11 days to go….

I was due to be walking around Dartmoor with the rest of the Sparks Kilimanjaro team today, but unfortunately I had to pull out this morning. I have had to sacrifice a lot of time my with children in order to train over these last few months and with the trip so close and training more for fun as opposed for fitness I decided that if my 7 year old daughter was happy to come along we would go walking, if not then we would do something else today.

All day yesterday she was happy to go – her outfit was planned and walking boots were ready and I had confirmed we would meet the rest of the team in the car park at Manaton…….by 7 am Sunday morning she had completely changed her mind. Typical.

Team Sparks went walking round glorious Dartmoor today, without me!

I haven’t been feeling that well in the last few days so I was secretly pleased to be able to go back to sleep this morning. I’ve had a headache for a few days, which initially I put down to a bit of strrrreeeesssssss last week, however now I have a few gland ups and a general feeling of being ‘warm and unwell’. I am trying not to panic just yet and drinking as much fresh juice and eating lots of fruit and vegetables as is possible. The odd paracetamol and a liquid called Silver, which a friend gave me to boost my immune system. Fingers crossed I will soon be back to my normal self, I haven’t got time for this illness lark – I’ve got a mountain to climb!

Today’s mission was to sort out my medical kit.

Shopping list

Factor 50 Sunscreen/lipscreen

2 packs of wet wipes – there are no real facilities on the mountain as you can imagine. Aside from a bowl of water, all washing will be via wet wipes. (I am hoping the ‘no smell’ merino wool base layers I bought will be as good as their name – 6 days without a shower will be an interesting experience for team Sparks!)

Antibacterial hand gel

Earplugs – just in case I’m sharing a tent with a snorer!!

Imodium – with zero facilities on that mountain, you seriously don’t want a stomach upset. I bought 2 packs, just to be sure.

Paracetamol – headaches and altitude sickness go hand in hand

Ibuprofen – just to bring down any swellings from any potential injuries or to hit the headaches with a double whammy, in conjunction with the paracetamol!

Compeed plasters – if you have yet to discover these fabulous walkers plasters, get yourself down to Boots and buy some! You need never suffer with a blister again, they stay on your foot for days and offer some immense padding, so you can get those boots back on!! Whilst my walking boots are worn in I would imagine the odd hot spot is likely with 7 days of walking. I have stocked right up.

The king of ‘foot taping’ Peter Gold recommended I also buy zinc oxide tape, which I have. Must put ‘Ring Pete and ask how to tape up my feet again’ on my list of things to do this week.

Rehydration sachets – I can’t imagine how I will dehydrate when I am drinking 6 litres of water a day, but just incase….

Nailbrush – it’s so dusty on Kilimanjaro….and there is no way I want to be eating my dinner with vile fingernails.

I am a bit worried about not washing my hair for 6 days, am wondering whether I should even bother taking a mirror. Might be better to spare myself the full horror and leave the mirror behind?!

Until tomorrow…..

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12 days to go – and a bit of toilet humour..!

My training has practically stopped because I’m moving into that phase of getting ready for a big physical challenge where rest, eating well and sleeping are the most important things.

There isn’t a huge amount to tell you on the training front as I am maintaining my fitness right now, getting ready to taper next week. I’m physically in great shape and ‘definitely fit enough to climb that hill’ – my PT grins as he says that, knowing full well it winds me up.

Fundraising wise, I am utterly flabbergasted to tell you that I have raised over £3750. I can’t wait to tell you the final figure in the next few weeks. Of course I still have my speed dating event next week which will generate some more money for Sparks (Single? live near Exeter? Why don’t you join us…full details on my previous post ‘You Can’t hurry love’) and I am expecting some other cheques and donations from some business contacts – which is exciting!

What is happening now are my final preparations for my trip to Tanzania. I thought I would write a daily post about what I am up to and how I am feeling.

So here we are, diary entry 1 – 12 days to go….!

