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The San Francisco Hot Chocolate 5k (Race Recap) January 16, 2014

it was a hot chocolate party

it was a hot chocolate party

Yesterday was the first official race I’d done since last June (See Jane Run). I was excited, I was nervous, I was happy. I started myself on the couch-to-5k program again a few weeks ago, and as of this week I’m up to Week four. I told myself I’d just go at whatever pace felt comfortable, and I just wanted to finish and celebrate being back in the (sort of) running world again.

I was a Hot Chocolate Ambassador for this one, meaning they sponsored my race registration (thanks Hot Choco folks!). I have to say, for someone living in the East Bay, this was one darned inconvenient race. First of all, there was no same-day packet pickup, so all race packets needed to be picked up at the San Francisco Presidio Sports Basement beforehand. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am still not back to my job yet! I LOVE Sports Basement the store, and the Presidio is absolutely gorgeous, but MAN, it is not an easy place to get to. I was giving it directions from THREE separate GPS devices (two apps plus my car) and not ONE of them could locate the store correctly. Fail. I kept driving PAST it or OVER it on the freeway. So, that was a pain. Once inside the store, though, the place was teeming with Hot Chocolate volunteers and there were virtually no lines. I was able to present race information for a dozen people and get EVERYone’s goodie bag. BTW, the goodie bags were AWESOME.

pile o goodie bags!

pile o goodie bags!

The biggest item (aside from chocolate!) in the goodie bag was this fantastic fleece HOODIE complete with thumb holes. So great for a chilly January day. So much better than the (hardly ever used) stack of coupons and protein bars that come in most goodie bags…

The race folks also sent out a dozen emails warning us to NOT park in or near the race, and to take these shuttles, but there were no East Bay shuttles (cough: for next time, please) and BART trains did not start running until half an hour after the start of the race. So it was a real trick getting over twelve East Bay runners over to the park for start time.

It was emotional starting the night before, setting up my pre-race pile. I hadn’t done that in so long, and it is such a beloved ritual.

pre-race pile

pre-race pile

One of our Team in Training honorees, Justin, recently passed away. This was such a heartbreak for our team. Justin came out at the start (and end) of many of our race trainings and he was so inspiring and encouraging and… relentless. I was so so sad to hear about this loss of such a good young guy. His memorial service was yesterday also, so I made sure to wear our team shirt with his name on it, and this run was in his honor.

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I couldn’t sleep well all night. I kept waking up about every hour, worried about sleeping through my alarm. Four-thirty came soon enough and I got up, ate my traditional whole wheat English muffin + peanut butter, and then went to pick up Lily for our carpool. It felt so great to be picking her up in the pre-dawn hours again! So many times we did this during our triathlon training, and it made me feel all emotional and nostalgic.

We met up with Annie, Lisa and Mary for our carpool and then headed over to the city. My friend Caroline had posted a welcome sign (Happy Running, Susan & Friends!) on her garage door. Awww! We could see lots of people on the streets all headed to the park. One last stop at Starbucks for hot coffee and bathroom, and we were off! I was toting my big inflatable gold “5” with me. (for my fifth year of running and 5th healthaversary!)

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The race itself was BIG. I had no idea how big it would be, but they announced something like 10,000 runners. Pretty awesome! I lined up in the last corral which was the one that allowed walking. There were LOTS of people there!

Corral E/Start line

Corral E/Start line

I had that nervous happy butterfly feeling when we inched toward the start line. Then the air horn went off, and we start shuffling off! It was one of the most crowded races I’ve been at – similar to Bay to Breakers – and the road we were on  was so narrow, we could not help going pretty slow. I hung with Lily, Mary and Lisa (her first race! Ever!) and we got nice and warmed up until the course spread out and then we did a little bit of slow-running intervals. There were a few loops so we got to pass the faster runners going the opposite way on a few occasions. That’s always inspiring and exciting.

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

This race had some rolling hills – some flats – going through Golden Gate park, which I LOVE. For the first three-four years I lived in San Francisco, I was always just a few blocks away from the park. I spent a lot of time in there, getting lost in the trees and paths. It felt like coming home.

We did alternating jogging and walking, whatever felt right. (mostly depended on up or down hills!) It felt like a push from my regular workouts, but also not painful. Julie and Anne met us right at the the finish line and urged us to push through the last bit. It felt good to do a little sprint but then I was panting! In a few minutes, Lisa and Mary came through. It was so exciting to see Lisa cross her first finish line!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Victory chocolate! We had little chocolate fondue cups with bananas (ergh) and other stuff to dip in. Marshmallows, mmmm.

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

We took a bunch of photos, met up with the whole group.

 

It's @sarahlou1976!

It’s @sarahlou1976!

Team Weight Watchers!

Team Weight Watchers!

George, who had been my first mentee when I was a mentor for Team in Training, is now a traithlon mentor himself, as well as training for his first 50-mile ultra marathon race. BEAST, George! So happy to see him again.

Triathlon Team reunited!

Triathlon Team reunited!

All in all, I was really happy to return with this sweet not-so-little race. I was really glad to be surrounded by friends. After all that happened in the latter part of 2013, this felt like a great way to start the year. Yay for chocolate and running!

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Running and Candlelight for Boston April 20, 2013

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So, the exhale after such a tough, painful, exhausting and wrenching week. I started this post yesterday but it feels so much different writing it now, today. Of course there is still ongoing grief and healing ahead, but still. Whew.

On Thursday, I attended a run and candlelight vigil for Boston, the Boston Marathon bombing victims, the runners and spectators, the whole community, well all of us. It was co-organized by See Jane Run and the Oakland Running Festival, two organizations that I love and feel so connected to. I have run two See Jane Run 5k races here and here, and am registered to run in their half marathon in June (and hopefully the See Jane Tri in September also!).  I have also participated in the Oakland Running Festival three times: the marathon relay, the 5k and the half marathon. They are like my “home” races and I feel such affection for them.

It was fitting that the 3-mile run start at the See Jane Run store and finish at Snow Park, where the Oakland Running Festival began and end. I was not so sure that I’d be running any or much of it. Until the day before, my hip had been really, really bothering me, ever since the Oakland half. I tried to get a physical therapy appointment but there was nothing available until the end of May. I was sort of resigned to the fact that I’d be walking, or maybe jogging super-slow.

