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Old 19th October 2016, 14:08   #1
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Default My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

My maiden 42.2 - Ladakh Marathon 2016

I have a running career of just 1.5 year, started with an adrenaline filled registration for running 10K in bSafal half marathon in 2015. I joined for the practice run 2 week before the race day without even running a single km on road in my life (though I used to run on treadmill in gym for about 40 min session). I finished 10K in 1:15 but legs were extremely painful and tired. On the race day I finished 10K in 1:11. No permanent injury and the desire to go for more and achieve that half way mark started. 1.5 months in Sabarmati marathon and I registered for 21K. Then all the gears and every dry fit thing on earth started making its way into my closet. I was not an ADR member yet, the reason, I thought it’s a group of elite athletes of Ahmedabad and I am just a beginner to even run with them. Every single training plan for HM available on internet started showing on my workstation and finally I narrowed down to 3 days a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday for practice. I started increasing mileage 10% per week and reached my first 21 KM mark on Sunday before the race day in 2:40. I knew I can do better with all the aid available during race and finally I did my first HM in 2:29. Then running HM became the passion, which made me appearing for every single event in town and around. 2016 season achieved my PB of 2:06 in Vadodara marathon.

Decision making process:
It was sometime in April that I heard about Ladakh marathon on ADR-PNG. I Googled the details and somewhere I decided I will run this one day and that would be full marathon only. I was discussing this with my commuter mate and friend and he asked, “Why not this year? You are not going to get any younger.” I was silent all the way and kept thinking “Is it the time? Yes someday I want to run a FM, but should it be @ Ladakh?” I posted this question in ADR-PNG to know the expert opinion about the situation. Sir Soham first congratulated and gave the analogy of FM and love.

Most of the members recommended the SCMM to be the first, but king Keyur with his ultra-high standards said I can do this if I commit to it. And there was the answer I was looking for, if commitment is all it takes then I have it and I will give it all. For a couple of days I kept thinking, how all these members can be saying the same thing, there must be some reason. Then I started practicing, got my schedule from our president. It was about 3 months that I last ran my HM. So I decided that I will register for Ladakh full marathon on the day I will run my first practice HM+ 2 km. I wanted to see if I have it really or this is just infatuation of “I can do it”. Finally 3 weeks into training and I did 23 KM and registered for ladakh marathon in FM category. Yeah… I am gonna do it. Anxiety was still there, if it would have been that easy then every second home would have a marathoner. I now have precisely 12 weeks before the race day, which at that point sounded enough but was really tough and 4 more weeks would have made world of difference.

Training month 1:
Now the focus was pretty clear. Our beloved president prepared the training plan, which included hill training, strength training and what not. I focused on monthly mileage, which is expected to be around 130-140 kms, making it about 35-40 kms a week. King keyur recommended 50-60 kms a week with most of them on hills.

I was having limitation on running only 3 days a week, mostly Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The reason is my work, I work in Baroda and commute everyday, so have to leave from Ahmedabad by 7:30 a.m., another bottleneck in a dedicated training regime.

Target was to reach 28 km by June end, with the monthly mileage of 150 kms. I did my first 28 km run on 3rd july and boy it was super tough. I remember the words of Soham sir, “FM is 3 times difficult than HM” and yes he was right.

Not really a satisfied run, however a good takeaway is that I did 171 kms in some 18 activities as recorded by the app. So something wasn’t just right, may be I need more mental strength than the physical. Then looking at the history of my runs I found 2 runs of 21 kms in 4 days span and then this 28 kms in a week after that. So I think I was going too aggressive but forgot that it’s a marathon preparation. I knew I have 8 more weeks to go from 28 to 42. However the unexpected devil started appearing in the training plan. The name is ‘weather’, ‘Bad weather’.

Training month 2:
Now the targets are revised to reach 36 km LSD by end of July. Addition of just 8 more kms, sounds so simple, but trust me it isn’t. If you have seen the marathons in Olympic or anywhere else, all they say is race starts at 30. For a beginner like me, every inch after 30 needs special mental and physical effort.

I increased my hill training on ISRO hills and Iskon flyovers twice a week. I did my first 31 km on 17 July and damn I was feeling the strength for the first time in my preparations. The mileage build-up was paying up now. The huge surge in confidence came in Gotila garden that day, during post-run talk with drugeshbhai and Sameer sir.