I have been somewhat stressed these last few days, with a notable headache since Thursday. The only feeling I can compare it to is the fear of going into labour. Part excited and part terrified of the unknown! Listening to other people’s experiences, whilst incredibly interesting, doesn’t help at times – phrases like ‘take vaseline with you because your nose and mouth with burn from where you have been gasping for oxygen’ do nothing to calm ones nerves or aid a good nights sleep.

I have to keep reminding myself that yes it’s going to be hard….but if Chris Moyles and Cheryl Cole can do it – then I can!!! Nicole, Regional Fundraiser for Sparks and friend, has climbed Kilimanjaro before and she’s doing it again…..so it can’t be that bad….can it!

This morning instead of going for a run I had a long walk with my daughter over the cliffs and along Exmouth beach. I am avoiding anything too explosive fitness wise to minimise the risk of injury. We then had a leisurely lunch with my best friend down at The Mexican – before heading into Exeter to buy a shewee – which has been todays mission.

What’s a shewee?! Well, it’s a plastic device that allows us girls to stand up and pee like a bloke – hence she-wee! Oh the dignity of climbing a mountain! You see as you climb higher up Kilimanjaro, there is less and less vegetation to the point where there are no bushes and limited boulders I’m told. Nothing to hide behind….and to be honest, even if there was do you really want to take off any more clothing than you need to in sub-zero temperatures.

On entering the shop, in a quiet voice, (a bit like when you buy tampons, condoms or cigarettes for the first time) I asked the male retail assistant for a shewee – he showed me the ‘normal version’ and then the version that comes in a pink case and with an extendable hose. ‘Ah the extreme version’ he said when I made my selection – ‘These are extreme circumstances’ I retorted. You might as well get the version with the hose, the last thing you want up a mountain that size and that cold are wet trousers I figure….

It’s currently in a box in the kitchen, the next mission today is to practice with it (in the shower the manufacturers suggest for obvious reasons!!) – I shall spare you any further gory details….!!

Aside from that, I shall be getting my big rucksack out the loft and starting to get ready to pack my kit. Normally my approach to packing is to cram as much as I can in the case and max out the allocated weight limit. In this instance, it’s about taking as little weight as you can whilst making sure you have what you need…..but then of course unlike the normal trips I take, I’m only taking one pair of shoes….my walking boots!! This is, indeed, an unusual trip in every respect!

Until tomorrow….
S 🙂

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Life’s too short

I was in a meeting last week with a candidate looking to return to employment after a period of absence, due to bereavement.

Following the death of his Father, Simon needed to care for his Mother and resolve the family finances. 9 months later here we were talking about his return to work.

It goes without saying that it had been a traumatic time for the family, the Father had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and within a matter of weeks had deteriorated from fit and active to bedridden.

His sudden illness meant that he would never get to go on the overseas trip he had planned in his head for years, and dreamt of for most his adult life, but had never taken. I’m guessing because he had a big family, a job and other commitments the holiday was always something that was put off to a later date.

Simon told me that his Fathers last words to him were ‘Son, don’t waste your life.’

Sounds like something out of a film doesn’t it.

What I took from Simon’s story, was a gentle reminder of something that we already know but overlook all the time….life’s too short. We all wander around putting off things until ‘tomorrow’ as though we have all the time in the world…..sorry to sound morbid…..but YOU don’t.

Chase the job, car, partner, house or adventures you’ve dreamed of and max out on the adventure that is being you.

Personally, I don’t want to be lying on my death-bed wishing I’d grabbed what I wanted when I had the chance – or – regretted wasting time on things that really don’t matter when I could be with people that do……do you?

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You can’t hurry love…..or can you?!!!

It struck me recently how many amazing, single, people I know. Don’t get me wrong, you married and co-habiting types are pretty cool too – but seriously, I look at some of my single friends and wonder why on earth they haven’t been snapped up.

Mel (she is going to kill me if she reads this) has already climbed Kilimanjaro, used to run a diving school, is gorgeous, intelligent and funny….and single.

Victoria (name changed to protect her identity, because she actually would kill me) cooks the most amazing brownies, is fit, is so funny she makes me laugh until I cry, has a great job and the most amazing eyes ever and is a HUGE catch……and is single.