I took an Ibuprofen before I left the house. By the time I got to the start of the event, I was actually feeling pretty good; ie., pain-free. Shock. There were hundreds of people milling about in front of the store. Most people were wearing blue and yellow, the Boston Marathon colors.

photo credit: Christine Wong

photo credit: Christine Wong

I actually arrived there about one minute before the run began. Before I could get my bearings, people took off. At first we had been told that we would be running on sidewalks only, but there were so many of us, it turns out we got to run down College Avenue for quite a ways, and there was a police car escort complete with flashing lights. I was running with my buddy/coworker/boss Stacey, and I realized I would have to keep up a slow running pace if I was going to stay ahead of the police car. I didn’t want to get swept for the first time in my life! If we were going to stay in the middle of the street (as opposed to on the sidewalk) we were going to have to run. I figured I would go as long as I was able, then I’d slow down, walk, or hit the sidewalk.

the last runners ahead of the sweep car :-)

the last runners ahead of the sweep car :-)

And here’s the thing. That moment never happened. When we turned from College Avenue onto Broadway, everyone pretty much got on the sidewalk. The police car stayed nearby and actually blocked all the intersections so we could cross them.  Stacey kept asking me how I was doing. I was sort of amazed that I was doing just fine. My hip wasn’t hurting! And suddenly I thought, maybe this was just the therapy I needed: RUNNING. Because walking has been none too comfortable in the past couple of weeks.  It was fun running with another physical therapist as we discussed the possibilities of having tendinitis vs trochanteric bursitis or whatever. But the best part was that it was NOT acting up during this run!

I actually hadn’t anticipated running much, or at all. I was wearing a big clunky backpack thing that I had loaded up with my wallet, jacket, a bunch of Runners United to Remember race bib printouts, some packaging tape and safety pins and a pair of scissors. This would have been fine to amble along in, but running.. not so much. Hah. Awkward.

me and my little boss

me and my little boss

Three miles felt just right. We got to Snow Park just as it was getting dark. There weren’t enough candles to go around (how awesome that there were way more people than had been anticipated), but a woman near us was handing out little blue clip lights, and she gave us each one. (thank you nice person!) It was really nice that the neighborhood Trader Joe’s for donating bottles of water. Much needed.

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A minister from First Presbyterian Church of Oakland stood on a bench and spoke some comforting and inspiring words. It was so moving. She led an interfaith prayer, my favorite kind. As we were dispersing, I saw another little knot of people gathered around someone who was leading a cheer for Boston. Turns out it was my coach Al from Team in Training. It was so good to see him and give him a team hug.

After the run, we carpooled back to the starting point. Convenient that See Jane Run is located just steps away from Zachary’s pizza. :-) I hadn’t had Zachary’s stuffed spinach and mushroom pizza in like… years. There were lots of other runners in there (great minds, etc).  There were a few of the Boston Marathon runners in there (who, unlike us, had run round trip six miles!). We were going to buy them a pitcher of beer but, being marathon runners, all they were drinking was water. ;-)

All in all, it was a really uplifting and moving event. I was happy to be part of it. I wonder if the positive nature of it had something to do with the miraculous healing of my hip. One never knows!

Later , exciting to see that we were on the news! (see us running at the very back o the pack, 1:43 mark – you can see my crazy bouncing backpack!)

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Thanks again to See Jane Run and Oakland Running Festival for putting together such a meaningful and uplifting community event. We needed it.

 

Day 8 #NHBPM: A Letter to My Health November 8, 2012

Dear Health,

I wonder how you think I’ve been treating you lately. I admit it isn’t the same intense, hot love that we had back in 2009 when all I thought about was you, all I dreamed about was you. I know, I was kind of borderline obsessed with you, but that was only because I’d neglected you for like, decades, and you gave me that big scare that made me think you were leaving me forever.

I admit that the last year has been kind of bumpy. I know that I sort of was giving lip service to the fact that I cared about you, but that sometimes my actions spoke otherwise. That was not so great of me.

I really want you to stick around. For a long, long time. I think I’ve been trying to figure out all the different things that I need in order to keep you around. I used to think that you would only love me if I exercised all the time and was really strict about what I ate. But then I realize that you are more attached to me than I ever realized and that if I didn’t take care of all of the parts of me, then you would suffer too.

I’m realizing so many more things about our relationship lately – that you need to sleep and rest. That you actually LIKE it if I take time to write. I used to think you were jealous of my writing and that I couldn’t spend time with my writing and have you too. I didn’t really get that you guys are like BFFs. Wow.

I used to think that you only liked doing a few things and I think maybe our relationship got into a little rut and I started feeling bored. I didn’t realize that you liked doing so many of the same things that I do.

Did you know that I’ve been writing about you for 8 days in a row? (how’s that for attention? are you feeling it??) And I’m going to be doing it for the WHOLE month of November. I know! You must be in shock.

Guess what? Some of my favorite people are also writing about their health, too. Isn’t that cool?

Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge that I was not the best friend I could’ve been. I was trying, but you know how you can be trying and still be sort of “off.” My intentions were good but hey, this is a really long term relationship and sometimes we just make mistakes. I think I can say that I learned from them.

Let me ask you. What did you think of that triathlon training last year? I know it was pretty badass. YOU were a badass and you did things I really never believed were possible. But I also think I was beating up on you a bit too. I don’t know. Maybe it was my mind beating up on both of us. I still have to mull that one over.

This next year, let’s do some more running. Like a couple of half marathons. You want to go to Disneyland again? Let’s dress up for the Tinker Bell Half. I promise it won’t be anything dumb, just something fun and comfortable. Definitely a tutu and maybe some wings? Or just sparkles.

Then I’m going to take you on a half marathon tour of OUR TOWN – yeah, the Oakland Half Marathon! We’re going to see so many of our friends. I’m super excited about this one.

I’m reallly excited to train, with like a REAL running coach, and a team, this time. I know how dumb it was to try to drag you out for half marathons in the past (remember Las Vegas? Yeah I don’t want to either) when I didn’t really know what the heck I was doing. But you should be pleased to know I’ve joined Team in Training again and we’re going to do it RIGHT! With lots of cowbell and support. And of course you know this means you’ll be wearing a lot of purple in the months to come. Heh.

