Mar 05

Race Report: The Woodlands Marathon

Or….. The bittersweet PR

Or….. Venturing into The Great Country of Texas

Or….. 12 F&@*ing seconds!!!!!!!!!

I’ll come back and write about our entire weekend in The Great Country of Texas but for now I’m just going to focus on the main event; The Woodlands Marathon.

First off, I just want to thank everyone for all of their support and encouragement along the way.  My phone was blowing up with emails, tweets, texts, and Facebook messages (the only thing missing was smoke signals) before the race wishing us good luck.  It seriously meant the world to me.   You guys all rock!

If you just want the quick recap, I finished in 3:05:12 missing out on my Boston Qualifying time of 3:05:00 by a measly 12 seconds.  This earned me 4th (out of 40) in my age group and 29th (out of 999) overall.  While I missed qualifying for Boston, I still scored a solid 15 minute PR over my last marathon in October.  I was also the fastest Michigander at the race as well (there was a second person from Michigan).  This was by far the most painful race I have ever experienced – easily 10 times harder than finishing IMWI.

Pre Race

The goal for this race was to qualify for Boston. Both Jeff and I were attempting this for the first time.  This meant running a sub 3:05:00 for me and a sub 3:10:00 for Jeff. Had we been doing this same race last year, we would have each had an extra 5:59 to qualify but this is the first year of Boston’s new tighter standards.  It sucks, but it is what it is.

We were up at 4:00 and out the door not too long after that. It was a quick drive to The Woodlands and we got great parking close to the race start.

2012-03-02 19.27.34

We had a whole crew for this race. A bunch of Jeff and Annie’s friends were also running the full/half marathon. Not only that, but Jason came up from Dallas to spectate and cheer.  It was great to finally meet him as well.

The weather for the race was amazing! I was a little worried because on Thursday and Friday the temps had been in the 70’s with sludge like humidity.  I knew that if that weather carried over into race day that I was going to be in trouble because I was training in 30-40 weather if not cooler.  Thankfully, a cold front swept through and brought with it weather in the mid-40’s.  It was perfect for a Midwestern like me.  And it was comical to see all the Texans huddled around shivering.  There was a little bit of wind, but thankfully it was coming out of the direction that we would be running the least.


Jeff and I lined up at the start with the 3:00 pace group.  This meant we were right behind the elite runners and basically toeing the starting line.  I was a bit nervous at this point because my hamstrings had tightened up on me the previous night and were still giving me some trouble.  I knew that absolutely everything would have to go right to hit my goal.

2012-03-02 19.47.32

The elites started at 6:45AM.  There seemed to be a lot of people in the elite group but we realized that most of them were doing the half marathon.  It turns out there were 14 elite marathoners and 29 elite half marathoners.

Right after the elites took off, it was our turn.  With a simple  “Go!” yelled by the race director, we were off.

Our goal for the race was to stick with the 3:00 pace group as long as possible and eventually drop back and just work to keep them in sight.

The First Half

Right out of the gate, we were cruising. It took a couple miles to get comfortable, but once I settled in I was feeling great.  My hamstrings eventually loosened up on me and my stride was comfortable.  I carried a 10oz Fuel Belt handheld for fluids and 4 Gu for nutrition.  This allowed me to skip most of the aid stations.  Instead, every 6 miles or so, I would pop off the top, slow down at the aid station, and refill it quickly.  This actually worked out great and I’ll be using this strategy again.

We really rocked the first half of the race clipping off the miles at a 6:52 pace.  We stuck together all the way through the halfway mark hitting 13.1 miles at almost 1:30 exactly.

2012-03-02 21.17.30

And basically were matching stride for stride – quite literally actually.

2012-03-02 21.17.53

Second Half

Shortly after the halfway point, we fell back from the the 3:00 pace group a bit.  We kept them right in our sights though. 

It was at mile 17 when the wheels started to fall off. We had our first 7:00+ split (7:08) and I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep going.  Jeff was still looking strong so I told him to go ahead.  I eased up a bit, but got a second wind and caught back up to him.  We went on like this for the next few miles; leap frogging as each of surged and the other worked to hang on.  It was really just the two of us out there at this point and I honestly don’t remember seeing any other racers out there.  I know we picked off a couple people that had fallen back from the 3:00 pace group, but I don’t remember getting passed by anyone.

