I’ve Never Suffered So Much, Part I: Mark K

10.17.2011 | 10:00 am

A Note from Fatty: Welcome to the “I’ve Never Suffered So Much” series of guest posts. I think you’re going to find this next couple weeks of guest posts to be pretty compelling reading.

My addiction to cycling began when I got too tired to fight my family’s passion for road racing. My grandfather had been a club champion in Holland (how’s that for pressure?), and my father was beating adults in the Amsterdam cycling club by age 11. I grew up watching the Tour with as much reverence as a Sunday sermon, and I cultivated a serious curiosity for competitive racing.

My grandfather built my road bikes from old steel frames and some stray components, and while my bike was never pretty, it always hummed along better and faster than the department store bikes my friends rode. At 16, I ventured out for my first solo long ride (30km) in regular shorts, the tightest t-shirt I could find, and a cycling hat on backwards instead of a helmet. It was the 90’s after all, and Migel Indurain was just the coolest (though I’d rather have died that admit that to my parents or friends).

I was flying down the road, dreaming that I was in the Tour, thinking “Hey, this isn’t so hard!” A curt “passing left” broke my daydream as I was railroaded by a local club going twice as fast as I was “flying.” They looked so organized, so sleek, and so fast!

As soon as I got home, I told my dad that I wanted to ride with a team. Dad asked our LBS if they knew of any junior teams, and I somehow found myself interviewing for Canada’s Saeco Cannondale feeder team (the same team that sported Mario Cipollini in Europe!).

The interview consisted of my longest ride yet (80km) alongside the directeur sportif of the junior squad (U-18), focusing more on endurance and bike handling than on performance. At the end of the ride, he said that I could join the team if I wanted, but that it would be a lot of work and suffering.

All I heard was that I could ride with a team.

I was ecstatic to pick up my uniform: jersey, bib shorts (my first!), helmet, gloves, cycle computer (cool!), and sunglasses. It was all so professional! Dad and I headed back to the LBS for my first set of clipless pedals and shoes, and to get my bike tuned up and ready to race.


My first time out with the full club was a Sunday training ride in July. The elite team was riding with the juniors, and I was told to stick in the slipstream near the back, don’t cross wheels, and hang on for dear life. That’s when I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. We pedalled along country roads in a double pace line, and the juniors rotated through the front without ever really pulling.

I was gaining confidence, talking to the guys, and getting comfortable riding in a pack. I started to believe that I could do this, that my genetics made me a natural.

That’s when the road went up.

In retrospect, the hill wasn’t especially long-maybe 5km and an average 5% grade. It was nothing but a bump for the elite team, and no more than mild exertion for the junior team that had been training seriously since April. I had no real base training, so that hill looked to me like the Col du Galibier. I suffered a lot, but I managed to avoid losing touch with the back of the pack. As I crested the hill, I saw them filing back down and felt a wave of relief that we’d reached our halfway turnaround point. Again, I thought “I can do this!”

Then, in broken English, my directeur sportif uttered the word I’d learn to dread: “REPEATS!” That wave of relief turned into a wave of horror as I learned what was going on. I’d just started over an hour’s worth of hill repeats.

Other junior members helpfully informed me, the team neophyte, that this was normal for a Sunday ride. They’d shout in passing, “Oh, you might want to drink some water and eat your food. You did bring food, right?” Too shy to reveal my ignorance, I assured them that sure, I had food! I was still overconfident in my lineage. If my old grandfather could win road races, surely a strapping young teenager like me could get through some hill repeats, food or no food. Plus, it was only 10am and I’d just had breakfast. I wasn’t worried.

That day I learned another cycling term that I’d come to dread: BONK. I got through the repeats–fewer than the others did, but I’d survived. I was a little lightheaded and drenched with a weird white sweat, but I figured that was just the excitement and the new jersey, right?

As we were heading back, my new cycle computer showed that we had another 60km to go, or about two hours. I knew I was in trouble. It was getting harder to breathe, my legs felt like they were filled with lead, and any sort of incline made me unable to keep a gap from forming between me and the pace line.

