‘It’s just so long’ – Long Course Weekend race report

June 30th, 2024 • Posted in News |

Approaching Long Course Weekend, I’d done plenty of swim, bike and run training. BUT … I hadn’t run more than 16 miles (slowly), and hadn’t biked more than 70 miles. My swimming was fine, but apart from that I was feeling underprepared. Combine this with the fact that in 13 years I have never started a race that I did not finish, and I had a fair amount of anxiety* going into the weekend. I really, really wanted that 4th medal.

*(a lot)

Long Course is an incredible event in Tenby that attracts over 10,000 athletes. The full event is basically an ironman over three days. So that means a 2.4 mile sea swim on Friday evening, a 112 mile bike ride Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday, closely followed by a red carpet ceremony and 4th medal for those who complete it all. Even more closely followed by a huge Italian meal and wine and beer and cake. Many people do shorter events, or variations of these distances. But I was in for the full Monty. Except without the stripping.

My wife Tracey and I travelled down and met up with our good friends Mike and Sian. Mike is a great training partner––we’ve done loads of biking, running, swimming, drinking coffee and eating cake together––and this was the big weekend! We had a lovely apartment overlooking South Beach, where we almost had great nights’ sleep. Almost. The reason why it wasn’t quite perfect is below.

It’s said that in Tenby, even the sea swim is hilly. Funny joke, right? I mean, how can the sea be hilly? Easy. From the roads above the beach on Friday evening the water looked ‘like a millpond’ (my wife Tracey’s words), but that was from the high steps and I suspect she didn’t have her glasses on. I loved the build-up to the swim––the music, the fireworks, nervous chatter with fellow competitors, meeting both old friends and new, and being able to pee in your wetsuit with two thousand people standing around you––but once in the water I realised just how rough it was. It wasn’t too bad out to the first turn buoy, where the usual chaos ensued––best description is a giant washing machine filled with fists and feet and you have to swim through it.

But after this turnaround, and embarking on the long stretch towards the lifeboat station, there was a huge swell that pushed you off course and frequently slammed you down from the tops of waves into the next trough. People were puking from sea-sickness and swallowing water smashed into their faces by the swell. Sighting was incredibly difficult when you couldn’t see over the top of the wave coming towards you. Remember that last scene in The Perfect Storm? It was a bit like that, except without George Clooney. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but it was still choppy as a martial arts film. Many dozens of swimmers were pulled from the water by rescue boats (the speed boats had a busy couple of hours). Lots more competitors swam one lap and then didn’t get back in. ‘Bollocks to that’, was a phrase heard more than once on the beach.

And weirdly, I loved it. I don’t know why, but I found the whole rough swim great fun. Saw a few jellyfish. I refrained from punching any this time. Er, let me explain. When I raced Ironman Wales in 2016 I saw a jellyfish the size of a VW Beetle at the first turn buoy on lap 2 of the swim. Punching it was entirely unintentional and merely a function of my somewhat panicked few swim strokes to get over and past it, and I’d like to apologise to the jelly and hope it’s OK. If it is still alive it was hiding last weekend. Anyway, I swallowed some water (euch), and I ended up doing two 40 minute laps to complete the 2.4 miles (my Strava said more like 2.6) in 1:21. I was wobbly running up the beach to the finish, and I already knew my neck was chafed into raw meat (so bad that it hurt to keep on my medal. But I kept it on, of course. Well earned). But that was the swim over and medal #1 –– done.

We spent Friday evening in our apartment eating pizza and getting ready for the early bike start. This consisted of looking at my bike for ten minutes wondering what I’d forgotten, staring at the huge pile of bike kit I’d brought deciding what to wear, and generally taffing*

*(the triathlon version of ‘faffing’, which involves agonising over what you might do wrong, what kit you’ve forgotten, whether you’ve brought the right food, if that tyre really should have been replaced, etc.)

