2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 7: Kaboom

09.11.2016 | 5:05 am

A Note from Fatty: The latest episode of The Paceline podcast is up, and it’s wonderful. Click here for details, downloading details, and to listen. (And while you’re at it, why don’t you just subscribe on iTunes?)

Sixty-five-ish miles. Two-thirds of the Leadville 100 was behind us, and I hadn’t looked at my bike computer in about fifteen miles — since when we had hit the turnaround point at the top of Columbine and I had discovered we weren’t on track to finish the race in the time The Hammer had projected.

It wasn’t a conscious decision to not look at how we were doing; the Garmin 520 was right there for me to look at, if I felt like it. It’s just that it didn’t really matter to me. All that mattered was helping The Hammer.

And I was being just a little too aggressive about it.

How Fatty Transmogrified Into a Complete Jerk

If you read the end of part 6 of my race report, you’ll see that I was being loud and obnoxious. And if you read the other parts of my race report, you’ll see that this was not the first time.

You’re just going to have to trust me when I say that this is not in character. When I race, I am generally the friendly guy. The helpful guy. The positive and supporting to everyone guy.

How did I turn into a competitive neanderthal? Well, I don’t know for certain.

But I do have a theory. 

In normal circumstances, I think of myself as just another racer. A guy whose race goals are no different — or any more important — than anyone else’s race goals.

But on this day, my race goals weren’t for me. They were for someone who I think of as much more important than me. Her goals are much more important than mine. Hence, my sense of purpose was much higher than usual. And my commitment to helping The Hammer achieve her goal was way higher than it ever is to achieving goals of my own.

Anyone who was in our way was an obstacle, pure and simple. 

So my aggression came from a place of love; my trash-talking came from a place of high purpose. 

But that doesn’t excuse me for being a jerk. Sorry, everyone I was a jerk to.


So, back to the story.

“I feel like giving up,” The Hammer had just said.

My heart rate shot up twenty beats per minute. I clenched my grips. I clenched my teeth. I thought of several things I wanted to say in reply, mostly along the lines of, “Don’t you dare say that. Don’t you dare think that. I am dedicating my whole day to your success, and you are not allowed to do anything but win.”

Wisely (because I do have moments of lucidity, from time to time), I did not say this. I bit back my anger and said, “What’s up?”

“Our pace. We aren’t on track to finish this race in 9:30.”

The relief I felt was incredible; the rage I briefly felt disappeared instantly. This wasn’t a Crash-and-Burn problem. This was just The Hammer experiencing unrealistic expectations. 

“Oh, 9:30 was never even on my radar, Sugar Plum,” I said. “Just put that out of your head. The only objective we care about is beating your previous single speed record. All I want is a 9:49. Or maybe a 9:45, just to be safe. Do you think that’s still possible?”

“Yeah, we’re on track for that,” The Hammer replied.

“Then we’re awesome.”

We finished the single track, riding behind that group of five for the whole thing, just recovering. Approached intelligently, a bottleneck is an opportunity to eat, drink, and rest your legs.

Then, the moment we hit doubletrack, we dropped them hard and shot forward. “Let’s fly,” The Hammer said. I got in front of her, told her to yell if I started losing her, yell if I was going too slow, and to otherwise just hold on.

We flew.


OK, this is the part I’ve been looking forward to writing about since before I even started this race report. Now that I’m here, though, I am simply unsure I can do it justice.

I’ll do what I can, though.

The Hammer and I just railed the next ten miles of the race. Just crushed it. The only time we slowed was to hand off come GU Endurolyte Capsules to Dave Thompson, who had been ahead of us the whole day and on track for a sub-nine-hour finish, ’til he had been brought low by cramps.

Stupid cramps. 

“Swallow as many as you can. They’ll help,” I said, and we ramped up our speed again. 

Then, a mile or so before the Pipeline aid station, where our crew should be waiting for us, I had a two-birds-with-one-stone epiphany. “I gotta pee, so am going to peel off here for a second,” I told The Hammer. “You go ahead, so the crew can take care of us one at a time.”

The Hammer understood and shot on ahead.

I took care of my business, got back on my bike, and a few minutes later saw — right at the very beginning of the long alley of pit crews — our crew (Couch, Car, Scott, Kara).

