The Dynamic Life has Relocated

 

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Don’t miss this train!  I’ve graduated to my very own domain and a new design for the blog.  I’m still working on the design and some of the features, but it’s never going to be perfect, so I figured I’d make the move now and adjust on the fly.

I appreciate all of my readers and look forward to interacting and learning from one another at TheDynamicLife.com.  To start things off with some great momentum, my first post on the new domain is my humble review of blogger and globetrotter Chris Guillebeau’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity:  Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World.

(I’m not positive whether email subscriptions are transferable.  It will be a trial and error type thing, so please let me know how it works for you and if you have any problems.)

Click HERE to go to the new Dynamic Life.

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Six Steps to Avoid Diabetes

In Monday’s post, I provided an overview of the prevalent diabetes disease.  My aim there was to offer a synopsis, a one-pager that outlines the disease which has unfortunately become a household term these days.  But of what value am I if I describe a problem without proposing a solution, or at least a way to avoid the problem altogether (which happens to be an order of magnitude easier than curing the disease)?

Telling someone how to avoid diabetes is as simple as telling someone how to avoid getting hit by a car while crossing the street – just use common sense.  Diabetes, as we know it today (Type II Diabetes), is a relatively new disease.  Well, at least the prevalence of it is new.  Forty years ago it was virtually unknown.  Today, one in ten Americans has the disease.  And, a new Center for Disease Control report says that, by the year 2050, one out of every three Americans will be diabetic if we continue on our current path to destruction.

Sure, people are living longer and people are being diagnosed earlier, which both lead to higher statistical rates.  But the most significant change we’ve seen in the past forty years is our diets.  We Americans, as well as many other parts of the world, have grown accustomed to the Western Diet, a diet rich in processed foods, refined grains, corn, and gigantic portions.   So, if a change in our eating habits was the cause, then a change in our eating habits is also the solution.

  1. Portion Control – As a rule of thumb, the average adult should eat about 2,000 calories per day, give or take a couple hundred.  If you have no idea, check out a site like Nutrition Data for calorie info.  Eat only when you are hungry and stop eating when you are not hungry.  It’s simple.  How do you do this?  Plan your meals, eat slowly, think about your food, enjoy your food, and stop before you’re full.
  2. Eat Whole Grains Instead of Processed Refined Carbs – Think whole grain bread instead of the classic white bread, brown rice instead of white, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, barley.  To keep it simple, go for the brown and avoid the white.
  3. Avoid Soda and Other Sugary Beverages -There are 40 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can of Coca Cola.  That’s 10 teaspoons of sugar!  Think you’re avoiding this by drinking Gatorade and other fruity or iced tea beverages?  Think again.  Look at the nutrition facts – those drinks are nothing more than non-carbonated soda.  Drink more water.
  4. Focus on Fiber and Whole Foods – Fiber and whole foods will fill you up and keep you full longer.  You’ll have fewer cravings for sweets and other junk foods.  Winter vegetables and hearty greens such as kale and collard greens are loaded with fiber, so eat up!
  5. Shop the Perimeter of Your Supermarket – You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it’s worth repeating.  The perimeter is where all the good-for-you foods are – bread, eggs, meats, and produce.  Avoid the middle of the market, which is where thousands of modified corn products reside.
  6. Make Exercise a Part of Your Life – As always, exercise will only help you become a healthier person.  But beware – it’s not a panacea.  You can exercise all day, but if you still overload your body with sugar and refined carbs, you’re still susceptible to diabetes and other problems.  A good friend of mine trains 3-4 days a week and has run a few marathons, but last year he was diagnosed with pre-diabetes because he eats like garbage.  Strive for balance in all areas.

So there you go – six solid tips for avoiding diabetes.  See?  I told you it’s common sense.  If you ask me, you really have to work hard to get diabetes.  You really have to throw caution to the wind and have a wanton disregard for your body and your health.  Don’t make it hard on yourself.  Make it easy on yourself and develop healthy habits now.

