December 13, 2021

Mastering the Stamina-Endurance Misnomer

Triathletes are often referred to as “endurance athletes.” But is it endurance that we build during training? Or is it stamina? The terms stamina and endurance have been commonly, but mistakenly, used interchangeably. Join coaches John Mayfield and Jeff Raines as they explain the difference between stamina and endurance. Jeff and John also discuss how to build stamina, how to build endurance, and what is most appropriate for you given your background and upcoming race distance. Enter your next race build with confidence and a better understanding of the physiological adaptations that come from endurance or stamina building.

TriDot Podcast .116 Mastering the Stamina-Endurance Misnomer Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together. Andrew Harley: Welcome to the TriDot podcast! Pretty cool conversation planned for you today as we’ll be covering the difference between stamina and endurance and all of the implications that go along with that for our triathlon training. Now episode 10 of the podcast was called Escaping the Power-Stamina Paradox and it is still one of our most popular episodes ever and just like that episode taught us about developing power versus developing stamina in our training, today’s episode will help us distinguish between building out our stamina versus building out our endurance. So buckle up and get ready to learn a thing or two or three. Joining us for this conversation is Coach Jeff Raines. Jeff is a USAT Level II and IRONMAN U certified coach who has a Masters of Science in exercise physiology and was a D1 collegiate runner.  He has over 45 IRONMAN event finishes to his credit, and has coached hundreds of athletes to the IRONMAN finish line. Jeff Raines, how’s it going today? Jeff Raines: Oh man! This is such a great topic today and especially since the Power-Stamina Paradox episode had such a great response. I think this one will be very similar in its impact. Andrew: Next up is Coach John Mayfield. John is a USAT Level II and IRONMAN U certified coach who leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first-timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. Hey there John! John Mayfield: Hey fellas! Yeah, I think we might raise a couple eyebrows with this episode and maybe challenge some status quo, challenge some thinking and always fun to do that. Andrew: Well I’m Andrew, the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always we will roll through our warm up question, settle in for our main set conversation, and then wind things down with the cool down. Lots of good stuff, let's get to it! Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving. Andrew: A special thing about triathletes sharing the race course is that even though we are technically competing against one another, you will often find moments of generosity and comradery mid race. I’ve seen age groupers stop to encourage other age groupers and I’ve seen pros share resources to help out another pro they are actively trying to beat. So guys, in all of your race day experiences, what is perhaps the nicest thing someone has done for you on the race course? And I’ll give a really quick shout out. I actually stole this question from Triathlete Magazine. They posted this to their Facebook page and I was like, “Hey, that’s a good question. Let’s see what our listeners have to say and let’s see what our coaches have to say.” So, Jeff Raines, what do you have to say on this one? Jeff: My kind of story…I guess this kind of relates, but one of my greatest experiences in the sport of triathlon was my first full IRONMAN and doing it side-by-side, hip-to-hip with my wife. That was just the coolest thing. There was actually a point where I was hurting and she could have left me and finished, but she stayed with me and we walked/jogged together there to that finish line. So that was really cool. But, I would have to say that volunteers they save the day for many athletes and the nicest thing is really just what the volunteers do for you. I have a really funny story. I was doing Redman in Oklahoma. It’s notorious 100 degrees every year and I was out there. I was in a bad place on the run, maybe mile 20 or so and this was years and years ago kind of when Base Salt, before it was a thing. They were just hitting the market and they were out on the course. You know the little shaker tubes, Andrew, where maybe you shake it and just take a few licks and that’s kind of like a full serving; just a few little licks. I didn’t know that. I was hurting, I was cramping, and I took that shaker and I took the whole shot. I took the whole entire salt tube. Andrew: No. Stop it! Jeff: Yeah! Andrew: I mean you basically ate straight Pink Himalayan Sea Salt right there. A tube full of it. Jeff: I did. The whole thing and that thing might last a whole season for somebody and I took it all right in two seconds. But whatever that volunteer gave me actually, believe it or not, that saved my race and they saved me. Andrew: John Mayfield, what is the nicest thing someone has done for you while out on the race course? John: So yeah, I was going to stay along the same lines that by far the nicest things, little things in every race with the athletes out there. But what those volunteers in the IRONMAN change tents are willing to endure is second to none. Maybe like medical staff, but may they put up with some stuff. I’ve worked in those tents myself. I’ve told some stories on the podcast before about working T2 which is like a six hour shift out in the heat and man, there’s some stinky, nasty stuff going on in those tents. But it’s necessary to have a successful day at IRONMAN. So thank God for those folks and– man, they’re there. They’re willing to help. They’re willing to get in there and get all up in some nasty business, but yeah. So those guys– and I will say the vast majority of them are fellow athletes who know what the athletes are going through, what they’re experiencing, and know the value of having that person there. They know the value of– there’s congestions and even the helping unpack the bags and “do you want this? Are you taking that?” and then helping the bags get repacked so the athlete can focus on getting in and out of transition as quickly as possible. That’s just solid gold. So props to everybody who’s helping out in those IRONMAN change tents. Andrew: Yep, my story was not a volunteer. Both of you guys have had a lot of experience with volunteers helping you out and all of us have had volunteers help us out. I had a race. It was a local sprint in Denton, Texas; so just north of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. It was called the Denton Waterworks Tri and it’s called that because it’s held at a kind of small water theme park and you can choose to start your race. You can either go down this big slide that drops you off into the pool and then start your swim or you can just jump into the pool and start your swim. So it’s kind of themed around this water park and the bike course is just an out and back– John: Wait. Who doesn’t go down the slide? Jeff: I know right? John: Is it really even like a question? Like how do you not just go down the slide? Andrew: Like, that’s why I signed up for that race because you see that and you’re like, “Aw cool! That’s different!” But anyway, so I’m out on the bike course and the day before this particular day it just rained, it stormed, and so there was just all sorts of debris and stuff out on this country, rural, Texas road. So people were flatting left and right just hitting sticks, hitting rocks, hitting glass I’m sure and I flatted once about seven miles out so about the halfway point of the bike and I had my flat tire repair kit. I changed the tube, I pumped it up with the CO2 cartridge and off I went. About three or four miles later I flat again. So at this point I don’t have another tube. I don’t have any other CO2 cartridges so I’m just walking with my bike. Cycling shoes on, walking