Mile 23 is where my downfall was.  My right quad was really tight and started to cramp up on me. I succumbed to walking the entire length of the aid station and generally feeling sorry for myself.  I mentally yelled at myself to HTFU and made myself start running again.  This mini pity party resulted in my slowest split of the day (8:04) and basically resulted in missing my BQ time.  I did snap myself out of it though and made a valiant final attempt.

By that point, I knew I was going to be cutting it really close to 3:05.  I didn’t even want to look at my watch because I knew that doing the math would just reaffirm what I already knew.  My only chance was to bust ass and go as hard as I could.  Around mile 22, we had caught up to some of the half marathoners.  This added a little congestion, but it was actually beneficial because it gave us people to work at picking off.  I sucked it up and charged to 7:14 and 7:03 final splits with the final .2 miles at 6:11 pace.

2012-03-02 22.52.16

I charged across the finish line knowing that I had fallen just short of my goal: 3:05:12.  I was a bit devastated to say the least.

2012-03-03 09.53.41
Looking back at the clock wanting to scream and yell.

I shook it off though and turned around to watch for Jeff.  It didn’t take long. He showed up just over a minute after I crossed which qualified him for Boston by 3 and a half minutes (full report here).  Jeff was struggling a bit so I helped him over to a golf cart to take him to the medical tent. (Don’t worry, he is fine now)

2012-03-03 09.54.00

Post Race

As always, Jennie was waiting for me at this finish line. This time, however, she wasn’t simply waiting around as a spectator. She was waiting around a first time half marathoner! I’ll let her tell her own story, but I am so freaking proud of her!

We both headed over to collect our finisher’s shirt.

2012-03-03 10.11.32

2012-03-03 00.07.38

We eventually found the food tent, but it left a lot to be desired.  They had oranges, rice?!??!, and pop.  All I wanted was a pop for the caffeine, but had to wait in a long line of half marathoners just to get to it.  Jennie was bold enough to get a bowl of the rice (which was mixed with ground turkey), but I passed.  This has to be the weirdest post race food ever.

2012-03-03 10.35.14

2012-03-03 00.08.09
Jason (spectator/sherpa extraordinaire), myself, and Jeff.

Let’s try that one again – at the same height this time.  This one is for you Matt and Jon.

2012-03-03 00.08.16
I believe the reason it looks like Jeff is talking is because he is calling me an ass. haha

We hung around a bit, but we all got cold quickly.  The wind was starting to pick up and it was chilling us to the bone.  Thankfully Annie saved us a half mile walk and pulled the car up for us.  Now that we had tightened up, that half mile walk could have taken us a full hour.

The Race

Overall, this was an amazing race.  It was an inaugural event, but by the way it was run, you’d never know it.  My biggest complaint was the post race food, but other than that, I was really impressed.  They had a great flat course, plenty of volunteers, and really thought of everything. One thing that impressed me the most was how well they managed the multiple events.  There was the marathon and half marathon along with a 5k and 2k fun run. Each even got their own special finisher shirt and medal which was really a nice touch.


Disappointment aside, this was an amazing race. I am super happy with my PR and how I finished.  Even though I got mentally down, I managed to pick myself up and make a strong final attempt.  I couldn’t have done it without the loving support from Jennie.  And a huge “Thanks!” goes out to Jeff for giving me the support and encouragement along the way to get me to the finish line.  This doesn’t go just for race day but for the 12 weeks of training leading up to race day.  I’m going to post about The Plan later this week and go into more detail, but having someone working towards the same goal was one of the biggest helps I have ever had in a race.

I’m sure I’ll reattempt a BQ marathon, but not sure when.  Maybe this fall at the Grand Rapids Marathon, but that all depends on how IMMT training goes.  Speaking of which, IMMT training started today.  Whoops. Looks like I am taking an off day on my first day!

Stay tuned for a post later this week about the whole Texas experience!!!

