Monthly Archives: December 2009

12/21/09 The Master Plan

Wednesday. Yikes two weeks, lots of catching up to do. Let’s see if I can summarize. Running – eh nothing fast happening and endurance is low, tennis — not too bad at all, biking — non-existent, swimming — I was in the pool, core — what? That about sums it up. I’ve not been exercising every day.   But I have been doing something every other day.  Just not what has been assigned.

Spent almost a week in CT trying to take advantage of snow and visiting family for the holidays. I got one day of cross-country skiing in and I was pretty bad. I used to do this all the time when I was a kid. I even did some cross-country ski races believe it or not. I remember flying across some trails over at winding trails about 32 years ago (gasp!) I particularly remember one race when we had to race along a trail under the power lines. I remember trying to catch some guy and I was kicking my heels up and running along with the power lines above my head as a guide. Let’s just say there was no kicking happening. I was doing the grandma crawl and I have a lot of work to do. One little baby downhill section I fell flat on my butt because I was standing up too straight. Wasn’t pretty. But I shall return and vengeance will be mine!

The trails were all snowed over in CT so I did some road running which I have been trying to avoid to save my knees. Running is not really coming along for me yet. I’m not too worried about it. It will come when it feels like it. I just keep getting out there and trying. I have the half marathon end of January and I don’t have a prayer in Hell’s Kitchen to run 13.1 miles. It will be a run/walk and I have absolutely no idea what to expect for time. Of all the half marathons I have done, this one is making me the most nervous because I don’t even know if I can stay out there for 3 hours. I get pretty tired at 90 minutes so we’ll see.  I would hate to DNF my first race of 2010.

Despite my lack of endurance right now, I am feeling good. This Thursday night (New Year’s Eve) will mark five consecutive weeks of feeling okay. I’m cool with okay. It gives me room to shoot for fantastic. Seven months of feeling like something stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe and I am so grateful to be feeling okay. I celebrate okay. January 4th I go to get my blood tested and I’m anticipating a good result. I think there might be room for a smidge of improvement but if she says this is it, I can live this way. It’s just a more mellow version of me.

I’ve been doing a lot of planning and preparing for the new year. I really want to hit it with a running start. I’ve been making lists and plans. Trying to organize my schedules to get my training in, my work in, my travel in. I’ve failed every time I try to move my workouts to the afternoon — they just don’t happen.  So I’ve worked to clear my morning hours to get my workouts done and then I can concentrate on work and deal with the crisis du jour.

I am strangely not worried about Ironman at all. Every day I have more confidence that in eight months I will be able to do it. But I am also aware that I don’t have any of the anxiety that I used to have while training. I’m approaching my training as if it is something I will be doing for a lifetime to come and it is no big deal if I miss a day because I’m visiting family. Not how I was a two and three years ago. Let’s see how long this calm lasts.

Just got my new Garmin 310XT and excited to try it out tomorrow morning on our team bike (ugh, I haven’t been on my bike in two weeks so this should be fun!) I had a Garmin 405 before and I didn’t like it so I sold it. I was out riding with Anne about two weeks ago (my last ride) and she had the 310xt. She had the backlight on for the entire ride and she could see all of her numbers in the dark. COOL!  These old eyes would love that!  I was immediately jealous. Then she told me that she could swim with it (didn’t record heart rate in the water but the watch was water resistant). Double COOL! Then I found out it has a 20 hour battery life which was triple cool because the old 405 used to bail out after 8 hours on me (which was a drag if you were doing a long day workout like a 1/2 Ironman and wanted your HR monitor to be working from the time you were in transition). Garmin was giving a rebate and I found a sale so I decided this would be a good time to try it. Will give my reviews later.

Other news. I’m going to the midnight run on Thursday night. Haven’t really committed to running it. I’ve never had a good midnight run. In fact they have usually been pretty painful for me. But even if I walk it it will be a good way to start the New Year. Symbol of something, not sure exactly what.

I’m also planning on doing the Polar Plunge on New Years day at Coney Island. I’m not getting too excited about this one either. I’m strangely not excited about much these days. I’m more excited about my watch than the plunge. But I had a fantastic time last year and maybe it’s exactly what I need to kick-start my year and get me going. A cold dip in the Atlantic Ocean.  Ah, refreshing!!  I’ll be on the boardwalk aroudn 12:30, see you there!

