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  1. #151
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    Quote Originally Posted by Once Bitten View Post
    It also appears that Bud/Bud was a wise choice given the conditions thus far.

    It's tempting to think so from the outside looking in. And especially watching the top 5 transit from Puntilla to Rohn through the night and today. Sure hasn't seemed like studs were needed.

    Taking the opposite stance, you could also posit that a smaller, lighter, smaller-knobbed tire is easier to push.

    Their collective pace says that it's either rideable or it's not, and maybe tire selection is moot.

    Having said that, Pete (on 2XL's) has slowly but steadily been reeling in Clinton as they approach Rohn. So maybe bigger is better.

  2. #152
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    Jeny and The Race.

    I read Craig Medred's report about the three leaders and the ground blizzard on the way in to Rohn. It got me thinking about navigation. It seems like it would be very easy to wander off trail and get off course and potentially lost in that situation. Mike, what do you rely on in those situations? Do you rely solely on your GPS, or is the trail marked sufficiently for you to follow the route? I assume it's a combination of both?
    Last edited by farleybob; 03-01-2017 at 09:18 AM.
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  3. #153
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    Quote Originally Posted by farleybob View Post
    I read Craig Medred's report about the three leaders and the ground blizzard on the way in to Rohn. It got me thinking about navigation. It seems like it would be very easy to wander off trail and get off course and potentially lost in that situation. Mike, what do you rely on in those situations? Do you rely solely on your GPS, or is the trail marked sufficiently for you to follow the route? I assume it's a combination of both?

    I've found GPS to be of little use on this route. The trail is rarely in the exact same place from year to year or even storm to storm. Where it stays static is in the trees -- and you don't need a GPS to know you're on it there. Out in the open as it is from Puntilla up to Ptarmigan, where Jeny is heading today, the location can and often does change with each snowfall or wind event. Markings are rare and inconsistent, so the trail ends up being laid down fresh by whomever the next person through happens to be.

    Thus you end up finding it with your feet, and knowing that you've lost it because you're suddenly wallowing in up to your knees. You don't really get "lost" per se -- it's not like you're going to go postholing up some random valley -- you just might lose the trail for a bit before finding it again with your feet.

  4. #154
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    I'm getting pinged from every direction by people wondering about Jeny. The Trackleaders site is, by far, the best way to follow along and see progress.

    For those for whom that's not enough, I've dug up some pics of approximately what she and her trailmates are seeing today. Keep in mind I don't know what the conditions are like out there in this moment, so although locationally these are accurate, it may not look like this, to them, at all!

    First thing this AM she saw this.

    Around lunch she'll see this.

    Dinner should bring something like this.

    If they're attentive there'll be evidence of animals everywhere -- like these sastrugified wolf tracks.

  5. #155
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    But how are you doing? Sending your new bride away on this adventure into the known yet unknown, confident in her preparedness and mindset....

    Constantly hitting the refresh button or business as usual?

  6. #156
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    Quote Originally Posted by bme107 View Post
    But how are you doing? Sending your new bride away on this adventure into the known yet unknown, confident in her preparedness and mindset....

    Constantly hitting the refresh button or business as usual?

    I just checked the box that refreshes it every 60 seconds...

    First night was rough trying to follow into the wee hours, but now that she's found her groove I'm good with it. Only needing to check in, uh, get up to pee, 2 or 3 times per night...

  7. #157
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    Without closely scrutinizing the tracker too closely it looks like she is doing great.

  8. #158
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    She's in the middle of a long section and looking good! ( At least to the untrained eye of this blue dot watching fanboy!)


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  9. #159
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    Is there a cabin along the route where Jeny and others have stopped, or are they just making a group bivy?
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  10. #160
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    This made me think of Jeny. Hope all is going well for ya!

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  11. #161
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    Quote Originally Posted by farleybob View Post
    Is there a cabin along the route where Jeny and others have stopped, or are they just making a group bivy?

    There are big (relatively speaking) trees there and it should be sheltered from the wind they've been pushing all day.

    If there's a cabin it's news to me.