So this guy, ‘weather’ decided to make it tougher. It was at 60% humidity when I started then reached to 84% humidity. This, my friends, is the factor which makes Ladakh marathon more and more difficult. Most of parts in India experience summer + monsoon during the preparation months and the weather is a challenging one for runners.

Then came the expected evil, my work travel. Until this 1.5 month, it was all going perfect and I wasn’t expecting any business travel. But then a business trip to Munich came in last week of July, wasted my 2 precious Sunday runs. The plan to complete 36 K run flew out of the window. May be a much needed week off in the training?, I said to myself. Once you land in Bavaria, its all about z zerman cars and beer. It was for the first time that my bags had no space left after adjusting for my running gear and shoes. I made sure I am never more than 3 days away from running. It was one crazy sales workshop, party in night and training in morning.

So at the end of this month, the max I did was 31, however I continued running minimum 21km every Sunday since the day I registered. The good part was I could hold on to 165 kms for this month.

Training month 3:
The final one. 5 more weeks to go. The max I can run is 31 km only, not so encouraging number.
On the first day of august, I reviewed my running history again and learned that it has been 15 days and I am ready for another LSD (long slow distance), 36 kms. On 7th august, I did it in 4:19. All LSD runs greater than 25 kms used to start at around 4 a.m., to get advantage of hydration support of ADR in the later part of the run. I took two breaks at 15km for cloth and socks change and another at 26 kms for Gatorade hydration and towel change. I used to put thick towel on my waist to collect all the sweat drops from the upper body. This helped me running longer without completely drenched in sweat. The breaking of sessions really helped me mentally gain confidence, especially when you are training solo. Whenever I used to get tired or the run gets exhaustive, I remind myself of the upcoming break, after which I will have enough energy to push further.

Energized after 36 km run, I plan my final big one of 42 in 2 weeks on 21 august. The rain gods have been really listening to my wish until now and I can safely say it never rained on a single Sunday morning that I ran my LSD throughout my training. Thank you god and sorry to farmers around Ahmedabad.

Then the bad news, I have to travel to UAE on 19th august night flight just 4 days before that means no Sunday LSD and that too most crucial and confidence booster. It was on 18th that I thought why not to complete the LSD on the day of flight. I was in 2 minds, but wanted to give it a shot. Started my run at 3:59 a.m., took the first break at 16 km and second at 28 km. Somehow after 28 km my legs were really heavy and paining, mentally I decided to carry on for another 2-3 more and then give up if things don’t improve. I crossed the the bridge on SPRR near shilaj circle, App said 31 and somehow the Dairy Milk I had during second break seemed to start working and I was back to running at 7:10 min /km. Then I started the music in my ears, which diverted my concentration from tiredness to hiphop and dhinchak manali trans. Everything changed instantaneously, I was back, I was running without pain, much much stronger. I completed my 40 K run in 4:45 hrs +20 min for breaks. I could have done the rest 2 to reach milestone, but then office calls started at 9 which reminded me of my flight and I stopped at 40 Km. Wanted to celebrate and hence booked tickets for Rustam at 11 a.m. to give justice to wife.

I was now ready, it was a tapering time. Again time for advice from experts in ADR. Dropped off my weekly mileage not more than 20%. I did my 24 km LSD 2 weeks before race day and 17 k LSD on Sunday before race day.

Leh calling:
“When to reach Ladakh?”, was the question ringing in my mind since the day I registered. My work profile includes unplanned travel and work load, hence to be on safer side I booked the tickets to reach leh on 8th sept morning, about 96 hrs before the race day. However, time to time I was taking advices and reconsidering my plan. But at one point, keyur reinstated my confidence that 96 hrs for acclimatization would be enough. I would still advice to spend at least 4 days before the race day. Not really to acclimatize but to enjoy running on those hills.

So here I come, I landed in Ladakh and headed straight to hotel. Temp was around 14 C at 8 a.m. Hotel allotted me room on second floor. I climbed stairs to my room and was completely out of breath. “Welcome to Leh”, my first experience of lower O2 levels at an altitude of 11500 ft. I went to expo and checked my O2 level with oxymeter, and the reading was 88/78. They said its healthy but continue to drink water and take a nap. I collected the kits and crashed in hotel. Woke up at 4, to head straight to Shanti stupa.

