Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The events leading up to the marathon were totally amazing. I’ve never been to such a wonderful and inspiring pre-event meal as the Team in Training pasta dinner. The coaches, staff, and mentors dressed like crazy people in green and purple and cheered us all into the convention hall. It was our own kind of Olympic opening ceremony and it absolutely defies description. Then, while noshing on some so-so pasta (everything couldn’t be perfect after all), we were treated to some marvelous speakers, the funniest of whom was John “The Penguin” Bingham. He warned us about some of the stages we’d hit during the run. The most pertinent to my run the following day were the Brain Melt stage (fairly self-explanatory) and the Bite Me stage (more about this later). We had a cancer survivor, who was also running, talk to us about her journey. This, combined with the tear-jerker pamphlets on every table loaded with stories both wonderful and terrible and applauding our part in helping to beat this thing, really drove home the import of what Team in Training does. My finishing the marathon had very little to do with it but the dollars raised towards beating blood cancers means everything. (And for those wondering if their donation was well spent—the answer is yes, and not only because I did indeed finish.)
Given the inspiring nature of the night before, I was a little surprised to find that I was feeling sort of blasé the next morning when I got to the race. Maybe this is because I’m slow enough that I was way, way, way back from the starting line. Maybe this was because I was still too sleepy to be jazzed up (we hit the race corrals at about 5:30am). Since the race didn’t start until 7 (and I didn’t hit the starting line for another 10-15 minutes), I stood around shivering in the cold and chatted with my fellow runners. I also ate my first gel of the day and true to ornery form, despite having been told to do nothing new the morning of the race, I tried a new flavor of gel. Bad choice! Fruit punch gel is officially as gross as lemon/lime Gu. Even better, I had one more of them pinned to my shirt for use later in the race. Yes, I looked like a running-ready bag lady with energy replacement stuff pinned all over my shirt (another thing I hadn’t tested out before the actual run). As a matter of fact, this became a problem later on as the flapping of the gels annoyed me and then several of them broke free and I had to circle back to get them (okay, only 5 yards or so, but still!). To solve my first stupid “shouldn’t have done it without trying it” thing, I ended up stuffing the rest of them, still attached to my shirt, into my shorts. Now I looked like a total nerd with the attractive eggplant purple shirt tucked in and lumps around my midriff (right where I need extra padding, don’t you know) where the gels were. Even better, I later discovered that the safety pins had torn slits in the shirt but I didn’t notice this until after I’d been trying to wrestle extremely warm and runny gels out of my shorts for ingestion every four or so miles. Yum-o. Not!
So aside from starting out very slowly, as we were advised to do (see, I do listen sometimes!), things were cooking along pretty well. I didn’t trip when I peeled off the sweatshirt I’d bought specifically to dump at the race (the piles of discarded clothing at races is mind boggling but at least the local women’s shelter got a lot of good stuff out of the discards). I felt relatively decent trotting down the Embarcadero, even if we could see very little of the wonderful views we were supposedly passing. I’m not great at looking up from the pavement when I run anyway but I did try to take my cousin’s advice to see the sights and was immediately sorry I had. Ahead of me I could see mile 6 looming. And I do mean looming. There was a huge snaking river of people flowing slowly up the largest hill I’d ever contemplated running. Now I had looked at this beast on the elevation map of the race so I knew it went on for a good mile plus. What I didn’t realize was just how steep something that goes from practically sea level to over 200 feet in that distance really is. And running towards it was not giving me any warm fuzzies. I got about half-way up it and decided that running the whole thing was ludicrous so promptly started walking, at which point, I am sorry to say, coach B. saw me, jogged out, and joined me to keep me running. Yes, I was guilted into running but I got my own back. I had obviously hit an early Bite Me stage like we’d heard about the night before. This is where you are completely irrational and nasty, even to your best friend in the world. So when B. told me I was doing great and asked how I was feeling, I f-bombed him. Yup. My charming and smiling (I kid you not, I was actually smiling as I gritted this out) response was “This f---ing sucks.” My mother would be so proud (and she’s probably horrified just reading about it—so no mom, even a creative person couldn’t have come up with a better or more appropriate word at that moment. I promise.). So B. got me back, telling me he wouldn’t lie to me and I was only about half way up. I wasn’t liking him too very much right at that moment. But him running beside me got me through it and I got to be angry instead of crying so I guess that was a good thing. (And apparently while I was the only one from Charlotte who cussed him out, I was small potatoes compared to a woman from another chapter who needed “encouragement” from him as well. Who knew the coaches took so much abuse during the run?)