    One way to know for sure: If they're still there at ~8 tomorrow morning it's a cabin. If they're moving again in the wee hours it's because it's cold -- and there's no cabin!

  12. #162
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    Temps in Rohn and Nikolai look to be around -30F. It looks like clear and cold with light winds. Hopefully the trail is in good shape for riding!
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  13. #163
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    Quote Originally Posted by farleybob View Post
    Temps in Rohn and Nikolai look to be around -30F. It looks like clear and cold with light winds. Hopefully the trail is in good shape for riding!

    Yep, it's a real winter race this year.

  14. #164
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    She is doing real well. Smart moves. There is going to be some crazy stories about being in Puntilla and Rohn.

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    Mike----this is riveting stuff. I've learned so much from reading through this thread.

    This is something that's been on my mind: you showed the wolf tracks above....does anyone feel the need to carry protection of any kind? Like a firearm or even a knife?

    I bet some of the spots on the trail are inhabited *enough* to ward off wildlife, but I'm picturing some of the more remote sections...sleeping by yourself...in the AK woods...

  16. #166
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    Quote Originally Posted by pescador95 View Post
    Mike----this is riveting stuff. I've learned so much from reading through this thread.

    This is something that's been on my mind: you showed the wolf tracks above....does anyone feel the need to carry protection of any kind? Like a firearm or even a knife?

    I bet some of the spots on the trail are inhabited *enough* to ward off wildlife, but I'm picturing some of the more remote sections...sleeping by yourself...in the AK woods...
    As far as I can tell, there are only two or three documented fatal wolf attacks on humans in all of North America. It's a non issue. There is much, much easier prey out there for wolves in Alaska's winter than some strange smelling multicolored ape floating on what must have the equivalent appearance to a wolf of an alien spaceship to a human. No one goes out into the wilderness without some sort of knife. It would be foolish to do so. Not from a perspective of somehow fighting off a pack of wolves with no training in knife fighting, but for processing kindling for a fire, cutting cord, or the significantly more plausible likelihood than a wolf gang fight that you'll need to use your knife to get purchase on ice to pull yourself out of the creek you just fell into.

    It's entirely possible that one or two racers have carried a pistol at some point. Where they carried it that kept it accessible and protected from becoming so covered in frost to the point of being barely functional during an all day athletic event I don't know. They would be much more useful for procuring ptarmigan, hare or spruce grouse should you happen upon one on the trail. But then you would have to spend the time cleaning and cooking it, instead of just shoveling some gorp or mini peanut butter cups down your throat. You would also need to figure out some way of securing it for the flight back.

  17. #167
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    Somehow a fresh game supper sounds far better than powdered eggs!
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  18. #168
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    Wolves would be the least of my worries.... I'm picturing grizzlies, moose, mountain lions (?). An encounter may be unlikely, but I would at least *think* about it possibly maybe potentially occurring. I don't think I'd carry one personally, just wondering out loud if someone had been seen sporting a sidearm or something.

    Banshee---I was thinking the same thing! If I were truly "touring" the race, I would at least think about trying to find some fresh game to munch on while I was out there. Not that I'm a good shot or anything

    So many layers to the ITI experience. Really cool.

  19. #169
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    Quote Originally Posted by pescador95 View Post
    Wolves would be the least of my worries.... I'm picturing grizzlies, moose, mountain lions (?). An encounter may be unlikely, but I would at least *think* about it possibly maybe potentially occurring. I don't think I'd carry one personally, just wondering out loud if someone had been seen sporting a sidearm or something.
    No mountain lions in Ak, and grizz hibernate this time of year. You'd be lucky if you see some wolves at a distance.
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  20. #170
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    Either the tracker has gone mad or it looks like Jeny has turned around? Hope everything is ok out there!

  21. #171
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    Biggest non weather related risk on the trail is probably moose. A few facts about moose and AK:

    -If you encounter a moose that insists it's you that is in her way, simply getting out of her way, off the trail, will completely solve the problem. She will trot past, you'll wade through snow back to the trail and be on your way.

    -The Iditiarod trail is somewhat regularly traveled in most sections.