A 5:30 alarm call was actually OK, expecially after a brilliant night’s sleep*

*(Not. I hate seagulls)

The weather was perfect for the bike, and Mike and I stuck together. Our plan was to take it easy and preserve our legs for the marathon the following day. I must have been over-enthusiastic with the hydration, but the regular toilet stops acted as brief breaks for our legs. Lots of flapjacks helped the ride pass, and salt tabs to fend off cramp. Oh, and a big shout-out to the feed stations and brilliant marshals––arriving at the first feed station and a veggie sausage bap was epic, and those serving chips at a later feed station should be made Dames and Knights of the Realm. I mean it. Marshals are a special breed of humans, and I love them all dearly.

A note here about the phrase ‘Schoolboy Error’. And another phrase, Read Your Race Pack. And another one … Always Follow A Plan. I could tell you that Mike and I came in at the end of the first 70 mile lap just 8 minutes before cut-off intentionally. I could say it was planned, and that we knew what we were doing standing around in feed stations chatting and making sure we didn’t smash the bike too much. I could, but I won’t, because it’s not true.

Anyway, back out onto the second lap (which is a repeat of the toughest and hilliest part of the first lap, just for fun), we met a competitor at some traffic lights who asked if I had any painkillers. I’d necked mine by then unfortunately, to stave off sore feet I sometimes get on the bike, and when I asked what was wrong she said, ‘It’s just so long.’ And she’s right. It’s so LONG. The organisers should accept this fact and state it in the race title.

Our bike went generally without incident, although we did see a couple of nasty accidents. Sobering. Some of those roads are tricky, but I noticed just what good conditions Pembrokeshire roads are in compared to those around where I live in Monmouthshire, whose roads are more suited to gravel bikes. Mike and I sailed over the finish line, and it was medal #2 –– done! Back to the apartment, it was time for spag bol and cake and refuelling for the next day. Less taffing this time … trainers, tee shirt, shorts, number, jelly babies, job done.

Another night passed listening to seagulls arguing and screaming and shagging and just generally living it up directly outside our window, and a very civilised alarm call of 8 a.m. meant it was marathon day. This was always the part of the weekend that worried me most. I’m not a great runner, and my training had comprised lots of 8, 9 or 10 mile runs, and only a couple at around 14 or 16 miles. Not ideal.

Mike is a natural runner, so he skipped merrily off into the distance and I settled in for a long day. My plan was to stick at 10 or 11 minute miles, and as usual the first couple of miles were faster. But I soon settled into my plan. The best thing about the run? The people. I ran with my friend Jules and his son for ten miles, then just before Pembroke (the halfway point) I went on ahead, a little worried about the 6 hour cut-off time. I also ran with 7 or 8 other different people at various stages, and every one of them was lovely, encouraging, and helped the miles pass by.

I love triathlon. I love everything about the sport, but most of all, it’s the people. If you have any doubts about humanity, just go and race a triathlon (or a marathon, long bike ride, whatever), and your faith will be restored.

Which leads me to the finish of the marathon. Down that last nasty hill into Tenby (and after 25 miles, a steep downhill is torture that should be illegal in most civilised countries), and the support from Tracey, Mike (he’d already finished in a banging time of 4:04) and Sian, and many friends from my tri-club the brilliant NEWTS, actually got me a bit emotional, especially heading onto that red carpet and down the finishers’ chute. My big smile was because IT WAS MEDAL #3 DONE, in a not dreadfully terribly crap 5:15. I was very happy with that time! All three long distance events finished, I grabbed a beer and some food, bumped into some more old mates around the race village (hi Matt, hi Nathan!), then headed along the red carpet with hundreds of others to collect that 4th medal. Brilliant. Around 800 people started the full distance Long Course, and only about 400 finished all three distances. I’m guessing that’s mostly because of the tough swim.

I’d been looking forward to Sunday evening for a while … a nice Italian meal with Mike, Sian and Tracey, some wine, some beer, and a bloody good relax. Despite the seagulls. It was lovely.

I’ve had lots of chats with people about whether Long Course is harder than an ironman (which takes place in one day with a 17 hour cut-off time). I’m still undecided. With an ironman you’re toe-in-the-water at 7 a.m. and you know you have a long day ahead of you, and you’re mentally prepared for that. With Long Course, you have the evenings and nights between disciplines to stiffen up, rest, refuel, and stress about the next day.