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Diabetes is a Consequence, Not a Disease

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Type 2 Diabetes has become one of the major new afflictions affecting people everywhere.  We fight diabetes, there are diabetes walks every weekend, we search high and low for a cure to this pernicious demon.

But what are we really fighting?  What is this so-called disease that has taken so many peoples’ lives and affected countless others?

Answer:  We’re fighting ourselves.  Type 2 Diabetes is a modern, “Western,” unnecessary “disease” that we as human beings have brought upon ourselves.  That’s the bad part. The good part is that, since we’ve brought it upon ourselves, we can also banish it just as easily.  Let me explain…

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of related diseases in which the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells become resistant to insulin.  The consequence of either state is high blood sugar, due to excess glucose in the blood that isn’t delivered to the body’s cells.  So what does all of this mean, in English?  Our bodies use food for energy.  When we eat, our bodies break down food into glucose, which is a simple sugar that our cells use for energy.  However, by itself, glucose is useless.  It needs a method of transportation to get to the cells.  The method of transportation is a hormone called insulin.  Insulin is produced naturally in our pancreas and hooks up with glucose in the blood stream to deliver glucose safely to our cells.  The cells are then able to use the glucose for energy.  And when cells have no fuel, things really start to go downhill.

Type I Diabetes is a natural condition (usually inherited) in which the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells.  The result is that the body doesn’t produce insulin and, consequently, the body’s cells don’t receive energy and there is an overwhelming amount of glucose floating around in the bloodstream.  The solution is constant blood sugar monitoring and daily manual insulin injections.  This is usually a lifelong affliction and usually happens during childhood, which is why Type I is also known as juvenile or child-onset diabetes.

Type II Diabetes, on the other hand, is not a natural condition, but rather one that we bring upon ourselves as a result of atrocious diets, lack of exercise, and overall unhealthy lifestyles.  Here’s what happens:  We eat way too much food and way too many refined carbohydrates.  These refined carbs are immediately converted to glucose in our blood.  The glucose calls upon the pancreas to produce a lot of insulin to carry all of that glucose to the cells.  Together, the insulin and the glucose travel to the cells and completely overwhelm the cells with their volume.  This isn’t horrible in isolation, but when it becomes the body’s default way of operating, that’s when we get into trouble.  We do this too many times to our pancreas and eventually the pancreas becomes so overwhelmed that it either stops producing insulin or gets so beat up that it can only produce small amounts of insulin.  At the same time, the cells are sick of getting bombarded with so much glucose and insulin that the cells themselves become resistant to it (insulin-resistance).  Type II represents 90% of all diabetes cases.  Type II used to be called adult-onset diabetes because it was more common for adults to get in middle age, due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyles.  However, sadly, it’s no longer known as adult-onset because now our children are so fat and unhealthy that they now bring Type II diabetes upon themselves at a very young age.

Realize that the current rates of diabetes are unprecedented in human history.  Currently, one in ten Americans has diabetes.  A new CDC Study notes that in 2050, one in three will have diabetes if we continue on the current trajectory of unhealthy eating and not taking care of ourselves.

What’s astonishing is that Type II diabetes is (almost) completely avoidable!  We have the power to change this.  This is why I don’t have sympathy for people with Type II (except young kids who don’t yet know better).  It’s also why I’ll never participate in an event to raise money to find a “cure” for Type II.  Guess what?  I already know a cure – take care of yourself and stop being such a fat slob.

I should wrap this post up before I get too fired up.  But the reason I get fired up is that I want to help people live healthier lives so they avoid this “non-reversible” affliction.  So in my follow-up post tomorrow, I’ll tell you how, not to fight diabetes, but to avoid diabetes.  Big difference.

 

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Do You Have Hunger? The Answer to This Question Will Save Your Life.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to catch author Michael Pollan on his New Jersey stop of his current speaking tour.  Most people haven’t heard of Pollan, but he’s an incredibly popular and successful author, professor, and food activist.  In addition to writing for popular newspapers and magazines, giving inspiring TED talks, and lecturing at the University of California, Berkeley, Pollan has penned seven books to date.  If I had to summarize his philosophy into one long, run-on sentence, it would be this:  He describes the modern industrial food system that has become a cornerstone of human life, he explains how this system evolved and why it is unsustainable, and he aims to educate us all on a different way of living and a better way of eating.