Well, body, we’ve been through a lot. I want to let you know I appreciate you. I’m going to be taking better care of you. I know you’re feeling kind of tight and that you’ve got some aches and pains. I’m going to get that taken care of. Maybe some PT. Maybe some Pilates. I’m not going to ignore you when you’re crying. I love you!

That’s it for now. I like writing to you. Now the question is  – are you going to write me back?

Love,

Susan

 

 

Do Race Results Matter? June 5, 2012

Today I saw the official race results for the See Jane Run 5k I did this weekend. They made me happy.  Overall, I came in #681 out of 1,475 runners in the 5k. That was in the top 50%!

I mentioned this to the family and stated that it felt better than my results for Wildflower, where I came in 776 out of 786. That’s right, I was tenth from dead last. While people can say all they want that I was miles or millions ahead of all the people who didn’t do a triathlon at all – still, it feels psychologically different. I know I’ll never WIN a race, and part of me certainly does believe that “finishing is winning” – but damn, I don’t really ever want to come in last. And I don’t like being that close to last, either. I like feeling like I am in the middle of the pack, and if I am just a smidge toward the front, then all the better.

These things are all so silly and arbitrary but at the same time, they DO mean something. Otherwise people wouldn’t be so hot to see their results, and they wouldn’t use computer chips and all kinds of fancy technology to track it all. It does matter to someone. It matters to me.

During (and after) I ran this “little” 5k on Sunday, I felt strong. I felt capable. I felt proud of myself. When I’m struggling with all my might and I’m so close to the end of the pack, it’s just that… a struggle. I have to talk myself into feeling proud. I’m physically beat and NOT feeling strong.

This weekend I vowed to mostly participate in races where I can have that strong feeling. Which means not getting in over my head, or going in undertrained or unprepared. I think it just does more harm than good. I really wish I could do See Jane Tri in September, but darn it, I just found out it’s the same weekend as Fitbloggin, which I can’t miss for anything. So.. maybe another time. And maybe another tri.

What do you think? Does it matter to you what your results are when you run a race, or are you truly just in it for fun? Do you even LOOK at your results?

 

Race Recap: Wildflower Triathlon/Mountain Bike Course June 3, 2012

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30th anniversary bling

So my second triathlon is done. This experience was so very different than the first in so many ways. Starting with the training. When I did my first tri last fall, I was so religious about completing every single assigned workout, both the coached and OYO (on your own) ones. This time, not so much. Not so much at all. This season was plagued by illness, injury, travel, job changes, distractions from every direction. So about halfway through the season I decided to switch from the Maui Olympic Tri to the Wildflower Sprint (aka Mountain Bike).

I’d heard scary stories about Wildflower – mostly about its brutal hills and the sheer size of the event. The Marin Tri had about 500 people total, and Wildflower was something like 13,000. YIKES. I’d heard that the Mountain Bike course was as hard as an Olympic anywhere else. But it felt like my only option other than dropping out completely, which I did not want to do.

So I entered Wildflower Weekend with no small amount of apprehension, but determined to give it my best shot. Did I mention that Wildflower has been dubbed the “Woodstock of triathlons”? That’s because there are thousands of people camping out the whole weekend, with kids and dogs and Port a Potties and the whole works. Which makes it unique – on one hand, it’s kind of rough not having all the familiar comforts of home in which to prepare for a race. On the other hand, it IS a totally bonding experience.

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it takes a (tent) village

Saturday had two events: the Sprint/Mountain Bike course, and the Half Ironman Long course. I was (no doubt) doing the first one, which consisted of a 450 meter swim, 9.7 mile trail/road ride, and a 2 mile run. I’m going to be honest and say that training for this event has been kind of lonely and a tad demoralizing. Out of our team of 40+ participants, there were often only 2 of us training for the Sprint at any given time. So it felt “uneven” to say the least, and even though nobody ever explicitly said so, I often felt “less than” the people who were training for the Oly or the Long Course. It wasn’t until I actually entered race weekend and knew that there were 500 other MB course participants, that I felt like it was a legitimate event.

As it turned out, there were 4 of us from our team doing the Mountain Bike course. One of my buddies, Ayala, who is also doing Maui, decided to sign up for the MB course at the last minute. She has an incredibly big heart and generous spirit and has been a huge encourager for me during our workouts. I met another woman who lives far from us and so hasn’t been at a lot of our team trainings. She turned out to be awesome and we have a lot in common. So it felt exciting to load up our bikes and tri bags and head out of camp together on Saturday morning. The whole team gathered around to see us off and cheer us, and the energy was just great.

here we gooooo!

 We got down to transition which was super huge and crowded. At Marin Tri, we basically had what was equivalent to a walk-in closet for our transition space; and here, it was more like a shoebox.

a little crowded?

But I managed to organize things pretty neatly. Then we got our race numbers (and ages!) marked in permaSharpie on our bodies. We had a good couple of hours before the race started, and it was beginning to get HOT, so we waited a good long while to put on our wetsuits.

When we had done this swim at training weekend, it had been “just right” – not easy, but not impossible. I was able to keep swimming, swimming, and it just ended pretty quickly. So I was feeling maybe a tad overconfident about the swim. I had never been in a situation where I was swimming with SO many people who are thrashing around in the water. The swim start at big races has been compared to a washing machine, a blender, etc., and I never had experienced that.

That was what happened this time. First we got to splash around, get water in our suits, pee (hah!), and otherwise get warmed up for a few minutes. I was feeling pretty good. Then we splashed back to land to wait for the air horn. BLEEEP. I dove in to start out my “gentle-kind” routine. So far, so good. I was going slow, but I was relaxed.

Then, when I was almost at the turnaround buoy, the horn sounded for the Blue Group behind us. I don’t know what their age group was, but they were FAST. And they overcame me within a minute. Suddenly there were bodies coming at me, and when I turned my head and saw them like a pack of sharks, something inside me just flipped. I was momentarily paralyzed. I started panting and then wheezing and then, well… you know. I headed for shelter at the first kayak I could find. I tried to find my calm happy place but it was not readily findable. The young woman in the kayak was very patient and kind and at some point I knew I had to push off. But I was rattled by that time and I pretty much spent the rest of the swim going from kayak to kayak. I lost a lot of time, and I think I got a little seasick. By the time I got out of the water I was feeling pretty demoralized and a little woozy. Not to mention the fact that I had to keep my goggles on back to transition because I’m blind without my glasses.