The elite squad decided to turn up the pace and get in some sprint interval training, while the junior team was just supposed to roll through at a steady pace and head home. I realised that I just wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t see straight, but I was trying so hard not to let on to my directeur sportif that I was in trouble. With another 20km to go, I was nearly falling off the bike, couldn’t keep my eyes open, and felt an incredible urge to sleep. I was in my own personal purgatory, and even though I didn’t know what was happening I could feel my body shutting down.

The team broke into smaller groups based on where they lived, and I was elated to find that nobody lived in my area so I’d get to ride back alone. I was close to weeping and desperately wanted to sleep, but I had done it! I was also still more than 15km from home, which included one extremely steep hill dubbed “the monster.”

I pedalled barely fast enough to keep the bike upright, since I didn’t even have a quarter to find a payphone and call my parents to come and get me. It took me close to 2 hours and 3 nap breaks in a grassy ditch to drag myself back. I had been gone a staggering 7 hours when it should’ve only taken 4-5. My parents had made a nervous call to the directeur sportif, who assured them that I’d been close to home when we all split off.

Needless to say, the directeur sportif gave me an earful about nutrition, keeping him advised how I was doing and if I was in trouble, and how a team needs to take care of its members. That day was a lesson in suffering, but in some odd way my ability to suffer through and hide it so well solidified my place on the team.

Mark K is a thirtysomething Canadian in Ottawa, Ontario who is eagerly rediscovering his passion for cycling and all of its accompanying toys after years off the bike due to racing burn-out. Thanks to cycling family, cycling friends, and Fatty, the joy of being on and around bikes has returned.


Fat Cyclist Gear Now In Stock

10.15.2011 | 10:37 am

Miss the Team Fatty gear pre-order, and now you’re hoping to pick up a jersey? Well, now’s your chance. A very limited supply of 2012 Fat Cyclist jerseys are now in stock at Twin Six.


I have lost track of how many times I’ve heard people say that this is the best-looking jersey we’ve done to date. I know for sure it’s my current favorite to wear.

Most everything’s in stock, too (though some of the sizes are starting to disappear).

And hey, thanks for flying the Team Fatty flag.

I’ve Never Suffered as Badly as When…

10.13.2011 | 8:31 am

A Note from Fatty About Dustin’s Young Survival Coalition Tour de Pink Contest: Dustin set out to do three things to honor Michelle last weekend. For two of them, all the work was up to him. For the third — raising $20,000 for the Young Survival Coalition — well, Team Fatty delivered for him in spades. Now that the contest is over, here are a few little nuggets of information you might be interested in:

  • I just emailed the prize winners and am now waiting to hear back.
  • The grand prize winner donated $100 on 10/7, and has the initials “BC.” [Update: The winner's name is Barry C, and he's sent in a little blurb and photo about himself. Check it out below]
  • 493 people donated as part of this contest.
  • Team Fatty raised $21,955.60, making us the second-biggest fundraiser in the West Coast Tour de Pink. That’s nearly $2000 more than our goal. Awesome!
  • I thought we were going to be the largest fundraiser, but another person came from nowhere yesterday and raised about $3000 more than we did. Frankly, I think that is awesome.
  • Weiser’s Army, of which Team Fatty is a member, is by far and away the top fundraising team, with just under $50,000 raised.
  • The largest donation came from Twin Six — $1060 — coming from their 50% donation of all XL+ gear for one day. I love the Twin Six guys.
  • The largest donation from an individual was an amazing $650.
  • 75 people donated $100 or more, including two people who donated $500. That’s amazingly generous.
  • 39 people donated $5, which is also amazingly generous. Seriously, when I see that someone donated $5, I see someone who doesn’t have a ton of money to spare, but is stretching to do something to help anyway. I’m happy to say that one of the people who donated $5 won a set of Shimano Dura-Ace pedals.

This has been a fantastic, inspiring contest. Thank you to everyone in Team Fatty who participated, and a huge thanks to Dustin, who has a huge heart and an amazing amount of determination.

I think the next time we have a bike giveaway loaded up with awesome Shimano componentry, it’s going to mean a lot more to everyone who reads this blog.

Meet the Winner of the Giant TCR Advanced SL With Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Components

I’ve never received a prize acknowledgement back as quickly as I did from Barry, the winner of the Giant TCR Advanced SL, outfitted with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 components and Dura-Ace wheels. Barry’s reply? “Please tell me this is not some joke.”