Weird, I thought. We had expected them at the other end of the pit crew area. By the timing mat. 

The Hammer wasn’t there, which meant — I assumed — that they had already taken care of her and she had gone on ahead. Awesome; I’d catch her when I could.

I pulled up and stopped. Put a foot down.

Nothing happened. In fact, nobody noticed that I was there. They were all busy putting up the banner that would make them easy to find.

“Hello,” I said.

Everyone jumped, startled. “You’re here!” Couch shouted.

“Sure am,” I replied. “You seem surprised.” 

“We didn’t expect you for another ten minutes!” Scott said. Which was a fair point. The Hammer and I had, in fact, just beaten our projected time for this part of the race by at least ten minutes.

See, that bit about flying wasn’t hyperbole. OK, it was hyperbole, but not as hyperbole-ish as you might have thought.

“Hasn’t Lisa come through?” I asked, connecting the dots.

“No!” Everyone replying together.

I said some words I would have to apologize for later. Then, “She’s come through. She expected you at the other end, and you didn’t see her because you were putting up the sign.”

For a moment, I was at a loss. Then: “Quick, stuff her gels into my jersey. And give me her Camelbak.”

They sprang into chaotic action, loading me up. All my gels, plus all The Hammer’s gels: two jersey pockets, stuffed full of gels. All my bottles. And The Hammer’s Camelbak.

Which, I would like to point out, did not even remotely fit. To wit, it was so tight it acted as a tourniquet and both my arms started tingling and falling asleep within a minute.

Now I’m a real domestique,” I thought to myself as they saddled me up with all this stuff, “Carrying food and water up to my GC rider.”

Meanwhile, something snapped in Scott, The Hammer’s brother. He had had too many accidents while crewing for The Hammer, and felt an overwhelming urgency to do something  — anything! — to get food and water to The Hammer…wherever she happened to be.

He grabbed a bottle and some gels and bolted, running in a dead sprint down the road, wildly looking left and right for The Hammer.

I found myself laughing at the bizarreness of the moment.


Let’s back up a minute and switch to The Hammer’s perspective for a moment. She came into the Pipeline Pit Crew Alley riding hot — thinking our crew would be at the end of the alley, near the timing mat. As such, she had blown right by the crew: not seeing them, and them not seeing her, because they were facing away and setting up a big banner…to make them easier to find.

That, my friends, is the story you can use when someone asks you to give an example of  “irony.”

As she got to the end of Pit Crew Alley, now looking hard for her brother, she saw him! She pulled over, put a foot down, and waited for him to begin swapping out bottles, camelbak, and so forth.

“May I help you?” the man asked.

Recognition — or recognition that she did not recognize this person after all — The Hammer exclaimed, “You are not my crew!”

“No, but I could be if you need me to be,” The stranger replied. 

“I’ll just keep going,” The Hammer said, and began riding again, once again starting a section of the race with a mostly-empty Camelbak, and without much in the way of gels.

And then she saw it: The neutral aid station. A light went on, she pulled over, and they sprang into action.

More Meanwhile…

Now let’s go back to me. A few seconds after Scott began running down the trail, desperately looking for his sister, I finished getting all The Hammer’s food and struggling into The Hammer’s camelbak and began riding down the Pit Crew Alley, conducting my own hunt for The Hammer.

Within a few seconds, I had caught Scott, stopped, and had had him stuff the bottle and (still more!) gels he was carrying into my center jersey pocket. 

My jersey — already a little tight due to my failure to lose any meaningful amount of weight this year — now felt incredibly tight, with a full bottle and around twenty-five gels (I’m guessing here, but am not far off because I counted around 15 unused gels in my jersey at the end of the race).

I took off again — more loaded down than I have ever been — looking side-to-side as I rode, sometimes calling out, “LISA!”

Scott walked back to their crewing area, fully intending to avoid The Hammer after the race.

Together Again

As I got to the end of the aid station area, I saw her: The Hammer, with a couple of volunteers helping her out.

“Our crew didn’t make it in time!” she said.

“No, they’re here. You just missed each other. I got you a full camelbak,” I said, fighting to get the thing off.

“I don’t need it, these volunteers have refilled the one I have.”

“Well, I am NOT going to wear this thing for the rest of the race,” I said.

