Wait it will be morning AKA Across the Years 2013-14 Race Report Part 2
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And watching it happen all night long…
it is was just as hard to comprehend for me
as it would have been for any of you.

I remember talking to basically anyone that would listen around 6:00am of the first morning (around 23 hours into it) asking if it was true that I would really feel better when the sun arose again… without exception they said that I would. The response was almost exactly the same “Both physically and mentally you will feel (at least somewhat) revived”. Well that sounded nice and at the time was encouraging… and I needed all the encouragement I could get. I was really sick of the cold and night and was looking forward to some sun and warmth.

I was also looking forward to some more awesome food from (in my opinion) “the best race aid station there is!” and when I came around the corner as the sun was finally starting to come up (around 7:15am) they had written what was the main entree and it was Breakfast Burritos! Yummy breakfast burritos! I am a huge breakfast food fan and was so excited to have some! I asked (as I remember I did many more times the rest of the race 🙂 ) if I could have seconds and (as they always did) they happily obliged. It tasted so good! Cool that they always went out of their way to make sure that they had options for the herbivores… but for me it was pure egg protein delight.

menu board at aid station at Across the Years race 2013

Another option that they had started to put out later into the night of my first day was small pieces of pumpkin pie. Oh wow did this send a huge smile to my face when I first saw it! I am such a huge pumpkin pie fan (and it is such a good source of easily digestible carbs)… I am essentially certain that by the end of the race I had eaten an entire pie! Awesome.

Pumpkin Pie at the Aid Station at Across the Years race 2013

Towards the end of the first night (beginning of the second morning… same thing really) I definitely started to feel moments of… what is the right word?… perhaps gentle despair. I wasn’t having fun and was moving slowly. It was cold and my legs were tired and wanted something to change… something different to happen… to sort of perk me up. I remember asking Nick (one of the race directors) how many runners were expected to start the new races at 9:00am (including the 24 Hour that I was originally signed up for) and he said “over 250”. Wow that was cool. When I thought about that it really seemed like simply having a lot of new people to follow and perhaps chat with would really help get me out of my funk (for at least a little while)… just to have some new scenery might help take my mind off of the challenge ahead (and the current difficulties).

I took a break around 8:45am (both because it seemed like a good time to take a break and because I wanted to watch the new race get started) and was really excited to see all of the new runners. It made sense that the biggest crowd started on the 31st because we were after all running “Across the Years”. There were a lot of (what at least looked like) fast runners at the line and it was to be confirmed as the hours went on that some of them were very fast.

It was also at this time that I met “Barefoot Jake Brown”. As I had written a few times when I first began training for this race.. I had thought about (briefly) running it barefoot but after I really analyzed the course surface (mostly dusty hard pack with a consistent amount of small gravel) I didn’t think there was anyway that I wanted to run on that for a day or two… to be honest I wasn’t certain at all that I even could. If it would have been straight hard pack (without the gravel) than I think I probably would have. I just didn’t want to have to pull out after 10 hours or so and say “My feet couldn’t handle it”… just didn’t want that to happen after everything I went through to get there. But Jake was there and ready to run this 24 Hour barefoot! I have to admit I was so excited (I am sure a part of the excitement was simply that I was excited to have something to be excited about at that point 🙂 ) and quickly told him some of my barefoot story’s like Running Death Valley Barefoot , why I decided not to run this race barefoot and asked him what he was hoping to accomplish out on the course. There wasn’t much time to talk (his race was about to start) but he said he was hoping to see if he could break the 24 Hour Barefoot World Record of 132 miles! Well I was impressed to say the least and he came off as a very cool guy so I was really rooting for him. I remember asking him after he had run a few laps how the course felt and he said it was alright. I was to learn later (more on Jake later on) that there was very little that he didn’t run barefoot on.

