Katy Trail 50K Race Report!

I had started a post when I was tapering for this event, but was worried it would jinx the race actually happening so I never posted it.  It was hard to stay tight lipped about this race, but I figured I’d be more sad if I had to tell people the race was cancelled (like so many others this year) so I kept it quiet!

The month or so leading up to the race I had my highest running volume I think I have ever had (I even went back to my training plan for my first marathon in 2006).  Although one key piece to the high volume is that the miles were much slower than what my pace usually is with my typical lower run volume, so even with higher miles my coach had me playing it safe running slower and on softer surfaces like trails.  By race week I was feeling pretty prepared but also had some random aches that I was fretting about, like random left foot pain I’ve never had before.  So I had some anxiety about the foot along with the whole running 5 miles farther than I’ve ever run before.  It’s ‘only’ five miles, but from past experiences a lot can happen even during a couple of miles. I was just going to have to see how the day went.

On to race day!  I got up at 3:30a, ate my pre-race GF toast with almond butter and a banana, and then tried to sleep a little more until I left at 4:45 to head to the race.  I arrived around 5:45, went to pick up my packet and then waited in the porta potty line.  I did a little stretching (my usual hip stretch exercises) and then waited in my car to stay warm.  At 6:15 I headed over to drop off my drop bag (had my keys and phone in it) and walked to the nearby the ‘start line’.  Everyone seemed to have such a laid back, relaxed vibe, just standing around chatting (with masks on), then the race director gave us a few instructions then sounded the horn and we were off!  Just like that!

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I am not sure what I was thinking, probably ‘Oh boy, here we go’

My coach had given me firm instructions to STICK with my planned pace, and even write it on both arms so I didn’t forget (which I forgot to do…).  So I started out even a little slower than the planned 9:30 pace, but figured I would just ease into it, and watched everyone run past me.  That was a little tough to watch, but I also figured since I was a rookie at this distance I needed to stick with my plan, I did not want to blow up and suffer too early in the race.  So on I went, ticking off the miles around a 9:20-9:30 pace, hitting the first turn around at mile 4, and then headed back to the start where we would go out 11 miles and then turn around.  I had brought headphones but decided I wouldn’t pull them out until I needed the distraction, however by mile 7 after realizing I was probably going to be running solo for the rest of the race (everyone was pretty spaced out), I decided to just start up the ipod.

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Still early and fresh at mile 4

I came up to the mile 9 aid station (at the start/finish, before doing the second out and back) and to my surprise I saw JMR!  I had given him a map of the course, aid station locations and my planned splits for each aid station so he had an idea of when I’d be there.  The night before he had said he would meet me around halfway in the race at the mile 16 aid station, but he must’ve gotten up super early and met me much earlier on the course than planned.  I waved, flew by the aid station and kept on moving.  Side note about the aid stations, since my stomach seems to get upset easily, my plan was to carry the same liquid nutrition and gels I trained with and just use water from the aid stations to mix my pouches of liquid nutrition.  So this was a time saver, but I was also a little sad to miss out on the all of the food they had there, it was quite the spread!

An additional side note about carrying nutrition- when I read that aid stations were only going to be about 4 miles apart I realized I didn’t need to be running with a hydration vest and could just use a handheld – which was great because it’s less to run with, but that meant I lost all of the fabulous pockets and storage my vest had.  HOWEVER, my new Saucony compression shorts I had recently bought did have some side stash pockets that turned out to be a game changer!  I fit 2 gels in one side, another gel, my ipod and a baggie of toilet paper, tums and immodium in the other side.  THEN, I was able to fit three pouches of my Nuun hydration powder in the back zip pocket.  I guess I could have worn the vest if I had really needed to and only used it for nutrition, but it was really nice to know the shorts can carry so darn much AND feel comfortable AND not even notice everything crammed in them while running.  I told JMR I was going to post a review on their site I was so darn pleased!

Ok, back to the race, there was a older gentleman that I had been bouncing back and forth with since the start and around mile 9 we ended up next to each other running about the same pace.  We chatted a little and I learned he has run up to 100 mile races  and he was running his virtual Boston Marathon that day as part of this distance.  So he knew his stuff and he was fast.  Since he had some serious ultra experience I asked some ultra running type questions (still so much to learn!) and then we talked about some races we had done, until he had to step off the trail for a nature break, but I figured he would probably be passing me later!

I hit the 12.75 mile aid station, saw JMR and waived, and refilled my bottle with more Nuun, and it felt like it took ten years as I couldn’t get the lid back on.  I really thought I was at the aid station for five minutes, but it was less than a minute after looking at my watch. Then I was off, focused on the next aid station at mile 16.25. Around mile 16 my left outer knee started to feel like it was getting tight and had sharp pain.  I was worried it was going to just completely cramp up… darn IT Band… I’ve been doing my exercises but sometimes it still gets crabby.  It was starting to hurt so much I was worried I might have to call it at the next aid station, but then a half of a mile later, poof, it was gone.  I was grateful it went away and prayed it wouldn’t come back!  I saw JMR at the next aid station, mentioned nothing about my weird knee, waived and kept going towards the final turn around.

As I got closer to the turn around I started to pass a few people and could see the leading women in the 50k coming back.  I counted 1st, 2nd and 3rd and when I hit the mile 20 aid station turn around I didn’t seen any others, so I was excited to be in fourth!  I refilled my bottle, told Jimmy I was still feeling great and kept on trucking.  I hit the 23.75 mile aid station feeling a little less fresh, refilled water and waved to JMR telling him I was started to get a little tired. However I was determined to get a marathon PR, so I was very focused on holding my pace at least until 26.2 miles.

Those 3ish miles took forever, I did pass a few more people which was motivating to keep up the pace, but I was starting to get a little tired.  Finally I hit mile 26.2 and saw 4:04:44, hooray! A PR! Now five more miles! Five…more…miles.  I was instantly not excited, but kept on pushing.  I got to the mile 27.25 aid station and refilled my water and also decided to have a little cup of coke for some extra energy.  On I went but I could feel my legs getting heavier and it was a struggle to keep up the pace.  Around mile 27.5 I looked at my watch and saw my HR was over 200…woah…ok, at that point I decided it was time for a short walk break to bring it back down.  When it settled back in the 170’s I started attempting to run again, but it was at a slower effort.  I took my last gel at mile 28 and hoped it would give me magic energy, but, sadly it did not.  I hit mile 29, and just told myself ONLY 2 more miles… but had a few more walk breaks because my HR was going back up again and my legs were struggling, however I couldn’t decide what was worse, walking or running, both felt bad.