“Which way is transition?”

I stumbled back to transition and saw Ayala and Liney waiting for me, all ready for the bike portion. I just didn’t want them to wait around for me because I was feeling so shaky I wasn’t sure how long transition would take. I knew they had been ready to go for a while. So I waved them on and began stripping off my wetsuit and booties. I think I was a little out of it. I kept putting on my running cap instead of my bike helmet. I was moving very slowly. I was there for more than 10 minutes (ouch) but then finally I was on the bike and ready to go.

I was very nervous about the bike portion but it turned out to be not so bad. It was slow, but I just pushed through pretty slowly and steadily. I even passed a few people. (which absolutely never, ever happened during the swim) I didn’t get off and walk on the road hills, even when I saw other people walking (I always assume if anyone has to walk, then I do). I only walked during the very last hilly trail part that was kind of on loose sand, very hard to get a grip on. It was when I was walking that it hit me again, that I was feeling kind of hot and sick. I took a minute to stand under a tree and drink some water from an aid station. Then it was the long steep hill DOWN (wheeeee) and back to transition.

Transition #2 took me less time – 6 minutes – still SUPER slow but at least not in the double digits and I was off for the “run.” Haha. At this point I knew I was near the tail end of the sprint field. I could just tell. The run portion was only two miles – a mile out and back – with a few little short climbs. I decided to just try my best to jog/run as much as I could during the flats and downhills, and to walk the ups. That plan worked fairly well. When I was going out, I ran into Ayala and Liney who were on the way back to finish. I was so happy to see them! Since I had taken SO LONG on the swim, I had felt like I was doing the majority of the course alone out in the wilderness. At the mile turnaround, there was a great volunteer with a water hose who sprayed me down. That felt awesome.

The last mile in to the finish wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. I alternated walking and running and I could pretty much hear the announcer the whole time. One of my feet was hurting but it wasn’t like agony. I wasn’t DYING. I just didn’t feel super sprightly. By the time I got to the finish chute (longest finish I’ve ever seen!!) I felt like I was able to keep up a steady jog and enough to raise my arms and have a happy crossing of the line rather than crawling over half dead.

I finished! I was happy to see my coaches and a bunch of my teammates at the finish line. They had these awesome towels soaked in ice water which they draped over our heads. That felt SO GOOD. I mean, SO GOOD. I think that towel was one of the highlights of my day.

ahhhh icy cold towel!

I was happy to get my finisher’s medal knowing I had finished every inch of that course. I had endured, I had completed every part of it, albeit slowly, and I finished. That felt good.

The entire thing had taken me about an hour and a half. I wasn’t brave enough to look at my results until today, but they pretty much confirmed what I had thought. My swim was by far my slowest portion, and the part where I really, really fell way behind the pack. It was all that stopping and wheezing and hanging onto kayaks. I was pretty much one of the last ones out of the water. The bike portion fared just a tiny bit better, but again, I was so behind. The run was my strongest as far as comparison with other participants went. I guess maybe some people walked the whole thing but I did pretty much a 50-50 split.

For someone whose training looked more like holes than cheese this season, I think it was not so bad. It certainly could have been a lot better and I only wonder what would have happened if I had trained as consistently as I did last time. But I didn’t, for a variety of reasons both in and out of my control. I’m not gonna beat myself up over it. I just finished my 2nd triathlon!

One thing I feel proud of is dedicating my triathlon to the amazing Christie O., who inspired me when I was first thinking about doing a triathlon in the first place. She was just diagnosed with the “cansuh” and this weekend had been dedicated to swimming, biking and running in her honor while she underwent surgery. Christie had sent me a superhero cape after I finished my first tri, and I wore it proudly this weekend. This one was for you, Christie!

Christie is MY hero

This weekend has given me a lot of time to contemplate and think about what I want to do next, and how I want to do it. In many ways this tri was better than my last, and in other ways it was much worse. Here are my thoughts for the next time around (and yes, there will be a next):

  • My next goal is to ENJOY every minute of my next triathlon. Which means choosing an event that is not out of my range of comfort and ability. (Marin was really probably too long for me, and Wildflower probably a tad too big and hilly, given my training) Of course, no tri is ever EASY, but I would love for it to be an enjoyable challenge, if that makes sense. I’m thinking of doing a sprint-distance ‘Tri for Fun” and really focus on the fun. I did this at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon – I wanted to enjoy it and have FUN, and it really was.
  • I hereby solemnly swear to only do events that I have appropriately trained for. Enough said.
  • I love Team in Training- I really, really do – but this season was a challenge on many levels. There were only a miniscule fraction of people training for Sprint distance tri this time, and that made for a kind of lonely and weird experience. I often felt like I had to stretch to do the Olympic workouts, even after I had decided I wasn’t doing an Olympic event anymore.
  • I think that TNT Tri training, in its current form, does not really truly have a well-fitting program for novice/beginning/developing/SLOW/older/weaker triathletes. I think about the Walk Team program that they have. (and which I participated in) For many people on that team, it is a LIFE GOAL to WALK a half marathon. It’s a crowning achievement. And they take those people, and they train them to start at square one (walking a mile) and they slowly work up to Walking a Half Marathon. They don’t have them doing the same program as full marathoners or runners.
  • In (my) ideal world – and I have no idea if TNT will or would ever offer this – there would be a separate team, and coaching, JUST for Sprint Triathletes. Who are starting from square one, much like walking half marathoners. And the whole idea would be that their culminating event, their big Kahuna, would be a sprint triathlon. There would be no 27 mile bike rides or mile long swims. Maybe a practice sprint tri to put it all together. And they would be SO well prepared for a Sprint, it could be that challenging but joyful event.
  • As it was, I always felt like I was in over my head and I often felt embarrassed or ashamed to be “only” doing the Sprint. The training workouts were never really designed for a Sprint distance. Sometimes a Sprint workout would show up on the calendar, but that was mostly for the OYO (on your own) workouts. The big coached workouts were long and grueling and pretty much designed for the Olympic and Half Iron distances. It could be a chicken and egg thing – there is not a real emphasis on Sprint training because 95% of the participants are doing Oly and HI. But I bet if TNT put a real emphasis on “Everyone can do a triathlon!” and really invited beginning athletes to give it a try/tri, I think it could happen.
  • I’m not blaming any of the coaches or staff. They were patient and encouraging with me and my neverending Issues. Nonetheless, as a sprint distance athlete I often felt like a second class citizen, and either invisible or ignored. At the campfire the night before our event, there was a great rallying pep talk about the Long Course (half Ironman) the next day – what to expect, what it would be like, how to psych up for it, etc. There wasn’t a word mentioned about the Mountain Bike course and what the four of us should expect. It was really all about the half-iron athletes and this huge thing they were facing (true). I felt invisible and again, ashamed, for being Less of an athlete. In a team where EVERYone was doing the MB course, that just wouldn’t have happened.

