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I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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Endurance Nation Training PLans

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The words “FTP test” most likely strike fear into your heart when they appear on your weekly training plan. And while FTP testing can be extremely difficult and even disruptive to your training, it is necessary to set effective training intensities and measure your progress. Fortunately, there are lots of new tests which can help approximate your results without the time or mental stress of a traditional FTP test.

Functional Threshold Power, or FTP, is a term coined by Dr. Andrew Coggan as a proxy for lactate threshold. Essentially this is the intensity of exercise at which an athlete begins producing lactate faster than their body can process it, resulting in a performance plateau and eventually decline. This turning point represents a useful physiological marker which is highly correlated with an athlete’s endurance performance. Basically, the higher your FTP, the harder you can go, for longer.

Lactate threshold can be applied to other markers such as pace or heart rate. But to get the best, most accurate results you would want to perform a solo time trial in your preferred sport for around an hour. Unfortunately this method of determining your threshold is extremely difficult and mentally taxing—so taxing that (unless you have a 40k time trial on your race calendar), it is not recommended.

Hunter Allen and Andy Coggan, authors of Training and Racing with a Power Meter, recognized this and came up with an alternative test. Rather than an hour, they found that athletes could perform a twenty-minute time trial and subtract 5% from the final result to provide a reasonably accurate estimate of what their result would have been for a full hour. Over the last 18 years, this has become widely accepted as the best way to test your Functional Threshold Power.

But that hasn’t stopped smart coaches from coming up with even more ways to test your FTP. Most of them are shorter—though not necessarily easier—and just as effective for most goals. If you are new to structured training (or can’t bear the thought of a 20-minute time trial), then one of the tests below might be just what you are looking for!

Swim Threshold Tests

Standard test

1,000 yard/meter time trial
In this test, you swim 1,000 meters as fast as you can without a break. Then take your average 100-meter time for the test and apply that as your Threshold Swim Pace. In TrainingPeaks you can either enter your average 100-meter time in seconds under Threshold Pace, or you can select “Distance/Duration,” select the distance of your test and enter your result; the app will then calculate your threshold for you.

Alternative Test

Critical Swim Speed
This test uses two much shorter efforts, such as 400 and 200 yards or meters, and then you plug your results into the following equation and are given a CSS (Critical Swim Speed) which can then be entered into TrainingPeaks as your threshold swim pace.

The simple way of doing it is the difference in time between the 400m and 200m divided by 2.

CSS/100m = (T(400)-T(200))/2
For example, if you swam the 400 in 6 minutes and the 200 in 3 minutes it would look like this. CSS/100m = (T(360)-T(180))/2=180/2=90 seconds per 100

400 yard/meter time trial
Simon Ward of The Triathlon Coach recommends a 400 time trial for determining Lactic Threshold.

“We have started using a 400m TT in the pool,” Ward says. “This approximates to a Vo2 max effort (5-8 minutes generally for our swimmers) If you take the pace per 100 meters and add 4-5 seconds, this gives a good estimate of CSS time. If you add 8-10 seconds/100 meters this would provide a reasonable estimate of Endurance pace. We have compared to CSS pace/100 meters, and also to a straight 1500 meters, and the paces are within 1-2s/100 meters. I find this to be fine for most AG athletes, although elite age groupers and pro swimmers may require more accuracy.”

Cycling Threshold Tests

Standard Tests

20 minute Time Trial
Find a quiet section of uninterrupted road, or a trainer, and (after a thorough warm up) ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes. Take your average power for the 20 minutes and subtract 5% to get your Threshold Power.

30 minute Time Trial
Popularized by Joe Friel, this field test is identical to the previous one, except you ride for 30 minutes. This time, however, you will use the average power for the entire 30 minutes as your Threshold Power. Joe figures that when you do this test alone you feel about 5% sorry for yourself, so there is no need to subtract any watts from the result to estimate your hour power.

