Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Friday, November 30, 2007

Learn, refine, succeed


"...Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success."

So if you start at the age of 10 or 11, you've got until your about 21 to learn. Then until you're about 25 to refine your skills. After about 15 years of preparation, you're at your peak until your about 30.

Can you guess the quote?

Thierry Gueorgiou? Marita Skogum? Peter Thoresen? Gunila Svard? Kari Salinen?

Nope. The quote is from the comedian, Steve Martin, from his new book Standing Up. He's talking about doing comedy.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:37 PM


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Should versus want


Think of a hypothetical politician with $250,000,000. They should spend that money fixing the old sewer system, protecting the local river, and saving future generations from even more expensive repairs. The want to build a new arena to host a new basketball team.

Maybe 9 times out of 10 the politician picks the want over the should.

That's one of the issues I was thinking about at work today: the want versus should decisions(which often boil down to short-term versus long-term decisions).

And that got me thinking about orienteering....

I should go for a run. But, I want to have a Smithwicks and watch basketball on TV.

I should do some strength training. But, I want to check out the O' blogs on the web.

I should go to sleep feeling a little bit hungry. But, I want to eat a big bowl of ice cream.

You get the idea.

The trick is to pay attention to the shoulds and wants. Eventually, you might start picking more of the shoulds and fewer of the wants. And ideally, the shoulds and wants start to converge.

"I should go for a run, but I want to watch some basketball on TV."

Do what you should.

"It is raining and cold outside; I should go for a night O' session, but I want to run on the treadmill in the basement."

Do what you should or what you want...both are reasonable options.

Make the should decision over and over again and, eventually, you're options might change...

"It is raining and cold outside; I should go for a night O' session and I want to do that."

Do what you want.

Of course it isn't that easy. And we've got a nation full of new basketball arenas and crumbling sewer systems.

Holger updated his map pages

I lifted a night O' session (below) from Holger's map page.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:52 PM


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Loitering" at controls


I came across this quote while following a discussion at Attackpoint:

Do you want to cut 10 minutes off your time at your next orienteering event? One of the easiest ways to do that is to improve your technique of approaching and leaving a control.


Remember, one key to improving your time in orienteering is to try to keep moving and keeping the hesitations and stops to a minimum. And if you do have to stop to figure out what to do, don't do it at the control! Be an orienteer, not a control loiterer.

The quote is from an article aimed at inexperienced orienteers.

This struck me because it is almost exactly the opposite of the advice I was giving people at the O' training camp a couple of weeks ago. I was pushing the idea that the easiest way to save time was to take safe routes and avoid booms. I was pushing the idea of looking systematically at different route choices - basically being careful to identify different routes and then judge them in terms of "safety." A consequence being that you might spend some time standing at a control before you got going. I guess I'd say it is better to "loiter" and use that time to be safe and, hopefully, avoid making big booms.

I guess it is a matter of how people learn. You could emphasize moving through controls rather than loitering or you could emphasize being systematic and careful. My thinking is that emphasizing the systematic approach means that, in the short run, you'll do some control loitering. But, in the long run, you'll develop the ability to quickly pick safe routes, which will result in shorter amounts of control loitering.

To me, the problem with the approach I've quoted above, is that it gets the orienteer thinking about something other than where they are and where they are going. Instead, they're thinking about where they are, where they are going, and not loitering. That's just one more thing to think about, which is one more thing to distract you from the more important parts of orienteering.

My thinking about orienteering is closer to this quote, which also showed up in the discussion on Attackpoint:

At the 2005 US champs in Bend, I attended a talk by Ted de St Croix in which he said that he rarely, if ever, looks ahead. He believes that anything you do on a course that distracts you from the task of finding your current control is a bad thing.

Enough rambling...time to start thinking about tonight's Kansas basketball game...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:09 PM


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A few notes from Jonn Are Myrhen


Jonn Are Myrhen wrote a bit about a lecture he gave to the club IK Grane. Myrhen has run for the Netherlands but is now moving over to the Norwegian national team. He's a very good orienteer.