As advised by Keyur, I climbed all the steps to Shatistupa, did the pranayama and breathing exercises to lower down the anxiety. Did my prayers and ran 5 kms downhill from Shantistupa to army officers mess and then uphill to hotel. I was confident about my uphill training and started climbing slowly, 100 mtrs, 200 mtrs , 250 mtrs and I am completely out of breath as if I have sprinted in red band. Heart rate would have been more than double. That’s what we call altitude, this is what it makes challenging for all people living near sea level. This is what makes Ladakh marathon different from the other ones and probably this is why I chose LM as my first FM. “For the resilient and the brave”.

I calmed myself down saying this is the first day. I decided to run next day morning same route and see if it feels any better, and to my surprise, it was actually better. I did about 8 km, however I have to stop for catching my breath after 700-800 mtrs continued climb. But then this was ok and natural. I am human not a superhuman. This was my last run before the race.
I still had entire Friday and Saturday before the race day. So I decided to rent an Enfield and went to Khardungla, Paththar sahib gurdwara and sangam. It was an over strech, 175 kms bike ride took a toll on my back, which I realized on Saturday. So took the complete rest on Saturday.
Had a large size breakfast for about 1.5 hrs in hotel around 11 a.m. So skipped the lunch and have light dinner rice and dal. Took a banana before sleep.

Race day:
Woke up at 4:15 a.m. The biggest question before any marathon, “will shit happen?” In my case, the banana which I took before sleep helped. I eat two more in the morning. Got dressed and left hotel at 5:15. The cab fellow took the wrong route and had to drop us at the stairs of shanti stupa. From here the start line is around 1.5 kms, we have no option but to walk those and get warmed up.

I kind of loved the early morning walk to start line, locals waving and cheering, set my breathing and calm things down. The arrangements were super silent, no stage set-up, no 3D sound systems, no DJ, simple start gate and timing mat laid, I loved the simplicity. It was still 20 min to start at 6:00 a.m. so I took some pictures around and started having chat with other participants. I have to say, it looked all pro crowed for full marathon. I was actually feeling proud to be standing among them. I also met Dharma, very popular in Indian marathoner`s circle. He completed the Khardungla challenge (72 kms ultra) a day before FM and then was running full marathon as well.

It was 6:00, everyone started warm-up and checking their gears and giving final good luck wishes to everyone, the sound of Garmin `beeps’ suddenly raised attention and flag off at 6:06. This is it, the moment I have been waiting for past 4 months. I said to myself, today is the day, live or die. I never knew the person I will be after 6 hrs.

First 10 kms are all downhill and hard to resist your super speed fast twitch muscles, but I somehow managed to sail through them. It was about 10.5 kms that we took the turn in to Spituk village and saw the first glimpse of the hill. Having done lots of practice on posture for uphill, I set my self into that and successfully climb the first one. I was running out of breath but felt really confident that I can do it. It was a photo time. I cross the famous bridge on Indus river, this was kind of mental milestone for me. The route now will mostly be straight until another 13 kms, the straights you can get bored of, passing from the middle of the valley between mountains. The organizers did a really good job by putting hydration points every 3-4 kms and milepost banners every 5 kms. Finally the straights were over around 23 km and we enter another village, taking left from Khomei chowk.
I was holding on to my Gatorade for last 10 kms and taking water only at every hydration point. I took the first dose of Enerzal at 21 kms mark and second at 27 kms. It was kind of salty and sweet. It was now more of a solo running.

After around 20-25 minutes of passing hydration point on 27 km, I saw the board of 35 Km. I said to myself really? Is this true? I wanted a pic here and continued with a doubt on that mark. After another half an hour saw a guy running in known red athlos t-shirt, and I thought is that Manan, ex-ADRian? And yes he was the one, caught him on 32 km mark just at the verge of crossing Indus 2nd time. It was all uphill now. He asked me, what’s my strategy? I said I will just continue till my legs don’t crumple itself. He planned to run 2 km and walk half after every 2 km. I wished him good luck since he was walking his half km.

Now the real thing starts. It is around 11 a.m. and we start for the last 10 kms hike of about 800 ft. The first climb after the Mahabodhi school / yoga centre tells me what I am going to face in last 10. I was breathless in 500 mts itself and started walking. Somehow managed to reach hydration station at 34 kms. They had Kitkat as energy bar, really? Let’s try, I haven’t eaten anything since last 5 hrs so why not. I had my 2 Dairy Milk in my pocket as well, used one of those and continued running.