Barefoot Jake Brown at Across the Years Race 2013 with Chris Mavromatis

I learned very quickly that my intuition of there being some fast runners in this group was right! Without question the most impressive performance that morning was Kristina Pham

Across the Years Kristina Pham

I remember literally asking out loud if she knew that she was running in a 24 Hour race because of how fast she was going. I went back and forth in my mind for a little while with this question (which shows how I was already out of a bit because… how could she not know she was in a 24 Hour race? 🙂 ) I am not kidding when I write that she lapped me over and over again (at least 12 times) in the first couple of hours! It was amazing. She had an almost perfect, confident yet relaxed and powerful stride too. I was in awe of her ultrarunning prowess and knew that she had to be attempting something serious. I later found out she was attempting to break the Women’s 24 Hour American Record of 150 miles. I saw her running around the loop like she was running a Half Marathon (at least that was how it looked to me) for hours and hours. But then into the night (can’t remember when it was… I think about 10PM) I didn’t see her for quite some time and I wondered what might have happened.. I understand that everyone has to take some short breaks in these type of races, but it was getting too long for it to be intentional. I then saw here running again and her stop to grab something from her husband (and coach I found out by talking with him) and asked him how she was doing. He said that she was having trouble with her feet and legs. At the time, I smiled and said “Yeah hard to believe that we could start to have trouble with overuse issues in a 24 Hour or Multiday Race!” He knew by the connotation in my voice how I meant it and agreed that it is a brutal sport. He said that the record was well out of reach now and they weren’t even sure if she was going to be able to get 100 miles in (which of course to even very good runners is a fantastic accomplishment). It was amazing to see her running so strong out there for so many hours and I really feel like on the right day she will run an incredible race. I know that they were both disappointed, but there were a lot of runners out there that were not hitting their goals. It was a harder race (for some more obvious reasons and for some reasons no one could really figure out) than most thought it would be.

Ok so back to my race. I did feel a bit better for a few good hours (until around 11:30am I would say) when the sun came back up. It took around 2 hours to start to feel warm again (a long 2 hours… I just kept waiting for the sun to start warming me up but I think I was cold for so long over night that it took longer than it should have) but the light and the new people did make me feel better emotionally.

I was mostly walking at this point forward (with a few quarter mile jogs thrown in when I felt like it until about 5:00pm when it was all walking from that point forward) but I didn’t feel bad about that then and I definitely don’t feel bad about that now.. because I learned just how important walking is in ultras at this race. Yes there were some (the tops in their races) that ran the vast majority of their time on the course (but even the best had some walking.. like Yiannis on his 3rd day when I started).. but I do a disservice to myself by even attempting to compare myself to them.. just as much as I would being doing a disservice to myself but comparing myself in the gym to world class lifters. Their abilities are something to be marveled at and enjoyed but we really have no business thinking any less of ourselves for how we perform compare to them… this is the subject of a future post on how I think my training went.. but I wanted to share that sentiment now.

That last sentiment is a good lead in to my writing about Ed Ettinghausen. Ed finished 3rd in the 6 day with 477 miles and ran the entire race in a court jester outfit! He didn’t do this to show off or to attract attention (to be honest I am not 100% certain why he has chosen a jester outfit for some of his multidays.. but I hope to find out someday)… it was just his thing and I do believe that part of it is to brighten up the faces of other runners in the race! He is just that nice and cool of a guy. He had a big impact on helping me finish (which I will go into in Part 3) and for that I will always be grateful. Ed is an amazing runner and a genuine, helpful and extremely inspirational guy. He is quite literally a world class athlete.. just as impressive to me as any 2:10 Marathoner… well actually to me (having gone through more slowly 1/3 of what he went through) more impressive. I asked him if I could take a picture of him with me.. not to show my readers the “guy who ran in a court jester outfit” but as a photographic reminder of a new elite athlete friend that I made. I hope to get in touch with him for an interview some day.

Chris Mavromatis with Ed Ettinghausen at Across the Years Race 2013

Ed was one of the few (as I described in Part 1) that ran throughout the night with us and I remember on both my first and even more so on my second night (which was his 4th)… thinking to myself as I saw him running along… light on his feet.. with basically the same stride as he had had for his entire race up to that point…

How?… Really.. How is this possible?…

When you saw him (and other of the top elites) running at 1:00am seeming light as a feather, with a relaxed and confident stride and always excited to lend out a high five hand or a reassuring smile (which every time did work for a bit)…

And watching it happen all night long…
it is was just as hard to comprehend for me
as it would have been for any of you.