Critical Power
Introduced by Monod and Scherrer in the 1960’s, this version takes your best power from a short test (around 3-5 minutes) and a longer test (20-30 minutes), and models it out over longer durations to estimate the theoretical power you could produce aerobically for a long time—also known as Critical Power (CP). CP tends to overestimate one hour power by a little bit, but it is close enough that it can be used interchangeably with FTP. A quick internet search will reveal some CP calculators available on the web, or you can calculate yourself with the following formula:

CP = (AP1(T1)-AP2(T2)/T2-T1

Multiply the average power of the short interval by the number of seconds in the short interval to get joules. Then multiply average power for the long interval by the number of seconds in the long interval, again to get the number of joules. Next, divide the difference in joules for each interval by the difference in seconds and you get your Critical Power. For example, if you did a 5-minute test where you averaged 300 watts and a 20-minute test where you averaged 285 watts, it would look something like this:

CP= 300w*300s-285w*1200s/1200s-300s
CP=90,000j-342,000j/900s
CP=252,000jj/900s
CP=280

Or better yet, just do a quick online search for “Critical Power Calculator!”

Alternative Tests

8 minute Time Trial
This test uses two 8-minute time trials to estimate your FTP. It was created by Chris Carmichael and his coaches at Carmichael Training Systems (CTS). To perform this test you warm up well and then ride at the highest effort you can for 8 minutes. Recover by riding easily for 10 minutes, and then repeat the 8-minute test. When you are done, look at your highest average power for the two tests and subtract 10%. This number can then be entered into TrainingPeaks as your Threshold Power.

1 Minute Ramp Test
While ramp tests have been around for a while, TrainerRoad has devised a new version where you start at a fairly easy effort and then increase your wattage a little bit every minute. You continue to increase the wattage until you can no longer continue. Then, take 75% of your highest 1-minute power from the test to estimate your FTP.

3 minute Critical Power Test
While this test may sound easy, it is actually quite difficult. Simply ride 3 minutes all out. That means no pacing at all; just give everything you’ve got for the full 3 minutes. Whatever your average power is for the last 30 seconds of the test is your Critical Power/FTP.

Run Threshold Tests

Standard Tests

30 minute Time Trial
This is another test popularized by Joe Friel, in which you run as fast as you can for 30 minutes. Once you complete the test you can look at your file in TrainingPeaks and use the average pace and/or heart rate for the last 20 minutes.

5k/10k race
If you have run a 5k or 10k race recently, you can enter the results from your race in TrainingPeaks to calculate your threshold. For other distances, there are calculators available online. The “Peak Performances” feature in TrainingPeaks comes in handy here; you can be notified when you’ve set a new peak, which means it might be time to update your threshold.

Alternative Tests

Critical Velocity
Like critical power for cycling but this time we will use two shorter durations of 3 minutes and 9 minutes to calculate your CV or Functional Threshold Pace.

3-minute Critical Velocity
Just like the 3-minute CP test for the bike above, this one is performed ALL OUT with no pacing. Take the last 30-45 seconds of the effort and you have your threshold pace.

Modeled Functional Threshold Power (mFTP)
Introduced in our desktop software WKO4, this function looks at all of the data that has been uploaded in the last 90 days and then models your FTP through regression mathematics to come up with the best fit.

Estimating Based off on Perceived Exertion (PE)
7 out of 10 is highly correlated with MLSS.

If you have been postponing your next field test because you can’t bear the thought of another 20 minute or 1,000-yard time trial, consider using one of the other methods above. While most sane people don’t enjoy testing, the results you get will make the fun parts of training more effective!

The post Lactic Threshold Tests For Swim, Bike and Run appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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Have you assumed too much when on-boarding new athletes?

Every athlete has a unique level of knowledge and experience. So how do you make sure you set them up for success in the on-boarding phase? Whether athletes don’t understand what kind of equipment they need or sabotage their races by skipping over details, it’s important that coaches try to get in front of issues by avoiding assumptions that can lead to disaster.

Dave Schell and Cody Stephenson sat down with Coaches Taylor Thomas and Andrew Simmons to discuss past experiences, common challenges, and tricks they have learned related to the new athlete experience.

