishing that I had the ability to continue on to the full.
    Well now the tables were turned and it was I that was continuing on as I mentally said farewell to
    the people in the half. There are twice as many in the half as the full so things definitely open up
    a bit once they peel off.

    There's Renee again at mile 10! I was not expecting her again so soon. It's even more of a boost
    this time than it was four miles earlier. Having family to cheer for you like that is really
    important. At this point I should mention two other things about this well-run race. Our bib numbers
    also have our first names on them and in big enough letters that many spectators are rooting for us
    by name as we pass by. Secondly, every five miles or so the course changes sides so that we run on
    the opposite side of the road. This is very helpful to the legs. Mile 10 marks my second split which
    I record as
    15:1:15 versus a planned 1:27:15, exactly four minutes fast. So, even though I thought I had settled
    down into a slower pace closer to target, I've actually gotten faster. I'm still very concerned
    about fading late and make a concerted effort to settle down into a slower rhythm.

    Just after mile 10 we swing north for a while and that 20 mph wind makes itself felt for the first
    time in earnest. All I can say is that it is mighty cold and I don't want to be spending the rest of
    the day running into it! Fortunately, most of the course is going to be perpendicular to the wind so
    we shouldn't have too many miles either into it or directly with it. But that doesn't matter much at
    the moment because we are definitely heading right into it. Between mile 11 and 12 I spot a friend
    from work who calls my name and tells me I'm looking good and strong. That's a real boost. Several
    other folks standing in the vicinity also call to me by name. This is getting better all the time.

    Miles 11 and 12 are picturesque and bring some rolling hills into the picture. Personally, I find
    them to be a welcome break from the monotonous plodding along level asphalt. At mile 13, however, is
    something unexpected. I was aware there would be an underpass, a narrow tunnel under a roadway, but
    I wasn't prepared for the water station that appeared. I can't recall it in great specificity but I
    remember it was very large and elaborate and had a 50s rock theme. I recall a giant juke box
    display, a huge guitar, and several people dressed in Elvis costumes. What I remember most was the
    uplifting feeling it gave me. The combination of the loud rock music and the cheering of the people
    (often using my name) was really stimulating. It made me forget the steep decline under the road and
    the subsequent incline back to level ground again.

    After the tunnel it's back to nice scenery and rolling hills. But I'm growing nervous now. I know
    that soon that awful hill will be upon us. I just hope I have the strength to get through it. Much
    of my training has been on very hilly terrain but logistics prevented me from doing any of my 20+
    runs over hilly terrain (the only trail long enough in my area is over an abandoned railroad line so
    it's basically flat). At mile 15 I record my next split which is 2:04:27 versus a planned 2:10:30.
    I'm still getting faster. What's going on here? I'm making a concerted effort to slow down and I
    keep getting faster. At this rate I'll never make it to the finish line and that's not a joke.

    All right ... there's no avoiding it ... that monster hill over the Fox River and into Kaukauna is
    coming up. Hunker down and concentrate, Robert. It's nothing you can't handle. The hill is about 100
    feet in height and several hundred yards in length, in two segments (after what seems to be the top,
    it turns left and continues for another hundred yards or so, which you can't discern from the first
    leg because it's so steep -- I'm glad I took the course tour the day before). It could be even
    higher than 100 feet, I'm not certain. Just awful, especially at that point in the race. But it was
    also the highlight of the entire day. Renee's brother (Mike, who had already run a leg in a relay)
    was at the bottom of the hill on my right yelling words of encouragement and instruction. Dad
    (Renee's father) was a little farther up on my left also yelling words of advice and coaching. Way
    up ahead was Mom (Renee's mother) just being her sweet, encouraging self. In between were the two
    dozen or so high school girls that comprise the Kaukauna women's cross country team and they were
    all screaming "Go, Robert, Go!" in unison and had written my name in chalk on the road way. Seems
    that Mom, Dad, and Mike got there early enough to recruit them and they were nice enough to play
    along (they were there to cheer their coach, I think, who was also running). Anyway, that carried me
    through that awful stretch. It was like a scene out of Rocky or something. Just amazing; almost
    embarrassing.

    After the hill we continue through Riverside park and begin a very long and very gradual downhill
    stretch of tree lined roadway (to give you some idea of the hill we just climbed, this downhill
    stretch extends for over four miles unabated). There's one quaint neighborhood after another. Each
    seems to have its own personality and each brings out small groups of spectators, the majority of
    which are calling out to us by name. This little race is very well supported and seemingly very well
    organized considering it involves no less than eleven separate and distinct cities, villages and
    towns each with their own police departments and traffic issues to contend with. I can't get over
    how well supported this race is.

