What did previous runners say???

Well it is now only 4 days, 22 hours, 11 minutes, ? seconds and counting – oh god its drawing closer and I am scarily calm.  Is it the calm before the storm?  Well we’ll soon see.

I thought you guys would find it interesting yo see what previous MDS runners to say about the race . . .

Name: Gordon Barrie12510725_10153207786621861_1501170662_o

When did you complete the Marathon des Sables? 2005

What was your background in running?     I started running in 1st year at school (Madras College in St Andrews) and joined Fife AC. I now run for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers (since 1991). I have competed over various
distances on the track, cross country and road.
What made you sign up?   I was in danger of drifting away from the sport
and wanted a fresh challenge. Plus, I had seen the MdS on the TV and in
Runner’s World and thought it looked amazing (and it was!).
What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?    Running
through the desert on the long stage in the middle of the night was
fantastic. There was nobody else around, it was nice and cool and the
stars in the night sky were amazing!
What was/ is your worst memory of the race?     Waking up on the morning of
the long stage (about 50 miles!) and being sick with nerves. I honestly
though I was going to quit at the first checkpoint that day. Then I
looked at the guy lying next to me in the tent, who looked worse than I
felt! He kept going and I was immediately motivated again. I never
looked back after that. In a race like the MdS, everybody has highs and
lows, you just have to keep focussed on the goal. Plus, everybody
encourages one another. There’s a real bond between the runners.
How long did you have or take to train for the race?     I was running
anyway but specific training for the MdS was probably 5 or 6 months,
with the bulk of it in the last 12 weeks. Back to back 20+ milers at the
weekends!
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   I
would have done some upper body strengthening and carried a pack more
often in training.
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had
had going out there?   Make sure you like all the food that you’re
carrying. I discovered that I should have taken more savoury stuff. I
found the sweet food unpalatable in the heat!

Name: Keith Anderson

 When did you completethe Marathon des Sables? 2009

What was yourbackground in running?   No background prior to entering the event
in 2007. Was formerly a rugby player.

What made you signup?   Had seen Ben Fogles documentary a few years before which
was the first awareness of the event. I was looking for a challenge and wanted
to prove that the ordinary person can achieve anything.

What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?
Difficult. In short the camaraderie and “journey” everyone shared. Personally,
on the long day I suffered sickness bug and almost retired at the first
checkpoint. I got medical assistance for extreme dehydration 7 x 1/2 litre bags
of saline and glucose via a drip, after which I got up and walked the next 66
miles non stop. That episode was “my mds”.

What was/ is yourworst memory of the race?    Sickness bug which swept the
campsite on day 2.

How long did you have or take to train for the race?   2 years building from 10
km up to ultra distance races as long as 64 miles.

 What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?
You don’t need to train for 2 years. 6 months should be long enough. However my
experience was in 2 stages. The journey to the start line which comprised of 2
years of fundraising and training which was an amazing time, and then there was
the race itself. The more training you do the more you get to know your body’s
limitations.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had
 going out there?
I researched every element of the race to an extreme level and so I had all the
info I needed and there was no real surprises which gave me confidence in my
abilities. The best piece of advice that I had was to never withdraw yourself
from the race, get a medical assessment and let them withdraw you. You’ll be
surprised how much you can achieve even when you think you are done.
Also, never share anything with fellow participants, that’s not being selfish
it’s self preservation as bugs transmit very very easily so no sharing
water/food/cutlery/etc.

 

Name:  Lucja Leonard1902795_10152441613959924_4052712739759365014_n

When did you complete the MDS?    I did my first one in 2014, now up for my 2nd.

What was your background in running?   I took up running to lose weight about 8 years ago, hated running or any sport growing up, I was a size 18, weighing 98kg when I started with a walk/jog routine and next thing you know…..I’m running MdS (ha ha not quite, it did take quite some time but it was pretty quick considering my history) First marathon in 2011, first ultra 2013.