The next four months are going to fly by. Calendar is filling up with races and camps. I just signed up for a really cool weekend at Kripalu in February with Mark Allen (six time Hawaii Ironman World Champion). I think I am excited about that. He works with a shaman. Fascinating!

My focus right now is on St. Anthonys triathlon in April. This is a race that would not have made me blink two years ago. Now I’m not so confident. I believe I am going to be able to complete it but I’m not sure I will be setting any records. This is definitely a let’s-just-get-this-done kind of race. I think it is good that it will break my year up into two, four-month segments before Ironman Canada. There will be lots of friends down there doing the race so it will be a friendly enviroment. For the next sixteen weeks — my eye is on St. Anthony’s. That will tell me a lot about how the rest of the year will go.

Food is going so-so. I haven’t been tracking  and dipped into a bit more than I would have liked of chocolate and pita chips, but strangely I didn’t put on any weight which I don’t really understand. I’m hoping that means that my metabolism is starting to kick in and maybe when I actually buckle down and do this I will see results this time. I have a new mantra for what I am eating right now. Automate and Appreciate. The Automate is my reminder to just pick a few meals that I know work and get them done. Breakfast the same every day. A few different lunches and dinners but for the most part no real thinking about anything. Plan once and repeat often. Appreciate is my reminder to look at every piece of food and acknowledge where it comes from and what it will do for my body and health. If it’s empty and not going to do anything — don’t eat it. But, if it is a beautiful apple, acknowledge and appreciate the mystery of the nature that delivers this miracle to my shopping bag. Appreciate everything that went into making that apple and bringing it to me.

My list of New Years Intentions is getting long:

Train with intention.
Eat with intention.
Make time for non-sports friends and family.
Build my meditation practice.
Work on my guitar.
Be proactive in my work.
Purge my home of unnecessary clutter.
Be grateful every day.
Practice patience.
Practice charity.
Practice peace.

Namaste and Happy New Year!!!

Diet Factoid from Dr. Joy Bauer:

“1-mile walk burns approx. 80 calories which is equal to one slice of bread. Let’s say you walked 4 miles, or about an hour, and you burned 320 calories. A handful of trail mix can set you well over 500 calories. It takes you a minute to gobble food and a whole hour to burn it off.

This is a picture of our “Rockefeller Tree” in our backyard in CT. I’m trying to figure out a way to get lights on it one day. It’s a gorgeous tree.

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12/18/09 The Bees’ Knees and Twinkle Toes

Friday.  Cold, cold weather beating me down and making it hard to motivate to workout.  Thank goodness I have been playing some tennis to get me going.  On Thursday I got to hit with a gal from the club, Agnes.    She’s about 25 years old (maybe) and a really good hitter.   It was a really good workout but I was having a hard time getting my knees to bend.  I had very little mobility and it was frustrating to not be able to get to the ball.   Watching this young gal bounce around the court made me feel very old.  Wow, how nice it would be to have 25 year old knees again (and a powerful two-handed backhand).  I really felt old on the court.  Well my knees felt old at least.

I seem to have a much harder time leading off to my left side — my left knee is stiffer than my right.  The stiffness in my knees is really holding me back.  I need to get them looser.  I need to be able to get lower.  Get a little bounce in my step.    Other than that I think I was hitting okay.  I was concentrating on getting my racquet back and early and if I could get to the ball I seemed to be hitting well enough.  I even did a few overheads which I was dreading and they weren’t that bad.  I couldn’t run them down but if I got under them it was okay.

Today I went to hit with Gail again.   I decided to get on my pilates reformer before I went down to try to warm up my knees.   I still love my pilates reformer — it is the greatest piece of equipment, I just have to use it more regularly.   I discovered a new little exercise that was really good.  It was like doing  a squat but lying on my back and using the springs to create weight.  I really felt it get into my hip flexors which is good.  I know I should be doing a lot of squats to strengthen my legs and  knees but with the extra weight I’m carrying right now it hurts to do too many squats.  But this was good.  I really got the benefit but without the direct pressure on my knees.  I did about 15 minutes on the reformer and hit the court.

