Podcast

Best of 2022 on That Triathlon Show | EP#371

 January 2, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

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A round-up of some of the best episodes and moments from That Triathlon Show in 2022.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Tim Reed
  • Bex Milnes
  • Mark Burnley
  • Tim Podlogar
  • Alan Murchison
  • Glenn Poleunis
  • Paulo Sousa
  • Eoin Everard
  • Erin Carson
  • Tom Bell
  • Andrew Sellars

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Shownotes

Episode description

00:31 -

  • In today's episode, we have a roundup episode with segments from 11 of my favourite interviews of 2022. (completely subjective and in random order)
  • Many of these interviews have high download numbers and excellent feedback from listeners.
  • The idea was to play 2-10 min from each interview.
  • If you have yet to listen to the interviews, check them out.
  • It will allow you to remind some of the takeaways from guests of the show on specific topics.

1º clip - Training talk with Tim Reed | EP#350

Fundamentals of each discipline

04:10 -

  • We know the principles of aerobic and anaerobic work for endurance sports, but athletes are entering these swimming squads and doing too much anaerobic swimming.
  • Besides the physiological stress, athletes practice "poor" form when swimming.
  • The swimming technique is crucial for performance, so I usually take athletes out of the swim squads if they cannot control themselves or drop down a lane to bring more aerobic training into the swim.
  • I would treat the swim as I would with cycling and running. Therefore, I would only have 1-2 more demanding swim sessions, and the rest focused on the more extended endurance efforts.
  • The aim is to build efficiency at a cellular level and efficiency with their technique.
  • Some athletes "smoke themselves" when trying to keep up with faster swimmers.
  • I have seen significant improvements with third-tier pros that I start coaching by pulling them back from doing too much anaerobic work.
  • The squads usually do not take a polarised approach to their training.
  • You can become so tired that you cannot even do threshold training. (only that zone three grinding all the time)

Cycling

  • Cycling is a strength endurance sport. Some athletes have a huge aerobic history but still cannot ride fast.
  • Therefore, we have to address the limitations.
  • The athletes without that history do much aerobic training with higher intensity work in the middle.
  • Athletes should do this for the first 5-6 years when they enter a sport.
  • The athletes with that aerobic background should take a strength endurance approach with some gym work to build that "raw strength."
  • There is no standard approach for every athlete because you have to look at the weaknesses of a rider and what is holding them back.
  • In my athletic journey, I had the lucky coaches focused on training volume first, and then when I switched to a coach like Matt Dixon (strength endurance and intervals), the two combined to allow me to have a couple of good years on the bike.
  • I try to approach cycling with an individual approach and work out their limitations.

Running

  • Running volume is essential. People riding 800 km per week does not mean anything because you could do it in a peloton in zone one and average 40 km/h.
  • There is never junk mileage in the run because there is always stress on the body no matter the pace you are doing.
  • Even if a great runner is doing an easy run at 5:30min/km, their feet must hold their body weight in every step.
  • Therefore, we work the volume to a point where it does not affect cycling performance.
  • Moreover, we stay away from chronic volume. We do a running block of 5-10 days and then back a bit.
  • Getting to 90-100 km per week is good, but your cycling and swimming performance will drop off.
  • However, this approach is individual. Some pros cannot go over 80 km per week without getting injured, while others are bullet-proof.
  • These mileages are of their highest running volume weeks because the weekly average over a year will be much lower.
  • If athletes are aerobically efficient, they might work on higher intensities at higher lactate levels.
  • Depending on the athletes' limitations, the proportion of intensities will change.
  • For athletes that need to improve their sub-threshold efficiency, the primary training is on aerobic mileage.

2º clip - Training talk with Bex Milnes | EP#353

Similarities and differences between Bex's and Tim's approach

Swimming

12:20 -

  • If I generally speak across all disciplines, I work on developing an aerobic underpinning and efficiency at the first and second thresholds.
  • Each discipline will have its specificities depending on the individual.
  • I believe that volume of intensity is a crucial factor to evaluate.
  • In swimming, 70-80 % of training would be primarily aerobic.
  • We may focus on open water skills.
  • I focus on the second threshold, or VO2max, where we focus most of our intensity time.
  • Early in the winter, I focus more on anaerobic capacity because it kickstarts the VO2 work well.
  • The transferability to open water is a critical aspect.
  • We focus on stroke rate and solid tactical awareness considering open water specificity.

