Come Dine With Us challenge – part 1

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It’s no secret that I love food and I love to cook, so when one of Dane’s friends suggested doing a Come Dine With Me style evening with a group of us I thought it was a brilliant idea.

We were the first to host, and after toying with the idea of doing some sort of roast/Christmas dinner, we settled on a somewhat Spanish themed evening and decided to make lots of different tapas style dishes. come dine with me 1

We love tapas and Spanish food in general and took inspiration from my favourite restaurant in York, Ambiente Tapas. They also have a restaurant in Leeds so check them out if you live up north! Dane also has family friends who live in Gran Canaria and has spent a lot of time there, which is why he was in charge of the Spanish tortilla and the “wrinkly” potatoes on the menu. I think the potatoes were actually one of everybody’s favourite dishes throughout the evening, but more about the menu to come later in this post.

The Spanish tortilla

The Spanish tortilla

I’d been working until midnight the evening before so preparation began at 11am sharp the next morning and I’m not joking when I say we were in the kitchen all day!

Although there was no £1,000 cash prize at stake like in the real Channel 4 show, Dane and I still wanted to win, so it was all hands on deck to make sure we prepared some awesome tapas and equally brilliant entertainment.

Our guests weren’t arriving until about 7.30pm that evening so we used the day to prepare as much as we could. We made the desserts first before moving on to the dishes that could be served cold. We prepped the wrinkly potatoes along with a hot sauce to accompany them and fried some other potatoes ready to make the Spanish tortilla later.

The 'wrinkly' potatoes with hot mojo sauce & the dates with bacon

The ‘wrinkly’ potatoes with hot mojo sauce & the dates with bacon

Aside from the food we also prepared the entertainment. We decided to do some couples head to head challenges including a Mr and Mrs style quiz like the TV programme. We decorated paddles and wrote different sets of questions specific to each couple and decided we’d ask them to write some for us when they arrived. We also did Heads Up and the Malteser game. For the Malteser game you have about 8 Maltesers on a plate at one side of the room and using just a straw you have to get them into a glass at the other side of the room. The final game was who could build the tallest and most solid structure out of raw spaghetti and marshmallows in just five minutes – let me tell you, that five minutes goes quickly!

We made the remainder of the food just before the guests arrived and had a paella cooking while we tucked in to a little starter of olives, meats and breads.

Our Spanish inspired menu

Our Spanish inspired menu

The paella

The paella

Here’s our menu in more detail:
– Board of olives, Spanish meats, cheese, bread and various dips
– Chorizo & prawn skewers which were made up of chorizo, prawns, red onion, pepper and courgette
– Judias Verdes which is essentially greens pan-fried in garlic butter, toasted pine nuts and sundried tomatoes. The greens we used were tenderstem broccoli and green beans.
– Chicken and seafood paella
– A classic Spanish tortilla
– Canarian “wrinkly” potatoes with hot mojo sauce
– Datille con bacon (dates with bacon!) on a bed of rocket. We removed the stone from the dates before stuffing them with a blanched almond, wrapping them in bacon and pan frying them. They are amazing!
– Pudding was a chocolate orange brownie (the world’s best brownie!!) served with Yorkshire ice cream or a banoffee cheesecake.

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The PUDDINGS!!!! :D

The PUDDINGS!!!! 😀

We have been given marks but we won’t see them until the other two couples have hosted their dinner party. After each evening you record your thoughts/scores in a video on your phone and keep it until the end of the competition – looking forward to seeing those already!

All in all it was a fantastic evening and we had a lot of fun! I’ll admit, we did get somewhat stressed during the day but when you’re actually sat down and enjoying the food you forget about all of that. Cooking for other people is definitely something I want to do more of in 2016 so watch this space!

The next installment of Come Dine With Us will be held next month so I’ll post about their menu afterwards.

If you’d like the recipe for any of the dishes made just comment below or Tweet me @HannahBryan91 or on Instagram @HBryan91 and I’ll post them for you!