What made you sign-up?   I’d watched a documentary about it on TV and was gob smacked by the sheer challenge.

and then return again . . . and again?    My first MdS was a real eye opener, a real kick in the guts every day I was out there to say you are not as fit as you thought you were and I found it brutally difficult and although I finished I was personally disappointed with my result so even though on the finish line I vowed I would not be back….whilst I was watching my husband compete in it again last year (2015) and he did super amazing (32nd overall!) I just got so excited I had signed up before he had even finished the last stage!  I am really keen to go back and run it better and stronger.  I am fitter, lighter, stronger and wiser than last time so that has to help right?

What was/is the best memory of being out in the Sahara desert?    The total isolation, I love that feeling of being away from everything that is routine to my normal daily life in a stunningly beautiful place whilst pushing my body and mind to the limit.  It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

What was/ is your worst memory of being in the Sahara?    The heat & the sand!

How long did you have to or take to train for the race the first time round and then thereafter or have you been keeping fit doing other races in between?   I was marathon/ultra fit, or at least I thought I was (it’s all relevant) already so my training kicked off in the December of 2013 so a good 4 months of solid training with a mixture of training and a few races in between to keep me focussed.  Christmas is always a hard time though so that was a blip in the schedule.  In hindsight I can see now that I overtrained, I was so focussed on my weekly mileage rather than the quality of my training, and spent too many hours running ‘junk’ mileage and too much running with my bag instead of focussing on quality sessions and including strength work into it.  After MdS I remember it took at least a month for my body to recover, I recall feeling like I wanted to run about a week after and about 1/2mile in I just stopped and was totally exhausted, the mind wanted but the body couldn’t.  It really takes a lot out of you.

10153771_10152441614489924_1331766896319222961_nThis time around my training has been all about quality sessions, getting in my key sessions each week – strength, flexibility, speed, hills, tempo, long back to back runs and most importantly – rest!  I have only just had a run with my bag and only plan on about 4 runs with my bag fully weighted, and I will start heat chamber sessions and Bikram yoga 2 weeks out from the race.

What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   Sometimes less is more.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had before going out there the first time (if you can remember)?    It is probably really obvious and it does sound stupid but I wish I had realised how damn hot and sandy it was going to be, nothing prepares you for the furnace that is the Sahara and no one can explain it to you.

Did you change things massively year on year?    More in my training approach, a few tweaks to nutrition, especially for during the race, the first year I took lots of nuts and bars to eat whilst ‘running’ and found them impossible to stomach, so this time I am going for gels and liquid energy (like Hammer Perpeteum and Torq energy sachets to add to my water) and save the chewable stuff for back in camp.

Here are Lucja’s own blogs: MDS Preparation 2014 and Post-event – please do check them out.

 

Thank you for reading folks, I really do appreciate everyones support and words of motivation.  Big thank you to Gordon, Keith and Lucja for answering these questions for my blog but also for answering my incessant questions and fielding my worries.

 

I am raising money for a small local mental health charity – Dundee Association for Mental Health – DAMH – they are a wonderful Dundee based charity who do fantastic work to help local people.  As someone who understands the need for this kind of invaluable suppo12687943_10205375836827795_8892240053623715467_nrt, both personally and professionally, I aim to do my very best out there in Morroco.

I will be taking on my biggest challenge to date,
if you would like to donate to the charity and sponsor myself you can do so here – Sponsor Page – Thank you

Follow me from your comfortable seat 😉 – Here is a link you can go to to follow me on a ‘live’ basis but if you wish you can also send good luck messages to keep my spirits raised during the event!    I am runner number . . .  1013 (#scary)

Sponsor Profile: The Art of Communication

I feel incredibly honored to be sponsored by Cathy from  The Art of Communication  Cathy was in fact my first sponsor for this event – The Marathon des Sables – please do click on the link and visit/ catch up with her news on facebook.

 

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Here is Cathy’s take on the whole situation (with some pics I’d forgotten about) :

 

THE ART OF COMMUNICATION PROUDLY SUPPORTS LOUISE

 

‘My name is Cathy MacDonald and The Art of Communication is my business – a young, fresh and slightly unusual business I guess which helps people to improve their communication skills, understand human behaviour and positively influence those around them.  It is a light hearted but truly effective approach if good communication is important to the success or wellbeing of what you do.

