Somehow I ended up in a cross race

You know those nights when you go to bed and nothing happens? You lay there and lay there and eventually start to grow moss but sleep doesn’t come. That was me on Saturday night. After several hours of chewing my pillow in exasperation, I resorted to reading until sleep finally came. When my alarm went off at 6am so I could volunteer at the Capital Cross Classic, I had been asleep for less than four hours and woke up ready to punch somebody in the face.

My beloved 14-year-old dog was the my first interaction of the day. Okay. No punching.

So I got up feeling exhausted and cranky, put on fifteen layers of clothing (how many pairs of leggings equals one pair of actual pants?), and headed to the race. I began my volunteer duties, caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in months, and was bordering on hypothermic within two hours. Eventually I headed to the heckler’s tent where there was a campfire that I bonded with so closely that it burned a hole in my pants. I was sitting there with friends discussing our vague intentions to ride “later” when somebody (HI FRANK) jokingly suggested that his girlfriend and I should enter the elite women’s race.

Haha. Ha. That’s funny. Lemme just put on another five layers of clothing and become one with this log.

Except the idea poked me in the brain hard enough that I looked up the start time. It was in an hour. I had no cross bike, no cross shoes, no cash to register. I was sitting in the woods a quarter mile from the parking lot freezing my ass off and I hadn’t eaten in four hours. Also no sleep.

Of course this seemed like a brilliant idea. “I’m going to the car for a snack,” I announced, not wanting to commit to the plan I was 110% committed to in my head. I rushed back to the parking lot, stopping only to grab and inhale a handful of Oreos from a random package on the ground. Whatever. I was dumpster diving a week ago.

The events of the next forty minutes were a blur. I borrowed a cross bike from a very kind and same-sized friend. Changed into cycling clothes in the parking lot. (See? I really did intend to ride later.) Tried to source shoes. Remembered to raise the seat. Registered and pinned a number. Borrowed shoes from the same friend and realized that donating my foot sweat to him meant I owed him more alcohol than I could probably afford. The plan was crazy and last-minute and haphazard but my friends all came together to make it happen. I couldn’t have pulled it off without them.

With 10 minutes to spare, I was ready. That seemed like enough time to practice a few dismounts and remounts on a grassy stretch. While I was no Katie Compton, it wasn’t a total trainwreck and my biggest struggle was clipping in. There was a perpetual missed connection between the cleats and pedals and when I did manage to latch in, there was no obvious click and I could only confirm by yanking up on the pedal. It’s great to be a beginner.

I rolled to the start and staged at the back, where officials store people who have accomplished nothing thus far this season. The official gave brief pre-race instructions, saying, “You all know the drill,” and I had to call out that no, I actually didn’t and, um, how many laps are we doing? IS THERE A FREE LAP? When she asked if everyone was ready, I yelled NO and then the whistle blew.

The race started fast and unsurprisingly, I did not get the holeshot. I was awkward in the group, but also fired up and excited. Racing cross is so physical: it’s you and the bike pushing hard over varying terrain, but also you and the other riders vying for space and squeezing each other out at every turn. My first lap was not pretty. I hadn’t seen the course other than the parts I’d crossed briefly on foot and wasn’t exactly smooth on the technical sections. If you were behind me, you have my sincerest condolences. But I fought to pass riders and stay ahead because it’s bike racing and the part of me that fights to the death when there’s a bike involved was out in full force. I smashed every part of the course as hard as possible.

Early on, I felt like an octopus riding a unicycle while drunk and on fire. I even had to ask another racer if we were supposed to use the drops or not. I fumbled to clip in and stumbled over the running sections. But then it got easier and I felt things coming together. I passed more people, opened gaps, and found it easy and even fun to dig painfully deep. My heart rate was somewhere around 190 and my legs were screaming WHAT ABOUT RETIREMENT but oh my god, I felt alive and so damn good.

To everybody who cheered all around the course, thank you. Realizing how many friends I had out there would have brought tears to my eyes if I wasn’t already nearly weeping from the exertion of trying not to crash into trees. At one point, I heard a guy on the sidelines ask, “Is that Lindsay Bayer?” Trust me, dude, I was as surprised as you.

