Overseas Adventures–Races in Stockholm and Oslo

In December, my readers heard from my friend Laurel as she shared her first marathon experience in Helsinki, Finland.  Today she continues Part II of her story with two more running adventures!  After reading these, I can understand why people get the bug to sign up for overseas/destination races.  Leave a comment below to tell us about your favorite overseas race experience or even better…message me to share your story as my next guest blogger!

Guest Blogger: Laurel Wemhoff

Part II:

Stockholm Ultra Marathon

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In my previous post I talked about my first half marathon and how it inspired me to sign up for my first full marathon. This post will be about two other marathons I have completed: the Stockholm Ultra and Oslo Marathons.

Now many of you might not believe this, but after I finished my first marathon I felt so great, I said to myself, “I think I could have kept running!” Crazy, I know.

I decided to register for the Stockholm Ultra Marathon, taking place August 9, 2014.  There were two distance options: 50k and 100k.  I chose to do the 50k.

My parents were still living abroad at this time, so they agreed to meet me in Stockholm and my older sister and best friend also flew over from the States. I’m telling you-having a cheering squad makes all the difference. After running the Helsinki City Marathon the previous year in August, I realized that summer in Scandinavia was a great time to run.  I remember when I was training for this race in June and July, it was incredibly humid in D.C.  I figured it would give me an advantage to train in the extreme heat and humidity, since Stockholm would be a bit cooler and less humid. To my surprise, and to everyone in Sweden, August of that year was one of the warmest on record for them.  It was in the 90’s, humid, and very sunny.  It turned out that my training paid off. J

map-and-finish-line_stockholmThe course for the 50k had more gravel and trails than pavement. It took place on an island, right outside of Stockholm, and consisted of six, 5 mile loops.  There were not many runners in both the 50 and 100k races.  When I was at the start line, I met another American girl, from California, who was studying abroad in Denmark.  She told me that she had to buy all new running gear because the airline lost her luggage–including her shoes, shorts, and other clothes.  Lesson learned: If you’re traveling by plane for a race, be sure to keep your gear in your carry-on bag.  I always make sure I carry my shoes on the plan, because those are what I have been training in and what my feet are used to.  Running a marathon in brand new shoes should be avoided at all costs.

laurel-blog-stockholmBecause this was a smaller race, with not a lot of runners, the course itself was very pleasant to run. There were aid stations and food every 3 miles or so, where they had coke, pickles, chocolate, granola bars, Gatorade, water, and mixed nuts. Right by the start/finish line they had tents set up for runners to stop and get a massage, either during or after the race.  With about 2 more laps to go I had to stop and have the therapists massage my calves and hamstrings.  They were throbbing like I have never experienced before.  If I wouldn’t have stopped for that 20 minute massage, my time would have been better, but who knows if my muscles would have been able to continue without it!

Oslo Marathon

oslo-marathonMy most recent marathon took place in September of 2016 in Oslo, Norway. This was the third race I had done in Scandinavia.  As like previous marathons, I wanted to run a race on or around my birthday, and combine it with a mini vacation.  My sister, who lives in Barcelona, decided to sign up to run the half marathon.  We both flew into Oslo and explored for a couple of days, to adjust from the jet lag and orient ourselves with the city.

oslo-maraton_me-and-libsThe marathon consisted of two 13.1 mile loops throughout Oslo. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to run a race; t was in the 70’s and sunny with a few clouds.  I was so fortunate to have my sister there with me.  Her half-marathon didn’t start until 2pm that afternoon, whereas the marathon started at 9am.  She was able to see me at a few different points along the route.  I know I’ve said this before, but having people, or even just someone, cheer you on makes a huge difference.  It gives you that extra kick of endorphins to keep going and stay positive.

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Halfway there!

 

Out of the three marathons that I’ve done, I have to say that the Helsinki City Marathon was by far the best. I think that because it was my first marathon, it will always hold a special place in my heart. Oslo takes second place, due to the beauty of the city and the race course.  The Stockholm Ultra stands out for the simple reason it was a 31 mile race instead of 26.2.

