Monday, April 14, 2003

Chicken Chase - April Johnson

After getting off work on Wednesday, my husband and I dropped Serts off at the horse-sitters. We used to board Serts and Tanna with Judy, so were completely relaxed about leaving the gelding in one of her pastures.

Then we went home and began packing the right side of the trailer. Four bales of hay, a plastic rubbermaid-type container holding 50 lbs of grain and 40 pounds of beet pulp pellets went in first. I believe in being overprepared! :-) Then 3 rubbermaid containers with dog and horse supplies, several buckets, and the dog's large pet kennel.

Daniel mounted a closed circuit camera on the trailer door looking into Tanna's trailer stall. He also took 5 corral panels from our round pen and loaded them onto the rack he'd made on top of the trailer.

We spent the remainder of the evening packing people stuff and food into our small slide-in camper. This would be our first trip with our new-to-us camper.

Thursday dawn cold and rainy. Ick! What happened to the promised sun and high 60 degree weather?

I got dressed and went out to find Tanna. I scanned the front pasture and didn't see him, so started up our big hill to look for him, figuring he was at the very top talking to the mare in a neighbor's pasture. I got worried when I reached the top and didn't find him. So I went down the fence line calling and looking. I called to Daniel, asking if he saw Tanna. Yep, down in the front pasture. Oh, well, it was good exercise.

Tanna was shivering, so I tied him to the trailer and gave him some beet pulp. I also threw his winter blanket on him. It took a while, but he finally stopped shivering. Poor guy. I should have had his blanket on him all night.

Daniel and I finished eating our own breakfast and finished last minute preparations to leave. We were in no hurry. Our ride wasn't until Sunday, so Tanna would have plenty of time to rest up for it.

We loaded Tanna into the trailer about noon. He went in quickly after a couple of false starts. He's not used to seeing all that other stuff in the stall next to him! Then I realized I hadn't put a hay bag in for him. So after trying to shove the hay bag in through the front window, I unloaded Tanna and put the hay bag in. Tanna jumped back into the trailer with no problems. He immediately started munching hay, quite content.

We pulled out of our driveway and stopped at a gas station down the road. Not to get gas, nope. To get a 1-liter bottle of Mountain Dew for Daniel. His normal traveling fare. :)

Our next stop was only 20 miles down the road at our local Wal-mart. We needed a few things, fresh fruit and 10 pounds of carrots.

Ok, finally! On our way! The camera looking in on Tanna blanked out. Oh, well. We switched to the other camera that was mounted on the back of the camper that Daniel uses to hook up the trailer. I could at least see Tanna's nose every now and again. Not very good though.

We traveled quite happily for quite aways, then stopped at an exit 30 miles south of the exit to get off for the ride. We went into a Taco Bell and ordered some take-out, and scooted across the road to a gas station. We took about 10 or 15 minutes at the gas station, loading up the truck with gas, buying bread and Pizza Combos (yummy!), and taking care of the animals. I got the dog out of the trailer and ran her back and forth a little. Then I offered her water and Tanna water. Tanna didn't drink, but obediently dropped his nose into it 2 or 3 times.

We got back on the road and followed the GPS directions after getting off the interstate. We were soon pulling into camp. We rolled slowly through camp and picked out a spot backed up to a treeline.

It took a very little time to pull the corral panels off the trailer and the divider out of the trailer and set them up into a hexagonal-shaped pen for Tanna. We gave him a bucket of water and his hay bag. Then we headed back toward the front to look for check-in.

I introduced myself to Amy Whelan, the ride manager, then waited as a couple of people riding on Friday got checked in. Then I got checked in for Sunday, paying my $$ for the entry fee and the mandatory Indiana state park bridle tag. Since I was the first rider to check in for Sunday's LD ride, I got the A number. Cool. A for April. On my first LD at Longstreet's Charge years and years (4) ago, I got AA when I was riding Apache (April and Apache, AA).

Amy told me that they would buy back the bridle tag since I was only riding one day. I'd get $10 of the $15 back. Works for me! As we wandered back to our trailer, we looked at all the trucks and horses that were already there. There were 30-some-odd horses that started the 55 miler on Friday. The weather was chilly, but at least we'd driven out of the drizzly yuckiness we'd seen in Nasvhille.