In summarizing his lecture, he made two main points:

1. Relevant training, visualizing, and armchair orienteering makes it easier to act properly during an O' course and also increases your self confidence. Both are very important.

2. Both the terrain and the club environment in IK Grane has always developed good orienteers.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:59 PM


Monday, November 26, 2007

Mt Tom


Mt. Tom! The first time I ever ran in this sort of Nordic/New England terrain was back in 1983 at Mt. Tom. The map is below (with Peter's routes from a race this weekend).

Looking at Peter's map brought back memories. Usually, I can look at a map and remember the course I ran on the map. But, I don't remember the course I ran in 1983. Instead, I remember being completely lost. I couldn't make sense of it. I spent a lot of time aimlessly wandering around, hoping to bump into the control. I'd never run anywhere with rocks all over the place. I'm pretty sure I was out for 2 hours for about 6 km (M20).

For what it is worth, I learned something and managed to make my way around the M20 course the next day in a bit under an hour.

More 1980s Memories

In the early 80s, one of my favorite things on TV was the "Bill Tush Show." Here is a clip featuring how oil companies spend their money and Tammy Jean (the televangelist). I can't say I'd recommend this stuff...but, if you can't help yourself, enjoy...

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:37 PM


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gueorgiou in Halden


Halden's newspaper ran a story about Thierry Gueorgiou when he was in Halden a week or so ago. I've translated (roughly) a few bits of the story:

"I like to train. That's necessary to reach the top. And I've got the experience in what I'm doing. That helps me reduce mistakes."


"I traveled around Europe to go to orienteering races a lot when I was young. Orienteering isn't a big sport in France, but for me it was the most important thing."


As a 17 year old, he made it to the French national team and he had his WOC debut as a junior at Grimstad, Norway, in 1997.

"My result was nothing special. But Petter [Thoresen], ten years older than me, won again. So, I knew I had many more years." he said.


Gueorgiou the perfectionist became even more of a perfectionist. He left nothing to chance in his orienteering technique training....From a 50th place in 1997, he finished 24th in the WOC two years later in Scotland. In Finland in 2001, his 13th place was his best result. And then the big step was taken. He won the world championship in the middle distance in Switzerland.

"That was evidence that I'd done it right. It motivated me to keep working on the small details," he said.

Since then he has won 5 world championships, including 2 this August. The latest win has a special history.

"I made a mistake in the middle distance at the WOC last year and finished 4th. I lost a lot of sleep over that and that a lot about what I'd done wrong. I wasn't going to let that happen again. I "terpet" [I've got no idea what "terpet" means] that a lot in training. It gave results this year."

Gueorgiou is quoted as saying orienteering "isn't a big sport in France." At Thanskgiving dinner one of our guests was a French researcher at KU who said, "Orienteering? It isn't a sport. It is something people do as recreation, not a sport." He had no idea France had a world champion orienteer.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 12:32 PM


Friday, November 23, 2007

Ski O' video


Too lazy to write, but not too lazy to cut and paste a ski Orienteering video:

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:04 PM


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Night Score O' Course


Last Saturday, we ran a night score O' course at Heartland (map below). We had 90 minutes to get as many points as possible. The point values for the controls ranged from 10 to 40.

I was sure that I could get all of the controls in 90 minutes, so I didn't pay any attention to the point values.

My route was: 1, 3, 19, 15, 22, 5, 12, 23, 18, 24, 6, 11, 16, 4, 21, 17, 20, 9, 10, 7, 13, 2, 8, and 14.

My route felt ok, but I suspect there are better ways to get all of the controls. I don't know what those ways are, but I'm not very good at this sort of decision. I would assume someone could find a better route.

The score O' format is standard for local night races. It makes it a bit easier on the organizers because the competitors (many are not very good at orienteering in the day, let alone at night) generally come back to the finish in a reasonable time. It is also a good way to introduce inexperienced orienteers to night O' - even if they are lousy, they are bound to find a few controls.

