Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Comparison Review-2016 Garmin GPS Watches with Wrist Heart Rate:Forerunner 735XT, Vivoactive HR, Fenix 3 HR


Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run 


LEFT to RIGHT: Forerunner 735XT, Vivoactive HR, Fenix 3 HR
If you have not updated your GPS watch in the last couple of years you will now see as "standard" equipment features which were either rarities or kludged on most watches back then. Chest heart rate straps are rapidly becoming a thing of the past with wrist heart rate improving.  Uploading of data via a cable to your computer is no longer required, the companion apps now increasingly reliable  handling the transfers via Bluetooth or wifi .

Garmin is sure hitting the long ball in 2016 with a slew of performance running and multi-sports watches all featuring their new Elevate wrist based heart rate monitoring. In addition to the t Forerunner 735XT, Vivoactive HR, and  Fenix 3 HR compared here, the family is joining by the just announced Vivosmart HR band  (now with GPS) and the earlier Forerunner 235, a run focused wrist HR watch identical in form factor to the 735 above.


Friday, May 20, 2016

La Sportiva Akasha - Cushion, Protection and Traction For The Long Haul


La Sportiva Akasha

$140. Available now.
According to Running Warehouse31mm (Heel), 25mm (Forefoot); includes 6mm average lug height.
US men's size 9(42) 11.35 oz/330 grams

First Impressions
The Akasha has been heralded as La Sportiva’s entry into the ultra arena with a more roomy fit and more cushion than other models the company has offered thus far.  When I first tried on the Akasha, I was surprised at how snug the shoe felt, as the upper offered my low volume foot very little, if any wiggle room or leeway.  It felt much lighter than expected and the size of the shoe, relative to other size 10 shoes, is on the more compact end of the spectrum.  Comfort, fit and slipper like feel is impressive.

Upper/Fit
The upper is somewhat precise and conforming, but despite it feeling snug, has a really unique and comforting stretch to it, allowing your foot to breathe and expand a bit, without having excess room, material or bulk.
La Sportiva Akasha

Normally, this might be seen an issue when it comes to control, but the Akasha has a very effective array of overlays in the form of ProTechTion reinforcements that hold the foot in place quite well and gives surprisingly good lateral stability.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review Saucony Ride 9: A Balanced, Refined, Verstaile... Ride. Comparisons to Kinvara 7 and Triumph ISO 2

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run
Saucony Ride 9

The Saucony Ride 9 is a neutral trainer sitting right between the Kinvara 7, a racer trainer (review) and the Triumph ISO 2, a "premium" trainer (review). It magnificently perches at the balance point between speed shoe and trainer with
  • light enough weight, 9.2 oz/261 grams,  men's US 9 
  • stable, just firm enough heel and a forgiving but not mushy forefoot
  • responsive cushioning including a thin top sole of TPU based Everun.
  • the chevron based forefoot outsole, Tri-Flex, which provides plenty of durability and has a long, very smooth flex in transition
  • superb any speed and distance and performance except maybe for speedy runners at 10K and below
Saucony Ride 9
The fact is all three of Saucony's neutral lighter trainers share these characteristics in only slightly different ways. The Ride 9 sitting in the middle puts them all together a touch better than the others overall and has provided me the most versatility. And just how much do I like them... The Triumph ISO 2 was my trainer of the year in 2015 and I distinctly prefer the Ride.



Comparative Stats

While the last Ride I ran was the Ride 3, I see the Ride 9 loses 0.5 oz compared to version 8 according to Running Warehouse with the most distinctive change the shift from a podular outsole to Saucony excellent Tri-Flex design.
The Ride 9 is a great choice overall and the most refined and versatile trainer I have run so far this year, a year of incredible shoes, far ahead of 2015 in the quality of trainers in particular. Of the three Saucony, it would be my choice for the runner seeking one shoe that can perform at most all speeds and distances.