The post CoachCast: Coach Roundtable Discusses New Athlete Experience appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Is Email Marketing Right for Me? A Guide for Endurance Coaches

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You probably already use email for a number of tasks: to communicate with athletes, to network with others in the endurance sport industry, and to find new business opportunities. But, are you using email to its fullest potential to reach new customers?

Email marketing is an effective way to reach potential athletes who are interested in learning about your business or expertise and even connect with existing customers, too. While digital marketing tools like Google Ads are primarily used to find new customers, email marketing is most effective at building relationships at any stage of the sales funnel.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is defined as any use of email to sell a service or product, engage with existing customers, or even to just provide helpful information. That includes a lot of potential uses like educating athletes on your services, providing context to your training plans, engaging customers with in-person events, etc. However, the most effective campaigns rely on regularly-updated customer lists, goal-oriented messaging, great content, and effective calls-to-action.

In other words, email marketing is more complicated than just hitting the “send” button.

Why should endurance coaches use email marketing?

Email marketing is all about relationship building, and, as an endurance sport coach, that’s what you do best. You already share your expertise with countless athletes through training plans, professional advice, and free online content; email is just another effective way to reach them. There are many other benefits to email marketing, too.

First, it’s often free or relatively inexpensive. There are services, such as MailChimp or Sendgrid, that provide free and affordable accounts to businesses depending on the size of your customer list. In addition, most email marketing services offer help to get you started with tools like free templates and plentiful advice.

Second, email is the gold standard of online communication. You can bet that all of your potential customers already have an email address, and they are likely willing to share it with you if they trust you and think they can benefit from the relationship. In fact, small- to medium-sized business owners say that email marketing has driven acquisition and retention of customers at rates of 81 percent and 80 percent, respectively. Email marketing is far ahead of other much-discussed marketing methods like social media, which hovers around 50 percent, according to the same survey.

Last, email marketing can help you reach your audience regardless of where they are in the sales funnel. Whether you are courting a new athlete just dipping her toes into the IRONMAN world or you are hoping to improve retention of existing athletes by providing more regular, value-oriented information, email marketing might be a great way to accomplish your goals.

Is email marketing right for my business?

Before you start typing, you should ask yourself a few questions about whether email marketing is right to help you reach your business goals.

Do you have a list of athletes you want to reach on a regular basis? Can you commit to regularly sending consistent and polished emails? Is your website set up for quick and easy conversions? Can you identify one area of your business you would like to see grow, such as athlete acquisition, retention, or upsales?

Just like any marketing tool, email can take a lot of extra effort and can do more harm than good if poorly executed. That’s why it’s important to have specific, attainable goals in mind before you start in addition to a plan to create a high-quality experience for your audience.

What should I know before using email marketing?

Email marketing can be powerful, but there are two sides to any coin. It’s just as important to understand what a tool isn’t good at compared to what it is good at.

Most email services have great analytics tools, allowing you to dig into how your customer list is engaging with each message you send. That’s great news, but it can be discouraging if you’re considering analytics out of context.

Email marketing engagement rates can seem low when you are new to the game (open rates and click rates typically hover below 50 and 10 percent, respectively), which can be a difficult pill to swallow after the hours you might pour into each message. But, compared to other marketing tools and when considering the cost-benefit ratio, your engagement rates are usually high.

Also, email marketing is an active process; “set it and forget it” doesn’t apply. Sure, you can pre-schedule campaigns to run at certain times according to specific triggers, but the best email is a timely email. That means, at the very least, you will likely need to constantly reassess and update your messages, and, at most, you will need to develop new content on a consistent schedule to keep your audience engaged.

In addition, it’s important to engage with your customer list to make sure your lists are in tip-top shape. If a customer doesn’t engage for a significant period of time (around 180 days), consider removing them from your list. Keep their information though and try to re-engage them after a waiting period to see if their activity level has changed.

Where do I start?