Saturday's event got 87 starters (many went out in small groups of 2 or 3). That's probably (certainly?) the biggest night O' event around the Kansas City area.

If you sent me an email

If you sent me an email and I haven't responded, my appologies. I got a bit behind. I'll try to catch up over the next few days.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:11 AM


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Strategic Plan"?


I spent some time at work today thinking about a "strategic plan." I'm guessing some orienteering clubs, federations and national teams have "strategic plans," so maybe there is some connection to orienteering.

I don't want to get into the specifics of work. But, I can say that there was some discussion about how to make some progress on a government program. The idea came up to develop a strategic plan. But, a strategic plan costs money - let's say $25,000 (which, in government terms, isn't much money at all...but that is beside the point). The problem is nobody wants to spend that much.

I suggested that the solution might be to stop talking about a strategic plan and, instead, ask for some "background research." Give the staff four or five questions like: what has the government done about this over the last two years? what are other governments doing? who are the various "stakeholders"? What do the stakeholders think the government should do?

I bet that asking staff to do the background research would cost almost nothing and would give you nearly as much - maybe more - useful information than if you asked staff to prepare a "strategic plan."

It'll be interesting to see what happens.

In the orienteering context, a group - say the U.S. National Team - might see the need for a strategic plan. But, making a strategic plan seems like a lot of work. Instead, doing some "background research" might be enough to get most of the benefit. Instead of developing a strategic plan, just collecting "background research" on 4 or 5 questions might be useful.

The first few questions that come to mind:

How has the U.S. performed in the last 5-10 world champs?
How many different runners have run for the U.S. over that period of time?
Which runners have coaches?
What disciplines has the U.S. had the best success at?

Those aren't great questions, but it might be a start.

Gotta stop writing and get back to watching the Kansas v. Northern Arizona basketball game.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:51 PM


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Winsplits Pro - first look


Mary bought Winsplits Pro a couple of days ago and I've spent a few minutes playing with it.

Winsplits Pro is a way to look at splits databases. Basically, it gives you a collection of views of the data. I'm sure there are some interesting ways to use the data to learn, but I've just poked around to see what I could find.

I spent some time looking at my results from the second day of the U.S. Champs and learned, for example:

Eugene Mlyncyzk beat me by 11 seconds overall and beat me on 11 of the 17 legs; and

Both Eugene and I were "consistent" but Eugene boomed less than I did;

It is fun to poke around the software and see what shows up.

One of the interesting features is a histogram of the your performance and the ability to compare historgrams for different runners. Below I've compared Eric Weyman and Dave Linthicum. Eric beat Dave by 41 seconds, but they've got very different shapes to their performance histograms. I don't really know what to make of that, but it seems interesting.

My initial thought about the software is that it is a fun (and probably useful) way of looking at splits and results...but it isn't as fun as just looking at a map.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:10 PM


Monday, November 19, 2007

An Award-Winning Course


Here is Norway's "youth course of the year" set by Lars Skjeset.

The course is for M/F13-14.

Skjeset wrote (my rough translation):

I've always set courses for training and competitions, but I also do it as "dry training" for future championships. It helps you get familiar with the terrain and the possibilities for that terrain. I think course setting for the youth classes plays an important role in whether or not young people stick with the sport. It is important to raise motivation through increasing the demands, but at the same time it has to be a challenge for everyone [warning! My Norwegian is rough and I might have mistaken the text a bit]. So it should be possible to make it easy, but at the same time to let runners save time by picking a more demanding route.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:33 PM


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The price of training


I read an article in today's NY Times about the swimmer Dara Torres. She's 40 and turning in world class times (and passing doping tests). What caught my eye was the cost of training. The story reported that she spends about $100,000 a year of her "support staff." Her staff include a sprint coach, a strength and conditioning coach (who also handles diet), 2 full-time "personal stretchers," a physical therapist, a masseuse, and a nanny (she's got a young child).