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Olympic glory!

Denmark and Iceland are the two Scandinavian countries I haven’t yet run…so stay tuned!

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Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleep, energy and weight loss are three of the most talked about health challenges of which we all desire to have more. If only we could just snap our fingers and get what we want. Advertising inundates us with magic bullets to help us get there.  Many of us wouldn’t be reaching for so many quick fixes if we all just had more and better sleep on a consistent basis.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep.  Even at 35 years young, my body does not bounce back as quickly after a race or tough workout. Sleep can be the maker or breaker of our outlook on life.  It gives us the stamina to get through stress and long days, and to perform at our peak, mentally and physically.

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed that I have never had to experience any major sleep issues.  I’ve never battled with insomnia, sleep apnea or night tremors. And I know people who do and can’t even begin to know what they experience day in and day out. I fall asleep easily and typically aim for 7-8 hours BUT what I have trouble with is getting RESTFUL sleep!  Have you thought about the last time you’ve dreamed?  Many of us just don’t dream anymore and I’m not talking in the literal sense (although that isn’t happening enough for people either these days). I am referring to the dreams we have at night, when our bodies are so at rest in deep REM sleep, otherwise known as dream sleep when our brain is active. This is healthy becomes it happens right after the restorative sleep period that we ABSOLUTELY need to function the next morning.

Sleep is such a huge issue for so many.  This is a great infographic from IDLife, a health and wellness movement that I support and appreciate for the value its brought to my health.  We try to find solutions–through things like prescription sleep medications–that simply aren’t sustainable for the long-term. So let me ask you, are you getting enough sleep? Wsleephether you are someone who has serious battles with bedtime, can’t remember the last time you dreamed, or struggles with feeling rested the next day, we can all strive for better sleep!

I’ve culled together some tips that can help you perform at your best.  So whether you are an athlete, a busy parent, a working professional, an all-nighter college student, or someone approaching or already in those more senior years of life there are simple sleep tips that we can all benefit from as part of a daily routine. Many of these will sound familiar but my guess is that most of you haven’t done the follow-through.  Try one a week and continue to build with an additional one into the following week.  Soon you’ll be setting some new habits and sleeping like a baby!

  • Set a bedtime routine: 
    • Two hours before bed time stop eating (and at least thirty minutes stop drinking water).
    • Thirty minutes to an hour before bed  time turn off all electronic devices. I also do things like read for 10 minutes before bed or listen to a 10-minute bed time meditation exercise (HeadSpace is the app I use).  These activities are all helpful for slowing down the body and mind and preparing for sleep.
    • Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
    • Look into supplements like melatonin (did you know that as you age your levels decline, especially after the age of 40) that can help with sleep. I recommend trying IDLife’s sleep strips–a minty strip that melts on your tongue and includes L-Theanine, 5HTP, and Melatonin to offer a tri-phasic approach to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and achieve a restful, restorative deep sleep. I guarantee you’ll start dreaming again!
  • Exercise: Incorporate an exercise routine that you find enjoyable. Your body will appreciate rest all the more when you worked your muscles!casper_athelete_sleep_x2_v08
  • Eat balanced: I could go into a whole other blog post about foods we choose to put into our mouths.  My simple tip here is to listen to your body and your cravings, but do so in a way that doesn’t compromise your exercise habits.  Everything is connected so if we are eating poorly (and late at night before bed) our body may not process those foods as easily which could in turn lead to a lot of tossing and turning and running to the bathroom when we should be sleeping.

As you begin setting healthy habits you’ll find that your body will love you so much more.  Your energy and weight loss/maintenance goals will start to improve and you may find your stress levels melt away!

In addition to my quick tips, my friends at Casper Mattress (your source to learn more about sleep technology and research) developed this great guide that includes sleep tips for athletes, benefits of each sleep cycle for recovery and other interesting statistics.