    -By AK Dept of Fish and Game laws, if you shoot a moose in defense of life and property, you are responsible for salvaging the meat and surrendering it to Fish and Game. You're probably looking at 500+ pounds of meat. You're on a trail, you won't get away with skipping this step. Your tire tracks and boot prints are going to be all over the place at the kill site.

    It's simply not worth shooting a moose in defense of life and property. They might not even be willing to consider 'unwillingness to yield the trail' a justifiable reason for doing so and will cite you for poaching and wasting meat.

  22. #172
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    Yikes...good to know, Sean.

    I don't know the first thing about cleaning anything larger than a rabbit, let alone how the hell I would haul 500 lbs of moose meat to the nearest AK F&G station.

    Anyways, didn't mean to derail the thread. Hope Jeny's still givin 'em the business!

  23. #173
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    Temp is accurate, the winds were not light though!

  24. #174
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flying_Scotsman View Post
    Either the tracker has gone mad or it looks like Jeny has turned around? Hope everything is ok out there!

    The gut bug that laid a few other people low out there finally caught up to Jeny in Nikolai. She headed out in the wee hours for McGrath, but had to stop and bivy after ~7 miles. The bug took a lot -- literally and, uh, figuratively -- out of her. She's back in Nikolai now, resting and rehydrating, and will fly back to Anchorage from there.

    She knows she didn't have a choice in how things turned out, but any normal human would be at least a little bummed at not making it to McG. I'm incredibly proud of all that she achieved -- both in the lead-up and once on the ground in AK -- and I think she has every reason to be just as proud, too.

  25. #175
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    A great effort in difficult conditions. You both have good reason to be proud. Great job Jeny!

  26. #176
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    Nooooo....That is awful news! Mike, you and Jeny have so much to be proud of! Cheers to you both and to perhaps making another run at it next year!

  27. #177
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    First of all, Congratulations to Jeny for a valiant effort! It was great fun following her pink dot as it made its' way across the frozen tundra! I am so sorry to hear the bug has caught up to her, she was so close!

    Secondly, Thanks to Mike and Jeny for allowing us to share in the preparation and planning for her first ITI attempt! This has been fun, informational, inspirational and just a darn good time! I can't wait to read all of the post-race reports!
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  28. #178
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    This winter's trail weather and conditions remind me of the old saying up here . Alaska, where men are men and women win the Iditarod. My hats off to all the participants.!!! And . It sucks that with all the Big event situations, like pushing a loaded bike for miles and miles in deepish sugar snow . Then cold weather and lots of wind. We're overcomeable. But a microscopic bug laid out so many racers.
    The biggest problem I've had with working in the arctic, isn't the weather, long hours , work. It's getting so sick I almost need to be medivaced out.
    She sure did great given all the obstacles. I hope it won't dampen her want to race again.
    Thank you Mike for taking us along for the ride !!
    Imho this thread should become a sticky, or at least a seasonal sticky for race preparation.

  29. #179
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cold Trigger Finger View Post
    This winter's trail weather and conditions remind me of the old saying up here . Alaska, where men are men and women win the Iditarod. My hats off to all the participants.!!! And . It sucks that with all the Big event situations, like pushing a loaded bike for miles and miles in deepish sugar snow . Then cold weather and lots of wind. We're overcomeable. But a microscopic bug laid out so many racers.
    The biggest problem I've had with working in the arctic, isn't the weather, long hours , work. It's getting so sick I almost need to be medivaced out.
    She sure did great given all the obstacles. I hope it won't dampen her want to race again.
    Thank you Mike for taking us along for the ride !!
    Imho this thread should become a sticky, or at least a seasonal sticky for race preparation.

    Really well put. I've been to Nome 4 times, Unk 5 times, McGrath 9 (I think) times. And none of those trips held a candle in difficulty to the year that I got sick at the start and nursed myself just far enough to require assistance getting back out. I spent 2 days laid up in a cabin and couldn't have walked 20 feet much less made it the ~15 miles of mostly downhill that I needed to get back to Puntilla. I think Jeny was in a similar state today, and I've only heard third-hand reports but I think the Diederich twins got to that point on their way up to Puntilla a few days ago.

