I’m still half nuts and officially, half an IRONMAN.

I’m still half nuts and officially, half an IRONMAN.

Well, that shit was a lot more fun than I expected! I guess that whole “suffer during training so that race day is your prize” thing really works. Making a mental note of that for my future self.

Most of you that have willingly followed me since February or even those of you that have been forced to because of my relentless facebook posting, know that I signed up for an Ironman 70.3 without a bike, without knowing how to swim for sport and without really liking to run all that much. So, obviously, I had a lot going for me from the start. (sarcasm) I was going into this triathlon sport wide-eyed, naive and full of hopeful energy. A combination that would prove to be months full of shenanigans and mishaps, with some surprise milestones along the way. All that led me to a day I’ll never forget. Race day of my first (yes, I said first) half Ironman.

Here’s kind of how it all went down.

Race morning. My training buddies, Sonya and Sarah, met us at our hotel very early for Lynette to drive us as close to the transition area as possible. We walked out of the hotel where we were greeted with very dense and gloomy air and a heavy mist falling on us. Well, this was NOT what I was hoping for. Preparing for this day, I told countless people that I didn’t care how hot it was, how windy it was, or how humid it was, I just didn’t want rain because as luck would have it, I didn’t ride one training ride in the rain and I was hoping to keep this dry streak up. I am already an accident waiting to happen on wheels – I didn’t need slick roads to contend with as well. Unfortunately, I do not get to control the weather so onward we go. Lynette got us as close as she could to the transition area and we were off.

transition

In the middle of setting up my transition space, an escalating argument was taking place right next to me over a free bike spot. It was one-sided and unnecessary and after the instigator walked away, I could see that the innocent one was visibly shaken up. A good dose of sarcasm and humor might help. I walked up to her and straight-faced told her that I would not only like to take the free spot from her as well but I would also like to ride her much-faster-looking-bike during the race. She laughed. I laughed. All was better. And later when I looked up her race results and the aggressive shit-starter’s race results, take a guess at who truly had the last laugh?

I was finished setting everything up and done with my final visit to the porta-potty (nerves on fleek, y’all – I don’t even know what that means but I hear Jillian saying something like it so…) and look around for Sonya and Sarah. With 2,700 athletes roaming around and not remembering their race numbers to try and find them, I sadly walked by my lonely self to the bus that was taking the athletes to swim start. Standing in the bus line, I kept thinking that there’s no way I would find them again. It was dark. I was anxious and nervous and now I had no one to joke around with to help calm me down. And right then, I look up at a full bus and see them sitting in a window right in front of me. YES! I started jumping up and down, yelling their names and waving my arms in the air (like I just don’t care). I managed to attract everyone’s attention but theirs. Luckily the guy sitting in front of them saw me and understood my gestures enough to get their attention. Their bus was full but they mouthed that they would wait for me once they got off the bus.

Back with my girls and all is right in the world. Now to find another bathroom and hand off our drop bags. Done. I had no phone so  just as I was wondering if I would get to see Lynette before the race, she appeared. She gave me some last minute, reassuring thoughts, gave me a squeeze, and with that, I was calm and ready to go get it. I was in the first wave and they were calling our group to the starting line. I crossed my Mom, my brother, sister-in-law and my aunt on the way – got a bunch of hugs and smiles and it was officially go-time!

They played the national anthem, the music started pumping, we headed down the ramp and lowered into the water to wait for the final horn to go off. The water temperature was about 68 degrees – so a bit cold getting in but definitely manageable. We got the 1 minute warning and before I knew it, a loud canon went off and we were swimming. My wave was pretty small which was great. There was the usual bumping into each other for a little bit but once we got out about 100 yards, it was smooth sailing. I literally swam untouched for the rest of the swim. I was so grateful for this, especially knowing that the men ages 40-45 were coming in after our wave. I had a vision in my head for weeks that a giant mass of men would be approaching me like sharks and then, without warning, would be swimming on top of me. Nightmares, actually. This didn’t happen. And I lived to tell about it.