“We can take it,” said a volunteer. “We’ll put it in lost and found, you can get it after the race.”

“Perfect,” I said. 

Alas, we would never find that camelbak in lost and found. Which, considering the fallout that could have resulted from this Benny Hill moment, is a not-bad result.


We were back together again. Racing again. As weirdly and hilariously wrong as things had gone, we still hadn’t really lost more than a minute. 

“Hey,” I said, “I got your gels too,”

“I don’t need those either, the volunteers got me plenty.”

“Well I have enough to do pretty much another lap of the course.”

“You could hand them off to a course marshal,” The Hammer said.

“Are you serious?” I asked, astounded. “Do you know how much these things are each worth?” I considered for a moment and said, “I’m not giving away $40-worth of gels. But will you at least take this bottle I’ve got stuffed in my jersey?”

Yes, she would take that. And the strain against my midriff became a little easier. Yay.

We were on a paved part of the road now, once again pushing the pace as hard as we could. Me taking my role as domestique as seriously as I could. Keeping The Hammer right behind me, but pushing the pace. Blocking the wind. Encouraging her.

I was doing a pretty darned good job, if I do say so myself. 

Until, all of a sudden, I wasn’t.

In the space of a moment, I went from strong workhorse to completely smoked and bonked out husk of a human being. 

I’m not really sure what an implosion sounds like, but let’s go with “Kaboom.” In which case that’s the sound I made. Or maybe a better metaphor would be me hitting a wall, in which case I made a “splat” sound.

Either way, I was toast. And this seems like a pretty good place for us to leave off ’til the next installment of this story.



Bonus Friday Video You Absolutely Must Watch

09.9.2016 | 2:05 pm

So, Specialized just released a couple of new bikes today: the new Roubaix and Ruby

They look like really nice bikes. But I really want you to watch the introduction video about these nice new bikes not because the bikes are nice and new, but for a completely different reason.

Oh, just watch the video:

Didja notice anything? Such as this young woman, wearing a surprisingly familiar-looking kit:

Screenshot 2016 09 09 13 51 35
Yep, that’s my niece Lindsey, making both the Specialized Ruby and the FatCyclist women’s kit (available now!) look great.

Or this young man:

Screenshot 2016 09 09 13 48 27
Yes, that’s Ben, Lindsey’s husband, with his game face on.

Or, in the final shot, this:

Screenshot 2016 09 09 13 54 18
Ben in the red, Lindsey in the…well, I think you can find her.

Congratulations to Lindsey and Ben for looking awesome and to Specialized for some really exciting new bikes.

And a big “thanks!” to The Noodleator for texting me, asking if I happen to know anyone who lives in the SLC area, rides, and is very good looking who would like to be in a Specialized photo shoot. 

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 6: Hard Math

09.8.2016 | 12:34 pm

It’s wonderful to have important friends in high places.

And by “important friends,” I am of course talking about Yuri Hauswald, my friend and co-host on the new podcast I’m doing with GU Energy: The Pinnacle. (Our premise is simple: great conversations with extraordinary, inspirational athletes about how and why they do what they do. You really should listen to the first couple episodes.)

And by “high places,” I of course mean the base of the Columbine Mine climb (9600 – 12,600 feet), where Yuri had told me — a couple days before the race — GU Energy would have a tent set up. 

So when The Hammer told me that she needed to get rid of her toe warmers and warm gloves before we climbed Columbine (you just don’t want to pack anything you don’t need up that climb), you’d think it would have been very obvious to me to say, “Oh, let’s just drop them off with Yuri.”

But let me assure you: having this actually occur to me during a race felt like a truly mighty stroke of genius. I can’t even quite explain how remarkably proud of myself I felt, having a sensible, simple solution occur to me when I was racing.

It just doesn’t happen that often. 

Yet Another Stroke of Genius

But my remarkable brilliance had only just begun to manifest itself.

We rolled up to the GU tent, got Yuri to yank off The Hammer’s toe covers and warm gloves, and had begun to roll away, when Yuri called out, “Need anything else?”

Why yes. Yes we do need something else. The Hammer hadn’t got a refill on her Camelbak at the Twin Lakes pit stop, so she needed water

“Got a bottle of water you can spare?” I asked. 

They did. Ready to go and everything.

Seconds later we were going, no longer burdened with stuff we didn’t need, nor lacking things we did need. 