Whatever, that competitor Mike and I met on the bike who said ‘It’s just so long’ was right. But it was great fun, and Tenby rocked! And I see they also run a Long Course in New Zealand, Belgium, Mallorca … perhaps it’s time to go on tour!

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Among the Living – released today

February 13th, 2024 • Posted in News |

Tim’s new novel is out today. It’s the third in a very loose eco-horror trilogy that started with Eden, and continued with The Last Storm.

Click the image for ordering details and early reviews. If you pick up a copy please consider leaving a review on social media or Amazon.

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Among the Living

February 3rd, 2024 • Posted in News |

Just a reminder that Tim will be among the living in London this week.

The book is out on 13th February, and a review is now up at Cemetery Dance.

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Among The Living – New book out soon

January 22nd, 2024 • Posted in News |

Tim’s new book, “Among the Living” is due for release on February 13th, click the image for ordering details.

Estranged friends Dean and Bethan meet after five years apart when they are drawn to a network of caves on a remote Arctic island. Bethan and her friends are environmental activists, determined to protect the land. But Dean’s group’s exploitation of rare earth minerals deep in the caves unleashes an horrific contagion that has rested frozen and undisturbed for many millennia. Fleeing the terrors emerging from the caves, Dean and Bethan and their rival teams undertake a perilous journey on foot across an unpredictable and volatile landscape. The ex-friends must learn to work together again if they’re to survive… and more importantly, stop the horror from spreading to the wider world.

To help celebrate the launch Tim will be at Forbidden Planet in London, along with Ally Wilkes, for a book signing.

You can watch them both discuss Christmas horror on Forbidden Planet TV here.

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Mortal Terror

November 22nd, 2023 • Posted in News |

My first ever comic MORTAL TERROR is out now! Written with Christopher Golden, artwork by Peter Bergting, colourist Chris O’Halloran, letterer Clem Robins.

You think you know about Dracula? Think again…

Available from all your usual comic retailers, or check out the Dark Horse site here.

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Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void – Limited Edition

October 5th, 2023 • Posted in Book News |

Inkstone Books will be releasing a signed limited edition Hardcover of “Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void” Copies can be requested from 4pm on Friday October 6th via their website. Click here for details.

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Slowly, slowly, catchy Brutal…

September 12th, 2023 • Posted in News |

Brutal Triathlon report, 8th September 2023

The Brutal has been voted the ‘World’s Toughest Triathlon’ by Triathlon 220 magazine, and never has a name so perfectly encapsulated the race it’s attached to. Because The Brutal is always brutal, and just because this past weekend had ‘good’ weather doesn’t mean this classic race, based in Llanberis and taking in the glorious views and shattering terrain of Snowdonia, was in any way easier. It was just differently brutal. Brutally brutal. It was … you get the drift.

I’d previously raced the Brutal Half in 2017 and 2022, and in 2018 I took on the full distance. That year was dubbed ‘the brutalist Brutal ever’ after a severe red weather warning meant that the mountain was closed. We had to run two more laps of the lake to get up to marathon distance, in the dark and with 40 mph winds and rain, and that was, er, character building.

So I’ve always wanted to return to tick the box –– race the classic Full Brutal triathlon, including Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa! And after this weekend, I think the title ‘most brutalist Brutal ever’ just might have been taken.

A few stats first (and later I’ll talk about some more eye-opening stats): the race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 116 mile bike ride, and a 25 mile run (which culminates with an ascent and descent of Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa). To put this in perspective, the winner this year finished in 12:28, and he was the only finisher under 13 hours. The 333rd finisher at Ironman Wales had that time this year. Most ironman races have a cut-off of 17 hours, but The Brutal is 21 hours.

So, it’s tough.

Me, Lyndon and Mike – Before

I had friends racing this weekend, which made it so much more enjoyable (I might use terms such as ‘enjoyable’, ‘fun’, or ‘delightful’ in this report, but they’re entirely subjective and relative –– as in, ‘doing that bike ride was enjoyable … compared to having your heels sanded with a cheese grater’, and I guess you have to be an endurance athlete to really understand what I’m getting at here). Mike and Charlie were doing the Half, Lyndon joined me on the Full, and Nathan Priest was taking on the mighty Double Brutal. Take those distances above and double them. Yep.