Only your creativity can limit you when it comes to email campaigns. There are countless possibilities with email design, delivery, content, and workflows, and it’s important that you carve out your own niche true to your voice when designing your strategy. Think about starting with one of these strategies:

Prioritize your email list. What good is a well-crafted email if you don’t have anyone to send it to? Begin by thinking about what you can offer your potential readers that no one else can, and then develop a simple method for athletes to share their email address with you. That can be as simple as a Google Form or you could use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software like HubSpot. Either way, be sure you know the latest email marketing laws (like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR) and protect the privacy of your readers while being completely transparent about what and how much you will send.
Onboarding campaigns. One of the best ways to get started with a new athlete is to have a pre-scheduled set of emails ready to go after they sign up for your services. You likely already have a system to onboard new athletes, and an automated email campaign could take pressure off of your workload, improve the athlete experience, and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Blog digests. Do you already have an active blog that you keep up to date? A simple blog digest of your latest posts is a great way to make sure your content is being seen by your athletes and is also a great way to build your email list as readers organically visit your website.
Start a conversation. Chances are, your athletes don’t want to be preached to. Why don’t you get them involved in a conversation? Don’t think of your email strategy as a bullhorn for every message. Engage your customer lists with new ideas, questions, and include them as active participants.
Events. Do you hold in-person events like seminars, group training sessions, or webinars? Email is a great way to engage your customers, gather RSVPs, and provide detailed event instructions.

The post Is Email Marketing Right for Me? A Guide for Endurance Coaches appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

Gaming the (Aerobic) System: How to Use Anaerobic Intervals

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In the early 2000’s, French exercise physiologist Veronique Billat did some interesting research on VO2max training—that is, exercise at or near the intensity level at which an athlete consumes oxygen at the highest rate he or she is capable of. She was particularly interested in identifying workout formats that maximized exposure to this intensity, her logic being that more time at VO2max within a single session would translate into a stronger training effect.

Billat knew from the outset that an interval format would be best. The typical trained athlete can hold VO2max pace or power for about eight minutes. So a workout that entailed one sustained effort to exhaustion at VO2max pace or power would provide only about eight minutes of exposure to this intensity. But by breaking up the work at VO2max into shorter intervals separated by recovery periods, athletes can do more total work at this intensity.

The Oxygen Consumption Lag

In the process of testing and comparing different interval formats, Billat learned and took advantage of the fact that there is a lag between the time an athlete slows down from VO2max pace or power and the time his or her rate of oxygen consumption drops below maximum. The end result was a novel interval workout format that became known as Billat’s 30-30, in which 30-second efforts at VO2max pace/power are interspersed with 30-second active recoveries.

The genius of this design is that, because the hard efforts are so short, the athlete can do a lot of them before reaching a high level of fatigue; yet because the active recovery periods are equally short, oxygen consumption remains consistently elevated.

Maximizing Cardiac Strain

Subsequent research by Stephen Seiler, however, showed that time at VO2max is not the only thing that matters in VO2max workout design. Specifically, he showed that longer intervals are required to maximize cardiac strain (i.e., to elicit peak heart rates) and the resulting benefits. That’s why the Anaerobic Interval workouts for cycling and running that David Warden and I use in our 80/20 Triathlon system feature 2.5-minute intervals at or near VO2max intensity, each followed by a 5-minute active recovery.

These intervals are long enough to induce significantly greater cardiac strain than do Billat’s 30-second intervals. True, the 5-minute active recoveries between intervals mean less total time at VO2max, but athletes still get the benefit of 20 to 30 seconds of lag coming off each interval. In this way, 80/20 Anaerobic Intervals offer the best of both worlds.

Benefits to Athletes

The specific benefits of Anaerobic Intervals are several. For starters, they increase aerobic capacity, or maximal oxygen consumption. At the same time, they increase the velocity or power output at which VO2max occurs. Intervals performed at an intensity that elicits VO2max are also proven to be more effective at improving overall movement economy than are either slower or faster intervals. And finally, because they are quite challenging, our Anaerobic Intervals enhance effort tolerance, an underappreciated contributor to endurance performance.

Because they are not highly specific to race intensity, Anaerobic Intervals should be emphasized in the middle portion of the training cycle, when you’re fit enough to handle them but before your focus shifts toward more race-specific work. Short-course triathletes can and should rely on them a bit more than long-course racers.