 

While I would like to boast that the young and fresh description is just like me, that is probably stretching the truth in terms of years but when it comes to attitude, values and my frame of mind, it reflects my approach perfectly.  I have built my business on ethics and values so when you ask the question as to why am I am proudly supporting Louise my explanation sits so much with what I have just written.

 

Louise and I met around 5 years ago at Good Health and Fitness, an amazing gym with amazing trainers and it wasn’t long before we were discussing events.  I had just embarked on some adventure races and Louise was most definitely an adventure race type of trainer.  Should I say the rest is history? Perhaps.

We did an event together in an all girls team.  It was fun but not quite tough enough so we did another that claimed to be the worlds toughest forming part of a mixed team.  Months of training, months mentally preparing and months of logistical planning ……. Well, it was fun …. but not quite tough enough.

So here we are years later, the adventure races have toughened up and in fairness have left me in their wake but Louise has not only embraced the challenge they hold but faced it head on and has simply excelled.

 

When Louise announced that there was an opportunity for her to compete in Marathon Des Sables, my immediate reaction was of excitement and admiration. This really is a race that is ‘tough enough’ and I respect Louise and all that she will have to endure in preparation, during and after the race.

 

My thoughts of tough centre around the training and preparation while Louise’s thoughts of tough centre around finances, sponsorship and her charity  The personal responsibility to be resilient, strong and well prepared is something that Louise is taking in her stride – that is truly amazing.

 

I am sure The Art of Communication is not the normal type of business that people would expect to sponsor sports people, but in my mind ‘why not’.  Built on positivity, focus and strong ethics it seems a natural thing to do and I hope that Louise will be the first of many sportsmen and women i can support in future years.

 

Louise Johnstone, you are a strong and determined lady and The Art of Communication through me is proud to support you on this mammoth adventure.’

Thank you for your unwaivering support and confidence!  Moving closer and closer to raising much needed funds for local charity Dundee Association for Mental Health is becoming exciting but nevertheless holds much responsibility.  Responsibility I wish to fulfil to the best of my abilities.  If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please do contact me on louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk as soon as possible (early Janaury 2016) or to sponsor myself by donating to the charity please click on this justgiving link:

https://www.justgiving.com/Louise-Johnstone3/

 

My biggest Challenge yet but I need YOUR help!

The last few days has been a whirlwind of activity as soon as I received an email that was giving me the possibility of a cancellation place in the MDS – Marathon des Sables . What a phenomenal opportunity to raise money for the local mental health charity I like to support – Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).

The problem or shall we call it a challenge, is that, as it is a potential cancellation place, everything is all very last minute.  Including securing corporate sponsorship to pay the initial £2175, unbelieveably I am in the position to say all the fantastic businesses, the people driving these companies have gotten us to a place where I only need to raise just under £600 by approximately Tues/ Wed this week.  A big ask, not when you consider we have already raised the amount to get here since Thurs evening – when all hell broke loose hahaha.

I have been truly honoured to be supported and blown away by people wanting to get involved and support this.  I really think it shows the change in attitude toward mental health on a larger scale but also, something I always underestimate, peoples support and I guess faith in me to achieve what I set out to do!

Why is this important?

I am one of those who is not afraid to say I have had mental health issues, it doesn’t define me, it is not all that I am.  I think this is important to remember this, to remember that mental health is not selective, it doesn’t matter whether you are a fitness professional, a high-flying career woman/ man, a child or an elderly person.  The severity that anyone can be affected is variable and the diagnosis can be variable also.  We need to begin moving away from the idea that those who suffer from mental health difficulties are a certain type of person (yes there are risk-factors but this is not  a definitive) or have a specific job/ background.  1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem!  A family member, a work colleague, a friend, we all know someone.

I want to help DAMH to help meet the needs of there service users,they use physical activity based groups, greenbuds, relaxation periods.  A variety of support is available for their service users, I volunteer and run a ‘Lifestyle with Louise’ where service users can book in to see me and we discuss what can help improve their health and how to go about this.  This is no longer about me, this is about what i can do to help raise the profile of a fantastic local charity and raising funds to help them do this.