    Mom, Dad, and Mike drive past me in their car somewhere around mile
    16. I guess they're heading to their next vantage point along the course. I'm still basking in the
    glow of the hill incident when they zoom by shouting at me from the car. It's another shot of
    adrenaline that helps me continue on my merry way.

    At mile 18 I try to grab a cup of water but wind up wearing it instead of drinking it. I'm not
    thirsty and feel fine as far as I can tell but my seasoned marathon friend scolded me in no
    uncertain terms to drink some water during the race regardless of how I felt. Oh well; maybe later.
    Mile 20 is coming up and I get ready to record my next split. I'm sitting at 2:44:39 versus a
    planned 2:53:00, about 8 minutes fast. I'm still getting faster when I don't want to. Just after
    mile 20, there's a mock wall (called, what else, "The Wall") that people put up each year. Most of
    the runners make punching gestures as they pass through it. As symbols go, it's very cute.

    I'll have to admit that the next three miles were very tough mentally. Though there were sill
    pockets of people cheering us on I didn't see any friends or family through this stretch. I guess it
    was just tough to get to this area of the course by car. At mile 20 I did the unthinkable and
    actually stopped momentarily to gulp two large mouthfuls of water then really bolted out of there
    feeling like I had just lost an hour or two. I settled down shortly thereafter. At this point I
    notice I lose the 3:40:00 pace group I had been trailing the entire race. They had been stopping for
    water along the way and I would get ahead of them as a result but then they'd always overtake me
    again. This time, though, they aren't coming back. One of their group did apparently break away as I
    see someone just ahead of me with a 3:40 number on their back.

    It's gotten awfully quiet all of a sudden and I'm aware that I'm passing people but no one's passing
    me. I just love the relay people, I really do. Many have passed me during the race. I just think to
    myself "so what; you're just running a portion of this thing". But when I start passing some relay
    people then I get to think big of myself and say (in jest) "ha ha; I'm passing you and you're just
    running a leg of this and I'm doing the entire course". So, I can't lose. Whichever way I play it,
    I'm all right.

    At mile 23 something very pleasant happens. Renee is there to offer loud and visible support. A few
    folks nearby are joining her. This couldn't come at a better time. The last 3 miles were really
    tough mentally and there's a short but nasty bridge overpass coming up at mile 24. Renee knew
    exactly what she was doing. She tells me I'm looking strong and to bear down and bring it on home.
    I'm really scared I'm running too fast and will crash but she's been running far longer than I have
    and she knows what she's talking about. I'll do as she suggests. Mike and Dad have been shouting
    similar words earlier and they are also both seasoned runners. Maybe I'll get through this thing
    after all.

    All right. It's mile 24 and that dreaded overpass. Thanks to Renee and the rest of the family I'm
    able to power up and over that overpass in style and pass about 10 people in the process. The good
    news is that at the foot of the bridge we take a right hand turn onto Midway Road which is the last
    leg of the entire course. Just over two more miles and we're to the finish line! I had been worried
    about this stretch because it is more or less into the wind and the wind has been getting steadily
    stronger throughout the race. It's also starting to sprinkle, not a good combination. But much to my
    surprise and delight we are still at an angle to the wind and it isn't a significant factor.

    Mile 25 arrives and I record my last split. It's 3:25:29 versus my planned 3:35:05. I'm almost 10
    minutes ahead of myself with only 1.2 miles to go. I'm going to make it! I'm not going to crash and
    burn. Heck, I could walk it in from here and still make my 3:45:00 goal time. Wow. It's just now
    starting to sink in that this is turning into something really special. All of my aches and pains
    are fading into the background for the moment. I have only one thing on my mind and that's crossing
    that finish line.

    This is just awesome now. The crowd is really starting to fill in. The cheering is getting louder
    and more constant. I'm passing stragglers from the half marathon and walkers. I'm still passing some
    relay people. No one's passing me. This is great. Out of the blue Mom appears and cheers me on to
    finish. Then Mike appears, also yelling words of encouragement. Then finally Dad shows up and tells
    me to hunker down and power through to the finish. I don't know how he does it but he is visible
    about a quarter mile out and then again just before the line. The announcer is calling out our names
    as we approach the finish line. It's a very thrilling moment. It feels like something from the old
    Wide World of Sports program.