Want to try them? There are two ways to do so. One is to follow a training plan chosen from our new book, 80/20 Triathlon, or from our suite of 80/20 Triathlon training plans available on TrainingPeaks. Alternatively, if you own a Garmin device compatible with the .FIT format, you can download Anaerobic Intervals workouts individually from our free 80/20 Workout Library.

The post Gaming the (Aerobic) System: How to Use Anaerobic Intervals appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

TrainingPeaks After Hours: An American in Huez

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My wife Briana and I have been doing triathlons for a long time (15 and 19 years respectively) but wanted to see more of the world through our racing. In 2016 we decided to try IRONMAN Austria in Klagenfurt, and in 2017 we headed to IRONMAN Frankfurt. Both adventures were amazing, and we saw parts of Europe that we never would have explored otherwise. For our 2018 adventure, we were inspired by a friend, Claire Shea Simonds, who posted early in the season about doing the Triathlon Alpe d’Huez along with a training trip.

As you probably know from its prominence in the Tour de France, the Alpe d’Huez is not an easy climb. With its iconic switchbacks, it has been included in 30 tours de France (twice in one day in 2013) and features an average grade of over 8% over 13.2 kilometers. As part of the triathlon course, it would be situated after two other major climbs: the Alpe du Grand Serre and the Col d’Ordnon. Plus, it’s in France, where we’d never been. We were in!

Pre-Race Recon

Claire had procured an amazing cottage in a village near the top of the Alpe d’Huez, which was accessed across the top of the cliffs above Le Bourg-d’Oisans on a tiny one-lane road protected by a little wooden fence. It was an amazing drive into this location, and upon arrival, we had a view of the entire valley and peaks of the Alps.

3 days before race day, we checked out the bike course, riding up the Col d’Ordnan (in reverse) and back down to see the descent, which Claire recommended, as it was a little technical. It was definitely a good idea to get a look at some of the tighter switchbacks, as well as straightaways where we could let off the brakes a bit. After the descent we made our way to the Alpe d’Huez. We found the notorious climb packed with cyclists from before sunrise to after sunset. Hundreds, if not thousands of people seemed to be riding it every day, testing their legs and their lungs. We found it challenging but felt prepared; after checking it off the recon list we knew we would be fine on race day.

Two Days to Race Day

I had an idea of what I wanted to do in the days before the race: a shortened version of the Marmut Gran Fondo. The abbreviated route we rode removed the final climb up Alpe d’Huez, but covered the Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, and the Col du Galibier, making for one of the most fun days I have ever had on a bicycle. In total Briana and I were out for 11 hours, with 7:45 in the saddle, and 16k feet of vertical over 100 miles. After that slightly-longer-than-planned preride, we rested the day before the race, just taking care of registration and normal pre-race tasks.

TP Post-Activity Comments

It was a wee bit longer than I thought it would be, but that was my fault, should have recalled that 1000VAM is pretty fast, so 5km of climbing might take more than 5hr in and of itself. Plus, all the valley-girl riding and descents (on that note, do I get to add those extra miles of climbing to my distance/speed for the ride? I feel like I should get more credit for it!) Overall, just a really, really fun day on a bicycle. Contemplated another 15 min in the saddle, but decided this was enough and 8hr is just a number! Legs are tired, but never had any cramping feelings. Back was pretty good, bottom was very tolerant, and got a few nice pics 😉

nobody’s perfect…

Race Day

On race day, biking to the start made sense, so a friend, “Welsh Wonder Nerys” [Jones] and I rolled to the mountain lake start, logging a nice little warm up along the way. Of course, it was measured and uploaded to TrainingPeaks!

Swim

The water temp was chilly, but not frigid at 18C. It was also a mass start, which seems to be quite rare in triathlons now. It was really fun knocking around with some other people for the first 300m and in each corner. The water was beautiful and I finished about where I would have expected to come out, just under 37 minutes for 2.2km. I took my time in transition, because had to pack up our swim gear in a large bag for delivery at the finish line, and I didn’t want to risk everything getting soaked from my wetsuit!


See full workout 

Bike

The bike leg started with gentle downhill, but due to a slight headwind, we didn’t move as quickly as expected. I was riding my road bike with mini clip-on aero bars, and a few TT bikes flew by, but I think everyone knew that would be short-lived with all the climbing ahead.