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In the pain cave around mile 27. 

I started back up to a slow run prepared to just suffer the rest of the 1.5 miles left.  A half of a mile later to my surprise I could hear people cheering and suddenly saw the red aid station tent at the start/finish.  I was confused.  Did we do loops in the parking lot once we got there to make it 31 miles?  I was very worried about the mileage for some reason, lol. Soon I was turning to the finish line and crossed at 30.4 miles.  I was thrilled to be finished but super sad to not hit at least 31 miles.  My sadness went away when the lady said ‘You finished second female!’  I was like what?  I knew I had passed another lady in the last five miles, but thought I was in third, so I said ‘Really? Are you sure?’ and she said ‘Yep!’.  She handed me my medal, plaque, took a photo of me under the finish line and then I hobbled over to JMR.  I told him how I died the last three miles, but was pretty happy with the even pacing the rest of the race.

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After drinking some water and coke, I picked up my drop bag, headed to the car and followed JMR home.  Wow. I couldn’t believe that just happened!  It actually went by so darn fast!  When I knew I’d be running for almost five hours I wondered what I was going to do (well other than run) that whole time, which is why I had my headphones, but I probably would have been fine without them too.  Also I was so happy that my left foot felt fine during the race, it’s so weird what random aches and pains appear during race week.

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So what’s next?  Well, this week has been a recovery week with swimming and easy rides (I haven’t run one step yet), but provided my foot doesn’t get cranky again and I can keep my left knee happy, I do have another possible race in October if it happens, so fingers crossed and I will just keep training away!  Happy Friday!!

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How is it August Already?

Wow, time is flying, which surprises me because usually it flies when I’m busy and having fun and have other good distractions, but these days it’s just the same day in and day out – same training, same working from home (well that was pretty much the same pre-covid as I only went in 1 day a week), no social interactions for the most part except with my family.  So with everything feeling like groundhog day, I guess I never thought we would get to August, but here we are.

We did take a family trip two weeks ago to South Haven, Michigan with my parents, my sister and her family, and it was so nice to get away. We rented a house, ate in every night and maintained social distance from others when out and about, so it was a pretty low risk trip and a welcomed change to do something different.  JMR played golf with my parents three days, my sister and brother in law rotated playing two of those days, and while they were golfing I ran 14 miles one day and the other two I rode 50ish mile routes up to Douglas, MI and back.  I also rode with JMR in the afternoons as we brought his never-before-ridden-outside road bike with us, and he finally rode it and LIKED it! Which I am glad because it was a tad stressful getting both of our bikes in the car since my bike rack had bit the dust a year ago.  After it bit the dust, since I only had my bike to transport, it easily fit in my car with our luggage with the front wheel off only so there was no need to buy a new one.  Two bikes…and golf clubs…different story.  See photo evidence below. (spoiler alert: JMR gave me the green light to buy a new bike rack as soon as we got home)

It was a little tense between JMR and I while trying to load them up, we had it down for the way home though.

We mostly rode on a crushed-limestone trail or a paved bike path, and took the pace easy, so I think that was a good way to ease him in.  We tried a road route one of the days and he was NOT a fan of the cars, so we will stick to bike paths when riding back at home for now.  I got in 213 miles of riding, 27 miles of running and a whopping 860 yards of swimming (I just wanted to go out and say I swam during the trip, the lake was very calm one day!), so it was a very active vacation for me!  I love ending the day eating extra dessert (cookies AND ice cream) and then going to bed and sleeping well from being so active during the day.

Since IMWI was cancelled the week before my tip, my vacation week was an unstructured training week (do whatever I felt like, except I needed to get in two specific runs), and then after I would switch training to more of a running focus since there are no more tri’s on the schedule for this year.  When we got back that Saturday, I had a 10 mile run to do and that Sunday I had another 10 mile run to start getting used to running on tired legs (more on that later).  Last week was the first official week of changing focus, cutting back on the Saturday long bike rides and replacing them with a long run on both Saturday and Sunday.  I’m also re-adding my Tuesday/Thursday strength training to make sure my glutes, quads and other muscles that need work stay strong and I avoid injuries!

The back to back ‘long runs’ this past weekend went ok, 12 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday, both on trails to lessen the impact on my legs/joints and hopefully prevent injury.  I am also getting used to running with a hydration vest that has two bottles in the front since my handheld doesn’t carry enough water for longer distances on trails, since I can’t refill it with water like I do when I run at nearby parks.  The longer mileage, running vest, trails… are all because I have some potential upcoming running ‘races’ I hope to do, but since these days it seems like you never know if a race will actually happen until you are actually racing it, I will just give a recap after the event if they are a go!

That is about all that is going on over here, I’ll leave you with a picture of the dogs staring me down at 5p yesterday… clearly it was time for dinner.

Hey! It’s time for dinner. Feed us!

Happy Tuesday!

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Still chugging along…

It’s been a few months since my last post, even with everything going on around the world and in the US, I’m still training!  No swimming, but still running and biking just in case there is some race that might happen and also for just plain old sanity.  I really need the routine of training to help keep my head clear and calm.