Cycling

  • 1The intensity distribution sits around 80/20, meaning a significant portion of aerobic riding.
  • Depending on the season period, I would prioritise how people are riding aerobically. The idea is to focus on holding an aerodynamic position and understand the demands of the race course. For example, I would prescribe anaerobic work if it is a hilly race. (getting used to over gearing)
  • You must be super-efficient around the first threshold if doing half or Ironman racing.
  • I would structure at least a week, focusing on developing that.
  • If those sessions have proper nutrition intake, the cost of them is relatively low.
  • Depending on your anaerobic capacity, we could have a second focus in cycling (second threshold or VO2max).
  • I prescribe a couple of bike sessions weekly, and the rest is aerobic training.
  • We also do some brick sessions after those aerobic rides.
  • Therefore, we should ride according to the course's specifics and ensure you are as efficient as possible.

Running

  • The run is the most individual modality. It will depend on what riders can tolerate.
  • Running is the discipline that leads to most injuries.
  • The first threshold is the primary focus, and the shorter the event, the more critical the second threshold and VO2max play a role.
  • It is similar concerning intensity distribution throughout the week.
  • We will run primarily aerobic, and intensity will depend on the athlete's tolerability.
  • In para-triathlon, there are many more asymmetries that you need to consider.
  • The quicker you run, the higher the load.
  • We need to consider also the total load of the week in terms of swim, cycling and running.
  • Often running the discipline occupies the least amount of time, but it is where you will have more injuries. Therefore, intensity plays a significant role in your mechanical load.
  • Your running biomechanics will probably change with the type of sessions you could do before running.
  • Training periodisation
  • It will depend on the athlete's tolerability and the emphasis on training.
  • If you focus on an intensity training block, you need to account for the recovery period because adaptations happen when you recover.
  • I have had athletes that need frequent rest (rest day each week).
  • The diesel engine can go for weeks without lowering training quality.
  • Generally, the more diesel you are, the minor damage you can do to yourself.
  • The number of years in sports also matters.
  • However, different athletes have different training strategies.

3º Clip - VLaMax, Polarised training, Fatigue and Complexity with Mark Burnley, PhD | EP#331

Arguments for polarised training not being optimal for endurance athletes.

19:52 -

  • If you look at the time spent training, you do not select the parts where you are only working. Therefore, you have the whole package.
  • You will cross the three zones in any training session when you do that. To say you are minimising one of those three (the one in the middle) seems strange.
  • When you look at the time athletes spend working, athletes will do something that looks pyramidal.
  • They will do much low intensity (most training), less volume of zone two work and a smaller zone three work.
  • The previous training interventions on polarised training had often been unfairly compared to threshold training. They have a situation where you do 80 % of your training in zone one and 20 % in zone three. (0% in zone two)
  • The opposition is doing only zone two, a bit of zone one and no zone three.
  • My argument is that I have yet to come across any athlete who does not do training above critical power.
  • Threshold training also includes zone three. 
  • If you are not an elite athlete, you will not do the same training volume, so you will do less zone one work anyway.
  • Thus, your training will gravitate more toward threshold training. You do not have much time and want to use it efficiently.
  • So, you tend to do higher-intensity work.
  • Moreover, some reasons for using polarised training did not make much sense. There is this argument that doing a lot of zone two training will be autonomically stressful.
  • You will increase adrenaline, and your markers of HRV will change. (overstress yourself) And it is why you might want to avoid zone two work. 
  • The evidence from Stephen Seiler's paper demonstrates that they will have the same effect on these stress markers if you do zone two or three.
  • You cannot sustain the argument that you should avoid zone two if zone three does the same thing.
  • You might get the argument that if they are equally stressful, it will be better to do zone three work. However, you cannot argue that you should not do zone two work.
  • The third argument is that many advocate moderate continuous training (a phrase used in the literature), which implies zone one. 
  • But when you look at the literature, few training studies looked at the physiological adaptations to zone one training.
  • Most training studies that evaluate moderate and continuous training are studies where athletes do zone two training.
  • They exercise at 60-70 % of VO2max in their continuous training.
  • For most people, this is zone two training.
  • We use zone two adaptations to imply that we should use zone one and ignore zone two.
  • Therefore, I realised the literature that supports polarised training is messy.
  • The other argument is that if you do high-intensity exercise, you do less angiogenesis. (you get less capillarisation if you do high-intensity work)
  • Much of that work is from single-leg exercises, which differ from whole-body exercises.
  • Therefore, there is not much to say that zone one is what we should do most of the time.
  • I would speculate that we must understand how big zone one is for an elite athlete. (their lactate threshold will be higher than for other people) They have more type one fibres or trained their type 2a fibres to behave more like type one.
  • Their lactate threshold could be at 65-70 % of their VO2max. 
  • The oxygen flux will be high when they do the upper hand of zone one training. It will lead to more angiogenesis compared to someone that does not have such high lactate threshold.
  • We cannot gather elite athlete responses to training to infer what training is suitable for everyone. It ignores the training intensity distribution, which may differ for a recreational athlete.
  • I believe there is much overinterpretation of the literature concerning polarised training.

