2015 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon Race Report

Here’s the question:  Is it considering lying if you just fail to mention something?  Or it just not telling the whole truth?  Either way, I forgot to mention something to you.

This past weekend, I headed to Jackson, Mississippi to visit Sara.  Sara’s my college roommate to is sooooooo close to finishing her PhD in clinical psychology, but she’s in Jackson to do her internship.  Since I like Sara and I like good reasons to travel (and figured I might never have a really good reason to visit Jackson), it made sense to visit her while she’s there for the year.  Another good reason to travel is for a race, and conveniently the Mississippi Blues Marathon, Half Marathon, and Quarter Note were nicely placed in January.  Seeing as it would make sense to me that Mississippi would be warmer that NYC is in January, I was sold.

My original plan was to run the marathon, riding the cardiovascular wave from Princeton 70.3, to PR or at least put in a strong effort at the marathon distance.  Well, between getting really sick after the triathlon and the stress of finding an apartment and Eric moving here, my running never got back to where I wanted it to be.  When I finally needed to put my foot down and register, I wasn’t even sure I could make the marathon distance.  After heading out for a 16 mile run which I struggled through and then got sick after, I decided the marathon was out and the half marathon was in.  Could I run the marathon?  Sure.  Did I want a sufferfest and ruin the rest of my time in Mississippi?  Nope.  (Was I jealous when I saw the marathon medal?  Oh yes.)

I arrived in Jackson on Thursday, and the race was on Saturday.  (Because nothing happens in Mississippi on Sundays, if you were wondering.)  Sara was working (and not running on Saturday due to injury), so Marissa and I headed to the expo.  For being a small race, they had a sizeable number of vendors/race booths.  We headed straight to packet pick-up, where we received our bibs (obviously), as well as large reusable bags and the race vests.  I’m still not sure how I feel about getting a race vest instead of a race shirt, although I’m pretty sure I would prefer a shirt because I’m not much of a running vest person.

IMG_7015 This is officially the most posed blog picture I’ve ever taken.

My bag ended up having some sort of Icy Hot variation that exploded, so my bag (still) smells like the substance, and it was all over my hands.  After a slight panic to find the bathroom lest my fingers go numb, I hunted down some race nutrition (Honey Stinger Waffle and PowerBar Energy Chews) and we were on our way.  But first we had to take a picture with a guitar…obviously.

photo 1 (28) Rock on.

We headed back to Sara’s to relax…or at least I did some relaxing.  Marissa, who planned to run the Quarter Note, ended up getting a nasty migraine which almost landed her in the ER.  If you’ve ever had a migraine before, you’d realize that getting up early to run the next morning is most likely not in the cards.  Sara and I attempted an early bedtime, but I still set my watch for an early, early 5:30am.

Although I had hoped that racing in Mississippi in January would allow me to run with temperatures in the 50’s (or at least the 40’s, I don’t ask for much…), checking the weather the week before flying down made me realize that I shouldn’t bank on that.  I had high hopes even through race morning, but waking to see a temperature of 27 killed those warm race dreams.

photo 2 Dear Jackson, maybe you should have had your race on Sunday.

I hoped some food would warm me up, so I had a cup of coffee, a Honey Stinger waffle, and a banana…all while kicking myself for not bringing my headband with me.  I got dressed in the dark (this will be important later…) so as not to wake Sara until the last possible second.  We headed for downtown Jackson around 6am and arrived with only a slight amount of traffic.  Since it didn’t make sense for Sara to sit around for the duration of my run (and downtown Jackson didn’t have any open coffee shops at that hour on the weekend…), the plan was for Sara to drop me off.  I admittedly stalled getting out of the car because I didn’t bring anything for bag check, and it was COLD outside.  After a few final sips of water, I got a final good luck from Sara and headed out.  Luckily, the art museum lobby was open for bag check/packet pickup, so many runners were crowded in there.  I hung out in there for a bit before realizing I should find the bathroom before the race start.

The portopotties were located close to the starting line, so I headed out to get in line with everyone else.  They had enough that I didn’t have to wait too long, and I wanted to stay in longer to stay as warm as possible…but that’s mean to other people in line, so I didn’t.  I made my way up toward the front of the starting area and hoped that the mass of people would keep me warm.

photo 3 (17) Cold people, rising sun.