This past weekend I turned a year older (sigh) and decided to treat myself to a big weekend of training for ‘fun’.  I took Friday off work and ran 18 miles, Saturday I did a small socially distant 30ish mile group ride with some Team Zooter’s, and then Sunday I rode 100+ miles solo.  Nothing crazy like EPIC weekend, but it felt great to just get in some long hours… my anxiety has been ramping up lately and I just needed to wear myself out a bit!  It worked, because I was tired by Sunday night 🙂

 

In other exciting news, I had been eyeing Ironman Muncie 70.3 since December, it was a little too early as a good 70.3 prep for Ironman Wisconsin, but I also wasn’t feeling like doing Route 66 Half again at the end of July.  I didn’t sign up for either, but was keeping them both as possible options.  Then the pandemic happened, and all races were getting cancelled so I lost all hope that racing would happen this summer or maybe this year.  However, as counties starting publishing their re-opening plans, Indiana looked to be opening up on July 4th, and Muncie was still on.  No way!  Last week the race really seemed to be a go as Ironman published new race logistics to comply with social distancing as well as the option to not do the swim, as many people (myself included) haven’t been able to swim for months.  Granted if you skipped the swim you weren’t eligible for age group awards, but I don’t think people care, they just want to race and if they aren’t ready to swim, they are skipping it (at least that’s the tone I was reading on their race FB page).

Once it was seeming to really be a go, I struggled with deciding if it was worth the risk of possibly being exposed to the virus and then bringing it back to those that I am around.  However after reading all of the race information, Ironman seems to have a good plan in place that I feel comfortable with that really reduces any possible exposure if you are following the rules.  The changes will make it a little more challenging as we will be more self supported while racing, but if that’s what it takes to race and be safe, I’m all for it!

And the last bit of good/fun news is that this morning I GOT TO SWIM!  Our pools opened today, with many protocols in place to adhere to social distancing which make it a little bit different, but it didn’t matter, I got to swim!  The clocks on the pool deck weren’t working and my watch wasn’t either, so I have no official recording that this swim happened, but I have goggle marks to prove that it did 🙂  Hopefully by the time Muncie arrives I will be able to finish the swim without being fully out of breath, lol.

So the next four weeks are 70.3 focused, with this week being a rest week after the big training this past weekend.  Happy Monday!

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Change of plans… for everyone

Well the title sums it up.  Since I go from sad, to scared, to ok, to anxious many times throughout the day, I am just going to keep this post short and light!

We are now in week 3 of the shelter in place order in Saint Louis, which really feels like week 4, because that’s about how long ago it was when things started getting crazy.  It started with groups of no larger than 50 allowed on 3/15, then a bunch of races getting cancelled or postponed, like the Boston Marathon, to even Disneyworld closing, then finally the ‘shelter in place’ order here on 3/23.  I have been working from home 100% since 3/16, and JMR joined me on 3/23.  It was a pretty big adjustment for him as he only works from home on the weekends and evenings, so it took awhile for him to get all set up and settled.  It was also an adjustment for me to have another human at home all day.  The first few days I kept wanting to get up and chat, but I also finally settled into a routine of leaving him alone (mostly) during the day.

We have been trying to keep some sort of routine to keep things normal, having two dogs will definitely help with that as they don’t sleep in, love their regular walks and have to eat, so I will give them a little credit for helping our routine 🙂  Just like before all of this, I ride or run before work, then JMR gets up and we work during the day, then depending on the day I ride or run at lunch or after work.  Business as usual minus swimming (my last swim was 3/16… sigh…I miss swimming)  I won’t bore you with the details but with riding almost every day along with my runs and strength sessions, I’ve been doing around 11-12 hours of training each week, so at least I won’t lose the fitness I was building for St. George!  No 20 mile runs in my near future though, lol.

Last Friday we hauled my dad’s ancient rowing machine from my parents house to ours  so I could start getting some upper body workouts back and hopefully don’t lose all of the swim fitness I’ve been working on (and going to their house during the stay at home order to use it was not a good option).  I plan to start rowing tomorrow morning – my arms can’t wait and I’m looking forward to a new ‘exercise’ to add 🙂

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Temporary new addition to our basement 🙂

My Fenix 6 even has an indoor Rowing activity!

So now with St. George not happening the ‘plan’ is to race IMWI in September, but since no one can predict what things will be like then and what races will actually happen, that’s all still up in the air really.  However I need a new goal to focus on, so for now that is the goal…along with staying healthy!

On a non training update, this week and next week our area is supposed to get hit the hardest by the pandemic, so I made one last BIG trip to the grocery store this morning to hopefully stock up enough for the next two weeks so we don’t have to leave the house (we have only been leaving 1-2 times a week to get a few perishable items from the store).  That was super stressful, everyone shopping was good about staying far away from each other, but it was still not a fun experience.  I was wearing a pedestrian type mask which felt weird and was hard to breathe in, so that was probably contributing to  my anxiety!  So now we will continue to STAY HOME and keep limiting our outside activities to dog walks and running, far from other people, and hoping others do the same!  Also, this just made me laugh and had to share:

Happy Tuesday!

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IM St. George Training Update: 10 Weeks to go!

I wanted post a training update since last week was a big training week for me!  I got in some big swim volume but really the star of the show was my long run.  My coach keeps my running volume pretty low in general with only three runs per week, but we’ve been building up the longer run distances, and this past Saturday I had a 20 miles on the schedule.  I had been dreading it since I saw it appear many weeks ago, but I tried to not think about it until it got closer.  It’s silly because it’s just a training run, and I ran 18 the week before, but I had knots in my stomach all day Friday worried if I could finish it and if I did, how miserable it might be (I know, way to be positive).  The last time I ran 20 miles outside of a race was my biggest training block for Ironman Louisville back in 2014 (and before that was in 2007 for Chicago Marathon training), and it was miserable.  However it was also in August so it was HOT and I had ridden 100 miles the day before…so… not at all the same scenario.  I have also been having some nagging knee issues/slight random pain in my left knee, so that was also making me anxious if that would be the limiter. Friday night I laid out all of my clothes/gear and got my nutrition ready so all I would have to do was get dressed and go.  No thinking, just go.  The weather was looking great, the temps starting in the 30’s and probably in mid 40’s by the time I was finished, sunny and little wind.

The text I sent JMR on Thursday, excited for Saturday’s forecast

Saturday morning I randomly woke up at 4:30a hungry, so I decided to do my pre-race meal (last week during my 18 mile run I opted to sleep in and just eat a banana), so I ate my toast with almond butter, went back to bed for an hour or so, then was up, got dressed, had my whey protein shake and Osmo pre-load and headed to the Forest Park to run.  When I got there, I had my Honeystinger chews, got my Clif bloks/gel/key fob/iPod and Nuun active powder all stuffed in various places and was ready to go. I was glad I wore shorts this week which had bigger pockets than my running tights, as last week I ended up having to stuff things in my sport bra which was really annoying.

