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Packraft section set

Jim here. Last weekend, my daughters helped me set the raft control points (RPs) for SPAR’s packraft section. Here’s Rosa at RP 1 and Carmen at RP 2.

The water level is good right now and the current moves along well without being pushy (if pushy is possible in a ND river). The water is still pretty cold, though, so give some thought to the clothing you want for this section (No cotton). Barring catastrophe, you should stay reasonably dry—at this level you can get all 3 RPs without leaving your boat, although you might slip off a log getting around the several logjams. While you’re portaging, keep your toes away from these dudes:

This guy’s shell was at least 12” long, and we saw 5 others, all as big. It was like turtle river, um, er, I mean, it was like a river full of turtles. Be careful out there.

Coming together

Jim and Pat have been out setting the O-course section of the race in the snow.  I hope it doesn't look like this on race day!  Things are coming together nicely - we're getting really excited about all the details that we can't tell you about - kind of hard to keep secrets at this stage because I'm so amped about things.  We're still looking for a few more volunteers though, and would love to get a few more teams as well, so keep spreading the word!  Going to be awesome.....

Jim putting up one of the points

Pat, dumbfounded by the GPS

Date change for orienteering/pack-rafting clinic

oops!  sorry....

It's exciting that there is enough going on in Grand Forks that there are occasionally multiple things happening on the same day.  In this case it is the Youth Climbing Competition that both my kids and Jim G's (the other race director) kids have been training and looking forward to.  It's a bummer that we are only catching it now!  We're sorry for the late change and hope that everyone who had planned to attend is still able to come.

Long story short - we've gotta change the date for the orienteering and packrafting clinic by one day.  It'll now be moved to Sunday, May 1st.  We'll begin a bit later than previously scheduled as well to allow folks to have their normal Sunday morning before coming out to join us at Turtle River State park.  You'll need to pay to get into the park on your own - your entry fee covers park entry on race day, but not for the clinic.
Here are the details:
Time:  Sunday May 1st, starting at 12:30 pm 
Where:  Turtle River State Park, meeting at the main park office parking lot
What:  approximately 30-45 minutes of orienteering skills workshop, then an hour in the field practicing what you've learned. at 3 pm we'll head to the river for a 30-45 minute paddle through the park.
Gear:  This is a great way to try out your race gear/clothing.  If you're not sure what to bring, check out the recommended gear list here.  Also try to bring a compass (you'll need one for the race), something to write with and on if you want to take notes.  If you plan on paddling with us bring your boating gear (packraft or equivalent, pump, pfd, and something to paddle with).  Finally, if you want help making the hand paddles, bring a five gallon bucket and hacksaw if you've got it.
Finally, please RSVP if you plan to attend. 
Cheers, and sorry again for any inconvenience!
ENDracing Team

Sponsor love - Numa sunglasses

Numa (sunglasses) is and ENDracing supporter!  Racers will have a chance to win a free pair of these awesome shades at each ENDracing event or purchase their own at a discount through Ground UP adventures website, which should be up and running by the end of the month!

Packrafting Revisited

If you've been paying attention you already know that i'm pretty biased when it comes to packrafting.  It truly did change the way i approached adventuring in general and even here in North Dakota i've found my boats to be indispensable tools for really getting out there.

2005 and the trip that started my obsession

I also know, however, that including pack-rafting as a discipline in our adventure races requires folks to dig up a new piece of gear in an already gear intensive sport.  I struggle with this, particularly when it comes to the spring race, which is designed to be as accessible as possible and a great introduction to AR.  With this in mind, we've made the pack-raft section of the spring course optional - that is to say that there will be no mandatory checkpoints on this section.  So if you're a new team just looking to see what it's all about you can still come out and race and have a great experience (even without the pack-rafting leg the course is still going to be awesome!).
 

