Preview: 2017 Hardrock Endurance Run

This Friday at 6:00 A.M., the Hardrock Endurance Run starts in Silverton, Colorado. The race started in 1992 and is considered one of the most prestigious ultramarathon trail runs in the world. One of the reasons why the 2017 edition will be special is because Debbie is running it for the first time. It’s not easy to get into Hardrock. 145 runners will toe the start line, and she is part of a subset of 45 “Never” runners who have never started the race. There will be 33 “Veterans” who have run five or more times, and there will be 67 “Else” runners who have done the race less than five times, or who started by didn’t finish a previous run. I’m glossing over some of the details, but they are outlined on the detailed Lottery page of the website.

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The key point is that Hardrock is a very difficult race to obtain entry to, especially for runners who have never done it, and especially for women. There are only 22 women in this year’s race. Debbie first applied to get in after the 2011 Grindstone 100. Just getting into the lottery takes work. You have to complete one of a select number of qualifying 100 mile runs. They are all races held on rugged terrain and have significant elevation change. Running 100 miles is hard, regardless of the course, but some races are harder than others. Hardrock is among the hardest. The website is a great resource, but throughout this post, I interspersed hyperlinks to help you gain a better understanding of the race. I’ll also add commentary on this year’s edition.

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The about page offers a concise overview:

The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is an ultramarathon of 100.5 miles in length, plus 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet. The run is held on a loop course on 4WD roads, dirt trails, and cross country in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range, USA. In 2017, the run will be in the counter-clockwise direction, from July 14-16.

The run starts and ends in Silverton, Colorado and travels through the towns of Telluride, Ouray, and the ghost town of Sherman, crossing thirteen major passes in the 12,000′ to 13,000′ range. Entrants must travel above 12,000 feet (3,700 m) of elevation a total of 13 times, with the highest point on the course being the 14,048′ summit of Handies Peak. The run has been held in early July of each year beginning in 1992, except for 1995 (too much snow) and 2002 (nearby forest fires). Each year’s run is run in the opposite direction of the previous year’s event (2016 was run in the clockwise direction, 2017 will be counter-clockwise). In order to complete the event, instead of crossing a finish line, runners are required to “kiss the Hardrock”, a picture of a ram’s head painted on a large block of stone mining debris.

This course offers a graduate level challenge for endurance runs. The course is designed to provide extreme challenges in altitude, steepness, and remoteness. Mountaineering, wilderness survival and wilderness navigation skills are as important in this event as your endurance.

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Hardrock will garner a lot of media attention, so there are a number of other great resources to consult for history, storylines, and coverage. I’ll add some of the best links to this post. Some of the recent Hardrock news has swirled around the International Trail Running Association, the UTMB, and the Ultra-Trail World Tour. UTMB, which Debbie started, but did not finish in 2007, is another one of ultrarunning’s iconic races. 10 years ago, it was a lot easier, but today, runners are required to accumulate points at qualifying races around the world. Hardrock has not joined and that has made news. The race’s stance has also rekindled questions about the fairness of Hardrock’s lottery. I’ll steer clear of the politics and just admit that Hardrock is hard to get in to, and Debbie is grateful to be in this year’s event.

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So, after Grindstone, she applied for 2012, but didn’t get into Hardrock. Her qualifier was good for two years, but she also missed out in 2013. She ran another qualifier, the 2013 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, but failed to finish, which to this day, along with the 2007 UTMB, are her only ultrarunning DNF’s. She returned to the TRT100 in 2014 and finished. At that time, TRT100 was still a Hardrock qualifier, so she tried the lottery twice again, but missed out in 2015 and 2016. Once again needing to extend her qualifying window, she completed the 2015 ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI. That was quite an adventure! Throughout this period of time, she was applying to the Western States Endurance Run, one of the sports other iconic races. She has paced/crewed at WS100, but never gotten in herself. Many years ago, she missed a “Golden Ticket” automatic entry to WS100 by one spot. She will keep applying with hopes of running someday, but between Western States and Hardrock, the latter was clearly her preference. The smaller field, the San Juan Mountains, and the rugged nature of the course are more appealing to her and more suited to her style of trail running.

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So, back in December when they held the lottery for this year’s race, we were thrilled when she was picked 7th on the Never wait list. 45 Never runners made it in and six others were in front of her. We did a bunch of research to determine what the odds were of her getting in to the race.We reviewed prior years’ data to determine that the 7th spot on the Never wait list made it in some years and not in others, including 2016, when only four runners made it off the wait list. It was worrisome, but we held a family meeting and decided that no matter what, we were going to Hardrock, whether she got to run it or not. She would build her training plan and our family travel plan around the race. If she didn’t get to run, we would volunteer, pace, observe, and enjoy the mountains. As a fallback plan, she applied and got in to another Hardrock qualifier, the Cascade Crest 100. That way, without a Hardrock start/finish, she could apply again for the 2018 race.

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There was no movement on the wait list until late-May. With the full refund deadline looming on June 1st, the action started. Over the course of a week, leading up to the deadline, she steadily moved up to first on the waitlist. We were worried that there might not be more dropouts until race week. We figured that after the refund deadline passed, runners wouldn’t willingly drop out; but that only an injury, illness, family matter, or some other reason out of their control would lead to a DNS. 15% attrition is about right for a typical race like this with registration so far in advance, and seven out of 45 is 15.5%.