Remember sleep is there for a reason.  We need it to help us become the best version of ourselves!  So get to it…sleep like a champion tonight and wake up ready for your best workout (and day) of your life!

I’d love to hear from YOU!  Share your sleep tips in the comment box below.  What have you struggled with and how have you improved sleep?

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Reflections of 2016

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that we are almost a full month into the new year. If you are anything like me you approach January with anticipation and hope of all that is in store. There is nothing better than the pages of an empty calendar waiting to be filled with new dreams, get-togethers with friends, vacations and weekend getaways. It’s also the perfect time to reflect on the year passing…to celebrate the wins and to grow from the challenges. There will always be a bit of both, that’s just life, but I believe that as long as we remember that God is in control of our path we can have a lot more peace each day.

Overall, the last year was a pretty good one for me. Professionally, I worked tirelessly on a huge research project and learned so much along the way. In November, I started my journey to become a health coach (super pumped about that and the path it will take me on). Personally, I’ve had some fun adventures to different parts of the country. The highlight was seeing God’s glory come alive during a hike in Joshua Tree National Park this last October with my mom. Amazing! My greatest personal accomplishment in 2016 would have to be tackling the ultra-marathon–I completed my first one in Prince William Forest Park (Virginia). So that was fun! And I logged many more miles this fall and winter, including my first Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in Delaware with my awesome dad and other fun runs with friends (a 10-mile trail run at Fountainhead Regional Park, a half-marathon in Baltimore, and a New Year’s Eve Run in Fairfax, VA). Perhaps all that running was to my detriment as I am managing a back issue at the moment and banned from running (but we won’t dwell on the negative). I’m grateful for the new friends I have made this year and for the quality time with old friends and family—beach trips to the Jersey shore, Virginia winery outings, two weddings, and other various travel excursions to Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, and California to name a few. Sweet laughter with nieces and nephews and growing deeper with my group of Bible study ladies are moments I’m grateful for. I am blessed by every person I had the opportunity to spend time with this year—you have each taught me something to carry forth into the New Year. And if we didn’t get to see each other in 2016, let’s change that for this year!

 

And yet, as good as most of the year was, on December 16 my dear, sweet grandmother passed from this earthly world to the heavenly one. Sara “Sally” Frances Dunn Funk was my maternal grandmother—90 years young. I was beyond blessed to have known her these last 35 years. As her namesake, I have big shoes to fill! While I’ll never be a renowned artist like her (even though I may have wanted to as a kid, especially when I painted over an art piece she was working on), I like to think that I inherited her caring and loyal disposition. She was a single mother who raised my mom and two uncles during a time when I know that couldn’t have been easy. My grandfather, the love of her life and college sweetheart, came back in to her life when they were in their 40’s, married her and moved the entire family from Oklahoma to New Jersey. He loved her so much!

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A Duke love story

It was a love story like no other and she would recount their story to me many times (along with my grandfather adding his pieces to when they first met in the library of Duke’s East Campus….his roommate by his side with a baseball bat to keep the ladies at bay). He always was the practical jokester, but maybe it was true! He was a handsome devil after all.

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Late 1960’s/early 1970’s

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Perfecting

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The Art

 

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Of The Selfie (summer 2016)

 

Needless to say, my grandmother, or “Mom Mom” as I called her, and I had a very special bond. There are too many words to describe her. She was smart, brave, kind, strong, loving, funny, and beautiful. I think my stepdad said it best: “I will miss her gentle presence in our family’s life.” I’ve been wearing the beautiful cross necklace that she gave me over Thanksgiving when I visited with her for a few days in the hospital. It is a wonderful reminder of the love that she had for all she knew….a perfect example of Christ’s love for us. My grandfather passed during the wee early hours of Easter Sunday 2015 and I know she missed him terribly this last year and a half. While I mourn the loss of them both, I know that neither of them is in pain anymore. They lived amazing full and beautiful lives. My guardian angel, Mom Mom will always be in my heart and I know that I will see her again someday, for God has paved a way for us through Christ to all be together in eternity. I thank her for having such an indelible imprint on my life.