Alpe du Grand Serre

My goal on all three climbs was to maintain a regular heart rate (my road bike does not currently have a power meter). I knew my HR would be rising throughout the course of the day, so I had hoped to stay in the bottom of zone 3 through the Alpe du Grand Serre (the first of the three major climbs). But it was not to be—possibly due to excitement, or possibly due to the hard day earlier in the week, I found myself squarely in HR zone 4 throughout the climb.

I did a quick physical check-in and felt that my effort was in check, not straining, so I went with it. Over the top we had a fun, but short descent before a small climb. I used this climb as an opportunity to mix up the 2nd bottle of my special energy mix, and stopped at the top to add water. The descent off the back was very gradual and more like riding in a valley for the next 45 minutes, which was a nice chance to mix up my riding position before we started the 2nd big climb; Col d’Ordnon.

Col d’Ordnon

The Col d’Ordnon was very gradual at the bottom, letting me stay in my aero bars a bit more (BestBikeSplit recommends that you stay down at any speed over 15mph). The last 3km kicks up and feels more like a mountain climb again, and I felt great coming over the top. My HR was almost identical to the Alpe du Grand Serre and still felt controlled. Having looked at the descent on our first ride, I knew what to expect, and was able to fully enjoy it, knowing we had just a short valley spin before the final ascent on the Alpe d’Huez.

Alpe d’Huez

The bottom of the Alpe d’Huez is the steepest bit,  but again I knew this from the pre-ride so I made sure to keep the effort in check, knowing it would get “easier” as we went up. I felt really good and would stand periodically just to stretch and help relieve some “hot foot” issues I was having. Even sitting at the very top of HR zone 4, my perceived exertion was probably sitting at 5/10. I had no idea where I was in the race, but was ticking off people throughout the climb, rolling steady and smooth. It didn’t hurt that I had the best cheering crew: Briana was near the top of the climb with our housemates with some great signs to cheer me on. Their support definitely made me smile and helped me to finish strong.

No one would call the Alpe d’Huez easy, but I would say that for this race, most of the difficulty was related to the fact that it came at the end of the ride. I was also a bit concerned about coming off such a long, hard climb and rolling straight into a 20km run. As it ended up, I had less than 90 sec from the end of the climbing, until I dismounted my bike. Ouch, I thought, this is not going to feel good!

See full workout

Run

Just like in T1, I took my time and didn’t rush out of the transition. I had been dealing with a “sassy” knee since February so I had taped it up before the race. I was a little leery about how it would handle the 300m of climbing over the 20km run course, particularly because each of the three loops finished with a massive pavement descent. But off we went to find out! The first lap felt good, steady, smooth, nothing of note, same on the 2nd, basically split 31 minutes for both and was feeling really good.

The cheering squadron had parked just outside T2, which we passed twice on each loop, so I was able to get the little pick-me-ups each time (and read all the fun signs). With 6000 ft of vert and some good distance on dirt, mile splits weren’t super useful, so I just relied upon my effort to pace most of the run. Still, as I was starting lap 3 I knew it was going to get tough; my quads were really starting to feel the 6+ hours of racing.

I knew I was running well, as I had only passed people and had not been overtaken, so just wanted to see how close I could get to 31 minutes again for my last lap. I was feeling good, but with just one climb and descent left, my arch-nemesis reared its ugly head: just after the last aid station, I tossed my bucket of “cookies” all over the side of the road. I was only 3km from the finish line, so I wiped my chin and just got back moving, albeit a bit slower, just to keep things in check. I cruised down the last hill, through the dirt, and up the finish chute to my cheering section.


See full workout 

What a race! It was so much fun to test myself in such a different way and enjoy the mountains on a beautiful day in France. I will be back! Maybe to ride a bit less before the race; a bit more after, and make some more friends along the way. After driving and eating our way through Nice and Paris for a week after the race, the one thing I have to say is that France really knows croissants and coffee. I will happily go back any time and try to eat more of them.

The post TrainingPeaks After Hours: An American in Huez appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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