So, no men swimming on top of me. Wide open river. With a current. All was going great. Until my right calf cramped with about a quarter mile to go. Well, shit. There goes my “I never cramp” roll I’ve been on. Seeing that the angle of the foot when swimming is in the exact position to encourage more cramping, I made some adjustments. I pointed my foot towards the bottom of the river, stopped using my right leg and kept moving. And in 32 minutes and 48 seconds, I was out of the water. The spasms in my calf made trying to run up the boat ramp interesting. I immediately spotted my family and then Lynette and run-hobbled down the carpet towards transition.

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Thank God for wet suit strippers or I might still be trying to pull that thing off. Still not being very efficient in my transition times, I was in and back out in about 6 minutes then got to see my girl’s big smile as I rode by heading out on my 3(ish) hour tour of South Carolina.

I started drinking tailwind (my bike nutrition) the minute I got into transition to take in some salt to try and help with my leg cramping. And I continued drinking, way more than I usually do, until about mile 10 when the cramping finally eased up. FINALLY. Now I could concentrate on more important things. Like the drizzly weather AND the crazy winds that were not working in our favor.

I was out there for 56 miles. I won’t bore you with details of each mile, rather, how about a highlight reel…

  1. About 10 miles in, a squirrel darted out and the cyclist in front of me hit it. It briefly flattened but kept running and the cyclist just kept going like nothing happened. How that didn’t end badly, I have no idea.
  2. Most people have warmed me about guys being jerks on the bike portion. I was in the first wave, remember, and the men, 40-45 were right behind me, so I had plenty of guys passing me once we were on the bike. And I have to say, I had the best time out there with them. I had more compliments, encouraging words and “way to work” sentiments thrown my way than you can imagine. They were flying by me so it wasn’t like I was doing anything extraordinary but they took the time to encourage me and I thought that was pretty damn awesome.
  3. I also passed some guys along the way and those little shout outs were often infused with comedic sarcasm which I found quite entertaining. Like the guy that I passed going up a hill that said, “Awesome. A chic. (pause) But hey, go kick ass!” Or the other guy that said, “Keep it up. This f*cking sucks.”
  4. The course was hilly. The downhills were great. In fact, at one point, I was reaching speeds up to 32 mph. What wasn’t as great were the sharp turns at many of the downhills that didn’t let you capitalize on the speed to go back up the next hill.
  5. The wind helped me to slow down to about 8 mph on one of the long steep hills. That was fun.
  6. The volunteers and support along the route were fantastic. Along with the hundreds of soldiers from the nearby army base that were scattered throughout the course cheering on the athletes. I even saw an older gentleman unloading his truck with a couple of ice chests to set up near a table with signs that read “FREE WATER”. He was doing this all on his own. In front of his house. Just because. Now THAT rocks.

With about 20 miles left, the rain was coming down pretty good and the wind was picking up but the scenery was beautiful, I was still feeling good, nothing was hurting and I was still having the time of my life, even when some parts of it did kind of suck like that one guy said. The energy from the people along the route and my fellow athletes was contagious and by this point, I was coming back into town and pretty excited that even with the winds, I was coming in at 3 hours and 23 minutes. I was heading into the last turn before transition  and there Lynette was again, smiling big and snapping photos. And then off I went for the last leg of the race.

The run took us up and down the streets of downtown Augusta for 13.1 miles. I normally hate looping or having to go up and down the same streets of any course, but today, it worked in my favor. The entire course was full of energetic crowds of people. The volunteers at the aid stations were incredible and the aid stations themselves had anything you could think to want or need along the run.

My run started off a little iffy. Because I drank more of my tailwind nutrition on the bike to try and play catch up with my cramping, I was having some major stomach issues for the first 4 miles. I could feel and hear the swooshing of the liquid moving back and forth in my stomach. Things were all working pretty good for me up until this point so if this was my first “push through it” moment, I guess I couldn’t complain. My family set up camp around mile 3 and because of the route, and without having to move from their spot, I was able to see them 4 times during the run. My brother jumped in each time to run alongside me for a minute to see how I was doing and, unbeknownst to me, during the first run at mile 3, he periscoped me saying that I almost sh*t myself. He’s awesome like that. Lynette popped up close to the 4 mile mark and gave me the great news that the next aid station had some solid food that should help settle my stomach. From the looks of it, I was having a great time despite my rot gut.

