Training (and psychology or something, probably)

You guys know I’ve been up to a lot of business lately. And by business, I mean activities. As I’ve been planning my upcoming amazing trips, I’ve realized that there’s a couple doozies coming up fast and in addition to the things I’m already training for, I have some areas to step up. It’s got me to thinking about the difference between working out (for the sake of working out), training for competition, and training to do epic shit.

I’ve been involved in competitive sports for basically ever, with maybe a 2 year reprieve after I stopped racing (road running) after college and before I picked up roller derby. Training for competitive sports is a discipline and an obligation. Sometimes, it’s awesome. As long as I’ve had something to work for, I’m able to train (even if I don’t always like it). But, like I say all the time, I road run to support my trail racing habit. And it’s exactly that. Most of my training for running is on the road, and it sucks. I would never be like “I’m going to crush 10 miles on the ROAD!” it’s more like oh dear god, 10 miles. 10 monotonous, repetitive motion injury, joint shaking miles that make me question my commitment to long distance running in general (more on this later). But I still do it.

I’ve never been one for working out. When I’m at the height of intense training for something, I can really crush a work out. And yeah, I like it, and it feels good. I’m never going to question the amazing effects of endorphins, et al. But I can not bring myself to work out for the sake of working out. Plenty of people do, it’s awesome, because exercise is really important for your health and not every human is willing and able to commit their lives to physical endeavors. I teach a spin class once a week and the beautiful souls who attend that class, I tip my hat to them. No music in the world would make me work that hard just to be healthy.

What!?  So many miles!

What!? So many miles!

So I’ve been keeping track of my bicycle commuting mileage on a calendar all month, without doing anything with it (like adding it up) and when I realized the other day that I MUST start training for my bike tours, I added it up. I ride 70-100 miles a week, and that’s mainly getting to classes. I don’t think I entered in when I ride to a restaurant for dinner or something, and I usually walk to the store. I was pretty impressed. Although with the Mt Evans trip (50 miles by bicycle, from Denver to Echo Lake, then summit Mt. Evans, then ride the 50 back) looming, I need to increase mileage by a lot. Something about planning and committing to this training feels very different. I rode an extra 30 miles yesterday, and it felt amazing. I haven’t been riding much outside of commuting lately, so that was probably part of it. But it was more than that. It wasn’t an obligation. It was a commitment to become stronger so I could live a stronger life. There’s been a tone of falsity in my race training lately, and that’s what it is. I consider that training obligatory so I can race hard and obtain a good time and all the glory that comes with competition. Whereas, training to walk and ride mountains; that feels very authentic and like I’m working to be better.

Yeah, this is how I ride training miles...get better sunglasses, Sarah.  And wear a MF helmet!

Yeah, this is how I ride training miles…get better sunglasses, Sarah. And wear a MF helmet!

How do I bring this into my race training?

Updates and coming up:
Monday Long’s (this should be 3/20 and my last winter ascent of the season, I hear the conditions up there are actually still WINTER)
6/11 Mt. Evans
July 2-6 Wanderlust Festival in Aspen
July & August Nolan’s Fourteeners 100 miles backpacking, bicycle tour to Estes via Peak to Peak Highway
Breakdancing: still working on the same two moves but they’re getting better!
Ashtanga: finally getting back on track

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Pike’s Peak Pt Deux (triumph of the human spirit)

On Monday I posted the story of the time we tried the Pike’s Peak winter ascent…and failed.

This is the story of when I attempted to summit Pike’s Peak…and made it.

ahh, the beautiful summit

ahh, the beautiful summit

I didn’t sub out my Monday morning class so I wasn’t headed south until 7:30, which got me to the trailhead just after 9:30 with all the morning traffic. Luna and I ate our pre-hike chia seed/oatmeal porridge, packed up, and headed out just before 10am. [Side note: I thought long and hard about the decision to bring Luna along on what I knew was probably going to be a treacherous hike. The end all is: she is a mountain dog, and if she were able to choose she would always pick adventuring by my side over staying home alone all day. Always.]