The Rutgers Gymnasium was packed with about 1,500 guests, two-thirds of which were students.  There was much anticipation about what Pollan’s topic would be.  After all, it’s impossible to cover in detail approximately thirty years of writing and research in an hour and a half.  Well, he ended up doing a brief overview of his philosophy and beliefs with specific studies, anecdotes, and facts sprinkled throughout.  I thought it was a great route to take.  He’s trying to educate as many people as possible, and giving a broad overview helped the majority of the audience to connect.

One of the most memorable parts of his talk was Pollan offering his insight as to why Americans, members of one of the most developed groups of people in history, are so much more overweight and have such poorer health than populations of people from all over the world, including, notably, populations of much less “developed” nations.  Think about the French Paradox, for example:  The French have a reputation for eating bread, pastry, cheese, foie gras, drinking wine, and smoking cigarettes.  Yet they are statistically healthier than Americans, which is to say that they have fewer incidences of heart disease and lower obesity rates.  Among other things, the French are able to stay so thin and healthy because they don’t stuff themselves at every meal like most Americans do.  The French (and many other cultures throughout the world) actually stop eating when they’ve had enough.  They have a phrase for this:

“Je n’ai plus faim”

This translates to, “I no longer have hunger.”  Fascinating!  Contrast this phrase with what most Americans say: “I’m full.”  Pause and think about that for a second.  How different are those two simple statements?  There’s a huge difference.  The French stop eating when they no longer have hunger.  Americans eat right through the hunger / no hunger threshold until they can sit back in their chairs and proudly boast, “Whew, I’m stuffed!”  Sure, eating until you’re full once in a while isn’t going to kill you. But when this becomes your default way of eating, you’re in trouble.

For the record, the Spanish phrase is very similar:  “No tengo hambre” which translates into “I don’t have hunger.”

Think about this next time you’re eating and try to be cognizant of it at every meal.  Eat slowly, enjoy your food, and stop when you no longer have hunger ;-).

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Vegetables in Vending Machines? Seriously?

I read a disturbing article in the New York Times a couple weeks ago.  The article is titled, “Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries” and focuses on the problem of our reluctance to embrace vegetables as a staple in our diets.  Reading the title made me think back to my lunch a couple of weeks ago.  I was trying to order take-out lunch from my local Indian restaurant.  I asked the man at the restaurant if they have any lunches that have both chicken AND vegetables (most dishes have one or the other) and he pointed me toward a dish that has chicken with potatoes.  I thought about trying to explain to him that potatoes aren’t vegetables, but decided to save my breath.  I just told him to add some veggies to my chicken dish and charge me extra if he had to.

The problem isn’t that we confuse potatoes with veggies.  The problem is that we don’t actively make veggies a part of our meals on a daily basis.  In this article, the author cites a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study about fruit and vegetable consumption in America.  The study reports that only 26 percent of adult’s eat veggies three or more times per day and that only 23 percent of our meals contain any vegetable whatsoever.  These percentages are alarmingly, although not surprisingly, low.  What’s just as bad is that we’re not eating any more vegetables than we were a decade ago.  I thought that we were becoming smarter and better educated about healthy eating, but it looks like I’m wrong.

The author cites another study, this one titled “Eating Patterns in America”, compiled by a market research company called NPD Group.  The chief analyst for NPD, Harry Balzer is nothing but negative about the veggie vacancy in our diets.  He says that there’s nothing we can say that will get people to eat more veggies.  He also posits that eating vegetables is too inconvenient.  What we want in our busy lives is low cost and convenience.  Vegetables, he explains, are something you have to schedule your life around preparing.