Upper and Fit
Saucony Ride 9

The Ride 9 fits me true to size but it is narrow. Fortunately, Saucony provides the Ride in 2E wide. The initial try on was not promising at all... very tight over the met heads. No hot spots but I was forced to take my first runs in my thinnest socks.  After 15 or so miles the forefoot upper stretched to a snug fit, less snug than the more race fit Kinvara 7 but by no means roomy.  So patience is advised, if you usually are true to size and have a narrower foot or like a snug fit they should break in. I would not size up half a size unless I knew I would be using them for a marathon or ran long distances (15 miles plus) in high heat.  I suspect the Flex Film overlays shrank after production and needed some seasoning. Saucony should consider substituting paper packing in the toe for something more substantial. Still and my only knock on the shoe I think a bit more room  upfront would be in order, something more akin to the roomier Triumph ISO 2. The midfoot and rearfoot hold is perfect, well held never lose or constraining.  Lace up with the flat laces is fuss free once and done.

The Run Dry plush lining at the heel really holds the rear of the foot well by not being overly soft. The tongue is puffy with the textured outer mesh holding it in place, no side slipping.
Saucony Ride 9
The mesh upper is nothing unusual these days with seam free overlays but does have a substantial overlay on the medial side towards the heel and stitched on strapping around the heel counter.
Saucony Ride 9

The front toe bumper is soft and is a touch higher and firmer than the Kinvara 7's.
The sock liner is particularly nice and the way I like them, a dense very light foam similar to adidas insoles.

Midsole and Outsole
Saucony Ride 9 Everun top sole

The midsole "starts" with a thin layer of Everun, a top sole. This TPU based material similar to adidas Boost provides a responsive rebound that is more long lasting and more stable across temperatures than the usual EVA midsole material. In the Ride 9 the Everun layer takes a bit of the "edge" off. Not a particular sensation of rebound but a slight and comfortable softness on contact and toe off.
Saucony Ride 9
Below the topsole we have Saucony's SSL EVA the same material and as far as I can tell, at approximately the same firmness, as in the Kinvara 7 and Triumph ISO 2.  I find it has a great balance of cushion and responsiveness in all the shoes.
Saucony Ride 9 SRC Crash Pad

At the heel on the lateral side  the Ride  has Saucony SRC Crash heel pad insert whereas the Kinvara and ISO 2 have an Everun heel insert. On the medial side the side walls are vertical for some stability, a design common to the Ride 9, Kinvara 7, and ISO 2.
Saucony Ride 9

The Ride's heel is for me a touch more stable than Kinvara in large part I think due to the fact the heel construction and landing zones extends further back. So, those who are heavier on the heels as I am or who are running at slower paces may find a smoother landing and transition with the Ride.
Kinvara 7 Left, Ride 9 Right Extended SRC Crash Pad

Where the rubber hits the road and how Saucony interfaces the outsoles and the midsoles is from what I can tell where the secret sauce of the Ride 9 lies.
The Kinvara 7 and ISO 2 are both stiffer up front than the Ride 9 with the Kinvara noticeably so.
Saucony Ride 9

The Tri-Flex outsole/midsole construction of the Ride features deeper flex grooves whose depth extends further into the center of the mid foot than Kinvara's.
Saucony Kinvara 7
And there are more and deeper flex grooves and releasing elements on the Ride, a total of 14 on the lateral side and 8 on the medial side with the Kinvara and ISO 2  effectively having 8-9 on the lateral side and 9 on the medial side. The greater number of flex points from heel to toe on the Ride in my view translate to its incredibly smooth adaptable transitions.  Whereas the Kinvara has an exposed EVA on the medial towards the rear ,the Ride has a blown rubber outsole piece, a very light stability element.
The ISO 2 has a similar forefoot construction but with 4mm more foam front and back thus less flexibility and of course a touch more cushioning as a result. The outsole in front of the heel is considerably more built up and continuous on the ISO 2 making the transitions less fluid than the
Ride's.
Saucony Triumph ISO 2
The forefoot outsole rubber of the Ride is softer than Kinvara or ISO 2's from what I can tell.

I like that Saucony provides a consistent approach at the medial side wall design, SSL EVA and Tri-Flex outsole. You know you are getting, variations on a theme for different run purposes.
The result and punch line... of all these differences... The Ride 9 is considerably more flexible and has an incredibly smooth yet stable transition. The greater overall stack of the ISO 2 contributes to it being a bit more ponderous, slower shoe. With the Kinvara, the shallower flex grooves, fewer forefoot wear pads with an overall stack very close to the Ride 9 is a stiffer flexing somewhat more snappy shoe than the Ride, one more suited to fast days and races.