Having checked out previous years’ race results, I knew that it wasn’t race full of speedy people, so I felt confident lining up near the front.  I kicked my legs and jumped around to stay warm.  After the National Anthem, the announcer guy kept talking (and it was 7am – start time)…so the guy next to me said, “Can we please just get this started??”  Standing around in the cold was something no one wanted to do.  At about 7:02, the race started!

RACE TIME

image

My plan for the race was to keep it somewhat easy and run somewhere between 1:40-1:45 overall, which is about 7:40-8 minutes per mile.  My running hasn’t been that great lately, struggling to run 8 minute miles at times.  But of course, if you’ve ever read here before, when a gun goes off, I go.  So I did.

I remember thinking in the first mile that I just wanted to get out and run to warm up.  I planned to ignore my watch and just keep moving, but it was hard to tell how my legs felt because they were really, really cold.  Most people had lined up correctly according to pace, but a few people hadn’t, so I ended up jockeying around some people.  At one point, I headed left around a girl wearing purple who was wearing headphones.  I made moves to pass her, but when I came up next to her, she kind of moved over.  She even got so close that she hit the “lap” button on my Garmin with her elbow!  Alright then.  She sped up whenever I got even with her and continued to do so for the first few miles.  I can’t decide whether keeping my eyes on someone is a welcome distraction or overly frustrating.

The race started with a four mile out and back through Jackson State University, which was empty except for some volunteers.  We ran through what must have been their fraternity/sorority section, as Greek letters lined the path.  The sun wasn’t quite up yet, and I was still cold.  My pace was hanging around 7:25-7:30-ish, and it made me nervous.  I didn’t think I could hold that for 13.1 miles, but slowing down always seems like a bad idea.  Plus, I was cold and worried that if I slowed down, my legs wouldn’t pick back up again.

We passed through the starting area and turned north, which is where the hills began.  I had read the description and looked at the elevation profile, and it seemed like there were rolling hills for most of the way.  This was true – I feel like we were either going up or down most of the time.  The first major hill came in mile 4-5-ish, and luckily it was one that I had run up the day before.  I sometimes psych myself out over hills, but I knew that this one looked bigger/steeper than it actually was.  I put my focus on keeping my effort the same and not totally exerting myself, and it works.  Hills are way more mental than they are physical, which I proved here.

Elevation profile.  Fair amount of hills.

At this point, I was happy that the sun was up and thankful for the volunteers – no one else was out, but the volunteers were all in neon yellow shirts, thanking us for coming out.  I’ve also never heard, “Good job, y’all!!” so many times.  I guess I run most (all?) of my races in the north, but hearing “y’all” definitely made me realize I was in Mississippi!  The aid stations were about every 1.5 miles, and volunteers were experts at handing off water, so props to them.

Somewhere in mile 5, I ended up passing the girl in purple on a downhill.  Mostly, I was tired of her being RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, so I just hit the gas for a short time and put her behind me.  I stretched out my legs as much as the cold would let me and hoped she wouldn’t try to move with me.  It was somewhere around here that an aid station volunteer told me I was the fifth woman.  However, the half and the full were still together so I wasn’t sure what place I was in the half.  Still, I was happy with that.

At mile 6.5-ish, the half turns off from the full.  I wondering if the crowd would thin out, but it seemed as though many people my pace were running the half, so it crowd stayed pretty consistent.  We headed down toward a highway ramp/frontage road, which was pretty boring.  Not that this course is known for its beauty, but I hate when races end up on/near a highway.  Anyway.  As I headed down toward the frontage road, I noticed a woman running maybe 30-60 seconds ahead of me.  Coming down the hill, I had it in my mind that I wanted to pass her, but she was far enough away that I didn’t want to burn out trying to catch her.

Mile 7.5 was the turnaround under the highway, and also the location of the only band I saw.  Being the Mississippi Blues marathon/half marathon, they boasted about 18 bands/music locations on the course.  I realize I was on the half course and therefore not seeing all 18 bands, but I only saw one.  ONE.  Not sure if the cold kept people away or they just didn’t set up in time for the half marathoners, but that was a little disappointing.

