Tag Archives: wannabe swimmer

2017 New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championship Recap

From Friday, March 17 through Sunday, March 19, my Bearcat masters teammates and I traveled to Boston for the New England LMSC Short Course Yards Championship.

Hello. It’s me.

A staple event for my team, this competition was my first multi-day and short-course yards meet. (My first two meets were measured in meters.) Suffice to say, it was a weekend of learning, absorbing, and growing as an endurance athlete, and I had a blast butterflying, backstroking, breaststroking, and freestyling.

Even though I took swimming lessons as a kid, I cannot compare myself to folks who logged laps through high school and college.  The competitive swimming learning curve is steep.  Yes, I had goals for the meet, but they centered on execution as opposed to performance-based, numerical values.  As I’ve learned with triathlon—and to paraphrase legendary basketball coach John Wooden—when I focus on doing the little things right, that makes the big things happen.

I went to Harvard … for a weekend for a swim meet. (Don’t worry, Mom: the tattoo is temporary.)

Speaking of John Wooden, I had flashbacks to my basketball days as we rode the bus from New York City to Boston on Thursday night: heading to another city for a weekend of competing, cheering, and hanging out.  During the 4.5-hour drive, my teammates talked me through the structure of the meet and gave me tips for warming up, cooling down, and staying composed during the eight-plus hours we’d be spending at the pool each day.  We also talked a lot about eating and team dinners, and it became apparent food was a top priority for swimmers.  Full disclosure:  I quickly hopped aboard the all-you-can-eat bandwagon and had two breakfasts every morning.  I even went to an amazingly delicious diner after finishing my final event.

So metabolically inefficient, so not caring. Thanks to The Breakfast Club for making this spread possible.

To be fair, swimming five events (50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, and 100 IM) over the course of three days revved my appetite.  I spent the most time in the water on Saturday, swimming the 500 free, 50 free, and 100 IM.  On Friday, I swam the 100 free and 200 free relay.  On Sunday, I did the 200 free. Heading into the weekend, this line-up seemed doable.  After all, I was “racing” 1000 yards over three days, and we typically swim 3000m each day during practice.  But when you calculate warm-ups (800 yards or so each morning) and cool downs (100-300 yards after each event), it was a lot of swimming:  high intensity swimming, slicing through the water swimming, searing pain swimming that made my muscles scream.  But that’s when the race starts, and that’s what makes it fun:  when your body begs you to relent, slow down, or stop all together, what do you do?

Just do it

As the weekend progressed, I became increasingly comfortable and confident reading the heat sheets and remembering my lane assignment, developing a warm-up and cool down routine, and managing my nerves and excitement.  This was a big meet, and the events progressed quickly:  the competition pool contained eight lanes, and each event saw as few as 8 or as many as 20 heats. (For example: the women’s 400 IM wasn’t a popular event; the men’s 50 free, however, was the polar opposite.) There were two adjoining, but separate pools, which were designated as warm-up and cool down areas.  Sometimes, I had a lane to myself; others, I was circle-swimming with six people.  I liked how there was a specific time each day to practice starts off the blocks.  I need a lot of practice with dives.  One of my teammates helped me adjust the blocks and gave me some pointers, and I could feel myself progressing throughout the weekend.  I enter the water with a little more pop and authority these days, although I still have plenty of room for improvement.

#WannabeSwimmer?

I had the most fun swimming the 200 freestyle relay on Friday afternoon, and I confirmed my partiality toward the longer distances of the 200 and 500 yards.  One of the coaches said people either love or hate the 200, and it’s an event that plays to my strengths as an endurance athlete—it demands speed, endurance, and the ability to hurt.  These characteristics matter for the 50 and 100 too, but elements like getting off the blocks (I may be the slowest swimmer off the blocks) and breathing patterns (apparently, you aren’t supposed to breathe every stroke during a 50 because it slows you down) matter more, and I simply have not developed those skills yet.  Again, those little things—starts, turns, breathing patterns—make the big things happen, and those little things mean more during shorter events.  If I’m the last one off the blocks during a 50, I can’t make that up.  Plus, I like the pacing strategy behind the 200 and 500.  The 200 was my final event of the meet, and it was the one I executed the most precisely: redline off the blocks for 50, settle in to 87 percent for the second 50, and then build through 100 by 25s.  I had a similar strategy for the 500: use the adrenaline off the blocks, settle in, and then increase the effort at the 300-yard mark.  Overall, my triathlon background translates better to those longer distances, so going forward, that’s what I’ll be focused on.