Adventure racing before pack-rafts

That being said however, i've just spent some time scouting the river section that we'll be using this last weekend and am remembering all over how much fun pack-rafting is - so i do highly encourage racers to consider tracking down some boats and plan on including this section.  You're not going to be running rapids - it won't be scary - but it will be damn fun, and full of adventure.  Any type of 'boat' will do, from a $30 seyvlor boat (or similar), an inner tube to a full fledged top of the line packraft (from Alpacka of course - who sending one of their boats to give away!).  Some options might be drier or sturdier than others, of course, and a more fragile boat might require some care in use (don't run headlong into a pointy stick with your vinyl boat unless you're trying to save time deflating it) - but just about anything that is designed to float someone will probably work.  You will be carrying your water-craft about three quarters of a mile to access the river on good trail/road.  The river section itself will be a bit more than 1.5 miles long, and should take between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the speed of the current on race day as well as the speed of the team.
 

And after pack-rafts
(OK, we'll still have some 'before' for good measure)

As for paddles - many boats will come with a break apart paddle or oars which are fine - hand paddles.  Hand-paddles can be nice, particularly for shorter paddles, and you can make your own out of a five gallon bucket with a hacksaw and a drill in 15 minutes or less.  Not sure how to do this?  Bring your materials and tools (charged batteries for the drill) packraft clinic on April 30th and we'll give you a hand.

We want to keep having races up here in the Red River valley, and keep making you packraft.  And we hope folks will start to see the value of these craft - they are way more forgiving than canoes for beginners, can be taken anywhere with ease, are great for any sort of downstream travel, can be used in the smallest of creeks (canoeing turtle river is hard at best, impossible all other times; Pack-rafting is almost always fun and exciting) and calm water alike.  Get one.  Use it.  We think you'll have fun.

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Hello April!

Lots to report this month, so I'll get right into it!  To begin with, planning is full swing for END-SPAR (the Extreme North Dakota spring primer adventure race), a six hour race to be held on mother's day out at Turtle River State Park.  Not only do we think doing an adventure race is a wonderful way to spend mother's day, but we'll have special treats for all the mothers that make it out!  The race is a great entry point to the sport for beginners with a course that is both challenging and accessible.  Some new details are now popping up on the event page  and lots of relevant race content (including this excellent post on navigation) is being added to the blog, so make sure to check it out.  Two things that particular mention are the decision to run a free navigation and pack-rafting clinic the saturday before race weekend (April 30th) out at Turtle River State Park, and the wonderful news that Alpackaraft has signed on as a sponsor for both the spring and fall races.  They're sending two packrafts ($500 value) for us to give away - one of which will be raffled of at the spring race.  And DON'T FORGET - early registration for the spring race ends on April 15th!
 
We're also working hard to develop a larger regional races series for 2012, of which END-AR and END-SPAR would be a piece.  This would give local racers something to build a season around and we're hoping even allow us to send some of our local or regional talent down to bigger national races each year.  In addition to this we're seeking to build more lasting relationships with some of the companies that make the stuff that we use when we race (because it works) in a way (ethically and sustainably) that we can get behind.  Keep your fingers crossed, or better yet , shoot one or more of these companies an email letting them know that we (ENDracing) are the reason you've heard of them and looked into their products.  Couldn't hurt, right?  Here's who they are and why we like em too:
  1. Hydroflask - awesome bottles with ENDracing logo and NO plastic
  2. Ibex - when we race, probably 75% of the clothes we wear come from these guys.  Mostly merino wool - awesome temperature regulation, no stink. When you don't want to carry a change of clothes, you better be wearing Ibex.
  3. Inov-8 - the only shoes I will ever wear, whether doing 100 meter sprints or 100 mile wilderness treks.  These guys get it right.  They make some sweet racing packs as well.
  4. Ergon - once you ride with Ergon grips you will never go back.
  5. Numa - styling shades to be sure, but this video really says it all.
  6. Power to Go - The best energy food plus pick-me up we've tried, and we've tried almost everything.
  7. Nuun - No sugar, all electrolytes and vitamins.  Great taste without waste.
  8. Swiftwick - the best socks you'll ever wear happen to be made in the USA.  Awesome.
On the Ground UP adventures front (website coming soon at www.groundupadventures.com), we've submitted our boat-house proposal to the city of Grand Forks, so another reason to keep your fingers crossed.  With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, this time next year we could be breaking ground on a facility that will go a long way towards improving (and creating) non-motorized recreational opportunities within the Greater Grand Forks Greenway.  Our initial thought is to have canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle-boards available for public use and to provide free or low cost instruction in safe river use - but who knows how big this could get?  Maybe there are some closet rowers out there just waiting for this thing to be built so they can start their rowing club.  Who knows, maybe in a couple of years folks out for an early stroll along the bike trails on some crisp fall morning will be treated to the methodical call of the noble coxswain.  One can only dream.  If you're keen to see this happen and/or want to show your support - please send me an email and I'll make sure to include you in future announcements about the project and keep you in the loop as far as the details go.
 