    It's a hard pill to swallow, made moreso knowing that you have ~350 days to wait and ruminate on it until you get to try again.

  30. #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    The gut bug that laid a few other people low out there finally caught up to Jeny in Nikolai. She headed out in the wee hours for McGrath, but had to stop and bivy after ~7 miles. The bug took a lot -- literally and, uh, figuratively -- out of her. She's back in Nikolai now, resting and rehydrating, and will fly back to Anchorage from there.

    She knows she didn't have a choice in how things turned out, but any normal human would be at least a little bummed at not making it to McG. I'm incredibly proud of all that she achieved -- both in the lead-up and once on the ground in AK -- and I think she has every reason to be just as proud, too.
    Saddened to hear this news, Mike. With all the support and effort that went in, Jeny's a trooper beyond words. Thank you Mike and Jeny.
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  31. #181
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    Sad news. Just having the guts (pun unintended) to line up for this thing is more than 99.9% of us would do, myself included. Now she is all the more prepared for a run next year. Good on you Jeny, I'm impressed!!

  32. #182
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    I am/was really enjoying this thread. Great first attempt!

    In my mind, I am thinking "Geeze, everyone/everything is so far apart and remote, how can you get sick out in the wilderness?"
    So, for those in the know, is it avoidable? I realize you have group lodgings in places, and maybe food service or whatnot.

    Would you say there could be a "strategy" for avoiding such illness other than the isolationist method? I think road racers (like TDF) go to some effort to avoid contracting any bugs or eating the wrong food, etc. It still happens, but in those races it would seem there is no avoiding the throngs and masses.

    Again, we who vicariously ride with you hope you'll go try again!

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    I went on a supported bike tour with Adventure Cycling. They were real good with establishing "good hygiene" around any of the food tables. Mandatory gloves off, hand sanitizer and dedicated serving utensils. I'm sure it is harder to maintain this in the more frantic race environment and tight confines of a remote cabin, but they probably all picked it up back in Anchorage.

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    This has been an exceptional post as in making it personal, informative and very real. Thanks for sharing some much of your hard earned experience. If the stars align we will be reading about Jenny's ride next year.

  35. #185
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    Quote Originally Posted by idahomer View Post
    If the stars align we will be reading about Jenny's ride next year.

    We caught up via Skype last night -- first time since she started from Knik. I don't think she caught herself saying it, but I twice heard her mention specific things she would change "for next time".

    It's a sickness in it's own right...

  36. #186
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    We caught up via Skype last night -- first time since she started from Knik. I don't think she caught herself saying it, but I twice heard her mention specific things she would change "for next time".

    It's a sickness in it's own right...
    Awesome!!!
    --Peace

  37. #187
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    ... "for next time"...
    !!!

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  38. #188
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    Quote Originally Posted by pescador95 View Post
    If I were truly "touring" the race, I would at least think about trying to find some fresh game to munch on while I was out there. Not that I'm a good shot or anything
    There was a woman I knew in Anchorage back in the 90s who used to hunt while bikepacking on the Kenai Peninsula. She had a lightweight .22 she used to shoot grouse and ptarmigan and anyone who bothered her I assumed.

  39. #189
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    ITI Story Number 1

    First and foremost: THANK YOU to everyone here who sent me well wishes, luck and good energy! I feel so very lucky! I mean that.

    I thought I would start telling little stories of my ITI experience. I can't get it all out in one bit long write up, so I thought I would just start telling stories one at a time when they present themselves in an inspired way.

    So....

    ITI Story Number 1:

    I really want to tell ITI stories... but I have no idea where to begin.

    Jeny and The Race.-ms02.jpg
    Photo Credit: Missy. Me, rolling out of Skwentna, after biscuits and gravy. It was COLD. And ice-foggy out.

    I will start by posting pics taken by Missy Schwarz, (and of Missy), because it was her motivation and frank clarity that enabled me to leave Puntilla, and inspired me to leave Rohn. I could have nested in both places for weeks.