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Then, the afternoon after the deadline had passed, on June 1st, she got a call from the Run Director Dale Garland, with an invitation to run. She didn’t hesitate to accept the entry. She left me an ecstatic voicemail. I don’t know who was happier. We have been a team since 1999 and I was pumped about crewing this event. I was equally as excited to visit southwest Colorado with our family.

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She has done more than 80 ultramarathon trail running races since her first in 1999, and there is no question that the 2017 Hardrock will be the biggest one yet. Her preparation has been solid. We have a Hypoxico Altitude Training System and have used it diligently for the last four-month in anticipation of the race. We live at 590 feet in Connecticut, so this is one step we took to acclimatize. Her big training runs included our Long Trail Adventure, our Mohawk Trail Adventure, her Manitou’s Revenge Ultra run, and our recent Katahdin Adventure. She couldn’t simulate the high altitude in training, but she definitely got in a lot of hill running/hiking on rugged terrain.

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We arrived in the San Juan’s at the end of last week. All of the Camp Hardrock events begin today in Silverton. Packet pickup is tomorrow and the pre-race briefing is on Thursday. Yesterday, we drove to Ridgway to visit friends and then they took us back to Ouray to enjoy the hot springs and see the town. We saw some of the mountains, but didn’t get on to the trails. Having our kids along on this adventure can limit some of the activity, but they are an integral part of Debbie’s crew. My cousin, Danny Roy, arrives later this week and will round out the team. He has been a “go to” pacer for Debbie at her ultras over the past five years. We still have a few days to go, but the excitement is building.

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As for Hardrock Endurance Run resources, here is a bevy of information:

Medawisla Lodge and Cabins

After we concluded our Mount Katahdin Adventure, and bid adieu to our family and friends, Debbie, the kids, and I drove from Baxter State Park to Medawisla Lodge and Cabins near Kokadjo, Maine.

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We pulled out our Maine Gazetteer (there was no cell service, hence no Google Maps) and navigated a patchwork of logging roads. We took the Golden Road for part of the way and drove along the Penobscot River. We saw one moose, and a lot of rafters and kayakers. The roads were rough, but our Subaru Outback handled the bumps fine. It took a little over two hours to reach the lodge, and that was counting the 30 minutes from Roaring Brook Campground to the Gatehouse. We couldn’t average more than 20 miles per hour.

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Medawisla is the newest of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Lodges. It is so new, that it just opened on July 1st, and isn’t quite complete. We were there on the third night. Debbie and I are both active AMC volunteers, serving on the Board of Advisors and Board of Directors. We have been involved with AMC’s Maine Woods Initiative since its infancy. I was eager to visit the new lodge. We visited Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins (back then it was known as Little Lyford Pond Camps) on a winter trip in 2003, shortly after it opened, but hadn’t been back. Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins was acquired around 2008, and then rebuilt in 2011. Like Little Lyford, Medawisla was a legacy sporting camp that the AMC substantially renovated. In the case of Medawisla, which was purchaed in 2006, it was, and still is, being rebuilt from the ground up. There are definitely some loose ends to tie up, but when you are a 146 year old organization with a long-term time horizon, you can invest the time to get it right.

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Our organization’s long history of operating the White Mountain Huts (129 years) highlights our track record in mountain hospitality. The Maine lodges offer a very different experience than the New Hampshire huts. The mountains are smaller, but they still offer a great hiking and trail running experience in the warmer months, and awesome cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter months. The abundance of ponds, lakes,  and streams are fantastic for paddling and fishing. The three AMC Maine lodges are all located on the water. In the case of Medawisla, it is on Second Roach Pond, which is part of AMC’s Roach Pond Tract of land.

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AMC describes the initiative on its landing page: “The Maine Woods Initiative is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s strategy for land conservation in the 100-Mile Wilderness region. The Initiative is an innovative approach to conservation that combines outdoor recreation, resource protection, sustainable forestry, and community partnerships. To date, AMC has purchased and permanently conserved 70,000 acres of forest land, created over 120 miles of recreational trails, opened three sporting camps to the public, established an FSC-certified sustainable forestry operation, and developed a partnership with local Piscataquis County schools.”

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AMC has invested more than $6 million into the rebuild of Medawisla. “Green building” techniques are a hallmark of AMC’s facilities and Medawisla has many modern sustainable building features. The cabins are beautiful. They come in a few configurations; some have private baths and others make use of a shared bathhouse. Each has a kitchenette, but full meal service at the lodge is an option. The cabins accommodate 5-6 people. There are also two bunkhouses that can accommodate up to 16 guests.

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We stayed in one of the Waterfront Cabins. It had two bedrooms. One had twin beds. The other had a double bed. There was a pull out couch, if needed. It was well-appointed with lovely furniture. Much of the decor came from L.L. Bean, a long time AMC supporter. Bean and the Maine sporting camp industry are well-connected. Dozens of other privately owned camps and lodges dot the lakes of the Maine woods, particularly in the northwest region. The trout fishing and game hunting are world-renowned. The Livingston’s don’t do much fishing and we don’t hunt, but these activities are a big part of Maine’s rich outdoor heritage.