Off I went, running around a 9:40 pace for the first mile, and had already decided before I started to not worry about the pace, just GET IN THE MILES.  So, that was the goal.  No pressure.  I was also running the same route I did last week, but doing a few extra out and backs to add in the additional 2 miles, so knowing where exactly I would be running also helped with the ‘no pressure’ theme.  The miles ticked by and I settled into a 9ish pace which surprisingly felt good.  I took 3 Clif blocks at mile 6, and at mile 10 I was back at my car to drop off my gloves, hit the bathrooms and refill my water bottle. Then I headed back out knowing I was more than halfway done, which was a little bit of a relief.  I took 3 Clif blocks again at mile 11, my stomach got a little angry this time but fortunately it calmed down.  I think I was getting anxious to get the run done because soon my splits were sub 9’s, and I was still feeling good, but a little faster than I had planned on, but I was just going to go with it.

Around mile 15 I started to get tired and really had to focus on my form and cadence.  I took a Huma gel at mile 16 and then at mile 16.5 I was like ‘Hey! Only 3.5 miles left, I can do this!’ and felt like I had a little more energy.  I was shocked as I hit the stop button at mile 20 feeling like…I could have kept going.  I definitely wasn’t going to keep going and I was very happy to stop, but some long runs have felt like ‘dear god these last two miles are killing me’…even up to the last .1 I’ve had my face all scrunched in pain.  My knee felt a little funky during the beginning miles, but after that either I stopped noticing or it went away, and around mile 18 my right foot started to cramp, but that was it.  I am sure this was mostly due to the fact that I was running on fresh legs AND the weather was amazing, but I also think I’ve got my nutrition dialed in better than I have in past training cycles which helped too.  I am so happy that everything came together as it made for an amazing and uneventful long 20 mile run at a sub 9 pace!

A little chilly at the start, but I warmed up quickly with the sun shining!

On Sunday I went to Hot Yoga and then did an easy-ish hour on the trainer, but that was it.  This week is a RECOVERY WEEK! I am pretty pumped and will be soaking it up as after this week I will be back to hitting the training pretty hard, including longer trainer rides which I’m slightly dreading….unless we get some magically warm weather and I can get them done outside, but I won’t keep my hopes up.

Happy Monday :), I’m having a nice relaxing one over here! 🙂

 

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Frostbite Long Series and Other Updates!

Hello and happy Monday!  Ironman St. George training is very much under way and to help motivate me to get my longer runs done (outside), I signed up for the Saint Louis Track Club Frostbite Long series.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I usually do the short series, but with St. George at the beginning of May, I needed to start building up my long runs earlier in the season and the Frostbite Long series was perfect timing and great motivation.  The long series consists of a 12k, 10 mile, 20k, 13.1 mile and 15k races.  Quite a change from the 3k, 2mile, 5k, 4 mile and 3 mile distances of the short!

I went into the series not sure how things would go.  I was a little unsure if it was a good idea with just getting back from my hip flexor strain and therefore my longest run only being 6 miles since the 10k at the end of October.  So I decided to just take it one race at a time, and see how I felt that day/race, and if I needed to, I could stop doing the races or just do some of the short races.  Surprisingly though, I was able to really push myself during each of the races, making sure to not go too crazy to avoid risking injury, but also crossing the finish line not feeling like I had much more left in the tank.  It was a surprise to see that as the distances increased, my pace got faster!  I was also pretty surprised to see that I was in the top five for almost all of the races, as I had figured I wouldn’t place that high since I’ve noticed in past years the long series is usually a little more competitive than the short series (that also could all be in my head too, lol).  I ended the last race in third place in my age group, and also placed third place in my age group for the series, so I was pretty happy with that result!

Should have taken the photo behind the Track Club poster.

Since fueling has been a big topic for me lately, I figured I’d give a update on that too.  I’ve been trying out my new pre-race fueling strategy (for all long-ish races) for the last three of the Frostbite races, and so far I have had pretty good results!  My plan has been (based on recommendations in ROAR): 3 hours prior to race- 2 pieces of gluten free white bread with 2 tablespoons of almond butter and Osmo pre-load; 1 hour prior to race- 1 scoop of Whey protein (mixed with water); 20 minutes prior to race – about half of a pouch of Honeystinger chews with caffeine.  It’s actually not that different from my IM pre-race nutrition, except for the Whey protein, but this is all new to me for running races because I had always thought that eating that much beforehand would lead to GI distress.  To my dismay it has been ok and I am finding that my energy has been pretty consistent throughout the race, which in the past hasn’t always been the case.

I still have been taking a gel every 5-6 miles during races/long runs, and my goal is to switch over to something non-gel to see if that helps with GI issues.  I tried out Clif Bloks two weekends ago during a long run, and boy do they really require some serious focus while chewing!  I did have an emergency bathroom stop at mile 9, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with the previous night’s dinner and not the Clif Bloks.  I will need more practice with those before I bring them out to a race though.  Fortunately (or maybe not) I have another long run this weekend, so I will get some more practice in then!

Last week was a recovery week, so this week and the next two are back to building up the volume.  I have noticed by Thursday on the non-recovery (oh heck, even on the recovery) weeks I am pretty tired, and then Friday is usually a struggle to get though the day after my morning swim, which requires lots of coffee.  Although I seem to get through the weekends more easily knowing I can mostly relax the rest of the day after my main workout.  I don’t remember feeling that way at the end of the work week during my last IM training cycle, but I’m finding that IM training in the winter in general is tough… more indoor training, less sunlight, cold temperatures, bleh.  Hopefully with the days getting longer that will at least help to get more exposure to the sun, because with volume going up, I need some help in the energy department those days!  Side note, no matter how sunny it is, I won’t be riding in 40 degree temps, as I do not ride in cold weather…I still have PTSD from IMLOU 2018!