At around 10:30am that 2nd morning, I was averaging 17:00 – 20:00 min pace (not including the breaks to eat etc.) and was happy with that… I knew that if I could keep up 4mph or better pace I would have no problem making my goal (and possibly better). But (as many of my positive thoughts were to go) I was not able to maintain that pace for the remainder of the race. As I had written before the best 4 hours each day of the race were from about 9:30 – 11:30am and 5:30 – 7:30pm because those were the times when (like in the Goldilocks story) the temperature was “just right”.. not too cold and not too hot. I do think that if I would have been better prepared for the cold of the night (clothing wise) it would have been slightly better (but only slightly).. what would have made the night easier to tolerate would have been if I could have ran most of it. That increase in body temperature is what allows us to run in sub zero (and colder) temps with relative ease. The combination of my body being spent physically and walking simply didn’t allow it to generate enough heat. By far the worst dealing with the heat was to come late at night on this second day.

It was also around this time when I gave up eating what I had brought with me (which was mostly just the Sticky Bites) and ate exclusively from the aid station. My shifting to this eating “arrangement” came about for a couple of reasons… it was getting more and more annoying to have to go into my tent to stock up (annoying physically because the getting up and down out of the chair and getting myself to open the tent, find the food, stuff my belt etc. etc. was just too much of an effort… and also because their food selection was so incredible and inviting and easy to get and also because at the pace that I was committing to at that point my per hour energy needs weren’t as high). If the aid station would have only had GU, pretzels and water.. I may have reconsidered that strategy but I was very lucky to have (as I have written) the best stocked aid station ever! I remember drinking water, Gatorade, GU Brew, Coffee (the coffee was really hot and really strong! Intentionally I was told) and Hot Tea. I ate Peanut M&M’s, a lot of potato chips, dates (damn they were awesome!), pumpkin pie, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate chip cookies and everything that they cooked up special every couple of hours (breakfast sandwiches, pizza, burritos, spinach pita (I’m Greek and it was really good pita!), pasta with red sauce and on and on… The first 24 Hours my drinking and eating schedule went pretty much exactly to my plan (and I am certain that had a big part to my doing as well as I did) but the second 24 Hours was eating and drinking everything I had available.

After having basically been in the same clothes (with added layers on or off during that time) for the past 29 hours, I decided about Noon to go to my tent and change clothes (basically everything except for my compression shorts.. that just seemed like to much of an effort at the time.. and since I never really sweated much because of the humidity it somehow made sense to me that it wasn’t really necessary.. or at least something that I wanted to do at that time) and it was at that time that I realized I had a massive blister on the outside of my left foot big toe (if for some reason you are inclined.. the photo can be viewed here ). I write that I “realized” this because I hadn’t felt it at all up to that point and was quite surprised to see it. It didn’t seem to be having any impact on my race, because it wasn’t causing me any pain to run on (luckily because it was on the outside of my toe so I wasn’t landing on it and the toebox of my Skora’s was large enough that it wasn’t really rubbing up against the inside of the shoe.. which was a bit amazing as large as it was.. those Skora’s have a nice sized toebox!) yet still (as I had almost over 20 hours of potential race left to go) I wanted to have it checked out and see if/what should be done so as to help prevent it from becoming a problem.

I went to the First Aid station and had to wait about 10 minutes to get served as they were working on other runners (some with much worse issues than I like tendon swelling etc.) and to be honest wasn’t upset about the forced rest 🙂 Both of the aid station workers at the time were super nice and I felt very knowledgeable and definitely gave me the right advice. She said that she was reluctant to pop it because it wasn’t giving me pain and wasn’t having an impact on my running and with all of the dust and rocks that was on the course there was a higher possibility of something getting in my shoe and causing an infection. That sounded fine to me (and I learned was definitely the right course of action as it never did present a problem) so she simply put a small bandage on the top of my foot (that was red from a bit of abrasion) and I was on my way. I was one of the lucky ones as I have described many runners out there got really bit hard by blisters. Mine didn’t have an impact on my race.. although 26 days later it still is working its way through its healing process (I never did pop it).