When I got on the court this morning my knees felt better but my feet were stuck like glue on the court.  I kept getting caught on my heels.  My heels!!  One thing about tennis, I have to be always bouncing on the front of my  feet.   My old coach Bogie used to say it’s like a cat kneading its paws, tiny little pawing at the court –never stopping.     If I fall back onto my heels I just get stuck and I can’t change directions.  I kept getting stuck going the wrong direction.  Again, my strokes seem to be fine but I have got to do some foot work.  I have so much work to do on every aspect of my fitness.  The list is getting rather long.

  1. I have to build up my endurance.
  2. My core is non existant.  Have to build that up.
  3. I need some leg muscles.
  4. I need some speed — everywhere, swim, bike, run, tennis court.
  5. I need some arm strength.  Basically I have a couple of wet noodles for arms.
  6. I have to get lighter (working on that.)

But the big difference now is even though my list of things to work on is long I feel like I am able to address it.  I feel like I have the energy to move forward.  I’m actually looking forward to working on all of it.  One chisel at a time to reveal the finished work.

This week my lesson has been to stop rushing.  In my guitar class I kept trying to rush through all the arpeggios and scales and kept making mistakes.  My instructor told me to slow down and voila, no more mistakes.  What a concept.

On the tennis court the same thing was happening.  I want to hit the ball hard and make it fly.  When I try to do that I tense up and miss.  Keep relaxed, watch the ball and the ball goes in.    Give it less to get more.  Very hard lesson for me to learn.

Same thing happened in the pool this week.  I was working so hard.   Trying to swim faster, faster, faster.  So I was pulling harder, harder, harder.  I looked at my splits and it I wasn’t going any faster for all that effort.  It’s about efficiency — not trying hard.  In guitar, in tennis, in swimming, in life — relax, give in, lean in.  Breathe.  Give up a little to get more.  Sounds so simple and yet it so hard.

Sometimes I struggle so much I become my own worst enemy.   Spending time on worrying or trying too hard creates opposite force and waste of energy.  Focus on the movement.   Find the flow.  Move into the flow.  Even if it means slowing down to go faster.  The joy of movement is in the flow.


“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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12/16/09 Somewhere in the Middle

Wednesday.    I feel good.  Since November 26th (Thanksgiving Day)  I have felt good.  That means tomorrow will be three weeks.  2009 PR!!!  Not over the top great, not bad in any way — somewhere in the middle.  I call it a six (though some people think I’m being conservative.)  A ten is you won the ten million dollar lottery (cash, lump-sum) the same day you weigh in down a miraculous 5 pounds at weight watchers.    A one is, well, a one is pretty bad.  So a six is pretty good considering a ten is pretty much the unattainable (but you can dream.)  I think most people would be more than happy to live their entire lives at a six.    It’s not in the middle, it is just a little above.  Sevens and eights are those peak moments.  Nines are, well, rare — like you PR’d AND made it into Kona.

Right now I feel like I am ready to begin training.  The other night I was thinking about my weeks with cycling back in  August, September and October and I couldn’t help but think “what the heck was I thinking?”  I also think back to that 5k race I ran in New Haven on Labor day after my accident in Lake Placid in 2007 (not even 8 weeks) — another what-the-heck-was-I-thinking day.  In a way I’m glad that I did those awful months of trying to get back into the swing of things because now I don’t have to start at square one — I’m somewhere around square four.  But what the heck was I thinking?  Those were really painful bike rides.  I remember going out with the “decompression” training and thought I was going to die — literally.  What the heck was I thinking? 

Last week was a light week for me.  I was tired after training camp and I had the start of a cold and my monthly cycle had returned and it was freakin’ cold outside.  I did a run in CT on Tuesday and a swim but I skipped the bike on Thursday and opted for a stretching session.  I just needed to decompress.  I went back  CT on the weekend I did manage to get some running in.  I had not realized it had snowed so I was somewhat contained in my route and it was hard because I was running on choppy trails that were icy.  But I made a great playlist for running — I really liked it.