Friday consisted of driving up, finding our Air B&B, registering for the race, going to the briefing in the sauna* (*tent), finding out that my car had been scraped and dented outside our digs in a hit and run (I hope you can’t sleep at night, you selfish unthinking bastard, and that you damaged your parents’ car and they sent you to work at a local farm to pay for it and you have to shovel shit from cows that have fleas and a penchant for human flesh), carb loading, looking at the weather report, and staring at our kit bags for ten minutes at a time, all underscored by simmering panic and dread tinged with … yes, excitement. And fear. And another look at the weather forecast. More dread. And more staring at kits bags. I went to great efforts to hydrate properly for the day or two before the race, and that Friday night in bed I think I sweated it all out. Have I mentioned the heat? It was so hot!

The day of the race dawned warm and lovely, and Mike, Lydon and I negotiated our way through those awful 2 hours pre-race when you force yourself to eat, stare at your kit bags again for a while just in case someone’s unpacked them in the night and stolen your bike shoes, and then we walked down to the race base. It was really good having mates racing with me, as we managed a bit of banter. We swore a bit. Sweated a bit more.

Did I mention it was hot?

This race was my sixth ironman (I use the term as distance, not branding). And honestly, apart from my first ironman in 2013, this was the first I was actually wondering if I’d be able to finish. I did the half Brutal last year and found it staggeringly difficult, so for this one I had a plan that differed from my usual ‘start a race and eat a bit and see how it goes’.

This was all about nutrition. And with temperatures upward of 25 Centigrade and blazing sun and lots and lots of elevation (8000 feet on the bike, an eye-watering 4,500 feet on the run), it was even more about hydration. So this was my plan –– race slow, race smart, eat plenty of real food on the bike, and get those electrolytes and salt tabs into me! I was treating this more as an endurance event, not a race.

Spoiler alert –– it worked. But it wasn’t pretty.

The swim was quite warm (a different type of Brutal), with the usual choppy start of fists and feet, but I really enjoyed it. It was nice having a quick chat with Sean Conway before the swim (he of the amazing 105 ironmans in 105 days record), and I chuckled when he told me this was his first triathlon. And he meant it! The Brutal Double was actually his first organised event! What a legend.

Swim done in 1:20 (I could have gone faster, but remember the title of this report?), and chuffed that I’d managed a wee in my wetsuit whilst swimming, I hit transition and took my time getting ready for the bike. Drink. Food. Water (always with electrolyte tabs dropped in). The transition tent was a steam room. Just before I left, Lyndon came in from the swim. I skipped out onto the bike, and he took 7 miles to catch me. You’re slacking, mate!

The bike course is without doubt the most beautiful route I’ve ever ridden, and it’s one of many reasons why the Brutal has always been my favourite race since my first time here. The views take away some of the pain. Some of it. And today especially, they were amazing.

Did I mention that it was hot? Not just hot. It was steaming. I mean … fucking hot. And I stuck to my plan, taking it slow and spinning fast, drinking plenty and eating (flapjacks, jam and peanut butter wraps, cheese wraps, an occasional gel).

But what does the sun bring, do you think? Mozzies? Nah. Sunburn? Not too bad. Sweat? Plenty, of course. But worst of all … tourists. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m often a tourist myself, but when you’re on your third or fourth lap up over Pen-y-Pass, and the cars and buses are getting impatient and overtaking when they shouldn’t, and people are heading up the mountain dressed in flip-flops and cut-off tee shirt and wandering across the road like lost sheep having apparently forgotten that sometimes they should look both ways, it becomes problematic. I had a couple of near misses on the bike, the closest of which was a motorcyclist overtaking a car coming up Pen-y-Pass while I was descending. I only wish he could have heard what I called him. Pucking frick.