This ended up going much longer, and more philosophical than I’d planned, but there ya go. I think that’s what happens when blogging falls off for various reasons – when you start up again, there’s just too much to say.

What else? I love my 30th anniversary Wildflower medal. I love the bonding experience of that intense weekend with my teammates. I love the team and the fact that people are doing this for so much more than their own selves. I loved being a mentor and seeing the amazing changes that individuals underwent. On balance, it turned out to be a wonderful experience, but it’s given me a lot to contemplate for the future.

 

Race Recap: Rhodes Race 5k April 15, 2012

TNT race swag!

I almost forgot to write this race recap today – making me realize how “everyday” a 5k has become. Which is incredible, considering my humble beginnings and starting up, when a 5k was the ULTIMATE, the PINNACLE, the longest race I could ever imagine doing. And now I can just decide a day or two before, “Think I’ll do a 5k this weekend!”

Today’s race was very familiar and comforting in many ways – it was the perimeter of Lake Merritt, which I’ve run on dozens, maybe a hundred times. So I know the course like my own hand. And the race itself was organized by Team in Training folks as their way of fundraising for the cause – so it was also like a giant family reunion of hundreds of TNT people. I got to see friends from my prior triathlon team, and my hike team coach, and some of the running coaches that I know by sight. It was cozy and fun.

sporting our nifty team shirt

The race itself? Well it was all informal like, with people saying “line up by that sign over there” and then an airhorn went off, and boom! As ususal, I started out way too fast and pooped out very quickly. All that adrenaline! My Runkeeper told me that I was running about an 11 minute mile after 5 minutes. That is nowhere NEAR what I’ve been averaging lately, so I knew it was a bit much for me. Sure enough my feet started cramping up and my calf was also super tight so after about 10 minutes I was in full hobble mode and had to stop and do a good stretch.

I ended up running with a bunch of my teammates that I usually run with, and it was all friendly like for most of the race. We kept passing each other back and forth and it just felt… comfortable. Some of our teammates totally rocked it – Coach Nick won 2nd place in the 30-39 division and Lily and Holly loved it so much they doubled it up for a 10k!

coming through the finish a 2nd time!

The race was fun because they also had a “Canine Division” (so many happy dogs running!) and a “Stroller Division.” The winning kids and dogs even got prizes.

coach Mark, doggie Molly and Lily

It was all huge fun. Timewise, it turned out to be pretty much the slowest 5k race I’ve ever done. But you know what? I didn’t care. I felt happy to be out there on this beautiful day with a great group of people, and it was all good.

GO Team!!!!!!!

mini donuts at the finish!

so great to see prior tri teammate Katherine & hike coach Carolyn!

... and current teammates Ayala & Tori. Love them!

 

Bah! Turns into Yeah!

Man, I am the biggest triathlon Scrooge alive. Bah! Humbug! I’ve been grumbling and grousing and moaning pretty much all season. I’m the slowest runner. I’m the struggliest swimmer and the huffy-puffiest biker. And I’ve had the convenient excuses of injury, illness and schedule to keep me from doing a lot of the really hardest workouts. Part of me has just been DYING for Wildflower to be over so that I can get back to my regularly scheduled life, whatever that is.

But yesterday I just felt so glad and happy to be doing this and to be on this team. We were scheduled to do an open water swim plus bike ride. Originally, it was to take place at a further lake that has bike trails, and there was a 20 mile mountain bike ride included. I just kind of absorbed that info and made the mental note to bring my mountain bike. But when the workout location changed, I didn’t quite figure out that there wasn’t going to be a mountain bike component.

I hadn’t really quite realized the difference between riding a long course with a mountain bike with knobby wheels, and with a nice light little road bike. At this point I now am in possession of THREE separate bikes (I know, hilarious, right?) and I took the biggest, heaviest, most brutal-to-ride one.

The Olympic distance ride was 27.1 miles. I think I never really expected to do the whole thing, and that I would find some convenient spot around 10 miles out to turn around.

First the swim happened. I didn’t swim because I was on “water craft” duty. Which means kayaking around the swimmers and offering a place for people to hang onto. You know what? I almost always hang onto the kayak. I almost always need to. But yesterday I was impressed (and a little embarrassed) that absolutely NOBODY came near me for a breather, let alone to get pulled back to shore. My team is so freaking strong!! So I was fairly useless just paddling around out there. But it was fun. I love kayaks. I think I want to get one of my own.

I was pretty much the last one out of the water since I was providing “water safety.” Everyone had long gone on their bikes. I changed out of my wetsuit stuff and into my bike stuff and took off.

swim booties & wetsuit

It was a long, long, pretty much on my own ride, until coach Holly caught up with me. Good thing she did because right before that, my course map had blown out of my pocket and I had no clue where to go. She became my human GPS and cheerleader, keeping me company or waiting for me at crucial intersections. We rode wayyyyyy out into the hills past vineyards and horse farms and long stretches of not much except pretty flowers.

fields of flowers

Wimpy me, I had thought in my head that there was NO WAY I was going to do this whole ride. Especially on a mountain bike. And being wayyyy last. But I just kept chugging along. And counting each pedal stroke up the hills. When I was about 3/4 of the way through I was acutely aware that this ride was going to go down as my LONGEST bike ride EVER. I never completed the whole course at the Marin triathlon, and I had managed to miss most of the long rides due to absence or injury, so this was the longest by a LONG distance.

