Block sync taking days

I first installed Ethereum Wallet (Mac OSX v. 0.5.2) a few days ago and got the message, "node needs to sync, please wait." After a few hours about 200,000 blocks had synced (I have since switched from the GUI to geth --fast on the terminal). After about 24 hours, I am now on block 723,000 (it's slowing down). Is it supposed to take this long just to get set up? Is there any way to deploy a contract without waiting another day or two?

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