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2009-06-18 9:32 AM

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Subject: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice

Every now and then I get the itch to post something that is a little long winded and that I know some people won’t like.  So, I ask myself why even bother.  Inevitably the answer to that question, I believe, is that any insights I have will hopefully help some. 

When I first started researching training I poured over everything I could find to learn about the best way to do this or that.  In the end what you realize is that there are no clear cut answers.  Even if you go to a coach you aren’t like to get the “right answer.” 

Let me preface what I’m about to say about training by stating that I’m not a coach and have never been professionally coached.  I’ve been doing triathlons for less than 18 months.  I’m not super fast and haven’t raced in a full IM.  I just completed my first HIM and bonked from poor nutrition.

Currently I am about a 3:00 marathoner.

Currently, on average, I can pace a 56 mile ride at 23 mph

Currently, I swim my 100’s @ 1:23 ish.

So, not fast and not super slow.  I have made a lot of progress in my first year.  And, overall, I am pretty happy with where I am all things considered.  I’m learning all the time and hopefully I will continue to improve.  Onward and upward!

One of the most discussed topics on the boards, magazines and other articles I have read focuses on “how to train to get faster.”  Really, isn’t that the broad question that just about everyone from beginner to expert asks at one time or another – if not every day!

The questions to this topic come in many forms –

1)      How do I get faster?

2)      How much should I train?

3)      How many intervals should I do?

4)      Should I do periodization?

5)      Should I do more intervals?

6)      What % of XYZ should I run, bike and swim at?

7)      Volume vs. Intensity

8)      I am having problems with ABC.

9)      Etc, etc, etc.

My recent realization, and hopefully the realization of many coaches, is that there isn’t one answer that should be given to any of these questions.  The answers should be as varied and diverse as the athlete in question.  So, it really baffles me that people/coaches often answer these questions without knowing much about the person.  Or give blanket answers as if it applies to every one alike.

A classic example of this is the “should I do intervals to get faster” question?  And the answer that most people state is “yes, you should do xyz intervals for xyz length of time.  And you’ll notice yourself getting faster.”

Then there is the classic running debate, “Volume vs. Intensity.”  Where one half of the panel says do LSD at 70 miles per week.  And the other half says “you can get the same results doing 45 miles per week with more intensity.”

I AM HERE TO STATE THAT I BELIEVE IT IS ALL HOGWASH!

I am not saying that the above statements are wrong.  What I am saying is that you can’t give everyone the same advice.  You can’t download an 8, 12 or 20 week long program and expect it is good for you.  You shouldn’t go to a coach that doesn’t do a complete interview and assessment of you.  In hindsight, I believe that the “one plan fits all” approach and mentality is where we are at in this sport and it is ridiculous!

You have to look at every individual differently.  Someone just starting out in running that is severely overweight shouldn’t be on the same 8 week training program as someone that used to be a college track runner 10 years ago and is only 10 pounds overweight.  They are going to progress differently. 

I can tell you some VERY general things that I have learned from my own training.

1)      *Most* people don’t need to worry about interval training for the first 3 – 6 months of starting to train.  The initialization period should be used to get your muscles used to the different sports.  Your body is going through a lot of changes.  You’ll drop a lot of weight.  You’ll learn a lot by doing research.  Take this time to just get comfortable with everything.  Put on the miles slowly.  Work on technique.

2)      Then I think there is another appx 6 months where *most* people can start to increase their mileage.  And this is also the period where people can introduce moderate interval training.

3)      Then I think there is a 3rd period where those that become more serious will gain benefit with harder intervals, more miles, and adding some rest.

4)      Lastly, and this is the point where I am at now, comes the time for periodization.  I’m getting to the point where in order to see the gains that I want I have to workout really hard on some days.  The only way to work out really hard on those days is to take adequate rest on other days and start periodization. 