The next time I felt a Bite Me moment was when I noticed that I was feeling completely irrational hatred towards the half marathoners at mile 11. This was the point where we full marathoners had to plug on out further than they did and then come back and join them again later in the race. I felt even more serious hatred towards these innocent folks when they peeled off the final time towards the finish and I had to turn my back on them and head out towards the farthest point from the finish in the entire race. Not a happy moment.
I eventually got over hating the half folks, or maybe I just forgot they were even around, and concentrated on running the second half of my own appallingly long race. While I was pleased to be finished with the most egregious hill of the race and knew that the second half of the course was about as flat as San Francisco gets, the early hill took its delayed revenge when my thigh muscles started to spasm at about mile 14. Now these muscles had never made a peep during all of my training. They hadn’t made their presence known even on my 20 mile run. So I was completely and totally disheartened to have this happen. And obviously I didn’t have the mental reserves to deal with it since I immediately started to feel sorry for myself that I couldn’t even make it 20 miles in the actual race without having problems. This, my friends, is where things went downhill for me (although not literally). Runners call it bonking or hitting the wall. I just wanted to cry (or quit, but since I can’t read a map, I had no idea where in heaven’s name I was or how to get back to where I wanted to be: my hotel bed). So I soldiered on in a combination of running and walking, reminding myself, way too frequently, “There’s no shame in walking. There’s no shame in walking.” I probably would have walked more but my legs hurt more walking than they did running plus I had just enough pride left that I wanted to run whenever I saw people lining the course. Heaven forbid they think I was a slacker!
I continued this rather sad mental breakdown version of a run/walk while throwing myself a huge pity party as I went along. The conversation in my head (and yes, it was an actual conversation since I was answering myself back) was not pretty. When we came to mile 17 or 18 and we had a long out and back run along Ocean Beach, I gave serious consideration to jumping the berm and heading back towards the finish line with all the people who had already run in my direction, circled Lake Merced, and were now within inches of the finish line (okay maybe not inches, maybe miles, but a lot fewer miles than I was). But then my inner greediness took over and reminded me that if I got caught, no Tiffany finisher’s necklace at the end. So I kept going, albeit in a state of high dudgeon.
The loop out to and around Lake Merced was dead boring. And by that hour of the day, we had to run alongside traffic, which is never the nicest of circumstances. The lake was problematic for me for another reason though too. It was at a point around the lake that I finally needed to hit the bathroom with a desperation bordering on comical. And without a first aid stop in sight, I actually considered popping down into the vegetation bordering the lake. Unfortunately it was very steep there and I figured my thigh muscles not only couldn’t handle a simple squat but that they’d never get me back up the steep-sided incline so I clenched hard and ran until I found a porta-potty nicely labeled “for staff only” at about mile 22. If someone had tried to stop me from using it, I might very well have strangled them (or shat on them). As it was, it was pretty unfit for anyone by the time I finished with it. The bathroom break also let me know which new and unsuspected body part was going to be in agony after the race was over. Suffice it to say that there are certain times each month when running long distances isn’t ideal for a woman’s body, especially if you keep in mind that anything and everything can cause raw rubs when against the body for that length of time. I valiantly decided that I’d forgo the Vaseline on a stick at the following first aid station because I didn’t think the volunteers would have been too impressed to have me jam it down my shorts for relief when most people were putting it on their toes or legs. I mean, what do you do with a stick once it’s been down your shorts? Hand it back to them to dispose of? Probably not. But I will say that that area is not a nice area to have rubbed raw. So while I disagree that running a marathon is like childbirth, some aspects of mine were unfortunately similar.