Well that’s about it for now… I have my longest training run since 2015 (in previous years I’ve done split long runs- half in the am, the other half in pm) on the schedule for Saturday, which I’m a little nervous about, so fingers crossed all goes well…or actually just that I survive!  I’ll report back next week 🙂

I’lll leave you with a picture of Penelope watching the Westminster Dog Show:

 

 

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New Year, New Nutrition

New Year, New Nutrition….

Isn’t that how the saying goes?  Or not, but that’s going to be my phrase for 2020.  Race nutrition that is! After Chattanooga (well, probably more like around mile 60 of the bike at Chattanooga) I decided I was going to try a different nutrition strategy as it seemed like liquid nutrition just wasn’t working for me.  Over the past couple of years I’ve started feeling nauseous about 2 hours into the bike during races (maybe earlier for shorter? Later in longer?) and was really having to force my liquid nutrition down.  I chalked it up to heat, or pushing the effort too much, but after it happening in so many races, and differing distances (well just 70.3 and 140.6), I decided that it was more than a coincidence.  After doing more digging, I realized the only run where my stomach hasn’t been crazy sloshy at the beginning was Louisville 2018 and that race I had to skip my Infinit on the bike and stick with random on course gels due to my frozen hands being unable to squeeze my water bottle with my Infinit.  It was also a really cold race, so the temperature on the run could have played a factor in my pace being faster, and also my hydration needs were different than my other IM runs which had been in the heat, so maybe that wasn’t the key reason my run went well, but… maybe it was?  I wasn’t sure what my strategy would be, but I knew I needed to switch it up.

The months went by,  and I had the need to create a new nutrition plan in the back of my mind, but my runs and rides weren’t long enough to need to worry about nutrition, so it just wasn’t my focus or concern.  However once January rolled around I thought, I better figure this chit out with St. George only four months away!  I had been interested in reading ROAR by Stacie Simms, which discusses the female physiology in regards to food and fitness so I thought it would have some good suggestions for a different nutrition strategy.  So I finally sat down and read it, and boy did I learn A LOT (and am still learning as I go back to certain chapters and taking more notes) and one thing it confirmed was that liquid nutrition was probably not my friend in long course triathlon.  Her mantra is ‘hydration in the bottle, food in the pocket’, now the question was, what would be my in my pocket?

After doing more research I decided I would try Scratch Labs energy bars and Clif Chomps for nutrition on the bike and either Osmo or Nuun Endurance for my hydration.  Stacie was originally with Osmo and was really pushing it in her book, but has since left the company and is now with Nuun and helped them develop Nuun Endurance.  I ordered Osmo before realizing this and then later also ordered Nuun Endurance.  I am going to try them both, they have pretty similar ingredients, but Nuun has 60 calories vs. Osmo which is 30.  Oh, which also brings me to my calories on the bike, as I had previously been focused on getting in 300 cals/hr.  I learned in ROAR that 300 is too high for me, and is probably part of the reason why I had issues with my liquid nutrition.  So I’m also scaling back my calories on the bike closer to the number recommended by Stacie for my size, which is 180-200 cals/hr.  So, lots of changes!

I’m still not sure what to do on the run since she also goes into why gels aren’t great for nutrition either, but running with sleeves of Clif chomps seems bulky to carry and tougher to be eating than just a gel every hour.  I do love my Huma gels and they don’t contain some of the ingredients that Stacie mentions in her book that can cause GI distress, but the fact that it’s a gel and the osmality can still cause GI issues, and because I have those issues more often than not, it’s worth trying out the chews/blocks at least few times.

I also have changed up my pre and post training/race foods too!  I’ve been trying to eat more before my workouts along with some protein (that’s totally new for me, I have never worried about protein pre race before) and also if I do an intense workout, I make sure I have at least 20g protein (if it’s not whey it needs to be closer to 25-30g) plus 5g of BCAAs within 30 minutes of my workout.  So far so good! I have noticed that I have been recovering faster and not having the lingering soreness I usually do after a hard workout.

Note I haven’t tried the Osmo pre-load yet, since I haven’t had a big workout or race that I’ve felt I needed to pre-load some sodium because it’s the middle of the winter.  However I am excited to try it, and if I like it I will probably stick with it regardless of using Osmo or Nuun Endurance for my race hydration.

On the training front, it’s business as usual, no changes there!  Swimming 3x a week, building up my bike fitness (February is a bike focused block), and trying to build back my running base after the month I had to take off in November due to the hip flexor strain.  Since my hip started to feel better in early December, I pulled the trigger and signed up for the Frostbite LONG series this year.  Usually I do the short series, but with St. George at the beginning of May, I needed to start building up my long runs again and the Frostbite series was perfect timing and great motivation.  The long series consists of a 12k, 10 mile, 20k, 13.1 mile and 15k.  quite a change from the 3k, 2mile, 5k, 4 mile and 3 mile distances of the short!

I have been surprising myself with the paces I’ve been able to hold during the first four races (one left to go!) despite not being in top shape and coming back from an injury.  In fact, I was on track for a very very mini PR for 13.1 last weekend, but the course was short and I finished with 13.07 on my watch, so I will never know if I could hold that pace for the extra .03 or so 🙂  But still, it was on a hillier course than my PR, and I had pretty strong even splits, and felt good after, so it was a victory in my book.  My stomach was a little upset the rest of the day which might have been due to the gels I took (still working on implementing the Clif Blocks… ) but my legs didn’t really feel sore or tired after or the next day either.  So I will say my pre and post nutrition strategy (along with training in general) is coming along nicely!

Ok, well that’s about it!  One more race left in the Frostbite series, then back to focusing on training until the Go! Half at the end of March (which really will be more of a training day as IM is the focus and I won’t go into it tapered)….and then the big one, St. George at the end of May.

I will leave you with a picture of Penelope hanging out in bed while I read 🙂

 

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2019 Wrap-Up

Happy New Years Eve! Today is the last day of 2019 and looking back, it was a pretty good year! I wasn’t sure if it could be better than 2018, but it was 🙂   On a racing level, I really tested my body by doing three 70.3’s and a 140.6, and managed to get a few PR’s along the way too.