A little bit after passing the mile 9 marker, the girl I’d been chasing was in reach, and we were about to go up a hill.  I definitely wasn’t feeling the hill, but I was in that weird I’m-going-to-pass-you-but-not-quickly-maybe-I-won’t-actually-pass-you zone (you know what I’m talking about…).  I tried to push a little just to get out of the weird zone, and the guy she was running with (they were together the entire time, so I’m assuming that was planned) said good job.  Hooray.

I remembered looking at the elevation chart and thinking that the hills would be over after mile 10…but really it was more like mile 11.  Mile 10 was my slowest mile of the race, clocking in at 7:45.  I think the hill got to me, and I wondered if I had pushed too fast in the first miles.  I told myself I had come too far to pull back the pace now, so I tried to push on.

Somewhere in mile 10-11-ish, a volunteer said that I was the second female.  This just turned into a RACE.  I couldn’t see any females ahead of me, and I looked back to see how close the girl I had passed was.  For awhile she was in sights, so that only fueled my fire to keep pushing.  The volunteers were also great, continuing to thank us for coming to Mississippi to run.  I got VIP treatment at one aid station…not too many people were around when I approached, so they yelled out, “Water or Gatorade??” to which I responded water and had a seamless hand off.

At mile 11, I was ready to be DONE.  Two more to go.  The girl was further behind me, but I know I’m better at racing a clock than I am at racing another person, so I wanted to put more space between us.  Of course, we had one more short, steeper-ish hill to head up, which took a bit of the wind out of my sails.  I got myself back together at the top and told myself it would be over soon, and I’d be so upset if I lost placing now.

I felt myself picking it up in the last mile, more because I wanted to be done rather than fear of the girl catching me.  However, with about 0.75 mile to go, I heard a female voice coming up behind me – she was quite cheerful and saying good job to people as she passed.  She quickly passed me, and I knew she was moving too fast for me to keep up with her.  I knew I was pushing my limit already, so I let her go.  Otherwise, we were surrounded by people who were walking the Quarter Note (10.5k), so going around them was a little annoying.  I counted down the minutes to the finish, didn’t look back anymore, and made the final turn to the finish.  I was still expecting a 1:40 finish, but I was surprised when the clock said 1:38!  I pushed through the finish line, clocking in at 1:38:22.

the finish

I dry heaved a couple times at the finish (oops?), but that passed quickly.  A volunteer handed me a bottle of water and put a heat sheet around me…then I waited near the medals.  I stood there for awhile, but I don’t think anyone noticed…and I certainly wasn’t leaving there without a medal!  Excellent.  I walked out of the finish area and looked for some food (banana? bagel?  anyone?), but didn’t see anything or anyone directing toward that area, so I went back into the art museum to be warm while waiting for Sara.  She was going to text me when she parked…I don’t normally run with my phone, but I had tucked it into my shirt for ease of post-race communication.

photo 5 (2) Gatsby-sized medal.

I received a test from Sara that simply said, “At the finish,” so I walked over there…my fingers weren’t in the mood to move enough to text/call.  Since I had told her I would finish in 1:40-1:45, she had lined up in time to see me – getting there at the 1:39 mark.  She missed me by about 30 seconds, oops!  With seemingly not much to see at the race finish, we snapped a finisher picture, checked the results (third female, first in my age group!), and headed home.

photo 4 (8) Hooray!  I’m done!

The award ceremony wasn’t scheduled to start until 11am, so sticking around for it seemed like a cold option.  I so was looking forward to a warm shower, which I took very quickly after arriving back to Sara’s house.  This was also when I realized that I had put my shirt on backwards – I only noticed when I went to take it off.  Oops!

image I apparently fail at getting dressed in the dark.

After some yogurt and coffee at home and making sure it wasn’t totally unreasonable to want to go back for the award ceremony, Sara, Marissa, and I headed back for the 11am ceremony.  We wandered around a bit to find out where the awards actually would be, only to find out that they wouldn’t be more til about 11:30-ish (and actually, almost noon).  We found the food tent, which had pizza, sodas, hot chocolate, some sort of chili(?), and Gatorade.  I scarfed a piece of pizza and sipped a Gatorade before sitting around waiting for the awards.  It was warmer out with the sun, but still chilly.  Fail.

After waiting a bit, it was awards time!  Luckily, they started with the half marathon females, so I got my name called out first!  This doesn’t happen very often and definitely never happens in New York, so that was fun!  The award says third female overall and it shaped like a guitar….excellent.

missisippi blues Hardware!