down the road with my bike just like, “Well, this is the only way I can get back.” And another cyclist who was out that day, not even in the race, just a road cyclist who was out on the same road biking, he came across me. He stopped, gave me a tube, gave me some assistance. He could tell I was frazzled, I was frustrated. So he helped me change my tire. He didn’t have CO2 cartridges. He had a hand pump and so he used his hand pump. He didn’t even let me use it. Like he just jumped in and just started pumping up my tire for me and that guy, total stranger, I have no idea who he is, no idea who he was, but he took ten minutes out of his own ride to make sure this triathlete on the side of the road in the middle of a sprint triathlon could finish the bike split and I had a terrible bike split obviously, buy hey I finished. I got that medal and without his help that would not have been the case. So thanks to that guy or stopping and using his own flat tire kit to help keep me rolling. So hey guys, we’re going to throw this out to you, our listeners. I know some of you all are going to have some great stories. Some really just encouraging stories just about a time that somebody stepped in and helped you out while you were on the race course. Maybe it was another athlete, maybe it was a volunteer, maybe it was a total stranger like it was for me. But we want to hear from you so make sure you are a part of the I AM TriDot Facebook group. We post our warm up questions every single Monday to the group and get some great responses. So go find this post and let us know what was the nicest thing somebody has done for you while you were racing. Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1… DELTAG KETONES:  The whole team here at TriDot has been learning from Oxford University professor Kieran Clarke, founder and CEO of TdeltaS Global about the performance and health benefits of drinking the revolutionary Oxford Ketone Ester called deltaG. Professor Clarke led the effort to develop deltaG which is now available in three strengths; 10 grams for health, 25 grams for performance, and 32 grams of raw ester to go that extra mile. deltaG is a powerful fuel source that augments physical performance, sharpens mental acuity, and supports your metabolic health. I’ve had success using deltaG for a boost going into an FTP test, I’ve had success using deltaG for IRONMAN prep stamina sessions, and most importantly deltaG helped get me to the finish line of my first IRONMAN in Waco. I’m excited to continue using deltaG in my training and racing. So head to deltagketones.com and try deltaG for yourself. At deltagketones.com they even offer free 15 minute one-on-one consultations where you can learn more, ask questions, and have those questions answered. So again, that’s deltagketones.com and use the code TRIDOT20 to get 20% off your super fuel deltaG ketone drinks. Andrew: On the surface the term stamina and endurance seem to be super, super similar. Both words paint a mental picture of an athlete doing an activity for a long, extended period of time and it’s this surface-level view of each term that leads many athletes astray in their approach to triathlon training. If you, like me, have never considered the difference between endurance and stamina and have always just considered yourself an endurance athlete, well buckle up because John and Jeff are about to give a heavy dose of perspective in our main set today. So guys, let’s get right to the heart of the conversation today. I think everyone has read between the lines enough to know that there is a difference between endurance and stamina. So let’s talk about each one. John, define endurance for us. John: So endurance is the ability to do something for a long period of time. So it would make sense that triathlon would be known as an endurance sport because we do go for a long time. Even a sprint race, generally more than an hour. Olympic distance, definitely more than an hour and then you get into the long course 70.3, full IRONMAN and beyond. Those are definitely multi-hour events, but I would argue that endurance is not the best way to describe those. Where we get into some real endurance events would be more like ultra marathons, extreme triathlons, mountain climbing. So something like climbing Everest is certainly a feat of endurance. So endurance is a lower intensity, it’s kind of accessing that diesel engine that goes kind of low RPM all day long. It’s very aerobic by nature so it’s a low intensity, it’s low heart rate, it’s a slower pace so that you can go for very long periods of time and that’s really where the differentiation is between an endurance event and a stamina event. Jeff: Yeah, I would even say that triathlon is known as– let’s say IRONMAN, a 17 hour time limit is such a long day that triathlon is endurance, but I would even argue that triathlon almost kind of should be called stamina events instead of endurance events. Andrew: Interesting. Yeah, interesting mindset there. Jeff: Let’s dive deeper into that right? Andrew: So Jeff, let’s talk about stamina. That’s the other term that we hear and we hear and we associate that mentally with going far and going long. It takes stamina to do that. So what is stamina and how is it different from endurance? Jeff: So yeah, kind of a small twist on what John was explaining as endurance. Here’s kind of just to start off a good example to simplify things. Let’s say someone has to do one push-up per second. That’s stamina. It’s stamina that will dictate how long you could perform the push-ups at a certain rate. However, if someone just wants to see how many push-ups they can do regardless of rate and time then that muscular endurance will be the determining factor. So these two terms are often mistakenly used and understood. So both of these concepts are kind of dealing with a parameter of time. So stamina as kind of a definition is– later on I’m going to dive into a really cool definition of stamina that I found in another question, but just a general– it’s the time an activity can be performed at maximum capacity while endurance is the maximum time a physical activity can be performed so the goal is to maximize time. So the main difference between the two are differentiated as parameters of time, but also the amount of force being exerted. So like triathlon for example has cut offs; there’s qualification standards. Age group awards, maybe you just want to beat a personal best. So there’s an incentive to capitalize on being as fast as possible in each discipline, right? We have to be out of the water in 2 hours and 20 minutes, right, for an IRONMAN. Andrew: Yeah. Jeff: So there’s…it’s not just swimming 2.4 miles. It’s swimming 2.4 miles in a given amount of time, the slowest allowed being 2:20. So because you have to hold a certain pace inside of that, that’s where that stamina aspect comes in. So the incentive there is being as fast as possible, right, but also to be able to complete the total distances. Endurance, yes, but with the goal is both stamina and endurance kind of talking together a little bit. Andrew: Yeah, that’s very interesting. So if I was going out of the front door on my bike to ride 100 miles, I would have a certain time I wanted to finish in, I would be trying to hold a certain pace and that would be a stamina endeavor where as if I was going out the front door and I was planning on riding 400 miles, well that would just be going whatever pace I had to hold onto in order to endure through the whole thing. So that’s a very kind of interesting way to look at it there Jeff. So for half distance or full distance triathlons, the races that triathlon athletes associate with needing stamina and/or endurance, which do we need to develop more? Do we need more of one or the other or does this change according to how long we’re going to be out on the course? John: So it will vary. That endurance/stamina line is going to be different for everyone, but the vast, vast majority of athletes that are competing