When I finally emerged from the seemingly endless loop around Merced, I was truly shocked to be coming from the direction I was. Apparently I’d hit Brain Melt, which combined with my natural tendencies towards directional dysfunction, made for an impressive confusion. When I first saw people running the opposite direction from me, I wanted to cry, thinking that I had to go up and back to wherever they were headed. But in the best moment of the whole run, I realized they were behind me and I didn’t have to go there again. Seems small, but seriously, this revelation almost inspired tears of gratitude. So I headed back down the long, flat, boring stretch of Ocean Beach before the finish. It was at this point that I saw Coach B. again, cheerfully jogging against the flow of the race. I put on my most imperious face and motioned him to come and run with me. No, I didn’t motion with one finger or even curse at him at all this time. I just needed company and wasn’t above demanding it. He ran with me for a short bit but after I asked him whose bright idea this marathon idea was anyway, he said he had to go back and check on a walker with a bad knee but that I was almost there. And with that he peeled away. I think he was afraid I was about to go psycho on him again and the injured walker was a ploy to escape me before the four letter words flew.
I was plugged into my iPod and paying zero attention to my surroundings since I’d been abandoned by B. when all of a sudden, I heard my name shouted, almost in my ear. It was my friend C. from Michigan. She’d spotted me as she walked along and finally caught my attention. Her knee was bothering her and she asked if I wanted to walk with her. Oh please don’t throw me in that briar patch! Of course, I immediately agreed and we decided we’d walk the last two full miles then run the final 0.2 mile over the finish line. So we had a rather nice chat and amble for the end of the race with a small burst of very slow jogging at the very end.
As we crossed the line, I didn’t even look at the tuxedo’ed firemen handing out the finisher’s necklaces but made sure to nab my Tiffany box as I dragged on past. Needless to say, I’ve worn the pretty shiny, silver necklace every day since then too. :-) We wandered a bit aimlessly but I managed to collect one of everything they were giving (t-shirt, smoothie, sandwich, apple, Doritos, water, etc.) and did find my way to D., who gallantly helped take off my truly nasty, sweaty socks so I could put my poor, abused feet into flip flops. My friends B. and K. had found us by this time too so they got to see the carnage first hand. How cool that they came out to see me run (and since they were at the finish, I was actually running at that point!) even if I did miss seeing them and the lovely sign they made as I finished. They took some pictures, even of my feet—although the true horror of the toes didn’t appear until the following morning when the foot swelling went down and the enormous blisters popped up. I thought I looked pretty good in the pictures until D. said that I only looked a little haggard in them. Huh! Of course, as a staff photographer himself, D. left quite a bit to be desired as the one time on the course that he managed to take pictures of me, I was at the very back edge of the frame and blurry. He claims it was because of my speed. ::snort:: I’m blaming user error, especially since I’m not racing *out* of the frame but into it. Thank goodness there are other pictures documenting the whole thing!
Immediately following the race, I told D. to tie me to a chair and beat me if I ever agreed to do another one but did say that I’d do one if MM does one in New Zealand. Now that I’ve gotten some distance from it, I think I might have to do another one someday just to prove I can run the whole thing (well, minus the water stops, which I had always planned to walk). I’ll be sure to pick a flatter one though! Oh and as if it matters: my official time was 5:01:07 (with the 5 being hours). I wasn’t very happy with that given how much I know I walked but it’ll do. Thanks to everyone supporting me along the way!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Latest strange find in packing boxes: the string pull switch for one of the lights in the basement in Michigan.
I am having entirely too much fun seeing which books I have that turn out to be the only registered copy on Library Thing. (I also enjoy seeing which onces are listed only in the single digits--something I suspect their authors do not appreciate nearly as much as I do.)
NC in the fall can get far colder than I ever thought.
When depressed, watching What Not to Wear is probably not a good idea given that my wardrobe mirrors those that Stacy and Clinton dub "boring, boring, boring" although I don't wear all black (almost none in fact thanks to my complexion's resemblence to Morticia Addams when I do wear it) so I guess I have that going for me.