I have big plans when I go out running.  I laugh when I think back to MDS training.  Near the end of training when I would see 4 hours on the training schedule I would whoop and holler, four hours?  Peanuts!!  Sixes and Sevens had been the norm and four hours seemed like nothing — with a backpack.  So now when I go out I think to myself — the schedule says 1:30 or 1:40, okay I’ll do 2:30.  I don’t know why my brain thinks that way.  I get out about half an hour and then I start recalculating.  Hmm maybe just one hour out and one hour back.  Then around the 45 minute mark something tells me it is time to turn around and I think I’ll do extra mileage at the end.  At the ninety minute mark I am legitimately tired and I barely make it back to my car to stretch.  Whew, I just can’t run any more.  I can walk but I can’t run.  And I haven’t been running straight for ninety minutes either.  I start out running four minutes walking one and then I up it to eight minutes walking two (or whatever variation).  I try to do thirty minutes non stop at the one hour mark and sometimes I can do it (if it is not too hilly).  Other times I’m just zonked.  But I feel okay afterwards.  Not like a month ago when a ninety minute run would need to broken into two pieces and require a two hour nap in between.  I am recovering well.

I have more energy throughout the day now too.  I don’t need two and three hour naps any more.  That is good.  I actually can work a full day (which is convenient because I seem to have a lot of work to do these days.)  So all in all I feel pretty good.  I reckon that I feel better than the average American (lol, “reckon” who am I? Ellie Mae Clampet?).  Unfortunately for the average Ironman trainee, that’s not quite up to par.  But for me, for now?  I’m good with being a six. 

Right now I am employing an “opportunistic” training methodology (word stolen from my tri coach).  If I feel good I work out.  (In January I plan to be more diligent about following the training plan as written.)  I missed my weekend bike and I spent a little too much time on my running feet Saturday and Sunday so I decided to turn Tuesday into a bike.  I got my old teammate and friend Anne to go out with me for some loops of the park.  I figured it was almost close to fair since she hasn’t been on her bike since September and I’ve been trying.  (Anne is a much faster cyclist than I am.)  Maybe it wouldn’t be too awful for her.  We did three easy (24 minute) loops with some standing climbing on each loop and one “opportunistic” independent time trial on the east side.  Anne complained that it was downhill and I go faster downhill.  I told her not to be silly of course I would pick a TT on a downhill, what did I look like an idiot?  What am I going to say?  Hey, you’re half my size and half my age,  let’s race up Harlem Hill?  I don’t think so.  She won anyway. 

We found some mechanical problems with my bike (or it may be with the operator).  I have to bring my bike to get checked out.  I’m blaming mechanical problems for the slow speed.  Hey that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

This morning I did a swim.  It was harder than usual.  I tried to do the workout as actually written.  (If I do MY versions of the workout, it’s usually much easier.)  I had to try to keep increasing my speed over different intervals.  (25 meters, 50 meter, 100 meters).  By the end I was really feeling my arms pulling through the water.  It occurred to me that  if I actually had some muscles in my arms it might help to last longer pulling myself through the water.  Just a thought.  Maybe I should do, oh, I don’t know, a push up or something?  I’ll add that to the list.

I’m excited for my next two days because I’m playing tennis.  Good tennis.  I’m almost giddy about it and I don’t know why.  I have to do a bike session on my trainer in the morning but then I get to go hit with a hitter from the club.  I just met her and she’s really good.  I’m excited for that.  Just whacking the ball around for an hour.  No in or out, just find every ball and hunt it down.  I’m so psyched to do that.    That will be fun and good exercise.  Then on Friday I get to do it again with Gail.  I was so happy that the club called and Gail asked them to call me to hit.  That means as slow and lethargic as I felt, I still hit well enough to stay on the court.  I’m strangely interested in tennis again.  I think that’s a good sign.  When I’m interested in playing tennis I usually get interested in working out to get in good enough shape to play tennis.  I don’t know where this is coming from but I’ll just go with it until it goes away.  Opportunistic.

This Saturday the rest of the team is doing the 15k race in Central Park.  I’m not ready to do a 15k race.  I’m going to do the 15k but I’m going to do it my speed.  Stephanie is going to come out to do it with me and we’ll do a run/walk.  Poor Stephanie always gets dragged out of her bed at an unGodly hour when it is time to start training me again.  I’ll still time it and get my splits but it’s not for the records.  I have no idea how long it will take me to do this and I definitely don’t feel like I should pin a number on my shirt.  Not ready for that.   These will be slow miles.