🙂

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Mexican breakfast – Huevos Rancheros recipe

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This is my version of the classic Mexican breakfast, Huevos Rancheros. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s basically a bowl full of tasty, fiery goodness. It makes the perfect weekend breakfast or post training brunch.

You will need:
– 1 tin of borlotti beans (drained)
– 1 handful of coriander (chopped)
– 1 red chili (de-seeded and chopped)
– 1 tin chopped tomatoes
– 1 red onion (chopped)
– 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
– 2 handfuls of kale
– 4 eggs
– 1 avocado (optional)
– 2 wholemeal tortilla wraps (optional)
– 1 handful asparagus (chopped)
– 1 red pepper (chopped)
– 1 lime
– Coconut oil

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To make:
– Add a little coconut oil to a large frying pan and allow it to melt on a medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic and chili and saute until they begin to soften.
– Next, add the red pepper, kale and asparagus and cook until they begin to soften. While the vegetables are cooking, turn the grill on.
– Add the borlotti beans and chopped tomatoes and then turn the heat down slightly. Leave to simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
– Cut the wraps in to triangle tortilla crisp shapes and place on a baking tray under the grill for about 2 minutes each side, basically until they crisp up. This can happen pretty quickly though so keep your eye on them!
– Once the tortilla chips are done, add the coriander to the frying pan along with the juice of the lime. Then, crack the eggs into the pan on top of the bean mix and place the frying pan under the grill until the eggs are cooked. They should resemble fried eggs. It’s up to you whether you want to leave them runny or not.
– Once cooked, dish up in to bowls and top with avocado. Dip in your tortilla chips and enjoy!

Tag me in your Huevos Rancheros creations using #hannahshappypace on Twitter @HannahBryan91 or @Hbryan91 on Instagram
🙂

A brief training update & tips to maximise your training time

While I don’t like to start with an apology, I feel this post needs one. So firstly, I apologise for the lack of posts recently. In the last two months I’ve moved to a new city and started a new job – life has been hectic to say the least! With the love of a new job to keep me occupied, I’ve found that my priorities have shifted and as a result, training has taken a back seat.

I’ve been more than happy with this, much to my surprise, but with a marathon on the horizon and the drive to hit a new PB, I’m having to adapt my training slightly and make the most of the sessions I can do.

When you’re following a structured or dedicated training plan, it’s inevitable that aspects of life such as your job, house or a family, may mean sticking to that plan isn’t always possible. I thought I’d use this post to give you a quick training update and list a few of my top time saving tips to help you fit training in and make the most of training time.

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At the minute, my strength training programme is pretty much the same every week, for four weeks. I’m incredibly lucky that I have Dane to write me a new strength programme every month. At the minute I’m doing two strength sessions a week and I love knowing what I’m going to be doing every time I walk into the gym, for me it just means I get on with it instead of faffing about! The first session is made up of squats, rows, split squats, core exercises, calf work and stiff leg deadlifts. The second session involves sumo deadlifts, dumbbell step ups, more core work,calf work and hip thrusts. At the end of every session I do a glute circuit, which I’ll blog for you with some videos at some point.

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Now on to the running! The road to London Marathon is a long one, so I’m mindful of pacing myself. I’ve been doing a speed session once a week (last week I did 800m repeats with a 200m walking rest period in between) and then a couple of recovery runs, one longer one and a tempo one.

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As I mentioned earlier though, if something comes up at work or with my friends/family, then that schedule can change. Some people train with the mindset that it’s NEVER ok to miss training but personally I think that’s an unhealthy attitude to have. My training for the Berlin marathon definitely taught me the importance of balance!

