Graham Ran Boston – 2015 Edition

Just about 24 hours after finishing I’m very sore, have a severe case of marathon brain, but am incredibly grateful.

Before getting into the details of my day, I have to say thank you to Katie for enduring yet another marathon training season, Lara and Peter for being Lara and Peter, Greta Teller and all of Team Brookline for giving a miserable winter a light at the end of the tunnel, and everybody that helped me reach my $5000 goal for The Brookline Community Mental Health Center!

Now to the day itself.  How efficiently the Boston Marathon goes off never ceases to amaze me.  Even though I was woken up at 4:30 in the morning by Brookline municipal workers getting everything set up, everything went off without a hitch.  A teammate gave me a ride to the Brookline HS, from there we boarded a bus to the Common where we got on another bus that took us to Athlete’s Village.  Along the way, yes, it started to rain.  Here’s what I’ll say about the weather — you can’t do anything about it.  You just have to go out and run the best you can that day.  In 2012 it was 90 degrees.  NYC Marathon ’14 was frigid with 40 mile per hour headwinds.  This year’s Boston was cold, rainy, with a headwind — so, what about it?  Once off the bus I felt something I had never felt before — a pain, from deep inside my knee.  Not much I could do about that either, just go out and run the best I could.

Once at the village there was very little downtime from when we arrived to when we started the slow march to the start line.  I waited until the very last minute to take off the layers I’d brought – – the gun sounded and a few minutes later I was over the start line.  I had to contend with a very congested first mile, training to stay off to the left and find a groove among all the fourth wavers.  Here’s how everything went down after:

Miles 2 – 8ish:  My knee was on fire from step one. Mostly down hill, lots of people.  It took until mile 4 to finally find a groove.  The entire time I thought, I can’t run an entire marathon like this.  I’m going to have to drop out. I decided to just take it one mile at a time.

Mile 8ish – 17.5:  Somewhere in mile 8 there is an uphill in Framingham.  I don’t know what it was, but my knee opened up on this hill and I felt ok.  I decided that I still needed to focus on getting through each mile at a time.  Mile 12.5 or so when you enter Wellesley College was absurd.  I could feel the cheering from the girls in my body.  I kept trying to remain focused on each mile.  The downhill into to Newton Lower Falls felt like a gift from God and even the incline over 95 wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Turn at the firehouse through Cleveland Circle:  Once I made the turn at the firehouse onto Commonwealth three things happened:  1) my knee was throbbing again 2) the wind was directly in my face and strong and 3) I slammed into the Wave Three that had left before us.  Between the pain, the wall of people, and the wall of wind – – I had to slow down.  I bit it into each hill just deciding to get up each one and then figure out how I was feeling.  I hate that first hill on Comm Ave — it’s steep and painful.  Hill two is just a blip.  On the flats before Heartbreak I ran past my friend Meg Reilly who had started with Wave Three.  I yelled ‘move your ass, Reilly’ and she quipped back ‘What took you so long, Kimmerer?’  That may have been my favorite moment of the day.  I hoofed it up Heartbreak, passed all the classless BC students (side note:  the BC girls are totally trying to jack the Wellesley Girls’ style with kiss me signs.  Here’s the thing though, the WC girls are buzzed to possibly even sober – – the BC students were sloppy and questionable) and heading into Cleveland Circe was evaluation time.  I knew I just needed to survive.  My knee still hurt, my hamstrings were getting sore, and my calves felt like Jello, not muscle.

Cleveland Circle to Finish Line:  Once on Beacon, I knew I was on home turf.  I just needed to make it. I was focused on just getting to my family and friends near Coolidge.  The hills roll here more than you think they do, and it was tough.  I ran past my family and friends and gave them high fives, but  I couldn’t stop.  If I did, I just would have walked the 400 yards to my apartment.  I kept running through Coolidge, where the Team Brookline Cheer tent was — so glad I saw that.  I saw my friend Tim, whose wedding I’m a part of a little later this spring, a little after 24 in front of his apartment and gave him a wet high five.  Made it over Mount Kenmore and into Kenmore Square where it was so wonderfully loud.  Through the torturous rollercoaster that goes down and under and then back up under Mass Ave and then up over Hereford until I crested on to Beacon.  Even though the finish is still so far away, I could feel it coming to a close and ran as hard as I could through the finish.