Luna, at tree line

Luna, at tree line

We started at the Devil’s Playground trailhead, from the Crag’s campground parking lot off highway 67 south of Divide. The round trip hike is 14 miles, assuming you’re able to stay on the trail and don’t take any detours (hahaha as if anyone has any idea where the actual trail is under all that snow) and gains 4,300 feet in elevation. Below tree line, it was mostly dry and a little icy, as the several feet of packed snow was finally melting then freezing due to the high temps. We made it to tree line pretty quickly. I saw my first and only fellow hiker just before, on his way down (he turned around at tree line); there were two other cars in the parking lot, I never did see anyone from the other car.

The view from tree line

The view from tree line

Still in high spirits at tree line, the weather was beautiful and we set out on a mildly marked trail following snowshoe prints. The wind picked up, but it wasn’t cold and it wasn’t picking up snow and throwing it around. Clear skies and sunshine. Pretty soon, the “trails” collided and I joined the same path as everyone that had come before me. Which is an interesting feeling, following the footprints of the ghosts who walked these mountains. And really, I was using their post holes, so I was exactly following their footprints! The wind picked up pretty hard and I finally put mine and Luna’s coats on for protection. Still wasn’t cold though.

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When we hit Devil’s Playground we completely lost the trail and had to break one ourselves for the first time. From this point on, we never actually found the trail, although we’d occasionally find footprints again but they seemed just as erratic and lost as we were. Somewhere in this section, after we crossed Devil’s Playground but before we reached the final rocky ascent to the summit, I got miserable and almost turned around. I don’t remember if it was wading through the snow in the valley or navigating the rocks in the snow and ice (which was treacherous at best). Once you cross the last peak and head down into that little shoulder part before you ascend up to the summit, you get a view of what you’re in for and it seems so epically far away that summiting suddenly seems impossible. We stopped to eat and snuggle and find some serious morale to keep going. This is where I began talking directly to the mountain, which I would continue for the rest of the day.

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Now, I know I was struggling with altitude sickness a little by this point because I had a slight headache. I don’t remember what all I said, but I definitely remember asking Pike’s Peak to protect us. I’m pretty sure I talked almost constantly during the final, grueling, soul crushing, scramble of an ascent. Climbing like a spider over the large rocks, desperately avoiding breaking a leg in the snow filled crevaces between them, and probably moaning desperately, I kept my eyes one foot in front of me. When I finally reached the 10 feet or so of snow after the rocks end and you approach the real, actual summit I looked up and couldn’t believe it. I crawled, literally on hands and knees, until I reached bare ground, laid my head down, and cried.

From the summit, right after I got my shit together, stopped crying, and stood up

From the summit, right after I got my shit together, stopped crying, and stood up

What I think is really tragic about the fact that Pike’s Peak Highway goes up to the summit, where you’ll find a parking lot and a gift shop, is that what do these people gain from the view? By the time you summit a mountain on foot, you are a part of it and it is a part of you. And the view from the top is sort of the infinity that you are together, the mountain and you. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But the view from the car seems approximately like looking at a photograph: many things that exist in nature are beautiful objectively, but just seeing the physical outline of them is not the same as the experience of being a part of them.

I knew that I was well behind schedule so once PP and I had our sweet moment together, I set out to look for the registry and the signs that you find at the summit of fourteeners. Now, since they had to plow the parking lot there were huge piles of snow everywhere in addition to the cars and it was difficult to see everything. I was in a hurry, so after some unfruitful looking around I went into the gift shop and asked the ladies behind the counter. They didn’t know what I was talking about. “The hiker registry-it’s usually in a capsule next to a big pile of rocks” “Wait, did you hike up here?” “Yes” “I don’t know what you’re talking about, do you know what she’s talking about?””Registry? No”. Sigh. I took another look around. There was a long line of people taking pictures at the Pike’s Peak Summit sign (14,110 feet!). Ultimately, I had to head back down before I lost the weather or the daylight, so I gave up and began my descent.

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So the descent is when things got really weird. Sometimes I would just sit down in the snow and think “if only I could just take a nap.” And it would take me five minutes of saying out loud “Sarah you need to get up. Get up. You need to get up. You need to keep going.” The thing about fourteeners is, you’re miles into the middle of nowhere, and at very high elevation. Once you’re out there, you have no choice but to come back (or to lay down in the snow and die), you can’t just give up. Getting back across and to treeline was a big struggle. But from there, it was only a couple more miles down and the altitude sickness started getting immediately better. I sang out loud the last two miles or so. It’s kind of funny realizing what songs you know all the words to (and what songs you think you know all the words to but clearly don’t). The trip took almost 9 hours all said and done. When I sat down in the car I just said “we made it.” No big deal. We fueled down at McDonald’s because that was the first fast food place we saw (Coke and fries, and you’d better believe Lu got a few fries, but I also had some fuel down peanut butter for her).