Ben (doesn’t ‘get’ social media, so unlikely to read this) is utterly gorgeous, tall, dark and handsome, has a great job and likes to treat his girlfriend like a princesses…….how is this guy single?!

Peter (he’ll actually laugh that he’s been included if he sees this) local businessman that can’t do enough for people, attractive, funny, kind and into exercise big time. Your Mum would love him…..and he’s single.

I could go on, and on…..

They all ultimately want to meet someone special and enjoy a bit of romance…..so in the name of charity I am going to take matters into my own hands and see how many of you I can fix up with a new ‘love interest’ in time for Valentines Day!

With my fundraising hat firmly on, local friends I invite you to partake in Speed Dating – Sarah Style!

I have never personally been speed dating, but I have done some speed business networking (yes, really!!) in my day. So, loosely based on my experience and some much valued input from Oli Moore….this is the plan.

Thursday 27th January, 7pm, at Pitcher and Piano (top floor) in central Exeter.
Cost – a £10 donation to Sparks Charity.

Once we are all there, the ladies will sit at a numbered table.
Gentlemen, you will each sit infront of a lady and when I ring the bell the first time your 3 minute ‘date’ will start.
When I ring the bell for the second time it’s time to say your goodbyes and move onto the next table/lady.
We keep going until you have met everyone.
You will be able to take notes during the session and at the end, in total confidence, you willl be able to indicate who you would like to see again. If they say the same about you, you will be put in contact and who knows, it just might be the start of something special.

Worst case senario you would have spent a fun evening in the company of other local, single, professionals and helped raised some much needed funds for Sparks Childrens Charity, who fund research into diseases that affect children.

At the end of the event, my plan is very much to ‘hit the town’ and anyone who wants to join me is very welcome. Bring your dancing shoes!


1. This will be a classy event that, above all, will be fun.
2. I can’t be absolutely specific about the age range of the participants!
3. Everyone that is there will be single. Everyone is in the same boat.
4. There will not be ‘an audience’ – only participants!
5. This will be fun
6. My plan is to speak to each attendee in advance of the event to ensure that they are indeed single, so in an almost recruitment stylie – I have vetted the attendees to ensure a well matching group.
7. Have I mentioned how much fun this will be?!

At the time of writing I have already signed up a number of willing participants. Get in touch, I’m happy to talk it through with you and tell you more about my plans, and maybe a bit about some of the people that are already coming!

So, what do you reckon? Fancy coming along? Know anyone else that would? Please spread the word….

Until next time….

Sarah 🙂

P.S. The event needs to be pre-booked as I need to co-ordinate numbers carefully, please therefore visit http://www.justgiving.com/speed-dating (you can donate anon if you would prefer) or get in contact with me direct.

P.P.S I’m ringing the bell, although I might just change my mind nearer the time and get involved myself. Who knows…! 😉

Contact details for me: 07974 576362 / sarah@sarahwestrecruit.co.uk / @sarknight – or indeed you can leave a comment on this blog!

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Fun, family and fitness.

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I thought I would share a few pictures with you
that sum up December for me, which was very much a time for family,
fun and a little fitness. There are a couple of December rituals
that are the highlight of the social calendar for myself and my
friends! One is the Christmas Day swim, you can see the picture of
a few of us freezing on the beach. It was so cold this year that
there was a layer of snow on the sand! There must be a good 200
people who line up, wearing anything from santa suits to skimpy
beach wear. Under starters orders we sing ‘We wish you a merry
Christmas’ before hurtling into the freezing cold sea for a swim.
It must be hilarious watching us all run screaming into the water,
scream some more at the sheer cold, flap around a bit and then run
screaming (away from the husband of my best friend, David, who
is normally splashing and trying to drag us girls back into the
freezing water!) back to ‘base’ – it sounds crazy, but its a great
start to the day. There are hundreds of spectators and you feel
like you see everyone you know whilst you are there. Thankfully
relatives are always on hand with hot coffee, mulled wine and
clothes!! The other tradition in my gang is a New Years Day pub
crawl. New Years Eve in my part of Devon is a crazy affair, quoted
as being within the top 3 places to spend New Years Eve in the UK. It’s hectic with little chance of being able to get to the bar, let alone have
a conversation….I appreciate I sound a bit like my Dad there!!
Our group of friends have evolved into going out New Years Day
instead, 20 of us made it this year. The picture you can see are
the ‘last men standing’ after 12 hours of pubs and much hilarity.
There are also a few pictures of us at the recent Chiefs vs Tigers
game at Sandy Park. There are a couple of pictures of my children.
This is normally the bit where you say ‘you don’t look old enough
to have a 19-year-old son!’ – I am, honest! – and of course my
darling daughter, who at 7 years old is the epitome of Christmas.
Just thought it might add another dimension to a blog, which so
far, has been all about fitness. Happy New Year dear friends, I
hope 2011 brings you much love, success and happiness.