I don’t think Harry could be more wrong.  One thing that differentiates humans from other animals is our ability to improve ourselves and our surroundings.  We can absolutely “improve” ourselves and develop a larger appetite for veggies.  I say it all the time – it comes down to education.  Harry’s right, veggies do take a little longer to procure and prepare than, say, fast food.  But we can learn to cook veggies, we can clear an extra five minutes out of our schedules to cook them ourselves.  We have to make our health a priority.  We have to think about our health in the larger picture.  We can’t just live day-to-day eating the foods that are quick, easy, and inexpensive.  We will pay the price down the road.  It’s not a question of IF, it’s WHEN.

We have to take responsibility for our health today.  To that end, below is one of my favorite easy vegetable preparations that anyone can make today.  Not only is it healthy; it’s delicious…

Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan and Garlic


Ingredients: fresh broccoli shaved or grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper.

Preparation: chop the stems from the florets and discard stems.  Rinse the florets under cold running water, pat dry with a paper towel, and place in a mixing bowl.  Pour in some freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly chopped or sliced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Mix all of the ingredients together.

Cooking: Place a piece of aluminum foil on your grill and dump your ingredients on the foil.  Cook on medium high heat for about 15 minutes, tossing the broccoli a couple times during cooking.

I know you’ve never tried broccoli on the grill before.  Trust me, you’ll be addicted!

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Is Fast Food the Same as Heroin?

Every once in a while I read an article or watch a video online that inspires me to write about it and share it immediately.  Today is one of those instances.  This video, an Australian advertisement, compares feeding fast food to your child to injecting your child with heroin.  A bold statement, for sure.  Too bold?  Too abrasive?  Unnecessary?  Some people may think so.  But I think it’s just what we need.  To me, this is powerful.  It’s eye-opening.  And it’s necessary.

Since when are ordinary, run-of-the-mill, “safe” advertisements effective?  We are bombarded with hundreds of advertisements every single day.  You think a G-Rated advertisement that appeals to everyone is going to stick in your mind?  No way.  This is something you will remember and hopefully something that will have an effect on you.

It’s unfortunate that America is too prude to ever allow something like this to be broadcast.  The irony is that we Americans need to see things like this more than anyone else.  We’re the fattest, most obese, most unhealthy species ever to inhabit this planet.  Feel-good, warm and fuzzy messages aren’t going to work.  We need more boldness.  We need more messages like this.  We need more rude awakenings.

What do you think, is this ad too aggressive or do you think it’s necessary?

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What it takes to Run a 26.2 Mile Training Run…By Yourself

As some of you know, I’m in the thick of training for my marathon debut at the Philadelphia Marathon on November 21.  But being the competitive athlete that I am, I’m not training just to finish.  I’m training to finish in under 3 hours.  I’ll be the first to admit, it’s quite an aggressive goal for a marathoner, let along a rookie such as myself.  We’re talking a 6:51 pace for 26 miles, 385 yards.  But thanks to my intense training plan from Cool Running, I am right on track.  Over the past 5 weeks, I’ve averaged just under 50 miles per week.  Yesterday’s training run was supposed to be 24 miles.  I was up for it, but I figured if I’m going to go through the trouble of running 24, why not run the extra 2.2 to reach the full marathon distance?  What’s another 18 minutes after I’ve been running for over 3 hours?

Answer:  as long as I was feeling strong, I told myself, I would go for the marathon training run.  Aside from logging the extra mileage, running the full marathon distance during training would give me the confidence come race day.  Having the distance under my belt would eliminate pre-race jitters, nervousness, doubt, and all of the other feelings that first-timers generally feel.

Well, needless to say, I felt great yesterday.  The weather was a perfect 65 degrees and breezy at the Jersey Shore.  I maintained my steady training pace, although several times I had to tell myself, out loud, to slow down, and I completed my personal marathon in a little under 3 1/2 hours.  I felt great during the run, after the run, and I feel pretty well today.  So how is a regular runner like me able to go out for a 26.2 mile jog by himself and feel fine?