4º Clip - Carbohydrates – science and practice with Tim Podlogar, PhD | EP#354

Carbohydrate recommendations

Pre-Race

  • On the day, the aim is to fill up both glycogen stores: liver and muscle.
  • It is essential to distinguish between liver and muscle stores because we will not use muscle glycogen stores at night.
  • However, the brain and vital organs are working, so we can reduce liver glycogen stores overnight.
  • The morning nutrition is to replenish liver glycogen stores.
  • We have done a study in which we gave the same breakfast concerning quantities but different types of carbohydrates. (glucose or glucose and fructose)
  • This difference is because fructose first needs to go to the liver.
  • As it goes first to the liver, it takes care of those liver glycogen stores. We found out that time to exhaustion was higher for people that ate glucose and fructose.
  • In practical terms, it means something like rice or porridge oats with some sources of fructose (honey, jam, juice or anything like this)

5º Clip - The Performance Chef – Alan Murchison | EP#366

Athlete body composition

32:47 -

  • Weight and body fat percentage should be the parameter people should concern about the least.
  • I have never seen body fat percentages on the results sheet.
  • I typically do not use social media to talk badly about people.
  • There are two cases where people were talking about weight and body fat.
  • If you are an athlete, you will have aspiring young athletes and people that do not understand the requirements of elite athletes watching you.
  • Weight and body are not essential for performance.
  • The most important for athletes is to absorb a high training volume.
  • Training load and consistency.
  • If you are constantly at a caloric deficit and with low body fat percentages, you will not recover, adapt and achieve your goals.
  • There was a case of an athlete who claimed he was at 4 % body fat and lower than everyone else. However, is that relevant?
  • Do you think Kristin Blummenfelt is measuring his body fat at the start of a race?
  • Associating body fat percentage with success is dangerous.
  • There was an athlete with a phenomenal season and 500k followers on Instagram.
  • They posted that she had lost 3.5 kg and was ready to race.
  • She lost 6-8 % of her body weight, and they associated losing weight with being ready to race.
  • It is reckless. The athlete might have done that weight program well, but that was the headline used for it.
  • PTO has done something good. However, they present the athlete's weight.
  • Only three of the top 10 female athletes do not have the weight.
  • The ones that do not have it are the best of this season.
  • If PTO asked me about my weight, I would ask why.
  • Weight is dangerous, and I worry more about the 14 sessions you have to do per week and if you fuel correctly for them.
  • Obsession with weight is a bad thing in sports.

6º Clip - Training talk with Glenn Poleunis | EP#335

Glenn's year periodisation

38:10 -

  • It is hard to say in a broad range, as the season starts at different periods for different athletes.
  • I generally work with an extended base phase depending on the athlete's initial start of the season.
  • Even for neuromuscular adaptations, we need several weeks to check changes in performance.
  • As the season approaches, we move into a build phase to do more "low cadence" and tempo work.
  • Then, we enter the race-specific phase, where we focus on the demands of the race based on the athlete's physiology.
  • I repeat these phases throughout the season and avoid making the race-specific phase too long because the overall goal is to keep on improving over time.