We attended the ride meeting later that evening. Even though I wasn't going to be riding, I was planning to volunteer out at the away vet check. Pulse would be 60 for all horses, all distances, all weekend. Holds on Friday and Saturday were 45 minutes. Holds on Sunday were 50 minutes due to easier calculations. The Sunday holds were decided Saturday night. The 55 would have 2 vet checks, both away from camp at Wilson Lake. All other vet checks for the weekend would be in camp.

After feeding Tanna a bucket of beet pulp and grain mix and filling 2 hay bags for him, Daniel and I disappeared into our little camper for munchies and then bed. It was so nice to crawl up into the bed over the cab instead of sleeping on the ground!

Tanna was making noise everytime he grabbed a bite of hay, banging the panels a bit. So Daniel went out and put bungee cords at the top of each panel intersection, stablizing them a bit so there was a lot less noise.

I didn't wake up Friday morning until the riders were warming up for the ride. It was quite chilly, but I got up and took Tanna with me toward the start, wanting to see his reaction to all the horses and the excitement. He seemed interested, but not concerned. Although, we didn't see the main start. We were a little late for that.

The weather was nice, though. Sunny, although cold and windy. I wandered back to our campsite and fed Tanna again. After breakfast, Daniel and I hopped into the truck and headed off to the vet check site. The plan was for Daniel to drop me off, then go looking for a store to get people water, which we'd forgotten.

We got there and Amy introduced me to Susan Kasemeyer and Susan Vuturo various other people that I don't recall at the moment. I was given the job of vet secretary for Rae, a vet that had flown in from Michigan to vet on Friday and Saturday. It was interesting to see the riders come in. Seeing all the different tack variations. I saw at least 3 treeless saddles and a couple of Abetta saddles. A Synergist saddle. A lady wearing horse shipping boots instead of half-chaps. I can't say I learned tons while being vet secretary. I did learn some and watched and listened a lot. Maybe I just didn't do it long enough.

There was one accident. A lady came driving into the vet check and then it was apparent that she was hurt. She had taken somebody else's truck and left the truck's owner with her horse. She was immediately surrounded by helpful people. Somebody was dispatched with the trailer to pick up her horse and her family took her to the hospital. Her horse had tripped while trotting downhill and had rolled over her. Later in the weekend, Amy announced that the hurt lady might have fractured a bone, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

I stayed at the vet check for 5 or 6 hours before taking off to go to the store. Daniel had stayed around the whole time. Part of the time was spent sleeping in our camper. Very nice to have that camper! :)

When we got back to camp, I figured that it was time for Tanna to take a look at the trails. So I saddled him. I was planning to use my high profile pad that had been delivered on Tuesday or Wednesday, but was disappointed to find out that the pad was not the same as the one I had, it was longer in the panels. I decided not to use it and put the smaller woolback pad on him.

I had Daniel hold Tanna while I mounted. I was hoping not to have a problem. While Tanna did do a couple of crow hops, it was mild and he quit quickly. He wouldn't stand still, though, so I waved to Daniel and headed for the trails.

I thought I would be out of the way, but it turned out I chose a trail that riders were coming and going on. Oh, well. More chance to see how Tanna would react. The trail started with gravel. Tanna was barefoot, so we walked and trotted along the edge of the trail. I picked the edge, thinking to save his feet.

We scooted off the gravel onto a trail as soon as possible. The new trail was very narrow and had tons of switchbacks. It was rather overgrown, too. But at least it wasn't gravel. After a few minutes, the trail dumped back onto the pink loop marked for the endurance rides.

Tanna was strong and pulling to blast up the hills. I allowed him sometimes, depending on the footing. We trotted a lot and cantered some. He was doing quite well. We came out onto a road bordered by a saddle club. We trotted along until the ribbons veered off the road to the left. The trail at this point was a gravel road in the middle of a field. I made Tanna trot off the gravel. He wanted to canter, but I refused because off the gravel, the ground was so uneven and I wasn't going to risk a misstep. The rest of the trail that I took had small scattered gravel and we mostly walked and trotted that section.

When I came out on the road, I checked my GPS. It said I'd gone 6 miles and that camp was just .25 miles along the road. So instead of following the ribbons across the street, I decided that 6 miles was a good enough leg stretching and headed directly toward camp.