It was no joke.

Here’s a little bit about Barry, in his own words:


I’ve been following your blog for about three years. I think I found out about it when I was looking something up on the Leadville 100. I did the race in ‘99 and ‘01 and was contemplating doing it again (my friend and I may go for it again in ‘12). I’ve followed your site daily since then.

I was touched by your situation with Susan and have experienced the impact of cancer in my family with my grandmother and most recently with my sister-in-law. I’ve donated off and on over the past few years whenever you were raising money.

When I read about Dustin and Michelle, their story motivated me to donate again. I don’t know if it was my sister-in-law recently winning the battle against breast cancer or my desire to complete an Ironman despite my controlled drowning swimming technique and my extreme hatred towards running. Regardless, I was happy to donate and am overwhelmed at actually winning something in return.

So about me – I live in New Jersey with my wife and three kids and we are a biking family. My focus was on mountain biking until just this spring when I purchased my first road bike (you will see it on ebay soon!!). I’ve done my share of races but I’m generally a middle of the pack sport level kind of guy. I completed Leadville twice to get my buckle but I won’t be challenging for the big buckle. I have several friends that are into biking like I am and we do a little bit of everything from road biking to downhill. Surprising to many people, New Jersey is a great place for biking.

I’m still in shock about the new bike. I am starting to work on all kinds of new excuses now about why I’m still slow on a $10,000 bike.

I’ve attached a picture of me on my Lenz Milkmoney singlespeed a month ago down in Virginia. That was my old favorite bike…I have a new one now.


Congratulations, Barry!

Write A Guest Post For Me

I am going to be traveling for work for the next two weeks. For at least one of those weeks, I’d like to feature guest posts.

We’ve done this once before, with the topic “My Proudest Moment” (see here and here and here and here and here). This time, the topic is:

I’ve never suffered as badly on a bike as when . . .

The truth is, rides where everything went right don’t make good stories. And we’ve all had bad days on a bike.

So, write your story for us. It can be serious, funny, contemplative, whatever you like.

When you send me the story, please do the following to make it easy for me:

  1. Make the subject line “I’ve never suffered as badly…” and address it to fatty@fatcyclist.com.
  2. Keep the post to 1200 words or less, please. If you must, the story can be longer, but I notice that readership and comments drop when my posts are too long.
  3. Attach the Word document to your email, and paste the story into the body of the email.
  4. Attach any images (JPG format please) you want to use in the story to the email. Don’t include them in the Word doc. Instead, indicate in double square brackets where the image should go, like this:
  5. Keep the language clean. If I wouldn’t be comfortable saying the words to my 10-year-old daughters, I won’t use them in my blog.
  6. Include a bio (a couple sentences) about yourself, as well as a photo.

Not too hard, right?

I’m looking forward to reading — and posting — your stories!

PS: Mike Levin, longtime friend of fatty and coiner of the “We Want Pie!” mantra, has a relative who’s an international wakeboarding sensation. Noah is in the running for Sports Illustrated “Sports Kid of The Year.” Why don’t you go vote for him, by clicking here.

Kona Ironman: Dustin’s Race Report

10.12.2011 | 8:22 am

A Note from Fatty: Before I get to Dustin’s race report (I guarantee it’s a must-read, and you may want to have some tissues handy), I want to remind you: today is the last day you can donate in the Tour de Pink contest, where you can win a $10,000 Giant TCR road bike, complete with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. Or a fantastic set of top-of-the-line wheels. Or a GoPro HD camera. Or a lot more. So go donate now, already.

A Note About Who’s Riding for Team Fatty in the Tour de Pink: I’ve asked Heather S to represent Team Fatty at the Tour de Pink. Here’s a little about who she is, in her own words:

201110120732.jpgIn the beginning of 2010 my husband Erik and I were learning how to be parents of 2 after Genevieve’s arrival in August 2009. In May 2010 we celebrated my 31st birthday. In July 2010, I participated in the San Luis Obispo Triathlon for the 2nd time and beat my goal time. In July 2010 we celebrated Annabelle’s 3rd birthday. In August 2010 we celebrated Genevieve’s 1st birthday. In September 2010, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

While there is a lot of cancer in my family history, I certainly did not expect to get breast cancer at 31 years old. Breast cancer is for women older than me – women who have already had a chance to watch their kids grow up, celebrated their 40th and probably 50th birthdays, and maybe even be grandmothers! Right? Apparently not.