in triathlon really are doing these events with a stamina focus. We want to race as quickly as possible. As a rule, we want to go out there and place as high as we can within our age group, within the overall results. We want to set PRs. We want to beat the times that we did before. So in doing so we’re really bracing. We’re really pushing, we’re doing these races as an intensity that is as high as possible for us. So that’s why we would argue that IRONMAN and then shorter distance is a stamina event. It’s not an endurance event. Again, because you have that focus to go out there and it’s a push. Even at IRONMAN, you’re still out there pushing and really digging. A lot of it is executed at zone 3 or higher whereas in an endurance event that is going to require more of that zone 1, zone 2. So it’s really not about how long you can go. That’s not how we compete in triathlon. It’s not to see who can swim, bike, and run the furthest. It’s who can swim, bike, and run a certain distance the fastest and that’s how we gauge our success. That’s what we aim for; is a time base not a distance base and that kind of gets into what Jeff was saying is that we’re time based. Andrew: Yeah, so John, even for an athlete who is going out to do an IRONMAN and they’re just trying to make the cutoff times and that is their goal for the day. They’re going to slide in just under all three cutoff times, they’re going to finish right at midnight. Even that, they are pushing for a certain time and needing to hold a certain pace and they’re striving for those paces as opposed to just trying to endure through the day. So even a back of the packer in an IRONMAN is still a stamina athlete and not an endurance athlete. John: Absolutely and I think that’s even what differentiates what we do and I think that’s the greatness of those time cutoffs is it prevents it from becoming an endurance event. Andrew: Gotcha. John: There’s a story from, I don’t know if it was the first IRONMAN Hawaii or one of the first. This was before there were cutoffs and there was somebody who actually finished in more than 24 hours. So I would say in that case, that IRONMAN was not a stamina event. That was an endurance event because… Andrew: He’s the only one. John: …that guy took– Andrew: He or she. John: Yeah. He took more than 24 hours to finish and yeah, you can imagine he was going really slow to take that. Now as hard as IRONMAN is to have 24 hours to do it, I can only imagine what those paces were, but they were low. If it takes you 24 hours to do an IRONMAN, those paces are low. They’re going to be zone 1. It’s going to be a low heart rate, but again that’s not what we’re in for. So again, it’s not about how far you can go. It’s more about how high your threshold number is and how long you can hold that. Andrew: Gotcha. John: So that’s really what we’re looking to do here is– and this kind of gets into that power-stamina paradox and this is where we’re really kind of fleshing it out is we want to develop those thresholds and then we want to have the stamina so that we can maintain a high percentage of that threshold. So that’s really the difference here is that threshold is what it is, but in stamina we’re looking to maintain a high percentage of that threshold for a long period of time. That’s how we race. Now endurance would be maintaining a much lower percentage. That threshold is going to be the same, but an endurance event you would be maintaining a much lower percentage of that threshold. So you could argue even a distinguishing factor would be what percentage of your threshold are you maintaining in it. So for that stamina event, it’s going to be a much higher percentage. For an endurance event it’s going to be a lower percentage and even then within the triathlon ranks obviously you are maintaining a much higher percentage of your threshold in a sprint race than you are at an IRONMAN, but regardless, you’re still maintaining a high percent. So that’s where we say don’t be an endurance athlete. Be a stamina athlete, and that’s really where we’re going to focus on… Andrew: Oh, I like that. John: …building that. So you know, we think about the pros out there. Whether they’re professionals of 70.3, IRONMAN, marathon, nothing they do is endurance. Their sprint pace is not far off from their IRONMAN pace. Those professional marathoners that are running low two hour marathons, their– you can look at it. You can tell. They are running very hard. They are running very fast. It almost looks like a sprint. So they are maintaining a very high percentage of their threshold. They don’t care about running 26.3 miles. They’re going to do whatever they can to get to 26.2 as fast as possible because they are stamina athletes, not endurance athletes. Andrew: Yeah, and so are we! We are stamina athletes and not endurance athletes. For them it’s a… John: Absolutely. Andrew: …two hour marathon and for us it might be a 3:30 or a 4 or a 5 or a 6 hour marathon, but it’s still trying to push a percentage of your threshold to finish the duration of that race and so that’s very interesting and really, John, it kind of ruins a lot of things in our sport to change that mindset because there are triathlon clubs out there that have the word “endurance” in their title. There are coaches that have the word “endurance” in their kind of coaching group name. There are podcasts that have “endurance” in the name of their podcast and there are some folks in our audience who do endurance events. They do the 100 mile running races and they do the Ultraman style stuff, but for the rest of us we’re really not endurance athletes. We’re actually stamina athletes and that takes a serious reprogramming of all of our brains after just years and years and years; decades of kind of considering ourselves endurance athletes, right? John: So maybe we should retitle the podcast the TriDot Stamina Podcast and– Andrew: Well, thankfully we are the TriDot Triathlon Podcast and not the TriDot Endurance Podcast. So we saved ourselves there, John. We saved ourselves. Jeff, I want to hear from you because you’re a very competitive armature who often is in the hunt for age group awards. You can hold a much higher percentage of your threshold than I can. What does your training look like in relation to building your power, stamina, and endurance throughout the season? Jeff: Man, you know– Thanks for that. Umm, junk miles are never a goal of mine, but you kind of spelled it out. Power, stamina, and endurance in your question there and we have those podcast episodes 10 and then the revisit, 70, which differentiates the power-stamina paradox, right? But inside of the stamina piece is what kind of we’re talking about today; endurance versus stamina and so this is kind of another layer of that onion we’re peeling back and kind of already know at this point in the episode that stamina is kind of the focus. It’s kind of that step up. Maybe it’s a little bit more hard core, so to speak, than endurance. Well, that’s arguable because doing a 100 mile race is super hard core. So I’m not saying that that is downplayed at all. Andrew: Yeah. Jeff: But now we kind of know as far as triathlon is concerned that stamina piece is kind of what we’re focusing on. So I would argue to be able to hold higher percentages of your threshold maybe for longer, maybe build upon years before– and I’ve gotten this question a lot. It’s kind of off season, it’s the end of the year. A lot of people are back in that developmental phase and so if you want to hold higher percentages of your threshold for longer duration, increase that stamina, well first you have to spend that time building up your power, your strength and that’s that first half of that developmental portion of TriDot. The first half of your season is that power, that long tent pole that we talk about in episode 10. So the longer that tent pole is, the higher the threshold is, then the higher the percentage you can hold later on. So that power piece is super important to the