Ride... of the Ride and Comparisons
This is one smooth protective shoe. It is plenty stable, plenty flexible, and plenty responsive often a rare combination. I have focused my Ride running on a combination of slower runs and moderate tempo and it has handled them equally well. It has become a daily reach for shoe, supplanting the Hoka Clayton in recent weeks.

The flexibility and relative softness of the forefoot outsole assures many miles of comfort but is a touch less snappy and directed than the Salming Distance 3 ballet line approach where there is a fairly distinct rolling motion to toe off.  I do see more wear in the forefoot than on my Kinvara and ISO 2 so that soft feel may come at a bit of penalty in terms of longevity but the rubber is thick and one should get many hundreds of miles from the Ride.

The heel is stable and responsive, slightly less rebound than Kinvara but one feels a very smooth heel landing and then roll forward due to the extended heel area and flex grooves. I do like the 8mm drop of the Ride, finding the 4mm of the Kinvara a bit low for slower days. Clearly it is less ponderous than the ISO 2 Triumph and lighter too and ISO 2 is one fine shoe, It's just that the Ride is more balanced and refined in its ride. I find that once forefoot cushion goes much over above 21mm and the heel 29mm as it does in the ISO 2 some of the faster fun goes out of shoes except maybe for the Hoka Clayton. While a similar shoe in terms of stack heights, the fine Brooks Launch 3 review (27/17 for Brooks 27/19 for Ride 9) the 0.6 oz heavier Brooks with its podular outsole and higher 10mm drop is not quite as smooth or fun, a bit lumpier blockier under foot from heel to toe.

Recommendations
The Saucony Ride 9 is a superb daily trainer for slow to moderate and tempo paced running. It is versatile with a design and materials that brilliantly balances weight, cushion, flexibility, stability, and responsiveness. At close to 9 oz they are a lot of shoe for the weight. I would not hesitate to race a marathon in them. Their touch of stability, medial vertical midsole walls, overlays, and outsole could make them a good choice for those transitioning away from milder  stability motion control shoes. If you are a runner who prefers a durable one shoe quiver they are a superb choice. While narrow, they do stretch and wide sizes are available. Highly recommended and a finalist for my Trainer, Update, or Shoe of the Year.

Our review of the Kinvara 7 here
Our review of the Triumph ISO 2 here

Score
4.85 out of 5
-0.15 for narrowness over met heads and front of shoe, especially when new.

The Saucony Ride 9 was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.


The Saucony Ride 9 is available from Running Warehouse
Use Road Trail Run COUPON CODERTR10 for 10% off
Men's here Women's here






Wednesday, May 11, 2016

High Performance Summer Apparel: 2 Shirts, 3 Socks, and 2 Visors Reviewd

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

With the dog days of summer fast approaching it is time to take a look at some high performance takes on the humble tech tee, shorts and visors. Technical fabrics have gone way beyond the old cotton t-shirt, nylon run short, and even those synthetic technical tees we get at races. While Merino wool and Merino wool blends are fine for more moderate temperatures when things push 80 F they are a bit much for me.

Beyond the Now Humble Tech Tee
You might say someone would be crazy to pay $40, $60, or even $90 for a tee shirt and what differences could there really be? While the technology in these high performance pieces is sometimes shrouded in marketing talk and proprietary mystery, RoadTrailRun has found the comfort of the following pieces, in not only warm temperatures, but also across a wide range of temperatures to be outstanding.
There is a reason for this wide range of comfort and versatility. The fabrics are by and large structured to provide the maximum surface for evaporative cooling and moisture transport possible in a 3 dimensional pattern which is not always easy for the eye to even see, the Brooks Steady with CoolCore technology is such an example. Some, such as adidas ClimaChill (review here) not only try to maximize evaporative surfaces but add metallic fibers, titanium and feature aluminum dots on the shoulders  to provide convective cooling effects In the case of Nike AeroReact, the fabric opens and expands to a wider mesh, visibly so, as moisture vapor kicks up. Others such as the Compressport On/Off (review here) are lightly compressive and create a cooling micro climate against the skin while also evaporating moisture