    As the finish line appears and I hear my name being called my eyes start to fill with tears. I
    imagined this moment for months but the actual happening is far more moving than anything I have
    dreamt. I cross the line and actually remember to stop my watch (3:36:52) and then run to Renee and
    give her a big hug. "We did it", I say to her. "We did it." Mom, Dad, and Mike are all there
    expressing their pride and support. It's all like a dream.

    We find the bag and tag place and reclaim my belongings. We also stop by for the finishers' medal
    and shirt (I like that the shirts aren't given out ahead of time and this one is a particularly
    nice shirt at that). I force down a slice of orange and a bit of banana but all I really want is
    some water, to put on my warm-up suit, and walk around. As I've been saying all along, it's
    really cold out!

    Well, for the record, I finished 137/683 overall; 16/56 in my division (M45-49); and 119/425 gender.
    My official time was 3:37:29 and my chip time was 3:36:52. For my first marathon attempt I am darned
    pleased with these numbers.

    Splits were as follows:

    Mile Time Pace 5 0:41:47 8:21 10 1:23:15 8:18 15 2:04:27 8:14 20 2:44:39 8:02 25 3:25:29 8:10 FIN
    3:36:52 8:01

    I'm not sure if I'll ever do another full marathon or not. The time commitment is huge, as you all
    know, but so is the sacrifice on friends and family. All summer long my wife gave up her own weekend
    long runs to accompany me on mine with her bike and that just isn't fair to her. I couldn't have
    possibly done this without her.

    Anyway, I've realized the dream I had at the half marathon back in May. Now I feel comfortable
    calling myself a "runner".

    Thanks for reading.
     
    Tags:


  2. Globaldisc

    Globaldisc Guest

    Excellent Report....you really took me there with you for the run. Congratulations on your time, you
    should be proud.

    However I could not help but note how you can recall the segments of the race so vividly and in
    detail. When I race I have no sense of anything beyond my immediate space as I "zone out" everything
    and simply try to get into a "place", a "flow" that I can sustain oblivious of place and time. You
    probably have more fun than me and I'm probably missing out on the beauty and scenic "arc" of races.
    Kudos to you and I wish I could be more like you.

    Andrew....
     
  3. Congratulations on a great run! Negative splits, didn't hit the wall ... a testament to the quality
    of your preparation.

    --
    Brian P. Baresch Fort Worth, Texas, USA Professional editing and proofreading

    If you're going through hell, keep going. --Winston Churchill
     
  4. Tim Downie

    Tim Downie Guest

    Robert Karp wrote:

    <snip>

    Congratulations Robert! Very impressive pace control even knowing that you had the Timex GPS. I
    ran with a runner wearing the same kit during the Loch Ness marathon. For the first 5 miles he
    kept saying "I'm going too fast" but despite that, he stuck to the same pace and eventually
    pulled away from
    me. I passed him walking at 20 miles.

    *Having* the information is one thing, being able to use it intelligently is another.

    > I'm not sure if I'll ever do another full marathon or not.

    Once the post race euphoria wears off, your life will seem empty. The only known cure is to look for
    another marathon. ;-)

    > The time commitment is huge, as you all know, but so is the sacrifice on friends and family. All
    > summer long my wife gave up her own weekend long runs to accompany me on mine with her bike and
    > that just isn't fair to her. I couldn't have possibly done this without her.

    It can be hard on the family but now that you know that you can do a marathon, you could think about
    doing your long runs solo and in the early mornings. It's hard but it does minimise the impact on
    the rest of the family.

    I hope you've got some good photographs and memorabilia from your marathon. The first will always be
    special and you can feel justly proud of your achievement.

    Cheers.

    Tim

    --
    Remove the obvious to reply by email.
     
  5. Robert Karp

    Robert Karp Guest

    [email protected] (Globaldisc) wrote:

    >Excellent Report....you really took me there with you for the run. Congratulations on your time,
    >you should be proud.
    >
    >However I could not help but note how you can recall the segments of the race so vividly and in
    >detail. When I race I have no sense of anything beyond my immediate space as I "zone out"
    >everything and simply try to get into a "place", a "flow" that I can sustain oblivious of place and
    >time. You probably have more fun than me and I'm probably missing out on the beauty and scenic
    >"arc" of races. Kudos to you and I wish I could be more like you.
    >
    >Andrew....

    Thanks much for the kind words, Andrew. I think I spend time making careful note of my surroundings
    more to forget about my aches and pains than anything else. If I concentrate too much on my running
    I sometimes find myself noticing twitches and things that I otherwise wouldn't have known about.
    Plus this was a race I hadn't run before so it was easy to want to look around.
     