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Celebrating the 2011 marathon with my grandmother and mom

As 2016 has come to a close, it’s time to keep the special memories close in our hearts and make new ones with the people who mean the most to us. To wake up every day with a heart of gratitude and to love and lift one another as Christ would have us do. I plan to live more in the moment this year, to do my best not to stress about what is not in my control and to give God the glory. May you all be blessed in this year ahead.

“Life passes us by quicker than we ever imagine. To miss even a single moment of it is something we will later regret. Be present in the world.” -Headspace

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Running Smart: Tips for Everyday and Travel Adventures

I am sharing my running safety tips with Vegas.com to keep the conversation going.  And while it’s a topic I do think about at times,  I also know that I could be a lot smarter on my adventures. When I think of runner’s safety my mind immediately jumps to the worst case scenario–“What would I do if a crazy person decided they wanted to hurt me on the trail?!” But there is so much more than ill-willed people to consider when we lace up. On the roads we have to think about cars; on the trails it’s bicyclists or in some cases even wild animals (or snakes!). And then there is that whole listening to your body thing. I don’t know about you, but personally I like to think I’m invisible! Running is my happy place, where I’m free, and when I’m my most assured and confident self…until something goes wrong. Luckily I have never experienced any major snafus BUT that certainly doesn’t mean I’m immune from disaster.

One could easily write an entire book on safety tips but here are some thoughts that initially came to mind:

Long Distance and Everyday Running

I remember when I first ventured into long distance running just thinking about what I needed to take with me was a learning process. Carrying water on the run was something I had never bothered with before, but now it was essential. Marathon training also required snacks on the go because the body has to stay fueled to continue pushing through the miles. And probably most importantly of all I recognized the need to make  sure at least one person knew where I was going and the general route I was taking. I had a friend who I did most of those long training runs with–not only was training with a buddy so much more enjoyable, it was also a wise safety move.

My weekly exercise routine today involves working out with a boot camp fitness group. Again safety in numbers.

And one other tip (for any distance run) is to have identification on you. I have RoadID on my shoelaces so that should something ever happen there is a contact and number that can be reached (mom and dad in my case).

Travel 

Traveling to me is the perfect excuse to rise early, lace up the sneakers and go. Whether I’m traveling for a business trip or pleasure, I love getting a sneak preview of a new destination by way of my own two feet. Las Vegas, for example, is host to many awesome marathons and trail races (some to add to my growing list). Coming up is the Trail of Glory Marathon on December 17! Whether you are traveling to Vegas, or any other city, it is important to keep a few things in mind. A new place can be a little intimidating when you don’t know the lay of the land, though, so I first always check with the hotel concierge for recommendations.  I ask where is a good close place to run that will allow me to see the sights and that, as a female, I will feel (and be) safe. I haven’t been let down yet and have been able to explore some pretty cool trails and city runs over the years. If you are traveling with coworkers or friends ascertain who the runners are in the group so that you don’t have to go it alone. If you are exploring  a city like Vegas you don’t want to miss a beat, whether it be the city life, the outdoor trails, or the busy foot traffic (and with that great people watching!).  Make sure to be smart with your time if you are traveling alone on any adventure. I always make sure it’s light out (which isn’t a problem in Vegas!) and that there are other people out and about. And the bonus to this jump start for your day is that you will feel so much energized for long meetings and sitting, and ensure you can take full advantage of all the deals that a new destination like Vegas has to offer.

To wrap things up, I sought the advice of some friends to share their top runner’s safety tips! You’ll see some similar themes.

Someone should always know where you are. Even if you’re not running alone. Especially important off the grid. Let someone know where you’re running and when you should be done. Be specific. Pro tip…let them know when you get back too. –Rob P.