A complete race recap needs results so here are mine:

Friday
100 free – 1:05.68 (seed – 1:06); 10th AG

Saturday

500 free – 6:32.29 (seed – 8:00); 11th AG

100 IM – 1:24.40 (seed – 1:30); 21st AG

50 free – 30.90 (seed – 32.00); 10th AG

Sunday

200 free – 2:25.28 (seed – 2:48); 8th AG

When is your next race?

2016 Metropolitan Short-Course Championships Recap

This wannabe swimmer once again reported for duty: two weekends ago, I competed at my second meet, the Metropolitan Short-Course Meters Championships. Held at Asphalt Green (AG) on the Upper East Side, the meet sounds intimidating, but with about 100 swimmers—25 of whom were Bearcat teammates—it was an ideal size for a “Sunday night practice.” That’s how I viewed it anyway, especially since my team didn’t taper. Rested or not, my goals remained the same: gain more racing experience by soaking in the details, getting some quality starts off the blocks, and posting good-for-me times. Overall, it was a fun and successful evening in the water: I learned a lot and set new PRs across my events.

Waaaah! Still can’t believe that’s me.

After surviving my first meet in October, I outlined areas of success and identified opportunities for growth. First, I realized it may be a good idea to be more discerning about which events I swim. It turns out most folks opt for one, two, or maybe three events, but not four like I did. This time around, however, I still registered for four events—50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m IM, and 200m IM—but I at least looked at the schedule of events and determined I’d have “enough” time between each. (At my first meet, there were a handful of quick turnarounds.) I’m definitely still figuring out what constitutes “enough” time though: my closest swims were about 15 minutes apart, which seemed fine; however, one of my teammates was stressed because it wasn’t enough. Bottom line, when I swim targeted meets—like Harvard in March—I will do only one or maybe two events per day. This outing was all about gaining experience, so if I was a little flat for my later events, then so be it.

Second, I did a better job warming up and cooling down overall. Before the meet began, I swam at least 1000m with some drill and tech work, and I also dove off the blocks four or five times. Figuring out my nutrition plan was also important, but it actually didn’t play as big of a role as I anticipated. I ate carbs all day—cinnamon raisin bagel for breakfast, sweet potatoes with kale and black beans for lunch, and a bowl of oatmeal with a banana around 3:30 p.m.—and felt fueled for the 5 p.m. start time. During the meet itself, I drank my electrolyte mix to thirst and felt fine (read: not hungry like last time).

The essentials, but I did not eat the bananas.

Aside from swimming faster than last time, my primary goal was to become better at controlling my adrenaline and navigating my emotions. This world of competitive swimming is so new, but I felt much more calm, composed, and confident. I knew how to read the heat sheets. I’m in the process of developing a warm-up and warm-down routine, plus an “at the blocks” ritual. I had an idea of how painful each event would be. Thanks to my super small amount of experience, the atmosphere was less foreign—still nerve-wrecking, but comfortably uncomfortable.

I’ve recently started a meditation process—that’s another post entirely—and one principle that has resonated with me is the willingness to allow our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to come and go. Rather than fight them, let them flow. So as I waited for my individual events, I let myself feel the excitement, the nervousness, the anxiousness, the happiness. As I stepped onto the blocks, I quieted my mind and visualized my race: I saw myself diving cleanly into the water (with my goggles staying on) and executing perfect stroke after perfect stroke. I imagined how each flip-turn would feel—catapulting off the wall and dolphin kicking for momentum—and where the lactic acid burn would surface first. As I adjusted my goggles—fiddling with the lenses and ensuring they suctioned to just the right spot—the world vanished.

It was just me and the water.

Results:

50m free – 33.80 (seed 34.32)

1st place AG

100m free – 1:11.73 (seed 1:14.89)

2nd place AG

100 IM – around 1:33 (seed 1:37)

3rd place AG

200 IM – 3:24.72 (seed 3:40)

2nd place AG

When’s your next race?