My feet definitely did bother me a bit the rest of the race but it was just from being tender from running for so long in minimalist shoes. They never became an issue that had me thinking about my stance on continuing but definitely got sore. Hard to believe that one’s feet would get sore from something like this…

The second afternoon got even warmer (by about 4 degrees) than the first and it just sucked. Those (and many of them much stronger runners than I) that had started their 24 Hour that morning seemed to be tolerating it better but it was rough for me (and the previous night’s bone chilling cold seemed as far away as winter does when it is July!). It was right around 1:00pm when I started making much more frequent stops at the start of the loop. I was pouring the cold water from the water pitchers in the aid station over my head and torso, taking extra time to eat and drink and every so many laps sitting down in one of these two chairs next to the aid station for 3 – 10 minutes. That went something like this…

See the folding chair, desperately want to sit in it…

Look around to see if there was anything to grab a hold of to slow down my velocity onto the chair because I had lost most of my balance at this point and was genuinely frightened as I tried to sit down that I would fall off of it before I actually settled on the chair…

Blurt out either “Ohhh my Godddd” or a general guttural grunt or an “Ahhhhhhhhh!” as I was sitting down from the discomfort and then almost invariably get from someone

Are you alright?
Yeah I’m alright….
Immediately (as I was in view of it) I would look up at the race clock and notice my initial “sitting down” time… I would then have this conversation with myself…
Ok just 3 – 5 minutes… No longer.
Damn it is going to really really suck getting back upright and attempting to start walking again…
What has it been 6 minutes… well OK only another minute then I am getting up…
Damn it is going to really really suck getting back upright and attempting to start walking again…
Say I notice that you are soaking your feet. Are you Ok? (to the sitter next to me)
Yes I am alright.. just have some swelling around the ankles and it helps. It is brutal to put them in but it does feel better.
I would think that it would be really hard to start up again with a partially frozen foot?
Yeah I pull it out and let it warm up for at least 20 minutes before getting going.
I don’t feel like I can allow myself that amount of time at the moment… I bet it would feel good but I am only giving myself a maximum of 10 minutes here. Best of luck to you.
Oh I will be fine… just part of the game.
I hear you.
Ok it has been 7 (or 8 or 10 depending on the particular sit down) minutes and I am getting up…
Very slowly and frighteningly grab both sides of the chair to try and stabilize yourself and push with all your might while attempting to maintain some sort of balance.
Arrgghhhhh…. Sigh….. Ok I am basically perpendicular to the ground again… start the shuffling!
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle….
Hey you jerk! This is your calves talking!! Listen up! We were under the impression that since you had sat down for a while that you were done with this ridiculous thing and we really appreciated that and were shutting down. I don’t know if you realize how many 10,000’s of times you asked us to move forward since you started this thing yesterday at 9:00am but seriously… good job.. let’s end this now please!
No.. sorry.. you still need to help me out here.. That tightness and short cramp that you are giving me now is going to have to get worked out (unfortunately way too slowly) over the next half mile or so.. Say if you don’t mind not doing that again the next time that I sit down?
Don’t count on it you jerk!
Sigh…
Oh hey you jerk it’s us your knee and hip ligaments (yes all of us!) we were also really looking forward to an extended rest and don’t appreciate your moving again! Yada Yada Yada….
Sigh…………..

But then I finally got into a decent pace again (at this point closer to 20:00 – 22:00 min pace) and was moving around the loop… around an hour and a half later or so thinking both

Boy I really want to sit down again… I just really need to sit down again… my feet are tender and I just feel like I need to have my knees bent for a while…
and
Boy I really don’t want to sit down again.. because getting up and starting back around the course is terrible!

That dialogue went through my head probably two dozen times before I finished my race. I knew that I would have been better off not sitting down.. but I also knew that there would come points where I simply had to.

I remember seeing tough guy “Z” (from my Denny’s conversation from Part 1) around 3:00pm walking a good amount, sitting down near his tent with his wife and generally looking a bit dejected…

Hmmm… not having the race that you were hoping for? What is a matter does a 48 Hour race feel hard sometimes? Hard to imagine I know since it is only 2 straight days of running.

I look forward to seeing you later tonight to catch how you are holding up… I am sure that you will get your mojo back Z. After all (as you made sure to let me know) you won a 48 Hour Race in New Jersey a few months ago! 

I didn’t check to see where he was at in the placings or anything at that point.. I didn’t really care much about him to be honest and I had a lot more race to get through.

My new friend Kelly looked great out there in his 48 though! He continued to be running almost all of the times that he past me (which was a heck of a lot of times by the end of the race!) and at one point before the sun went down again I saw him (as I was stumbling back to my tent) to be laying on the cot in his tent drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon! Nice… at his pace he was burning a lot of carbs that needed replenishment.