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Another neat thing about the cabins and bunkhouses is that they have lovely screened in porches. In our case, the mosquitoes were pretty bad. They either followed us from Baxter where they were vicious, our Medawisla has its own supply. Regardless, we had a hard time keeping the bugs out of our porch, so we had to keep the solid door to the cabin shut at all times. I know that some of the mosquitoes followed us onto the porch from outside. They were literally clinging to us. It is also possible that some were coming up through slats in the floorboards. Another nice feature of each cabin and bunkhouse is the wood stove. We didn’t need to use it, but I imagine that in the colder months, you could turn your accommodations into a sweat lodge!

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There are lots of other features that I’m neglecting to mention, but the AMC site has lots of information. We checked out the soon-to-be-complete large sauna, which is located in the lodge. That will be awesome in the dead of winter. It will take some time to build buzz, but even with a six-hour drive from southern New England, the location is worth the effort and cost to get there. Just this week, one of AMC’s Medawisla area trails, the Hinckley Cove Trail, was featured in the Bangor Daily News.

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I said in my Mount Katahdin post that our family plans to return to Baxter State Park to explore all that it has to offer. You could spend two weeks in Baxter and just scratch the surface. The same could be said of AMC’s Maine property. We have to return for at least a week. One sport I didn’t mention, that could be a growth opportunity for Maine lodge activities, is cycling. There are so many dirt logging roads that could be explored. I don’t know if all are open to public access, but with the proliferation of gravel/adventure bikes, you could put together a great lodge-to-lodge bikepacking adventure. This is definitely on our to-do list.

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We crammed quite a bit into the 23 hours we were at Medawisla. On Monday afternoon, we explored the grounds, which also include the main lodge, a pavilion, waterfront buildings, the generator building, manager’s residence, staff bunkhouses, and various outbuildings. After our walk, we took a canoe for a paddle around a small island. We were on the water for 45 minutes or so, but opted not to venture too far. One highlight was seeing some beautiful loons, which are a feature in Medawisla’s logo.

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Our kids wanted to do the paddling, and they got a good lesson in the effort required to keep the canoe pointed in the right direction. The wind was blowing steadily at more than 20 miles per hour, which made the return to camp quite challenging. We taught them a little bit about water safety, plus the J-stroke and other paddling techniques. Then we took over for the rest of the way. Debbie and I did a fair amount of kayaking in our adventure racing days, and both have canoe experience from our Scouting days, but it isn’t our regular mode of transportation. That made it even more fun.

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It was too windy and rough to use the stand up paddle boards (SUP’s), but we were ready to wind down for the day. We had a “family style” dinner with the other guests at the main lodge, and then returned to our cabin to relax. AMC has always been good about our vegan/vegetarian dietary preferences.

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I got up early on Tuesday morning and drove two miles via the local dirt roads to the Shaw Mountain trailhead. I used this great map as a guide. I could have run from the lodge, but it would have added 2.8 miles to my trail run. I opted to start at the bottom and just run the Shaw Mountain Trail 1.3 miles to the North Summit (2,499 feet), then over to the South Summit (2,641 feet) and back. The trail to South Summit isn’t finished yet, so it just dead-ended in the woods. It will eventually connect to West Branch Pond Camps, a family owned sporting camp that is in between Medawisla and Gorman.

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I parked a little ways down the road so I had a short warmup before the vertical running started. It was humid, but pleasantly cool. Remnants of the trail existed prior to the Medawisla renovation, but signs indicated that AMC’s Trail Crew was actively working on the route. Sections were fresh-cut, which meant the tread way was soft and “cushiony” like running on a pillow. That was perfect recovery after hiking on rocks all-day on Sunday. My total run lasted an hour or so and I was back at the lodge in time for 8:00 A.M. breakfast with my family and other guests.

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The pond was much calmer in the morning, so after breakfast, we hit the waterfront again. I took our son on a canoeing adventure around the peninsula and explored the shallow northwest corner of the pond. We saw so many neat birds, but no moose. It felt like we were the only ones for miles, and with the exception of the lodge guests, that was true. Debbie and our daughter took out one of the SUP’s and we intercepted them on our return trip. We were on the water for an hour or so. Next time, we hope to explore the entire lake. It would be an all day adventure to paddle the three miles or so to the east end where AMC has a few campgrounds, one on the north side, and one on the south side. There will be many more hiking opportunities as the trail network expands.

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We were packed up and back on the road by 11:15 A.M. The trip whet our appetite for more Maine adventure. It was a no frills drive home, with the only stops for fuel and stretching. All in all, it was a fantastic four-day weekend.

 

2017 Mount Katahdin Adventure

The four-day July 4th weekend was about as good as it gets. Any weekend when a group of family and friends were 17 for 17 in Mt. Katahdin summit bids, is a good one. Debbie, our children, and I joined 13 other Roy Family members for an awesome hike in Baxter State Park. Baxter and Mt. Katahdin are special places for me, but also for the Roy Family.

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My mother, Adeline (Roy) Livingston, hails from Upper Frenchville, Maine in Aroostook County on the Canadian border. Her house overlooked the St. John River, which is all that separates Maine from New Brunswick. Katahdin was an important symbol of my youth. We made many 500 mile drives north to my Mémère’s home, and it was on those drives, staring out of the window, that the mountain made its mark on me.