That’s a great question. To answer it, I’ll give you some of the tips that have worked for me during my training this summer and fall.  Every runner is different; these are just the things that worked for me and that I believe can work for anyone as long as you listen to your body. Here we go…

Find a Good Program and Stick to It - If you’re training for an event or just serious about running regularly, it’s best to have a plan of action.  There are a ton of samples online at sites like Runner’s World and Cool Running.  Or just Google “Training Plan” and you’ll find a sea of good information.  Once you get your plan, print it out and put it in a place where you can access it daily.  Or, if you’re so technologically inclined, download it onto your smart phone and sync it to your calendar.  The point is that you want this plan to stare you in the face at least once per day.  Now, I know that we all have crazy schedules and the truth is that Life Happens.  We have to be flexible with our plans and tailor them to fit our individual lives.  Whatever your personal plan is, Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan!

Build Up to Marathon Distance - It’s not very smart to wake up one day and decide to go for a 26.2 mile jog.  It’s entirely possible, but you’ll probably do damage to your body and you won’t be able to run again for several weeks.  Follow your training plan and be sure you are ready to go the distance.

Rest - During the week leading up to your 26.2 mile jog, be sure to get as much rest as you can.  Eight hours of sleep per night is ideal.  The reason – you want to make sure your muscles are completely repaired from all of your training before you put additional stress on them.  You want them to be as fresh and rested as possible.  Also, the day before your run, try to stay off your feet as much as possible.  Baby your legs so they can get as much rest as they can.

Hydrate – If you’re a runner, you should always drink a lot of water.  I drink between a gallon and 150 ounces of water per day.  Yes, I know that’s a lot more than necessary, but it’s what works for me and makes me feel well.  Make sure your pee is always clear.  Dark yellow pee is a sign of dehydration.  The day before your long run, drink as much water as humanly possible.  Friday, the day prior to my run, I drank nearly 200 ounces of water.  If you’re drinking this much, make sure you’re also eating, else you could fall victim to hyponutremia, which is not good.  If you wake up in the middle of the night, drink water.  And then, as soon as you wake up, drink as much water as you can prior to your run.  Tip:  I usually run as soon as I wake up in the morning.  however, for long runs like this, I like to wait about 3 hours.  This gives me time to hydrate, eat, and digest before hitting the pavement.

Eat – Again, if you’re a runner, you should know your body’s food needs.  Follow your regular eating habits during the week.  Then, the day prior to your run, fuel up as much as you feel comfortable with.  I’m NOT a believer in the gigantic pasta dinner a night before a run or event.  Sure, you can eat 2 pounds of pasta in one sitting, but your body just can’t process all  of that food at once, so the extra food is extraneous.  Rather than the big pasta dinner, I fuel up all day the day before a run.  I’ll eat a little more at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while making sure I have larger healthy snacks in between those meals.  I will eat more carbs during the entire day.  For instance, in addition to my usual lunch of a garden salad with grilled chicken, I’ll add a serving of whole wheat penne or linguine.  Then, for an afternoon snack, I will have another serving of this whole wheat pasta with some steamed broccoli.  The downside is that I feel bloated, but the upside is that I know I will be properly fueled for my long run tomorrow.  I burn about 120 calories per mile run, so during a 26.2 mile run, I’m burning well over 3,000 calories in 3.5 hours.  Simply put:  my body needs a large store of calories to draw from during this time.

Wear Comfortable Clothes – I don’t spend more money than I should on running gear because it looks cool (which it does).  I spend it because it’s functional and comfortable.  You’ll learn from running long distances that the tiniest of discomforts can ruin your day.  You have to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible for the long haul.  As an example, my outfit of choice yesterday was very typical of my summer running gear:  Under Armour Cap, Sunglasses, iPod, Nike Dri Fit tank, Nike Dri Fit running shorts, Under Armour wicking socks, and my new Asics Gel Cumulus running sneaks.  Note, I don’t make any money off of these or any other links in this post; I just like to share what works for me.  If you’re a runner, you’ve heard the adage, “Nothing New on Race Day.”  It’s true.  I’ll never wear a new piece of clothing, especially sneakers, for a long run or a race.  Make sure you road test everything on a shorter run before you go long.