Just Keep Swimming: Gearing Up For My Second Meet

Remember that time I reached a new milestone as a wannabe swimmer and completed my first meet? It turns out I am a glutton for punishment: I signed up for my second one!

2016-bearcat-swim-meet

Who is a wannabe swimmer and loves pain?  This girl!

Since all the strokes are going down again in a few weeks at the Metro Short-Course Meter (SCM) Championships—I registered for the 50m and 100m freestyle, plus the 100m and 200m IM—I’ve been reflecting on my first competition:  what I did well, what I could do better, and what I learned overall.  The most important thing—aside from not bellyflopping off the blocks, not losing my goggles, and not finishing last—is applying everything I experienced the first time around to my second showing. Ideally, this will translate to faster, smarter swimming and a more mentally sound mindset … plus ultimately growing as an endurance athlete–and a swimmer.

When I took the plunge—metaphorically, not literally—and registered for the Bearcat meet last month, I selected which events I’d swim based purely on the stroke and distance; I neglected to study the order of events and ensure there was enough time to recharge between each. Case in point: it was an aggressive move to swim the 200m medley relay and turn around and uncork a 200m freestyle just minutes later. On the bright side, I didn’t realize this would be less than ideal—it’s not like I knew what an adequate recovery time between events should be—so ignorance was a bit blissful.

This time, though, I was slightly more discerning with my selections. I say “slightly” because I did opt for both the 200m IM (the meet’s fifth event) and the 50m freestyle (the meet’s sixth event). That IM will be the biggest, most challenging event of the meet, so as soon as I complete it, I’ll be able to relax—and hopefully survive a 50m free right after.

Second, I need to warm up adequately.  In October, my teammates suggested swimming 800-1000m before the meet officially began, but I only did around 600m (because I was chatting with my amazing Work Husband who was there cheering for me). Would a longer warm-up have translated to better results? Maybe, maybe not—but I do know I did not feel ready for my first event.

However, I made it a priority to cool down between events.  After each, I immediately moved over to the designated warm-down lane and swam anywhere from 50m to 200m based on the length of the event: after my 50m free, I swam 200m easy; after my 100m free, I swam 100m easy. I buried myself in the hurt locker for each event, but in general, the shorter the swim, the more intense (read: faster) it is, which demands a longer warm down to alleviate the lactic acid buildup. Between events, I also slipped on a long-sleeved sweatshirt in an effort to keep my upper body warm.

Third, I will continue to play with my nutrition plan.  As a short-course triathlete, I don’t think a lot about fueling since my races last only 2.5 hours or so. However, for an all-afternoon swim meet—I arrived around 2 p.m., and we left for post-race libations around 6 p.m.—I was conscious about what and how often I was eating. My coaches and teammates advised using the same products I take in during triathlons, so beforehand, I had my normal pre-race breakfast, plus a carb-heavy lunch of sweet potatoes and plenty of coffee.  Throughout the meet, I consumed one bottle of Skratch Labs (which I drink during the bike portion of a triathlon), one banana, half of a Powerbar, plus water to thirst.  Toward the end of the meet, I felt hungry, but that problem was solved fairly quickly with pizza and adult beverages. Overall, the old athlete adage of “nothing new on race day” served me well. Since my next meet takes place at night, I will push back my meals as much as possible:  eating breakfast around 10-11a and lunch around 2-3p. I’ll also bring more “Carrie-friendly” foods like bananas and Picky Bars to eat on deck.

Finally, my main goal is developing a better handle on navigating my emotions during the meet.  Before tris or running races, I get amped up, but still retreat inward to deal with the anticipation that builds.  Once the gun goes off, the anxiousness vanishes, and I just race; it’s a slow release of adrenaline that I ride. During this swim meet, though, the rush of energy was unprecedented. I’ve played in some big field-hockey and basketball games back in the day, and nothing compared. I harnessed that all-encompassing excitement during each swim, but once it ended, I struggled to calm down. I was basically wired for the entire day.  In fact, I felt more mentally spent than physically exhausted when the day was done. My coaches and teammates said this would most likely be the case, and they were right.