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To this day, every time my Aunt Terry (who sadly missed this trip) texts me a photo of the mountain on her frequent drives to/from Aroostook County from her home in Portland. Reference my 2012 blog post, when I  made a solo trek to Katahdin for my 40th birthday. Prior to that, my last trip to Baxter was another solo adventure in 1994. I wrote about that trip in 2014 after I discovered a box of old photos.  It was about time that I shared my love of that particular mountain with my own children.

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Roy Family trips to Baxter State Park are a tradition, going back more than 50 years. Our last family trip was long ago. On July 6th, 2002, Debbie and I led a trip to Katahdin. Eight of the 16 adventurers on that trip returned this year. It was an amazing reunion considering how much has changed over the last 15 years. On that trip, we had terrible weather and never had a view. We were socked into the clouds with intermittent rain, and strong wind. The day after the family hike, Debbie and I hiked North Brother, and the conditions were even worse. We endured heavy rain, and coined the term, “white water running” because of the condition of the trail.

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I’m the oldest of 18 Roy Family grandchildren, and some of my first cousins were nearly as young as my children are today. On this trip, I was joined by seven of those 17 cousins: Monique, Luc, Gary, Billy, Paul, Andre, and Danny. In 2002, my uncles Guy and Phil; and aunt Terry, were on the trip. In 2017, only Phil was able to represent the older generation. He is in great shape, and even at the age of 60, the mountain was no match for him. My uncle Guy passed away last summer after a long battle with cancer. Four of his six kids were on this trip and it was great to see them come together to honor him. He would have been very proud to know that we tackled the mountain again.

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Over the past couple of days, we had much better weather, and despite a lot of overnight rain (on Saturday), and early morning clouds on Sunday, we were rewarded with stunning afternoon views. We drove up on Saturday, which took all day. Heavy holiday traffic delayed us in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It wasn’t until we reached Portland, where that the traffic eased.

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My cousin, Billy, played a significant role in organizing the trip. He and I have been talking about this reunion for several years. He and his girlfriend, Ashley, are avid hikers and desired to return to Katahdin. At Christmas dinner, we talked again, and then we picked the four-day July 4th holiday weekend as the target date. The four Livingston’s, including my son Shepard, daughter Dahlia, and Debbie plus Ashley and Billy, committed early. We booked two tent sites and a lean-to site at Roaring Brook Campground, and then recruited other family members to join the adventure. We had up to 18 spots.

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In addition to the four Livingston’s, Monique, Luc, Gary, Billy, Paul, Andre, Danny, Phil, and Ashley, we were joined by Julia (Monique’s spouse), Mike (Gary’s partner), Dave (family friend), and Gary K. (Ashley’s brother). My uncle Guy was with us in spirit, and my aunt Terry was cheering from Portland.

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The whole long weekend was spectacular. Our group met at Roaring Brook Campground on Saturday afternoon. Some of us carpooled. By 8:30 P.M. we had all arrived. It was raining heavily, so setting up camp was a little rough, but everyone pitched in. My family stayed in lean-to #4, which I highly recommend. Roaring Brook was 30 feet from the front of the shelter, which made for amazing audio. Nothing beats the sound of a babbling brook. The only disadvantage of the lean-to, was the mosquitoes, which plagued us the entire trip. For that reason, I rate the adventure a 9.999.

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The highlight of the hike was the performance of our 7-year-old daughter. She weighs 39 pounds and is pretty small for her age, but she is MIGHTY! I’m so happy that the toughness that Debbie and I exhibit with our endurance sports, has rubbed off on our kids.

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Everyone arose early on Sunday and we convened at the trailhead at 6:30 A.M. At Roaring Brook, you can roll out of bed and be at the ranger cabin for sign in. We split in to two groups for the day. Eventually, the groups reshuffled and Debbie, Dahlia, and I ended up in a lagging group with Monique and Julia. The planned route was a counter-clockwise loop via Chimney Pond Trail–>Cathedral Trail–>Saddle Trail (to summit)–>Knife Edge Trail–>Helon Taylor Trail–>Chimney Pond Trail, and back to the campground. If the weather was really bad, we reserved the option to skip The Knife Edge, and return to Chimney Pond via the Saddle Trail.

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The Chimney Pond Trail was very wet, but beautiful. The Basin Ponds were gorgeous and the huge talus field beyond them was awesome to see again. Our group got spread out on the steep and rocky Cathedral Trail. It was slow going for us. We were climbing in and out of the clouds. Our son ended up joining a few of the other men and they merged with the front group on the summit. Our group of five was about 30 minutes behind. We got to the top around 12:30 P.M. and must have just missed the other group, which was unfortunate because they decided to descend the Saddle Trail and take the easier route back to Roaring Brook. They based their decision on the wind and clouds that enveloped the summit while they waited for us.

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We spent about 20 minutes on the summit and while we were up there, it started to clear. The wind calmed a bit and we figured that they were still ahead of us, having started the traverse of The Knife Edge, the sawtooth ridge that connects Baxter Peak and Pamola. We knew we wouldn’t catch them, unless they waited, but we continued with the original route plan.

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We were treated with an amazing day. We knew it would be hard, but we had all day. Both groups had all the gear needed, including the 10 Essentials. We figured the round-trip would be 8-10 hours and it ended up being 13 hours and 11 minutes. Blame it on my daughter’s short legs! We got back to the campground just before 8:00 P.M.