Taking on my biggest challenge to date to raise sponsorship funds for this fantastic charity is something I relish, being driven forward with each step, to keep going with the training and the actual race with the belief and support of others makes the decisions easy.

Sponsors:

Once again a huge thank you to those already invested:

Art of Communication – Catherine MacDonald – She has set up this fantastic new business which is transforming her clients interactions with others.

Stuart Aitken Fitness – Stuart has been fantastic at helping me to stay accountable and focused in my gym based training when I often become distracted!

Lift the Bar – These guys are simply amazing!!  A company/ group run by Chris Burgess, a personal training education and mentoring.  Leading the way in personal trainer development!  If you are in the fitness industry please head over and check them out, you will not regret it.

Sole Body Sole – Bharti runs this company, looking after all your foot problems – I have a feeling I will need alot, alot of care of my feet when I get back from this race next year!  Have you seen the pictures????

Gas Technology Partnership Ltd – This company is run independently by Sarah Bridge!

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please get in touch as soon as possible – my email address is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk

Challenging you, Challenging Me: Mental Health

I contemplated many a time how to write this blog post and many will go to town on it for their own reasons, but thats okay because that is them and this is me, but as a word of warning, I will take down any negative comments in any shape or form.  This is not the place for them.  (I do like to be clear! 😉 )thinking-1471454-639x432

I also wondered which of my blog sites to write it under, this one, my personal blog post journaling most of my training and racing experiences OR my business blog under Louise’s PT 4 U (https://louisept4u.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/ladies-i-apologise-for-raising-the-embarrassing/).  But you know, there is no realm where it is not applicable, therefore I will share across the board and if you feel this blog will help anyone please feel free to also share.  Sometimes we must choose to do whats right, or at least I like to help others and hope that in sharing this it will help someone.

Its a big scary world oot there, to expose yourself for all to see is ridiculously scary, but I am also not known for being put off doing what I believe to be the right and honest thing, BUT and this is a big but to put out your worries and fears where others may or may not support you leaves you with a sinking pit where your stomach used to be.

So with that, you are probably wondering exactly what is this post about, get around to it woooman for gawds sake!

Within the scope of my business I have been supporting the month of May #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth by posting tips every few days on both twitter and facebook, primarily to give people some ideas or suggestions that they may or may not decide to use.  I profusely support mental health issues in Dundee and have raised money for the local charity, DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health – http://damh.org.uk/ ), I have detailed these efforts in some of my blogs.  My conviction to do this comes from my own experiences within mental health.  Those who have known me for a long time may know of parts of my journey, or maybe you have guessed at some point.  .  .  .  .

I have suffered from mental health difficulties for much of my life, depression, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, they have all reared their heads at varying points throughout my life and to varying degrees.  The depth of which I will not go into within this blog, I am actually a very private person but so many times I see the blogs I write helping others and as I write more blogs for the area I specialise in within my work role – ‘women through the passage of life, at any age’ I see how letting others see that we all go through very similar experiences at varying points and for differing reasons within our lives but nevertheless the similarities are there.

priority-mental-health-1546123-638x477Depression is a dark cloud that masks every part of life when it emerges, we can sometimes feel a shadow in the background of our lives, growing like a dark cloud over the bright sun-lit sky and it comes to nothing because we pick up on the tell-tale signals and use strategies to subvert.  At other times its almost like it appears from nowhere and I haven’t even been aware of what is emerging, I have not been aware on any level that something is amiss, friends may enquire but denial is the initial reaction to any query about anything we are not happy with or feel strong enough to admit.  I have been rejected by family and ‘shushed’, that happened a number of times both by friends, family and those professionals, that is all it takes.  I also listen to those around me, how they view mental health and you know, anyone reading this who has suffered mental health issues will understand what I mean when I say, we gauge who is safe and who is not within our group of friends.  But it is also not all that we are, I am more than my mental health difficulties, I attribute alot of my strength to the journey I have had and the challenges I have had to overcome throughout my life. Let me also add, I have some of THE most fantastic friends!hand-in-hand-1310453-640x480