Training related, during the second half of 2019 I decided to add some focus on improving my swimming as much as I could without taking away too much training from biking and running.  Previously my attitude towards swimming was that it was the shortest event, I was never going to be first out of the water, and as long as I was fit enough to swim the distance comfortably, I should be good to go.  Also several of the races I have done have been current assisted swims (not the reason I chose them, it just happened to work out that way with the timing of the races and my schedule) so I wasn’t motivated to spend too much training focusing on swimming.

However, when I signed up for Ironman St. George 2020 this past May (the thought of signing up for one IM while I was still training for another freaked me out, but I was afraid it would sell out if I waited until after Chattanooga) I knew I would really need to work on my swim if I wanted to have a good race there.  It would be a legit swim, like IMWI, and that one didn’t go so well with my huge panic attack and I wanted to avoid that this time around.  Plus, I wanted to try to get faster and was tired of being a middle of the pack swimmer.

So this summer I took a private lesson to check out my stroke and see if there were any obvious adjustments needed (and there were!) as well as joining a local Masters swim group on Monday mornings.  Not huge drastic changes, but  those small changes along with staying consistent in the pool (and also adding more volume) really helped get me a little faster!   So with that long term goal set, I just kept swimming, and now only 4 months to go, I’m by no means a speed demon in the pool, but I’m definitely faster!

This year I also was good about keeping up with my PT exercises to avoid injuries, and while I almost escaped without unscathed, I managed to strain my left hip flexor while at the Go! Saint Louis Halloween 10k at the end of October.  (I PR’d but have decided that PR wasn’t worth it!) So back to PT I went, learning that I had limited mobility in my back which was adding stress on my hips/lower body and … once again, still some stability issues with my hips/glues.  Boo!  I have since graduated PT and am now doing some fancy exercises for glutes/hips at the gym along with a shiny new overall strength routine that also includes mobility work.  2020, I’m coming for you and I WILL be stronger 🙂

Moving on to 2020 goals and resolutions….I am not entirely sure what my goals are (other than ‘getting faster’, lol) but I do have a few resolutions and figured typing them out would make them a little more real (and maybe more accountable):

  • Keep up with Masters swims (tough during peak IM St. George training since I have my set workouts, but post IM in May would be a great time!)
  • Keep up with strength training/PT exercises
  • Cut out Diet Soda (such a huge weakness…. regular cola DURING races is still ok though 🙂
  • Cut back on sugar (mostly just my daily Oreos and nightly Peanut Butter M&Ms)
  • Remember my WHY when training gets tough, I GET to train and race!

Well that was short and sweet, here’s to another great year of swim, bike run (and other life stuff 🙂

Happy New Year!!!

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Ironman Chattanooga – The Run

Swim and Bike

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Here we go….

As soon as I headed out on the run I saw JMR and started to tell him how horrible I felt on the bike, and realized it was just taking up too much energy, so I stopped babbling and waved good bye.  It was hot and there wasn’t a lot of shade for the first few miles, and there were also a decent hill coming out of transition.  Most people around me were walking, but a few were running.  I tried to stick with the runners, but I had a few waves of feeling like I was overheating, and had to walk for a bit.  I also decided to walk through the aid stations, making sure I took in plenty of water, ice and coke.  At this point my stomach still felt crappy and taking gels sounded like a horrible idea, so I stuck with coke as my main source of calories.

It was nice having previously run some of the course during the 70.3, so I knew what to expect the first 8 or so miles.  I tried to not look at my watch because I knew that my time goals were out the window, and finishing was the main goal.  However I was still trying to do some math wondering what an 10:30 min/mile marathon would be, and so on (the pace slowly kept creeping up close to ‘what would an 11:30 min/mile marathon time be?).  However, I kept going back to ‘finishing is your main goal, do the best that you can do, RIGHT NOW. No regrets, but no passing out’.

After I had run/walked up the ‘small’ hill at mile 8 (this was the ‘big’ hill on the 70.3 course) and was making the turn to start crossing the first bridge, I saw JMR, and boy was I happy to see him. I mumbled something about it being hot and gave him a less than enthusiastic wave to let him know I was ok.

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Serious face, but I did wave at one point.

On I went mentally preparing for the real hill on the course that was on Barton Ave around mile 12.  When I finally got to the hill it was as big as I had imagined (St. George had prepared me for what hills really could be on a triathlon course!), I started trying to run some of it (all of those treadmill hill repeats had to get some use!) but when I had some waves of nausea I started power walking the rest with the other people power walking.  What people had said about the crowds being amazing on Barton were not kidding!  There were tons of people providing so much crowd support.  In fact there was a mini party going on with music, people BBQ’ing and of course tons of people cheering.  It was an amazing boost while struggling up that darn hill.

The next few miles (the back loop of the course) were pretty boring since it was along a golf course and then fancy neighborhoods with hardly any spectators, well except for an enthusiastic aid station at mile 10 which also gave me a little boost of energy.  After what felt like forever I was finally finishing the loop, and turned to head back over the bridge and begin my second lap.  As I ran across the bridge, a spectator said ‘Nice job! Is this your last loop?’ (it was like 9.5 hours into the race? Did I really look that fast?) so sadly I said ‘No’ in a defeated tone… I think he felt bad and then said ‘Well it’s only going to get cooler from here on out with the sun coming down!’.  Which was true!  I was hoping maybe with the cooler temps I could negative split my very slow run, as my first loop was around 2:30.

On I went, feeling like I was picking up the pace, not spending much time walking through the aid stations this time, grabbing water, coke and keeping running.  However finally around mile 17 my body was like ‘WALK!’, so I started walking for a bit, then after I saw two people in my age group run by, I pushed myself to get back to ‘running’ which was really more of a walk run/combo as things were really starting to hurt.  At the mile 20 aid station I hopped into a porta-potty as I had to pee, but I think I just wanted a break.  It was a quick pit stop, but a good little mental break, and from then on I decided I needed to move, no more people in my age group were going to pass me! (and I re-passed one at mile 20).  I picked up the pace, which was more of a slow run/jog, and just taking short walk breaks at aid stations.  This time I ran up the little ‘big’ hill before crossing the bridge, and once again saw JMR and gave him another weary wave and prepared for Barton Ave.