When I got to the camp turn-in, Tanna started freaking and going sideways. At first, I thought it was the long blowing pink ribbon that marked the entrance to camp, but he wasn't paying any attention to that. It was the large rock with a horse sketched into it that he objected to. So I spent the next 10 or 15 minutes asking Tanna to walk back and forth in front of the rock, moving closer and closer to it. For several minutes, he did some very nice sidepassing to keep facing that scary rock. Then I finally got him to walk up and sniff the back of the rock. As we stepped around to the front, he about jumped out of his skin again. Guess he didn't like the sketching! Finally, though, he did sniff the front of the rock, so I turned him back to the camp.

When Daniel and I looked at the GPS track on the computer, the computer calculated that we'd gone 8 miles instead of 6.5 that the GPS had calculated. The computer is more accurate. I was irritated that the Geko was calculating low. Very low. Not that I cared that we did 8 miles instead of 6.5, but one of the reasons I use a GPS is to help gauge distance and average speed during a ride. While the Geko has lots of space for holding track points, the actual in-ride calculations seem to be poor quality.

I woke up Sabbath morning around dawn and slipped out to give Tanna some food. I'd begun lacing his food with electrolytes on Friday night. After feeding the dog, I went back in the camper and went to sleep for a couple more hours.

We lazed around for a couple hours before deciding to go find some local geocaches. Geocaches are small boxes that are hidden pretty much anywhere, but parks are a popular place to place them. The boxes usually have a log book to sign in and say a little something and small trinkets to trade. The hider then goes on and posts the coordinates and a little about the box and the area the box is hidden in. Then a Geocacher (like me and my husband) gets the coordinates, puts them in our GPS unit and then follow the arrow until we find the box. It's a fun sport and gets me out walking around when I'd usually be sitting around.

There were 3 geocaches that we were going after. They were all along the same trail. The furthest one out was about 1.3 miles. We decided to go get the furthest one first and then get the other 2 on our way back. Otherwise, we'd probably stop after the 2nd one and not go to get the last one!

Daniel took the dog and I snapped a lead rope to Tanna's halter and off we went, our interesting little caravan. For awhile we were on the common trail with competitors coming and going. Tanna did really well about getting off the trail for them to pass and never got hyper or upset. I love this horse!!!

After about half a mile, we got off the common trail and headed out on a single track trail. The hills were challenging for me. I had Tanna's lead rope draped casually over my shoulder with him following behind me. He stepped on me once and I swung the end of the rope back towards him and after that, he didn't step on me. We discovered on our walk that Tanna likes Skittles. Taste the Rainbow! Daniel had brought some and when we stopped periodically for me to rest (I'm such a wimp!) we'd eat a few Skittles. Tanna was interested, so I gave him a couple. Yummy, he liked those! And why not, they're just sugar. :-) When we reached near the spot where the geocache was, I tied Tanna off the trail and went in search of the cache. We found it in good shape, signed the log and climbed back up to Tanna. He'd stood staring at us, wondering what in the world we were doing, I'm sure.

We headed back towards camp and went in search of the second cache only .2 miles from the one we'd just found. This second cache required a steep, steep climb. I stopped to rest at least twice on the way up and collapsed on the ground as soon as we got to semi-level ground. Whew!!! What a workout I was getting. Tanna just looked at me like I was silly. The second cache took a little looking, even though it really was easy to find.

On our way to the next cache, we ran into some backpackers. We stopped and talked with them a little bit and one of them asked to pet Tanna. They asked if I ever rode him (since I was leading him, I guess it was a valid question!), so I told them a little about endurance riding and why we were there in the area. Never did get around to telling them about geocaching. The third cache was found easily. There was no good place to get Tanna off the trail, so I stayed with him while Daniel signed the log book of the cache. Then we headed back to the common trail towards camp. I was tired! I'm used to riding miles, but not walking them!

When we got back to camp, I dropped Tanna, the dog, and Daniel off at camp and decided to go see when I could vet Tanna in for the ride on Sunday. It was about 3:30 eastern time. I found Amy and she said come up and vet in when the vets aren't busy. So I went back and got Tanna. He'd rolled, so I ran a brush quickly over his coat to remove the dirt.