I’m not a good safety person as up until about a week ago I would run with no phone, nothing just my watch. I realized that is completely ridiculous in hindsight. I now have a very small waist pack that I can fit my phone, keys and some other small things. I do not run with music for the safety aspect so no headphones. I like to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I do always tell my husband when I’m leaving, my planned route and approximately when to expect me back. Other than that I don’t have advice but I probably need some! -Lesley R.

Ditto to all of that! I never run with headphones in. And always carry keys and phone in a Spi-belt. And tell someone what route I’m planning to run! -Brittany B.

1) If you feel nervous on your run, trust your gut and turn back. 2) Don’t run with headphones; 3) Pause at stoplights, intersections, etc. and make sure drivers see you before crossing. -Nicole T.

I don’t have much to add regarding safety (wear bright clothing at night, carry your phone if possible, etc). I would add that if you’re running an extra long distance (i.e., more than 15 miles) and/or it’s hot out, is to listen to your body. Run much slower than you normally would and at the first sign of fatigue (i.e., really low on energy, legs are starting to burn from lactic acid, or feel nauseated) to immediately change the run into a search for water and rest. By the time your legs start to cramp up it’ll be too late and you’ll likely become immobile and unable to even walk to a nearby water fountain. -Isaac Y.

And just as with anything in life don’t live your life in fear. If I feared for my safety every time I put on my sneakers I’d probably never have experienced as much of the joy that has come from this sport or a lot of the friends I have made along the way. My mantra for running (and life):

Prepare and always listen to your inner compass but don’t ever stop exploring! Push the boundaries in a healthy way and be willing to take some leaps of faith in accomplishing your dreams!

I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment below to share your top runner’s safety tip (and favorite travel destination for running). See you out there!

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Getting to 26.2 after 13.1

I am thrilled that today’s guest spotlight hails from my workout buddy and friend, Laurel!  We recently ran a 10-mile trail race together and in recent years she has ventured into the marathon and ultra-marathon world. This is the first of a two-part series, so stay tuned for what’s next.  Her story is both inspiring and heartfelt. I hope that it encourages you today.

Guest Blogger: Laurel Wemhoff

Part I:

I never considered myself a “runner” but played a bunch of sports growing up, but long distance running was never something I did.

That all changed about 4 years ago, when a friend of mine asked me to run a Disney half marathon with her.  In a moment of weakness my sister and I signed up and slowly but surely, I began my training.  It was the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which takes place in the evening, after the park is closed.We ran through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, etc.  The reason why this race is the one that started my running career, is because a month before the scheduled race, I had a pretty horrible life experience that rocked my world and threw everything off course.  I stopped training, and went into the race just hoping to finish.  After the first mile I felt ok, then came 3, then 5, then 8, and I was hurting.  I wanted to stop so badly, and walk the rest of the way, but thinking about where I was a month before, the hurt, the struggle, the injustice, I kept on going.  I told myself that I am stronger than I think and that I could finish this race by running the whole thing.  Crossing that finish line was the proudest moment of my life. I never thought I could run 13.1 miles without stopping.  I did it.  And I was ready for the next challenge…

Helsinki, Finland:

I loved the endorphins I had after 13.1, so why not go for 26.2?  🙂 My birthday is in August and usually every summer I like to take a week long or so vacation, preferably overseas.  For my 25th birthday, in 2013, my parents and brother were living abroad and I wanted an excuse to go overseas and see them.  I looked up international marathons that were taking place in August and saw one in Helsinki, Finland.  It seemed like a cool and fun place to visit and convenient for the family, so I decided to sign up for my first ever marathon.  I created a four month training schedule that increased my mileage every week and then tapered down as it came closer to race day.  img_2550The weather in Helsinki in August that year was perfect.  It was warm during the day, but not humid and miserable.  On the actual day of the race, it was about 65 degrees, overcast and a bit rainy, which turned out to be very refreshing.  I ran with a poncho for about 3 miles of the race, and then ditched it, because I was starting to warm up and the rain dissipated.  My parents and brother flew in, as well as my sister and very best friend.  I was so nervous before the start…”What was I thinking?  What did I get myself into?  An international marathon?  Can I do this?”  My mom teared up before she said good bye to me, as I headed for the start line.  She was more nervous than I was. I put my iTunes playlist on, started thinking positive thoughts, and crossed the start line. I have to say that I was in a zone, in a mental space, that I had never experienced before. I felt focused, determined, and nothing negative was getting into my head. Mile after mile, song after song, I felt better and stronger.img_2549 I kept looking around me, taking in the scenery, realizing how lucky I was. To be running in Finland, to be able to physically run a marathon, and to have my family there cheering me on…my heart was so full. At mile 22 I started to get some pain in my heels, but pushed on through. The one thing that got me through the race was picturing myself finishing strong and proving all those that didn’t think I could do it, wrong. Also, seeing my family at so many different points throughout the race gave me that extra motivation and adrenaline to keep on moving. The finish line was in the old Olympic stadium, on the outskirts of Helsinki. I was almost there, and was losing steam. But the moment I saw the stadium, all those cheering people, I started to tear up and run faster. As I entered the stadium, I saw my family in the stands and felt so proud. I sped up even more and crossed the finish line. That euphoric feeling was more than what I ever imagined. I soaked up the pride and the moment, and started thinking about what race would be next…img_2548

 

 

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Thanksgiving Trots and Hearts of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday! It’s a time for thanking our blessings and surrounding ourselves with loved ones. This month I’ve been posting every day on social media something of which I’m grateful. Some of the prompts have seemed silly and others more profound, but the best part of all is that it’s been a good way to stay grounded each day and not to take anything for granted. Easier said than done, right?

To continue the gratitude trend, I thought it would be fun to highlight some fellow turkey trotters and to capture their grateful hearts. Gratitude truly is a practice worth doing everyday!

Wishing all my readers a blessed holiday season. And don’t forget to get your daily dose of fresh air and exercise for a more sane season (as you can see these runners are all smiles).

Please add a comment below on something you are grateful for today!

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Dad and I enjoyed our first Turkey Trot 5K in Lewes, DE. I am grateful for him and all my family. When you are part of a blended family on each side, the holidays make for many personalities, travel to different homes and a lot of flexibility. But you can also say quadruple the love and stories to tell. Wouldn’t have it any other way! #blessed

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Ken enjoys a Turkey Trot with the Lake Ridge Runners in VA. He is grateful for family! (And does a pretty awesome job at grandfather duties!)
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Rob runs his way through a 10K Turkey Trot in Richmond, VA. “I’ve learned compassion for life and not just species. #vegansgiving”

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Drew and his daughter Katie at a Turkey Day Run in Charleston, SC. Drew is thankful for “family, military who fought for our freedom and friends like SealTeamPT.” Hooyah!

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Calling All Turkey Trotters!

Right before Halloween someone told me that this was the skinniest most Americans will be for the year, meaning that as we approach the holidays (and as the weather gets colder and we begin to hibernate) our diets and exercise routines start to go out the window!! Thus, the idea of the Thanksgiving turkey trot was genius–run a mere 3+ miles and eat to your heart’s delight later that day!

But more than feeling better about gorging on home-cooked food on Thanksgiving day, the turkey trot is an opportunity to spend time with loved ones and have some fun. This year I will be enjoying my first Thanksgiving race with my dad. I’m excited!

What about you? Will you be running, trotting or walking in a local Turkey Day race this year? I’d love to highlight as many of your stories in an upcoming blog post. So here’s what you can do–Take your camera or phone with you on race day. Snap your best photo and share 1-2 sentences with me on where you raced, who joined you, AND something you are grateful for! Extra credit for those dressed in costume. I look forward to hearing everyone’s stories.

 

 

 

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