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How I felt at the end of the meet as depicted through Zelda

With this in mind, I hope to create a “between-event” practice. I don’t know what this looks like, but it will likely contain my warm-down routine, plus some form of deep breathing and meditation.

Much like triathlon, my life as a wannabe swimmer is a work in progress, and I’m focusing on the journey, not the destination.

When’s the last time you did something totally outside of your comfort zone?

Oh Snap!

Here’s a shocker: this is not a triathlon-training heavy post. Oh snap! These check-ins have not be happening consistently—partly because my day-to-day is routine and partly because work is still semi-unresolved.

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April acquisitions bring May transitions. Starting to nest in the new office.

April brought a lot of changes and stressful moments, which made tri training even more important; pedaling it out, running it out, and even swimming it out helped clear my head, keep me grounded, and focus on the present (and the feeling, of course).

#MatchRace

This past weekend, I helped Tailwind Endurance plan its Inaugural Match Race, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

2015-inaugural-match-race-tailwind-endurance-banner

We had four teams of three people compete by riding one loop of the Ironman Coeur d’Alene bike course. As the party warlord, I made sure we had plenty of snacks, swag, and raffle items, and we also organized a swabbing station so folks could register for the national registry. In total, we raised about $2,500, and we’re already talking about hosting another this fall.

#NomadStatus

Lately, I’ve been overcome by the urge to travel: Boulder, Austin, Seattle … or Alaska … or South Africa. Granted, I go places for races, but I really want to visit an exotic destination with the intention of experiencing everything (and not swimming, biking, and running). Anyone up for a trip?

#Noms

This is not something I’ve been keeping secret, but it is something I have not been broadcasting: for Lent, I gave up red meat, chicken, turkey, etc. I thought a lot about this decision, and the 40-day period seemed to be a good time to give it a shot. Full disclosure: I am still eating fish and am trying to eat more of a plant-based diet. So if a label is necessary, let’s call it a “plant-strong pescatarian diet.”

There have been two slipups—the most notable of which occurred after racing the South Beach Triathlon when I took a flying leap off the wagon at Yardbird with fried chicken—but I have maintained this eating plan. It’s been relatively easy to eat this way for a few reasons. One, I’ve never been a big chicken person. Two, I don’t deny myself meat, but honestly, I don’t crave it. And if you don’t crave it, why eat it? And three, I feel great from a training standpoint. Knock on wood, my workouts continue to go well, and I’m recovering better/quicker/more effectively. I also don’t become sleepy after eating kale, quinoa, and peppers at lunch. (At this point, I should note that although leaning out did not drive this decision, I have lost about eight pounds. That’s another post, though, so I’ll leave it at that for now.)

#GoingLong

One night in April, I had a dream I was doing a 70.3. “Was it a good dream?” asked Coach Pat. “Was it a dream or a nightmare?” asked Earl. Guys—I was rocking it. In my mind, the only discipline holding me back right now is the run, but Coach Pat and I are working on getting it dialed in. Maybe this jump will happen sooner rather than later.

#WannabeSwimmer

I almost, almost signed up for a swim meet.

swim-meet-wannabe-swimmer

My actual swimmer coworker even filled out part of the form for me. One of these days, though!

#BlackSheepStatus

Because I’ve taken a piecemeal approach to training—swimming with the Bearcats, biking at Tailwind, and running with Coach Pat—there were some people who were not psyched I was hanging out with the team in South Beach. I’d rather not talk about dynamics, but this trip really shed light on the friendships that transcend triathlon—those folks know who they are, and I’m extremely grateful to have them in my corner.

#ProudAthlete

Speaking of Coach Pat, he crushed The North Face Endurance Challenge New York at Bear Mountain this past weekend: He ran 50 miles in 8:59, and PR’ed!

So what’s going on with you?

Triathlon Training Log – Week of Jan. 12 (Week 2)

Three feelings I’m feeling right now? Sleepy, hungry … and incredibly motivated. All valid, by the way—because it’s the second week of official training.

2015-mannequin-graveyard

Mannequin graveyard at work—because only the strong survive

General training notes: Honestly, swimming and biking didn’t get me super psyched this week. As you know, swimming and I have a complicated relationship. Finding motivation to get to the pool has become easier since the season started, but I just don’t get the endorphin rush from crushing swim workouts—and chasing that feeling is a big reason I love triathlon. In terms of the bike, it’s been touch-and-go, and this stems from the lack of emphasis/volume. I can’t run and bike all the miles, but I do need to find a balance—ASAP.