We went up and Rae wasn't busy, so she vetted me in with all As except a B+ on guts. I didn't get that because except for his brief 8 mile ride and 2.5 mile walk, all he'd done was eat and drink. But since he'd been showing no real problems, I didn't worry too much about the B. I did ask Rae about it and she just said "That's what it sounds like now. Just let him eat whatever he wants."

I went back to the camper and gave Tanna some beet pulp and went to take a nap until dinner. Dinner was provided by Ride Management for all riders. It was chicken (of course), green beans, potato salad, lemonade, iced tea, salad, and cake. I served myself all but chicken and tea. It was yummy stuff! After dinner, Daniel and I sat out in our chairs outside Tanna's pen. I had him on a lead rope letting him eat grass since his pen floor had been reduced to dirt and trampled hay after 2 days. We sat talking and watching the camp activity. Camp was extremely full, so plenty of activity to watch.

Tina Hicks came by and chatted with us for awhile. I had met her Friday finally. We'd spent some emails trying to get together for training rides and it had never materialized.

Tina rode the 25 on Saturday on her gaited horse, Hank. She'd lost 2 swiss boots along the trail in the first few miles, so had in reality, done the ride barefoot. I, of course, was interested in how she did since Tanna is also barefoot, although we weren't planning to ride barefoot. Hank had done well. Completed the trail in 3:20-something minutes with half an hour spent helping a rider that had been kicked in the shin. That's the 3rd time I've heard of that happening in the last few months. Ouch.

Tina left to go to the meeting place for a meeting. We thought it was the ride meeting, but it turned out to be the awards for Saturday's rides. It wouldn't have been a bad thing, except that since we thought it was the ride meeting (and the previous ride meetings were fairly short) we didn't take our chairs and the awards lasted longer than the meeting. I forget the exact numbers, but 90% of the riders completed the 25 miler and better than 90% completed the 50 miler. The only placing I remember is Lois McAfee won the 50 miler. Oh, and Tina got both her Swiss boots back from lost and found!

After the awards, Amy said that the ride meeting would be in a half an hour. She also said she wanted the bridle tags to buy back if we wanted. So Daniel and I went back to our camp to get our chairs and the bridle tag.

We sat around waiting for the ride meeting to start. It was a quite short meeting. Everything for the 50s was the same as Saturday's ride, so no surprises there. The 25 milers would ride the pink loop (10 miles) and come in for a vet check. Then ride the blue loop (17 miles) instead of the yellow loop (15 miles for the 25 milers) like on Saturday. The holds were changed from 45 minutes to 50 minutes to aid the volunteers in doing out time calculations. The second loop for the 25 milers was changed to the blue loop because it had less gravel.

Back at our camper, I spent some time laying everything out for the ride in the morning. Brushes, easy boots, vet wrap, duct tape, bridle, reins, saddle, GPS, saddle pad, heart rate monitor, ride pants, layers of shirts, gatorade, water, dried fruit, everything that I could think of.

Then I set several alarms on my PDA and my husband's PDA and my wristwatch. I'd forgotten to bring a real alarm clock and I was worried about getting up in time. I set all the alarms for 5 AM. Start time was 7:40. 2 hours and 40 minutes should be plenty of time to get ready. I wanted to be mounted by 7:10 to be warming up and evaluating Tanna's mind.

I gave Tanna another helping of beet pulp and grain laced with electrolytes. Then I crawled into bed to await the alarms.

I was actually semi-awake by 4:30 AM. When my alarms started going off, I turned them off and moved to start getting ready for my day. I fed Tanna, but he knew something was up and largely ignored the food for awhile. He grabbed a bite of hay now and again while watching me. I took the dog off her lead and took her for a quick run.

Then I went back inside and got dressed. Then I put Tanna's easyboots on and then wrapped them in duct tape. I set the plunger on the Lyte Now electrolyte tube and squirted 25 ccs into his mouth. After breakfast, I sat and read my book for 15 minutes. I had plenty of time and I was trying to keep myself calm. The calmer I'd be, the calmer Tanna'd be.