Training volume

  • It will depend on the athlete's physiological profile, muscle typology, genre, and especially for the run, and I do more strength work with the girls and do less volume. (to make sure they can keep progressing in volume and intensity over time)
  • I believe in high-volume training and tapering at the right moments.
  • However, that volume is different when comparing young and master athletes.
  • We are doing 30h per week of training with the elites in the base and build phases.
  • Athletes do 5-6h of swimming, 15-20h of bike sessions and running around 100 km. Some athletes focus more on the swim, others more on the run.
  • I do not use run or bike for weeks, and I tend to keep training consistent because of preventing injuries.
  • This training allows for consistent improvements over the long term.
  • Concerning intensity, we regularly do two hard runs, and the rest builds the volume around two specific sessions.
  • We might do three times more specific work on the bike. In the swim, I tend to keep the intensity relatively high.
  • We have two specific workouts, but we might make some sprints to keep the speed in recovery sessions. Athletes might do four workouts with some intensity.
  • Our athletes have fixed days for the run, but it is determined how much intensity we do in the end.

Recovery periods

  • We might not call it "down weeks" as elite athletes will still do 20-21h of training per week.
  • Young athletes might do 22-24 h consistently, so the "recovery weeks" might be 16-20h.
  • I like to keep the intensity in the down weeks and do one full rest day.
  • Therefore, recovery periods will vary depending on the athlete's training history.
  • We do a 2:1 ratio of training vs down weeks for young athletes, but for elite athletes is more like 3:1.
  • On an easy day, we still do a couple of sessions. It could be on Monday, especially for age group athletes that do more work at the weekend.
  • We do low-intensity swims, and they might do a little jog and some gym work.
  • For others, it can be a swim, gym, and a two-hour low-intensity bike session.
  • It will depend on the athletes' tastes. Some like to ride their bike and get some mental recovery from doing a coffee ride with some friends.
  • Some people like to spread it slightly more, and I have athletes (anaerobic dominant athletes) who need an afternoon off, where we only do a leisurely swim in the morning.

7º Clip - Training talk with Paulo Sousa | EP#360

Differences athletes find when they enter the squad

46:25 -

  •  Experiences are individual, and they will depend on the environment they were in before.
  • The most prominent strength we have is we can maintain "dramas" to a low level and can focus on the work, improvement and performance.
  • In other squads, there might be a "high school" environment that we try to avoid.
  • Concerning training, many training programs are intensity-focused.
  • I receive many athletes who are used to doing much more and burn out from that intensity.
  • Athletes lack "real endurance" to approach the races we do.
  • As triathlon is not a sport as established as others, many coaches are still looking to find their system and end with programs with too much intensity.
  • Athletes come to our squad, and there is a shock because we do less intensity and more volume.
  • The impact those high-intensity programs have on the bodies throughout the years makes a significant difference in their performance.

Paulo's training philosophy

  • I do not have a "standard" approach to training.
  • Athletes have a broader mind of what we do in training, and we might change things regularly.
  • Moreover, athlete input will affect our process.
  • Specific athletes like to train in a specific way, and my job is to provide stimuli they will embrace.
  • We tend to operate more daily and less about the training content and what we do.
  • We also adjust things on athlete feedback.
  • I tend to "prescribe" more polarised training. However, it seems that everything is polarised training.
  •  However, we also have been doing much "FatMax" training on the bike and applying the "Ingerbristen" concept on the run, which is not a polarised training concept.
  • Therefore, I would say I have a flexible approach to training.
  • I prescribe training based on the specificities or the personal preferences athletes have.

8º Clip - Injury prevention, strength training, and running biomechanics with Eoin Everard, PhD | EP#336

Preventing passive system injuries

Variation

52:26-

  • The first step would be variation. I think coaches like the Scientific Triathlon are crucial to getting the most out of your physiology and training and from an injury perspective.
  • People who do not have a coach tend to revert to the same training type. Novice triathletes might always do the same thing, so the same tissue gets overloaded, and the range of motion is also the same.
  • Therefore, you must add some variety to your training (threshold, changes in surfaces, shoes and doing running strides)
  • I like uphill strides on a slight incline. I recommend those because they increase the range of motion of the strides. Joints are like oil fluid that, by moving it through the range of motion and lengthening the muscles, allows the joint to move healthily.