After six glorious laps of fighting and flailing, I finished third, winded and hurting and thrilled.

WHY DID I NOT DO THIS SOONER?

There are real answers to that question that end up being part of a much larger discussion about racing and my career and life in general. I made choices in the past five months to move in one direction and along the way, lost the fire and fight that made me the kind of person who turned getting the mail or eating cheese into a do-or-die competition. Throw in a broken rib a few months back and there went the hypothetical cross season I’d planned. But one minute yesterday I’m freezing my butt off on a log in the woods thinking the people on course look insane and the next minute I’m throwing elbows and smashing pedals trying to get ahead.

It was the best moment I can remember in a long time. Months, really.2016-cap-cross-podium-2
Things haven’t been good for a while now. The last 12 days have been the hardest of my life, and the months prior were filled with uncertainty, insecurity, and conflict. Somebody hurt me badly, but I also put myself in a position to be run over and allowed it to happen. I’ve felt off-kilter and unsteady for months, trying to figure out what I was doing and who I was becoming. It wasn’t going well; I was lost and depressed and frustrated by ‘choices’ I was making that didn’t feel like my own. I thought I was compromising for love, but instead I was compromising myself. Yesterday I did something wildly impulsive and bold and it felt fantastic. Like waking up after a bad dream.

It wouldn’t have been possible or nearly as enjoyable without the help of some really great people. To Frank – thank you for the crazy idea. To Alistair and Laura – thank you for the bike and shoes. To Arden and RJ and Mary and Jim and Andrew – thank you for helping me make it to the start line. To Bruce – thank you for putting on a kickass event and letting me participate. To everybody cheering – thank you for the reminder that the mid-Atlantic cycling community is an awesome place to race. To the person who owned the Oreos – I really hope that bag was fresh.

Lindsay Bayer Cap Cross Classic 2016

Brett Rothmeyer was kind enough to capture this moment at the finish line.

Posted on in Cycling, Friends, Life Leave a comment

Everything hurts but I am not dying

It’s been a week and I survived.

When everything fell apart, there were honestly moments when I didn’t want to survive. I didn’t want to have to live with the pain until it finally passed, and felt hugely overwhelmed by the work of dismantling a life on one side of the country and restarting on the other side. The last thing you want to think about when your heart is obliterated and pounding through your veins like broken glass is “I hope there are enough boxes in the building’s recycling bin for me to pack up my kitchen.”

(There was definitely a moment when I climbed halfway into one of those huge rolling dumpsters to grab the last empty box at the bottom. I can laugh about this now.)

In the past week, I’ve ended my life in Seattle and moved-cross country, settled into my room at Chez Bayer, and spent roughly 98% of my waking moments thinking about everything. What happened, why, how, what signs I missed, what red flags I ignored, how I could be so wrong about a person, what I could have done differently, how somebody I thought loved me could act that way.

It would be nice to stop thinking about it. I’m ready for a bout of amnesia, a little Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But my head doesn’t work that way – I’m that one final crow picking away at the long dead and desiccated animal carcass on the side of the road. I have to understand and process endlessly until everything feels great again. That is stupid because no amount of thinking or talking is actually going to fix these feelings. Loss and grief are only solved by time.

The good part about all of this (other than cutting my monthly housing bill in half) is that my friends and family have caught me in this fall better than I could have ever hoped. To everybody who has reached out: thank you. Your kindness, friendship, and support have made this bearable and carried me through the hardest moments. People I didn’t even know well have stepped into my life to offer friendship and wisdom. In the face of one person’s horribly hurtful actions, I’ve found a few dozen kind, caring people that make everything less painful.

People have asked what I’m going to do next and if I’ll return to racing. I don’t know. None of this was planned. It feels a little like asking somebody to solve a crossword puzzle right after their arm has been chopped off. Right now I’m focused on doing my jobs, working out every day, managing the team, and spending time with good people. Anything beyond that feels like too much to decide now. I retired for reasons that mostly still stand; I saw something different in life that mattered more and looked more appealing. Just because that man and our theoretical family no longer exist doesn’t mean I stopped wanting to move on to the next chapter of my life. If I decide to race again, it will be because I realized I was swayed by something that no longer seems right for now. I’m not there yet. Yesterday was the first time I rode a bike in over a week. I’m starting there.