Magic moment at 35 km mark:
At 35 km mark, I saw the board showing 30 kms, obvious that they didn’t want us to give up just at 30 km mark, where they planted board of 35 km. I thought to entertain myself. I was not hearing any music till now as a part of my strategy. I started the player with shuffle on and the first song comes “Bhaag Milkha Bhag”. My legs somehow forgot that they are 35 kms and years old and started moving faster. I visualize myself crossing the finish line and finally reaching my goal of first maiden FM, that too in Ladakh, a must have in every marathoner’s basket. For the first time in my life, I had ‘khushi ke aansu’. Unbelievable feeling!!

There was this long downhill (atleast not uphill) at 37 kms mark, which I could ran strongly and reached the intersection of Leh Manali highway and final hydration point. It was now final 2 kms. Few more uphills and downhills to finally see the finish gate near leh public school. Few participants of Khardungla challenge were present in final leg of 600 mtrs to cheer everyone up and pushing to sprint. I sprinted last 200 mtrs and a long beeeeeep to receive my first full marathon medal. Dreams do come true. The timing is 5:40, just 50 minutes before cut-off. Not really a convincing timing, but I am happy with it.

Special vote of thanks:
To the entire team of ADR, specially king Keyur, Vivekji, Drugeshbhai, Tirth, Shashwat, V.K. Singh sir, Shivna and not to forget sir Soham, who made me fall in love with the thought of first marathon is like first love, you never forget your first. I may run many more, but this one will be special and closest to my heart.

To my family, specially my wife and 2 yr young daughter. The support you provided every time you told me to take rest and sleep. Sorry honey, we sacrificed 15 Sunday mornings and so many movies during the training. I will make it all up now.

To my friends, especially Yash, whom I bored during our commute to Vadodara everyday with different marathon stories and my Sunday run experiences. But you have never shown boredom and encouraged me to the level required. Good that I could inspire you to remain physically active and you joined gym.

Finally to god, specially rain ones, who supported by not raining on any Sundays at all.

I will let the photos do the talking for now.
scroll down for few pointers and recommendations based on my experience.
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Last edited by Mission_PGPX : 19th October 2016 at 14:20.
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Old 19th October 2016, 14:16   #2
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Default re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

PART - 2

Few pointers and recommendations:
1) The race is very much doable as your first full marathon. All it needs is a dedicated training, 3 days a week and 3 months minimum, provided you have history of running HM for a year or so. I would recommend minimum 4 months of training for a stronger finish.
2) No amount of hill training is enough for last 10 kms of uphill, however the more the better. Never ignore hill training if preparing for Ladakh.
3) Reach at least 5 days before the race day, run a few uphills and climb all 200 steps to Shatistupa and rely more on deep breathing yoga techniques. If you plan to trek and travel around Leh I would recommend to reach 6 days before and 3-4 days after the race.
4) One strong recommendation is to practice anaerobic training, which I didn’t do enough. You will be running out of breath at your marathon pace in just about 200 mtrs of uphill in Ladakh, that’s where this can help. Better to train on tempo runs and yasso 800 10 repetitions regularly at almost breathless situation to simulate Ladakh in Ahmedabad.
5) Unless you are hard pressed for achieving PB, take lots of pics and enjoy the run more than anything. The weather, the villages, the mountain and the desert.
6) The event is nicely organized by Rimo Expeditions. You will have kitkat, enerzal and bananas at almost every hydration point apart from water. Hydration points are 4 kms apart and the weather is so conductive to runners, you won’t get a first drop of sweat till 10 km for sure. In case you are accustomed to a specific energy bar or drink, BYO (Bring your own). You will get Gatorade in Ladakh though.
7) The one and most important thing applicable for any marathon, Take the training part easy on yourself. Don’t get worked out every minute, everyday about marathons and preparations. Dedicated training one day will achieve the result. Don’t feel guilty in case you missed one or two Sunday morning runs, I would say bunk some, to return with more hunger and more energy. Guys after all, it’s just a marathon.
That’s all. Question now is what next? Well, a sub 2 hr half marathon? Or a RTR Ultra?
Ciao, Happy running!!
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Last edited by Mission_PGPX : 19th October 2016 at 14:21.
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Old 19th October 2016, 14:42   #3
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Default re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

Well done and congratulations. the narrative was excellent with the pics. Whats the typical diet regiment in preparation for such runs ?

also pre and post run, was there a significant loss of body weight ?
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Old 19th October 2016, 18:08   #4
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Default re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

Originally Posted by narayan View Post
Well done and congratulations. the narrative was excellent with the pics. Whats the typical diet regiment in preparation for such runs ?

also pre and post run, was there a significant loss of body weight ?
Thank you so much.