So here’s a couple of my top tips on how to maximise your training time and fit it in to a busy schedule:

  1. Schedule training in the same way as you would with a dinner date. Drafting in a training buddy is beneficial in so many ways but if you use training time as a way to catch up with someone at the same time then you’re more likely to make sure you fit it in. The other evening, Dane and I wanted to see each other, but I also needed to train and eat so we ran to a restaurant!
  2. Utilise your lunch hour. I get 30 minutes at lunch which isn’t enough time to get a run in and eat, but it’s definitely long enough to get outside and stretch my legs. Getting some fresh air will not only rejuvinate you for the afternoon but can help fire you up for training later in the day. On the other hand, if you don’t get time to train, at least you’ve been out at lunch to stretch your legs and will feel far less sluggish in the afternoon.
  3. Make your quality sessions count. On days where you can afford to do a good session, find the motivation to do it. This is beneficial not only physically but provides you with some mental relief from the pressure of a structured training schedule. If you finish early one day at work for example, or don’t start until later, then make that the day of the week when you’ll do your biggest session. If the rest of the week doesn’t go to plan then at least you’ve got one of your main sessions done.
  4. Be as prepped as you can possibly be. It’s such a simple thing but having your food prepped, clothes laid out and gym bags packed saves so much time and just takes that hassle out of getting ready for the gym or thinking you need to go home to get your stuff or worrying about when you’re going to eat. Having your food prepped too will also help to fuel training.food prep 1
  5. Mix up your training. Similar to booking in a date with a training buddy, booking on to a boxing, spin or another fitness class will make sure you get a good workout in using a structured time period. I find that a spin class is perfect for this. It’s 45 minutes of solid hard work and forces you to work hard throughout.
  6. If you’re worried that you won’t have time to train at all, firstly, try not to worry! If you’re really pushed for time but eager to get something done, do one or two tabata sets. Burpees, kettlebell swings and even body-weight squats are all absolute killers! Equally though, if you don’t have time to train at all, don’t worry, just look ahead to the rest of the week.

What are your time saving tips when it comes to training? Tweet me @HannahBryan or use #hannahshappypace on Instagram. Follow me on Instagram @hbryan91

🙂

Race review: Berlin Marathon 2015

Where to start with my weekend in Berlin!?

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A week ago today I was running around the streets of Berlin alongside some 40,000 other amazing and inspirational runners.

A week later and I’ve still not stopped talking about it. The inevitable post marathon race blues came but once they’d gone I was left with the overwhelming urge to continue planning my next one!

Similar to planning my next marathon (London 2016 by the way), I’m jumping ahead again and I’ll start from the beginning of my Berlin 2015 journey, well at least from the airport.

After a pretty sleepless night Dane and I headed to the airport at 4am on Friday morning for a 6am flight to Berlin. As you may have read from one of my previous posts I had actually planned what I was going to wear months in advance but Dane surprised me with the best present ever. He’d got me kitted out in Hannah’s Happy Pace gear which included two race tops and an amazing hoody! I love, love LOVE them!

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Once we’d arrived in Berlin we headed to our hotel which was a short walk away from Potsdamer Platz and an in excellent location in terms of the race and getting around the city. The early morning start got the better of us and we had a nap in the afternoon as opposed to our original plan of running to the expo to pick up my race number. The following day we did just that, headed out for a little leg loosener to the expo which was just a few miles away.

When we got there we were somewhat underwhelmed by how small it was. Little did we know at that point we were just in the entrance rather than at the main bulk of the expo – whoops! It was actually enormous! Stands selling everything from Garmins to FitBits and personalised trainers were packed in to the aircraft hangars but before we let ourselves loose with our credit cards I picked up my number.

You’re given a BMW Berlin Marathon band which is heat sealed to your wrist before you collect your number and information bag. This was when it all started to feel VERY real.

Afterwards, we might have made a few cheeky marathon purchases including two Adidas BMW Berlin Marathon t-shirts – pictured below. Super cheesy smiles optional.

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Due to little sleep the night before, on Saturday afternoon I was grumpy, tired and hungry – and that’s not a Hannah you want to encounter! Luckily we stumbled upon Vapiano’s, an amazing Italian restaurant. I won’t write much else about it on this post other than what we had as I’m saving it for a blog post of its own – trust me, it’s worth an entire post! I had wholemeal spaghetti with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a lovely orange/chilli oil. It was delicious!