Shoot, it took me almost 18 months to come to this realization.  I was busy trying to come up with the perfect schedule or the perfect number of times to do this or that run or bike.  Well, the true answer is that your body is fluid.  Your progress is fluid.  And your training should be fluid.  It will change.  You must adapt.  Maybe you’ll hit period 4 up above faster than the norm.   Maybe you already have a great base and only need 3 months in period 1.  The thing is no one stop shop solution is going to tell you that. 
So, the point is if you’re a novice take advice with a grain of salt.  In hindsight, you’ll find that you were probably over-thinking just about every aspect of training.  And in time you’ll realize that training probably isn’t as complex as everyone wants to make it out to be.   And for the advice givers please stop and ask yourself if the advice you are giving is valid to everyone before posting it.  If not, just resist the inexorable urge to push submit on the bottom-middle of your screen. 
Thanks for listening.   
Shoot, it took me almost 18 months to come to this realization.  I was busy trying to come up with the perfect schedule or the perfect number of times to do this or that run or bike.  Well, the true answer is that your body is fluid.  Your progress is fluid.  And your training should be fluid.  It will change.  You must adapt.  Maybe you’ll hit period 4 up above faster than the norm.   Maybe you already have a great base and only need 3 months in period 1.  The thing is no one stop shop solution is going to tell you that. 

So, the point is if you’re a novice take advice with a grain of salt.  In hindsight, you’ll find that you were probably over-thinking just about every aspect of training.  And in time you’ll realize that training probably isn’t as complex as everyone wants to make it out to be.   And for the advice givers please stop and ask yourself if the advice you are giving is valid to everyone before posting it.  If not, just resist the inexorable urge to push submit on the bottom-middle of your screen. 

Thanks for listening.   

 



2009-06-18 9:43 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
jesse_d - 2009-06-18 10:32 AM

In hindsight, you’ll find that you were probably over-thinking just about every aspect of training.  And in time you’ll realize that training probably isn’t as complex as everyone wants to make it out to be.  



Out of your post, I agree most with this statement. 

Of course, the details of an individuals training are dependent on their individual circumstances.  That said, the general principles of training are the same for almost everybody.  Many of the questions posed here are coming from the novices who are generally much better off keeping things simple.

2009-06-18 9:49 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
Very good post.  one observation: you are very fast for a recreational athlete.  A 3 hr marathon, 23 on the bike and 100s @ 1:23 for 2.4m places you up there. 
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2009-06-18 10:14 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
JohnnyKay - 2009-06-18 8:43 AM
jesse_d - 2009-06-18 10:32 AM

In hindsight, you’ll find that you were probably over-thinking just about every aspect of training.  And in time you’ll realize that training probably isn’t as complex as everyone wants to make it out to be.  



Out of your post, I agree most with this statement. 

Of course, the details of an individuals training are dependent on their individual circumstances.  That said, the general principles of training are the same for almost everybody.  Many of the questions posed here are coming from the novices who are generally much better off keeping things simple.


I agree with this also.  Following a set plan and overthinking training just added stress and took the fun out of it for me, which led to me not training at all.  I have to remember this is for fun and fitness and just another of my hobbies.  As long as I get out and do something almost everyday, I'm happy and I'll probably get stronger and faster too without the stress.

That said, I'm sure some people thrive on structure and numbers and want to devote their free time to training and thinking about training and discussing training options.

Thanks for posting this -- it's good to remind everyone that it's ok to just relax and enjoy training
2009-06-18 10:20 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
skarl - 2009-06-18 8:14 AM
JohnnyKay - 2009-06-18 8:43 AM
jesse_d - 2009-06-18 10:32 AM

In hindsight, you’ll find that you were probably over-thinking just about every aspect of training.  And in time you’ll realize that training probably isn’t as complex as everyone wants to make it out to be.  



Out of your post, I agree most with this statement. 

Of course, the details of an individuals training are dependent on their individual circumstances.  That said, the general principles of training are the same for almost everybody.  Many of the questions posed here are coming from the novices who are generally much better off keeping things simple.


I agree with this also.  Following a set plan and overthinking training just added stress and took the fun out of it for me, which led to me not training at all.  I have to remember this is for fun and fitness and just another of my hobbies.  As long as I get out and do something almost everyday, I'm happy and I'll probably get stronger and faster too without the stress.

That said, I'm sure some people thrive on structure and numbers and want to devote their free time to training and thinking about training and discussing training options.

Thanks for posting this -- it's good to remind everyone that it's ok to just relax and enjoy training


X3 to this.