I would say increase the protein intake and no of bananas you eat everyday. Protein helps in muscle tissue repairing and recovery and bananas are quick source of carbs.

No significant loss of weight, but you will surely feel light.
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Old 19th October 2016, 20:04   #5
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That is a wonderful achievement and really good narration too.
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Old 20th October 2016, 06:31   #6
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Default re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

Congratulations. It must have been a gruelling marathon. You make it sound so simple and easy; but in fact at those altitudes, uneven topography, and being a city boy and that too from polluted apnu amdavad would have made the race doubly difficult.
I was there in July and i noticed the posters for the Kardung La challenge. That is a different one, is it?
Just curious: What were the times of the runners who completed earlier? According to me all who participate and complete are winners and hence i am being selective in describing runners who finished earlier.
Very proud that an Amdavadi ran the marathon at Ladakh, and won!
All the best.
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Old 20th October 2016, 15:17   #7
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Default Re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

Originally Posted by Mission_PGPX View Post
This is it, the moment I have been waiting for past 4 months. I said to myself, today is the day, live or die. I never knew the person I will be after 6 hrs.
This is the most amazing thing about runners, the moment when nothing matters anymore. It's just you, it's the most zen feeling and the biggest reason I've been drawn to running. Thank you for sharing your experience, for someone who has run a bunch of half marathons and hoping to run his first full you really downplay how much training and effort goes into it.

As far as the timing is concerned I won't be so worried, we are not doing this competitively. It's just like racing on the track at track days. The idea is to get a good time while having a good time.
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Old 21st October 2016, 09:49   #8
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Default Re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

What a journey man! And that too in 1.5 years. Kudos to you.

I've been a runner for more than 5 years now, but have only started participating from this year. Have a HM (official) under my belt and countless unofficial HMs. Had to take part in a FM this October, but got sick, so I couldn't participate. Anyways, Ladakh Marathon is in my list. Next year I'll be there.

I dream of a day when I'll be able to participate in the La Ultra.

Thanks for the motivation
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Old 21st October 2016, 18:09   #9
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Default Re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

Very well done and congratulations. Take the timing of 5:40 as Personal Bliss if not the Personal Best. I've just begun my running for last 4 months and managed to finish my first official Bangalore Half-Marathon in 2:35. Seven of my running mates (some of them who have been running for last 6 years) were at Ladakh and did the half-marathon just to experience it. Kudos to you for completing your 1st Full in just 1.5 years of running. Keep up the good work, train systematically and remain injury-free.
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Old 22nd October 2016, 10:46   #10
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Well done and Congratulations!! Your hard work and months of preparation has payed off !!
Brilliant stuff and very inspiring.

Cheers mate
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Old 22nd October 2016, 11:15   #11
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Default Re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

This is an incredible achievement. I remember climbing up all the steps of the Stupa on the very first day without acclimatization. Took a while and felt like a heart attack!
A friend of mine is into organizing similar races in Himachal & Ladakh called the "The Hell Race" & SkyRunning festival. Hope to see you participating there too.
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Old 22nd October 2016, 15:31   #12
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Default Re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

Congratulations!, on completing the marathon.
I am just in the process of training for a half marathon and it looks like I have a long way to go before reaching the place you have.
I am going barefoot though.
Keep running and remain injury free.
Ultras next, for you, I suppose?.
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Old 22nd October 2016, 16:01   #13
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You just gave me travel and fitness goals in one go !
Congrats on fulfilling your dream. It must have been a herculean task but your persistence paid off in the end.
I prefer weight training instead of cardio but yes running gives you totally different high.
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Old 25th October 2016, 18:00   #14
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Boss, this is just so so inspiring. I do treks regularly, but running is something i have never been able to do. Your post is truly inspiring. I am 28 yr old, and its never too late. I think its time to tie those damn shoes on.

Thanks a ton for sharing this experience man, seriously, i cannot even imagine what an experience this must have been for you. Truly amazing.
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Old 25th October 2016, 22:25   #15
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Default Re: My maiden 42.2 - The Ladakh Marathon

Fantastic stuff man. As someone who has run a fair few half marathons now taking the next step and running a full is something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Just haven't committed yet. Seeing this is exactly what I needed.

From what I read the race has a highly limited number of participants. Do you know when registrations open for next year? And see you at the start line in 2017 maybe?
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