Yuri is the best.


I have no idea whether a lot of people noticed that The Hammer and I were a wife-and-husband duo as we climbed up Columbine. I have no idea whether a lot of people noticed we were both riding singlespeeds, and how unusual that is in this race.

I do know, however, that a lot of people at least had the opportunity to notice these two things, because we passed — and while it’s a guess, it’s a conservative one — around 150 people going up the first five miles of Columbine.

Me, standing the whole way, as is my climbing style when on a singlespeed. The Hammer, sitting. In spite of being on a singlespeed. Which shows that when it comes to power-to-weight ratios, The Hammer is just off the charts.

“No shame in being passed by a woman,” I told one large group of young, very-fit-looking guys as we went by.

“Who is 48 years old,” I continued.

“And is riding seated on a singlespeed,” I concluded. 

The Hammer rode behind me, shaking her head and apologizing for my behavior.

“I can’t take you anywhere,” she muttered. Correctly.

Hard Math: Multiplying by Two

I felt like we were doing well. I really did. But how you feel doesn’t really buy anything in a race. And according to our time, we weren’t doing as well as I’d have liked.

In particular, we hit the turnaround point on Columbine at 4:57. Since your turnaround time is generally a pretty good predictor of your finish time at this race — just multiply by two — we had a problem.

We were on target for a 9:54 finish. Which would not be a record singlespeed time, and would not beat The Hammer’s previous best on a singlespeed.

Which meant, obviously, that I was a terrible domestique / motivational spouse.

I resolved to not say anything to The Hammer about my disappointment. What she did not need from me was negativity. I know The Hammer well enough to understand that she is plenty hard enough on herself with her training and racing; I don’t ever need to pile on.

We turned around and rode to the bottom, with me peeling my eyes for a woman on a singlespeed, wanting to know how close Christina Ross — The Hammer’s competition — was. I didn’t see her (she was just nine minutes behind us at the turnaround), but honestly it’s very difficult to pick out drivetrain subtleties on others’ bikes when you’re coming down the Columbine Mine trail.

I did see, however, The Monster — smiling and pushing her bike. Not far behind us (her turnaround time was 5:18) at all, which made both The Hammer and me incredibly proud. She was on track to demolish both our first Leadville times (I finished my first LT100 in 10:36, The Hammer finished her first LT100 in 11:55).

And we saw Katie Bolling. And David Houston (who I had been calling “Dave” the whole week, to my embarrassment). And many others who called out our names, but we didn’t recognize, because we were too focused on not crashing.

No crash. No flat (although the ground was soft enough for one stretch of trail that I stopped and checked my tire, thinking it was going flat). 

Sixty miles into the race and, as far as I was concerned, the worst was behind us. The places where I always worry I’m going to wreck or flat were all in the rear-view mirror.

Not that I have a rear-view mirror on my helmet. I just want to make that perfectly clear.

More Hard Math

As we got close to the Twin Lakes aid station, I had a brilliant idea: I would shoot ahead, so our crew would know The Hammer was coming, and so they would only have to take care of one of us at a time.

This, I am happy to say, worked beautifully. I tell you, I was really being smart.

“See you in about an hour and ten minutes!” The Hammer called out as we left.

“Closer to an hour!” I shouted over my shoulder, optimistically. 

Either way, our crew had a tough job ahead of them: drive to the Pipeline aid station, park, and set up before we got there…in about an hour’s time.

And I was really making it my task to make it closer to that hour than the 1:10 The Hammer had projected. I rode in front, looking back frequently, doing my very best to gauge what the line was between giving her a fast draft that pushed her pace, and blowing her up.

And — I say this perfectly aware that it’s boastful — I did a pretty good job, especially considering that I don’t have a lot of experience being a domestique.

But we were moving well, making good time on this flattish section. Not as good as the people with geared bikes who buzzed right by us (“Ignore them, we’ll pass them on the climb!”), but pretty darned fast for the gear we had chosen.

And then we hit the singletrack. 

I stayed in front still, not for drafting sake but to keep The Hammer going at her hardest.

Sure enough, we soon caught up with the group that had passed us on the dirt road a few miles back. 

“Hey there,” I said. Usually that’s enough for people to yield, when they discover that someone going much faster has just caught them.