My first race is in January.  I will do the half marathon (pending how this Saturday and the next month goes).  It’s not about the distance.  I know I can get through any distance — I’ll run or walk or do whatever is necessary.  It’s whether I can function afterwards.  I don’t want to burn myself out.  I think I’m ready to really start training-training but I’m afraid if I go out too hard, too soon I’ll end up going backwards.  I want to try to build slowly.  Do it right and build on feeling good. 

I keep checking in with my inner athlete to see if I you really want to do an Ironman?  Really?  The answer keeps coming back, “I don’t want to do just any Ironman, I want to do Canada and I want to do it in August.”  Okay, inner athlete has spoken and she’s determined.  First I have to get through St. Anthony’s in April.  I’m beginning to grasp that I can be ready for that.  Tupper Lake in June?  That seems hard and a long way away.   Okay, then, well let the games begin.   One foot in front of the other.  Rumble, middle-aged woman, Rumble.


From my doctor on feeling recovered. “You’ll get it.  It will go away.  And it will come back.”  Thanks doc.

I want to share this cartoon for no other reason than it gave me a chuckle.   It is from January’s Shambhala Sun.

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12/07/09 Don’t fight Mother Nature

Monday.  Day of Rest.  Thank God I truly need it.  Systemically I’ve been very good for 9 days which is a record since June.  Muscularly my quads and hamstrings have been tired all week and today they are just pooped so they get a rest.

I played tennis twice last week.  Woo Hoo.  I got called to play with my old friend Gail on Thursday.  I knew I was in no shape or condition to actually play her but I looked forward to the opportunity to actually see a good ball again.  We used to play often a long time ago (pre Ironman) but I really had no business going out on the court with her now.  Lucky for me she is a good sport.

The last guy I played hit for five minutes and wanted to play a game.  Gail was happy to hit for an hour because any good player knows you can hit a lot more balls and get a really good workout just hitting.  And I got a good workout.  Within the minutes my heart rate was zooming and the sweat was dripping.  Wholey Guacamole those balls were coming at me FAST.  My mind was racing a million miles a minute.  Fast feet…  Step, step, step, don’t stop moving your feet.  Who put those cement bricks in my shoes?  Racquet back early.  I said EARLY.  Geesh another ball flying past me.  Get back to the middle.  Recover.  What is that baggage you are lugging around?  Oh that’s my ass.  Everything felt heavy, lethargic. My knees wouldn’t bend.  I have to get down low but I don’t know how to get down without bending my knees and how do you run and bend and get your racquet back at the same time?  Maybe just throw my racquet at the ball.  Then it just became reaction.  I didn’t even have time to think.  Just do it.  Think later.  Just find the ball. Find the ball.  Where is that freakin ball?  Whew, exhausted.  That was the first fifteen minutes.  I need to find some faster feet.   I might as well have been playing in clogs.  This will not do.

Ironically, when I actually got my racquet on a ball my shots seemed good enough.  It was getting to the ball that was the hard part.  Every time I tried to let it rip, I missed.  I was reminded that the good shots don’t come from power they come from fluidity and acceleration.  My best shots were always the ones that would come when I wasn’t trying to muscle the ball.  Smooth acceleration.  Fluid strokes.  It sounds like swimming.

Friday I got called to play another game.  Why not?  At this point I’ll do anything I can to try to get moving.  This was a new person I have never played.  A woman.  She seemed kind of meek so I figured it would be an easy game.  She didn’t have great strokes but she had great mobility.  She had wheels on her feet and she was wiley.  No power but very good placement.   I actually had to pull out the power to overtake her.  Was an interesting juxtaposition to playing the day before where I had to take some off.  With Gail there was momentum on the ball already, here I had to make my own.  Creating and using momentum.  It sounds like biking.

Weekend was another New Paltz training camp.  I had two goals going into the weekend.  #1, try to make it through the first day with enough energy to be able to join the team for dinner.  #2, no tears.  Practice my patience.  Do only what I could and not judge myself if I couldn’t keep up.