For me my full focus is now on training and fundraising for Kilimanjaro – 28 days and counting!

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2010: bucket lists and friendships.

I am doing what most of you probably are this week, I am reflecting a lot on the past 12 months and also starting to think about how I want 2011 to look!

2010 has definitely had it’s ups and downs, but there were 2 significant things that really stood out for me this year. My friends are one and the other is the power of writing things down.

Don’t get me wrong, I have always known I have wonderful friends – who are amazing every year. However this year you have surpassed yourself and I just want you to know I cherish you all. Many of my social media friendships have crossed the borders into deep and true cherished ‘real life’ friends and my closest/oldest friends, both from Essex and Devon continue to be an amazing source of comedy, joy and love.

I wouldn’t have entertained Kilimanjaro if it hadn’t have been for your encouragement, and I wouldn’t have got this far without your support.

In terms of the ‘power of writing things down’ let me explain how this adventure and therefore this blog came about.

I was inspired on the 30 March 2010 to write a bucket list, which is basically a list of 100 things I wanted to achieve or experiences I wanted to have before I ‘kick the bucket!!’

Writing down the first 30 or so was easy, there are quite a few places I want to visit and things I have been meaning to do. Then it became much harder. I really had to think about what I wanted to do with my life and for the first time in a long while my mind could break out of the reality of my current life and dare jump into a world where anything was possible.

What did I want to do with my life?

Once it was complete I read it a few times, it was powerful reading. If I could do all these things I was going to have the most incredible life and stories to tell of my adventures!

The funny thing was, once I had committed it to paper it was amazing how quickly the opportunities arose for these experiences to creep into my life.

Mentors have business books tell of the power of writing down your intentions and goals, and therefore of your commitment to them – and watching them unfold. I was watching it start to happen.

Climbing Kilimanjaro was on the list, and I signed up to the trek on the 16 June 2010 having only written the list a few months before. The funny thing is the opportunity literally landed in my lap, I didn’t seek it out at all! I was having lunch with a group of local Company Directors and one of them, Dave Thomas, was telling me that he and his wife Hilary were training to climb Kilimanjaro. ‘Why don’t you join us?’ he asked – and that’s where this adventure began……in the Blue Ball in Topsham, one Wednesday lunchtime.

I have crossed off 8 things so far, they range from now being able to cook the perfect omelette, teaching my daughter to swim, dropping a dress size and riding a horse.

In 7 weeks my Kilimanjaro trek will be over, it’s been an enormous focus for me over the last 6 months. I am looking at my list now wondering what the next focus/adventure will be.

With the start of 2011 just around the corner and many of us thinking about changing habits, committing to fresh starts and what the next 12 months might hold in store.

I thought I would share some of my list with you, I thought maybe my list might inspire you to write your own bucket list….at the very least writing this post has started getting me excited about what might be in store after my mountain climb in February and the other 92 things I am waiting to experience!

Some of my entries are personal, of course, but here are a few snippets of my 100 things….