After my diagnosis I got right to the research – in true Heather fashion. What is this cancer? What is the absolute best way to kill this beast? Just as importantly: were there other young people out there like me who had to face this challenge?

That’s when I found the Young Survivors Coalition (YSC). This organization has a website where an amazing community of young women (diagnosed at <40 years old) gather to support each other. We laugh, cry, celebrate, mourn, question, teach and learn from each other. Aside from the priceless support, this is the place I got the best information; the most up to date information out there. Hundreds of women with similar breast cancers researching and sharing information from their doctors, etc. Can you imagine the wealth of knowledge?

YSC holds a special place in my heart because I can’t imagine going through all of the ups and downs of diagnosis, treatment, surgeries and now the struggle and blessing that is survivorship without this community. Cancer diagnosis and treatment can be lonely, alienating and depressing – but I knew I could (and still can) always turn to my YSC sisters for someone who totally “gets it.” I hope YSC can provide this opportunity to young women for years and years to come.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a better representative for Team Fatty at the Tour de Pink. Heather (and her husband Erik, who’s going to ride with her) has promised to take a lot of pictures and will send us a ride report when she gets back.

And I’m thinking maybe Team Fatty needs to have a larger presence at the Tour de Pink next year.

Good luck, Heather!

Kona Ironman: Dustin’s Race Report

I first want to start with a thanks and an apology. I want to thank you all for your support and fundraising support. Michelle dreamed big and all of you helped me and her friends and co-workers deliver in a huge way. I want to thank you for the support.

What I want to apologize for is taking so damn long to finish. I read that a few of you stayed up until I finished … I’m kind of speechless on what to say about that. All I can say is thank you for caring that much. I’m humbled. For those who posted to the comments, thanks for making me laugh and smile.

Getting Ready

Okay … Race Day! I got to bed later than I wanted. Like 11pm. I woke up at 4:30am, ate a PB&J sandwich, tested my blood sugar, and sat on the balcony looking down at the Swim start. As I sat there I was surprisingly calm. Just very focused on what I needed to do.

Jump to 5:30am. I ate a banana, tested my blood sugar again, and went down to do the thing I hate most for a triathlon: Take off my shirt and get numbered up on my arm.

So this is the World Championships and the majority of people got to come here through being incredibly fit and qualifying because they are incredibly fast. So why do I hate getting numbered? Well I’m overweight and just about 98% of everyone else needs to eat more. I feel intimidated. Not that I’m trying to win, but when my time is that of people over twice my age and they have six packs, well … I’m a little insecure.

After getting numbered I went up to my room to test my blood sugar again; my sugars were stable.

201110120743.jpgI grabbed the most important thing of the day: an urn of Michelle’s ashes and placed it under the swim skin at the small of my back.

I went down to my bike and pumped my tires up to 110. The heat of the day would bring them up to around 120 when I was on the bike.

From there I walked over to the swim start and got ready. I saw my friend Holly and she helped apply the Tri Slide to help me avoid rashes. Right before stepping down in the water, I applied even more … I did not want a rash in my pits!

It’s about 6:50 now. I saw the woman is responsible for letting me in the race to fulfill my promise and much much more. I went up to say thank you and then started out to where everyone was wading in the water to start the day.

The Swim

BOOM!!!! The canon hits you like shockwave and we are off. I opted to start at the back to avoid from what I heard was the roughest Ironman start around. Well, either I wasn’t far enough back or it is that rough, because people are climbing over me, I got kicked in the face, elbowed in the face and then I said ok, I’m going to be a bit more aggressive and use my size to my advantage. I started swimming elbows wide and thrashing around like a hooked Marlin. It worked; people were staying away from me now.

I have this problem: I don’t swim in a straight line. But the benefit of that is about a little over halfway, a giant school of spinner dolphins swam right underneath me. I thought of Michelle and how she loved dolphins.

Then that awesome thought was soon replaced with a burning in my left arm pit. I think the tri slide wore off because it was Michelle telling me to get my ass focused again. Then I thought of AK chick and how funny it was she called me David and thought I worked for SRAM.