Nike Aeroreact 

Nike AeroReact T-Shirt www. nike.com


Nike calls its new Aeroreact technology "Adaptive Breathability" and describes it as follows:
"AeroReact is uniquely engineered to adapt to changes in a runner’s temperature.  Supporting the body’s existing thermoregulation capabilities, the textile’s bi-component yarn senses moisture vapor and opens its structure to maximize breathability."
In my testing I can say it works not only in the comfort it provides, but visibly so. We were able to clearly see the mesh was far more open when moisture vapor, sweat, was present. To illustrate see the images from Nike below.

Fabric Dry. Photo: http://news.nike.com/news/aeroreact 

Fabric with Moisture Vapor Open. Photo: http://news.nike.com/news/aeroreact 
What does this translate to? The shirt is a knit mesh which sits comfortably on the skin, not sticky or slick feeling when dry or wet. It even has a small key pocket on the side. As moisture vapor occurs from sweat there is a distinct cooling effect in damp areas. Interestingly dampness seems to remain concentrated in high sweat areas and doesn't seem to spread as fast as with many fabrics on moderately warm breezy runs. The fabric dries rapidly. It's an ideal solution for variable conditions, for example trail running, as well as warm days.  Available in t-shirts, singlets, and long sleeve from Nike here . The long sleeve is also available from Backcountry.com at the links below.

Brooks Running Steady
Brooks Running Steady Long Sleeve www.brooksrunning.com

Brooks was kind enough to give me long sleeve shirt ($60) from their Steady Collection at Outdoor Retailer last January. Steady is also available in sleeveless ($45) and t-shirt ($50) styles for men and women.
Brooks Running Steady Short Sleeve www.brooksrunning.com

It was a few weeks before I looked at it and was super pleased to see the Steady was a Brooks DriLayer, Powered by CoolCore. CoolCore is a New Hampshire company that I have followed for several years. Their patented fabrics truly have a cooling effect when moist and especially if there is any breeze. I have previously tried their arm sleeves, cooling towel and a headband but this was the first shirt with their fabric I had seen.  The long sleeve is a thin woven fabric, with four way stretch and  bit slick in the front with very fine mesh in the back. It has thumb loop holes.
www.coolcore.com

I have worn the Steady in cool and cold weather as well as warmer temps and it has proven equally effective in all conditions.
Brooks says: "When worn alone, the DriLayer® Steady thermoregulation fabric wicks moisture and redistributes your sweat, using it to keep you up to 30% cooler."
Never overheated or chilled it does what the CoolCore fabric blend claims to do; provide without chemical treatments, a thermo regulating environment which allows rapid evaporation, wicking and moisture transportation. In warm conditions the evaporation, particularly with a breeze, is actually chilling, very neat, and the long sleeves can provide a measure of sun protection as well.  In cold conditions the moisture is moved off the skin preventing chills. The only thing I might improve is to make the pieces more form fitting. The snug arm sleeves with CoolCore I have truly are chilling and then some.
The Steady is available from REI at the links below.

Socks
The humble sock continues to evolve with seamless toes, continuous weaving of differing densities and blends of synthetics, merino, and low friction Olefin.

While I tend to prefer a lightly cushioned sock over a continuous thin one, the Compressport Pro Racing Sock combines both, a thin very thin almost lady's stocking compressive mesh with woven in cushioning in the form of dots in all the right places.  A great choice for very warm days or those shoes that fit snug. Also available in thicker road and trail versions. There are other looks, all wild!
Order direct from Compressport in Switzerland. I received orders in 4 business days to the US.

The Nike Elite Running Quarter Cushion ($16) goes a different direction with a relatively dense front of the foot padding of dots and a clever ribbed knit over the top of the foot to reduce lace pressure and ventilate. Both elements work brilliantly making the Elite a great trail sock option. Extensive reflective printing at the heel will keep you safe on those night runs. Socks are clearly no longer an "after thought" for Nike as I have found in the past!