Huge (by Kansas City standards) Night O' race

We had 87 starters at last night's O' race at Heartland (hosted by PTOC with Mike Shifman setting the courses). I'm pretty sure that is the most we've ever had at a local night O' race. Many of the competitors were high school students competing in teams of 2 or 3 runners.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:46 PM


Saturday, November 17, 2007

1 km test course


One of the courses from today's local training camp. Everyone ran this course as a race. Then, I flagged the best route. Everyone ran the course again, following the flags. The idea was to compare the times and get a sense of how much time is going to navigating.

The first time I did this type of training was at a camp in St Louis organized by "famous Swiss orienteering racer" Martin Oppliger.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:59 PM


Friday, November 16, 2007

That is a tough runner


Gene sent me a link to a story about a cross country runner who broke her leg near the end of a race and crawled across the finish line. Wow. That is one tough runner.

Here is some of the story:

Markwardt heard the leg crack again. And again. Then there was a louder crack, and her entire leg gave out. She fell to the ground as onlookers winced at the sound and the sight of what happened.

One of Markwardt's teammates, unaware of what had happened, encouraged her to get up. She tried, using her right leg. But as soon as she shifted weight to the left, the loudest crack yet came. And her leg gave out again.

"At that point, I knew what had happened. I knew my leg was broken pretty badly. And I knew I couldn't get up again. So I started crawling," she said.

You can read the entire story at ESPN. The link includes video of the finish. I found it disturbingly gruesome - consider yourself warned.

Something completely different

From Eddie, a photo of the comet that is wandering across the sky these days (click for better resolution):

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:08 PM


Thursday, November 15, 2007

exercise and the brain


I read an article the other day about the effect of exercise on your brain. Here is a quote that caught my eye:

One form of training, however, has been shown to maintain and improve brain health — physical exercise. In humans, exercise improves what scientists call “executive function,” the set of abilities that allows you to select behavior that’s appropriate to the situation, inhibit inappropriate behavior and focus on the job at hand in spite of distractions.

"Focus on the job at hand in spite of distraction" sounds like a good thing for an orienteer.

As best I can tell, scientists aren't sure why exercise would help but they've got a few theories, exercise:

1. slows "age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex";
2. increases capillaries in the brain (better blood flow);
3. reduces chances of heart attacks and strokes (which can cause brain damage); and
4. increases some sort of connections in the brain.


Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:11 PM


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Suggestions for "top ten tips"


I'm putting together a "top ten O' tips" for this weekend's training camp at Heartland. I thought I'd solicit readers for suggestions. So, if you've got an idea for a tip (the audience is orienteers with some experience who are looking to improve), use the comment function and suggest a tip.

Cool baseball data

If you're a baseball (and baseball data) fan, you should check out the web-based PITCHf/x tool.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:34 PM


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

7 minutes/km


One of the exercises we're setting up for this weekend's local training camp is to run a course after spending a bunch of time studying each leg before hand. The idea is to study each leg and talk about how we're going to run it. What route choice options are there? What are the pros/cons of each option? What will you see as you run each leg? What do you need to be careful off?

Thinking about this exercise reminded me of some orienteering I did with a psychologist who was looking at how orienteers performed at their best. The psychologist, a guy named Charles Parry, was at a pre-WOC training camp in Sweden to interview world class orienteers and coaches.

I took Charles out on one of the maps to try to get him to understand a bit more about orienteering. Here is what we did. At each control, we'd discuss how to run the next leg. I'd talk about what he would see and point things out on the map. We'd thoroughly discuss each leg. Then, he'd run the leg without even looking at the map. With basically no previous experience, he was running 7 min/km - a respectable pace (of course, we didn't count all of the time discussing each leg).