Words often used to describe me include, strong, independent, adventurous, determined, an encourager, ambitious and hahaha bonkers (now don’t go off on one, they simply refer to my challenges and my funny nature 😉 ) and vulnerable (this one surprised me), not words that the stereotypical view of depression or mental health issue sufferers are associated with.  Common misconceptions that are held about those with depression include: those that are happy on the outside dont get depressed, depression is only related to life events, those with depression are weak, fragile, can’t cope with any stress, you must take medication when depressed.  These are simply a few of the misconceptions, which are half-truths for want of a better description.

It amazes me that despite the statistics, 350 million individuals suffer from depression across the globe (WHO, 2015), with a quarter of the British population suffering from depression and anxiety (Mental Health Foundation), this remains a taboo topic in the 21st century.  It really does pain and anger me that people feel worried and have difficulty in talking about it, not because sufferers feel it is not right to talk but because we, as a society have created and continue to endorse this feeling by NOT talking, by not making it acceptable to discuss our mental health situation.  If you broke a leg, cut your leg open or in my case damaged a nerve (can not be seen) you would seek out the physical help of a doctor, we are more sympathetic to the implications and what it means practically for our lives.  This will only change when we really do become brave, when we are willing to be be supportive, empathetic, respectful of those who suffer from mental health difficulties.

No matter the position you hold, no matter what your job is, how old you are, we can all be susceptaible to mental health difficulties, be that person that reaches out.  People, on the whole, your friends, want to help, they want to know, let them.  In these words I do not mean it is easy, Isimply mean reach out, as its written, no underlying meaning.

How do I cope?  I strive to reach higher physical challenges, I strive to be the best that I can and to really see what I can do within the capabilities of my physical self.  I take on challenges for me, to be a better me and to help others, because you know what, if I can do it, so can you.  I am very much linked to my physical strength, I believe I am a testament to what physical activity and health can do to help relieve the symptoms of depression and mental health issues and I am hugely passionate to share with others its possibilities.

Currently, racing in obstacle races is what I do, I am very priviledged to be sponsored by some fantastic sponsors and friends, my chosen family.  This is where I leave it all out there, bettering me.  SO when I step up to the start line, I am racing no-one but myself!

In the past Ihave written poetry, trained, spoken with friends and learnt when to take timeout.  We must each work out what it is we need to do for ourselves.  We each have a unique story to tell that is our lives, our past, please do not judge unless you walked in those very shoes I wore.

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Thank you for reading folks, I appreciate you taking the time!

(Picture top right (1) by Ed Garcia from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/thinking-1471454; picture 3 by Siewlian from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/hand-in-hand-1310453)

100 Mile Challenge – The Cotswolds Way – Day 3 & 4

Day 3

It has been a while since I have been posting to my blog, simply because life, work, training all took over.  So the final installment of my 100 Mile Challenge, my big charity run is now here.  I have chosen to combine the last 2 days for reasons which will become apparent.  .  .  .  .

We woke on day 3 to what can only be described as torrential rain, a continuation of the weather we had run to our tents to sleep in.  I opened my eyes to the calming sound of rain bouncing of my tent but un-nervingly it was also causing my lining of my tent to stick to the outside sheet.  It was a case of pile on a load of clothes and run for breakfast.

At breakfast it was really quite inspiring to see so many folks brushing off the difficulties they had faced the previous day after hearing the stories told by Jamie McDonald(http://jamiemcdonald.org/).  Check out his website, pretty awesome guy!  I was not one of these people, a tired head maybe, I was sore, aching, hobbling when I walked. Lots of us were trying to get out early envisaging it being another awful day but purely due to the weather we were about to face.  The storm had finally found us!

The staff as always were incredibly helpful and cheery despite the weather.  I headed off at a weary pace while I could move well and actually felt like I found my rhythm quickly and it was back onto the trail.  We ran through a wooded area and onto a golf course, it actually felt at oints like you were running through a river, massive puddles, golfers with their huge brollies.  The rain was simply drumming down and I had to really pay attention as I felt it was difficult to work out your direction as the markers seemed few and far.