And X2 to the earlier comment to the OP that he is, in fact, plenty fast for an amateur.  (The false modesty might keep people from reading your post...it almost did for me:  When people who are clearly capable of an AG podium finish--or better--describe themselves as "not fast", it makes me wonder about the validity of their other perceptions.  In this case, though, I thought most everything was valid.  Good post.)
2009-06-18 10:23 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
jesse_d - 2009-06-18 8:32 AM
And for the advice givers please stop and ask yourself if the advice you are giving is valid to everyone before posting it.  If not, just resist the inexorable urge to push submit on the bottom-middle of your screen.  Thanks for listening.   


I generally agree with what you wrote with the possible exception of the above. IMO, in "most" cases it should be implied that when someone is posting advice they are talking about themselves and their experiences which should be encouraged. I try to always just say what I'm doing and not offer it as specific advice so to avoid misinterpretation but that's probably overkill.

I'd love to see one's USAT rating under their avatar so that when considering advice, people know what level of athlete from which its coming. I know that one's ability isn't always the best measure of their ability to advise but it's at least something that has some validity.

My training philosophy is extremely simple and I have an advantage because I used it before and got very fast with zero injuries over a significant period of time. The three main problems that I have with cookbook type "training plans" are:

1. If feedback from body fatigue isn't considered somehow. Seems to me that an X-week cookbook type plan should contain a lot of "if-thens" in it based on some measure of fatigue condition. I have specific techniques I use to determine my body's condition in a fatigue cycle and in my experience it's not very predictable.

2. There should be more emphasis to do what's fun based on lots of factors (such as weather) as opposed to following strict instructions that if violated results in a negative feeling. If the training isn't fun, long-term participation is difficult or impossible.

3. I think the plans generally ramp up volume/intensity way to quickly to encourage long-term, injury-free participation in Triathlon. I assume this is so that people can make big accomplishments rather quickly, which is great but I'm not so sure those big distance goals are all that good in the long-term.

Edited by breckview 2009-06-18 10:25 AM


2009-06-18 10:26 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
If you're 3hr marathon, 23mph avg over 50+miles, and 1:23 hundreds isn't fast then I must be a snail.
2009-06-18 10:32 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
i agree with what you said about the 6 month increments - for me, doing intervals, intensity or anything like that my first 6 months would have been overkill,  i saw huge gains my first 1.5 years, just by training and gradually increases distances, but doing all the workouts at medium/upper medium intensity.  Now, i feel like i'm ready to do intervals, speed work and i have gained from it (i have been doing it for a few months).  it took me probably 1.5 years until i felt my running was ready to do track workouts, FWIW
2009-06-18 10:35 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
(The false modesty might keep people from reading your post...it almost did for me: When people who are clearly capable of an AG podium finish--or better--describe themselves as "not fast", it makes me wonder about the validity of their other perceptions.


I'm caught in the middle with the sense of modesty - 1/2 of me knows that I am doing okay but there is another 1/2 of me that sees people blowing by me everyday in the pool or on the bike. It is all relative I suppose.

On training plans. I guess I would rather see people try to create their own plans than pay for some off the shelf plan that doesn't address them personally. Or maybe start with a free plan somewhere and modify it. But, I guess I'm not in favor of a beginner paying for some plan (or advice) that tells them to do XYZ without knowing about the person - their background, their strength and weaknesses, etc.
2009-06-18 10:36 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
F1longhorn - 2009-06-18 11:26 AM If you're 3hr marathon, 23mph avg over 50+miles, and 1:23 hundreds isn't fast then I must be a snail.


I was thinking the same thing. 

3hr marathon gets you comfortably into the big marathon I have heard about in the New England Area.  
23 average would get you top 20 at White Lake HIM. 

2009-06-18 10:39 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice

Nice post.

Certainly very easy to overthink training, especially for a novice on a site like this... sometimes a (seemingly) simple question gets asked and you'll get 20 different well-intentioned responses... for example, a thread where someone talks about getting faster on the bike/run... for a very large percentage of novices, the best answer is to bike/run more, yet you'll get 3 pages' worth of response, all over the place.

I think that's good, and bad, at the same time.



Edited by newleaf 2009-06-18 10:45 AM


2009-06-18 10:40 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
breckview - 2009-06-18 11:23 AM
I'd love to see one's USAT rating under their avatar so that when considering advice, people know what level of athlete from which its coming. I know that one's ability isn't always the best measure of their ability to advise but it's at least something that has some validity.