Luckily I slept pretty well on Saturday night and strangely enough I didn’t wake up feeling too nervous. Breakfast was porridge and a banana and a cereal bar shortly before starting the race.

It was quite a walk to the start pens and Dane wasn’t allowed through to the start line so we had to say goodbye quite early on, something I’m not used to in a race. At this point it took all I had not to cry when I said bye to him, despite knowing I’d see him at the 7k mark – get it together Hannah!!

The start pens were crazy! Despite running a previous marathon time of 3.38 I’d been placed in pen G which was for 3.45-4.15 hour runners. I tried to squeeze in to F but was sharply told this wasn’t an option. The pens were packed. I jumped over the steel barrier and squeezed in between a pack of people. It was a good 20-25 minutes before we even crossed the start line but despite the wait and the packed pens the atmosphere was amazing, the entire pen was buzzing with energy, singing, clapping and cheering as other runners/pens ahead of us set off.

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The first few miles were spent weaving in and out of people and I didn’t really pay much attention to the beautiful landmarks I was passing. It was all eyes on the ground to avoid clipping someones heel or crashing in to someone. I managed to see Dane ever so briefly at the 7km mark quickly shouting “I’ve only been going for 35 minutes!”

I didn’t have a plan going in to the race but Dane said try to stick to under 8 minute miles and still go for a 3.30 finish – he was convinced I had it in me – at least one of us was! Either way I thought I’d give it a go and just go with how I was feeling in each mile. Run the mile you’re in! I soon realised that averaging around 7.35 – 8 min miles felt comfortable and decided to stick to that for as long as I could, a risky tactic in the first half of a marathon I know. I passed the halfway mark in about 1.41 and was still feeling good so decided to stick with it although there was part of me that worried I’d gone out too fast and wouldn’t be able to sustain that pace for the latter part of the race.

The elite runners!

The elite runners!

It’s weird that strength tends to come out of a struggle and a struggle was exactly what I was expecting in the latter stages of this race. I knew I’d be fine up until mile 20 but having only ran 18 in training (due to no fault other than my own!) I knew my legs would be feeling it by then and I’d need to dig deep and find that strength to push on. Mile 18 came and went and in my head I said to myself, get to 20 and you’re practically done.

20 is where the fun starts though! Except in this case it was mile 23 when I felt as though I literally couldn’t puhsh any more! My mile splits were s l o w i n g quickly and even though I could hear Dane’s voice in my head telling me to lean forward and push on I felt as though I literally couldn’t!

The finish line wasn’t even in sight when I hit 26.2 miles on my Garmin in 3 hours 28 minutes. WHAT, don’t do this to me I thought, I should be finished!! Finally the finish line was in sight and I crossed the line in 3 hours and 31 minutes.

One of the things I dislike most about crossing that finish line is that there’s no one there to hug instantly haha – needy Han! Despite congratulating other runners in the vain hope of a hug, I knew I’d have to wait until I tracked Dane down. I cursed myself for not running with my phone so he could come and get me as our meet point was at least a good 10 minute walk away. At our meet point I collapsed in a sweaty heap on the floor before Dane arrived thrusting the GoPro in my face and FINALLY I got my victory hug!! WOOHOO! 3.31, my victory hug, the marathon was done and a huge bowl of pasta was in sight – happy Hannah!

Not only that but I’d somehow managed to secure myself a Boston Marathon qualifying time!! 2017 here we come!

If you’re thinking of entering the ballot for Berlin – do it is all I can say. It’s an amazing city (blog post to come on what to see do and where to stay/eat soon!) and the race is one of the world majors – need I say more!?

In terms of organisation I think the water stations could have been more frequent and it was at least 5 minutes before I was offered a bottle of water after crossing the finish line. Also, there’s no free finishers t-shirt so I’m glad I bought an Adidas one from the expo.