Apparently a week off the bike is enough time for my butt to de-acclimate to a saddle. Will the injustices ever stop???

The hardest part about realizing I’ve been living in a network of lies is the loss of both the future and the past. Every experience we shared became instantly tainted and called into question: when was I being loved and when was I being deceived? The trips to Korea, New York City, San Francisco – all wonderful memories that hurt to go near now. Quiet dinners at home, big nights out on the town, birthday celebrations, race travel, road trips, afternoons at the park with his daughter followed by beer and ice cream. What was real? How can I even think about any of those times without hurting for both the real loss of him and the intangible loss of trusting that any of it was real?

What I can take from this experience are a few personal gains. I’ve finally been to Asia, eaten ramen in three different countries, learned how to properly roast a chicken and pick a good beer, broke the cycle of my eating disorder, and quit relying on sleeping pills and antidepressants (there’s some irony). These are all good things that no heartbreak can take away.

The rest of it – the memories and shared experiences, the love I have for his daughter, the life I’d built in a city that felt like home – remains to be filed away. I can’t think about any of those things now without physically hurting.

So that’s where I am now. Well, right this moment I’m literally riding the trainer in my parents’ garage sandwiched in the narrow gap between my mother’s car and four ladders (because apparently you can never have too many ladders). This kind of absurdity feels almost like a return to normalcy. A week out from the implosion, it’s as good a place as I could have hoped to be.

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Rebuilding.

Posted on in Family, Friends, Life, Sadness 2 Comments

On heartbreak and starting over from zero

Something about what he said stuck out, like a nubby loose thread on an otherwise tightly knit sweater. I couldn’t let it go, poking and fussing at it.

I never expected that with a single tug, the entire thing would unravel.


A week ago, I was in Korea riding through the mountains. My life had been shifting and changing dramatically for the previous six months, but I loved where it was going. I was in love with a man and his little girl, running the team but stepping away from the obligations of training and racing, planning for grad school and to become a mother. I had finally relaxed my rules enough to start truly living every day. Whatever unknown remained, I knew it was going to be exciting.

A week later, I am driving to Virginia to live with my parents. My life is packed into the same car that took me out west with him into what I thought was my future.


Wednesday was literally the longest day of my life.

I woke up in Korea at 5am, restless from persistent jet lag, moody, and hungover. Went to the hotel gym and dragged my body through workouts until the sun rose and my head cleared. Spent the day wandering around Seoul – lunch, coffee, photos, stores – and then caught a cab to the airport. Made it onto the plane, then dinner (again), drinks (more), a movie, my head in his lap while I slept fitfully through the long flight. I remember his arm draped over me while I dozed feeling safe and loved. Landed in Seattle at 11am on the same Wednesday morning, passed through immigration/baggage claim, picked up a car, went for coffee and food, did some time-sensitive errands, home to unpack, did some work, showered, headed back out for more errands. I went to the grocery store at 5pm the day before Thanksgiving because our refrigerator was empty. Bought everything we needed for daily life and to make an improvised Thanksgiving dinner for two. Came home, stumbled onto a tiny detail, explored it further, and ended my life as I knew it.

The longest, worst day of my life ended 32 hours after it began. My biggest regret may have been going through the time and expense of buying so much food. I gave it all away.


The details of what happened are not mine alone to share. My part of the story is to say that in a instant, everything I believed in and planned for came crashing down, leaving me standing alone and shattered in the wreckage of what had been my life.


What came next is the part of which I am most proud. I brushed my teeth, slept, got up the next day, ate a few bites of food, showered. I kept going. Packed his things, reached out for my friends and family and held on for dear life, kept breathing. I started packing and loading my car, ruthlessly boxing and bagging and trashing the entirety of our home. It felt like I was dying inside but I did not stop moving. Slept again, showered again, finished packing and loading the car. Strangers from Craigslist came to take away the furniture for free. I wept through it all. The couple that took our bed hugged me, said everything would be okay in time, and gave me $40. The Xfinity representative who cancelled my account told me she loved me and was sending hugs. The inherent goodness of people was a tiny speck of light in a dark hole. When everything was packed and cleaned, I went to the leasing office and terminated the lease on what was supposed to be my home through next July. I cried into the paperwork and cried to the mailman who dug out my mail so I could leave right then, but I still got it all done.