    Jeny and The Race.-ms04.jpg
    Photo Credits: Missy. Me, I believe on our way to Shell Lake and Ham Sandwiches? Possibly somewhere else.

    If you know me, you know that I am not so good at The Suffer. I struggle with how to move through The Suffer gracefully ... or at all in most circumstances. At Rohn, early in the morning while snuggled deep into our sleeping bags outside of the Rohn tent, I blurted out to Missy: "I can't deal with The Suffer. How do you deal with the Suffer?"
    Her response: "Drop The Suffer."
    "But HOW." I asked.
    To which she replied: "I don't know. Just drop it."
    Whereupon she packed up her shit and rolled on.

    Jeny and The Race.-ms08.jpg
    Photo Credit: Missy.

    It took me another 4+ hours to pick up the pieces of my brain, body and soul... not to mention completely repacking my entire pony and kit (I find this act to be so peaceful and therapeutic!!) ... and rolled out solo. I don't know EXACTLY what planted seeds of motivation, inspiration, energy, light into my being, but whatever it was, it kept me from flying out of Rohn on plane, and moved me along on my Pony instead. So many people were seriously injured, seriously sick, or seriously something ... that I felt that my nerve-damaged hands, compromised knees, and inadequate Suffer Tools had absolutely no damn excuses. Besides, all I had to do was break things down into small steps from there. Bear Creek Cabin. Nikolai. A potential bivvy on my way to McGrath if I had to/wanted to. McGrath. That's tangible enough. Right?

    Jeny and The Race.-missy22.jpg
    The BIG of AK wilderness is beyond comprehensible. We are quiet (sometimes), tiny creatures sllooowwwllllllyyyy moving through it. Or trying to, anyway.

    Thank you, Missy. Thanks for being so real and present (and so effing hilarious) for the days we got to ride together. Thank you for being such an amazing ****ing badass that I could do nothing but try and reflect that badassery back at you.

    Jeny and The Race.-missy26.jpg
    A picture of Missy. My favorite picture from the whole trip, I think.

    The FUNNIEST story of my entire ITI experience came of a moment that, to me, reflects the depth of bonds and connections made while out on the trail: All along Missy demonstrated the ability to eat at least 2.5 times more than I could. My 3/4 of the Biscuits and Gravy order to her 2+. My almost 1-ish dinner meal to her 2+. It was impressive.

    When we were at Rohn, we were given 2 brats. I covered mine in ketchup and mustard. Missy ate hers plain. I got through 1.5 of mine before I felt like I was going to seriously puke if I ate another bite. Not one to make such a mess in a shared space, I handed her my remaining 1/2 brat. She squinched her face up and said: "Yeah, I'll eat that if you can get all that shit off of it [ketchup and mustard]". So... what did I do? I looked at it, licked it clean in one long lick, and handed it back to her without a thought. I don't think I even looked at her face. I just handed it to her and it was gone. Poof.

    Jeny and The Race.-ms03.jpg
    Photo Credit: Missy. Me, somewhere, out there. Possibly on our way to Puntilla. Possibly on our way to Shell Lake. Can't tell

    In looking back at this moment, it is the one moment that continues to make me absolutely giggle. The miracle of this moment is that Missy did not get sick. Which tells me that I 'contracted' whatever sickness I got AFTER I left Rohn.

    Jeny and The Race.-ms09.jpg
    Photo Credit: Missy. Pic of myself.

    Anyway. Many more stories to come as I find motivation to write about them. And many, many more pictures.

    Jeny and The Race.-p2270094-2-.jpg

    Again, thank you, Missy.

  40. #190
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    So awesome. Thanks for sharing

  41. #191
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    Jeny,

    You are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing with us.

  42. #192
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    You're a trooper, Jeny. Glad you had the opportunity and went for a monumental adventure of a lifetime.
    Thanks for sharing the story and pix.
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    This has been a very informative and interesting thread for sure, thanks for posting the follow up stories as well. It sure looks like a daunting adventure, it's been a great read so far, thanks again for sharing your experience.
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