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My “I’m still alive” fake double handed wave.

This time I RAN up that hill almost the whole way.  There was a little walking, but my legs felt ok and with the heat a little less fierce, the slow jog was bearable.  I also reminded myself I freaking trained for these hills, I needed to run them! The back loop after Barton was even more boring the second time, and on top of that, it was dark!  There were a few points where I was worried I was going to randomly trip because I couldn’t see where I was running.  It was weird doing the this loop in the dark, with no spectators, it was just the sound of people’s feet shuffling, heavy breathing and not much else.  Eerily quiet like everyone was just trying to keep moving one foot in front of the other.

After what felt like forever again on this loop, it was finally time to make the turn to head back over the bridge TOWARDS the finish.  I hit one more aid station before the bridge and my stomach decided it was going to let me know it was DONE.  Uh oh.  I immediately started walking, knowing crapping myself down the finisher’s chute was NOT an option.  I was less than 1.5 miles from the finish and I was WALKING. Ugggh, so frustrating. At that point I was just done.  I was tired, it was dark, I hate racing in the dark…it’s so lonely, and now my stomach was done too.  I had a mini meltdown (with the reassurance that no one can see you crying when it’s dark), then had a mini pep talk, and finally was able to slowly pick up the pace and keep moving.

Finally my feet hit the bridge.  I kept shuffling, moving closer and closer to the other side, and when I made it across and got to the part of the route where you go straight to do another loop or TURN LEFT TO FINISH.  I said ‘F yeah!!’ pretty loud, multiple times as I was turning (I hope no children were nearby or if so, I hope they didn’t hear me).  Then it was on.  I could see the finish and hear Mike Reilly.  Oh my god.  I’m going to finish.  This was such a tough day but I was going to finish!  I started ugly crying (it’s dark, right?) and then I heard some spectators cheering me on, so that brought on more ugly crying.  Then as I got closer to the finisher chute, the tears went away and all I could feel was pure joy. My body didn’t feel like it had been moving for 12+ hours, instead I felt like I had wings and was filled with new found energy as I ran down the chute. I threw my arms in the air as I crossed the finish (so cheesy, but I couldn’t help it) and had that amazing feeling you get when crossing an Ironman finish line.  The cheering, the bright lights, the red carpet, the annoucer, it’ unreal.

Run Time 5:03:05

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Jimmy sneaking a finisher photo, wish I had just looked at Jimmy instead of the photographer!  P.S. I started wearing whitening strips the week we got back, WOAH.  I’m sure my extra bright white top would make many things ‘white’ look yellow…but damn.

Once I crossed, I saw JMR on the sidelines and waved to him to let him know I was ok, got my photo taken and met him outside the finish area.   Phew!  What. A. Day.  Once I caught up with him I started rambling about how the heat made it so tough, and that I was so happy I finished but was bummed about my run/walk/shuffle (drinking caffeine for 12+ hours makes me incredibly chatty after races).  JMR reassured me that it was HOT and said he ran earlier that day and about passed out.  Then he said ‘You were 10th in your age group, you did great.’  I was like ‘what?!?!’  I had time goals, which other than the Bike PR, I didn’t meet, but I also had a goal to try to make top 10.  It didn’t occur to me that given the conditions I could still make top 10 and not hit my time goals.  I was ecstatic!  That gave me a new surge of energy as I babbled a bit more about the race, and then gave JMR all of my finisher stuff while I went to get my bike and gear bags.  That was rough, but slowly I got everything and headed back to meet JMR and walk back to the hotel.

Once we got to the hotel I wanted to take a shower and then go get real food – liquid nutrition for 12+ hours is just.. it’s great for racing, but after my stomach is ready for something new after the race 🙂  Plus, JMR had only snacked on granola bars and Little Debbie snacks all day so he needed real food as well.  Being a spectator is tough too!

As I was bragging about how wonderful my new tri top worked out, not having any burns or chaffing, JMR stopped me mid-sentence and said ‘you might want to stop yourself and look at your back first’.  I was like ‘what?’ and sure enough when I looked in the mirror, I had a HUGE burn on my lower back from where my top rolled up on the bike. Oh boy, I figured it happened when I made the porta potty stop around mile 60 or so…. three hours of exposed skin with no suncreen was gonna hurt (it did and it’s still there three weeks later!).

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Evidence.  See where there’s bright white between my shorts and top.  Yep, that’s my very white skin.

Bummer.  Well other than I fared pretty darn well (I also think that’s due to not having worn a HR strap, I know the optical isn’t as exact, but man, it sure beats the inevitable chaffing from the strap, no matter how much body glide you use!).  After I showered (ouch, my sunburn) we headed to get dinner at a restaurant nearby, and by 11p I was in bed eating my Little Debbie snacks JMR hadn’t eaten and finally asleep by 11:15p.  What a day.  I was happy to have finished, a little bummed about my times, but thrilled that I had made top ten.  Even though it was only out of 78! (and then later 58 as 20 people DNF’d in my age group).

Total Race Time: 12:56:26, 10th AG

I texted my coach a few days after the race repeating what I said above, about being happy to just have finished and not having ended up in the Medical tent, but feeling like I still had unfinished business.  He replied saying that’s the thing about Ironman, it usually leaves you still wanting more out of yourself.  I know right now I need to give my body some rest after what it went through, but now I have new goals for the next race, Ironman St. George next May!  A little backstory as to why I’m already signed up for another full so quickly… after doing the St. George 70.3 in 2018, I added the full IM to my bucket list if Ironman ever brought it back (it was retired in 2012).  So when it was announced it was back for 2020, I wanted to sign up right away in fear it would sell out (signing up for an IM before you finish the one you’re currently training for is a bit much for me, and won’t probably do that again!).  However I kept it pretty tight lipped that I had signed up until after I finished (phew!) Chattanooga.  So here’s to building back some fitness and then starting training for IM St. George!