On a more personal note, after having to cancel my planned trip to New Zealand this spring and seeing what I'd missed, I felt like I needed to get something lined up ASAP.  So I've planned my next mission - an attempt at a  one day jaunt through the Sioux-Hustler trail in the BWCAW.  I'll be tagging along with (and probably behind) Grant Mehring for the 35 miles which sound just about perfect (rugged, muddy, and with challenging route-finding).
 
Go ahead, tell your friends about us.  Use a mouthpiece .
 
Cheers  -
Andy
ENDracing Team

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Must Have Nav

It's good to have some idea of where you're running to

A friend of mine who is an experienced racer and top navigator for a nationally competitive team has offered up some awesome tips for fledgeling teams when it comes to navigation.  To be honest, as he mentions, navigation is the aspect of AR that is the most lacking in rookie teams.  Someone with even a very recreational level of fitness can often finish in the middle of the pack or even better in sprint races if they are paired with a good navigator.  If you are patient and can read a map and compass you have the makings for a great navigator.  Check out his thoughts on the subject and get some great ideas for ways to get out there and improve your nav skills.  So i'm not saying not to get out there and train - i'm just reminding you that AR isn't like other racing - this isn't some glorified triathlon. In AR, fitness will only get you so far.  In fact, without good nav, the fitter you are the more lost you will end up getting (i.e. the faster you'll be running in the wrong direction).  Cheers everyone!


Navigation Training Games

The equipment you will need:

  1. Map. Preferably a 24K USGS map. Get a good one, that has clear detail. If you just print one off the internet, you will lose key details that can make a huge difference. Spend a few dollars to purchase a MyTopo map of an area or two you frequently visit.

  2. A handheld GPS or GPS logger. Any GPS that will track your route so you can download later will work. A GPS logger we use is the i-gotU logger…. http://www.i-gotu.com/ It is water resistant and the batteries will last through a 36hr race.

  3. Good orienteering compass. We recommend a good thumb compass (Suunto or Moscow are good ones. Moscow has bearing marks, which can be useful at times). A baseplate type compass works ok too, but a thumb compass is much more convenient and will help you use it more often.

  4. Not required, but nice: Some type of “controls” that are cheap and durable. We recommend spray painting 2” diameter x 6” long PVC pipe a bright orange, and putting some reflective tape around it. Then tie a string to one end, put a squeeze clip (like a clothespin) on the string, and now you can hang a control from any tree.

Navigation Games

  1. Walk the Line:

    1. Take a map, any map, and randomly draw a line around the area you will be hiking in. Make it squiggly, make it straight, make it cross paths… it doesn’t matter. Now, go out in the area and try to walk the line as close as possible. Then when you get home, compare your line with your GPS route to see how accurate you were.

    2. What this teaches: 1) How to keep contact with the map at all times. 2) Understanding fine, or micro-navigation. 3) Forces you to study all map details and locate the real life features. 4) Emphasizes accuracy over speed.

  2. Set up a course.

    1. One person goes out and sets a course in a park. Make it about 5-10 controls, not too many or it just takes a long time. Then give another person a map with the controls marked on the map. They go out and find them. Simple enough.

    2. What this teaches: 1) for the setter, it teaches them they better know for sure where they set the control. 2) For the finder, it teaches them how to read the map.

    3. A “twist” or fun game you can play is to set the course, let the other person find all the controls as fast as possible, while timing them, but leave the controls up. Then run it again (now that you know where all the controls are) and see how fast you are, again timing yourself. Consider the difference between the two times a result of your navigation speed. The lower you can make this difference, the faster you are getting at navigating.