Just 34 hours after being decimated and heartbroken, I was done in Seattle and on the road out of town. When looking back on this part of my life, I will always be proud that I mustered up the strength to act quickly and decisively. I feel so shitty about myself in every other way right now, but I have that.


What the hell comes next? I have no idea. The slate of my life has been wiped clean of all the plans I was actively pursuing. At some point when the hurt dulls to something less than agony and crushing depression, it will probably feel exciting, like the world is my oyster. For now, I am too raw and sad. He loved oysters; we’d eat them together all the time. I can’t believe it’s over.


There are three things I take from this chapter of my life.

First, always trust my instincts. My gut tells me a lot of things that I often ignore – don’t eat that much dairy, you don’t need three dinners, another scotch would be a mistake – and this was no different. For the rest of my life, when my gut says to be careful and pay attention, that something is not right, I will listen.

This does not apply to scotch, at least not for now.

Second, it’s better to live life than live by endless rules. He taught me to cut loose in so many ways and while I often panicked and clung to my old self-imposed restrictions, I also felt more alive than ever before. I know that a healthy balance between the two extremes is where I want to spend the rest of my life.

Third, crying and talking to friends and strangers is cathartic. There is no shame in loving and losing, in trusting and being betrayed, in genuinely trying and still failing. I overshare; it’s who I am and I’m not going to shy away from being open about my life and getting my ass kicked sometimes. This is what it is to be human and fallible.

Oh, and a fourth thing: people will haul anything away from your home in a hurry if it’s free. It usually took two of us to fold down the heavy hardwood futon into a bed, but I watched one skinny dude carry the thing out of my apartment alone.


The mornings are hard right now. I wake up to face and reprocess this new reality every day. It probably hasn’t helped to be waking up in South Dakota or Minnesota in roadside motels that make me wonder if I’m current on my vaccines.

The nights are hard too, when the longing and loneliness of losing my partner sets in.

The time in between is also hard, when I spend endless hours looping though why/how/why/how. An autopsy on repeat in my head. I can’t make sense of any of it and I have dozens of questions that will remain forever unanswered. Sometimes it feels like I’m in shock: surely this happened to somebody else, not me, or perhaps I’ll wake up still on the airplane home from Korea.

It’s all hard, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I love instant fixes but there is no cure except time.

This is life, right? Live and learn, love and lose, break and rebuild.

What a time to be alive.

Posted on in Family, Friends, Life, Sadness 2 Comments

On deciding to retire

The first thing I did after deciding to retire was spin for an hour on the trainer.

Of course that’s how it would go. I decided to retire; I didn’t stop breathing or being a head case.

But I should back up.

In early June of 2007, I bought a mountain bike and later that month, I started racing it. By August, I’d decided I wanted to go to the Olympics for cross country racing and by the following December, I was in training. My whole life shifted: my diet became healthier and actually included water, I rode a bike all the time, and every day included some type of cross-training. Sometimes I loved it; others I’d put off training all day and throw tantrums as I dragged myself onto the trainer at 10pm. How I felt about the process was mostly irrelevant – I had a goal and absolute tunnel vision to that end. My whole life shifted to being about training and racing and I made choices repeatedly to support that goal and abandon everything else.

2010-greenbrier-racingWhen I stumbled into road cycling (or crashed into it, as some of you may recall), everything changed except for the steel-trap focus on making it to the highest level of the sport. I was more successful on the road than trails and that stoked the fire to work harder and sacrifice more. Two years later, I was racing professionally all over the country and have been there since. It’s been a wild ride.

podium-in-walterboroStarting the Hagens Berman | Supermint team was an incredible experience and I enjoyed racing this past season more than ever before. I was fitter and stronger then any year prior, and finally had the confidence and experience to feel in control in races. I didn’t achieve some of my personal goals but have no regrets.