It was awesome.  I got my medal, was helped into a space blanket and then went to my office, grabbed the change of clothes I had left there Sunday night, showered at my gym, came home, went to dinner at the Publick House with Katie, Lara and Peter (burgers beers and fries baby!) and then went home and to bed.

Today I’m walking like an octogenarian, but who cares?  I just had lunch with my sister, Greta, and her brother.  And now, now I’m going to take a nap.  Boston #2 in the books.  I gave it all I had given all there was, I have no regrets, and never will after finishing running a marathon.  If you ever do, you’re doing it wrong.  Even though my nipples did bleed… just a little bit.  Maybe that I regret not preparing for better.

Time : 3:22:36

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Lara, me, Greta, Kedzie -- 24 hours or accomplishment later

Lara, me, Greta, Kedzie — 24 hours of accomplishment later

High fiving at our spot on Beacon in Brookline

High fiving at our spot on Beacon in Brookline

Katie, me, Lara (BAA26.2 alumnae '14), Peter at the Publick House for beers and burgers

Katie, me, Lara (BAA26.2 alumnae ’14), Peter at the Publick House for beers and burgers

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Dammit, Indy, Where Doesn’t It Hurt?!

So, I haven’t written that much about training this go around. This is for two reasons, the first is that as of this morning Boston officially broke its record for most snow recorded in a single winter. I couldn’t do anything about the snow and I didn’t really feel like complaining about it. I did what I could – -ran some long runs on a treadmill (tortured me mind, body, and soul), ran up and down the back stairs of my building (up 5 flights, down 5, repeat, repeat, etc…), ran outside when I could, which wasn’t much. So needless to say, training has been iffy.

The second reason is when I’m training this year, I’m more confident in my ability to do workouts. Each run isn’t a brand new experience. It’s training, sometimes routine.

You know what isn’t routine? Running 20 miles. You never know what is going to happen with those. This past weekend, they dumped us out in the 508 and told us to find our way home. It wasn’t cold cold, but it was cold – and promising to rain. Due to the sub-par training season, I wasn’t 100% convinced I could make it – and I knew I could bail at my apartment about 17 miles in *if I had to.

Either way, started off running and the raining slowly started. For the first 11-12 miles I ran at a good clip with a couple of other runners until I stayed behind at a water stop and missed a light heading in to the Newton Hills and didn’t want to over-exert heading in to that part of the course. By this point it was raining – cold, cold – nay, freezing – rain. Once through the hills and into Brookline, I reached the water stop right before my apartment and decided there’s no way *I could possibly feel any worse, which was a promising sign – so I kept going and managed to grind my way through the final miles to the downtown finish.

Like I said, 20 miles is never normal, never ordinary. 15 is long but you get to this weird place mentally where you’re like, eh, it’s just a shade over a half marathon – not so bad. But 20, that hurts – it requires planning, fueling, thinking, and rethinking. I always seem to forget how bad it hurts shortly after – seriously, everything hurts – legs, eyes, lungs, you can’t feel your fingers, you have knots in muscles the size of bocce balls, you’re hungry,  bottomless pit hungry, cranky — it reminds of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when asked where doesn’t it hurt he points to his elbow.   It’s a lot like that.  And I’m always amazed at how I feel relatively fine the next day.

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Now it’s starting to feel real. Even though we just broke 108 inches of snow, I ran 20 miles 2 days ago and can walk normal today. This training cycle is almost done, then it’s taper, then it’s go time in 5 weeks. It’s starting to feel real, and crazy, more crazy than just waking up and going for a 20 miles run. I’m rambling now, but I can’t wait.

P.S.  I’m just about 3/4 of my way through fundraising — please click here to learn more about why I’m running this year and help me out!

https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/GrahamRunsBoston/undefined/fundraiser/GrahamRunsBoston/team-brookline-2015

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Here’s My Deal

So, here’s the thing — I know social media is the greatest and easiest soap box there is.  You can incite controversy.  Preach to the choir.  Point out the obvious.  Rage against whatever you want.  But one thing I’ve noticed, probably because I’m attuned to it is the radical dislike of people who A) choose to partake in training and running for marathons and B) fundraise while doing so.