Official Results

Total Time: 3:05:12
Overall Place: 29/999
Gender Place: 25/589
Age Group Place: 4/40
Run Pace: 7:04 min/mile

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2012/03/05/race-report-the-woodlands-marathon


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  1. Matthew Smith

    Kevin, I almost choked up reading your race report with Jennifer. You were so close, and yet 12 seconds away. I know that you are the kind of guy that isn’t going to let this get you too “down in the dumps.” I’m sure it stings, but you’re the man anyway. Boston is out there waiting for you, and I know that you’ll run it one day soon! You really had an incredible marathon. That’s an amazing time, and to think about being the 29th guy to cross the line? That’s amazing!!! Way to go, buddy!

    The post race food seemed super lame. What a bust! It’s a good thing you had that awesome half-marathoner wife of yours to pull the car around. That might have been a LONG walk to the car.

    Onward and upwards to IMMT!!!!!!!!!
    Matthew Smith recently posted..Frustration with the Future

    1. Matthew Smith

      Oh yeah, and I loved the “same size” picture. Haha! Are we giants or something? We definitely freaking good looking! 🙂
      Matthew Smith recently posted..Frustration with the Future

  2. Annie

    Great report Kevin! It was great meeting you guys! Can

  3. Annie

    Can’t wait to read the Texas report 😉
    You had an awesome race!! Can’t wait till IMMT!

  4. Jeff Irvin

    Great race report buddy! We really were all alone out there towards the end. Man, was that shit hard.

    Excellent point about the training. We are going to have to do the same thing with IMMT because it really helped to keep me motivated and training hard – maybe setup a Google Groups?

    I did not see those pics of us standing at the finish line earlier – we looked awful! Check out the nipple blood on my Brooks singlet — aaggghh!

    It was an awesome weekend hanging out with you and Jennie and we are already looking forward to Quebec. And remember Quebec is like the Texas of Canada – this means you need cowboy boots!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..The Woodlands Marathon Race Report

  5. Jeff Irvin

    BTW – I absolutely housed that strange rice bowl. Jason was mortified and amazed all at the same time!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..The Woodlands Marathon Race Report

  6. Emz

    Ok. First.
    Second….you freaking rock.
    Third you freaking rock.
    Fourth. What the hell with the post run food?

    You’re awesome.

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Fifth. Where the hell was the pickle juice?

  7. Kris

    12 seconds? Wow, that sucks. A 15 minute PR is amazing though!

  8. Christina

    I read about your finish on Jeff’s post and was broken hearted for you. I know they have to have some kind of cutoff, but I think it still sucks. Good luck as you prepare for IMMT
    Christina recently posted..Time in Old Saddle

  9. XLMIC

    Totally understanding your disappointment…and what f*ckers those BAA guys are to stop that :59 tacked on to qualifying times thing…especially with already cutting 5 min. off. Okay, rant over. You pulled off such an incredible race…really and truly inspiring…from effort to attitude…you really gave all you had.
    XLMIC recently posted..Challenges…and a Virtual Race

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Yeah, there certainly was a lot of ranting about the BQ standards both leading up to the race and after, but in the end, it is what it is. I’m happy with my performance and I know that I’ll get there eventually. It will be interesting to see how much the new standards affect registration this fall.

  10. Colleen

    Only in Texass do you get rice and ground turkey at the finish line. WEIRD!!! 🙂

    Kevin, you had an amazing race. I’m sure you have a lot of excitement with the PR (um… hello… 15 minutes!?!?) and some disappointment about the 12 seconds that will haunt you for a while. Remember this… there are a lot of us out here who strive in life to run just one mile as fast as you ran 26.2. You are amazing! You’ll get your BQ…

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Only is Texas do you get/see a lot of things. After visiting, I really understand the whole “Country of Texas” thing even more. It is totally its own place.

      I totally get what you are saying. I never want to take for granted the fact that I was able to run a 3:05 marathon. It is a huge accomplishment and I don’t want to diminish that at all. I’m pretty much over the disappointment stage already. What is the next stage? Bargaining, right? haha. I just have to keep working at it and I know I’ll get there.

  11. Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race

    Let me say what a pleasure it was to hang out with you and Jennie. I laughed all weekend long with you guys and had a blast. Can’t wait for MiTi next August to do it again.