Snowblindness. Did you know that’s a thing? My PSA for you: WEAR SUNGLASSES ALWAYS. Snowblindness (also called Surfer’s Eyes) is when the clear layer over the colored part of your eye gets sunburned because of the UV reflections off of snow (or water). It is just as painful as it sounds, and I literally spent all of yesterday in bed because I couldn’t open my eyes.

Pike’s Peak (the time we tried and failed)

So, on the eve of my second Pike’s Peak ascent, I thought it appropriate to explain the awfulness that was the first time we tried to do a Pike’s Peak winter ascent.

First off, we checked the weather (the National Weather Service predicted 15-20mph winds and 30-50 degrees over 11,000ft) and conditions reports on 14ers.com (there were two within the last two weeks and they both enthusiastically said NO SHOWSHOES NECESSARY, THE TRAIL IS PACKED TO THE TOP). So, we casually packed our bags, did not bring snowshoes, and headed to CO Springs with my 18yr old sister and my dog in tow.

We were taking the Devil’s Playground trail up, anticipating 6 miles to the peak. The trail was packed hard until treeline. At treeline, we took a snack break in the sun and played on the rocks, it was lovely. If you’re familiar with Pike’s, you’ll know that you hit treeline relatively early in the hike then there’s a lot of horizontal hiking, some ups and downs as you head to the peak for the last ascent. As we set out to continue, it was immediately obvious that the trail was completely gone. We headed in the direction of the peak. At the time, the snow was only up to our ankles. We were still in high spirits.

pike's peak hike

The wind was picking up, and our feet were cold, but we were still fine. Then we came to a really epic boulder field. Which obviously was not a part of the trail. We decided to cross it because we thought it would get us back on track. It was icy and terrifying, but we all made it. Back in the direction of the peak. Now the snow’s started getting deeper. Much deeper. Soon it’s knee deep and in some places hip deep. At this point, I’ve started worrying about frost bite and have put my extra wool layers on my dog. We’ve been above treeline for hours, and Abby’s gps watch says we’ve gone almost 8 miles and we’re not even close to the peak yet. Did I mention the wind was hitting us so hard that the snow it was kicking up was shredding our faces and almost knocking us over? We see the road, and head for it. I’m thinking: dear god I hope the ranger station is open and if we can make it to the peak we’ll be okay. We finally get to the road and start hiking directly up it…and it takes us at least ten minutes to realize: this road is NOT CLEAR. Obviously, no one’s driven on it, and it’s not even passable. Because we’re hours over schedule, we’ve gone almost all the way through our food. Now is a good time to mention that I forgot to pack our sandwiches. But. I thought we’d be okay because we had packed TONS of food.

pike's yoga

Now we had to decide. Do we hike down the road and *hope* to hitch a ride back to our car (which would have been a very long ride, not to mention there were three adults and a dog that would need picked up). The trouble I saw was what if we can’t get anybody? We’d be significantly further away from the car. So, we attempted to head back. The wind had already blown out any chance of finding even our own tracks. The first section was obvious, but when we got through the valley and to the big rock gateway…none of us had the slightest clue which direction we came from. One of us would see something that we thought we recognized, then we’d get there, and there would just be miles of snow ahead of us. Just when we really believed we found the right way back, we came across an epically steep rock field. By now, we’re all exhausted. And it’s been 5+ hours above treeline. We were at the stumbling, somewhat delusional point. My poor sweet dog had snow frozen to her fur everywhere.

Obviously taken when we were still warm and happy and not worrying about Luna freezing to death

Obviously taken when we were still warm and happy and not worrying about Luna freezing to death

A few hours of stumbling, worrying about our impending death, using an emergency blanket for the first time, and exchanging disdainful looks later…we made it back to treeline and eventually found the trail again. Too exhausted and overcome with altitude sickness, we stumbled down the mountain in silence…not even talking (or even thinking!) about fueling down.