Order the Nike Elite Running Cushion from Running Warehouse for men and women are available here

Made in USA, Swiftwick socks have always felt a little thin and harsh on the foot to me. Their new Swiftwick Maxus, their first cushioned sock, combines a very comfortable, completely seamless toe area made of very dense yet very soft 200 needle knit modified polyester which is claimed to wick 40% better than comparable materials.  Over the top of the foot is a mesh of very, very low moisture absorbing (less than 0.01% of its weight) Olefin. No chemicals are used to treat the fabric so as to wick away moisture. In my testing my feet have remained dry and the socks with their moderate cushioning are just right for even snugger fitting shoes.

Available in Zero no show height, $12.99 and One 1/4 height, $13.99. Order from Swiftwick here

Visors
I sweat a lot and wear glasses so keeping sweat out of my eyes is critical. I have tried literally dozens of hats, visors, and headbands in a quest for the ultimate solution. Much as with the socks and apparel, the arms race continues and I have found two great options for 2016.

Patagonia Duck Bill Visor $25
Patagonia Duck Bill Visor

This totally crushable/foldable visor is carefully designed to absorb sweat, protect the eyes from sun and with its short bill allow un restricted vision up slope. Even the sides are mesh. A bit comical in the red, white and blue color it is also available in black and an underwater blue as well as cap versions. As previously stated, this visor is the only headwear that has passed my Sam Test, one hour on the treadmill without sweat dripping in the eyes. Yes, it was soaked, but nothing reached my eyes!
Available from Running Warehouse here

North Face Better Than Naked Visor $24
The North Face Better than Naked Visor www.thenorthface.com

The North Face Better than Naked Visor checks several boxes for me. It absorbs sweat very well via the absorbent head band and a clever foam insert in the brim. The brim is curved, stiff and fairly long providing great shade to the eyes and face. Instead of snaps the headband is a wide comfortable elastic material providing not only more sweat absorbing surface but an always dialed in fit, pulled low or moved up on the head. Finally it looks good.
Available from Running Warehouse here

The Nike AeroReact, Nike Elite Cushion and both visors were personal purchases. Other items provided by the manufacturers. The opinions herein are entirely my own.

Many of the items featured in this article are available at the links below. Sales support RoadTrailRun.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Review Salming T2 - Smooth Trails Cruiser

Article by Jeff Valliere

Salming T2. 9.7 oz/275 g  US men's size 9. 8.4 oz/ 238 g US women's size 8. $140Available now.

Salming T2


 I had not heard of Salming before reading Sam’s December post from The Running Event in Austin.  He had positive things to say about the brand and they looked great, so I jumped at the chance to give the T2 a test.

Initial Impressions:
The T2 looks sleek, fast, low and race ready.  They feel light in the hand and even lighter on the foot with a very high quality feel to them.  They really look fast!

Upper/Fit:
Salming T2

The upper comprises mostly of ripstop nylon, which does an excellent job keeping out debris and dampness, yet is surprisingly breathable.  The stitched felt overlays are arranged in such a way to provide good stability and though not seamless or welded, are quite comfortable.  
Salming T2
The toe bumper is flexible and moderate at best, perhaps able to withstand a moderate stub on a rock or root (though I was careful not to test that out).

Salming T2


The heel cup is semi flexible and offers good protection and good heel hold.  The collar is on the low side, but feels great with just the right amount of cushioning.
Salming T2

The non-gusseted tongue is moderately padded and a good height, just right in my opinion.  The laces are flat and a touch thin, but did their job well.

Salming T2
The fit of the T2 is on the roomy side and I found that I had to really crank the laces down to the point where the eyelet loops are actually touching in order to ALMOST get a snug enough fit.  I have read of others cutting the lace loops off and punching their own lace holes to solve this issue.  Though improved fit was reported after performing that modification, I am of the opinion that if one needs to go that far, it just may not be the right shoe for me.  I have a lower volume foot and I just could not achieve the locked down fit from this shoe (as it is out of the box) as I would typically prefer.

The T2 also runs a bit long and I feel as though I could easily downsize by a half a size.  The shoe, though light and nimble, feels somewhat large.  