I thought for sure that everyone was going to be gone when I finally made it back to the parking lot, except for Lily and Eduardo (who I carpooled with), and of course coach Holly, who had stuck by me the whole way. But when I started the descent down into the parking lot, I could hear people cheering and see little figures jumping up and down and I suddenly got the feeling I might start bawling again. It was a huge moment! And then people were saying all these encouraging things about “OMG you did that all on a MOUNTAIN bike?” and one of my teammates, who I didn’t even think knew my name, came up to me and said I should be so proud of myself for what I accomplished and that I could use this moment as a touchstone “on and off the course.” I was blown away and so moved and suddenly I just felt so grateful for Team and for myself for not giving up and for coach Holly and all of it.

thanks coach Holly!

Today I did a 5k race with more teammates. And I just felt happy to be alive and moving, albeit slowly ;-).

This week Mr. McBody and I are taking a long awaited trip to Nicaragua and I will have my running shoes but really no way to bike or swim until Event weekend. It’s kind of a shame to be leaving just as I am getting “warmed up” but that’s the way it happened this time. I’m already thinking … maybe… next time? Run team? Hike team? Tri team?? I’m going to take a break after this one for sure, but who knows how long that break will be.

 

Triathlon Turnaround March 28, 2012

not my car

I went into this training weekend for the Wildflower Tri with a great amount of trepidation and maybe some (?) dread. It was already conflicting with a conference that is very important to me and that only takes place every two years (and in California, which never happens!). My buddy Lily wasn’t going to be there because she was in Phillly accepting this huge award. (GO LILY!)

I performed at the conference on Thursday and got to see a friend/author give the keynote speech. Then on Friday morning I had to hit the road early so I could get to the campground while there was still daylight. Yeah, they call Wildflower the “Woodstock of triathlons” because there are thousands of people camping out foot to nose, and there’s a ton of mud and maybe rain and no hotels for miles. I mean MILES. It just isn’t feasable.

I thought that the campground place was only 3 hours away from where the conference was in Southern California (MAN do I live in a huge state!) but it turned out to be six hours away.

Luckily I got there in time to set up my tent while it was still light out. I was feeling just a teeny bit cranky because I was so sad to leave the conference, but I guess I’m one of those “love the one your with” people because pretty soon I was able to shift gears/transition (haha – puns intended) into being with the team and my mentees. We all chipped in to make a group dinner and then we had a meeting with all the other Bay Area TNT tri teams who were there for training weekend. There were a LOT of folks there! I got introduced to the two (TWO!) other people doing the Sprint/Mountain Bike distance, along with Coach Tom, who was going to be our personal coach for the weekend (nice thing about doing sprint, you get a ton of personal attention!). Everyone else was either doing the Olympic or the Half Ironman. I was not wishing I was in either of those groups.

Group TNT meeting

home sweet home

Our coach Dave is a real joker. Even though our swim practice was not supposed to begin until 10:00am, he woke us up at 5:30am by blasting the Darth Vader theme song and walking around the campground with his boom box. NICE. I took my sweet time opening my eyes to the darkness and crawling out of the tent. It was freezing. BOY it was freezing. Like, 37 degrees freezing? And we were going to go swimming? Right.

We did manage to get out of the tents, make some coffee, blink in the sunrise, and get a good breakfast in in plenty of time. I guess that was the point. Coach wanted to make sure we had ample time to go to the bathroom (always very important on race morning!), get all our gear organized and get our heads on straight.

We headed down to the lake around 9:15 for a little pep talk and swim clinic and to get our wetsuits on. I met up with Coach Tom and the other sprinters. He pointed out the orange buoy which we were to swim around. The mile buoy was pretty much out of sight. I was very glad that was not my destination. I wriggled into my wetsuit and swim booties, my Squid Lid and goggles, and hoped that I was not going to have any major panic attacks or breathing issues. Then we waddled out to the pier and jumped in the lake two by two.

It was cold. But it wasn’t PAINFUL cold. People were shrieking and freaking out all around me. I just bobbed around, got my bearings and started in on my “gentle-kind” swimming routine. All I can say is that it wasn’t impossible, and it wasn’t easy. It just was. There were a few moments when I got a little ragged around the edges and I could hear myself struggling a little, breathing wise. I got to the buoy okay. The trip back to the pier seemed to take freaking forEVER. I could see the little figures of coaches standing on the pier, and for the longest time they didn’t seem to ever get any bigger. But I managed to get there and clamber back onto muddy land.

I stripped off my wetsuit, put on a dry top, helmet, got my bike and was ready/nervous to start out on the mountain bike part.

very nervous under that smile

It was just about 10 miles, but.. mountain bike. Hills. Bumpy stuff. Ack. Coach Tom met up with me and the other two women and he was just so reassuring and calming. He’s a big tall bearish guy and very, very calming. He said, “we’re just gonna go out there and have fun.” He was going to be our personal tour guide of the Mountain Bike route and just show us all the turns and changes. I was so so nervous and anxious about this part. In my head I was thinking, if this doesn’t go well, then I’m done. I’m just gonna drop out of racing altogether (for the Wildflower) and I’ll come back as a cheerleader only. We took off. The first part was nice and flat, along the lake, very scenic. OK. Good start. Then we got to this pretty steep hill. I went to switch gears and… switched in the WRONG DIRECTION. Um. Which ground me to a complete halt and I had to get off and push, panting. Boo.

Next hill, I knew better, so I was able to grind up the hill, really hard breathing, but I made it. YAY! More ups and downs, trail riding, bump bump, rocks and holes and sticks and stuff, but I dealt with it. Then there were the hills. They looked like this.

You can see that there are two really big uphills there. They were… intense. But I just set my bike into the lowest gear and counted. One to ten, over and over. I really tried to dig deep. I knew that if I stopped, or got off, my legs were going to protest and that would be the end of it.

And you know what? I stayed on the whole time, through both those big hills and then the final one at the end. See the super steep downhill? That was crazy steep DOWN at the very end. I bawled my face off on that whole downhill. I couldn’t believe I had done it. And I realized that doing the Mountain Bike Tri was not the wimpy thing I had thought. It had taken pretty much all I had. By the time I got down to the parking lot finish I was a huge blubbery mess.