  3. Set up a virtual course.

    1. This is easier than the above, and you can set your course, and run it too! Plot random points on a map, then with your GPS turned on, and in your backpack, go out and find all the points. Then when you get home, see if you really did “find” all the controls…. That is, did your route go through each of the CP locations? Make a Waypoint when you believe you are at the “control”

    2. What this teaches: 1) To know where you are. 2) To navigate to find the feature, not a control.

  4. Variations of the above games:

    1. Make them “Fast” or “Slow”. Some points, see how fast you can get them, by choosing fast routes, or just increasing your speed. Some points, see how accurate you can be (this is more applicable when you do a “walk the line” course). Do this by drawing segmented lines…. Some are a squiggle line between controls, and gaps between controls can be done as fast as you can.

    2. Get lost…. Make a “walk the line” or virtual course on a map, put it in your pocket, and go out in the woods for a run (don’t look at the map). After about 20-30 minutes (set your stopwatch), stop running, and pull out your map. Do what you can to relocate yourself, and get on your line as quickly as you can. You may have to move around a bit, studying the terrain and the map to get them to “fit” each other. Then do the remainder of what you want to do on your map (course or walking the line).

Things to remember:

  • Navigation is the #1 discipline you should train for Adventure Racing. It is much more beneficial to spend any time in the woods with a map in hand, with navigational purpose than to just run to get in shape. Do as many orienteering meets as you can. Get used to looking at 24K maps, and seeing what earth formations do and don’t show up on the map because of the map’s resolution of details. Learn how to use handrails and catching features.

  • Keep your map aligned at all times. Your compass will always be right, resist the urge to fight your compass. Use it to make sure your map is pointing the same direction as the terrain. Rarely (if ever) should you set a bearing on your compass and only follow that. Learn how to primarily navigate with the map, but use the compass to make sure the map is looking the same way you are. (the map’s north end should always point in the same direction as the compass needle… no exceptions!)

  • Make liberal use of handrails and catching features. Know how to use terrain features to guide your way so you “can’t” get lost. Handrails: a feature that is easy to follow, as long as you follow it, you are going in the direction you wish to go. Catching Features: Something obvious that tells you when to turn, or if you have gone too far, or if you are getting close to where you want to be. These features should be as obvious as possible, both on the map, and in real life. The better you get at navigation, the smaller or less obvious these features can become.

  • It is always wiser to take a safer navigational route, even if it is longer. If you miss your turn, you end up taking 3 steps to correct for one step in the wrong direction (one in the wrong direction, one to get back to where you were, and one to get to the point you should have been in the first place. Now replace the word “step” with “miles” and you can see how quickly it adds up).

  • If the route is “safe” e.g. the catching features are easy enough to identify, the straightest route is usually the fastest. Going up and over a hill is typically just as fast, if not faster than going around a big hill or deep reentrant, especially on a 24K map.

  • Speed is ALWAYS secondary to navigation accuracy. (see above). If you are at all unsure of exactly where you are, don’t be afraid to stop for a few moments to make sure you know where you are on the map.

  • Shorten up long legs into smaller, more manageable segments. Don’t look at a long leg as overwhelming. Break it up to just move from catching feature to catching feature. The easier you can identify those features, the easier that leg becomes. Use handrails in between those catching features.

  • Know that a Race Director (normal ones like Jason) does not ever hide the controls. 90% of the time, they are right in the open, as long as you are at the correct feature, you don’t have to do a micro-scavenger hunt to find it. If you don’t see it, but feel you navigated well, look for a few minutes just to ensure yourself you are at the correct feature, but if you still can’t find it, don’t be bashful to doubt your navigation or your plotting. Check that out right away, and you might save your team hours of looking in the wrong area. If you really truly are lost, go back to a point that you can easily identify and know for sure where you are at, then retry. If you still can’t find it, find another location to attack from (come into the control from a different direction).

  • Take the map out of a big bulky case, and put it in a ziplock style/size bag when you are on foot navigation. Fold the map up so that you can keep your thumb on the route you are on. You don’t need to see the entire course, only the leg you are navigating. Folding up the map for each leg helps you keep your focus.