    The other thing I want to say, and told my buddy Juan, you my friend are incredible in self-control. To not be outwardly disappointed is amazing. You kept your composure and was an example to me. An example I will try to emulate in the future.

    Best line of the weekend was waiting at the medical tent when you said: I wish I had breasts…..haha! Jennie’s response: you want it that bad? Then silence.

    And yes Jeff I was alarmed by you eating that but not because of the food but because you barely took a breathe while guzzling it down and then the question of: What is this green stuff? Haha!

    Awesome weekend with you and your spouses and thank you for allowing me to butt into it.
    Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race recently posted..Frugal Grocer Week In Review

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      MiTi 2013!!!! It is going to be awesome!!

      Honestly, I wanted to yell and scream and throw shit around. I really don’t know how I kept it in. I think realizing that Jeff was still out there made me hold back to make sure he qualified. I sort of freaked out some of the volunteers when I saw him and started yelling. Also, I think there was a bit a of just being completely dismayed by it being so close. Kinda of a “Are you fricken serious?” moment.

      I still can’t believe Jeff ate that stuff.

  12. lindsay

    the orange shirt would have made you faster…

    bummer about the 12 seconds (or is it really 13 to get you to 3:04:59?), but you know you are quite capable of reaching it.

    i was sending smoke signals, but they got blown out to sea with the tornado storm front that rolled through here after it hit up indiana and kentucky. sorry.
    lindsay recently posted..national m&m day

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      HAHA! You are probably right. I did do a taper run in the orange shirt, but I have to change things up every now and then. It is getting difficult to tell race pictures apart.

      I think it is 12 seconds. 3:05:00 counts I think.

      It sounds like those tornados were crazy. They didn’t make it to SC though did they? Probably glad you aren’t driving to and from Kentucky right aren’t you?

  13. Beth

    You did an awesome job PR’ing by 15 freakin’ minutes!! Sorry for the 12 sec loss – but knowing what you know now…you will totally qualify for Boston when you decide to try again.

    If you want some awesome post-race food, travel down to GA for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in November – this race has the best food ever! (registration opened up March 1st and fills up quickly, hint, hint)
    Beth recently posted..February Recap

  14. BDD

    When I found out, my heart literally sank. I am happy for you and your 15 minute PR, that is amazing, and congrats to Jeanie as well, joining the club. The both of you are awesome, I am glad to know you both.

    PS Wanna come down for GC? I will pay for your race entry fee
    BDD recently posted..Guest Post – A Note to (Scared) Newbies and the Overweight…

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Thanks for the offer! I might still come down to GC to spectate depending on how my work schedule is looking. Definitely not going to be racing it though.

  15. Jon

    All I read was, “blah blah blah blah blah I am taller than everyone.”


    But seriously! So close! Yet awesome freaking job!!! 15 min PR is AMAZING!

    You and Jeff really killed it out there. I don’t know if I ever want to experience the pain your guys put your bodies through.

    How many miles did you rack up in the process for this marathon?
    Jon recently posted..Amping Up the Volume

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      HAHA 😀

      Everyone has to experience the pain at least once. And once you do it once, you’ll want to do it again and again.

      I’m hoping to get into full details about the training later this week, but from 12/12 – 3/3 (the 12 official weeks of the plan) I racked up 721 miles over 96 hours of running.

  16. Heather O

    I am in awe of your ability to so easily see past those 12 seconds and not be “angry” about missing the BQ by that little. You are honestly one of the most amazing, hardworking, dedicated, honest, and humble people I know! You and Jennie are good people! I like that!