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What I do have is the certainty that I need to step away from racing now. Not from riding, not from running the team, but from the demands of being a professional cyclist. The negative feelings started months ago but I ignored them or chalked them up to temporary injury/fatigue/burnout. They didn’t go away, though, and I would listen to myself chatting with people about racing and the coming season and it sounded like I was talking about getting teeth extracted or attending my own funeral. There is nothing in professional cycling so rewarding that it is worth doing when you don’t feel like it anymore.

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As for the why? part: Phil Gaimon had a great interview recently talking about his own decision to retire and many of his reasons mirror mine. It felt like my fire to race dimmed to the point where it no longer blotted out the magnitude of the risks and sacrifices. I’ve missed events and holidays for years, begrudgingly put my body through grueling workouts when I wanted to be doing ANYTHING else, and visited the ER more times than people who work there. Throughout all of it, I kept seeing the goal the goal the goal and that was enough, but when the goal stopped meaning as much, I couldn’t figure out why to keep going.

In the middle of a Saturday morning while visiting the San Francisco area in October, I abruptly decided to retire.

2016-redlands-stage-1-finish-1
There was an immediate feeling of relief and excitement about how wide open my future suddenly felt. There was also panic – who am I if I’m not a professional cyclist? – but that wasn’t a good enough reason to keep going anymore. I told a few people about the decision, did my daily core workout, and then rode the trainer. Although I was done racing, I wasn’t done being fit or feeling compelled to ride and I needed to spin my legs out in advance of the next day’s big ride.

The rest of the week in San Francisco was spent smashing my body on long rides and not giving a shit about being totally cracked, having terrible legs, or stopping for coffee mid-ride. Off the bike, I ate and drank like it was my last meal and spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I wanted to be next. I bought a plane ticket to spend three weeks in Japan exploring because this is the first time in nearly a decade that I felt free enough to travel without thinking about training or racing. It felt a bit like being let out of jail.

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When I think about racing, I do feel sad and miss it already. I’m certain it will be hard to watch or hear about races I should be in and know that I’m not part of the action anymore. But it’s like outgrowing a romantic relationship; you can look at the person and love them so much but know they’re not right for you anymore and it’s time to move on. I love racing and everything it has done for my life, but it’s time to figure out what is next and plunge wildly, terrifyingly, and joyfully into that unknown.

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Until I come out of retirement, that is. There will likely be a sequel.

Posted on in Cycling, Employment, Life 2 Comments

So you want to be a pro cyclist.

One of the best things about this past racing season was no longer constantly worrying about signing my next professional contract. When you run your own cycling team, you worry about everything except whether or not you’ll have a job.

Jono and I did have a conversation about this few months ago.

“You’re hiring me as a rider again,” I said. “You don’t have a choice.”

“I could say no, but then you could fire me. And we haven’t talked about whether or not you’re hiring me back as the director.”

And so that was settled.

After five years of stressing all season about getting a job the following year, it was a relief to let go of that concern and race my bike without thinking about a result on a resume. [Instead I worried constantly about the team getting results to keep the sponsors happy and the team in existence. No pressure.]

I also didn’t have to spend July through October desperately checking my email for good or bad news. Rachel Heal and Linda Jackson are likely still relieved that my emails have stopped coming, while Jono would probably give his right arm to go back to the sweet old days when my emails to him began with “Dear Mr. Coulter…

Now I’m on the other side and would like to offer some advice to every rider hoping to sign a professional contract. I’ve been you, I feel your pain, I know that hunger. There were times where I would have traded a major organ for a contract. But here are some things to consider:

1. Just race your bike. Results do matter, but if you spend all season chasing results just for the sake of getting hired, you are asking to be unhappy. I remember dragging my burned-out, weary butt all over the country because I was desperate to get that stand-out result that was going to make all the team directors swoon. At one point, I paid $900 for a plane ticket to do a single crit in Aspen, took a 5am flight to Virginia the morning after, had 36 hours to rest/recover/attend a bachelorette party, then drove 6 hours to race another crit the next day. When I finished 4th in that race, I cried hysterically and felt like a crushing failure because it wasn’t a podium and I wasn’t going to get noticed by directors and was probably going to die alone in a cave. That is the definition of doing it wrong. You should race because you love the challenge and want to be the best — that’s the only way to keep it rewarding enough to be worth doing.