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When the first group got back to Chimney Pond on their descent, my cousin Danny decided to head back up with the intention of intercepting us. I’m the oldest cousin and Danny is the youngest. He and I have a great relationship. I’ve written about him many times in the past because he has joined us on several adventures. He has become a key pacer for Debbie at many of her ultramarathons. He is a talented runner too. We will see him next week in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

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Anyway, despite the concerns of his older brother, Billy, he did what I probably would have done (despite being a little short on gear…I’ll talk to him about that!) and went back up the mountain. However, he didn’t see us on the Saddle Trail, so he continue back over the summit and onto the The Knife Edge. He caught us about half way between the summit and Pamola. We were surprised and realized that the other group wasn’t in front of us. That was OK. We were going slow, but enjoying ourselves. Dahlia needed help on the steep stuff, Debbie and I took turns while Monique and Julia worked together. Danny stuck with our group until we got back to tree line on the Helon Taylor Trail. Then, he took off for the campground and dinner.

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The views were stunning. I took a lot of photos and just soaked it in. I hope it isn’t another five years before we return. I’m sure it won’t be. Our son missed out on the excitement of traversing The Knife Edge, and we didn’t get a chance to climb Hamlin Peak on the other side of the Great Basin. Plus, there is so much more of Baxter to see. I want to return and drive the entire Tote Road to the northern end of the park, which is much more remote.

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Hiking with Debbie and Dahlia was a ton of fun. When we got to the summit, she got a loud ovation from all of the adults who were hanging around. Throughout the day, we got a lot of crazy looks and positive comments. By the time we got to treeline on the Helon Taylor trail, we were all tired. She said, “I’m shot.” She needed some coaxing down the trail. When we got into the trees, the mosquitoes were vicious. That kept us moving. Halfway down the Taylor Trail, two thru-hikers passed us. They had just completed their Appalachian Trail hike. They took the Knife Edge Trail across to Pamola like we did, and were descending to Roaring Brook Campground with the goal of hitching a ride to Millinocket before dark. It was cool to experience their satisfaction with completing such a long journey.

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As dusk set in and we were struggling after a long day, I said to Debbie, “Does your taper begin tomorrow?” Like our daughter, she was also “done.” Once down, with the entire family reunited, we enjoyed dinner by the campfire. Everyone was thrilled with how the day went. It’s hard to believe that it had been 15 years since the majority of this group last climbed the mountain.

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On Monday morning, we got up early again. The sunrise was amazing and Roaring Brook was babbling on. Danny joined me for a loop of Sandy Stream Pond. Debbie ran the same loop after us. We washed up and struck camp. Everyone helped each other until we were all packed up. We took our family photo, reprising the one we took in 2002. We departed Baxter State Park as a group, and bonded forever.

2017 Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race

Last weekend, after 10 years, we finally made it to the Domnarksi Farm Mountain Bike race. It seems that Domnarski Farm always clashes with another event on the schedule. For the 10th anniversary, we made it a priority to attend and support our Team Horst Sports mate, Matt Domnarski.

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This race is part of the Root 66 Northeast XC Race Series.  It starts and finishes at the farm. The Cat 1’s and 2’s do a 10 mile loop, while the Cat 3’s and beginners (including the Juniors) do a 3.3 mile loop. I did the Cat 1 singlespeed division and we did two loops for a total of 20 miles.

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The course is super-rocky and there are a lot of roots. There is also a lot of climbing. Everyone refers to this race as “old school” which is great. To me, that means grassroots oriented and a tough course. We had a nice Horst Junior Squad turnout with five kids competing in the Cat 3 race and one in the Kids Race. We had four adults there as well.

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I had a tough day. I struggled in the heat and had to go into “survival mode” on lap two. Domnarski was my fifth race in 10 days and two days later, I was doing the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series, so I didn’t want to go too deep into the red zone. I was happy that I finished, but I was looking grim when I reached the line. With the singlespeed, I did a fair amount of walking.

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The Pro Men put on a show. I wasn’t there to see it, but both Justin Lindine, and Stephen Hyde; broke the course record. Stephen’s first lap was the fastest ever, and Justin’s second lap topped it. They duked it out and Justin came out on top. It’s going to be great to see these two do battle when cyclocross season starts in late-August.

Race Results

2017 Winding Trails Summer Tri Series & West Rock Superprestige Short Track Series

In the past two weeks, one excellent series ended and another one began. The West Rock Superprestige Short Track Mountain Bike Series is a real gem. Team Horst Sports was well represented throughout the series. Sean Rourke, one of our star riders from the Horst Junior Squad, won his age group in style. He made all four races. They were every other week on Thursday nights.

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Along with my son, Shepard, I made races #3 and #4. With the Juniors starting at 5:15 P.M. in Hamden, it was a haul from East Hartford, especially because I had to pick up Shep at school in Bolton. Thankfully, the final race was after the school year ended. For the finale, he and I were joined by Debbie and our daughter.

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These short track races were super challenging. The courses were slightly different week to week, but they all featured the rugged trails of West Rock Nature Center. I just got the post series survey, and I had nothing but good things to say. The Juniors did a shortened and less technical course, but the A and B adult races were full-bore.