  • Use a highlighter to draw a straight line to each control you are going to, in the order you will be getting them. Do this before EVERY navigation section. In fact, highlight your route for the entire race before you even begin. Even if you are plotting on the clock, it will save you much more time taking the few extra minutes to draw in your route than to try to “remember” what you are going to do on the course. Planning goes a long way in AR. Wedali won Nationals last year by 10 minutes (or less), and they started a few minutes late because they took extra time to tend to their maps. Highlighting a route will also help prevent you from inadvertently missing a CP because of a poor map fold, or fatigue.

  • Break up routes into “Green, Yellow, Red”…. Green means you are on something super easy to locate yourself, and you can’t miss an easy catching feature (on a highway, looking for the next intersection), Yellow means it is fast or possibly runnable, but the catching feature isn’t too obvious, and you could overshoot it. Red means you have to go slow because it is very easy to make a mistake, and you might be close to your control at this point as well. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but it might give you an idea about when you can run, and when you should take it slow. Always remember, if in doubt, slow down.

  • Don’t follow other teams…. Ever! Do your own navigation. They might be lost. If you do follow them, you lose focus on your map. If they do get lost, then guess what, so are you, and now you don’t have a clue where you are on the map because you were watching them instead of your own map. Concentrate on your own map, your own strategy, and your own speed. If you do it right, you will come out ahead.

  • Let the team navigator lead the way. As simple as this rule sounds, it’s easy to get ahead of the navigator while busting through the woods or riding on the bike. You may think you are following the lead of the navigator, but you will most likely lead them astray, or get them to take a route they are not quite comfortable with. You may end up rushing the navigator with your speed, and get them to lose contact with the map. Let the navigator stay in front, set the pace, and everyone else just follows and asks what the next feature they are looking for is.

  • Encourage your navigator, even if they make a mistake. It is not easy, they are under a lot of stress to not screw up. If they do screw up, they know it, you don’t have to remind them about it. Tell them it’s ok, and ask where you need to go now. Move on. Crying about a mistake, no matter how bad it seems, won’t make it go away, time didn’t stop, so neither should your team. Keep going, and hope other teams made mistakes like that too…. Chances are, they have. All of the above tips have come from a mistake made and learned (sometimes several times) in a race. You will find that often times, those mistakes you made end up being your team’s favorite race memories and stories.

Quick and dirty, non-navigation related AR advice

  • Pack as light as possible.

  • Pack with the least bulky items as possible.

  • Keep your gear as simple as possible. But make sure it is useful too.

  • Only carry your required gear (and wear it if possible so you don’t have to carry it), and only take extra gear if you are 90% sure you will use it. Do not take items that are “nice to have just in case”. Chances are, you will not need it. If you did need it, and you don’t have it, that is when the time comes to be innovative. Pack rips? Stuff all their gear into everyone elses packs. You get the picture. MacGyver’s are good to have in AR.

  • Make sure you have a way to keep your core warm in some way or another. Don’t necessarily rely on body heat keeping you warm because you are active. The long paddle gets cold, even in summer. When the sun is down, it gets really cold. An emergency blanket can double as a wind/rain jacket (if the jacket is not required, and you didn’t bring one)

  • Only take as much food (or less) than what you think you will eat. In our experience, you will eat between 100-200 calories per hour. So, for a race that will take you 8hrs, only carry 800-1600 calories…. No more than that! Unless you are an eating hog. When you are finished with your race, just empty all the food you didn’t eat into a pile, and you will see.

  • Have fun. Getting too serious will take the fun out. If you are having fun, you can suffer a lot more than if you are miserable.

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Must Have Nav

It's good to have some idea of where you're running to.
 
A friend of mine who is an experienced racer and top navigator for a nationally competitive team has offered up some awesome tips for fledgeling teams when it comes to navigation.  To be honest, as he mentions, navigation is the aspect of AR that is the most lacking in rookie teams.  Someone with even a very recreational level of fitness can often finish in the middle of the pack or even better in sprint races if they are paired with a good navigator.  If you are patient and can read a map and compass you have the makings for a great navigator.  Check out his thoughts on the subject and get some great ideas for ways to get out there and improve your nav skills.  So i'm not saying not to get out there and train - i'm just reminding you that AR isn't like other racing - this isn't some glorified triathlon. In AR, fitness will only get you so far.  In fact, without good nav, the fitter you are the more lost you will end up getting (i.e. the faster you'll be running in the wrong direction).  Cheers everyone!