  6. Robert Karp

    Robert Karp Guest

    Brian Baresch <[email protected]> wrote:

    >Congratulations on a great run! Negative splits, didn't hit the wall ... a testament to the quality
    >of your preparation.

    Thanks, Brian. I always enjoy reading your reports. If this event was in your area I think you would
    give it three stars and a "check it out".
     
  7. Robert Karp

    Robert Karp Guest

    I owe you some thanks, Tim. You gave me some feedback a while back in response to a "training week"
    reply I posted. Because of your input I scaled back my training distance for some of my runs in the
    last weeks and that made a difference.
     
  8. article <[email protected]> [email protected] writes:
    >Information: http://foxcitiesmarathon.org/index_main.asp This was my first attempt at the full
    >marathon.
    >
    >As the finish line appears and I hear my name being called my eyes start to fill with tears. I
    >imagined this moment for months but the actual happening is far more moving than anything I have
    >dreamt. I cross the line and actually remember to stop my watch (3:36:52) and then run to Renee and
    >give her a big hug. "We did it", I say to her. "We did it." Mom, Dad, and Mike are all there
    >expressing their pride and support. It's all like a dream.
    >
    >Well, for the record, I finished 137/683 overall; 16/56 in my division (M45-49); and 119/425
    >gender. My official time was 3:37:29 and my chip time was 3:36:52. For my first marathon attempt I
    >am darned pleased with these numbers.

    Wow, BIG Congratulations, Robert! That's a really great first marathon!! And a fantastic,
    fun-to-read report, I felt like I was right there. Now get some good rest, eat a lot, and start
    planning for your next big marathon! (pick an exotic place where you and Renee can have fun!)

    Teresa in AZ
     
  9. Robert Karp

    Robert Karp Guest

    [email protected] (Teresa Plymate) wrote:
    >
    >Wow, BIG Congratulations, Robert! That's a really great first marathon!! And a fantastic,
    >fun-to-read report, I felt like I was right there. Now get some good rest, eat a lot, and start
    >planning for your next big marathon! (pick an exotic place where you and Renee can have fun!)
    >
    >Teresa in AZ

    Thanks so much, Teresa. Only since you mentioned it ... I'm not sure it qualifies as "exotic" but
    our seasoned marathoner friend is originally from Finland and goes back every year to visit his
    folks. It's just a hazy preliminary thought at this point but he and I and our wives are thinking
    about perhaps next summer's Helsinki marathon. It's a place we never would get to otherwise and from
    all I can gather it's pretty nice if not exactly exotic. We'll see. Right now, the calves are still
    complaining (even after several 5-mile recovery runs).
     
  10. article <[email protected]> [email protected] writes:
    >[email protected] (Teresa Plymate) wrote:
    >>Wow, BIG Congratulations, Robert! That's a really great first marathon!! And a fantastic,
    >>fun-to-read report, I felt like I was right there. Now get some good rest, eat a lot, and start
    >>planning for your next big marathon! (pick an exotic place where you and Renee can have fun!)
    >>Teresa in AZ
    >
    >Thanks so much, Teresa. Only since you mentioned it ... I'm not sure it qualifies as "exotic" but
    >our seasoned marathoner friend is originally from Finland and goes back every year to visit his
    >folks. It's just a hazy preliminary thought at this point but he and I and our wives are thinking
    >about perhaps next summer's Helsinki marathon. It's a place we never would get to otherwise and
    >from all I can gather it's pretty nice if not exactly exotic. We'll see. Right now, the calves are
    >still complaining (even after several 5-mile recovery runs).

    That sounds exotic enough! Anything not in the familiar stomping grounds-ish. Where you can do
    some sightseeing after the race. Also sounds like it would be nice and cool for the race! Hope you
    guys can go!

    Teresa in AZ
     
  11. Doug Burke

    Doug Burke Guest

    Hope this goes because I've been having trouble posting lately. Anyway, very nice report and and
    even better race effort. Congrats all the way around on a job well done. You mention the time
    committment. There's obviously one in training properly for a marathon but if you ever want to give
    another one a go, I'd cut way back on your long runs. If I recall from your training posts you did
    the full 26.2 at least twice and a bunch of other really long runs. Next time peak at one 22 or
    maybe a 24. You might find your race effort will be unaffected and you have more time for real life
    stuff. Great race though and very enjoyable report. Doug Burke
     
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