We stuck around for the rest of the overall awards (the female marathon winner ran 2:57 – nuts!) and then headed home.  I started to feel a little nauseated on the way home, but figured I just needed to eat something.  Sara made a slow cooker lunch, so I ate that along with drinking some water.  I still wasn’t feeling amazing, but I figured I was tired and needed to take a nap…especially since we had some visitors coming at 2pm!  I went lay down and just had a massive headache, and my stomach was feeling upset.  After about an hour, I knew this wasn’t going well and that I probably needed some salt – I asked if someone could take me to get some pretzels and Gatorade, so we went to the nearest CVS.  The cashier guy was taking foreverrrrrr counting money at another register, and I was breathing in and out of my nose because I really didn’t feel good.  I ended up vomiting within minutes after getting back to Sara’s (best houseguest ever…but really, I shouldn’t travel for half marathons since this isn’t the first time this has happened).  I nibbled on some pretzels…literally.  I ate maybe a pretzel every two minutes.  Finally I felt like I could swallow some medicine, so I took some ibuprofen – this was just as Sara mentioned they were headed out for some drinks before dinner.  I asked if they could pick me up for dinner and ended up napping for a hour and a half.  I felt like a whole new woman.

I’m fairly certainly I get dehydrated because I don’t take in enough water – I was chugging water on Friday because I just couldn’t feel hydrated.  I know you can’t catch up in one day, plus on a cold race day you’re not really driven to drink much.  It’s something I need to work on and makes you feel miserable if you don’t drink enough.  Major thanks to Marissa and Sara for the help!

the results/thoughts

On a more positive note, I had a good race!  Placing third overall in a half marathon is pretty cool.  My PR is 1:31:50-something, so on more well-trained day, I possibly could have run.  But, if I was better trained, I probably would have run the marathon, so there’s that.

image woohoo!

image Garmin splits.

image Official splits.

I negative split – hooray!  Moreso, I maintained a pretty even pace for the entire race, except for the last mile.  I went into this race with no expectations other than putting in a solid effort, and I expected that effort to be around an 8 minute pace.  Mostly, I’m happy with pushing the pace considering where I’m at in my training, and I liked that I didn’t get up when it got tough at the end.  I easily could have thrown up my arms and said, “I didn’t train for this!” and slowed it down the last few miles, but I kept pushing.  These are things I need to do when things get tough and I’m actually trained!  I also liked the idea of actually racing other people in the race – in big races, there are so many people and it doesn’t really matter if you come in 252nd or 253rd, so it was kind of fun to push myself for placing purposes.

race thoughts

The Mississippi Blues Marathon is really well run – it has all the aspects you look for in a big race, but it’s really small.  About 1700 in the half and 800 in the full.  One of the big draws for this race is for the Marathon Maniacs – you can run this marathon on Saturday then head to Mobile, Alabama to run another marathon.  I feel like this race kind of catered to that?  It was definitely a marathon with a half marathon attached to it – since I’m normally running the marathon, it felt weird to be on the other side.  I wish I had seen more bands – I just checked the schedule, and some weren’t schedule to start until after faster-ish half marathoners were already beyond their setups.  Also, the food tent thing was a little weird.  Another runner stopped to ask Sara and me where the food was when we were walking to the car the first time, and I thought it was so odd that no one was pointing us in the direction of food.  I couldn’t tell you if the food tent was set up or not – I would have loved pizza right after the race!

But overall, it was a good race.  Not the temperature I wanted (silly Mississippi…), but the volunteers were super gracious that we were there, and the medal is certainly one of the best medals I’ve ever received.  It’s also nice to get out of the big city races and do something smaller where you feel a little more like a competitor.

Thanks, Jackson!  I’m not sure if Ill ever be back, but you put on a solid race.

florida fun in nashville

Greetings from the North!  I am allowed to say that after spending a weekend in the South, right?  More specifically, I spent the weekend in Nashville, Tennessee with Eric and a bunch of his friends from Florida.  Two years ago, the men of the group headed to Nashville to see the Florida/Vandy game for a bachelor party…they had so much fun they decided to do it for a second time, but let the ladies come along as well.  It ended up being six guys and two girls, so I’m pretty sure the two of us got bonus points for putting up with the guys’ shenanigans.