Toe room is ample, not overly so, but plenty enough for splay, swelling or to accommodate those with larger feet or those who just prefer room to breath so to speak.

Midsole:
Salming T2

The Salming T2 runs moderately close to the ground, with a 21mm heel and 16mm forefoot.  I was actually surprised to learn that the differential is 5mm, as it initially felt lower than that to me the first time I tried them on.

Cushioning is moderate and somewhat on the firm side, but is adequate for long days, feeling reasonably quick and responsive.

Outsole:
Salming T2
The lugs are on the low profile end of the spectrum for a dedicated trail shoe, but grab well on most dry surfaces and reasonably well in loose dirt and packed snow.

The Salming website description of the T2 states  “The T2 has a new outsole compound which significantly improves grip in wet conditions.”  Though I did not test the T1 and thus can not compare to this previous version, I found the hard compound rubber to not grab very well in the wet, especially on wet rock.

The rock plate in this shoe offers excellent protection from the sharpest of rocks and offers a nice pop at toe off, adding to the quick and responsive feel of this shoe.  I did however find that lateral flexibility is compromised.  This was not really noticeable on smoother trails, but when running on rocky, technical terrain, even at slower speeds, the shoe does not conform at all and I found the T2 to be very unforgiving.

Combined with my issues with fit and not being able to achieve a locked midfoot, I found the T2 to be very tippy and I felt quite tentative on technical terrain, especially so if any sidehilling was involved.

Treadwear and durability though seem to be excellent.

Overall impressions, recommendations:
I really wanted to like this shoe more than I did and admit that I may have had inflated expectations.  The Salming advertisements portray this shoe as one that would suit my all mountain preferences, but I found their description of the T2 to not be entirely accurate.  The lateral stiffness of the outsole, lack of lateral stability (mostly a result of not being able to properly lock down my mid foot) and lack of traction in wet conditions really made for an unstable platform and thus very tentative running over technical terrain.
Salming T2 


I quickly shifted gears though, along with my mindset and moved onto terrain on which this shoe might excel.  On smoother, dry terrain, like fire roads, double track or buffed singletrack, this shoe performs very well.  It is light, responsive and has enough pop to make this a very competent racer or up tempo trainer on this more moderate terrain.  Combined with the firm, yet supportive cushioning and good protection, I think this shoe would be adequate for any distance up to mid distance ultras (50 mile or 100k).
Salming T2
 Though this shoe did not fit me well, I have often sympathized for those with larger feet, as many manufacturers produce shoes that fit me just right, but I could not imagine running in them if I had an even slightly larger volume foot.  The T2 could just be the shoe to fill that void and accommodate those with a larger volume foot.

Salming is new to the trail running scene and I think they are off to a promising start and look forward to seeing how they progress in the near future.

Points: 4.1

-.3 for wet traction
-.3 for ill fitting upper/midfoot hold/lacing
-.3 lateral stiffness

Comparisons:
Montrail Caldorado:  The Salming is a bit lighter and more responsive feeling, perhaps a better shoe for fast running on non technical terrain.  The Caldorado has better traction and is much more suited for terrain that is moderately technical or more.  Fit of the Caldorado is more precise for most feet.

Saucony Peregrine:  Similar in weight, the Salming is more responsive and has better fore/aft flex, though the Peregrine has much better fit, traction and performance in technical terrain.  Similar protection and cushion.


Salomon Sense Pro:  Similar weight and like the Salming T2, well suited for fast, less technical running.  Fit, traction and lateral flex are better in the Sense Pro.

The Salming T2 was provided to RoadTrailRun at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
All photos except where noted Jeff Valliere

Salming T2 Women's Photo Credit: Salming

________________________________________________________________________________
Reviewer Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.



See our reviews  of Salming road shoes
Salming Distance 3 here
Salming Speed 3 here









The Salming T2 is available from Running Warehouse
Use Road Trail Run COUPON CODERTR10 for 10% off
Men's here Women's here



Also available from Running Warehouse Europe
Use Road Trail Run COUPON CODERTR10 for 10% off
Men's here Women's here

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