I don't consider that a valid filter AT ALL!
2009-06-18 10:45 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
Maybe I'm being cynical, but I find it hard to believe that someone who runs a 3 hr marathon, 23 mph for a HIM bike, and 1:23/100 swim really finds themself "not that fast."  Is it pro level? No.  Is it fast for an AGer? I think so.
2009-06-18 10:47 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
Good post.

Scott Tinley in Winning Triathlon "talks" about the impact of highly structured training and how the soul of training is lost.  He focused on the athletic need to "create" in the training process.  Aren't we artists of ourselves?

In the beginning phase of training there is general fitness, body weight achievement, and fitting the many hours of training into the athletes lifestyle ("the juggle"). Within this time period is the mental exploration of the cult; read all the articles, buy all the books, view all the tapes (well DVDs) and dream of IH.

I think the second phase is really a test of whether you can sustain everything accomplished in the first phase for more that 1 year.  With this progress comes the injuries, burnout, family/work conflicts, financial commitment (2nd and 3rd bikes), and the test of whether this is something you're going to do for a while.

Phase 3: I don't think interval and highly specific training techniques (periodization) really fits in until you can pass through the first two phases with some sanity, humor, and still have the passion for SBR.

later. 
2009-06-18 10:53 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
JohnnyKay - 2009-06-18 9:40 AM
breckview - 2009-06-18 11:23 AM
I'd love to see one's USAT rating under their avatar so that when considering advice, people know what level of athlete from which its coming. I know that one's ability isn't always the best measure of their ability to advise but it's at least something that has some validity.


I don't consider that a valid filter AT ALL!


So if you knew only of the ability of say BryanCD vs. someone who has just completed their first sprint at MOP, you'd consider the advice equally? I have no problem with that.

Personally, when I see something interesting, the first thing I do is look at the logs/races of whoever submited the advice. I'm very slow to take advice and only will when I'm convinced it comes from someone *I* deem qualified. For me in every aspect of life, I listen to those who have been successful and do not respect theoretical knowledge all that much. But hey, differing opinions is what makes it a race!
2009-06-18 11:11 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
First off, great post. Second, you're times are not slow.

And to add, the one big thing that I think gets missed, and is right in like with the OP, is that people need to learn how to listen to their body. This means ditch the iPod, ditch the Garmin, the HRM, tape over the cyclocomputer, and just get out and do it.

The reason is that if you get locked into XYZ as jesse says, then you miss the possibility of a breakthrough workout, or you work yourself way harder than your body is telling you you should, things like that. Just get out and run. After you learn to listen to yourself, you will know the difference between "Harder? Now? Uhm....ok", vs your legs saying "Yeah, just not happening today."

All the gadgets dehumanize a human endeavour. Listen to the human before you chain yourself to a device.

John


2009-06-18 11:12 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
I thought I fely my ears ringing..

Interesting post. I don't know the OP and would love to see not his USAT rankings but his Athlinks page and training logs to better understand his own protocols. The pace numbers he posted I assume he did so to provide some validity behind his comments, so questioning his validity to opine about training is fair game. If those numbers are true, than I shoudl be seeing you in Kona, not bonking at your first Haldf IM. I find that a bit questionable.
2009-06-18 11:16 AM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice

breckview - 2009-06-18 11:53 AM
JohnnyKay - 2009-06-18 9:40 AM
breckview - 2009-06-18 11:23 AM
I'd love to see one's USAT rating under their avatar so that when considering advice, people know what level of athlete from which its coming. I know that one's ability isn't always the best measure of their ability to advise but it's at least something that has some validity.


I don't consider that a valid filter AT ALL!
So if you knew only of the ability of say BryanCD vs. someone who has just completed their first sprint at MOP, you'd consider the advice equally? I have no problem with that. Personally, when I see something interesting, the first thing I do is look at the logs/races of whoever submited the advice. I'm very slow to take advice and only will when I'm convinced it comes from someone *I* deem qualified. For me in every aspect of life, I listen to those who have been successful and do not respect theoretical knowledge all that much. But hey, differing opinions is what makes it a race!


Experience and knowledge do not equal speed.  Or vice versa.  That's what I'm saying. 

2009-06-18 12:19 PM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
am I the only one seeing those #'s as training and or stand-alone race numbers not triathlon splits?