Getting kids' Halloween costumes less than a week before the actual holiday winnows the selection quite a bit but doesn't seem to be less costly than being on the ball and buying them early.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I never would have passed a test that assessed my fitness for motherhood. And yet, I was still allowed to have 'em. Poor kids!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
So tonight in an effort to avoid repeating first grade, I sent D. downstairs to help T. instead of helping myself. The task was to find 3 facts for the first grader to tell his class about catfish (his chosen animal for the animal mask he also has to make--all due tomorrow, of course). For those of you without young children (and I honestly don't know why you would read my ramblings if you don't have kids but, just in case...), it is important to note in all of this that first graders are 6 years old. So you know the mask was going to be crap and the facts would be basic. Apparently though, D. forgot that. The facts that T. reappeared upstairs carrying, all written by dad, were:
1. Catfish are a very diverse group of bony fish.
2. More than half of all catfish species live in the Americas.
3. Catfish have one of the greatest range in size within a single order of bony fish.
Sounds like a first grader to me. Doesn't it to you? Now I ask you what self-respecting parent expects a 6 year old to be able to read this sort of thing to his class? (Or be interested in these dreadfully boring facts?) The poor child wouldn't know what he was saying, never mind being incapable of reading some of these words. Thanks for all that help with the kid homework dear!
Incidentally, when I helped T. find new facts to replace these stupid ones (not that I'm judging, mind you, we came up with these--rendered in first grade writing and spelling with translation to follow:
1. Catfish wiscrs are calld barebells. (Catfish whiskers are called barbels.)
2. Catfish have no sacls. (Catfish have no scales.)
3. One cind of catfish can walk on land. (One kind of catfish can walk on land.)
I guess I would be okay in first grade again. At least I'd know age appropriate responses to the homework!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
A decent run, the anticipation of spending money at the bookstore, and some gorgeous sunflowers. What else could a girl want?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The back door stopped closing because the pushy-innie thing (sorry for the highly specialized technical term here for all you non-home-repairers) was lodged flush into the door and no longer catching on the plate. After the several seconds of annoyance this complete malfunction caused me, I trotted out to grab the WD-40. Afterall, isn't it a truth of repairs that if it should move and doesn't, you spray it with WD-40? I am sad the have to be the person who bursts your bubble, but this is not an incontrovertible truth. It didn't work for me. So after considering handyman guy, who is charming in that very Southern way, I remembered what it cost us for him to essentially gerry-rig the fence gates so the dog couldn't get under them (and they look no better than they would have had I done the gerry-rigging). It may only have been the idea/illusion of money that went up in a puff of Wall Street smoke, but I have better (read more appealing) places to spend our *actual* money so handyman guy didn't get a call. I trotted myself off to the local home improvement store with the pushy-innie thing after I dismantled the entire lock and door handle. I was rather dismayed to discover that you cannot buy the innards of a door handle without buying the entire handle. Bummer. Although the instructions tell me the pushy-innie thing is actually called the latch so at least I learned something given the extra money I had to spend. I came home, read the directions, replaced the lock and door handle, stood back and admired my cost-saving handiwork (in the interest of honesty, it takes all of four screws to replace a door handle unless you also replace the strike plate, in which case it takes aa whole two more). As I patted myself on the back, I swung the door closed. CLUNK! The door hit the strike plate and bounced back hard. Who knew you could install the pushy-innie latch upside down?!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
So yesterday was officially my last “long” run. Yes, as previously noted, I am now crazy enough to think that 10 miles is actually a short run, hence the quotation marks around the word long. It was not a pretty run. I didn’t feel like I was running like the wind. And I didn’t feel marvelous and accomplished and energized. I had higher hopes for taper runs but as long as I get that feeling next week, I’m okay with the whole plan. But what really stood out about the run, aside from it being the last one, was that I managed to get lost. Yes, I have been running this same route for the past two months with the Team in Training group and yet yesterday, I managed to completely miss a turn and go rogue. This might be more understandable if I hadn’t actually been running in a group of 4 other people but no, I managed to shake off the folks with whom I was happily chatting, cross the street because there was no traffic, and simply continue running on down a road not on our route without noticing I was now alone. I have always been more or less directionally dysfunctional but I think this takes the cake. It probably took me a 1/2 mile to realize that no one else was with me any longer. If that isn’t just more proof that I like to hear myself talk and don’t need listeners, I don’t know what is. As bad as that is though, none of the three running with me shouted at me when I winged across the road and headed off the wrong way. Talk about giving a girl a complex!!! They later said that they thought I was not feeling well and had made the conscious decision to cut back early. I guess that’s an acceptable excuse (just barely). As for my ridiculous, lost self, the good news was that I was on a road I recognized so I didn’t get totally turned around and confused. I did have to run extra bits of older routes in order to make the mileage I was supposed to hit. But I guess running that bit alone gave me a taste of what it’ll be like running alone during the actual race—and reminded me to finish loading the iPod with enough music to keep me plugging along for a good 5 hours or more (there are lots of hills in San Fran, you know).