The pretzels, chips and coke at mile 4 saved my life. Lynette showed up again after mile 4 and then again around 6 and again around 8 and 10. She seriously covered more than a half marathon throughout the day and I was so grateful to see that face every single time.

A couple of things to note:

  1. I jokingly asked a guy to carry me at mile 7.  He told me he couldn’t make it to the light pole with me on his back. I asked him if he was calling me fat. We laughed. I never saw him again.
  2. The 2 well-dressed ladies drinking mimosas in the back of a pickup truck at mile 1 were just as hilarious and supportive when I came back around at mile 8. I turned down the champagne but have regretted it ever since.
  3. I tried spreading some words of encouragement to a guy that looked like he was in a really bad place. He looked me dead in the eye and told me that he was “selling his fucking bike when he got home”. I wonder how quickly he signed up for his next race?
  4. To the little boy that told me (and I’m sure everyone else running), “You are my hero.”…please get in my pocket and let me squeeze your cheeks off.
  5. To the random runner on the course that asked if I needed a mustard packet because she thought I was cramping, and then seeing me miles later and checking on me again – you are awesome.
  6. To the guy I swam next to with one arm, to the girl I crossed with one leg, to the 70+ year old lady running steady, to Fireman Rob that did the run in 50 pounds of gear and to every person that wanted nothing more than to quit but pushed through it anyway – you guys are my heroes.
  7. If there’s one piece of advice for anyone doing an endurance event, it’s this. Be in the moment. Every one of them. When strangers tell you that you’re awesome – give it right back to them for just being out there. High five the kids holding their hands out. Thank every volunteer and police officer you pass. Smile when people cheer for you and encourage you by name. Give lots of thumbs ups to the guys dancing in speedos, having fun at your expense. Encourage and praise fellow athletes – the ones that look like they need it and those that could run circles around you. If you don’t allow yourself to feed off of the energy of the people and the race, you’ve exponentially short-changed yourself and the experience. There’s a spirit that lives in the race and once you grab on to it, hold tight because you’re in for the ride of your life.

Ok, so back to running.

While having a great time during the race was what I most wished for, I secondarily wanted to finish under 7 hours. Once I reached mile 9, I got a second wind, knowing that I was so close to that finish line. If there were times that I wanted to walk or slow down, I thought about how I would feel if I missed my time by a couple of minutes and that kept me moving along. But I also had runners brain which meant that I was incapable of doing simple math. I kept trying to calculate what pace I needed to maintain the last 4 miles to come in under 7 hours and fluctuated from thinking I could basically walk the last 4 miles and be fine to panicking that there was no way in hell, even if I sprinted that I could make it and back to thinking I could stroll in with time to spare. I. Could. Not. Math. To be safe, I ran pretty steadily from this point on. Around mile 11, a spectator in an Ironman hat said “Running strong Candy. You’re almost there.” That was my last little push that I needed and at this point, I knew, unless my math was incredibly off (which it definitely could be), I should be coming in under my goal time.

I could hear the announcer calling out names so I knew that I was heading home – 2 short turns (half a block) to go before seeing that finish line – and “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC was blaring over the speakers. I entered the finishers chute, saw Lynette and the family again, and tried to just breathe it all in.

I was on the red carpet running towards an IRONMAN finish line. 6:55:28 staring back at me. I just DID that.

I’ve been across many finish lines, but this one definitely stole my heart.

And of course, Lynette was right there, once again, to capture the moment, and celebrate with me.

My support team during months of training and my support team on the course and in life.

And no race is compete without a finish line photo shoot. My first IRONMAN 70.3. I got a medal AND won an Oscar.

What more could a girl ask for?!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

Miles of mishaps. Yet, they still keep me around.

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From the time I signed up for what I thought would be my first half Ironman, I did most of the training on my own. It was February and cold so all of it was done indoors. Lots of treadmills, spin bikes (I didn’t even have a bike when I signed up) and indoor swimming. When the weather warmed up enough for me to get outdoors, I recruited 2 of my coworkers, who were cyclists, to ride with me on a couple of “long” rides – which were still fairly short at that point.