power-stamina paradox, but then kind of diving a little bit deeper, how do you increase that threshold so you can have better stamina later on? And that for me really is spending more months this year in developmental than I did last year. You don’t necessarily have to race less, but don’t be afraid to put a race in your TriDot calendar in as a C race. A lot of people put every race, you know one big one in the spring or a marathon in the winter, and then their summer race as an A race and their big fall race as an A race and they’re staying in that race prep stamina phase all year long. About 10 months out of maybe the last 12 months for a lot of new athletes that I see and maybe they just don’t understand this aspect, but spending more months in that precious developmental before you go into that stamina phase is how you can increase that long tent pole year to year and how you can be able to hold higher percentages of that threshold. So kind of lastly– sorry to drag this out, but like think of it as like, there’s been tons of studies why pros are better than age group athletes and they’re just able to hold that uncomfortableness for longer. That’s called TTE or time to exhaustion and just being able to hold that grit, that pain. I think we all know Lionel Sanders is kind of the master of it right now. He bikes so hard until he cries, right? And so I think that stamina is also training that mental aspect as well as the physical ability. John: I think that is a great distinguishment that there truly is a mental aspect to it because there is a certain amount of what we refer to as pain in the intensities that we hold while racing whether it’s sprint race or IRONMAN or anything in between which a lot of that, as you mentioned, is dialing in that mental ability to do so. That’s one of the reasons why our monthly assessments are so important. It’s teaching and reinforcing that as a skill and I would say and even argue, an endurance event has I think different type of pain. You’re out there for hours and hours and hours doing incredible distances and that sort of thing so your body breaks down in a different way. So as opposed to pushing the intensity and how high and how hard you’re pushing, it’s how long. So kind of again that time aspect of it whereas, you’re climbing Everest by the time you get to the top your body is severely depleted, but it’s depleted in a different way than you pushing hard and going redline for your sprint race. So that’s a great distinguishment there. Andrew: I know a lot of us enjoy following the pros on social media and on YouTube and we see all these training hours they’re doing and it can make it seem like more is better. They do more and they’re better than me, so I should do more like them to get faster. Why is this the wrong approach for the majority of triathletes? John: It’s an easy trap to fall into because “if some is good, more is better” is so much of a logic that we follow in so many things, but it’s really not necessarily the case here. So it kind of gets into stamina and endurance, but particularly with the pros. Oftentimes we see training in terms of hours or miles, something like that. We don’t really see the mix of what makes up those hours and what makes up those miles. So it is important as we know to train not just those aerobic abilities, the aerobic systems, but we also want to train the anaerobic systems as well. So we want a good, proper mix of zone 2, 3, 4, 5 as Jeff mentioned earlier. Really training the entire body is necessary to maximize your performance and the pros are doing that. Now, they do train at higher volumes than your average age grouper, but that additional zone 2 is only added when the others are maxed out. So we have a finite capacity of how much we can train at zone 3, zone 4, zone 5. We have a finite capacity of how much adaptation that we can make. Now zone 2 is almost unlimited. You can go out and do easy zone 2 rides for hours and hours and hours on end. You can swim at a low intensity for hours and hours. You can run at an easy intensity as much as your body can absorb those miles safely. So that extra volume will produce incremental gains, but those gains will be incremental and that’s the important distinction. So it’s going to take a whole lot of time to get a little bit faster which is worth it for those top tier pros, or top athletes, but likely not worth the extra hours for the majority of amateurs. One, we just don’t have the time and two, that additional time comes with additional risk and additional requirements. So the more training that we do, your risk of injury increases exponentially. So especially for the older athletes, the heavier athletes, all those things really make it that much more difficult to do that additional training and again it’s going to even marginalize those gains even more. Something we don’t always see is the amount of time that the pros then dedicate to things like strength work, mobility, stability, recovery. They are taking care of their bodies in concert with all that training that is and that doesn’t always get quantified on Strava to where we see it, but there is a certain amount of required effort and work that goes into supporting that training and I will say that the pros, as a rule, do a much, much better job than me and a lot of age groupers, amateurs like me. So if you are going to do that additional work, if you are chasing those incremental gains and doing so by doing those higher volume of training, you absolutely must really prioritize all that extra stuff and this includes things like great nutrition, plenty of sleep, stress reduction, all those things that are going to allow the body to make those incremental gains through that additional training volume. Jeff: And doing all of those things consistently. There’s a new pro on the circuit, right? He’s been out there for two years now, but maybe he’s been doing triathlon for ten years and maybe eight years before that he was a pro Olympian swimmer or something, right? And so they’re being consistent and working up to those volumes and so just because we see that pro, “Hey, I want to be like him.” we don’t just add all those hours per week in thinking that that’s going to make us faster because that pro probably spent 15-20 years working up to that. So whether you’re trying to increase your endurance or your stamina, I would argue they both take consistency to develop and to develop them well. So know your goal, how to train that aspect of your sport is key in seeing those improvements. Andrew: So many of our listeners race short course exclusively. They do sprints. They do Olympics. They keep it to that. And sprints and Olympics, guys, they are hard. I almost forgot that training for an IRONMAN. Recently doing the USAT Remote National Championship, the inaugural event for Remote Racing which was just so fun. That was the first time I’ve put in an Olympic effort in years and my legs were like freaking out. I’m on the bike holding zone 4 watts and my legs are like, “What are we doing?”, like “What is this?” It’s just a totally different thing from racing long course and a lot of our athletes they love that and they do sprints, they do Olympics, and that is their jam. Is this conversation between endurance and stamina and is the distinguishment between those two really relevant for them in their training? Or for our short course racing athletes, do athletes need to even be developing either? John: So, not really as far as the endurance component of it goes. Very, very, very few people will not complete a sprint distance race or an Olympic distance race because they do not have the endurance to do so. Now, there is a certain component of it, but those athletes that are training consistently that are training with intentional purpose that are looking to improve their performance, especially those that are racing sprint and Olympic distance race, it is all about power. Sprint and Olympic distance racing is pure power. You’re just going hard. Each