Monday – a.m. swim with Full Throttle Endurance and run

I don’t remember doing the butterfly this time last year, but whatever: 3,000 yards in the pool with lots of butterflying and breast-stroking, plus an easy 4.5 miles on the ‘mill while listening to the #RRP.

Tuesday – a.m. run and strength train

Dun-dun-duuuun: 8x600s for speedwork. Since I’m ramping up the swimming and biking, Coach Pat said we’ll have to back off the running just a bit. That being said, the workout went well as far as executing and hitting paces goes. But I need to remember if and when run progress slows, it’s OK; it’s about the process.

Wednesday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

After a mildly disappointing power test last week (it’s fine—I’ve moved on), I really wanted to get after it. While a few folks did the test, I completed an overgear/hill workout, which was perfect for building leg strength. And that also happens to be exactly what I need to do throughout the next few months. Thanks to running, the endurance is there, but I need to get my cycling legs back. Anyway, I was not happy about the ordered 65 RPMs (depending on who you ask, 90 RPM is ideal, and I’m a 93-95 RPM girl), but it was actually OK.

Thursday – a.m. run and p.m. swim

Decent 8.5-mile long run in Central Park, plus an easy 1,500 yards in the pool after work.

Friday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

About those cycling legs … maybe they’re coming back. I mean, the coach asked if I plan to do any bike races in Central Park, which is probably a good sign. Anyway, we did an interval pyramid of sorts: three minutes, two-and-a-half, two, etc. all the way down to three seconds. After these sprints (I hit 535 watts!), we increased the efforts in increments back to three minutes. The shorter the effort, the more intense it became. And erg mode kept me honest; I hung on until the second-to-last effort, hit the wall, and somehow managed to get back on track for the final one.

Saturday – a.m. swim with Full Throttle Endurance, run, and strength train

BIG training day that began with an unexpected time trial in the pool. After a longer warm-up, we raced 100 yards all-out, rested one minute, then did a 400-yard time trial. This format resembles the bike power test (five minutes all-out, 10 minutes rest, 20-min. time trial), so I knew how to pace it—and how much it would hurt. In a surprise to no one, I have the top-end speed (1:10 for 100 yards), but I need to work on the endurance (5:40 for 400 yards). But, I’ll take those results for swimming a total of 14 times during the off-season.

Next up came a 45-min. steady run on the treadmill, which went well, plus some upper-body strength training and corework. And hoops—I shot some hoops too.

Sunday – off

Who you rather have top-end speed and be super fast or have endless endurance and be able to go long?

I’m a Triathlon Model

Hi, hi! Contrary to my absence on the blog and virtually (see what I did there?) all forms of social media, I am in fact alive. Since returning from South Beach, I’ve been totally slammed.

south-beach-triathlon-finish

Take me back, SoBe–I want more freckles!

I have absolutely no complaints. Work is going well, and training is going really well. Excuses aside, I owe you a catch-up post.

I’ve been to Brooklyn twice in recent weeks—for work. That’s two more times than I’ve been there all year. But really. I attended a launch party for the Brooklyn Triathlon and had a meeting with one of our clubs. Making the trek across the bridge, walking up from the subway, and facing infinite rows of brownstones, I love the neighborly Park Slope atmosphere. It seems more relaxed, but there’s no way I’m cool enough to live there. My pearl earrings and L.L. Bean jacket don’t belong.

I made my debut as a (triathlon) model. Triathlon season has arrived, and the store received shipments of swim-bike-run apparel. (2XU, Zoot, DeSoto, oh my!) And two coworkers and I somehow got recruited to be models. For the record, I assumed these photos would end up on Facebook. I did not expect to see my face plastered on the store window.

jackrabbit-sports-triathlon-window

Mildly embarrassing, but kinda cool. And if you check our homepage, we’re on the slider too.

jackrabbit-sports-need-a-wetsuit

#instafame

My team logged its first outdoor brick workout last Tuesday. Fifty degrees, no precipitation, and no morons tooling around the park lead to a solid ride. And even better, I hit my 5-K pace—and felt OK.