I really have to thank big Coach Tom for seeing me through that day. He was patient, and reassuring, and kind, and I knew that he believed in us. He was a real Ito-Whisperer and I was so amazingly grateful. I found him by his car and bawled some more. And then I felt like I could really do it, and that it was just right – not too hard, not impossible, but not a piece of cake either. It was a pretty overwhelming feeling given all of my doubts and fears this time.

coach Tom, aka the Ito Whisperer

Yeah, my teammates ended up doing the Olympic and Half Iron distances. They’re a bunch of rockstars. But it doesn’t take away how good it felt to be doing the race that felt right for me right now.

It felt awesome to go back to camp and take a lukewarm (brrr) shower.

Yay! Clean!

Getting through that bike ride/swim combo was soooooo huge for me. Huge! The hugest! I am now really looking forward to the tri on May 5th. It’s gonna be awesome. I am also realizing that maybe the Sprint is “my” distance. I don’t have to worry about bonking or getting super dehydrated. (plus, I did remember to hydrate and fuel well this time) I can really challenge myself without half dying. I can feel proud of it.

I had the opportunity to talk to quite a few people this weekend about my “downgrading” to Sprint distance and I’ve come out feeling so much more positive and confident about it. It’s not a stupid wimpy thing for losers. It’s STILL A TRIATHLON. It’s still a challenge. It’s still freaking badass. I had just lost sight of that when I got all caught up in comparing myself to others and even to my own self. But this weekend proved to me that it’s still a real accomplishment and something to be really proud of. I want to thank all the people who reiterated this to me, who showed me kindness in all of my uncertainty. It has meant the world to me.

On Sunday morning we had our practice run. My race distance is only 2 miles, so a mile out and back. When I got to the turnaround arrows I just wasn’t ready, so I kept going, including a big gnarly hill. I did a total of about 4.5 which felt good. On race day I will definitely just do my alloted 2 but it felt good to push it a little on Sunday. I left the race course feeling good and excited about what’s coming on May 5th. Woo!

here I come Wildflower!

 

My Achilles Wrist, My Achilles Mind March 19, 2012

Filed under: emotions,health,injury,Team in Training,triathlon — Susan @ 5:29 pm

Ah, I’ve been gone a long time, haven’t I? People have been noticing. I’ve been getting emails and also in-person inquiries of “How ARE you? You’re not blogging!” It’s true. I have been gone a long time. And I now understand how people can sometimes just evaporate from the blogosophere.

It pretty much started during my Yosemite snowshoe weekend. (actually it started much earlier, but the most current issue started then) I woke up the next morning with a pain at the base of my thumb, near my wrist. I didn’t really give it much thought. But it pretty much persisted for weeks and it kept getting worse. Finally it was keeping me up at night and I was yelping in pain every time I tried to do ANYthing with my left hand. So I went to my good friend who also happens to be a hand physical therapist (handy, huh? no pun intended). She confirmed my suspicions that I had a raging case of DeQuervain’s Tendinitis (see, I *was* paying attention in class 30 years ago!!). I had a “double positive” Finkelstein’s sign and my left wrist was measured to be swollen. She made me a nice splint to keep it in a good neutral position, and prescribed 2 weeks of NO SWIMMING or BIKING. (or anything else that aggravated my condition)

Two weeks of no swimming or biking! But… but… but… I’m training for a triathlon! That was the start of it. At the end of two weeks, my wrist was only about 20% better. AND I came down with a horrible nasty cold thing which had me in bed for a week, and then after that, I was well enough to work but then not well enough to do any kind of workout AFTER work. Two weeks + two weeks = a month.

A month of barely any training other than some jogging put me into a serious funk. I felt awful, and wimpy, and sorry for myself, and pathetic and all sorts of other things. I ate things that seemed to help for about half a second and then made things two hundred percent worse. I spiraled into yuckitude.

I thought about quitting. But I’m a MENTOR. Which makes things so much harder. I think as a regular participant I would have felt fine saying “This is just not my season to do this” and I would have bowed out. I’ve done that with other races in the past and it hasn’t been the end of the world. But I really really struggled with being a horrible role model and bad mentor and blah blah blah.

It took me a long, long, long time to come around to the decision to scrap the Maui Tri plan altogether (complicated by the fact that my buddy Lily had also decided that Maui was not a realistic option for her). Then what was left? Wildflower! The steepest, hilliest, biggest and baddest triathlon around (except for maybe Escape from Alcatraz, which I would not consider under hallucinogenics). I never wanted to do Wildflower. EVER. I was never even the teeniest bit tempted. But guess what? Maui does not have a Sprint distance option. So it looked like it was down to the Wildflower Sprint (otherwise known as “Mountain Bike Course”) or nothing.

When recommitment week came, I sat and stared at those papers for hours. I cried over them and paced around and just did not know what to do. Finally I signed up for the Wildflower Sprint and that’s where we are. I am one of 2 people from our team (2 out of 50) who is doing the sprint option. When it’s that much of a minority, I can’t help feeling kind of out of it, kind of not really part of the “real” team. And so on and so forth.

It’s been a freaking struggle. And it’s been hard to blog about because I’ve just been in this bad place in my head.

But recently things changed sufficiently for me to turn things around a little. One, I realized that Life is Short. This was accentuated by attending two memorial services this weekend, for two men/husbands/life partners of women friends of mine. One passed away after a decade of illness and suffering. The other died suddenly and unexpectedly. Both events were MAJOR wakeup calls. You never know when you will become extremely ill OR when you will be healthy, exercising and eating organic and then die suddenly anyway. So why suffer needlessly?

Last week I realized how much I was dreading certain things in my life. One of which was various aspects of tri training. I decided to stop beating myself up for a million reasons in a million ways. I realized that nobody was holding a gun to my head and MAKING me train for a triathlon. And that the person most responsible for my suffering was ME. (um, duh)

So I decided to cut myself a break. For one, I didn’t force myself to get on the bicycle when my wrist is still hurting. It still hurts me to pick up a cup of coffee, to wash my hair, to pull up my pants. The conservative treatment I’ve been following so far has helped, but not enough. So I’m going to a hand doctor and see if a cortisone shot might not help. It has its risks, but I am ready to move on and try it now.