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I raced singlespeed and had great battles in both races. I was second both weeks and had an absolute blast. If you did this every other week, you wouldn’t need to train! The workout was that intense. Each race was followed by an awesome pizza party and a “bonfire” in the park’s amphitheater. The finale attracted lots of family and friends, included some pot-luck additions, and then ice cream for the kids.

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The crew from D’Aniello’s Amity Bike and the Laurel Bicycle Club, led by Kurt D’Aniello, are the masterminds behind the series. They had great volunteers. CCAP was involved with the series, which made it even better. I’m looking forward to the 2018 series. If we can make it work, we will aim to do the whole series. Hopefully the format doesn’t change.

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Another great series, that just started three weeks ago, is the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series. This 10 week off-road triathlon series is one of my favorite races. I’ve done many over my career. Last year, I did nine out of 10. This year, Debbie, Shepard, and I are aiming to do five. Our son does the Tiny Tri, and we do the full  course, which is a 1/4 miles swim/5 mile mountain bike/3 mile run.

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Last year, Debbie and I both placed second in overall for men and women. Without doing eight races, we will be hard pressed to score that high in 2017, but we do these for fun anyway.  The Winding Trails races are a great beginner triathlon. In addition to the Tiny Tri, three times over the summer, there is a kids race, which our daughter will do. It’s a great introduction to the sport.

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We missed the first race, but made the last two weeks. This week, thunder and lightning forced the cancellation of the swim, so we had a duathlon, which was fine. We avoided rain, as it had stopped before we got to the start line. I’ve already had some good battles in weeks two and three. In week two, I had to hold off Steve Sadler, who did a great job on the mountain bike leg. I was able to outrun him. He was followed by my rival, Jon Arellano, who won the series in 2016. Jon had a second child recently, so his sleep hasn’t been great and his bike training has been lacking. I hate to take advantage of a new Dad, but I had to drop the hammer on him anyway!

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In week three, the duathlon format favored me, so I was able to stay close to the front-runners for the first one mile run, and then quickly get ahead on the bike. I was in no man’s land for the entire bike and the second run. Jon closed fast, but I had enough of a buffer to hold him off. Steve was third.

We were treated with a great sunset. Each week, we follow the racing by holding the “Grand Feast” with the Schulz Family. Aubrey and Ken have two little ones and our kids, who coined the term, have been coming to these races since they were infants, so they love to hang out and play with them. We do dinner in the parking lot and then head for home. It’s a lot to pack into a weeknight after work, but it’s worth it. I’m looking forward to more fun races at Winding Trails in July and August.

2017 Mt. Greylock Trail Races

Yesterday, we were back in Greylock Glen for another go at the Mt. Greylock Trail Races. This was Debbie’s 19th consecutive year at Greylock. That stat explains her trail running career, which started a year earlier in 1998. Her ultrarunning career started in 1999, three months after her first Greylock.

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This race means a lot to her. Back then, the trail running community welcomed her with open arms, and she never looked back. I’m sure that some of the people who welcomed her in 1999 when she was 24 years old, would be surprised to know that she stuck with the sport all of this time.

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Now, our kids are running Greylock with us, and enjoying it the way we have. Most years, Debbie has run the “half marathon” long course, but this year was a bit different. She ran Manitou’s Revenge Ultra on Saturday, so after 54 rugged miles, she opted to join our daughter for the 5K short course race. Our son did the 5K on his own, and knocked five minutes off of his personal best, which made him very happy.

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I did the long course, and though the course has changed a bit over the years, it was my slowest time. I’ve now done the long course nine times and the short course twice, for a total of 11, which trails Debbie’s 19 by quite a bit.

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We always enjoy seeing our friends in the Western Massachusetts Athletic Club. We were joined by a small contingent of Shenpsit Striders, including Tony Bonanno, who warmed up for the long course by running a loop on his own ahead of time. So, it was a 26+ mile day for him. He wasn’t alone. The “double” is a training technique used by Curt Pandiscio, and he did it again yesterday. Unfortunately, neither knew the other was out there ahead of time. Both made it back in time for their “second lap” at the official 10:00 A.M. start.

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I was feeling fast, but ended up running slow, which isn’t a big deal. I carried my iPhone and stopped to enjoy the views, including at the summit, and on Jones Nose, my favorite part of the course. A week of rain left the trails muddy and slippery. The Overlook Trail is known for its sharp and unforgiving rocks. After the four mile climb from the Glen to the Summit, I took it easy on that first descent.

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An old cycling friend, Kurt Hackler, won the race in 1:47:07. Kurt was a junior rider when I first started racing in the early-1990’s. I can’t believe he is now 40+ too! The women’s race was won by 20 year-old Sonya Jampel in 2:13:43. She was only 34 seconds behind me, and I was pushing at the finish. I never saw her, but it was neat to see her cross the line considering that she wasn’t even a year old when Debbie ran her first Greylock! That’s crazy. 63 year-old Rob Higley wasn’t far behind her and he deserves even more credit for hammering the course…again. 10 years ago, he was trouncing me at these trail races as a 50+ Masters all-star. It’s great to see him running strong into his 60’s.

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You may notice from some of the photos that there was more people in the Glen this year. Sadly the race numbers were down (this is an issue for a lot of the classic New England trail races), but the extra people weren’t there for the race. They were there for the MAGICon Enchanted Greylock Harry Potter event. I don’t know the story, but somehow, the Glen got double booked. Thankfully the weather was nice because we didn’t have use of the gazebo and had to share the field with the other guests. I don’t know which crowd thought the other group was weirder.