Nobody yielded. The congo line of five or six just kept going, slowly, in their granny gears.

Driving me insane

So I started talking. To The Hammer, of course. “Hey, baby, you just let me know when you feel like it and I’ll ask these nice folks ahead of us to yield so we can pick up the pace,” I said.

The Hammer said nothing. Nobody moved over.

“I’m sure these people won’t mind moving over whenever you want,” I said. “They’ll understand you’re chasing a new women’s singlespeed record.”

Nobody moved over. But The Hammer did speak this time. 

“We’re not going to finish in 9:30,” she said. “We can just forget about that.”

And then, something I would never have expected her to say:

“I feel like giving up.”

And with those words, I became the angriest at her I have ever been.

Which — believe it or not — is a necessary place for us to pick up in the next installment, because things are going to get a little bit crazy in the next episode.

2016 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 5: All Together Now

09.6.2016 | 12:18 pm

In any given race, there is a period after the start-of-race adrenaline and nervousness has faded away, but before the race-induced exhaustion sets in. 

This period is the golden moment of racing. The best part of racing. It can last an hour, but it can also last for about two seconds. So it is definitely something to be anticipated, recognized, and savored.

In the 2016 Leadville 100, this golden moment lasted for — more or less — the entirety of the fifteen flattish miles between the first and second aid stations (Pipeline to Twin Lakes).

The Hammer and I were both relieved to have made it down the Powerline section, we were happy to be riding together and discovering that all the training we do together was translating well into racing well together, we were  both feeling good and strong.

And somehow, we had wound up riding with a fun group of people. 

First, Rohit caught us and volunteered to give the two of us a pull for a bit. We gratefully accepted, and stuck on his wheel for as long as we could ’til he dropped us and continued on ahead. I considered calling out to him that he was losing us, but decided against it. He was riding great, let him go. I was confident we’d see him on Columbine.

And then we caught up with another singlespeeder. As is traditional when singlespeeders catch each other, we performed the “What gear are you riding?” ritual.

He started out. “What gear are you riding?” he asked. 

“34 by 19,” I answered, then continued (as dictated by tradition), “How about you?”

“32 by 20,” he replied.

“Oh, that’s the same gear my wife is riding,” I replied, truthfully. Then, realizing that this could be interpreted as a jab, I amended, “And I’m sure lots of men ride that gear too.”

At this point I realized that I was only underscoring the unintended jab and was making things worse. Which put me at a crossroads: redirect the conversation (best choice), continue to backpedal (not a great choice, but definitely in character), or spike the ball.

“I’m going to give you the nickname 32 20, OK?” I asked.

The Hammer rolled her eyes. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Craig,” he replied. 

“Good to meet you, 32 20,” I said.

The Hammer punched me in the throat, crushing my larynx, cutting off my air supply, and effectively stopping me from saying anything further.

OK, she actually just gave me a look, but it had more or less the same effect.

The three of us rode together, happily chatting. And we were moving fast, too. Catching racers, in spite of the fact that we were all on singlespeeds.

And then we caught another singlespeeder. “I have never,” I said, “been in a group of four singlespeeders in a race before.” 

And then I attacked both of them, yelling as I went by, “I just jumped two places in my division standings!”

It was hilarious. Trust me.

All Together Now

I don’t remember where or how we parted ways with Craig (32 20) or the other singlespeeder (never learned his name and can’t remember his gearing, but his jersey read “Pantone” across the back), but I think it must have been as we reached our crew at the Twin Lakes aid station.

We had a lot of people there crewing for us: The Hammer’s brother, Scott, his friend Kara, Car and Couch, Blake, and Rohit’s mom. And we had given detailed instructions on what we each needed.

As a result, they were prepared for any of us to come in at any time.

What they were not prepared for, however — what never occurred to us to ask them to be prepared for — was us all coming in at more or less the exact same time.

Let me just lay things out, chronologically, as best as I can, using what I realize is incomplete information. We’ll start with “0:00” as being the moment the first of our group entered the area where our crew was waiting for us.

0:00 – Rohit enters the pit area

0:01 – Rohit’s mom starts helping Rohit

0:10 – The Hammer and Fatty enter the pit area

0:11 – The Hammer climbs off her bike and walks behind the pit area, telling everyone there not to watch, she has to pee. 