Bring Fuel - If you don’ t pay attention to anything else in this post, heed this advice.  You cannot run 26.2 miles without fuel!  Despite your efforts to eat and drink as much as possible in the 24 hours leading up to your run, you need more.  You don’t need to go crazy and have a pizza delivered to you while you’re running like ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes did, but you do need to fuel your muscles intermittently.  During my run yesterday, I sucked down 3 of the 4 GU Energy Gels that I had.  Plus, I stopped 4 times for water.  A note about water:  It depends on the course, but sometimes I will stash water around the course and sometimes I will just bring money with me to buy water along the way.  Yesterday was a long out-and-back run so I just tucked a $20 bill in the pocket of my running shorts and bought water along the boardwalk on the way.  This only involves a 1 minute stop and let’s you get water without carrying one of those clunky race belts.  The rule of thumb is to fuel up with a GU (or similar) and water every 45 minutes on a long run.  Stick to this schedule whether you feel you need it or not.  When you begin to feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  You have to stay ahead of the curve with fuel and hydration.

Relax and Run a Steady Pace - I’m a pretty fast runner so I have to remind myself that I’m not trying to break any records on my long runs.  I like to shoot for an 8:00 pace and sustain it for the entire run.  My final average pace yesterday was 7:55, which I was happy with.  It’s tempting to run faster when you’re feeling a burst of energy or an awesome song comes on your iPod, but you have to maintain discipline.  Sure, 7:55 is over a minute slower than my goal marathon pace, but I know that my weekly long runs combined with my mid-week speed workouts will get me to my goal, no problem.

Listen to Your Body – This is huge and not something I’m always great at following, much to my wife’s chagrin.  At this point, I’ve been training for this marathon for a couple months.  I feel absolutely fantastic.  I’m very thankful that I feel as well as I do.  It’s so easy to get injured when you’re running 50 miles a week.  You have to do a lot of things right – rest, eat, sleep, hydrate, stretch.  I also know that I’m one stupid run (running harder or longer than I should) away from not feeling so well.  The minute I feel like I’m injured or not feeling well, I will slow down.  Your body doesn’t lie to you – it will tell you when it needs a rest.  And when it does, you have to listen to it.  Don’t be short-sighted.  If you’re hurting during a run, stop.  Live to fight another day.

Recover – You’ve just run 26.2 miles.  You need to rest and recover.  What’s this mean?  Pretty much the same as your pre-run routine.  Eat, drink, rest, stretch.  You’ll be thirsty for the rest of the day.  Drink a ton of water.  I’m not a fan of Gatorade, as I outlined here.  I prefer good old-fashioned water.  Eat a bunch of carbs and some protein immediately after.  That night, treat yourself to a hearty dinner; you’re still recovering.  Continue to drink water.  Stay off your feet.  Go to bed at a reasonable hour.  Get some sleep.  The next day, you’ll be sore (I was this morning).  Continue to drink water.  Go stretch or ride the stationary bike or go for a light jog to get your muscles moving and your blood flowing.  Contrary to popular belief, and contrary to what you will want to do, sitting around on the couch all day won’t help you.  You need active recovery.  Stimulate your muscles a little bit, but don’t stress them.  Right after I finish writing this awesome post, I’m hitting the boardwalk for a 3-4 mile recovery jog.  It may not be easy, but it’s good for me.  You know that John Mellancamp song, “Hurts so Good”?  That’ll be the theme song for my run today.  It may hurt, but it’s for my own good.

So there you have it – some of my tips for running a marathon by yourself.  Granted, most people don’t run marathons by themselves for fun.  I realize that.  The good news is that you can apply the tips in this post to any distance.  You won’t need to eat as much the day leading up to your run, but everything else is applicable.  The bottom line is to know yourself and know your body.  Everyone is different.  I consider myself fortunate enough to have (somewhat) figured out my body and what I require to perform at my highest level.  Be patient with yourself, it will come to you.

Although this is a very wordy post, it’s in some ways just a brief overview of what it takes to run the marathon distance.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at josephwhughes at gmail dot com.

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