Then, as fate would have it, I found out about a group that were training for Augusta, so despite my fear of getting out on a ride with people with tons more experience than me and possibly a lot faster, I took a chance and joined them on a group ride. I mean, what could go wrong? Up until this point, my longest ride was 25 miles – they were going 40. My 25 miles were in Lafayette and flat. They were going to hilly St. Francisville and we were starting the ride climbing this little bridge…twice. (Don’t let the flat appearance fool you.)

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They rode about a 16 pace. At that point, I was pushing 15, if I was lucky, and for only 20ish miles. Yes, I could be left behind. Or die. Or want to die. But I took a chance and it paid off.

I met a group that took me in and has since been unable to get rid of me. I haven’t given them that option. I keep showing up and chasing after them and they keep allowing it. And for that, I am grateful beyond belief.

I gave them a solid month of fairly good behavior. Or let’s just say the universe helped me to put on a calm-ish front for them at the beginning. It’s kind of like dating. You put your best foot forward and hope that they end up liking you enough that when all the quirks and annoyances come bubbling to the surface, it’s too late for them to unlike you.

They already knew going into this about the 8 year old that freakishly broke my elbow and took me out of the game for a month. That alone should have thrown up some red flags about how this whole “let’s let the new girl tag along” thing was going to turn out. But, hey, I’m sure they chalked it up to being a fluke incident and moved on. Little did they know that I seem to get myself into precarious predicaments. A lot. Which meant that if they were around me, they might be thrown into my mix of mishaps.

Other than a near-run-in with a squirrel and a kid on a scooter during a weekday ride with Ainsley and Sonya, (oh, and a flat tire that thankfully, they didn’t get to take part in) things had been  running pretty smoothly.

Until…

About a month in, they were all tested by me and my antics. And they handled it like champs. And even better, they’re still around. Or better yet, I’m still around.

So, what had happened was…

We headed out to St. Francisvile for a 55 mile ride. The morning started off perfectly. How could it not when you’re riding into a sunrise of magical proportions?

sunrise

And then…”I” happened.

The group waits for me: Part 1/3

About 15 miles in, we were in the middle turning lane of one highway to make our way across the intersecting highway. I approached the stopped group, unclipped my left foot and came to a stop. I asked Sonya if my back tire looked low as it felt a little weird for the last couple of miles. She confirmed that all was good as I was turning around to double-check it. That would have been fine had I turned in the direction of my unclipped foot. Yet, that is NOT what happened. At a dead stop, in the middle of a four lane highway, I turned towards my clipped-in foot and in what seemed like very slow motion, I fell to the ground. That was awesome. The light turned green, I jumped back up and started to pedal and quickly realized that my chain was off. Awesome. So, straddling my bike, I walk it to the other side of the road, like frogger trying to avoid oncoming cars and 18 wheelers, and Sonya came to my rescue, for the first of a couple of times that day.

The chain is back on, no thanks to myself. I’m back in the game. And we’re off.

The group waits for me: Part 2/3

About 10 miles later, after going over a few hills, my chain got stuck in a gear and wouldn’t budge. My AAA team for the day, Sonya and Jana, pulled over with me and after a little work, got it in gear but told me not to go into my big chain ring. So off we go (again) and I’m pedaling like Fred Flinstone trying to keep up with them.  I met up with the group with my AAA team in tow. We (read: THEY) worked on my chain again and were able to get it working properly for me to use all of my gears for the rest of the ride (hopefully). And off we went (again).

The group waits for me: Part 3/3

About 10 miles later, I felt something hitting my leg and noticed that my water bottle cage had come unscrewed and was dangling by one screw at the bottom. I started to pull over and before I even had a chance to say anything, my faithful crew was pulling over right along with me. Well, actually I stopped in the middle of the road and with good common sense, Sonya politely asked if we could pull off the road and up to a place where we had a little more safe space to check out my bike. Jana and Sonya to the rescue for the third time. I apologized. Jana joked that she was good with the “rest breaks” and Sonya just giggled and kept whatever she might have been thinking to herself. My bottle is back on and a few minutes later, we spot the group, once again, waiting at a stop sign for us.

I knew it was time. I could only pull this charade off for so long. And just like that I spilled it.