The point is, we made it out alive. This was the only time in my life I worried about frostbite, hypothermia, or death by exposure. It was a good lesson in preparedness. We should never have trusted the internet and headed up there in trail shoes and yak trax, we should have had better equipment with us just in case.

I’ve never before been so humbled by nature (and believe me, I’ve been humbled by nature many times). “You don’t have to dominate the mountain, it is much more powerful than we are. You have to try to understand it, to learn to love it, and run with it, letting it help you.” Killian Jornet

Tomorrow, Pike’s Peak, I try to understand you. I learn to love you. I run with you, and let you help me.

Vermont (Mt. Mansfield) and routine (how it goes out the door sometimes)

So, obviously, I was in Vermont for about 30 minutes before my dad said “well we could hike the tallest peak in Vermont” and I said “deal” and he said “I was kidding” and I said “nope, it’s already settled.”

Mt. Mansfield is the highest peak in Vermont, at 4,393 feet. Apparently it’s supposed to look like a face, and the chin is the summit. I never really saw it. The trail we took up was about 3 miles, with 3,000ft elevation gain. New England trails generally aren’t built with switchbacks, apparently. Just up, and up.

trail up mansfield

It was gorgeous; the first mile or so there was water everywhere from the snowmelt. Tons of technical, several decent size water crossings. Then there was snow. So much snow. I somehow didn’t take any pictures of the snow. All of the snow. Post holing. Soaked freezing feet. Icy rocks. On the way down we laughed about how careful we were to not get our feet wet (pre-snow). You’ve got to love steep climbs when you’re post holing so deep that your hips have to stop you and you can barely drag yourself out!

Once we hit treeline (which, in New England is apparently somewhere below 4,000ft!) it got windy but still not that cold. And let’s be honest…above treeline in the Rockies conditions are an entirely different ballgame. Mt. Mansfield was sweet 😉

mansfield summit

Overall, the technical was crazy fun (what wasn’t covered in snow). Once the snow melts and the trees pop for spring, that hike is going to be gorgeous. The views from the top are permanently epic.

What else did I do in Vermont? Drank lots of coffee and a decent amount of wine, attended a wedding, spent lots of time with the fam. Checked out Lake Champlain. And basically nothing else.

lake champlain

Now that I’m back it’s time to get to work.

Active goals:

Leadville Heavy Half 6/14
Bike to Mt. Evans, hike the summit before the end of June
Peak to Peak Highway and Estes bike tour by mid July
20-fourteeners (by the end of 2014)
Nolen’s Fourteeners by the end of the summer
Learn to Breakdance
Ashtanga Primary Series 5 days a week

Long distance running & Ashtanga (DISCIPLINE)(I don’t have it)

Here are some ways to find out you have no self discipline:

1. You finally choose to pack for your trip instead of getting in the last 9 mile run before
2. The moment you start on a long run, you start justifying why you’ve cut your run short
3. When you get texts, you stop running to respond to them immediately (because, obv, you did not turn your ringer off)
4. You clean your house instead of doing ashtanga primary series. Then, you create yourself a hulu account so you can watch tv instead of doing ashtanga primary series (because you canceled your Netflix account so you’d stop watching tv)
5. When you’re doing ashtanga primary series, you somehow end up working on handstands. This is like if a mouse eats a cookie. Then, you start working on handstand transitions and pretty soon you’re trying to figure out how to footlessly transition out of astavakrasana and you’ve forgotten that you were ever doing primary series in the first place.

Needless to say, I’ve been struggling on both counts. In fact, I haven’t been on a run since I went to Vermont (more on adventures in Vermont to come!), nor have I practice ashtanga primary series. So. Now we get back on the horse.

How do we conquer lack of self discipline? Friends help. I’ve also imposed a new post rule: 1 bagel for every 3 miles. The third bagel really makes the difference between 7 and 9 miles. Actually, this system isn’t a bad idea. Any suggestions on ideas for a post-primary series bribe? I’m going for a long run. With a friend. And bagels!