Saturday was training camp.  Bike ride.  Impending storm.  We start out riding.  I was not feeling particularly sparkly but I was okay.  Just move your pedals.  Slightly rolling hills, nothing too terrible.  Some beautiful country roads.   All good.   Just trying to pace myself and not get exhausted.  Then we started to get some spritzes of snow and rain.  And then we got more and more.

We were about and hour out into the ride when it started to sleet.  Little ice pellets hitting out faces.  Not too terrible.  More of an annoyance than anything.  I thought for sure they would turn us back into our transition area when we got there instead of continuing on.  Nope.  Keep going.  Chapstick.  One of the gals who I usually ride with turned around to go back to the car.  She was smart.  I should have gone but it wasn’t unbearable so I kept going. 

At one point one of my coaches rides up behind me.  He’s giving me pedalling drills to do (pedal right leg five, left leg five, both legs five x 2.)  This is an old trick he taught me years ago that I use a lot in races to pick up my pace when I’m slogging.  I use it in running too.  It helps a lot.  While I’m doing this he is giving me other reminders and chatting away.

coach:  you’ve done tougher than this.
me:  yeah….
coach: you’ve been through A LOT tougher than this.
me:  yeah, I know.  This is nothing.  (I tried a faint rallying cry while wondering why my legs are not moving.)
coach: Who’s in charge of your life?!
me: I am. (I think).

right then a huge, angry gust of air blew into me with a blast of icy rain.  Almost knocked me over and slapped the bravado right out of me. I looked up at the sky and said “yeah, yeah, I know you’re more in charge than I am. Let me at least pretend for a little bit.”

“Man plans and the Gods laugh.” or something like that.

The irony of the ride was it really wasn’t the worst I have ridden in or been through. I thought Ironman Race day rain was worse. Sure it wasn’t as cold but during Ironman I couldn’t see a lot of the road it was covered in puddles and I remember that being my biggest challenge. I was so scared of hitting a pothole or something hidden in the puddles that I was extra squirrelly and scared. Although Saturday’s sleet and snow and cold and wind were annoyances I kept saying “but at least I can see the road.” I chalked it up to a sacrifice to the weather gods. Give them a little now so they won’t be so angry later. 3 hour bike ride in the sleet done.

When we got back to transition the coaches had tires for us to pull for our run. I was spent. My legs felt like they had turned to stone. I tried to pull and run but I had nothing. So I just walked and pulled, walked and pulled. I would have felt pathetic but I was too cold and tired to feel anything. Did I mention the field was wet and full of mud? And freezing cold?  I don’t want to see that field in the Spring. After the tire pull and some trail running we went back to take a hot shower before dinner.

I made it to the team dinner and had plenty of energy. I didn’t need a nap and I even stayed up to watch a movie. I was grateful. I was tired but it was muscle tired not blood tired — it’s a different feeling. Okay, muscular fatigue I can deal with. This was good. This was progress!!!

At dinner the coaches gave us the plan for the next day. We would be repeating our run from the last camp including those freaking stairs where I had my breakdown with Jacquie last time. I shook my fist at the sky — you!! you!!! you are always throwing me something else. Not those stairs!! I promised myself no tears and I was nervous already that I would be slipping and falling.

When we got to the stairs I took a deep breath and reminded myself  — however long it takes you, it takes you. I took them nice and slow but the weird thing is they were nowhere near as difficult as last time. In fact, they were kind of no big deal. I didn’t feel the dizzy/faint feeling I had last time. My heart wasn’t racing out of my chest and I wasn’t breathing that hard. In fact I probably could have pushed harder but my goal was to just make it up. No tears.  So that was goal #2 accomplished.

Once we hit the trail my legs were really dead. I did a jog/walk for a half hour and then just walked the rest.  I had nothing. Total time was 2 hours but I can’t say it was anything close to a good run for me. I’ll just call it time on my feet and time out of my head.  Did I not stretch enough?  I thought I had but maybe not.

The team went on to workout in a gymnastics center but I decided to call it a weekend. I had enough. My legs were toast. My mind was satisfied that I had conquered the steps I needed to conquer for that weekend. There would be many more tests to come. 


Me after the tire pull. Fake smile. I actually hate this picture, it is for illustrative purposes only.

Bikes after the run

When we got back from tire pulling, Cat took a picture of our bikes we had ridded earlier.

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