We stayed in a rented townhouse about half a mile from Vandy’s stadium, which was beautiful and way too nice for a guys’ weekend – the first matter of business was moving anything breakable to a safe location.  Otherwise, the weekend can be divided into a few different sections – food, feats of strength, some touristy things, running (for me), and football.  Away we go.

the food

Our diet for the weekend basically consisted of BBQ with one meal of fried chicken thrown in for good measure.  The townhouse was conveniently within walking distance (or a short drive, if you’re used to driving…the New Yorker in me would definitely walk) of Hog Heaven, a hole in the wall BBQ place.  I ate pulled pork, mac and cheese, baked beans, and a cornbread pancake every single day we were there.  I do not regret a single bite.  If you go, get the pulled pork with the white sauce…I’m still not sure what it is, but it is delicious.  I also can’t believe that I don’t have any pictures of the food…but then again, I’m not a food blogger.  Oops?

As a side note, do not, I repeat DO NOT, go to the South and ask for “regular tea” meaning that you do not want sweet tea.  The guy behind the counter kindly reminded me that “this is the South, we ain’t got no regular tea here.”  Noted. 

The one meal we skipped having BBQ was when we mixed it up for some fried chicken.  One of Eric’s friends had eaten at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken on a prior trip to Nashville and deemed it worthy of skipping BBQ.  They basically serve all types of fried chicken (vegetarians, beware) with all the typical Southern fixings.

photo 3 (14) SO GOOD.

I got chicken tenders with medium heat…provided enough bite for enjoyment, but not so much that I struggled to eat it.  Otherwise, the pimento mac and cheese was ridiculous (Abbe, this must be replicated) and no one questioned me about my tea order.  Win and win.  Seriously, go here.  I suggest taking a statin with you.  (Nurse humor, I can’t help it.)

feats of strength

Boys being boys, they of course had to engage in competition.  “Feats of Strength” continued from the bachelor party that started this whole trip, where they did silly things after consuming some adult beverages.  Pretty sure I was in bed when they recreated those moments, and the feats of strength I was around for seemed a bit more tame than the stories I’d been told.  I do know that Sports Jeopardy and Head Up (yes, the Ellen game) were involved.  The feats of strength that I got to join in on included Jenga and beer pong…please note that more time was spent arguing over the rules of beer pong than actually playing it, ha.  Jenga was actually played at a local bar that had a few different games you could play.  We warmed up with some old school boxing…

IMG_2540 Eric won.  Pretty sure it was rigged slash his guy was broken.

Then we moved onto Jenga, single elimination…and my official invitation into feats of strength.  These guys didn’t know what they were getting into, as I moved onto total domination.  They said I was cheating with my “steady nurse hands”…they come in handy for IV starts and Jenga.  (Putting that on my resume…)  I ended up winning the whole thing, and Eric got this video of a Jenga-fall in progress:

So dramatic in slow motion.

My team also won at beer pong, and Eric’s friends became scared to go against me.  I suggested running games, but that got shot down.  Maybe next time…

the touristy stuff

Being a guys’ trip, not much was planned, but we got around to see a few things.  A store for American Pickers (an antique store with a show on TV that I was not aware of) was on the list, although the store itself didn’t really have much in it.  A few boutique stores were in the warehouse that had the store, so we wandered for a little bit.  We got some fancy marshmallow (peach basil?  yes, please) and found a random tie store called “Otis James.”  Only one guy was in the store, so I asked him if Otis James is a real person…you never know, right?  He said he is a real person…to which I proceeded to ask if he is Otis James.  Yep.  I guess that would have made sense to ask from the start.  We headed out, but the ties were nice and made in the shop next door if you’re looking for handmade ties/bowties.

After, we headed to downtown Nashville, which is tourist city.  The other girl in the group was on a hunt for cowboy boots, so we searched around for those and hit a couple bars between stores.  The bars were far from fancy, and we even got this gem at one of them:

photo 1 (22)
THEY SERVE SHOTS IN MEDICINE CUPS.  The nurse in me found this hilarious.  Also, that is beer in the medicine cup because the only shots I’ll be taking are of the flu shot variety.  (PSA:  Get your flu shot!)  I think the bar was called “Paradise Park,” so check it out if you’re in town.

photo 5 (1) Such a deal on boots.  Fun fact:  They’re selling for $200-400 each, not so much a deal!