Finally, I went out and saddled Tanna. I kept a blanket covering his butt because it was cold out and I wanted to keep him warm and fluid. I adjusted his breast collar to engage sooner. Usually, my breast collar is a precaution to keep his saddle from sliding completely to the side if he dumps me and runs off, but for this ride, the breast collar was quite necessary. I haven't trained Tanna for a crupper, even though I have one, so I didn't even think of bringing out the crupper. Besides, Tanna's high withers come in handy to keep the saddle back. :)

I tightened the girth and checked his heart rate. 36. Pretty good. I put my water and gatorade bottles in the cantle bag. I slid the bit into his mouth (I had slid the bit under his blanket on his butt to warm it up a little), clipping it to the other side. I usually ride in a Little S Hackamore, but I was unsure of how Tanna would act, so wanted the bit. As I went to put my foot in the stirrup, I noticed I was wearing my tennis shoes, still. Can't do that. My tennis shoes can get through the holes in my easy ride stirrup cages. So I tied Tanna up again and changed my shoes.

When I went back to get on, Tanna would not stand still. My husband was watching from the camper, so I asked if he would come hold him. As soon as I said that, Tanna stood still long enough for me to pop into the saddle. As he danced around, I called into Daniel and told him I was on and going.

We walked back and forth and up and down and I trotted him some to check his brakes. Everything seemed a go. When I went up to the start area, the 50 milers had already gone. Just a few more minutes. I found Tina and parked Tanna next to Hank. Daniel showed up on my left, then it was time to go.

It was a controlled start and there were several horses in front. We were spread out on the pavement. A lot of horses calmly walking. A lot of owners crooning to their horses to keep them walking calmly. The photographer was off to the right. Tanna started just a tad, but no real spooking.

When we reached the gravel, I let Tanna move into a trot. Boing, boing, boing. He started to get stiff-necked and strong. Boing, boing, boing. Canter, canter, canter. Please go slower, Tanna, Boing, boing, boing. Ok, fine, here we go. Canter. We passed a horse that was jumping around quite a bit and I made sure the guy was ok as we trotted past. He said so far he was ok!

We ended up trotting along by ourselves, but could see other horses ahead. Tanna was pulling, but controllable. We turned off the gravel onto trail. I let Tanna canter where safe and pulled him back to a barely controlled trot when not safe to canter. After awhile we caught up with a leopard appaloosa and a chestnut. When they stopped to drink, we passed them up, since I knew it was useless to ask Tanna to drink only 2 miles in.

We were on the same trail that I had ridden on Friday. When we hit the pavement, the chestnut was behind us, but stopped or slowed down. All the sudden, Tanna realized he was by himself. He couldn't see any horses ahead and the ones behind him had stopped or slowed down. He seemed alarmed by that fact. I talked to him telling him that we'd see other horses and even if we didn't, this is what we did, ride out together with no other horses.

After a couple of minutes, we were out ion the gravel road through the field and 2 riders on mares asked to pass on the left. Then the chestnut and appaloosa passed. Tanna went into barely controllable mode again, so I fell in line. Five horses in a row, trotting and cantering along together. After awhile, I ended up in the middle and when the appy and chestnut paused for water again, we split a little.

As the mares trotted along, Tanna cantered to keep up. He trotted some and cantered mostly. He was controllable as long as I didn't try to keep him too far behind the mares. I found out that the mare in front of me was being ridden by Dede, the vet secretary for the other vet on Friday.

As we neared the end of the trail, we came up on the photographer. Flash, rear, fall. The lady on the lead mare fell off, but was unhurt and jumped right back on. When we saw pavement, I dismounted and began removing my gloves and looking for my vet card. I dropped a glove and had to go back and retrieve it.

It took 6 minutes for Tanna to pulse down. He was hanging at 64, but it dropped quickly after he peed. He got As, except for a B on guts again. After the vet check, I took Tanna back to our trailer and threw a blanket over his butt to keep his muscles warm. He immediately started eating the beet pulp that he'd largely ignored that morning. He alternated between hay and beet pulp.

Tanna still had both easy boots, but we thought it best to redo the duct tape. So Daniel removed the tape and retaped one foot. I retaped the other. I sat around and ate and drank while Tanna ate. He didn't drink much, but ate heartily and since the beet pulp was very wet, I wasn't too worried about the drinking.

When it was about time to go out, I saw Tina and asked her how they were doing. She'd come into the vet check sooner than me, but had decided to leave out later than her out time to give Hank a bit more of a breather since they did the first loop fairly fast.