I finished the 4-lap bike in about 9 hours. Slowly … slowly … And for a while I passed and was passed by fellow competitor Julie, so many times that it became funny. And when the bike was over, I was feeling good! I actually paused a couple of times to take photos, stopped at every feed station to stock up on water/electrolyte drink, eat, and generally check I was feeling OK. I was dropping a salt tab every half an hour, and though I was sweating in exactly the same extreme way that a certain Prince doesn’t, I even managed a pee during the bike leg.

Off the bike, I saw Mike in transition. He’d just finished the half, but had a bit of a nightmare on the mountain with a rough spell (thanks to the great medics for helping him), and then taking a tumble and skinning his arm and cutting his head. Brutal scars, mate! He did a great race in such conditions, and I’m sure he’ll be back. Charlie had also finished the Half, his first ever triathlon. In at the deep end! Full next year?

Then I was out onto the run. Three laps around the lake before heading up the mountain, drinking loads, still eating. I’d done a full change for the bike, and did another one for the run, changing into my club tri-suit which is just so comfortable (sorry to anyone in the tent, but I was beyond caring). This was the bit I’d been worrying about … but that title again. Slowly, slowly, I jogged the flat side of the lake and walked up the hills on the other side, and I was feeling good!

On lap 2 I met Lyndon, who was on his lap 3. “Oh shit!” was his response, as he’d been hoping we could do the mountain leg together. But he’d come off the bike at least an hour ahead of me, so he had to head off and finish his race. Great bloke, top athlete. It grew dark pretty quickly on this lap, and I finished by the light of my phone torch. I also called my wife Tracey on one of the uphills whilst walking, and she informed me about how hot she’d been sitting in our friends’ garden drinking Pimms that afternoon. Bless her. I asked if she was OK and sent thoughts and prayers. To be fair she was worried about me, she knows I’m not great in the heat, but …

But I was feeling OK. I tried not to get ahead of myself, but I’d started to think, ‘I really think I can finish this.’ Remember, though, I still had the mountain portion to go. The three lake laps amounts to about 16 miles, with the mountain another 9 miles up and down. And I’d be doing it in the dark.

Lake laps completed, still feeling OK, I grabbed my mountain bag (water, food, various bits of survival kit in case something happened up there), and once the mountain leader Pouch (top bloke) gave me the OK, I was off. This was always going to be a walk up, not a run, and I kept a pretty good pace. I met quite a few people coming down and started to think, ‘Am I last?’ Then I met Lyndon on his descent, and he told me it was another hour to the top. Eech. So I kept going, one foot in front of the other (honestly, that’s pretty essential), and finally I reached the top of mountain.

Here, I took an extra ten minutes to go up to the trig point, turn off my head torch, and look around. And I’m not afraid to admit I had A Bit Of A Moment up there. It was still so warm at one in the morning that I wasn’t chilly even in a sweat-soaked tri suit. The views were stunning. The sky was clear, and I could see more stars than I’d ever been able to see anywhere before. It was peaceful, still, glorious, I was completely alone, and I said, “I’ve done it.” I laughed, and might have shed a tear. A moment I won’t forget.

Then it was the long walk down. I saw some bats, a mouse, some frogs, two drunk lads climbing the mountain in the dark (I wonder if one of them owns a dented car), and a few more athletes on their way up. Ah, so I wasn’t last. Not that I’d have minded if I was. I actually felt good enough to run some of the way down, and I finally crossed the line in a little over nineteen hours. It was so good to be done. I gathered my sweaty, smelly, frankly offensive kit, staggered back to the house. It was almost 3am, and I had a shower and some food and a few sips of beer before hitting the sack.

The next morning brought one of my favouirite parts of a race, The Discussion. Mike, Lyndon and I went to a great local cafe for breakfast and talked about our day, how bloody tough it had been, and how there’s ‘absolutely no way we’ll ever do it again, nope, you must be mad, and certainly not the Double’.

We’ll see, chaps.

I mainlined coffee all the way home. And to round it all off, Wales (just about) won the rugby, which I watched with a curry and some beer. And Tracey, of course, who after her hot-while-drinking-Pimms trauma still helped me unpack and sort my kit, despite not owning any protective breathing apparatus.