Full disclosure: This year I’m running the Boston Marathon for the Brookline Community Health Center.  I’m running in memory of my mother.  And I’m running for a few reasons.  The first is I miss her every day.  This will be the 9th anniversary of her death in February.  Starting about now every year is when I start to feel that loss a little more.  For those grieving, seeking help works.  I’m also raising money for people who are not grieving but may have other things they need to sort out, trouble at home, addiction, something they just need to work out, depression, whatever it may be.  My mother was a big advocate of seeking help and guidance and often thought it would benefit anyone who sought help and was honest about it, me included.  If before you get to my take you’d like to support me, please click this link — your contribution is appreciated:

https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/GrahamRunsBoston/team-brookline-2015

Anyway —  here’s my two cents on it.  Before I get going know that whatever your opinion is, you are right but I’d ask that you evaluate people on an individual level and not in aggregate.

The issue with people training for marathons seems to be manifold.  The first is that it’s annoying.  You’re right.  It completely is annoying seeing people constantly tout whatever run they just did.  I was, and still am to a degree, one of the offenders.  However, putting things out in public is a great motivator.  It’s a way of making something a person once thought impossible real.  Putting it out there for scrutiny is proof and a way for someone to look back and know they did that and can do it again.  For most at least.  Many are just shameless and want attention in the ‘look at me, like this’ category.  But I believe most need that validation — for themselves.  They’ll get over the constant posting…eventually.

Secondly, it’s selfish.  You’re right again.  Exercise or any aspect of self improvement is selfish.  It should be.  Whether you’re running, joining  gym, pursuing an advanced degree, taking a cooking class, learning a skill you have a desire to know — all of this is selfish. You should be doing it for yourself.  If you’re not, who are you doing it for and why?  If because of this self improvement other people in your life benefit, too — that’s great.  Again, I think some people have other motivation and may be dubious about why they are doing something — but be the judge for yourself.

Now to the fundraising part.  It seems much of the issue is “you’re going to do this anyway, why should I give you money”.  And you’re right again.  You shouldn’t just because someone decides to do something and then they ask you.  I suggest first seeing the cause the person is running for, if it fits with that person, and why they chose to put themselves out there and essentially beg friends, relations, acquaintances, and strangers for money.  You should not just donate money to a charity because someone asks you.  If that were the case, the thousands of people that harass you on sidewalks for the cause of the day, that cause of the day would be rolling in dough.  But if it’s someone you know and they are asking, know that you are not giving them money  – they will not get any out of it, but something that they care about will.

For me, I’m going to keep being selfish and running as long as I still find it challenging and rewarding.  And I’ll do it no matter one individual’s opinion.  However, here’s what I can say — I’ve run just to run and I’ve helped raise money for charities and I’d rather run and fundraise than just run.  Because you’re right, I’m going to do it anyway but I would rather do some good along the way.  The running is the easy part. Anyone who is capable can plod along.  But tying yourself to a cause and consistently trying to improve their situation.  That one’s hard.

I hope I didn’t incite much controversy, preach to the choir, or rage too much.

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The Epidemic

I can usually mark major milestones in my life with new gym memberships. Turned 17, got a car, joined a gym. Moved to Boston, joined a new gym. Got a new job, joined a gym in my building.

I’ve counted – excluding gyms associated with schools, I’ve been a member of six different gyms. They’re all pretty similar. Lots of cardio machines, free weights, the newer ones have Cross Fit inspired sections. Some have had saunas. Most haven’t.

There is one thing that has been a constant at all of them. Naked Old Men.

I don’t know what it is about gym locker rooms, but old men are drawn to them like horses to a watering holes and then…just linger. Chatting with each other naked. Brushing their teeth naked. Weighing themselves naked. Going to the bathroom naked. Always naked all the time. I also have a hunch they spend more time naked in the locker room than physically exercising — though I cannot qualify or quantify this.