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They were playing Quidditch and we were running straight up the mountain. Who were the crazy ones? Needless to say, it looked like it all worked out and the disparate groups appeared to coexist. I’ll have to check with friends from the WMAC to see what they thought. Regardless, we are always appreciative of the volunteers. Debbie put on Soapstone three weeks ago, and got a ton of support from our Shenipsit Striders club mates, so we know how much work goes into these races. Father’s Day Weekend came to a close in Northampton. We stopped for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Paul & Elizabeth’s. We also picked up bread at one of our favorite bakeries, Hungry Ghost Bread. They have sweet new amphitheater and community herb garden.

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It’s inevitable. If all goes well, we will be back in the Glen for Debbie’s 20th anniversary Greylock in 2018.

Race Results

2017 Manitou’s Revenge Ultra

Surprisingly, this weekend was the first time we really got to explore parts of the Catskill Mountains of New York. Debbie ran the Manitou’s Revenge Ultra, a 54 mile trail race with nearly 15,000 feet of elevation gain in the rugged Catskills.

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She continues to amaze me with her running exploits. I know. I’m biased. Still, it was only six days ago that she dragged me around the northwest hills of Connecticut for a 34 mile “training run” on the Mohawk and Appalachian Trails. That was the third big run we have done together in 2017. I joined her for Promise Land in Virginia; and over Memorial Day Weekend, we did a big training day in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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Manitou’s was her last big ultra in her buildup to the Hardrock Endurance Run. In December, she scored a waitlist spot (#7) and on 01 June, she was thrilled to accept an official spot for the start of the race on 14 July. It will take a collective effort to get her to the finish line (and to kiss the Hardrock), but its her legs that will play the biggest role in her San Juan Mountains adventure.

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In the meantime, Saturday’s adventure was intense enough. On Friday afternoon, we drove to Phoenicia, New York to get her bib number and race packet, for this 5th edition of the race. Race Director, Charlie Gadol, was there along with fellow runner, Mike Siudy, who we saw at Hellgate last year. We got there at 6:35 P.M., just five minutes past the pickup window, but they were kind enough to help her out. Afterwards, we headed straight to our campground at Devil’s Tombstone. It was only 15 minutes up the road.

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The point to point Manitou’s course is shaped like a reverse “C.” It starts in Windham and finishes at the St. Francis de Sales Parish Hall. It traverses parts of the Escarpment Trail, the Long Path, and the Devil’s Path. All three are crazy hard “rocky and rooty” Northeastern style trails with lots of elevation change. Debbie has been wanting to run this race since it started five years ago. The course includes sections of the famous  Escarpment Trail Run, which she raced only one time, back in 2000, when she was still Debbie Schieffer. She finished 2nd to the legendary Nikki Kimball. The two of them started racing trails together in Vermont in the late-1990’s. It’s been a long time since she was back in the Catskills. The steep ups and downs are tough. The wet spring left these trails damp and very slippery. This past weekend, the weather was overcast with fog, drizzle, and high humidity, though the temperature was mild.

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Debbie got a ride to the 5:00 A.M. start from a fellow racer and campsite neighbor. We were kept awake most of Friday night because of some other campsite neighbors who were rowdy. They were in town for the Mountain Jam concert festival at Hunter Mountain. The same thing happened on Saturday night after the race. That was a bummer, but when you camp out, you take these risks.

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The kids and I got up a bit later and met up with Debbie at Aid Station #3 (17.5 miles), at North-South Campground in Tannersville. It was a sweet spot. After we saw Debbie come through, we went for a mountain bike ride around the lakes. At the aid station, it was great to see so many friends from the Northeast ultrarunning community. There were quite a few runners from the Mountain Peak Fitness – Red Newt Racing Running Team. The team includes old friends, Joe and Elizabeth Azze, Julian Vicente, Ben Nephew, and others. We also saw Scott Berkley, a friend from the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut Croo, who we have seen on a few White Mountain trips, as well as at other trail races. We even met a new friend, Matt Turek, who is also coached by Al Lyman, from Pursuit Fitness. He was there to crew for one of his friends. We also saw Scott and Sarah Slater, who also hail from Connecticut. One other Shenipsit Striders friend, Gaston Fiore, was at the race. He did a two person relay with his friend, Caitlin Cunningham. She ran the first 20 miles and he ran the last 34.

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After we saw Debbie at AS3, we drove to Aid Station #5 (31.5 miles) at Platte Clove. This was a busy spot and we parked on the side of the road. We had our Volkswagen Eurovan and our trailer, so we couldn’t maneuver into tight spots without a little extra effort. Debbie was in good spirits when we saw her. She didn’t have a low point all day long, which was remarkable given how much running she has done lately. The training is paying off. We weren’t supposed to see her again until Aid Station #7 at Silver Hollow (43.5 miles), but we surprised her by showing up at Aid Station #6 (38.5 miles) at Mink Hollow.

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After we left Platt Clove, we had some time to kill, so we grabbed lunch at Pancho Villa  in Tannersville. After lunch, we drove to the Mink Hollow trailhead. Getting to the aid station required a steep climb on a rocky and wet trail. The kids enjoyed it and we got there about 10 minutes before Debbie arrived. She was running strongly at the time, about 50 minutes behind Kehr Davis, the past-winner.