Now, a few more stats:

According to my sports watch I burned over 13,000 calories during the race, but I’m pretty sure I inhaled about 543,978 calories in flapjacks alone.

The lake laps and mountain consisted of 78,000 steps.

By my rough estimation I drank 18 litres of water throughout the day (about 32 pints).

I ate flapjacks, gels, Jelly Babies, pizza (cooked the day before and kept in transition for halfway through my bike ride … top tip!), cheese wraps, Haribou (thanks to someone else’s support team on the bike, thanks guys!), and some other bits and pieces.

The DNF rate for the Full Brutal was 23%.

I was 28th out of 34 finishers, and I’m fine with that. I was delighted to find I was 2nd in my age group, but Lyndon was 1st (hats off mate), so I think there was just two of us. Still. Podium.

I had a different mindset for this race than any other I’ve ever done (including 5 ironmans and over a dozen halfs), because I just wanted to finish. My favourite saying is ‘If you think you can do something, or think you can’t, you’re probably right’, and I thought I could. Slowly … slowly … caught me The Brutal. I’m definitely built for endurance, not speed.

Big shout-out to the Brutal crew. Claire and Jim run the show, and they rock. And everyone involved, from the marshals to the transition crews, tech people and medics, and the massage guys (nice to see you again!), are all lovely, encouraging, positive. They say if you ever question human nature, do a triathlon. I say, do the Brutal. It’s been my favourite race for years, and this year just confirmed that even more.

Top job Lyndon, Mike, Charlie, and especially Nathan who was 3rd in the Double! Bonkers but brilliant.

And to those great marshals who were constantly trying to talk me into doing the Double … I’ll never say never.

Me, Lyndon and Mike – After

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Summer Catch up

July 30th, 2023 • Posted in News |

A new novella from PS Publishing is now available, “My name is Rose, and I’m the last woman left alive. So begins this novella that follows Rose’s final day, but it is also the first day of a future that few could have imagined.”

John McNee interviewed Tim at Edge-lit about the novella and you can watch that interview here.

Tim has a story in the recent Cosmic Horror issue of Weird Tales, which you can order here.

It’s awards nomination season and Tim is up for two World Fantasy Awards. The first for best Collection for All Nightmare Long, and the second with Daniele Serra for Without Walls. You can find all the nominations here.

Whilst over at the British Fantasy Awards the Anthology “Isolation” which features a story by Tim is up for Best Anthology.

Finally a new horror novel “Among the Living” is due in February 2024, watch this space for more details.

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February news round up

February 5th, 2023 • Posted in News |

The Festival, an illustrated novel co-written with Christopher Golden is out now featuring a rock show to die for! Click on the cover for more information along with ordering details.

Book pages have now been added for Without Walls, All Nightmare Long and Run Walk Crawl, click through for more information.

Tim is part of the narrative team working on Resurgance, a computer game. The first trailer for the game is available to watch here.

In other news Tim will have a brand new story, @home, in the forthcoming collection, Disintegration from PS Publishing. More details to follow.

Finally Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void will be reissued in May with a new cover

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Sixteen and counting…

December 1st, 2022 • Posted in News |

Sixteen years ago today was my first day as a full-time writer! I can still remember sitting at my desk that first morning and starting work on the 30 Days of Night movie novelisation. Two days later I was sent the shooting script and I had to scrap my first 2 days’ work (a valuable early lesson!). It’s been so much fun, and I’ve now almost spent half my working life as a professional writer, with plenty more ups than downs.

Here’s a quick pic of the books I’ve had published since 2006.

Plenty more before that date, of course. And it’s likely I’ve missed a couple, because my shelves are about as organised as, well … me (and glancing through, yes, I forgot to include ’30 Days of Night’!) But it’s nice to look back and see how productive those 16 years have been, and these don’t include the screenplays and audio scripts, and lately the RESURGENCE game I’ve been working on.

I’m always grateful that I’m able to do what I love for a living, and thankful to each and every person who buys and reads my work. You keep reading, I’ll keep writing! There’s lots of exciting things to come. Now though, it’s time for me to head to the vicinity of Baffin Bay, where my intrepid heroes have encountered something horrible…

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