It struck me that it was a good way to introduce someone to how a good orienteer works. That's the idea (or maybe just the hope) behind the training session at this weekend's camp. I hope it works.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:36 PM


Monday, November 12, 2007

Mise en place


Somehow this quote - from a book on cooking - made me think of orienteering:

Literally "put in place," mise en place is the kitchen term for your setup, the gathering and preparation of all the tools and food you need to complete the task at hand....so critical to efficiency of action and the use of time, the term often carries broader connotations of being ready. Excellent mise represents the ultimate state of preparedness, whether the physical mise en place of food and tools or the mental mise en place ofbhaving thought a task through to the end and being ready for each step of it.

I guess the orienteering equivalent of mise en place is a sports bag with gear and the routine you go through before the start. We need a cool term for that.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:11 PM


Sunday, November 11, 2007

A 7 second lesson


Read the following text out loud:

One of these years I'm going to go to the orienteering race in Venice. It looks fun, really fun.

Reading those sentences out loud should take about 7 seconds. That's the difference between Eric Weyman and Dave "Legs" Linthicum at last weekend's US Champs (in M50, over two days). Seven seconds isn't much time over two days.

When we studied the split times, it turned out that Legs was in the lead at the last control, but lost it (and an additional 7 seconds) on the run in. The run in wasn't long (my split was 25 seconds, if I remember right).

It turns out that Legs lost time because he got confused by the shape of the run in (from the last control you ran a short loop to get to the finish rather than straight from the last control) and the streamers that were visible going to the last control and heading to the finish. I think Legs ducked under the line of streamers and then had to cross back to get into the chute.

There must be a lesson.

Maybe it is to keep thinking until after you've crossed the line - don't take anything for granted. In fact, the finish chute wasn't really tricky if you'd look at the map ahead of time and seen the unusual shape.

Back to Venice...here is Alessio Tenani's map:

Back to okansas.blogspot.com

posted by Michael | 6:21 PM


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Some rambling thoughts about course setting


I've been thinking about course setting a lot the last few days. Initially, I thought it'd be nice to measure the quality of a course.

Eric W. wrote about the quality of course setting:

...I think there is far to much emphasis on nailing winning times at all events, including WOC. I think this subject generates much more heat than light. Winning times happen to be a convenient, easy to measure, objective criteria, but it tells almost nothing about the quality of course design. I put acute angle doglegs in the same category, as easy to observe and measure, but not as important as other issues.

Course quality is of course quite subjective, and difficult to quantify, but ultimately more important. It also takes a little more insight to comment on....

Reading that quote got me thinking that instead of starting with course quality, I should start with descriptions. Some aspects of course setting are easy to describe - like winning time, number of controls, climb, and so on. Others take a little more work - like the fingerprint and the conditions of each control circle (see what I wrote about that for last Saturday's course).

The best approach might be to have a set of questions, similar to the questions I use to describe how orienteers train (see Kim Fagerudd's training for an example).

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:57 PM


Friday, November 09, 2007

Make it simple


An quote from Steve Nash (NBA player):

“I have a lot of energy and a lot of motivation. I have a hard time sitting still. I guess in a way I can’t live with the alternative to being driven, which is sitting around being bored. If I’m going to go for something, I’m really going to go for it. I think I realized as a kid that I would keep going when other kids stopped. If my legs are there, if my quickness is there, I can have a good game. If not, I try to find other ways of making plays without being quick. Making smart plays. Making the game simple.”

If you're interested in sports and performance, there is a lot of interesting stuff in that quote. The part that caught my eye was - making the game simple.

Make it simple. Good advice for most of us.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:32 PM


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Arizona orienteering


I'm planning to go to Tucson for the February A-meet. I've done a bit or training around Tucson, but never run a race there. Some of the Arizona terrain is nice - open areas with interesting contour detail. See Mook's routes at Box Canyon:

I'm not certain, but I think Box Canyon is similar to the terrain for the February A-meet. People who like orienteering in flat, green terrain (like the first day at the U.S. Champs) might not enjoy this stuff.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A favorite map


Helvete = One of my all time favorite orienteering maps.

Helvete, for those who don't know Norwegian, means "hell." So you get, for example, the location map with the text, "how to go to Hell."