Last week I went back to my beloved trainer for two workouts. I almost cried it felt so good. I was able to fully use 3/4 of my limbs and I got a crazy workout in. I was a very happy sweatball. I remembered that working out can feel good.

I also realized that there is such a thing as fit. I really like the people on my team, but I also think that the fit is not the best one for me. I am constantly feeling (through my own doing, not theirs) so slow, incapable and wimpy. I am always the last. And while I am not competitive so that I need to WIN (hahahaha), but I also really dislike people having to wait for me to finish while they are standing around. I like being middle-of-the-pack.

This coming weekend is Wildflower Training Weekend. Which is a big wild camping trip in which we get to test out the course, but instead of doing it as a tri we will do the swim/bike on Saturday and the run on Sunday. It is really going to be a test for me, in which I decide, OK, the mountain bike tri is going to be just fine. Or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, I’m just going to let it go. I’m going to be a good mentor and cheerleader and not cry about it anymore.

So this long absence has been a huge learning experience for me. I’ve had a really rough time but I’ve also had some major epiphanies and there’s a lot of change coming, not just with the triathlon training but in other areas of my life. Transition is hard but it gets you to the next place, and that’s a good thing.

I hope that some of you are still around to read this! I’ve missed being here.

 

 

 

 

Event Recap: Yosemite Snowshoe Hike! February 13, 2012

Junior and me under a Yosemite Falls rainbow

I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since returning from my TNT Yosemite event weekend, and this is the first chance I’ve had a minute to sit down and recap it. I have to do it today before the memories completely fade!

I have to say that this experience with TNT was completely unique from all of my other seasons. Instead of facing the Big Weekend with some degree of anxiety, dread, fear and adrenaline, I went into this one thrilled to be going on what felt like a weekend vacation. In beautiful Yosemite! Yay!

At sort of the last minute, Junior and her housemate F joined me for the weekend. Junior hadn’t been to Yosemite since she was about eight years old and she was very excited. We arrived just in time to get to the snowshoe fitting and then the Send-Off (pre-event) dinner.

honoree flags

The mood at the dinner was festive and relaxed. People had made flags with their honorees’ names on them and they were draped along the wall, a good reminder of Why We Were Doing This.

"Take a picture at 11:11 wherever you are"

Coach Carolyn gave us our instructions for meeting up, carpooling to the SNOW at Badger Pass, meeting up with our respective guides, and taking a picture at 11:11. We were divided into four groups based on exertion level. I was in the “Mighty Mo” or ‘moderate’ group which would later prove to be not-so-moderate, but still just right. I had just done that Tinkerbell Half, and was about to re-enter triathlon training, so I didn’t need to prove anything at this hike.

candle ceremony for honorees

We did a little candle lighting ceremony and then blew them out as a symbolic gesture to “snuff out cancer.” We were thinking about one of our honorees, my mentor’s husband, who had been planning to come to Yosemite, but was in the hospital back home following some complications. It was a reminder of Coach Carolyn’s words about life not always going as planned. Randy had grappled with deciding to come to the event weekend, but the doctors had reassured her that her husband would be safe and cared for in the hospital. This lady has been through so much.

When we woke up, these nice mats were outside of our hotel room doors:

put a little lump in my throat

my mentor Randy at breakfast

After breakfast we drove out to Badger Pass. Yosemite is so breathtakingly gorgeous, pictures can never really do it justice.

We got up to Badger Pass and there was SNOW! We put on our snowshoes… which took about half an hour of grunting, moaning and dealing with buckles and such. Finally… ta da!

Just call me BigFoot.

Then we split up into our respective groups and headed out with our guide. UPHILL. Going uphill on snowshoes at 7,000 feet elevation is… well, it’s no walk in the park. I was winded after about twenty yards.

It was also pretty darn cold, in spite of the sunny weather. Here’s teammate Dorothy holding a hand warmer packet up to her frozen nose. Nose warmer?

warming up the nose

Up hill!

At 11:11am we found ourselves near what looked like a giant flaming snow cupcake. You see how my mind works.

cupcake in the snow

Here’s our trusty guide Zach, who was infinitely patient with our sometimes high-maintenance (ahem) group of women.

poles in the shape of "11:11" Get it? LOL

We got to the top of the ridge and had us a nice lunch break on the sunny rocks. This is not something you get during marathons and triathlons!

rock sunning

It was so pristine and beautiful up there!

coyote tracks in the snow

On the way back down, we separated out to do solo meditations for a few minutes. I found a tree to lean on and just soak up the peace and quiet for a while. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole hike.

ommm...

We got back down to the lodge after about five and a half hours of snowshoeing. Which felt “just right” in terms of a damn good workout, a beautiful hike, but not horribly painful. I had gotten a good day’s work in there.

When we arrived down to the Valley we got the sad news that Randy’s husband had been transferred to the ICU and was in very grave condition. My buddy Jon volunteered to drive her down to the hospital, over 4 hours away, so she could be with him right away. This is what team spirit and our mission is about.

Jeannette, Randy and Jon

The rest of us celebrated the end of our season and our hikes, thinking of them and sharing a moment of silence.

The next morning we walked up to the beautiful Yosemite falls for some photo ops.

go team!

Then it was the amazing Ahwahnee Hotel for their insanely delicious brunch. What a way to wrap it all up.

so beautiful

mmm... dessert buffet!

With this event, I earned my Team in Training Triple Crown pin for participating in three different sports: marathon, triathlon and hike team. It felt good.

Badger Pass, Hike Team, Triple Crown!

Hike Team was very very different from other “endurance” events but it was a welcome change of pace and something I’d definitely do again at some point. They have incredible hikes to the Grand Canyon and other stunning locales.

In final news, I’m almost….. almost… almost... done with my fundraising. But not quite. If you’ve enjoyed reading about this very unique and different type of training, please consider dropping a few dollars into my Leukemia & Lymphoma fund. I’d be so very grateful.

I’m not fundraising for the Triathlon team this season because I’m mentoring the team and will be putting my efforts toward supporting my mentees. This is the last chance you’ll have to support me and my amazing team until… next time. ;-)

All in all, it was a beautiful, active, inspiring experience. I recommend for anyone who is interested in being part of an active team that’s working for a good cause. Thumbs up.

 

 

 
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