Nashville is full of some quirky things, including this guy:

IMG_6494 Beaver Elvis…alright.

Annnnnnnd, of course, you go to Nashville to see the Parthenon, right?  Athens of the South?  Full size replica of the Parthenon?  You think I’m kidding, but kidding I am not.

IMG_6512 IT’S REAL.

Apparently it was built over a century ago with plans to demolish it after the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, but it was going to be costly to destroy it and the people of Nashville happened to like it.  Now, it serves as an art museum and a place for people to come visit or hang out.  It also has various workouts you can do around it, which I thought was cool.

IMG_6500 My yoga is not paying off, apparently.

“Burning off that chicken?”  haha.

So there you go…it’s like going to Greece without a passport!  And a lot more pulled pork…

the running

Naturally, I couldn’t spend my days off or time traveling in another city without running, so I did a little exploring on the run.  I had high hopes that it would be warm in Tennessee, but it was not…luckily my shorts/tank top did just fine in the 50 degree weather, and I had some lovely runs.

My first run was a five mile out and back around Vandy’s campus.  I stopped at a light to check my directions, and two men sipping coffee asked if I was texting while running.  I told them I’m from out of town (I think that’s rule #1 of things you’re not supposed to tell strangers…) and was checking directions.  They informed me they were visitors too and couldn’t help – probably Florida fans since a bunch were in town!  Anyway, Vandy’s campus seemed nice, although small (student body of around 7,000?), and had some hills.  I waved to the school of nursing and saw some students who were far more stylish than I was in college.

image Hello, Vandy!

My second run was an eight mile run that took me down to the river that runs through Nashville.  It was basically a straight shot down the 70S that you see in the picture above and went right down the main street leading into the city.  I almost got tackled by a Crossfit class running sprints on the sidewalk (move over for the rest of us, thanks!), but otherwise it was smooth running.  That is, of course, until I got a few blocks from the river and saw that the road was closed off – a race was going on!  I kicked myself (not literally, no plyos while running!) for not checking the race schedule, then realized it was a marathon and half marathon (with an earlier 5K, I later found out).  The runners seemed fairly spread out, and my later research found that the women’s winner of the marathon ran 3:19 with second and third running 3:24…put this on my life of “races I stand a chance of winning.”  The half marathoners were a bit faster – women’s winner was about 1:24.  Speedy!  Anyway, running along the river gave some nice views on a paved path.  Made me wish I’d planned a longer run, but oh well.  The pace felt easy, which was welcome from the struggles I’ve been having lately.

Friday – 8.01 miles in 1:02:55, avg pace of 7:45

photo 4 (6) No filter!  Ha.

image Why hello, Nashville.

football

Ah, finally the reason we headed to Nashville!  The Florida/Vandy game was at 6:30pm, so we had all day to hang out.  Some feats of strength continued, we had pulled pork.  This should not surprise you.  About an hour before the game, we headed down to the stadium and claimed our seats in the Florida section.  When I was back home in Chicago in October, I realized that this would not be my first Florida game – my high school marching band went to the Gator Bowl, so I saw Florida play there.  Of course, this time I was surrounded by a few more Florida fans.  I had my eyes on the Vandy marching band, as it brought me back to my college days…although the Maryland band was much, much bigger.  They played their pregame show and did a Veterans Day theme for half time.

photo 1 (23) Vandy Star.

Otherwise, Florida brought a small pep band, so much of the time was spent with Eric teaching me Florida chants.  One of them involves yelling, “Gator bait!” which terrified Gatsby.  It tough being a small elephant.

photo 2 (24) I guess he needs a Florida shirt.

The stadium seemed to have many more Florida fans than Vandy fans – I suppose Florida travels well and Vandy isn’t all the great.  Lots of orange and blue, and lots of touchdowns for Florida!  Florida won 34-10, with much of the stadium clearing out in the fourth quarter due to Florida being up so much.  I’m 2-0 at Florida games, so I guess Eric better keep me around…

and that’s a wrap!

After lots of pulled pork in Nashville, I’m glad to be back to somewhat normal eating up…but I suppose I could use all of that protein to start preparing for feats of strength for next time!

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