segment is either the entire race in the case of a sprint is sometimes under an hour. Most sprint races for most are 90 minutes or less and then same thing with an Olympic. Each leg is give or take an hour at most. So your swim for most is going to be under an hour. Bike and run kind of go back and forth on either side of that one hour mark which really defines threshold. So for most your sprint execution is going to be at or above your threshold power, Olympic is at or just below your threshold and again, that’s racing with that certain amount of intensity. One thing I’ve always told the athletes that I coach is especially at the pony end if you’re looking to place overall or place in your age group often times it comes down to who is willing to hurt the most and that goes back to that point that Jeff made earlier that there’s certainly a mental aspect to racing with stamina as opposed to endurance. So it’s developing that ability not only to push physically, but having that ability to push mentally and really push to where you’re uncomfortable and that’s really the key to racing those short course races. So again, we look at those that do it really well. We look at the races in the Olympics and your short course races. Those guys are going very, very hard. They’re very uncomfortable. Those guys collapse at the end even more so than your 70.3 and IRONMAN athletes simply because they are pushing so hard. They are maintaining such a high level of their threshold that by the end they’re just done. They’ve left it all out there on the course and that’s really what that is. So again, it’s not endurance. It’s not about simply completing that distance for the vast, vast majority of those participants in the race. Not to say anything against those that are using it as an opportunity just to finish and achieve something. That’s great, but again for the vast majority of us that are competing either against other athletes or competing against ourselves, the focus really needs to be on maximizing power so that we can complete that distance as quick as possible. Jeff: Absolutely and to do that and to hold those higher percentages of your thresholds for longer, we have to stay engaged. We have to be intentional in that moment, in that race to push that hard for that long and to kind of ride the cusp because we want every second out of that time split in that discipline. You know we have to be present. We have to be super focused. You know, Andrew, you kind of alluded like, let’s just say you woke up one morning, it’s sun up and your goal is just to bike 112 miles. Right? you can take breaks, you can stop at McDonalds, get a cheeseburger, you can get back on the bike, you can— Andrew: Yeah I can. Jeff: But if you want to finish top three in your age group off the bike and be in contention going into the marathon for a Kona slot, right, there’s just that whole other level and that’s that stamina. That’s what we have to do and kind of what John was saying; that mental aspect and staying focused is just a whole other level even in those shorter disciplines. Like you were saying also. I would almost rather do a 70.3 than an Olympic because that Olympic is such a high percentage of your threshold. It just hurts and you have to be engaged and accept that pain for so long that I’d almost rather just back off 5 or 10% and hold it for an extra few hours. So hopefully, if you have great stamina you can produce more work at less physiologic effort, which that’s the goal of training in general and triathlon in particular. As we want to finish higher and higher in our age groups and also have those time goals and cutoffs. So endurance alone will not produce those better results when you’re comparing yourself to others in your age group. Andrew: I just want to go on record Jeff after all of that great information you just said and I want our viewers to know if I’m ever going for a bike ride and I’m stopping for a fast food burger on that bike ride, that burger would not be from McDonalds. It would be from Five Guys Burgers and Fries. That would be my fast food burger of choice personally. Much superior to the Wendy’s and Jack in the Box and McDonalds’ of the world. John: I think we also know Andrew enough to know that if he’s out on a bike ride and he’s pulling into McDonalds he is gone. There’s like– you need to pull him off the road. It is gone. Andrew is not okay. We need to pull him off and get him some help. Andrew: So you guys have separated these two terms for us just wonderfully. Beautiful job. Kudos. Claps, claps all around for both of you. I understand the difference. I see the difference. When athletes or even coaches don’t consider what energy systems we need to train for an upcoming event; they don’t see the importance of stamina over endurance for most tri scenarios, what mistakes get made in the training of those athletes? John: So it is common and it’s– I get it. I understand it. I started off myself with it. Again, it’s referred to as an endurance sport. It’s longer than– When I first got into triathlon it was longer than anything I had ever done so I wanted to go and log as many miles as I could so that I could do it successfully. Jeff: Beat yesterday, right? John: And largely in the early days of triathlon training that was the logic. That’s what the top athletes did. They did incredible amounts of volume with the thoughts of “If I do more I’m going to get better. I’m going to get faster.” But as we have advanced in our training in both our understanding, analysis of data, and what data shows us we have a different approach and we understand that in training just one system doesn’t produce our best results. So again, that initial thought in what athletes did as a rule 20-30 years ago and to a certain extent often many athletes still do, is they focus on that aerobic system especially those that are racing long course. It’s developing that cardiac efficiency so you can go all day long. You go all day long at a low heart rate, but really it’s not living up to your full potential. It’s not– when we don’t train the full athlete in all those systems, in all those abilities it really produces lackluster results and then the athlete will never realize their true potential if they’re only training a particular portion of the systems, the anatomy, all those things that help us on race day if we just train a select group of that or a portion of that. Again, we’re never going to produce our best results. So oftentimes this is where we get into junk miles where, again like we talked about where “if some is good, more is better.” If a few miles are good, I’m going to do a lot of miles and this is where the risk of injury goes up. So it’s having a very specific intent of every session and knowing exactly what you should do and as Jeff mentioned before that’s really the power of TriDot is determining exactly what amount of volume is beneficial. What mix of different training zones and training different systems is going to produce your best results, and then pairing that with the appropriate amount of recovery. So there are a lot of mistakes that can be made and oftentimes that mistake is really focusing on endurance and that low intensity part whereas that’s not really what’s going to produce our best results. So one thing I often say is “You only need enough endurance to get to the finish line.” Whatever endurance you have beyond that is really not of any use. So even in IRONMAN you need to go 140.6 miles. You go 140.6 miles and you can collapse at the finish line. So it doesn’t do you any good to be able to do 141 miles on race day… Andrew: Yeah. John: …or beyond. So as long as you have the endurance necessary to reach the finish line, which again the vast, vast majority of athletes do. Even those that aren’t making the cutoff aren’t missing cutoff because they don’t have the endurance to make the finish line. It’s because they didn’t have enough power. It’s because they didn’t have the pace. They didn’t have the ability to maintain