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After she came through, we waited for Gaston, who wasn’t far behind. Then, we descended. We drove to Silver Hollow, which took a bit longer than planned. When we got there, I realized that we would never get to the aid station in time. It was another mile-plus climb up to the ridge. The kids stayed back and played a board game in the van, which I parked at the trailhead. I ran/hiked to the aid station.

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When I got there, I was winded after pushing the whole way. At first, it appeared that I got there in time, but after a brief discussion with the volunteers, and a little confusion, it appeared that she had passed through, three or four minutes earlier. I dropped one of the two bags I was carrying, and ran after her. “Run” is in quotes because it was straight uphill and it took me more than a 20 minutes to catch her. She never slowed down. At this point, she was using her poles. I was soaked to the bone with sweat. She said she was fine, I snapped a few photos, shot a short video, and watched her run off. I worked my way back to the aid station, passing Gaston again, and then descended to the van. It was quite an effort and it turned out that she didn’t need any help, but that is what crews do for their runners!

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The remaining aid stations were even harder to get to, so we skipped them. We had time to kill, but we drove to Phoenicia and grabbed a spot on the lawn in front of the parish hall. When we got there, about 10 people (individuals and relay teams) had finished. Due to the start on the narrow Escarpment Trail, the race had been split into eight waves, each five minutes apart. Debbie was in the first wave. So was Kehr.

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It took some calculating to figure out who was in what place, but by the end of the day, the gaps were so large, that it didn’t really matter. Also in the first wave, was Ben Nephew, who won the race, in a tight finish with Andy Vermilyea, who was only 116 seconds behind Ben, who finished in 10:57:49. Third was Adam Russell, in 12:02:16.

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We watched as the sun went down and the runners dribbled in. Kehr Davis was the first woman to finish, in 13:30:07. The last 1.2 miles of the course were on road, which Debbie called, “cruel.” Even still, she hammered the last stretch and finished second behind Kehr in 14:41:32. She gave up a little ground in the last 10 miles, but it was still a very successful day for her. She finished strongly and felt good all day long. She only fell once, and it was a mild fall. Her stomach was good all day long. Her fueling plan was effective.

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The kids and I were pretty tired, but we were having fun, so we hung around for a few more hours, cheering for other runners as they arrived. By the time we left, it was dark, and the runners were arriving at the finish with their headlamps. They were also wearing reflective vests, which were issued to them at the last aid station.

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The volunteers were awesome. We felt welcome at all of the aid stations. Ultras are always a blast when fellow runners take great care in producing an event for their running friends. Other than the Vermont 50, Debbie hasn’t repeated too many of her ultras, but she said that Manitou’s was definitely a race that she would do again. With all of the rocks, roots, and steep downhills, she said, “You would hate it.” I’ll stick to crewing this race and I’ll leave the running to her.

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Race Results


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#sunset #md90 🌞✈️ #echoamphitheater #carsonnationalforest #newmexico Stopping to stretch our legs and use the potty was the best $2 I've spent in a while. I even borrowed a nickel from @trailrunningmom and got rid of the 95 cents in my pocket. Amazing #durango #colorado trails. These are the #HorseGulchTrails near @fortlewiscollege which has an amazing #cycling culture. When I raced collegiates @bcclubcycling & @bucycling in the early 90's, it wasn't anything like what's happening with the powerhouse @flccycling team. What an amazing backyard. Imagine rolling out of your dorm and onto this landscape. I would never go to class! Don't tell my kids I said that! #mountainbiking #cyclocross #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #horstspikes 🚵‍♀️ @trailrunningmom finished in 41 hours and 1 minute. #hr100 #hardrock100 #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports #trailrunning #ultrarunning #womenofultrarunning @trailrunningmom  at the #hr100 #womenofultrarunning @trailrunningmom  at the #hr100 #womenofultrarunning @trailrunningmom left the Chapman Aid Station at 2:10 P.M. I paced her from Ouray (56.6 miles) to Chapman (82.2 miles). @ultramarathondan will take her to the finish of the @hardrock100 #hr100 #hardrock100 Most importantly, she is in good spirits and despite the altitude, is moving OK on the climbs, albeit slowly. As for the descents, her legs are trashed but she is still bombing them. Finish could be in the 40-42 hour range if all goes well. Who knows? Lots of variables! Fingers crossed. I have tons of photos to go through, so I selected one of our crew with Deb as she headed out for the final 18 miles. #trailrunning #ultrarunning #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports We finally reconnected with @trailrunningmom She arrived at Grouse Gulch, 42.2 miles at 8:33pm and departed at 8:50pm. She was soaked to the bone after climbing her first ever 14,000 foot peak. Handies had lots of hail and rain. She changed every piece of clothing and shoes and felt much better. The drive to/from was white knuckle insanity with our rental. @ultramarathondan is with her now. It will be a long night. I'll see her in Ouray. Our kids  have been awesome. Mom just wants to finish, but a long way to go. @hardrock100 #hr100 #hardrock100 #trailrunning #ultrarunning 🏃🏻⛰ With all this tracking technology, it's nice to see the old school method still in use. This is @hardrock100 #hr100 #hardrock100 HQ in #silverton #colorado #trailrunning #ultrarunning 🏃🏻⛰

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