2009-06-18 12:26 PM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
breckview - 2009-06-18 8:53 AM Personally, when I see something interesting, the first thing I do is look at the logs/races of whoever submited the advice. I'm very slow to take advice and only will when I'm convinced it comes from someone *I* deem qualified. For me in every aspect of life, I listen to those who have been successful and do not respect theoretical knowledge all that much. But hey, differing opinions is what makes it a race!


So, if I was giving running advice, and all you saw was my 1/2 mary PR (A woeful 2:3x:xx), you'd immediately discount it? Hrm. Good to know.

John

2009-06-18 12:45 PM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
I think what Breckview is saying that in a world of unknowns, you need something to backup what you are saying.

I don't know who Bryan is.  but if I look at his logs/RRs, I'm gonna follow his advice.

If gordo makes a post, I'm not gonna check his logs, I know who he is.

to the OP.

fill out your logs or show me a RR.  you spewing out that you avg 23 MPH for 56 miles means nothing to me, and I look at that and dont beleive it for 1 second.  and you bonked because your body couldnt handle the pace you were trying to push for 70.2 miles.  your nutrition had little to do with it.

too all those who say, "Training should be simple."

Shame on you.  training is not simple. 

Training becomes simple.



2009-06-18 12:54 PM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
1204 JESSE  INDIAN HARBOUR BCHFL MEN -- 35 THROUGH 3936M3:09:123:09:361511373166.1%


and 3:09:12 is not "about 3:00"



not close.  in fact, that statement is an insult to anyone who has gone 3:00:XX

forgive me if you were referring to another marathon, if so, I appologize now.

2009-06-18 12:58 PM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
cusetri - 2009-06-18 1:45 PM I think what Breckview is saying that in a world of unknowns, you need something to backup what you are saying.

I don't know who Bryan is.  but if I look at his logs/RRs, I'm gonna follow his advice.

If gordo makes a post, I'm not gonna check his logs, I know who he is.


There are other, better ways to decide how heavily to discount advice being provided is my point.  Bryan was fast when he first arrived at BT.  I'm more likely to consider some of what he has to offer today than I was then.  And it has nothing to do with his results.

The OP's post has plenty of validity regardless of how good a triathlete he is or isn't.


Oh, and training IS simple.  In fact, so is racing.  But perhaps I'm not fast enough to be listened to.  Undecided
2009-06-18 1:01 PM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
cusetri - 2009-06-18 1:45 PM I think what Breckview is saying that in a world of unknowns, you need something to backup what you are saying.

I don't know who Bryan is.  but if I look at his logs/RRs, I'm gonna follow his advice.

If gordo makes a post, I'm not gonna check his logs, I know who he is.

to the OP.

fill out your logs or show me a RR.  you spewing out that you avg 23 MPH for 56 miles means nothing to me, and I look at that and dont beleive it for 1 second.  and you bonked because your body couldnt handle the pace you were trying to push for 70.2 miles.  your nutrition had little to do with it.

too all those who say, "Training should be simple."

Shame on you.  training is not simple. 

Training becomes simple.



If someone is saying something valid, it doesn't really matter what pace they can keep for 56 miles... I thought the OP had plenty of valid points... not sure why such a harsh tone here, then combined with the attempt at profoundness with the whole "shame on you" thing... just a weird post.
2009-06-18 1:01 PM
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Subject: RE: The State of Triathlon Training - Special note to the Novice
JohnnyKay - 2009-06-18 10:58 AM
cusetri - 2009-06-18 1:45 PM I think what Breckview is saying that in a world of unknowns, you need something to backup what you are saying.

I don't know who Bryan is.  but if I look at his logs/RRs, I'm gonna follow his advice.

If gordo makes a post, I'm not gonna check his logs, I know who he is.


There are other, better ways to decide how heavily to discount advice being provided is my point.  Bryan was fast when he first arrived at BT.  I'm more likely to consider some of what he has to offer today than I was then.  And it has nothing to do with his results.

The OP's post has plenty of validity regardless of how good a triathlete he is or isn't.


Oh, and training IS simple.  In fact, so is racing.  But perhaps I'm not fast enough to be listened to.  Undecided


Yeah, stop posting, you sound stupid. Tongue out

Good advice is good advice.  I'm sure there're great coaches around that aren't fast olympic athletes.  
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