I’m thrilled with how the race went but of course I’m gutted I didn’t officially go under 3.30. That said, I’ve learnt a LOT from this race and from my training leading up to it. I’ve learnt just how important a solid strength and conditioning programme is and the vital importance of speed work and there’s plenty I’m going to be changing for London 2016 which will hopefully be the chance to well and truly nail that sub 3.30 which I absolutely know I’ve got in me. It’s quite exciting really.

I’ll be writing something on how I’ve recovered since the race later in the week but for now I want to be super cheesy and thank everyone who’s followed my training journey, my friends and family for always being so supporting (look at me, it’s like I’m doing an Oscars speech haha!) and of course, Dane, for putting up with my all to frequent running meltdowns, 6am starts on a Sunday for my long runs, for pacing me on speed sessions and for keeping me fit and healthy with my strength and conditioning programme – I love you all!

For now though I guess it’s time to park the Carb Queen crown and get back to the track…

#hannahshappypace

 

Crystal light balancing therapy at The Sanctuary of Healing

Before my visit to The Sanctuary of Healing I had no idea what a chakra was or whether mine were aligned. All I knew was that I was eager for some relaxation time and to try something different. 

  

The Sanctuary, near Blackburn, believes that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energies need to be able to flow freely through our body in order for them to be able to work together to heal the body. 

Spiritual healing is never something I’ve learnt about before or even believed in so I was excited to try one of the treatments and experience something different. 

My friend Liana and I opted for the crystal light therapy treatment which lasted for 30 minutes, although you can opt for a one hour treatment.

The Sanctuary told us that crystal light therapy ‘combines natural healing frequencies with the use of precious gem stones to bring balance and harmony’ to both body and mind. 

A treatment is said to help correct imbalances in the body which can manifest as an illness; in particular IBS, joint pain and sciatica to name a few. It also claims to help with Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and asthma. 

The treatment uses chakra crystals and colour which are said to radiate energy to each chakra in our body. We had seven lights pointing to the main seven chakras in our body. Chakras are basically  the energy centres in our body according to ancient Indian medicine. 

They are: 
1) The root chakra at the base of your spine.
2) The sacral chakra in your lower abdomen. 
3) The solar plexus chakra in the upper abdomen. 
4) The heart chakra just above your heart. 
5) The throat chakra in your throat. 
6) The third eye chakra in your forehead between your eyes. 
7) The crown chakra at the top of your head. 

So basically what we did was lie on a bed with a ridiculously comfy pillow while one of the therapists adjusted the lights accordingly to align with our chakras. We then had the option of having the lights dimmed or not and whether we wanted soft music on. I opted for both. Then it’s time to relax for 30 minutes and it’s up to you whether you stay awake and watch the lights or go to sleep and let the crystals do the work.

Afterwards people are said to feel more energised, enjoy a better nights sleep, feel less stressed and more relaxed. I can definitely say that I felt more relaxed but I’m dubious as to whether the crystals had anything to do with that but all in all it was a lovely, relaxing and peaceful afternoon. 

Before our treatment we enjoyed some lunch in the café which was delicious! We had one of the chefs special pulled chicken and crispy pancetta salads which included a soft boiled egg, coleslaw, shredded carrot, yellow tomatoes and mung beans. In keeping with the treatments at the Sanctuary the menu is of course full of healthy yet delicious options with some delicious looking desserts too. 
The staff we met during our visit were incredibly helpful and answered any questions we had about the food and the treatments and even gave us a guided tour of the meditation facilities on offer. 

  
  
One thing I did take away from the experience was the importance of relaxation. These days even when we think we are relaxing, before we go to sleep for example, we’re actually not. There’s always something distracting us, from phones to our other halves! I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to relax properly before bed to ensure I get the best possible nights sleep, ignoring my phone and maybe putting on some of that soft soothing music! 