a high percentage of their threshold long enough to meet those cutoffs. It has nothing to do, as a rule, with having insufficient amount of endurance. It has to do with having insufficient amount of stamina. Jeff: Yeah, I think a lot of people just try to– typically earlier in the sport, right, you’re one, two, three years into the sport. You’re still figuring things out, but people want to beat yesterday. You know, my longest ride yesterday was 20 miles and today I biked 30 so I’m getting better, right? Maybe so. You’ve added some endurance there and then they work up to 112 miles lets say. Then once they’ve hit that then they maybe focus on then trying to get faster at 112 and that’s just wrong and it takes sometimes years for people to understand that and you have to develop the strength and your thresholds early in the season and the grit and mental aspect of it all has to come with it, but it’s often neglected. The strength, the power first is often neglected early in the season and it’s under developed. So I just want to throw out there that increasing your stamina it’s harder. It’s grit. It’s zone 4 and above essentially, zone 3-ish too. But doing that early in the season allows you to cope with stress and that discomfort while participating in a certain activity or workout right. So developing the strength and thresholds, that stamina, allows you to really, really hit it hard you know the back half of the season. So when you’re doing the longer sessions later on in the season, you’re doing them faster and you don’t even really know it if that makes sense. Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. And John, something that you just said reminded me of a story of an athlete that we just met in IRONMAN Arizona, which at the time we were recording this podcast we were at IRONMAN Arizona just a few weeks back and saw a lot of TriDotters reach the IRONMAN finish line at that race. So congrats to them, but we were standing on the run course, we were cheering for athletes going by. Most athletes going by us were on their second loop about to start their third and we had a guy run by. He saw us wearing our TriDot stuff and was like, “Hey TriDot!” And so I started jogging with him for a few minutes and as I was jogging next to him and talking with him he’s an athlete who listens to the podcast, has not used TriDot training, but he was joining the TriDot Preseason Project so by now he might be in the Preseason Project and doing the training, but he heard the podcast and basically he signed up for IRONMAN Arizona. He did little to no training for IRONMAN Arizona and sure enough, by golly he was out there and he was on his way to completing IRONMAN Arizona. He finished that race with little to no training because within him just as a descent athlete already he had the endurance to finish 140.6 miles, but now plugging into TriDot and doing the training he’s going to raise his thresholds, he’s going to get his thresholds better because he’s going to build out his power, and then he’s going to build out his stamina to hold a higher percentage of that threshold for the duration of his next IRONMAN and we all know the story. He’s going to do hopefully so much better in his next IRONMAN. John: Yeah, that’s a great example of endurance versus stamina because as you mentioned he had not particularly trained so he was not racing at a high level of his threshold. He was probably not pushing real hard, but he did have the endurance to go and do that, but what we will see, and this is very common, when athletes change their training approach this is where we typically see athletes and regularly see athletes especially at IRONMAN distance shaving hours off of their finishing time. So like this guy, when he follows the TriDot training, as you mentioned he’s going to improve all those things. His next race is going to be very different and again I can very easily almost promise that he is going to shave hours off of that simply because the execution is changing and it’s changing the focus, the approach, the execution from an endurance event to a stamina event. Andrew: And he’s changing himself from an endurance athlete into a stamina athlete which we now know is what we are supposed to be striving for. John: You stole my line! That’s what I was going to say so well done. Andrew: So guys, tell me this. How does different training between endurance and stamina help TriDot specifically with the training design that athletes have on their plans? Jeff: You know, good question. TriDot is not merely a calendar. The training design is dynamic. It’s constantly changing. It’s optimized just for you and we use data to drive that training. So you’re not going to start stamina– everyone out there is not going to start adding volume exactly 12 weeks out from that IRONMAN let’s say. Some people might be 9, some people might be 17 weeks out and as data comes in and as your thresholds change, your race day projected times in each discipline change. So TriDot knows the time you’re going to spend in each discipline on your specific course as well. So TriDot doesn’t train you for a 112 mile bike ride. It’s training you for the time that you’re going to spend on your specific course in your specific conditions on your race day. So if ten months out your thresholds are a little bit lower, let's say, and you are going to spend eight hours on the bike course then you may need a little bit more time in the stamina phase. But as you get closer to that race day and as you get stronger, you then may go 5-½ hours potentially on that race day. So your stamina phase would start essentially later and so everyone’s different in that regard, but TriDot knows you and knows the race you’re training for and it knows the conditions and elevation and all these really cool factors of your specific race day and so as the data comes in, day to day workouts even are dynamically changed to really get you steered to that race day in that safest, most efficient way possible. John: That’s really a win win as you mention there. So as you improve your threshold, your bike split for example is going to come down. So now as your bike split is reduced say from 6-½ hours to 6 hours to 5-½ hours, now you don’t need to do as long of training because you don’t need to be out there doing those long sessions if you’re going to be on the bike for 5-½ to 6 hours as opposed to 6-½ to 7 hours. So it’s not going to be as long. Andrew: Yeah, great point. John: So now you have less training volume, but now you don’t need as much ramp up time either. So now if your longest ride is six hours instead of seven hours, you don’t need to start building that volume as soon. So now you have even more time to continue to develop the threshold. So now you’re getting faster and faster because you don’t need to focus on building that stamina as soon, but to flip the coin, if all you were doing is focusing on endurance and neglecting the power, neglecting focusing on that threshold and that really gets into the crux of the power-stamina paradox, if all you’re ever doing is working on your endurance, that threshold is never going to come up. So those splits are not going to come down so you are going to need to do those longer sessions. So it really is a catch 22, but a benefit of doing that training properly in that not only are you reducing the amount of time that is necessary to train, you’re also increasing the time you have to focus and build on that power; build up that speed so you’re racing faster and training fewer hours in the meantime. Andrew: There are a lot of different multisport challenges out there that we can partake in and some of them will take us beyond 140.6 miles involved in an IRONMAN. There are extreme triathlons, there are multi day bike tours, there is Ultraman, Ultra Trail 100Ks, and 100 milers; all sorts of craziness out there for athletes to try if they want to go super long. So tell me this. At what point does a race become an endurance event and how does our