I didn’t play a sport that had a strong locker room culture. Maybe these guys are just harkening back to a time when they came in from a tough game and hit each other’s asses. I don’t know. What I do know is it’s heinous and widespread.

I’ve also noticed that the worst offenders are also the ones that should be waltzing around naked the least. In shape dudes wrap towels like loin clothes of Sioux Braves or Roman Gladiators.

And then I worry – -will I turn into an old naked guy at the gym one day? Is it just a matter of time?

Have you also experienced this? Is there an explanation or is this an epidemic?

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Graham Ran the 2014 NYC Marathon

(This is a work in progress and not finished yet)

Today marks two weeks since I ran the NYC Marathon.  It was pretty awesome.

I didn’t particularly write about my training and preparation for this race mainly because I didn’t want to stress myself out.  I started training in mid-August a month after I wanted to because of work related travel and vacation time.  So, it was a bit accelerated.  It was mostly always hot, always humid, and I trained almost exclusively on my own, which wound up being both relaxing and great mental prep for the actual race.  I was generally nervous about how fast I had upped my mileage, but after my 20 miler two weeks out, I was confident.

We rented an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, perfect location from everything race related — 10ish block from the finish, not far from the expo — and drove down in the rain on Saturday.  Much like Boston 2012 extreme weather was forecasted, so I had pleanty of time to mentally be ok with it – -this time though, forecast for 40MPH winds as opposed to 90+ degree temperatures.  The whole ride down I dj’d some sick tunes and just tried to keep my mind at ease .  After checking into our Air BNB’d apartment we hit up the expo at the Javits Center.  Massive race expo, efficiently run, but felt very frenetic – -this may have been because it was the final few hours on the last day, but the buzz felt more anxious than excited.

After leaving the expo, we went and hung out at the apartment for bit before having dinner at a restaurant called Bacco di Beppo — great place to carbo load and completely reasonable prices, especially for NYC.  After that, we did a bit of research and headed for cozy beer bar called the Pony Bar and had a few beers before heading back and settling in.

On the topic of settling in, it’s impossible in NYC.  Or at least it was the night before the race.  As my brother in0law put it, he couldn’t tell if NYC is the city that doesn’t sleep, won’t let you sleep, or won’t shut the f up.  Regardless, I had a very restless sleep interrupted often my cheers, screams, pointlessly loud conversations until around 4am, which was perfect because I got up at 4:45.

After having two cups of coffee and a doughnut from Ball Sq. Doughnuts I got geared up, sent for an Uber and was on my way to the Staten Island Ferry.  I only waited a short time from when I got there until when we boarded and the very ride was a great 15 or so minutes until when you arrived on Staten Island.  We quickly boarded buses and drove about another 15-20 minutes to Fort Wadsworth and the staging area.  Everything was effective and efficiently run up until the point.  On arriving in the athletes village there really wasn’t enough room for everybody, at least in the Blue Wave area.  They had taken down some shelter due to the whipping winds, which I understood.  But pretty much any place you tired to sit down someone would come and say you couldn’t sit there.  Once they called our corrals it seems they had given up on this policing.  Once the corrals opened, I headed for mine, which was the last corral for the first wave, and we were supplied without any portajohns, after about ten minutes of deliberation they volunteers moved the corral rope at any angle and allotted us two. We were housed in the corals for well over an our before the start and once we started moving forward there was a shower of clothing from people shedding their layers.

I took off my final layers about 5 minutes before crossing the start line and got my first real taste of the wind — cruel and biting, like when sand whips on the beach and sting.  I started trotting towards the start saw a camera, waved, and then crossed the start line and hit the Verrazano Bridge.  The wind was ridiculous, it was so strong it physically moved me so I kept clipping my heels.  People clothes and hats were flying off of them and alot of runners worked together to pin down clothing before it was whisked away over the bridge.  i had been really looking forward to running over the bridge and seeing the NYC skyline, but to lift my head and get a good look would have been right in the wind and risked blowing my cap off.  So I kept my head down and just kept moving, which became the theme of the rest of the race.