But, that isn't why the map is a favorite.

The terrain looks interesting.

But, that isn't why the map is a favorite.

The map is a favorite because I spent hours and hours studying. It was one of the first Scandinavian maps I'd ever seen. It was also a small piece of paper. I folded the map up and carried it around in my wallet. When I was bored (waiting in line or sitting through an especially weak lecture), I pulled out the map and studied it. I tried to understand what the terrain must look like or imagined how I'd set a course on the map.

I got the map back in 1982 when I met Havard Tveite - "famous Norwegian orienteering racer" - and traded a few maps.

I came across the map when I was poking around Alfonsson's blog.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:29 PM


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Were the courses too hard, or just right?"


"Were the courses too hard, or just right?"

That's a topic of discussion on Attackpoint about this weekend's race. I've spent a little time thinking about the question.

First some background. The two days of racing were in the same forest. The areas had a bit different character, but overall they were very similar (my 2 courses were in an area that covered a total of about 10 square kilometers). But, the courses were set by different people and had very different character.

I asked two questions about my courses:

1. What portion of the area in the control circles was green?
2. How many contours lines would you cross going from the lowest point in each circle to the highest point?

On the first day, about 36 percent of the area within controls circles was green and going from low point to high point in each circle would mean crossing 1.5 lines on average.

On the second day, about 20 percent of the area within control circles was green and going from low point to high point in each circle would mean crossing 1.9 lines on average.

I think that bit of information characterizes the major differences in the course setting. Controls on the first day were in flatter and greener areas.

The result was bigger spreads in the results when the controls were in flatter and greener areas. On my course, if you finished ten percent behind the 3rd place runner, you'd have finished 5th on the first day and 10th on the second day. That consistent with what I'd expect when orienteers are having to find controls in relatively flatter and greener locations.

Peter posed the question over at Attackpoint as: "Were the courses too hard, or just right?" It might be worth posing a second question: "Do you prefer controls in flatter, greener areas?"

I'll probably write a bit more about this topic in the next few days. But, now it is time to go back and sit in front of the TV and watch some Kansas Basketball.

A couple of method notes. First, I looked only at my courses (M40 - Red X). Second, I excluded the last control and the river crossing control on each day. Third, I think the method I used to compare the courses might actually make the courses seem more similar than they were. For example, a couple of the control circles with a lot of green on the second day had almost all of the green in the part of the circle behind the approach to the marker.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:53 PM


Monday, November 05, 2007

Meet notes and sharp sticks


A note from this weekend's race notes:

Beaver activity creates sharp stumps of varying sizes that remain long after the beavers have moved on. Please be cautious in areas that currently, or that formerly, evidenced beaver activity. These stumps occur surprisingly far up the hillsides above their constructions.

I don't usually read meet notes. But this weekend I had some time to kill and read all of the notes. I thought the warning about beaver-sharpened sticks was strange. I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to do about it. I guess it was a warning not to fall down on pointed sticks.

I took a few falls in the forest and, in fact, fell on one of those beaver-sharpened sticks. Fortunately, my forearm took the brunt of the stump and I came away with nothing more than a good bruise and a few cuts.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 6:26 PM


Thursday, November 01, 2007

March Mapness in October


My next update will be Monday (post U.S. champs).

Special Fall Edition of March Mapness

Buckley just finished up his special October version of "March Mapness." His plan was to train on a map every day in October. He made it. Impressive. The stats look good:

Days: 31
Days on a map: 31
Total maps: 33
Orienteering maps: 31
Sessions with technical merit: 21
Sessions with near or above threshold effort: 17
Sessions with neither (fluff): 6
Total time navigating: 29 hours 25 minutes
Total controls visited (includes training locations not marked with a flag): 663

I'm inspired. I might just put together my own March Mapness in the spring (maybe even in March!). It might be fun to try.

For something completely different...check out this night O' course from Aspleaf.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 12:17 PM


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