So I finish the swim, washed off and changed, and made sure I had the urn. I checked my blood sugars and I’m at 58–a little low. So I eat a banana and grab some Perform before getting onto the bike.


Well, finding my bike wasn’t difficult at all. There weren’t many bikes left.

The bike started great for the first 50 miles, I felt good, I saw on their way back that Craig Alexander was right with Lieto on the bike and at that point on the bike course I knew Crowie would win!

I started the climb up to Hawi. It was ok at first but then with about 5+ miles to go the winds picked up and picked up a ton. At this point I noticed a major problem. The only bolts I did not check to see to make sure they were tight, came loose.

My friggin right cleat!

This is bad because this is the side I have issues with my knee. I didn’t want to clip out because I was afraid of breaking bolts or losing them so I let it slide around the rest of the ride.

Anyways, I get to Hawi. Winds are blowing and I get my special needs bag. I stop to pick what I want and check my blood sugar. This was the fourth time I stopped to check my blood sugar; it was spot on at 100.

Once I started pedaling again, I thought of Zac_in_ak. Michelle had this saying she wanted people to know … it was “If you want to do something, do it before it’s too late”. I had this painted on my top tube to remember.


And I wanted you Zac to know to do what you want and don’t let Diabetes prevent you from doing a tri.

I’m now about 20 miles to go, headwinds are fierce and surface temperature was reportedly around 135 degrees. all I know is it was hot, headwinds suck and pedaling with a loose cleat is not great for pedaling efficiencies.

I caught a second wind (maybe it was a third or fourth wind) with 5 miles to go and was feeling good. I went into transition about 4:10 in the afternoon. I opted to use the PT in transition to help me release the tension/pain in my right knee. Transition time is not great but I need to do what I need to do. I test my blood sugar again and it’s spot on (I was absolutely amazed I was on track with my blood sugars.)

I make sure I move the urn of Michelle’s ashes into my running short pocket.


So this is the part of the race I feared most. I am not a runner! Luckily you are moving slower and around a lot more enthusiastic people cheering you on. This takes away from the pain.

That is, it takes away from the pain until mile ten when you get onto the Queen K and for me its nighttime and no one is around. I know I have to push it because the later and later it gets, I know my math has been wrong.

I was expecting to finish around 11pm. So I’m at about mile eleven and I’m in pain … bad pain. The entire ball of my feet on both sides are blistered. Someone had suggested I take an orange peel and stick it under the sock over the blisters to soften the pain. It seemed to work a little.

I’ve now made it through the energy lab and I was running a little and walking a lot. I have about 6 miles to go and I know I have to run a lot now because my math sucks or my blisters are slowing me down too much.

I ran a lot. More than I ever have. Okay, maybe it was more of a shuffle but I’ll call it a run. It’s 1.2 miles to go, It’s 11:25p.m. and I know I’m going to make it. I pulled the urn out of my shorts and ran with it in my hand the last 1.2 miles.

Coming into the final .2 miles is an experience I’ll never forget. Friends and people I don’t know there for me and everybody cheering you on like crazy. The final 100 meters or so were a blur … but spectacular. As I ran up the ramp I tripped but caught myself and held Michelle’s ashes up in triumph. It was her, my friends and you guys that gave me all the motivation I needed.



After I was greeted by friends and Crowie. Then these older ladies walked me to the after race area. But I made them take me to the water where the morning started with the swim. I took off my shoes and socks and walked down the steps to the water. They were asking me to come back but they didn’t understand I had important business to attend to. I went into the water, opened the urn and sent Michelle’s ashes into the water.


At this point, the weight and pressure of the promise were lifted and I was now done with the race.


So it’s three days later. I have some serious issues with my feet. They are bruised and blistered and I can’t really walk.

But although I finished with people over twice my age, I’m proud of what I’ve done. I had never before this day swam over 1.4 miles, rode over a 100 miles or run/walk over 13.1 miles.

Thank you all for your support and love! Thank you for sharing in my experience and thank you for being an excellent group of individuals. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People like me can arrange products to give away, Elden has the soap box, but without all of you we have nothing!



Back Up On The Horse

10.11.2011 | 8:38 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s post seems like it’s about running. Trust me, though, it’s about biking. Eventually.