0:15 – Car hands Fatty a Coke and some endurolyte capsules

0:16 – Couch swaps Fatty’s bottles

0:17 – The Monster pulls in to the crew station and begins bellowing for support. Why is nobody helping her?! 

0:20 – Fatty wonders aloud why nobody has given him any new GUs (the reason? Kara and Scott have hurried over to help the very urgent requests of The Monster)

0:23 – Couch hands Fatty a handful of GUs

0:25 – Fatty yells to The Hammer that he’s heading out, but will be stopping at a porta potty as soon as he can find one (Fatty is more private about such matters than The Hammer). She should continue on and he’ll catch her as soon as possible.

0:40 – Fatty finds a porta potty not fifty feet away from the pit crew tent. Relieved, he steps inside to…get some relief. He considers, briefly, that usually he doesn’t need to pee until about five hours into this race, but this time needs to a mere three hours into it. Weird.

0:50 – The Hammer rides by the porta potty, yelling as she goes by

1:00 – The Monster rides by the porta potty, but does not yell as she goes by. 

1:10 – Fatty exits the porta potty, wondering at how he’s managed to wind up in last place. He spins up to full speed, hoping to catch back up as quickly as possible.

What Didn’t Happen

Here’s the thing: by me detailing out the timeline of who did what for whom and when, I have made it seem like things went pretty smoothly at the Twin Lakes pit stop.

And as far as I was concerned, they did go smoothly. I got out quickly with everything I needed, found a toilet immediately after, and got back to racing. Very few seconds lost.

However, things had not gone as smoothly as I had thought. Which I would find out very soon. 

As I exited the porta potty, I could see The Monster just a hundred or so feet ahead. I jumped on my bike and gave chase, trying to catch up to her as quickly as I could. 

“The Moooooonnnnnnnnnssssssttteerrrrr!” I yelled, as I closed in.

Faaaaatttty!” She yelled back. 

“You are killing it!” I yelled. “I gotta go catch your mom now!” And then I redoubled my efforts, racing like I was in the final stretch of the race, and not about to hit an eight-mile climb that would take me up to 12,500 feet.

By going absolutely all-out, I managed to catch up to The Hammer just half a mile outside the aid station. “Back together!” I yelled, happily. “What a madhouse at the pit stop,” I effused, “But it went great!”

“It didn’t go great,” The Hammer said, her voice flat in the way that tells me that things went very not-great indeed.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I’m still wearing my toe warmers and heavy gloves,” she said.

Mentally, I sighed with relief. That was an expensive mistake, but not costly in terms of time. We could always just ditch those, toss them to someone on the side of the trail. We’d never get them back, but it wasn’t the kind of thing to be concerned about during a race.

“And also,” The Hammer said, “They didn’t switch my Camelbak out.”


“In the confusion with me peeing and The Monster coming in so we’re all there wanting stuff at the same time, I forgot to have them switch my Cambelbak out, and they forgot too. And they didn’t ask about gloves or my toe covers.”

“So how much do you have left in your Camelbak right now?” I asked. “Anything?”

“Some,” The Hammer answered, which is really the best estimate anyone wearing a Camelbak can ever give. Personally, I have several times been utterly convinced I had a third of a bladder full at the moment I got that shkkrkrrreekkk slurping sound that indicates you are out.

And she had a new, full bottle of Carborocket 333. And I had two full bottles. Enough to get the two of us to the top of Columbine. Probably. And we could refill there.

“OK,” I said, and told her my plan, which involved her throwing away about $100-worth of her favorite cold-weather bike gear, as well as both of us probably hopefully only running out of water just slightly before we reached the Columbine mine summit.

The Hammer was not delighted with this solution, but it was something.

And then, like a bolt out of the blue, I had a perfect moment of clarity. One which would let The Hammer get rid of her cold weather stuff now, without losing it forever. Further, she’d have enough fluid to get not just to the summit of Columbine, but all the way back to the Twin Lakes aid station. 

It was simple, it was smart, and I was 100% certain it would work. To be honest, I was a little bit astonished that the idea came to me at that moment. My brain doesn’t usually work all that well when I’m racing. 

And I will explain what this brilliant moment of clarity was — and describe the two most disheartening moments of the entire race — in the next installment of this story.

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