Activation of the muscle system

  • The second aspect is that our muscle system is lazy, so you need to wake it up. And you do that by strengthening the muscles.
  • Sports pilates or gym work is where you can work the muscles well. Athletes should not be afraid of heavy lifts or feeling their muscles burn.
  • It might be a shock for triathletes initially because they do not go to the gym often. 
  • We sit 8-10 hours daily, so it will take more than a 30s stretch to rebalance your body.
  • I do Pilates once per week, but it takes 20 minutes of Pilates to start working the muscles correctly. You have to wake these things up. They are lazy because we sit much of our time.
  • Therefore, it is not a stretch that will wake up the body.
  • If you do a proper warm-up, your stabilisers will be much more activated, so they will be ready to take the load. 
  • All injuries that triathletes have come from passive system overload. (SIE joint problem that causes the muscle to get overloaded and get strained)
  • The first exercise I would do to wake up the muscles is the single-leg deadlift. You stand on one leg while slightly bending the knee we are standing on, and you bring the other leg back as far as you can.
  • You want to keep the lifted leg aligned with your body. The crucial mistake I see is that you have to start lowering the body when the back leg starts lifting. Initially, you might be only 10/20º from a vertical stand, but that is ok, and it is better than people folding their back, and they will not doing the movement correctly.
  • The single-leg deadlift works all the posterior chain muscles that tend to weaken. Moreover, it works on balance and in that standing position.
  • I would do sets of 10 reps. And you should feel the muscles burning and stop when you cannot do much more repetitions.
  • Anyone with calf, chin and Achilles injuries should do this as the primary exercise.
  • Many people do calf raises, which are acceptable in specific cases but the calf because of the range of motion, the calf gets overloaded.
  • We often strengthen and overload this area rather than looking at other areas to take the load of that area.
  • People might do excessive squats or lunges, but make sure the other chain parts are substantial.

9º Clip - Strength coach Erin Carson | EP#367

Erin's 45-minute session template

1:00:05 -

  •  
  • A typical 45-min session will start with movement mobility to undo some tightness that comes from cycling, biking or running.
  • We want softness and flow in their movement. If I do not see that, we will take more time for tissue care.
  • Some athletes like foam rolling, while others like massage guns.
  • We use both for athletes and let them choose which one they like the most.
  • I do not control the first 5-6min of the session, but I see what the athlete chooses. Some athletes do the same thing every time and do not have the intuition to understand they might not need to do something.
  • If an athlete is rigid about his protocol, I will guide that athlete more to try for them to do different things.
  • The athlete will show me where they need more motion because if they enter and start foam rolling their arm, it might mean their thoracic spine is feeling tight.
  • The same thing might happen with the hips.
  • I will watch those 5 - 6 mins to understand where the session needs to go in addition to the plan.
  • Then, we will do some light loading to enhance mobility and bring motor unit recruitments. (10-pound weight which will give more inertial to open up a bit more)
  • I do not look at muscle but at the fascial and connective tissue, and I see the muscle in between.
  • Instead of training the quads, I am training the whole lower body. (the same with the hamstrings and the back line)
  • Much of that came from a book called Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.
  • When we get stuck in movement, the fascial and nervous systems shut that movement. 
  • We got lucky to learn how to strengthen the movement and build trust with the movement for the body to perform better.
  • Then, we will put the muscles under load because of the muscle inhibition of tightness.
  • I want upper back function, scapular stabilisation and glute function and ankle mobility.
  • The glute will not fire appropriately if the foot and ankle are not moving well.
  • We use MOBO boards to enhance the loading of the big toe, ensuring we are loading it well.
  • The next phase is the strength component.
  • You are a strength coach, but that is the last thing you will do.
  • The heavier load strategies enhance the athlete's hormonal profile, so for older athletes, this strategy becomes part of their hormonal profile.
  • Typically, older endurance athletes have hormonal profiles that lead to lower testosterone levels, leading to poor recovery and mood swings.
  • We emphasise higher loads and building techniques to ensure athletes challenge themselves to use all systems of the body.
  • Most athletes will focus on 2-3 heavy lifts that we want them to be better at in strength training.
  • I am risk averse; every time you put an athlete under load, you will put them at risk. So, they need to have a good preparation for those lifts.
  • Most of my athletes are good at the hexbar deadlift, while others are better with the goblet front squat.
  • I only back squat one athlete; the only reason is that she grew up back squatting and does it well.
  • Spinal flexion we experience on the bike (rounded spine) and tightness on the front of the body could make it difficult for an endurance athlete to get under a back squat.
  • I find that risk profile to be too high for me.
  • We do primarily front squats and deadlifts, lat pull exercises, a single arm shoulder press (which allows you to elevate and rotate one shoulder) and bent-over rows (single and double leg).
  • Each athlete has 3-4 loaded lifts, which are low-neural demanding because they become good at them.