training change accordingly? Jeff: Yeah, I think we’ve touched on this a little bit, but when that pace that is endured is all maybe a zone 2. That anaerobic aspect is not involved and maybe we’re closer to a resting heart rate lets say, then I would argue that that is more of an endurance event rather than really seeing how fast you can test your limits in that shorter amount of time with that higher intensity. John: So yeah, taking that a step further it’s when you cannot race that distance at a higher intensity. When you’re forced to race at that low intensity that’s it. I think kind of a test would be what are the intensities, what are the paces of the elite athletes that are doing it. So we can look at things like a half marathon or marathon pace versus that same athletes 100 miler pace whereas those elite athletes are running a marathon at a low 6 minute pace, they may be doing close to double that for something like a 100 mile trail race. And obviously they are a little different, different terrain, but when there’s such a huge disparity that really would be indicative of really switching over from that stamina event from that endurance event and it even goes along with what Jeff mentioned as long as energy systems. When you’re relying primarily on that anaerobic system and now you’re relying exclusively on the aerobic system that would be kind of one of those crossover points there. Then of course your training changes and then not only does it require training for your fitness, but also conditioning the body. So your muscular systems, your bones, all of that have to be trained to support for those because again you’re getting into– like I mentioned earlier climbing Everest is very challenging on your body. It’s demanding on your body. There’s a lot of risk to your physicality in that. So if you are having to do things like that, really enforcing things like strength training and recovery so that your body can go the distance. You know, very rarely– now there may be an injury or something like that that causes an athlete to DNF at even an IRONMAN distance race, but it’s rare that the body would break down in a single day event like that. So again, some of those distinctions. It’s energy systems. It’s the training. It’s the wear and tear on the body. It’s different in a stamina event and an endurance event. Andrew: I’m going to make the argument as we close down the main set here that spectating an IRONMAN is more of an endurance event than racing an IRONMAN. Y’alls thoughts? Jeff: I like that. Wow! That is spot on. I never thought of that and I agree. John: You are not wrong. That is a great observation and man, so I’d say the three of us are pretty good endurance athletes as far as that goes because we have certainly done our share fair– We’ve certainly done our share– Andrew: We’ve certainly done our fair share of that, John. John: Fair share. We have done our fair share of time. Yeah for us it’s a 17+ hour day and like I always say we don’t have the benefit of aid stations so it’s even harder for us sometimes. Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down. Andrew: Back on episode 94 of the TriDot podcast we talked about how to handle whatever weather race day throws your way. On that show we referenced the 2021 edition of IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene. With unexpected hot conditions and very little shade on course it was a tough IRONMAN for sure. We had many TriDotters out there giving it their best shot on a challenging day and one of the athletes that made it to the finish line was hometown TriDot ambassador Nicole Montgomery. I asked her to come on and just share a little about her race and what all she did to get through the crazy heat. So Nicole, welcome to the show! Nicole Montgomery: Thank you so much for having me on Andrew. Oh my goodness, what an honor to share this experience. Andrew: So Nicole, first off you’re actually from the Coeur d’Alene area and you actually helped John Mayfield and myself with the planning of all of our TriDot at the Races events while we were in town so thanks so much for your help just in making that weekend so enjoyable for everyone from TriDot. Did you enjoy getting to kind of host everyone for an IRONMAN in your hometown? Nicole: Oh, you are so welcome for the help. It was such a fun experience just being part of the planning process and I really started counting down the days until everyone would arrive in Coeur d’Alene. Having you and John come to town and gather our group together made this event even that much more special. It was my first time participating in a TriDot at the Race activities and meeting fellow TriDotters, it built the energy throughout the week as we all counted down the days and discussed everything TriDot and race related. What was really cool was seeing my daughters’ excitement for the famous John Mayfield and then yourself coming to town and for them to both be able to meet you when they were volunteering at the IRONMAN tent. That was pretty awesome. Andrew: Yep, enjoyed getting to meet them. Enjoyed getting to hear– one’s a tennis player which I played tennis so I got to talk with her about tennis a little bit. The other plays water polo. So it was fun meeting them and getting to talk sports a little bit. Nicole: Yeah, and actually my older daughter mentioned the tennis the other day. You know, and just seeing you and John on race day, it was phenomenal. We had a really long wait for our swim start and having both of you come over and then you bring my daughters over with water, that was super helpful. Heading out to T1 and on the run course and even on the run laps just being able to stop for a brief moment for encouraging words with you guys was really helpful. You guys are amazing and just thank you for all the TriDotter support on race week. It was a blast. Andrew: So I mean, just working with you on planning the TriDot at the Races events you come across just as a very well planned individual and you were as ready as anyone could be for the conditions on the day. Knowing it was going to be such a hot day, what were some of the tangible measures that you took to keep yourself moving in the heat? Nicole: Oh, my biggest concern by far was nutrition, hydration, electrolyte balance. I know John Mayfield said a couple times, “Hydrate like it’s your job.” and that really resonated how critical it would be and when I asked a friend who is a doctor about it even, he’s competed in Coeur d’Alene IRONMAN and he’s also volunteered in the medical tent, and he said the most common reason for people not being able to finish was electrolyte imbalance. So that really kind of sent me searching for what might work and again you can put together what seems like a rock solid plan and just pray it works because you don’t know how your body is going to respond. So I got lucky. I was visiting with a friend whose husband is also very knowledgeable and he helped me put together a detailed nutrition plan with some hydration, electrolytes, and calculate everything out. And again, it could be flexible, but it ended up on a spreadsheet. Andrew: Nice. Nicole: Even leading up to this nutrition during the long rides it’s been an ongoing struggle which probably gave me even more concern going into this race and Coach Elizabeth has helped me a ton just during race rehearsal rides. One interesting take James had on it though was instead of just having periodic time frames for consuming calories; hydration was ongoing, but the calorie consumption, it was where I would be on the course when I would be consuming calories. So that was kind of a good tip and it worked well since I was familiar with the course and was able to get my nutrition in at better places on the course. The only thing that really sat well with me that day were the mashed potatoes. Those were magic, but I also kept my electrolytes and water separate to evaluate how I was feeling. I stopped at every single aid station. It seemed excessive on the first loop