Them: “What happened? (the “now” was implied)
Me: “My water bottle cage came off. Ok, so, here’s the deal. I’ve really tried to be on my best behavior up until now and it’s worked out pretty well in my favor. But all this stuff that’s been happening to me today. Yeah, that’s pretty much my life. This is what really happens to me. All the time.
{ME: LAUGHING. THEM: LAUGHING (either out of good humor or healthy fear)}
Me: So basically, you’re now stuck with me. Everyone in? (SILENCE) Ok, let’s roll.

DISCLAIMER: I take a lot of liberties in my stories. It may or may not have happened exactly like that but you get the point.

Here’s the deal. I fall. I misplace and forget things. They let me borrow glasses or buy me water. Shit happens to me. No really, I’ve been shit on by birds at least 5 times that I can think of and I know it’s just a matter of time before it happens on a ride. I make them pull over for selfies and photo ops (I’m still trying to figure out how to attach a selfie stick to my bike). They let me draft off of them. A lot. They hear me talk about burgers and beer before we even get a mile under our tires. I try and convince them to carry shrimp back from Delcambre. I bombard their facebook pages.

I could go on and on but all that really matters is I’m lucky they keep coming back for more.

These are some of the the people that have put up with my antics and mishaps. (Jana, Kody and Beth not pictured.)

group

These are the people that I’m grateful to have found. They’ve made it a lot easier to wake up before the sun comes up on the weekends, they’ve helped me to stay accountable when some days I just didn’t wanna and they have pushed me to be so much better than I was before I met them.

For those that have been along for the ride (Jana, Kody & Beth) and for Amanda having to deal with all of my bike questions from day 1 at Precision Bikes and for those I’ll get to race in front of (for the swim – but only because I’m in the 3rd wave) and alongside and behind (for the bike and run)…THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Sarah, Ainsley, Sonya and Terri, you will not only get a medal for finishing Augusta70.3, but you will be getting some celebratory beer from the one that quietly (that’s up for interpretation) entered your little group and has bounced around like a bull in a china cabinet ever since.

And to all of you nut jobs that I have swam or run or biked besides at Red’s or out on the road since I started this little adventure, you’ve inspired me to keep moving. Keep that shit up! People are watching.

 

 

 

     

I got to swim, bike and run around at “camp”. Be jealous.

I got to swim, bike and run around at “camp”. Be jealous.

I am a little behind in writing about camp because, frankly, last week was just too soon to relive it. One week later, I can look back and think…now, that wasn’t too painful, was it?!? I’m sure it was but just like those that go through child birth (I’m taking some liberty here since I’ve never actually given birth), once it’s over and a little time has passed, you forget how you felt in the moments that you wondered how the hell you had gotten yourself here to begin with.

I’ll give it to you in a nutshell. August. In Ardmore, Oklahoma. Hell isn’t even as hot. I’m sure of it.

I left at 8 AM Thursday morning, drove 8 hours and checked into my hotel just in time for our first camp meeting. We had some dinner, talked about what was coming our way over the next couple of days and then took a little 1/2 mile jog down to our running route for Saturday – did some running drills – ran 1/2 mile back to our hotel and called it a night.

Friday morning we headed out to Lake Murray for a little fun in the sun.

swimming group

Just before play time.

And by that I mean 30 minutes of swimming drills in the lake followed by a little 1.2 mile open water swim.

And we’re off!

Being that it was only my 2nd open water swim – in my life – and those were both shorter distances, in races, in a wetsuit, I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous. Ok, I was a lot nervous. But I was excited to get started so that I would be a little closer to finishing. I needed to know that I could do this swim without the help of a wetsuit. And I did it. I got it done and it felt pretty frickin’ awesome.

Excuse the banana head but that’s a 1.2 mile smile.

Next stop, a little bike and run, hill repeat session. At high noon. Lucky for us, we were doing this on the hottest day of the year. It was 103 degrees with a 112 heat index. Did I mention our start time was 12 noon? I made sure to fill up my tires before we took off, you know, before it got too too hot.

Yep, sweating and I literally just stepped outside.

And off we went, riding about 12 miles until reaching our little 2 mile climb to get to the top of the hill where we would then dismount from our bike, put on our running shoes, do a little 1/2 mile down and back and then jump back on the bike to head back down the hill to turn around and do it all over again. As many times as our little hearts desired.