It was a bit before 2:00pm that I hit mile 74. I would like to take you through an in depth look at that mile…. get into my (over used) shoes if you will..

Mile 74:

Got 19 hours to do a marathon… well that should be quite doable…

A short chuckle to myself as to that being an absurd length of time to do a marathon…

So then why do I have a relatively quiet question (relatively quiet at that point at least) in the back of my mind as to whether or not I can do it?

Looking down at my Garmin..

22:00 – 24:00 min pace huh? Well that definitely gives me more than enough time to finish this thing off like I want to but let’s see if I can get it under 20:00 min pace? I mean come on… 20:00 min pace?!

Lengthen my stride and increase my turnover a reasonable amount for about 100 meters…

Yeah that about does that “sprint”. I don’t think I will see much sub 20:00 min pace again.

Hey how are you feeling? (to another runner I have seen for the last day and a half that is also walking at this point) Got hot again didn’t it?

Not too bad. I feel ok. Yeah it feels even hotter than it was yesterday.

Yeah it is about 75. Glad I don’t have to worry about 8:00 min pace at the moment (I say smiling)! Well good luck.. I am sure I will see you again (did I say “I am sure I will see you again” 100 times over those two days?)

Man it’s hot. Very thankful for my “Badwater” hat that is keeping the back of my neck warm and pouring the water over my shirt really helps.. that is cold water!

Every corner that I turn feels both like a great accomplishment and in a way that I am that much closer to my goal, but also feels like I haven’t gotten anywhere. Good god… on top of everything else these race directors have done for this race.. they also proved that they are magicians because they somehow changed this loop into getting 4 times as long! Oh wow… damn…

No please go ahead.. I’m just hanging out this loop…

God my feet are sore. Just ignore it and it will go away… nope they are still sore…

Up ahead is the midway point tracking pad (to ensure that every loop you do the whole loop)… just focus on getting there and you are a tiny bit over half way to mile 75… just focus on getting to that pad…

No wait… time to take a bathroom break. The 2 porta potties are just to the left there. Let’s take a break and hope that your urine doesn’t come out the color of Pepsi (to indicate that I am severely dehydrated… it didn’t which was positive.. but was getting somewhat darker and was somewhat concerning and so I focused even more on hydrating back at the aid station). It is nice that you don’t have to worry about the smell in there because (and this still is one of the most hard to understand things from the whole race, but… the first time that I used them the day before I thought it was just a fluke, but…. while looking down in one was most definitely not a pleasant thing… somehow.. and I tend to think of the manufacturer of these specific portable toilets as some kind of genius..) they smelled like strawberries!.. seriously even after 3 days of use these things smelled literally like strawberries!! No idea how that was possible but it was one less thing to worry about…. really crazy and something I won’t forget.. I should buy stock in his company if it is public. Ok back out on the course… but not before you basically fall out of the thing because that damned 6 inch step down is a killer with where your stabilizers are at this point! Who knew 6 inches could be so scary!! Ughhh.. well I don’t think too many looked at me strange for it appearing that I just fell out of the port a potty. I tried to make a graceful exit but my legs are shot to a whole level folks! Did I just say “folks” to myself?! Uggh….

Hit the tracking mat… beep (and then another beep from the runner next to you)… cool… I got the beep…

Ok stop for a second… get just off the course so that no one has to worry about getting around you and look back at them coming… there are a lot of runners out here now. That is cool. At least 4 groups of runners that (at least at this point) are running all together for some cause or just to be as a group.. well thinking about that made my stop a bit longer than I wanted it to be… Get moving again… won’t be bad because you weren’t sitting down just standing…

Yeah feels about the same… 100 feet ahead seems a bit like a mirage somehow… you will get there soon enough.. just don’t think about there being over 25 more miles to go… don’t think about it… just seriously don’t think about it.. stop thinking about it!…

Ok done.. not thinking about it anymore…

Start up a conversation with the girl that has been limping for a number of hours (where as she was running well yesterday)… you found out she is really bummed out about her knee hurting her so much and that she normally is a top 5 female in the ultras that she enters.. and it kind of bums her out that this other girl (who is a friend of hers) that just passed us is so far ahead of her because normally they would give each other a close race…that is tough but makes it somehow a bit easier for you because it reminds you that there is more than enough suffering to go around… Cool another third of a mile down just by talking to her.