    Anyways, I think you rock and a 15 min PR at that pace is AMAZING! BQ is just a stupid random number and like you said if it were last year’s number you would have BQ’d no problem. We all know you are capable of achieving it whether you make a second attempt or not. Congrats on your accomplishment and an even bigger congrats on being able to over come your disappointment and not beat yourself up over 12 seconds. Loved the race report and I’m glad they let you back into America after being in Texas 😉

  17. Carolina John

    Ok you did an incredibly amazing job out there. Well done bro! Coming so close to a bq and an age group award is still seriously impressive.
    Carolina John recently posted..Manamana Monday

  18. sarah

    I agree with you, that post race food was weird! And I know you missed your time by :12 seconds, but you still had a really awesome race!
    sarah recently posted..B&A Half Marathon Race Report

  19. adena

    12 seconds? jeeez!!! Disappointment aside that is an amazing time. Love the post race photos! For the record, the post race food is usually my dinner (just add veggies).
    adena recently posted..meh…

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Well, I suppose that is better than poutine for dinner… 😉 I think there was actually some veggies in the concoction but they were few and far between.

  20. katie

    oh man…..I’ve been exactly here, I know how it feels. I hope you can get up and over it and back out there – bigger, faster, greater things await you!
    katie recently posted..more musings

  21. Morgan

    You are amazing Kevin and everyone is so proud of you! You rocked the hell out of that race and have a HELLUVA PR to show for it. That BQ is yours next attempt I have no doubt.
    Morgan recently posted..Can I Please Get a Shirt That Fits?!?!

  22. Beth

    You put up an incredible race! Congrats on the huge PR, I know a BQ is in your future!
    Beth recently posted..Champion!

  23. Grandma

    What an awesome race, Kevin! You are an amazing runner.

  24. Spike

    You were amazing. Never forget the moment when you gave up, then fought through it. Well done. Missing a BQ by a few seconds is difficult to swallow, but you did amazing. Take heart buddy. I’m proud of you.

  25. Shannon

    I am sorry you missed my smoke signals from North Texas! They were there! I promise! Along with my daughter and me ringing the cowbell to cheer you both on! I think I blew up Jason’s phone with texts for updates…

    A huge congratulations to you and Jennie for great races. My heart broke for you over those 12 seconds, but you had an awesome run. Love the pic of you squatting next to Jeff and Jason… I about spit out my Diet D.P. when I saw it. Too funny.

    And seriously, that’s the worst post-race meal… EVER! Runners only eat healthy until we race and then it’s a free-for-all. Again, super proud of ya’all! Let the training for IMMT, begin! 🙂
    Shannon recently posted..Running Through February!

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      I was most shocked by the healthy food after seeing all of the unhealthy food at the rodeo. Seeing that healthy crap at the finish line made me want to go back and find a turkey leg, some deep fried Oreos, and sausage on a stick. haha! You Texans sure know how to put on a rodeo. That place was crazy.

      Thanks for your cheering and support!

  26. elizabeth

    Excellent!! Congratulations on an impressive PR and finish time!! That BQ will be yours next time for sure.
    elizabeth recently posted..There and Back Again: A Race Report of the 2012 Quakertown Rotary 4 Miler

  27. Matt Oravec

    Alright, I guess… leave it to me to be the ass in the group. I read all the comments. Yeah, good race, awesome PR blah blah blah, we all know that, no matter what you were going to have an AWESOME RACE!!!

    However, I feel emotionally vested in this race. I didn’t read your report all week or comment or send you any messages because I am sick to my stomach from this. Like, legitimately nauseous.

    Here is my issue, you trained probably more than I would have to even dream of “feeling ready to try this”. I was CERTAIN you had this. You not getting it has completely thrown out any thoughts I have had of ever trying to achieve this … until I am older of course haha.

    So here is my thing, I would have over analyzed the whole race and seriously punched myself in the face at the finish, it’s one of those, miss it by a minute or more… ok. Miss it by a minute or less, FTW (no, NOT for the win this time haha F the world!).

    Yet you are totally taking the high road and looking at the positive. I commend you on this.

    Alright, getting serious here, great job man. I know what it’s like to push the body to those limits and it becomes a total mental game where you actually have to tell your body that you need to run and need to run faster because the body is already giving you the middle finger and threatening to shut down.

    Regardless of a BQ or not. You have your whole life for that. This was a performance of epic proportions (hehe, wonder if Jon will read this) where you were faced w/ a hurdle to contend with and still push so hard to attempt something that very few people can claim, a sub 3:05:00 marathon. You have proved that you have it in you, just not last weekend that’s all.