The last long run also blessed me with my latest crop of new blisters. Wouldn’t you think I’d have developed blisters and calluses by now? Apparently not. I have newly lumpy toes again and can only hope that they all heal before the race so I don’t have to deal with the pain of running through blister breakage, which is a bit like childbirth for the toes (yes, I’ve had this fun once already). Then I’ll be able to work up some new, impressive blisters during the race itself. It will be nice to have finally earned “official marathon blisters” instead of just these mere “training blisters.” I’m sure the official blisters will have more cachet than the appallingly frequent training ones. They’re likely to earn me more sympathy from my family too, right? Well, no, I don’t really believe that either but it doesn’t hurt to hope! Also on the foot front, the second black toenail has decided that simply being decoratively ugly is not enough and now it hurts to the touch. I’m guessing that it’s in some stage of trying to fall off and I can’t decide if that would be better done before or after the race. I suspect my feet will be very grateful for a break after this race given all I’ve managed to subject them to so far. And I’ll look forward to being able to hide them in closed toe shoes so all and sundry don’t glance at my sandaled feet and recoil in horror anymore.
So now my concerns are not on the running so much (well maybe by next Saturday it will all be about the running) but are on the preparations for getting there. I have all my official gear and my unique bar code to get my race bib. I haven’t tried on my shirt but I have great fears about looking like Barney the dinosaur in it, or maybe just an eggplant. Yes, it’s purple. Very, very purple. Not my best color under the best of times but given that I’ve managed to gain 20 lbs. while training (and moving), even worse than usual. I ask you, who gains weight training for a marathon? Ummmm. Yeah. Clearly I can’t do this again or I’ll end up so fat I’m bedridden given the speed I’ve packed the weight on. And no, you can’t fool me by trying to tell me it’s muscle instead of fat either. I may not be able to follow directions on a route I’ve run a zillion times before, but I’m not *completely* stupid. So, in addition to looking like
a giant purple dinosaur beloved only to those under the age of four, I have to decide what all to take with me. With a 5 or so hour flight in front of me (have I mentioned my fear of flying?), my most important decision will be what book(s) to take as I figure the clothing will sort itself out (and you wondered why I never look up to date on fashion!). Is now the time to actually crack War and Peace? Or do I take several smaller books instead? Does USAir charge for luggage? How many books will make my luggage overweight? It’s the important details after all! Besides, anything that keeps me from focusing on the fact that I am in imminent danger of having to put my money where my mouth is (or my feet where my fingers committed them) is a welcome distraction. More important questions: If I listen to my iPod on the flight, will it retain enough of a charge for the *whole* run? How much Advil will it take to make me willing to sightsee in San Francisco on Monday? Are my Gu gels less than the acceptable number of ounces to be in my carry-on luggage (because there is no way on the planet I am risking them getting lost in checked luggage)? How much does the knot in my stomach, now about the size of a grapefruit, weigh and once the run is over will I lose the corresponding amount of weight (she asked hopefully)? If my feet swell on the plane, how long before they will fit into my running shoes again? Is this a valid excuse for not running? Oh, wait, I didn’t mean to mention that last one! I’m sure that everything will come together somehow and even if I have to self-medicate to get on that plane on Friday, I will be there, heading out for a huge adventure and definitely looking forward to Monday (or even Sunday afternoon), at which point I will have a huge grin splitting my face and can start boring everyone with how cool it was to run a marathon—and anyone reminding me of the pain and suffering of the last four months will be suitably and efficiently ignored. :-)
Finally, I would like to thank everyone for their support throughout this journey. With your help, we’ve raised more than $6000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That’s simply amazing. I never had any doubt that the people I know and love would come through, even in these rough economic times. So a huge thanks to all of you for that. A big thank-you also for the emotional support you’ve all offered me through these months—from encouraging e-mails and CD’s to advice and fun little pick-me-ups in the mail. It’s all been wonderful and made more of a difference to me than you know. So pat yourselves on the back and know that each and every one of you has made a big difference both to me and in the fight against blood cancers. You’re my heroes. (Oh, and if you have anything left, send up good thoughts and prayers for me next Sunday starting around 7am California time because the marathon that was so reassuringly so far off way back in May is apparently starting then and I’m going to have to run a really, really long way. Whose bright idea was this anyway?!!)