Don’t forget to drink before the aid station!! (why that just became an imperative command to you in your mind you have no idea).. but do it!! Ok done…

Hey there is Joe again! Nod and smile at him for his otherworldly accomplishment but don’t worry about him not acknowledging you because (as I was to find out later when talking with his coach the day after my race) he is almost deaf and listens to his music really really loud to have something to hear and he isn’t aloof (as some get the impression) but he can’t hear you. Cool. Good work Joe… amazing.

It is going to be so much fun celebrating New Years here where we all do one lap together and they have champagne waiting for us! But hell that is almost 12 hours away! 12 hours away!! Remember that before this race a 12 Hour was your longest ever! Ok chill… chill… just keep walking… just keep moving…

I am sorry…

I am really sorry…

I don’t know what for, but I am so very sorry….

Wow… I don’t know why I just felt that….

There is that lake again.. yeah its a nice lake. Did I just sort of talk to an inanimate object like it has feelings and would be gratified for me to tell it is was a “nice” lake”. Whoa….

Stay very tight to the inside of these turns here at the end on the other side of the lake so as to let everyone else that is still moving well to get by easily (not to try and make the loop shorter).

You are doing fine… yeah but this sucks… it’s cool. Yeah it is cool… everything is fine.

Pass the entrance to the ball field on my left and I only have that straightaway with the tree canopy to get back to the aid station…

I am really looking forward to getting out of this heat… but I am really not looking forward to the cold of the night… did I already say that to myself this loop?.. so I really need to try and hit 100 as soon as I can… shouldn’t be too hard right? Shouldn’t have to go much past midnight?… should I take a couple hour nap when the night comes and then recharge to power through the last 20 or so miles?…. NO! Just keep going and get this over with… just get it over with!!!

But damn it there is that one 12 inch dirt hill again that comes out of nowhere and almost tripped me up (is that hill going to get even worse at night… and how didn’t I see it in the daylight?)

I like this straightaway.. every loop it is comforting somehow.. I am very close to getting another lap in and it is straight and wide and I can see other runners go by…

Tighten your waist belt.. it is starting to get annoying that loose.. uggh too tight! Loosen it… Uggh.. stop getting annoyed by something that is not that annoying…

Turn… the aid station! Cannot wait for more potato chips and peanut M&M’s!! And they have what?! Pasta with red sauce? Sweet! Can I have two? I am sorry.. really do you mind?… Thank you so much!! God it’s good. You people are the absolute best!! I did just say that out loud right?

Hit the loop mat.. hear the beep… check the running tally on the electronic board just to make sure that you are at mile 75 (YEP mile 75… why did I somehow doubt that?!).

Cool… that wasn’t too bad (Ha)…. keep on going…. don’t sit down before this loop..

Keep going… less than a quarter of the way to go…

From that point until about 5:15pm (when the sun went down) was relatively uneventful… and very very slow… it didn’t cool things off much at first (as I have written it took a couple of hours at this point for the temperature to have an effect on me).. but the sun going down helped me a lot emotionally in knowing that it was extremely unlikely (at least that was the hope) that I would have to see daylight again to hit my 100 mile mark…

So this was the last day/night change that I would have to contend with (again I hoped… because daylight wouldn’t hit until 7:00am the next morning)… and for that I was thankful…

But the real challenge.. the really fierce, both mind numbing and expanding, utterly cruel chaos was about to begin….

At 6:10pm I hit 3 Marathons (78.6 miles)… I tweeted that out and it felt pretty cool… for a a minute or so and then I thought about the infinite length that 22 miles felt like it was going to be….

Boy I am going to feel this in the morning!

Ok just a second… I will still be out here (not relaxing in bed)…

Wait it will be morning…

<– Part 1         Part 3 —>

Chris

2 thoughts on “Wait it will be morning AKA Across the Years 2013-14 Race Report Part 2

    1. Chris M Post author

      Thanks Becky!
      Yeah I did want to get out Part 2 sooner, but this month has been crazy for a few different reasons.. Thanks for sticking out the wait 🙂
      I am “hoping” to have the third and final part done this weekend.

      I am glad you liked it!

      Reply

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