 

 

 

 

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Ironman Chattanooga – Swim and Bike

Pre-Race

I held onto my goggles, and once I was back at the surface I did a little breaststroke to get situated and then got to it!  I felt like I was swimming a decent pace, catching the water with each stroke, however when passing buoys I didn’t seem to fly by them, so it didn’t look like there was much current assistance.  Despite feeling like I was swimming strong, it quickly started to feel like it was taking forever.  I think I always forget that even though the swim is the shortest event of the three, it still happens.  I’m still in the water for 30+ minutes for a half or an hour + for the full (maybe some day I’ll get faster, lol), but I always think it will be over in a flash and it. Is. Not.

Almost the whole first half of the swim I felt like I was swimming off course and had to keep re-situating myself to head to the next buoy.  I’m not sure if the current was pulling me a little to shore, or what, but I kept finding myself swimming away from the buoys.  Also about half-way, I started to get a little bored and decided since my sighting was so crappy, and the water was pretty clear, I would try to hop on some feet.  I found a girl in a swimsuit and figured people in swimsuits were good swimmers since they were probably part of the relay, so I hopped on her feet.  My guess was correct, and we were moving along.  She was sighting well, so for the most part I could just focus on her feet (and pushing the pace to keep up) and not mess with sighting.  That worked fabulous until some big dude decided to swim in between us and I lost her.  Grr.  Then I found a guy with really long legs, but with a very passive, gentle kick and hopped on his feet.  I stuck with him until the 3rd to last buoy when someone else swam in between us.  Then I decided to just swim solo again, attempting to try to sight a little better, and finally I could see the last buoy.  Hooray!  I  kept swimming until I could the steps, and then a kind volunteer pulled me out and helped me up the steps (sea legs as usual).  I hit lap, started fumbling with my swim skin, and then wondered what my swim time was.  I flipped my watch time to see total time and was happy to see 1:07, realizing I had swam probably closer to 1:06, hooray!

Swim Time: 1:05:05

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Impressed Jimmy caught a picture of me, I’m under the Flamingo Balloon!

I ran/hobbled and grabbed my T1 bag, ran into transition, dumped out my bag and got my gear on.  Tri top on, helmet on, dried my feet, socks, shoes, sunglasses, let’s roll!  I hobbled to my bike, grabbed it, headed to bike mount, hit my watch and was off!  A very uneventful T1 in 6:44.

As I got settled into a rhythm on the bike, I realized I never calibrated my power meter.  Whoops. I don’t always look at my watch to see my power during races, but I use it to make sure I’m pushing enough, or if I need to back off.  I kept on riding and noticed my average speed was really speedy for me (I don’t ride based on speed, but just like to know the avg number), but my watts showed I wasn’t doing anything crazy effort-wise.  Hmm…finally by mile 10 I decided I needed to make sure the power numbers I was seeing were accurate, so I pulled over, and took a couple of minutes to calibrate my power.  Back on the bike and after a few miles, my speed was still crazy fast 18+mph (for me) and my power was within my planned range, oh well, I was going to go with it then.  The first loop went fabulously, I felt great, it wasn’t so hot, in fact at the beginning I was a little chilly.  Special needs around mile 53 was the fastest special needs stop for me, I was in, grabbed my bottle wrapped in foil (it was still cold, hooray!) and was out.  I had to pee but didn’t want to stop and was hoping I might still be able to go while riding.  However after not much luck, I saw the porta-potties were unoccupied during the next aid station and decided to just stop and go since I would probably waste a lot of time and energy on the bike while attempting to go.  I was in and out pretty quick, just a couple of minutes, and then got on the bike to turn for loop 2.

I was feeling good and saw I was just around 3 hours for the first half, which I was thrilled about!  On I went until about mile 70 when I started to really feel the heat.  Soon I started to feel nauseous and began to worry that I had ridden the first loop too hard (which in hindsight looking at data, I hadn’t, it was cooler and there was a slight tailwind).  I tried to up my water intake as I had only been drinking about half of a bottle every 15ish miles (between aid stations), but it was hard because my water was warm and most of the bottles I took at aid stations were also warm.  Blech.

As I was going up a hill and realizing I was really starting to feel bad, an older guy was passing me and said ‘make sure to keep drinking you water’, and then said ‘you are looking pretty pale’ and rode up past me. Oh boy, thanks for the vote of confidence.  I was feeling crappy, maybe even a little shaky/lightheaded, and now someone is telling me I look pale?  Then I really started to freak out thinking maybe I was in worse shape than I realized.  Once I crested the hill, I switched my watch to show heart race and focused on bringing it down rather than looking at power numbers.  I kept drinking my warm water, took a swig of my warm Infinit (it stayed cool for like 10 miles after I got it from special needs, boo), and then took some Base salt.  I kept pedaling, much slower, but still after several miles I just wasn’t feeling better.

I made it to the next aid station and pulled through where the water stop was to dump water over my head to try to keep cool.  The water there was cold and felt great! I refilled my bottled, chugged the rest and then just kept pedaling.  I upped my speed a little now that I was feeling a little better from the cold water, still nauseous, but not as in terrible of shape.  I knew I was going to finish but it was going to still be a miserable 30 more miles.  But less than two hours, I can do less than two hours!  From then on I just kept checking my watch and taking in my nutrition every 15 minutes with water, and Base salt every 30, which kept me semi distracted and helped pass the time.

Soon I was headed back into downtown, oh man, boy was I thrilled.  I was also in slight shock that I made it this far, I had never felt so crummy on the bike before and really wasn’t sure if I’d make it back to transition.  With my joy of nearly being done, I passed a few people in the last five miles and wanted to kiss the ground when I got to bike dismount, however instead, I saw JMR and waved, and then told the bike catcher that ‘this bike is alllll yours’ as I wanted nothing to do with it anymore.  Then I took off my shoes, hobbled through transition and got my bag and headed into the change tent.

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Mid-dismount to get OFF my bike!

Still a bike PR even being 4 miles longer: 6:36:06

Once in the change tent I dumped my gear out of my T2 bag: changed socks, put on my running shoes, threw on my hat, put on my race belt, grabbed my baggie filled with gels and my cooling towel and was off!  (and of course helmet and bike shoes back in the bag)

T2: 5:26 (with a quick dash in a porta-potty before officially heading out)

The Run

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