Tomorrow, our infamous “Race of Truth” takes place. Basically, it’s an all-out effort for one loop (6.2 miles) of the park, and the times set the cycling groups. Although arbitrary for me (my coach makes two all-girl groups), the race still comes with bragging rights, so I want to beat my time from last year.

In wannabe swimmer updates, I’m almost exclusively doing flip turns. There were a ton of reasons I avoiding doing them during practice—hitting lanemates, losing that extra breath that comes with open turns, etc.—but I finally woman-ed up and started doing them no matter what. And I’m almost at the point where I don’t have to think about it. Also, according to this article, I’m arguably a swimmer: waking up early, having huge shoulders, smelling like chlorine.

Sunday will be an epic training day—and I can’t wait! Last year, a bunch of my teammates biked over the bridge, ran the Escape to the Palisades 5-K, and then biked some more, and we’re doing it again this weekend.

What’s new with you?

Wannabe Swimmer

It’s funny; shortly after I post about not swimming, there are some water-related updates to share.  Go figure.

With the offseason in full swing, I eased off the structured training, reflected on my races, and pinpointed areas for improvement.  Based on results, it’s no secret my bike needs the most attention now. (And a new tri bike only fuels the fire, right?) My run calls for improvement as well.  And what about my swim?  It can be summed up in one phrase:  wannabe swimmer.

7:5-open-water-swimming

Centered on proper technique and muscle memory, swimming requires years of experience spent honing form to be as efficient as possible.  When I joined the triathlon world, I figured this portion of the race would be my Achilles heel.  After all, I had zero competitive swimming background and simply thought I’d be joining the pool party too late.  My mantra was even “survive the swim.”

However, since logging one official season of training, my swim improved a lot.  Granted, I’m nowhere near being a fish, but this discipline has proven to be a strength.  During my first few races, I attributed my swim time to being a fluke.  Sure, I passed folks whose waves began before mine and exited the water in the lead group, but this was due beginners’ luck, right?

nautica-south-beach-triathlon-swim

My first race with Full Throttle EnduranceNautica South Beach

It looks like that isn’t quite the case, though.

Growing up in Central New York, I took swimming lessons as a kid and spent plenty of time in pools and lakes.  My hometown has a lake as does my alma mater.  In fact, during my senior year, my room overlooked Seneca Lake. (And a half-Ironman takes place there too.  In case you’re curious, the run course goes through campus.  Just throwing that out there.) Basically, for almost as long as I can remember, I’ve had a view of a body of water.  Maybe because I spent so much time in the water as a kid and maybe because I’ve always been around it, swimming in the open water doesn’t intimidate me.

Also, according to the book Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald, I have some characteristics that prove beneficial in the water.

racing-weight-matt-fitzgerald-swimmers-body

Let’s see:  Swimmers are typically tall—check.  Swimmers typically have long torsos and arms—check.  Swimmers have large feet—check.

So the combination of my water background and body characteristics have led to some OK performances in the water.  As the season progressed, I got moved to the fast lane in my original training group.  And like I mentioned, I usually do well in my age group in terms of the swim.  You don’t win races during the swim, but there’s an adrenaline rush when you come out of the water in the lead packs.  That’s pretty cool.  Plus, I need the time cushion to offset my bike!

Anyway, I haven’t been spending a ton of time in the pool lately.  And I’m OK with that.  The bike especially and the run need those workout hours.  However, I’m pumped to have finally reached an elusive wannabe swimmer’s rite of passage—I learned how to flip turn!

Back during the season, one of my coaches broke down the process into four phases, and I made it through the first two.  We never revisited the concept, but two weeks ago, one of my teammates gave me a flip-turn clinic.  Not going to lie, I feel pretty legit throwing down those turns—even though I can only do it for 200 yards right now.

As the real swimmers know, doing flip turns eliminates the extra breath you can take before pushing off the wall.  Plus, you’re not only missing that breath, but you’re also blowing out through your nose, which means you’re using more oxygen.  Basically, this means you get gassed quicker.  Ah, another triathlon learning curve.  But that’s what the offseason is for, right?

Finish this statement:  I’m a wannabe _________.