Week 3: TRAINING (here we go). And! New Goal (it’s a doozy)

Just finished my first post-race training run; 9 miles (sigh). New rule for post run fuel down: 1 bagel for every three miles. Long distance runners get to eat as many bagels as possible (or, as many as they want). It occurred to me before I ran today that now that I’m gearing up for the Leadville Heavy Half, 8 isn’t the goal anymore…8 is the starting point. And we’re heading towards FIFTEEN. (I spelled that out so I could use all capital letters, it’s a shame you can’t get across an all-caps emphasis numerically). Not even just 15…15 miles with 3000 feet elevation gain. Oh-and we’re starting at 10,000 feet…so it’s also at elevation. SIGH. AGAIN. MORE SIGHING.

How do I feel about training? If I could do all of my training on the trails, it would be epic. But I don’t remember the last time I ran 9 or 4 or 2 miles on the road and said “yeah! great run!” because it wasn’t…it was always miserable. Repetitive motion, general boredom, annoyance with cars, playlist problems. All things we don’t need to worry about on the trails.

I mentioned before I’m considering selling my car and buying a nicer bike to do more touring and potentially racing. Well, I was thinking about how I could do more trail running but also not driving. The answer is: I bike to the foothills and run. Very simple. This idea, throughout my morning, grew legs and started running. By the end of my run, the idea is now: I RIDE TO THE MOUNTAINS AND RUN THEM. And I tow Luna in her trailer, because she wants to come to.

How does Lu feel about fourteeners?  Obvious.  She loves them.

How does Lu feel about fourteeners? Obvious. She loves them.

SO. In addition to all of my other goals, and my upcoming races (Vail and Leadville in June), I shall ride to the mountains towing Luna and carrying camping gear and food, and hike fourteeners. First one is Mt. Evans. 60 miles from here. BAM. Now, it’s time for an Epsom salt bath.

How do I feel about Epsom salts?  Obvious.  I love them.

How do I feel about Epsom salts? Obvious. I love them.

Week 2: Distance Running (why I do it) and snowboarding (one last time)

I didn’t post yesterday because I was CRUSHING THE GREENLAND 8 MILE. I was very happy with 1:06 for 8.2 miles of trails; my pre-injury goal time was under an hour so to bust that out after losing four weeks of training in March and April was a good showing in my opinion.

greenland

8 miles made it my longest race. And let me tell you, a lot of shit comes up during 8 miles of trails (particularly when you’re trying to keep your pace uphill). Mainly, WHY AM I DOING THIS. Running sucks. I really want to: take a break, sit down, go to the bathroom, STOP RUNNING. So by mile 6, I could feel every muscle in my body and although I felt stronger then that at any point before, I definitely felt like I was just a body. Muscles and bones, cannonballing forward and forward with no end in sight. Coming up on mile 7, I realized why I run.

Because I am not my body. I am so much stronger than this bag of bones. I am heart and endurance and fire and intensity. I am never going to give up. I will crush all the hills, and I won’t stop until it’s over. I am not lazy. I do not quit. I choose to race 8 miles over going to brunch and day drinking. Over watching other people play sports on TV. In the last 3 miles, I felt so alive. I kicked it in, and the last mile was so painful…but I finished strong. Your mind gives up well before your body does. I’ve come up with lots of reasons over the years why I run. Now, finally, I know. You can’t actually see how strong you are until you stop believing the limits you’ve set for yourself, then shed and shatter them. It is the trial of miles. How strong are you…really?

Then, today, I got up crazy early and went snowboarding. Most of the resorts are already closed, it was Loveland’s last day and I so desperately wanted to get out one last time. It was so windy and icy at the top, the bottom was hot and slushy. The first 5 runs pre-lunch were amazing, despite the iffy conditions. I was unbelievably happy to get up there, and now my legs know the real definition of “burn out”! Epsom salt and lavender bath, coming right up.

taking a break...yeah, this is what breaks look like.  MORE BREAKS.

taking a break…yeah, this is what breaks look like. MORE BREAKS.

Updates:
Still not doing yoga first and last thing. Still haven’t gotten back on track with Ashtanga (wonder why!? TOMORROW, back on track).
I’d say I’m winning at nearly everything else though. So. I feel pretty good.
Next races: Leadville Heavy Half in June, if we don’t do a 10k in Vail the week before also

Potential news: maybe giving up on driving entirely and spending my summer bicycle touring!?! Maybe.