Sarah’s bucket list

3. To go to New Zealand and see my brother.
4. Walk along the Great Wall of China
5. Take up playing the piano again
7. Grown my own vegetables
8. Run another marathon
12. To overcome my fear of the sea
13. Write a book
16. Own a classic white Porsche
21. Hire a LV and explore The States
22. Learn to salsa
23. Be fluent in another language
25. Find Mr Right and live happily ever after
46. Go on a barge holiday
49. Sleep under the stars in the desert
51. Have tea at The Ritz
52. Fly 1st class on Virgin Airways
53. Watch the New Years Eve fireworks at Sydney Harbour Bridge
56. Be in charge of a sleigh being pulled by huskies
61. Go to the Grand Canyon
63. Learn to play and win at chess
71. Go on the Orient Express
72. Visit Disney in the US
80. Give an after dinner speech
82. Get a degree
91. Own a hammock
99. Document my family history/tree

So, my 2011 looks like it will be a pretty exciting year if all goes according to plan. What does your next 12 months look life?

Happy New Year everyone!

Until next time….
Sarah 🙂

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Christmas is coming….

The snow and ice are seriously affecting training at the moment. My car has been sitting on my drive for a week and there are no signs that I am going to be able to move it in the near future. The close I live in currently resembling an ice rink and it’s hard enough to walk right now, let alone drive my car or attempt a run!

I am walking everywhere and carrying my shopping for what feels like miles, that is the extent of my exercise. I have been questioning this week whether I should make an emergency gym membership application! I am over the initial panic of breaking from my exercise regime…..and have decided that I just need to make the most of the rest.

So with Christmas 2 days away I am going to make the most of time with my family and friends, enjoy my food, the odd glass of wine, lots of laughter and a well deserved rest.

If Father Christmas is reading this, I have been relatively good this year and hope you don’t mind me adding a few last minute requests to my Christmas Wish List:-

1. A headtorch – I need one for summit day when I am climbing the mountain
2. A shewee – it would save me some embarrassement if there was one in my stocking as opposed to having to go and buy one!
3. A fireman
3. A hammock

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2011.

Christmas is coming, Sarah is not getting fat. Please do put a tenner in my fundraising hat, if you haven’t got a tenner than a fiver will do. If you haven’t got a fiver, then God bless you.

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Christmas, it’s all about the children….

9 days until Christmas. Aaaaahhhhhh!

At the time of writing, I have yet to get the Christmas decorations out the loft, still need to buy some cards to write and have only made a small dent in my Christmas shopping. I feel a bit as though Christmas has crept up on me AGAIN this year….

Like most of you, Christmas is about family time and tradition. It’s about singing carols at midnight mass with my Mum, filling stockings as quietly as possible so that I don’t wake the children, half eating the mince-pie that has been left for Father Christmas and being careful enough to leave a few crumbs on the plate for effect. Heading down to the beach for the Christmas swim as a family and joining the rest of East Devon by running into the icy cold sea when the claxon sounds. We eat too much dinner, drink too much wine, laugh until we cry at family ‘in-jokes’, watch too much television, eat chocolate until we just can’t face anymore….and of course we swap presents.

My children have both had birthdays in the last 5 weeks and genuinely have everything they could ever need. Neither of them particularly wants anything and both will get spoilt rotten by friends and family. So my dilemma is what to buy them, I am literally buying them presents so that they have something to open on the day. It feels a bit empty to be honest.

Having been involved with Sparks children’s Charity this year, I know that my money could do more good than the short-lived elation of another Nintendo DS or X-box game.

Sparks fund much-needed medical research into cure’s for childhood illnesses and diseases, they also support the families of children in their time of need. They are a relatively small charity who work tirelessly to fundraise in order to ensure our children are born, and stay, healthy.

So this evening I have decided that I am going to sit my beautiful, happy, and healthy children down and talk to them about Sparks and the work that they do…..and suggest that as a family we do without a few of our presents this year and we donate some money to this worthy charity instead. I am not suggesting for a moment that they go without presents, just that they do not get as many!

I already know that the children will think it’s a great idea. They are both amazingly kind-hearted, generous and kind. They are naturally the type of people who put themselves out for others – I know they will make me proud with their reaction tomorrow.

I think that might give me the warm inner glow that, for me, should go with Christmas – and will give me something to really sing about at Midnight Mass next week.

There are plenty of worthy charities out there, but if you would like to help me raise money for Sparks – you can donate here….