Yesterday I talked a little bit about the run The Hammer and I went on last Saturday. I believe I may have mentioned what a miserable experience that was for me.

Well, honestly, “miserable” isn’t the right word. “Horrible” might be a better word for how I felt (and ran). Or perhaps “catastrophically bad.” Or if I were to be completely candid, maybe I would not have described it as a fifteen-mile run at all, but instead called it a “halting fifteen mile shuffle-jog, interspersed with increasingly long walking breaks and no small amount of whining, permeated with an unprecedented amount of whining.”

Yes, that would about describe it.

I tried to see it as a wake up call of sorts: that I need to halt and reverse my annual slide into pudginess. But the truth is I saw it as more of a different kind of wake up call: that I had no business running and should just give up. Maybe try to persuade The Hammer that for both the Death Valley Marathon and the Boston Marathon, what she really needs is someone cheering for her at the finish line, not someone slowing her down during the run.

Seriously, it was that bad.

I had even started preparing my case on why I shouldn’t be running at all. My points included:

  • I haven’t been doing it anywhere near as long as her and just can’t keep up; I’m just slowing her down.
  • I’m a cyclist, pure and simple. And cyclists don’t like to run. For example, during Levi’s Granfondo, I asked Levi if he ever does Xterra or road Tri events. “No way,” replied Levi. “I hate running.” And as you can see by our builds, Levi and I are very similar indeed:
  • I just wasn’t having any fun. Truly, during that run, I did not have a single moment of happiness.

But I never got to make those arguments, because yesterday morning, The Hammer said, “Suit up; we’re going on a six-mile run.”

My speeches were not well-enough honed. I needed more time to craft them to perfection. So, just this one more time, I suited up. Knowing that the awfulness of the experience would add substance to my arguments.

And then I had the second best run of my life (the AF Canyon Half Marathon was the best). I felt like I had a deep well (as opposed to Saturday’s shallow puddle) of strength to draw from. I felt like I could power up hills. I felt like I could manage–and maybe even ignore–the pain of running on the flats.

And at the end of the run, The Hammer did something she has never done before: she gave me a high-five. “You just took four minutes off your previous fastest time for that run.”

My Point

That kind of experience isn’t actually all that new to me. Well, it’s new to me in running, but I’ve had a similar experience several times when biking.

It happens like this.

First, I do a ride, and it completely slaughters me. Leaves me destroyed. I hold up my friends and I don’t have any fun whatsoever. The ride goes so badly, in fact, that I question whether I should give up cycling altogether.

The example I remember most clearly is the first time I rode Amasa Back, in Moab. I simply could not keep up. I could barely turn the cranks. It wasn’t even so much that the intensity of the ride was too much, it was more like I was simply powerless. I for sure wasn’t having fun.

As near as I could tell, Amasa Back was the longest, most technical, most awful trail in the whole world.

Second, I fret. I wonder why I suck so bad, and whether I will ever be good enough to ride with my friends. I look for all kinds of possible reasons of what went wrong. Or more specifically, what’s wrong with me.

Third, I do it again. For whatever reason–usually through some prodding on someone else’s part–I find myself doing that ride again. And I realize that in fact the ride is much better, easier, and more fun than I remembered. A bad experience magnified the difficulty of the ride, and obscured the fun parts.

Which is exactly what I discovered the next time–and every other time–I’ve been on Amasa Back. The truth is, it’s one of the most fun trails there is in Moab. It’s technical, for sure, but it’s not the most technical. And it’s not a very long ride. And it’s got a view to die for. By the time I finished doing Amasa Back the second time, I wondered why I ever thought it was a hard trail.

So. Little by little, I’m beginning to realize how much of a part your head plays in whether a ride (or run) is difficult. Or brutal. Or flat-out miserable.

If a ride’s goes really bad, maybe I (and maybe you, too) need to consider the possibility that the road or trail or course itself isn’t bad. Maybe it’s that I was tired. Or getting sick (or getting over being sick).

Or maybe I was just having a bad day.

Whatever the reason, the misery of being completely beaten by a workout is nowhere near as bad as the elation of going back and discovering you’re not as much of a tub of goo as previously thought. Of finding redemption.

So, yeah. It’s worth it to get back up on the horse.

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