Friday, October 10, 2008
1 lit birthday candle cunningly nestled into the warm, squishy wax of a candle you lit before briefly leaving the room
Simple conclusion: child was playing with lit candle (bad), extinguished flame and in order to not be caught, sneakily retrieved matches (very bad) and easier to light birthday candles, chose Kermit the frog green candle to match forest green large candle--mom won't notice the two different greens, right?, and lit said birthday candle (worst of all) so that candle would still appear to be burning when mom returned from bathroom.
Honest to goodness, does R. have *any* impulse control?! The child is 10! Not 5. She's going to be the death of me--and it's now looking like it might be death by fire. What am I going to do when she gets sophisticated enough to hide the evidence of her actions? (Oh yeah, this is the kid who is already grounded for the month. What kind of punishment can I heap on top of that?)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Today was a 14 mile run. This is the first long run of taper after a high of 20 miles last Saturday. I swear I felt achier and more rickety on this one than on last week's. So I duly stopped off at the grocery store and collected my four family-sized bags of ice for my ice bath. And for some reason, even this was more horrible than last week. This week I felt serious sympathy for the folks on the Titanic. Not sure what the problem was but once I passed through the stages of the ice bath: freezing cold, actual pain, and then numbness, I got to go through the stages in reverse getting out: numbness giving way to pins and needles pain and followed by just plain freezing cold with goosebumps on top. Even better, I think my right butt cheek is still numb and frozen. Bet that's gonna hurt when it wakes up. Too bad I couldn't truly freeze my @ss off!
15 days and counting for the marathon! (Oh, and I'm a mere $70 away from raising $6000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Don't you want to be the one to put me over the top?!) http://pages.teamintraining.org/mi/nikesf08/kknox1n5c2
Friday, October 3, 2008
I went to the DMV with a neighbor who is also new. Now the DMV is not generally a chuckle inspiring place but occasionally you have to be mean and laugh at others' complete idiocy. T. and I knew what documents we needed to have with us in order to become official card carrying NC citizens and I had even duly read through the written test crib sheet I found online. So I strolled in, registered, and proceeded to sit in a waiting room just about forever before I even got to take the test. Meanwhile, T. was trying to be allowed to take the test at all given that her social security card is still in her maiden name (what's a mere 16 years of marriage anyway?). To prove that she was that person, she did have her birth certificate and marriage license, as well as countless other pieces of paper. Turns out that her birth certificate was unacceptable as identification because, and I quote, "Your married name isn't on it." Funny, that. My parents married me off to my husband long before registering my birth, how about yours?!
After my successful NC patriation, and T.'s unsuccessful attempt, we stopped by a mattress store because she and her husband need a new mattress. As she noted, mattress stores should not have white mattresses for display since they rapidly become grimy looking. In addition, they should not drape a velveteen-inspired throw across the end of a bed they have also decorated with a long velveteen pillow. This look does nothing but bring to mind a funeral parlor. But I digress. The salesman, who was the proud possessor of a whopping one tooth in his bottom jaw, encouraged her to lay down on the bed. Given that her main concern was waking her husband with tossing and turning, he suggested that I lie down with her. I told her I didn't know her well enough to sleep with her, at which point we busted out into giggles and the salesman went off to deal with less irksome, more mature customers. She didn't get the bed (and I could feel every toss and turn). And we went home with my day having been mostly successful and T.'s having been a huge disappointment all the way around. I mean, she had to find out that she wasn't married at birth like the rest of the world and I refused to be seduced. LOL!
P.S. Any bright ideas how to get nail polish off all these surfaces without damaging them? The purple mostly came up with a thorough scraping but the yellow and blue are proving more recalcitrant.
P.P.S. I do not think this is evidence of an artistic mind. And I remain unconvinced that I will *ever* look back at this and laugh.
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