Merry Christmas everyone!

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7 go to Snowdonia

Snowdonia in Wales is utterly beautiful, I will assume that most people reading this post will have been there at some point. If you haven’t – you really must! The views are breathtaking, the air is wonderfully fresh and its the first place in a long time that has commanded my attention to the point where I have been totally ‘in the now’ – wow!

Whilst team Sparks are a pretty fit bunch, we have been keen to get some mountain experience to prepare ourselves for the 4.5 days up Kilimanjaro and the 2 days down. Snowdon is 3000ft tall, so nothing in comparison to the enormity of Mount Kilimanjaro which stands at 19,340ft. It’s cold and indeed the closest mountain to us – therefore the perfect setting for the team weekend training!

Rather than tell you all about our weekend, you can see it in pictures here…..

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I think I walked around pretty much with a big grin on my face the whole time. Its was an ace weekend spent outdoors in great company. It was tough at times and there were a few moments where I was genuinely scared of slipping to my peril! It was great exercise and for the first time, I actually feel like I am truly ready to tackle Kilimanjaro in February.

What rocked:

The real fire in the pub where we had dinner Saturday night, thawing out whilst tucking into some hearty English food after a long day walking in the cold was just perfect!

Sharing a dorm with Nicole, Dave and Hilary. Sleeping in bunk beds and lights out by 9pm…..it was like being on school trip!

No TV – *initial sob* – missing the xfactor final after all these weeks of obsessive viewing and no mobile signal. Do you know, actually, it was pretty wonderful to have a break from my normal life.

Walking poles!!!

Meeting new team-mate Rupinder for the first time. A great guy and fabulous addition to team Sparks!

Bonding as a team, laughing as we all fell over at points and the snowball iceball fight!

What sucked:

Finding a hole in my new walking trousers and exposing myself without even realising it. Doh.

No TV – *initial sob* – missing the xfactor final after all these weeks of obsessive viewing and no mobile signal.

Our 5 hour journey home taking 7.5 hours due to the M5 being closed and us being subject to a diversion. Poor Dave was driving, what a legend he is for letting the rest of us sleep.

Having to leave…..! I am beginning to feel that my calling is to be outdoors……

Strangest things we saw:

I have no idea where these guys were going to ride their bikes!!!!

Until next time… Sarah 🙂

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Caution, exercise in progress.

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On Sunday I went walking with Lee and his friend, also called Lee, over Woodbury Common. Talk about confusing, Lee, Lee and me!
Woodbury Common is where the Royal Marines train, largely as its cold and pretty unfriendly terrain. It’s home to their endurance course which is a 3 mile route of ups, downs, tunnels, pools, bogs, streams and the feared ‘sheep dip’ – where the recruits are pushed head first through an underwater tunnel. The recruits are often training, often you get the feeling you are being watched – you may well be! Hence the picture of the warning ‘Caution, exercise in progress’ – to warn the general public of their presence!
I met the original Lee during the Dartmoor tabbing event last week. He’s training to be a PTI (physical training instructor within the forces) and I’m training to make it up Kilimanjaro so it made perfect sense to walk together at the weekends. Bizarrely I seem to find it difficult to find walking buddies! I have no idea why (snow? cold? too hilly? walks too long?!)
With only time for a short walk of 2 hours, the plan was to take a hilly and unstable route carrying a weighted rucksack. On arrival Lee filled my rucksack up with random thing from the boot of his car, which made me laugh – water bottles, lumps of wood and his day sack to mention a few. I was carrying about 10kg, a girly weight by their standards….
The walk was pretty uneventful – but it was brilliant fun. I laughed the whole way. We talked about everything, favourite foods, our bucket lists, dreams and aspirations, families, Lee’s recent application to be a porn star (I’m serious!!!), the differences between men and women, funny dating stories. The time flew by and whilst the 3 of us couldn’t be more different, the walk was great exercise, it was a cold but beautiful day and I was grateful for their company.
Apparently next time I’ve got to bring a bigger rucksack (burgon?) and I’ll be loaded up with more weight.
Happy days!

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