It’s amazing how few memories I have of the race itself.  I remember when the waves all came to together and it reminded me of when the armies clash in Braveheart.  I saw Katie, my sister, and Peter at mile 5 in Brooklyn.  I remember all of the water stops being absurdly hard to navigate.  The hasidic section of Brooklyn was strange. I understand this race is an interruption, but I didn’t get why so many felt the need to go grocery shopping at the very hour of the race and then casually stroll across using baby filled baby carriages to clear the path.  The Queensboro bridge was an endless incline.  First Ave coming off the bridge was pretty awesome, like I had been told.  But, I will say, I think Kenmore during the Boston Marathon would give the decibel level of First Ave a run for it’s money.  I had read that the Bronx would be relatively boring, but to be honest it was my favorite.  The people that were out were awesome – -from the old man who said ‘go on, get outta here – go back to Manhattan where ya belong’ and shooing us with his hand to the girl that seemed on a mission to say everyone’s name.  The dj’s plaing old school hip hop were epic, and when I turned a corner and heard Hip Hop Hooray and all the runners swaying their arms, yeah that was great.

Once back in the city after mile twenty, I just kept going — just kept looking forward. I saw my family at mile 23 and then headed into the park, which I won’t lie, was hard on the legs with all the rolling hills  I didn manage to throw a 7:13 mile in at mile 24 just for good measure.  Heading up to Columbus Circle felt like forever and the deceptively up hill finish was cruel.  But then, then it was over. And yeah, i was in some serious pain, but I had done it!

The exit area, even though I had the no bag options, was very long.  There legitimately minutes, like 5-10 each, between finishing, getting a space blanket, getting your medal, getting a bag with water – – I feel that could have been handled better.  Either way, once i left the park and got my extreme snuggie, cape blanket thing, I made my way over to Lincoln Center, met up with Lara, Katie, and Peter who had a street cart pretzel waiting for me and a coconut water, which were the two things I had been dreaming about since about mile 18.

Back at the apartment…the heat and hot water was out — so I had to use the showers at a nearby NY Sports Club.  On the way there I ran into Meg Reilly on the street, which was pretty awesome on it’s own.  After finally showering and getting home we grabbed a cab over to Alewife, the sister retaurant of Lord Hobo here in Cambridge, which was in Long Island City.  Unfortunately, due to some accident there kitchen had limited food, which was a bummer as I had been dreaming of that burger for quite a while.  We had a few fantastic beers, though, some more pretzels, and got a recommendation for a restaurant up the street called Woodbines, which had incredible burger and an awesome staff.  After that we headed home, and regardless of if there was a carnival or other mayhem going on on the street, fell right asleep.

The next day, we had a breakfast down the street and went to the Empire State building.  It was my first time being there despite having grown up 45 minutes away from the city and is now the tallest structure I’ve been up.  After taking in the views and getting reminded about how windy it was, we had some epic ramen at Ivan Ramen and made our way home.

All in all, NYC was a great marathon experience over a year in the making.  I ran really well considering a shortened training season.  I did not walk once during the whole race and now have a new benchmark of 3:26:09 to use to gauge my improvement for the next marathon…which happens to be Boston 2015!  That’s right, this guy is running for Team Brookline and the Brookline Community Mental Health Center for next year’s marathon.  Check out this link for details:

I really want to thank Katie for dealing with living with a runner, it’s not easy.  To Lara for taking care of some many details that made running NY streamlined.  And for Peter for being the even keel of this crazy family he decided to marry in to.  Looking forward to a better planned training season, albeit a cold one, this winter!

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A Confession, an Apology, and an Amendment to the Rules

Part 1: The Confession

Remember back in June when I denounced those that ran shirtless? I have a confession to make, the past three weekends I’ve been a hypocrite and in the middle of long runs have eschewed my shirt. Once in Vermont when the humidity was like running through a jungle. Once in Hopatcong when it was hot and humid. And then yesterday when it was 90+ degrees and also Amazonian.

Part 2: The Apology

A) sorry for being a hypocrite. But I couldn’t help it ( wait for part 3)
B) sorry for the many who may have seen me from the firehouse on Comm Ave. in Newton all the way to my place on Beacon St. Sorry to the dog walkers, the hungover BC college kids(I hope it wasn’t my monstrous running visage that made you puke into that hedge) the pissy Allston hipsters (not really though), and anyone leaving their temple in Brookline. I looked like a swamp beast and felt like one, too.