10º CLIP - Training talk with Tom Bell | EP#356

Training progression method

1:10:12 -

  • We might fall into the trap of making training too varied and changing it weekly.
  • If only some workouts are optimal for the athlete, I think repeating the same workout design for a period is helpful.
  • You might add an arbitrary amount of repeats to a single interval, but no one knows if that is the right thing to do.
  • We ask athletes to repeat the same protocol, with the difference of going long on the last interval (let the athlete find the right level of progression).

Recovery

  • Motivated athletes do not have a problem with training much.
  • It is with rest and recovery that athletes suffer a bit.
  • Most athletes look at their training capacity but do not look at their recovery capacity. (They can squeeze 12 hours per week, but can they recover from that?)
  • So, I emphasise to athletes that sometimes resting a bit more might be the way to get fitter.

11º Clip - Physiology, testing and respiratory training with Andrew Sellars | EP#361

Performance limitations

1:13:41 - 

  • A good example is the cross-country skier. They come to us for testing because they found some performance limitations.
  • They might have good technique and can ski as fast as everyone else in a short sprint, but they struggle to keep up in a 10 km race.
  • In an ideal world, we would test him on the skies, but in the off-season, we do not have access to snow or a skate mill, so we cannot simulate his effort indoors.
  • So we tested that athlete running and cycling. He was doing cycling as an off-season sport, but we looked at both cycling and running performances to see if we could find physiological limitations.
  • That athlete had two limitations: he had an excessively high heart rate early in the test, meaning they had a small heart that had to beat quickly to provide the output they needed for performing.
  • He also had an excessively high respiratory frequency, so he was not using his diaphragm correctly.
  • With these simple tests, he changed their training and had a much better rest of the season by doing longer intervals on the skies with lower heart rates and slower breathing patterns.
  • If they did not test, coaches would not get this data and would try to push them harder and harder to tolerate that effort.
  • It would reach a point where athletes would burn out, and coaches would tell athletes they did not have what it takes to perform at a higher level.

Respiratory training and its effects on performance

  • The origin research came from Switzerland which was on patients with respiratory issues.
  • The theory was that if we could improve their respiratory system, we could improve their activities in daily living.
  • That work led to the development of Spirotigger, which was a way of training the respiratory system without taxing the other systems.
  • If you put someone with severe asthma on a treadmill and start walking, breathing and walking were too challenging.
  • We could measure how they breathe and improve if they only focus on breathing.
  • People with asthma have a problem, but the question is if healthy people could also have limitations.
  • The first test was taking an isocapnic breathing bag and having cyclists breathe as fast as possible for five minutes.
  • Then, they put them on an ergo-meter and made them do a 20km time trial.
  • Nobody could hit the same number after breathing hard for five minutes.
  • So, all the research came from that study where cyclists got fatigued from only breathing. So, breathing can be a limiting factor for performance.
  • Most of the breathing at a high intensity should be coming from the diaphragm.
  • The diaphragm is a skeletal 100 % slow-twist muscle. The additional abdomen and intercostal muscles also fatigue like any other muscle.
  • If you need to support fast breathing and those muscles are already tired, you cannot keep up with the elimination of CO2, and your physiology falls apart because you produce more acid and your PH goes off.
  • So, if you train the thoracic muscles to delay fatigue, you can improve your performance.

LINKS AND RESOURCES:


Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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