and even as I was riding back into town just thinking about how I felt, I felt good coming back into town, but I knew I just needed to continue those stops to stay ahead of hydration and nutrition for a successful finish. During the lead up to the race I had so many questions and just kept my eyes and ears open for changes others were making on the IRONMAN CDA page as well as the TriDot CDA page, just invaluable information from more experienced people. I saw this, it was called a Cool Running Hat that someone had recommended. I thought it looked practical so now I’m the proud owner of one. I wore it over my visor and kept it full of ice on the run and it’s I guess we’ll call it a hat cape. It kept my neck and ears covered. Andrew: Yeah. Nicole: I contemplated bringing my running vest throughout the week not really knowing if I would need it or not. So just to get it ready I put electrolyte drinks in the bottles and water in the bladder and froze them the night before the race so they would be hopefully still cold by the time I got to that point in the race. With the old school transition area I was able to have a small cooler so I tucked it under my bike. Andrew: Oh that’s really smart. Yeah. Nicole: Yeah and actually I asked one of the IRONMAN staff the day before and he was like, “Well, it needs to be a real small cooler.” But, umm, that was okay. So as I was, by this point very overheated riding back into T2, I almost decided I just didn’t want the extra weight for the run so then I thought, well gosh, I’m going to feel it, see how it is and it was cold, it was wet, it was just what I needed for that point in the race and I actually ended up drinking everything in it as well as refilling the bottles a few times. With the temperatures that day it was unbelievable how much fluid we needed to take in. Andrew: Yeah. Nicole: And so I do have to thank you Andrew for taking that hat and vest right before the finish line. Andrew: Absolutely. My pleasure. Nicole: I had no idea how gross they were until I picked up the bag from your hotel the next day. It was a total smelly swamp in that plastic bag. Andrew: Yep, and I wanted to kind of do this interview with you because I wanted people to hear. You know, we talk on the podcast, we give tips for training in the heat, racing in the heat, racing in crazy weather, and we give as many tips as we can think of and when you’re on a day like that where the conditions are tough, the temps have risen, it’s like John always says about you’ve got to drink like it’s your job. You’ve got to drink like it’s your job. You’ve got to manage your core temperature like it’s your job because if your body starts to overheat it’s very hard to undo that and it’s very hard to make yourself continue to the finish line of a distance event once you’ve overheated. So you’ve gotta keep that temperature down. So everything you’ve talked– you just gave us so many things on the bike and run that you did to stay ahead of it and give your body a shot of getting to the finish line and that’s fantastic. Another thing that comes with that though, we talked on episode 94 about lowering our expectations in hot conditions for what pace we’re going to be able to hold and what finish time we’ll be able to end up with. How much did you back off your desired pace in an attempt to get to the finish line? Nicole: Oh goodness. So I knew going into the race early on my sole focus was to stay healthy, stay safe, and finish my first IRONMAN. So any pacing goals, they were pretty loosely held at that point. So I backed off quite a bit. Since it was my first IRONMAN, again I just really focused on finishing, making nutrition and hydration a top priority. My bike was still reasonably solid and there was definitely a difference between the first lap and the second lap when you can really see the weather heating up and then we had kind of a surprise headwind coming back into town the second lap, but every single aid station I took some time. The first lap I did notice a lot of people not stopping and it felt a little lonely at some points and then I even wondered at times, was it really necessary, but I knew that was the plan and it was also kind of a moment for me just to pause and to consider, you know how am I feeling? Do I need anything else? Do I feel like I need more water, more electrolytes? So when I got off my bike I checked my watch, and I was actually pretty warm, so I checked my watch to see if I had time to walk the whole marathon if I needed to. I just felt really hot. My cold vest hadn’t kicked in yet. I looked at my watch and I decided no, you know it would be a little bit too risky to have a whole walk plan so the next plan was to jog four and walk one minute and then that quickly turned into jog three, walk two which didn’t exactly match up with the aid stations on the first loop. But after working through some of the hydration I actually had a whole bunch of honey sticks tucked into my vest for instant sugar and that definitely helped perk me up and I started to feel better. So I was able to speed my pace up a bit for the second and third loops and I was starting to feel much better at that time. It was definitely a time of reflection and just gratitude for all those Z2 runs and just being consistent with those and with pacing during training. Even during training practicing the walk/run strategy on my training runs– and sometimes it’s hard to practice those. Andrew: Yeah it sure is. Nicole: Because you don’t need to walk. So you know, you’re out there thinking okay, you know it’s time to walk when forcing yourself to even when you don’t feel like you need to walk on a training run. It was valuable come race day and it just helped me really get through these tough conditions. During the race when my pace would start to drop a bit I would walk a little bit or walk up a hill, kind of regroup, and then get back going at my Z2 pace. So that definitely, it helped a ton. All those Z2 runs I was so thankful for those on race day. Andrew: Well it was your first IRONMAN finish line. It was in your hometown. Mike Riley was on the microphone and your friends and family were in attendance. What did that finish line mean to you? Nicole: Oh, it was magical. My heart was so full of gratitude and appreciation for everyone who had supported me in this journey. My husband has been absolutely amazing through this process. It’s been a goal for so long. I remember when I was– I was 39-½ weeks pregnant with my daughter who is now 13 volunteering at this race and just thought, “Wow, I want to do that someday.” You know, finishing was absolutely amazing. All day on the course I had worn my white running hat, white running vest, and I had actually taken my extra running gear off for the finish line pictures so my friends and family didn’t recognize me initially. Andrew: That’s great. Nicole: It was kind of funny after the fact. I slowed down a bit, took it in, but also kept going since there is a little bit of a risk of crying at that point. Andrew: Yeah. Nicole: I’m like, I just need to finish that, that finish line, and take it all in. But hearing my name called and crossing that finish line was simply the best. Andrew: Well that’s it for today folks. I want to thank John Mayfield and Jeff Raines for helping us master the stamina-endurance misnomer. Shout out to TriDot ambassador Nicole Montgomery for sharing her IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene experience with us. Huge thanks to deltaG for partnering with us on this episode. To learn more about the performance boosting benefits of deltaG ketones, head to deltagketones.com and use the code TRIDOT20 for 20% off your order. Enjoying the podcast? Have any topics or questions you want to hear us talk about? Head to tridot.com/podcast to let us know what you’re thinking. We'll do it all again soon. Until then, Happy Training! Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.
Co-Hosts: Jeff Booher
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