On our way up the hill the first time, I hit a rock, felt like I was going down, unclipped just in time to fall in the opposite direction of the unclipped foot. So, now I’m sweating bullets, my eyes are burning from the sunscreen dripping in them, my knee is bleeding, my elbow is stinging a bit and I’m doing my best to shake it off and keep going. Which I did.

Up and up and up and up we go.

I finally got to the top of the hill after my long slow climb, got bandaged up by our fantastic SAG support, had ice water poured on my head, ice poured down my shirt and my pants and took a little breather.

Top of the hill. Drink, fuel, run down, run up, bike down, bike up, repeat.

After a few of those, we headed back down the hill and back to the hotel. On the side of “the hill” read “Lazy Ranch”. Someone had a real sense of humor or that someone never went up that hill on a bike or on foot.

Missed the “Lazy” in Lazy Ranch but you get the picture.

The happiness of heading “home” was met with the very hot, wind-in-the-face ride back. We were met every couple of miles by our support team to give us water, ice, coke, etc. to keep us going. 3 1/2 hours, some running and 31 miles later, we were done!

Caked on sunscreen and happy-to-be-done delirious grins.

We had a little time to shower and then meet back downstairs for pizza and lessons on nutrition, bike changing, effective transitions, etc. I was tired and a bit sore and the pizza didn’t sit too well but I just figured it was the heat from the day and didn’t think too much about it. I got in my magic compression boots, rested and went to sleep early to be ready for our 55 mile ride in the morning – followed by a 4 mile run.

I woke up the next morning, got dressed and forced down some oatmeal. I wasn’t feeling great but chalked it up to nerves. About 5 minutes after eating, I got really sick and the oatmeal came right back up. And I got sick again. And again. And then got the chills and felt a little bit like I might want to die. I grabbed a cold wash cloth and put it on my face, laid back in bed, still in my cycle gear and curled up under the covers trying not to be nauseous. About 10 minutes later, I pulled myself out of bed to see if I could will myself to feel better for the day and got sick again. It was getting close to the time to meet downstairs to head out so I texted my coach and he came up to the room. Apparently, there is such a thing as delayed heat exhaustion and he was pretty sure that’s what was hitting me. I told him that I was going to see if I felt better in a bit and if I did, I would drive to meet them with my bike to get at least some of the miles in. This was 6 AM. I continued to get sick until almost 1 PM. Despite my efforts to get out of bed and try and put on my clothes to attempt to think about meeting up with them, it wasn’t happening. I got sick every time I tried moving around.

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Missing an entire day of camp because of heat exhaustion sucks. The sickness that comes with heat exhaustion sucks even more.

And just in case you were wondering if it was any cooler for those guys out there on this day, it wasn’t. A little glimpse into what it looks like to be on the verge of passing out after cycling and running. Although this looks like he’s having a little fun and joking around, he’s not. It was really THAT hot.

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My coach at the end of his run trying to get some relief. Yes, that’s full of ice.

Sunday, still not feeling 100% but determined to end the trip on a high note with a 6 mile trail run.

trail hills

What goes down, must come up. Or something like that.

me and ash trails

When you pose for pictures, you get to take a little breather before running up the next hill. Ashley didn’t mind.

And running into this big ugly spider made me feel like I was back at home at Chicot. Only thing missing was my girl.

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6 trail miles. 1 fall. 1 spider. And…..camp comes to an end.

Happy coach. Happy campers.

Although I missed a day of camp, the things that I took away from my time there were invaluable. It was unbearably hot. Unpredictable things happened. I learned mental and physical lessons. Each person gave me a little nugget to put in my back pocket to pull out at some point in training or on race day.

I tackled some “firsts”, earned every mile that I rode or ran and have an unbelievable appreciation for the effort it takes to push when you want to quit. To smile when you want to cry. To move when you think you can’t. And to tackle 2 more miles when you thought you only had 1 left in you.

The fleeting momentary pain will all be forgotten once that finish line is in sight. That’s what I keep thinking about. That’s what I’m going after. That’s what I can’t wait for.

42 days until show time. Let’s work.

 

     
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