Part 3: The Rule Amendment

God blessed me with the genetics of a northman, able to survive cold winters in Europe swinging axes and drinking mead. He may not have envisioned my ilk living in an urban environment and running long distances for fun. Therefore, my amendment is for those who need to run shirtless in order to properly regulate their body temperature on hot and humid days, those of us who ate and drank things that literally put hair on our chests. The rule still stands for all to scrawny dudes (who, side note, yesterday seemed very entitled to be in everyone’s way around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir – choosing to stand in the middle of paths and sidewalks and not move when people came their way) as well as jacked dudes who run like they are show horses auditioning for Baywatch.

All in favor: say ‘aye’

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I ran a beer mile so you don’t have to. But you totally should.

This is what I was going to say last, but I want to say it first – If you want to, you should run one – it’s fun, with friends, and beer! What’s no to like?

This is coming at you a little late. But, the memory is still fresh, like a just popped can of beer.

July Fourth in New Jersey this year wasn’t looking too bangin’. On July third a hailstorm whipped through dropping golf ball, and I mean you could have teed these up and driven them, sized hail and leaving much of the trees in my town looking like they had been napalmed(sidenote: we filled a cooler full of them and used it to chill beer for the rest of the weekend – pretty awesome). Right on the tails of that, violent thunderstorms settled in overnight and brought the forecast of a mostly rainy Fourth.
Fortunately my sister, our friends Rob and Alex, and their intrepid German pointer Emma are the up for anything types, and they were all for a beer mile in the rain. If you don’t know what a beer mile is, check out http://www.beermile.com. But here’s a quick rundown -find a track, buy some beer, chug a beer, run a lap, chug a beer, run a lap, chug a beer, run a lap, chug a beer, run a lap, finish. There are some nuances, but that’s basically it.

The morning of the Fourth we packed up the cars, braced ourselves against the weather, bought some beer and headed to my high school track. Katie and Peter were kind enough to stand around in the rain giving us beers, cheer, and watch us do our thing.
I popped the tab on my first beer and chugged away and then headed off on my first quarter mile. – 1:35. I downed beer two pretty well, just a touch slower, and then clocked another solid split – -around 1:45. Beer three took a bit, maybe two minutes to drink – my stomach felt like a percolating broth of frothy beer – which is exactly what it was. However, lap three still wasn’t bad – around 1:45 again. Coming onto the straight away I started feeling the three beers I had had in under 10 minutes hit me and the finish line seemed so very far away, and kind of off kilter. Beer four was a lesson in patience. I’d say it took me 5 or so minutes to get it down, but when I did my throat felt like it was seizing up. I started running and still clocked a decent split, again around 1:45 – I finished overall in about 14 minutes, far short of my great expectations I had had at the start. I crossed the finish line – -traditionally after a long race and hard effort I dry heave – and I could feel this one happening this go around, but…not dry. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest. The others did not do an ‘official’ beer mile – but they ran and drank beers in the rain, so they’re champions
in my book.

So, here’s the thing – -a beer mile is overall a miserable experience. You feel physically shot and all you did was run a mile and you’ve got a solid buzz on if not being actually drunk. And I immediately swore off doing one again. But, like the allure and challenge of the marathon, now that the pain has subsided, I can imagine doing another – but I’d remember these lessons:

1: Respect the beer, the running is easy – the beer is not.
Sub lesson: Don’t buy a beer known throughout the universe as the “Champagne of Bottled Beers”. That means it’s going to have bubbles, lot and lots of bubbles.
2: I wouldn’t do it at 11am. Then your drunk by noon and it takes a long time to regroup.

Those are actually the only two lessons I have. But, should you be considering this yourself – drink a familiar beer that you know you can drink en masse, don’t experiment. Have a designated driver, or drivers. Run at a track at a time where you’re not going to be bothering the general public or where children will be present. Have water handy. Have mint or gum readily available, you know just in case you spew.

If you’re on Instagram, I highly suggest searching for beer mile pictures, a litany of people vomiting. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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