I mounted up with the blanket still on Tanna's butt, intending to walk him back up to the trail with it and have Daniel bring it back to camp. But Tanna didn't like it, so rather than upset him, I had Daniel remove it right away. We were cleared to go and out we went on the blue loop.

We were alone and Tanna moved out just fine. He trotted and cantered. He seemed to think we were alone on the trail, but after awhile pricked his ears up and kept looking for horses ahead of him. The trail was hilly and when up on the ridge, there was a wonderful view.

Part of the blue loop involved traveling down a trail to a gate, reading a password off a pie plate, and returning along the same trail for aways. When we hit that part, it was awhile before we started seeing riders coming our way. I had expected to see people sooner. With each rider that passed us, Tanna seemed more lively and more animated. He's so cute!

Finally, at 10:13, we saw the chestnut and appaloosa from the first loop. They were heading back from getting the password. I figured I couldn't be too far behind them so when we hit the gate and I got the password, I turned Tanna and let him go.

And I mean let him go. I never let him go full out. I'm too much of a fraidy cat. But it just felt right, so away we flew. And it felt like flying. It was exhilerating. Here I was on my favorite horse flying! I can't put it into words, but it felt wonderful. We were totally in sync. He was flying, but listening. We blew past Tina and 3 other horses while they were headed toward the gate. I'm pretty sure we slowed down. Might have even gotten into a trot, but the second we were past them, we were gone again. While we flew, I thought, now I'll never get his mind back. I've just blown his mind. Then I thought, even if I don't blow his mind, I'm probably killing his body. But we kept going and going. In reality, it was only about 10 minutes and 2 miles, but it was SO much fun! :) Amazingly, the easy boots stayed on through that foray.

We reached the end of the out and back trail and turned left to hit the pavement. Turned right and trotted along for a mile and a third before turning back onto the trail. There was a good bit of water right there and I asked Tanna to drink. No go. So we headed out and caught up with the chestnut and appaloosa shortly after. I followed them for a bit until they stopped for water and Tanna refused again. Then we trotted off.

We rode the rest of the ride by ourselves. Tanna did fine. He even drank some from a creek further on the way. Good boy! The next part of the ride was a climb out of the gully to the ridge. He did well on that, trotting and cantering up it. We hit the common gravel trail with 1.5 miles to go. I couldn't believe we were almost done. We cantered along at a nice 150 heart rate. I glanced down to be sure his easy boots were still on. Looked ok to me, so we cantered to the road.

With about two tenths of a mile to go, I slowed Tanna to a walk. His heart rate was about 90 when I dismounted at the grass. I landed wrong when I dismounted and I limped toward the timers' table. Daniel saw me and came towards me. I gave him Tanna and started to walk by the timers when they asked for my card. Oh, yeah, duh.

It took me three minutes to hobble to the pulse area. He was down before we got there. So we got our time. 11:41. Ride time of 3:11. Good enough for 7th place. That was a pleasant surprise. Not that it mattered, but I was thinking I was about 17th or so.

He vetted in with all As except a B on guts again and a B on capillary refill. I had lost one of my easy boots and Chris, riding the Appaloosa told me where it was, so I had to head back out and get it. When I thought I had it, all I was seeing was the duct tape, but of course, I didn't realize that. I've got to start using the red boots!

I asked each rider I passed if they had my easy boot and about half a mile out I saw Charles and a couple of other riders. Charles said he had the boot in his pack. Cool! I turned and followed them back in and Charles gave me the boot when we got back. Thank you to him!

Amy knew this was only my 3rd LD and my first ride in 4 years, so she had saved out a shirt for me! Thanks, Amy. The 3rd day finishers were mostly getting lead ropes, but I prefered a t-shirt. Very sweet of her!

I also bought a couple of pictures from the photographer. I had Tanna on a lead rope while looking at the books of pictures to find me and Tanna was standing nicely behind me. Several people got a kick out of the horse "looking" at the pictures, too.

We loaded up and headed home after about 3 hours. Daniel had fixed the camera so I could see Tanna quite well on the way home. When I turned Tanna out in the pasture, he went running around with the dog.

We had a great weekend and will definitely be back next year! Great ride! And thanks to Bill Wilson for the camping area and all the other things he did! The trails were marked well, even though there was some talk of vandalism. I didn't get lost once. The trails had great footing.

It's a great ride. If you missed this one, consider coming next year!

Nashville, TN

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