At some point the rain eased and it felt very mild, soaked through I began to enjoy myself, the cooling effect of the rain had really worked for me.  I clearly needed to get used to running in the mild heat.  Now this day I remmeber vividly because, well, I had to deal with the delicate matter of needing the toilet .  Of course I was, as mentioned soaked to the skin.  Now we all know there is nothing worse than hauling doon wet knickers for a piddle in the underbrush, actually praying, YES, I was praying that no-one would appear on the path from either end as they would have a clear view of me in all my glory!  NOT a pretty sight I have to tell you.  Not only that I managed to sting my arse on the nettles, aye not the best.  It was a now or never moment but on the other hand there was never going to be a never moment.

 

This day by far felt and was the shortest, I arrived at the camp along with several others ahead of the expected time. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed day 3 way more, I think because of the coolness of the day and the weather, true scots.

 

I felt alot better after my run today, my legs had eased, it felt good, yes I ached but who wouldn’t after taking on this.  But I was tired, all through my run I had gone over and over the order I would do things when I got into camp.  Then I would re-think it, and again, and again.  It changed as soon as I arrived in camp for numerous reasons outside of my control and the best way forward?   Sleep!

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Day 4

 

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Day 4 was a strange day with the weather going on and off all day, now I mean ALL day!  I would leave each checkpoint dry and become soaked.  I started the day talking to myself over and over, giving myself a pep talk.  I had packed my bag, unpacked, re-packed it and repeat.  This was the longest day but also our final day.

 

There was a slight deviation to the route, this was fine, my mantra today was – ‘Do not get lost, do not get lost’.  In fact I had several, ‘keep going Louise’, everytime I passed an acorn, for some reason unknown to myself, ‘Carry on sir’ with a chuckle to myself.  Its the little things that keep us going.  For alot of today I would be on my own, with groups of folks in front or behind me to some degree.  Again, some incredible scenery, along the way.  I passed sections with telephone wires overhead, I swear they sounded like sizzling bacon!  I had a few dodgy moments on day 4, a few wobblers, I had to steady myself.

 

In fact coming up toward the half way checkpoint, I believe I lost myself for a period, almost got myself run over but I was still going.  Not intentional of course, it was a really bad section of road where cars flew round the corner, one minute clear, the next not.  It was a bad period in the run.  My head went down for a while, a long while it seemed.  I was working on, for example, checkpoint 1 out of 4, then 2 out of 4 = half way.  There was also a very long section I had to count down the miles on that section also.  I had to keep it in my head so that I was always, where feasible, I was making progress and winning.  It was tough, reall tough, I began to start hurting.  And then . . . . . .

 

 

I came to the bottom of a field and looked up, I couldn’t see another post but I could see loads and loads of cows!  All paths led to the cows, so off I went, only to find they were all hanging about at my next gate, hahah.  This cheered me up no end, while we eye-balled each other wondering who was moving.  Well I decided I wasnt spending all day witing and no one was appearing behind me to save me, damsel in distress style.

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This has to be one of my greatest feats to date.  To be able to push my own boundaries and combine this with raising funds for a local charity which is using physical activity to help their users is simply an amazing feeling!  I dont want to give too much away for those doing this in the future.  But without doubt I would highly recommend it!  As a runner I found it diffiuclt to adjust my mindset from a competitive one, but there was great banter from staff and fellow runners alike.  However, it is alittle dangerous – major discussion point is other races.

I had to dig deep to do this and complete my chosen task, remembering that so many people believed in me, they had sponsored me to complete this.  The more I focused on this the more determination and grit I was able to take from it and keep pushing.  Have  alook at my pictures, pop any comments or questions below and Ill get back to as many as I can.

 

Finally, I would like to say a MASSIVE thank you to every single person who sponsored me, who text me and motivated me and encouraged me.  For my feel good package I recieved on my return because I was full of the cold from day 3, simply to everyone who took the time to support and help me in any way.  I cant say how much I appreciate it.

 

 

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