Have you tried crystal light therapy or are you a fan of healing? Let me know your experiences. You can Tweet me @HannahBryan91 or email me at hbryan91@gmail.com 

🙂 

Nutty chocolate squares

Warning: This recipe is definitely not healthy BUT it is delicious!

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Ok, so these might not be one of the so-called clean bakes I like to create but they are so yummy and perfect if you fancy a treat or if you’ve got friends/family coming over – and who doesn’t like chocolatey treats!?

I made these for my mum who had to take some sweet treats into work for a cake sale.  I also made a batch for the whole family to devour and we all loved them. The recipe is actually one from my Grandma so I can’t take credit for this creation but I guarantee you won’t be left disappointed if you do give them a try!

You will need:
– 2 medium sized eggs
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp vanilla essence
– 1 1/2 cups pecan nuts, chopped
– 1/2 cup plain flour
– 1/4 cup caster sugar
– 1/2 cup golden syrup
– 3oz plain chocolate, finely chopped
– 3 tbsp butter
– pecan nuts to decorate

Mixing together the sugar and golden syrup

Mixing together the sugar and golden syrup

To make:
– Start by whisking the eggs, vanilla and salt together.
– In a separate bowl mix the chopped nuts and flour.
– In a pan bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil gradually then remove from the heat. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
– Once removed from the heat stir in the chocolate and the butter which should all melt in. Gradually mix in the egg, vanilla and salt mixture before folding in the pecan and flour mix.
– Pour the mixture into a greased baking tin and bake for about 35 minutes on 180 degrees.
– Once ready (you can check the squares are ready by inserting a knife into the middle of the bake & if it comes out clean, they’re ready!) decorate each square with a nut on top and drizzle with chocolate before cutting up in to squares!

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Tag me in your creations using #hannahshappypace on Twitter (@HannahBryan91) or Instagram (@HBryan91)

On yer’ bike! Why cycling is good for runners

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There’s no doubt that cycling is one of the most popular cross training activities for runners. There are numerous benefits to getting on your bike from improving your vO2 max to building on leg strength and cadence.

Whether it be on the road or in the gym, time spent spinning those legs on the bike is valuable fitness in the bank.

Cycling reduces stress – I’m not just talking about the stress relief of endorphins firing but also the stress on your legs. Cycling let’s you add another high intensity workout to your training programme in place of a running session to reduce the impact on your legs. Trust me, your legs will thank you for putting less stress on your joints from pounding the road or the treadmill. This in turn reduces the risk of injury as well.

Cycling builds leg strength – I’ve been told by my physiotherapist before to build up the strength in my legs, particularly in my quads. Cycling will help to build up the strength in your calves, shins and quads which is beneficial for runners. Cycling also has the same triple extension that running does. In both running and cycling you extend your knees, hips and ankles which you can do at a similar cadence to running when cycling, or even faster.

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Cycling helps you to recover – While you’re working on other, maybe weaker areas of your body the over worked areas will feel plenty rested which in turn will help you to (hopefully) remain injury free. Not only that but if you’re well rested you’ll be able to perform better on your next run. That said, if you are unfortunate enough to have a running injury then cycling is great rehab for your legs and can help you to maintain a good level of fitness.

Cycling gives you a change of scenery – Cycling gives you a mental break from running and the mind games that come with it! This can be invaluable in helping you to get out of a training rut or can even help you to break through some important mental barriers when training for a race for example. It will also keep your legs guessing and they will then feel fresh for that next run. In a practical sense, you can also go further in a shorter time on a bike and can therefore have a literal change of scenery and see more!

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Cycling can’t replace running – However it is important to note that cycling can’t replace running. If you do choose to build cycling in to your running programme then you must keep up your long run and other quality session such as speed for example, especially if you’re training for a race! Easy pace or recovery runs can be replaced by cycling and of course, if your injured then adjust this accordingly as mentioned above in this post. I’d say it’s also important to keep up your strength work, too.  About 10-15 minutes is said to be the equivalent of one mile and try to keep between 90-100RPM to mimic running cadence.

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