    Congrats to both you and Jennie for getting huge PRs and for braving the trip that most Americans fear… crossing the border into a foreign land known as Texas.
    Matt Oravec recently posted..February totals and something YOU need to do…

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      How is this being the ass in the group??? This was an awesome comment!

      Apparently I must be pretty good about holding back my emotions??? I think I must just be more of internal person than external. Internally, I was devastated. I saw the clock as I crossed the finish line and knew that I started right at the front so my chip time would be my clock time. I was pretty pissed at first. I got over it faster than I thought though. I could rant and rave about it (and yes, Jeff, Jason and I did that), but in the end, where is that going to get me? Nowhere except being bitter. Might as well, get up, brush myself off, and keep trudging forward. I think having IMMT training starting right up helped me to just switch focus and move on.

      While I trained my ass off for this race, I was never 100% confident that I could hit my goal and I think that was my downfall on race day. I knew from the beginning how much it hurt to run the 3:20 back in October and how much more it would hurt to shave off 15+ minutes. I think Jeff had the advantage mentally having never raced a 26.2 hard. In the back of my mind, it was always a possibility that I would fail. And when I hit mile 20 and was physically tired, I let my mental side take over and convince me that I would fail. This probably falls in line with some of Fitz’s Brain Training theories, but once I mentally got down, it was harder to focus on the goal. That led to walking through an entire aid station and all but giving up 3 miles short of the finish line. I go back and forth about it though. If I hadn’t walked, would I have succeeded? Or did that walk give me the extra strength I needed to put forth a surge at the end? So, as you can see, I did spend some time analyzing it. haha 🙂

      Now that I have come so close to a BQ, I am more confident that it is possible. During my next attempt, I hope that I can fight through the mental low points and battle all the way to the finish.

      When I was at the bargaining stage of coping with the disappointment, I had the realization that it isn’t the end of the world. This is really the first time I have failed at one of my goals. Granted, I haven’t really set very many aggressive goals, but it was humbling to set a goal and fail at it the first time. To some degree, this will make it even more glorious when I do eventually BQ.

      Finally, I know you. You can totally BQ when you are ready to train for it. You are an amazing runner! I should know; you pushed me to a half marathon PR at GC. You have been talking about a bit about your lack of motivation for a BAHG (Big Ass Hairy Goal) and I totally get that. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I was training with Jeff, I don’t know how motivated I could have been. We were texting/emailing nearly every day with our progress and it not only kept me honest but reassured me that training was going as it should. Days/weeks where I was hurting/struggling were the same ones that Jeff was struggling through so I knew that it wasn’t just me and was just part of the process. Let me know when you are ready to go for it and maybe I’ll be ready for another goal.

  28. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    Seriously, you are amazing. What you accomplished was amazing. I know you missed your BQ by 12 seconds, which really really sucks, but your time and a 15min. PR is something you should be extremely proud of!! I have no doubt that when you do decide to go for a BQ again, you WILL get it!
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Humpastry Day – Brown Rice Krispie Treats

  29. James F

    Awesome job on this! Very impressive!
    James F recently posted..Time to Get Nerdy on February!

  30. DR

    “standing around with shivering Texans”
    hahaha lol

    Ahhhh fu#cking Mazing
    this is total badass

    3:05 is sick sick sick
    and the late game rally charge at the end….what an effort – speechless!
    love this report
    love this race you went down to do with Jeff
    you are now in the most excellent shape ever to start an IM training schedule….ill also now be excited to see how the summer goes and what you can do at the IM

    3:05 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    the new BQ times for guys is really difficult. You made the old qualifier time by a ton and only just barely missed here in TX. this is not a 12sec miss….this is a way more a sub 3:10 marathon by 5 minutes. A training partner of mine is this skinny sleek runner dude who is 33 and is gifted runner. he is training riight now for a 2:50 but his PR is 3:09 two years ago. 3:05 is unba.
    way to go – be super proud – you are badass – that was a sick run


  1. Great Reads This Week – Friday Link Love |

    […] to get a LOT faster. But how much would it hurt to miss your qualifying time by 12 SECONDS? Read Kevin’s recap of the Woodlands Marathon to find […]

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