NOW: Epsom salt bath!!!

WEEK 2: Running (the week before a race) & Slaughterhouse Five (thoughts)

So in March I was injured for basically the whole month with a sprained ankle from snowboarding. And by snowboarding injury, what I really mean is that I fell off the chair lift before I actually started snowboarding. So. My point is that I wasn’t running for at least 3 weeks, wasn’t even walking for a good chunk of that. Then when I did start running it took a lot of easing in to be able to rock mileage again. I had planned on racing at the Greenland Trail Race series (5/3) a while back, then after I was injured I thought well, I guess it’s out. But for some reason, I was like NOPE. STILL ROCKING IT. So this Saturday I’m going to Larkspur to crush 8 miles of trails. I imagine I won’t get anywhere near my goal (which was under an hour) but I hope to make a good showing/run the whole time at least.

I’ve (obviously) been thinking a lot about how we prepare for racing (or other competitive events).
On Saturday I did 8 consecutive miles for the first time since before I was injured. While I was running, I thought the whole time about my pre-race training for the next week and how I was going to eat so well and this and that.

Here was my EPIC plan:
Sunday 4 mile recovery run
Monday (2) 4.5 mile tempo runs at 8 mile pace
Tuesday burn out thighs in a sculpt class since I couldn’t do trails for my Monday training. Bike recovery.
Wednesday 6 mile recovery run
Thursday 4 mile gentle run
Friday 1-2 miles gentle run

Keeping in mind that I still planned to do my normal yoga schedule, and to bicycle commute which for me is 15-20 miles a day of riding.

Here is what actually happened:
Sunday 3 mile walk with Luna
Monday (2) 4.5 mile tempo runs, one at 8 mile pace and one at 9 mile pace (hey, I won this one)
Tuesday burned out thighs in sculpt class
Wednesday 30 minute walk (didn’t have runkeeper on to track mileage) with Lu
Thursday it’s mid-day and I’ve already done 20+ miles on the bike…and haven’t run yet.

How have I been eating? Well, Sunday and Monday I had rice and lentils and veggies and it was all very healthy and lovely. Then after that, it turned into: pasta. tater tots. coconut milk ice cream. more pasta. chocolate covered graham crackers. white bread! What happened?! I haven’t eaten this poorly since my sister came to visit months ago.

My point is: even the best laid plans dissolve. What can you do? Keep going. I’m excited about the race, I haven’t stopped being excited.

I finished Slaughterhouse Five a couple days ago. I never read with the intention of analyzing or thinking really hard about concepts. I just read the whole thing then at the end I’m like “I liked it!” Which, I loved this book. The most memorable part for me was when they had a report about American prisoners of war and how to deal with them, and they talked about how Americans have no love for themselves, so they have no brotherhood, no compassion, no understanding. It was a huge concept to deal with for me. And I can’t help but see that, in our community. It’s made me think a lot about how to foster self love in my classes and in my relationships with people in this community. Now I’m working on Walden. I imagine I’m going to have a boatload to say about that 🙂

Updates:

Ashtanga: this has really gone down the drain. The last time I did all of primary series was Monday :/ MUST GET BACK ON TRACK! I’ve been so busy this week and it hasn’t been a priority, which my yoga practice needs to be a priority. I’ve really been feeling my lack of practicing in general this week; being busy makes important things seem less important. My practice is epically important and it’s not only what makes me a strong teacher and allows me to teach so much, but it keeps me healthy, sane, and protects my body so I can continue riding 20 miles a day and training for races and working with kids.

Yoga first and last thing: yikes I haven’t been doing this either

Drinking more water: winning!

Walking Lu: every damn day, most of the time 30-40 minutes. Plus we hiked in Evergreen on Tuesday!

Why I failed so hard this week at everything except running:
Running takes a long damn time. And it makes you tired. 😉
I auditioned at a new yoga studio AND GOT HIRED
I taught a big special event restorative class after a race in Cherry Creek on behalf of PrAna. It was awesome.
I did two Inspiration Day workshops for high school kids.

See? It’s not because I spent all my spare time in the bath eating ice cream all week. I didn’t even take one bath (because I found a spider in the tub…twill be a long while before I take a bath again).