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Practice.

Makes perfect, right?  Well, for those of you wanting to practice your navigation and

you see five gallon bucket, I see 3 pair of hand paddles!

Bring your own lunch/snacks/pack-rafts/pfd's and paddles.  If you want to dig up a five gallon bucket and bring some elastic/rope/webbing/surgical tubing we can do a little demonstration on making hand-paddles as well.  And I'll bring my alpacka boats so you can check these out and see what you might want to save your pennies for.

Also, i'm hoping to post a sample map of the turtle river area in the next few weeks with 4 or 5 checkpoints labelled on it, and then go hang these checkpoints.  this will let folks get out there and practice navigation on their own. The checkpoints of course will not be the ones used for the actual race.

Both the navigation clinic and the group pack-raft are free once you get into the park, although now that we're a non-profit and have lots of other (less revenue generating projects) afoot, we'll certainly be accepting donations if you feel the workshops were of good value and are so inclined.  Please RSVP at endracing@gmail.com so we can have an idea of how many to expect.

Cheers,

Andy

Practice

Makes perfect, right?  Well, for those of you wanting to practice your navigation and packrafting skills in preparation for the spring race, we've got just what you're looking for.
 
Saturday, April 30th we'll be hosting an informal navigation clinic and pack-rafting primer out at Turtle River State Park.  you can come out for one or both and stay as long as you like.  We'll plan on starting things at 10 am near the chalet (subject to change - keep checking the website) with navigation, and then blow up the boats around 12:30 or 1 pm and paddle a section of Turtle River.  Depending on the river level, this might be pretty exciting.  It will certainly be cold, so dress appropriately, and expect to get at least a little wet if you're doing this portion.
 
You see five gallon bucket, I see 3 pair of hand paddles!
 
Bring your own lunch/snacks/pack-rafts/pfd's and paddles.  If you want to dig up a five gallon bucket and bring some elastic/rope/webbing/surgical tubing we can do a little demonstration on making hand-paddles as well.  And I'll bring my alpacka boats so you can check these out and see what you might want to save your pennies for.
 
Also, i'm hoping to post a sample map of the turtle river area in the next few weeks with 4 or 5 checkpoints labelled on it, and then go hang these checkpoints.  This will let folks get out there and practice navigation on their own. The checkpoints of course will not be the ones used for the actual race.
 
Both the navigation clinic and the group pack-raft are free once you get into the park, although now that we're a non-profit and have lots of other (less revenue generating projects) afoot, we'll certainly be accepting donations if you feel the workshops were of good value and are so inclined.  Please RSVP at endracing@gmail.com so we can have an idea of how many to expect.
 
Cheers,
Andy

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Moms

Moms are great.  We all have them and owe them a great many things for making us the wonderful people I'm sure we all are.  But what do moms have to do with ENDracing?  Well, in case you hadn't noticed (and shame on you if you hadn't!) we've gone and scheduled our Spring Primer Adventure Race (END-SPAR) on, well, Mother's day. Now while you might go and get some crazy notion in your head that we, too, didn't realize what day it was, you'd be wrong.  You see, it's all part of our master plan for a perfect mothers day.
 
First of all, what mother wouldn't take immense joy knowing that their offspring was making a conscious choice to both add more adventure into their lifeand take steps along a path of lifelong health and wellness?  And what mother doesn't secretly wish to be able to share a sweet video (of the race) that shows how hardcore their son or daughter is with all their facebook friends? I mean, if you weren't sure what you were going to do for your dear mother on May 8th, maybe now you do (well, END-SPAR and sending flowers...)
 
And if you are a mom, then even better.  Not only will the race will seem like a breeze (and short) compared to something you've already been through, but you can get your kids to clean your muddy bike, shoes, and clothes as a mother's day gift for you!  And maybe that husband of yours will take you out to a nice dinner and give you a great post race massage (or at least schedule one for you).  If you can think of a better way to spend your mother's day, well, i want to hear about it!!*
 
Happy training everyone - remember, only two weeks left of early registration!
 
*comments for this post have been disabled

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