2. But no, seriously, race your bike. Please do not spend your entire season racing locally and then send your resume to national/international pro teams telling them about your great results. You need to learn how to race at national-level events and show directors that you can be competitive in those races. Yes, it is expensive and challenging to do as a solo rider. Life is not fair but that’s the price of climbing the ladder in this sport. True story: I genuinely believed after winning my first few local races as a category 3 rider that pro teams would want to hire me and sent out my resume accordingly. Please do not be me. I am still embarrassed enough for us both.

3. Being hired to a team is not going to make or break your life. Yes, it is great to be able to call yourself a professional cyclist, to have things paid for and given to you, and to be part of a collective organization in matching clothes working together towards a single goal. Some of my best moments in cycling have come from traveling and racing with a team. But some of my worst moments in cycling have also come from the drama and politics and budget struggles inherent in so many teams. The wrong environment can wreck your season and motivation. Before you structure your whole season and personal sense of worth around getting a contract, make sure you figure out what you want from the sport and THEN decide the best way to get there. A pro contract on a team where you are not a good fit isn’t going to get you anywhere you want to be.

4. Be sure you’re ready to be on a team. Unless you are a very special snowflake, you are probably going to spend your first few seasons on a team as a domestique. It is hard to go from being a hometown hero with brilliant results to finishing 58th consistently because you are part of the leadout train. My ego struggled with that because I worried that people back home would think I suddenly sucked. My own parents spent most of my first pro season asking why I kept doing so poorly in races where I’d gotten top-10 results the previous year. Figuring out how to be truly happy that you got somebody else on the podium doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re not ready to take orders and be a cog in the machine and give up being an independent agent, that’s fine, but don’t join a team. Go into a team ready to learn, willing to listen, and happy to cooperate.

5. Prepare a strong resume and introductory email. Your resume should be succinct, current, and easy to process. Directors do not want to wade through five pages of lovely photos and touching narrative. When you write your introductory email, focus on what you can do for the team, not what the team can do for you. If your objective is “To find a team that can help me accomplish X, Y, and Z,” you are doing it wrong. Your parents, friends, coach, therapist, significant other, and pet all care about your hopes and dreams. Directors care about the team’s hopes and dreams, so you should focus on telling them how you will be an asset. Make an effort to show that you want to be part of their team for a specific reason so it seems like you’ve done more than just cut and paste the same message to a dozen directors. If you email me and mention that you were so impressed when the team set Scotti up to win at Stage 1 of Redlands or that you have a fetish for polka dotted bottles, I am going to be impressed enough to at least open your resume. If you want a director to care about you, start by showing that you care about their team.

Note: This advice can also be applied to your resume/cover letter in your professional career outside of cycling. In my non-cycling career, I review a lot of resumes where people seem oddly convinced that corporations care about their personal career goals.

6. Ask the right questions. Ask directors what their race program goals are for the following season. If your heart is set on going to Europe, be honest about that so you and the director can determine if the team is a good fit. Ask about the team’s views on riders having outside employment, if significant others or family members can be accommodated on travel plans, whether the team prefers to keep riders on the road or send them home between races, and what expenses are covered or not. It’s okay to ask these questions and if the director won’t answer them, then it’s probably not a team you want to spend a year with anyway. As for the salary conversation, people seem very uncomfortable about this all around. That is stupid: cycling is a business and this is a job. Even if the salary on offer is low or non-existent, let’s all agree to have the same professional discussion one would expect in any hiring dialogue.

7. Rejection is not the end of the world. I have received a lot of rejections in cycling. Jono himself has rejected me multiple times in past seasons. (NOW WHO’S LAUGHING??) There are a lot of great riders and not a lot of teams. There is not a lot of money to go around in the sport, and there are tons of politics and weird relationships that make navigating the world of teams even more challenging. If you get rejected, just keep riding and racing your bike. If you were only doing it to get on a team in the first place, please go reread point #1. Don’t give up because you never know what could happen. Teams often bring on guest riders throughout the season that end up getting hired. Teams also make final hiring decisions at the end of the year or the start of the new year to round out their rosters. If you always focus on racing your bike hard and being a generally decent person, your time will come.

Posted on in Cycling, Employment 5 Comments
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