Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Power of Food

I love food. I haven’t really written about some of my experiences with my new eating habits yet, so this post will be focused on that.

Before I go any further, I should say that any of the opinions expressed are based on my experiences and that I believe that different foods, lifestyles, diet choices will effect each individual differently and I am in no way saying that there is one way to eat or live. Everyone has to do what makes them feel healthy.

You may remember that over the past year I’ve had GI issues, as well as living a pretty nutso lifestyle (especially during the school year), my diet habits were pretty average for a full-time student, part-time worker. They were far below average for an athlete. I knew this, but I didn’t really believe that putting more effort into my nutrition would really change all that much. It seemed like a lot of extra work to cook real meals, especially when I hardly had time to eat and when I did my appetite was lacking; replaced by nausea and pain. This in turn caused a lot of stress- because while knowing my diet was crappy, I couldn’t see how changing it was going to fix anything- which became a never ending loop.

I have to admit, I never used to believe that food had a major impact on things. I knew it was an important aspect of health (energy in = energy out, etc etc), but I didn’t attribute it as much to things like sleep, focus, skin health, fitness, mental clarity, and stress levels (to name a few).

Well, I know different now.

I’ve never had a “unhealthy” diet, always getting all the recommended servings in a day, usually a little over in dairy, veggies, and grains. The healthiest I’ve eaten (before now) ever was probably when I was living in NZ, for a couple reasons: 1. In general the culture there eats fresher, healthier foods (smaller portions, more fresh veggies/fruits, and lean proteins), and 2. I was broke and living off family hospitality majority of the time- and I am blessed with a family of great cooks.

I’d had people recommend trying cutting out certain things from my diet, to see if it made a difference. I’d try here and there, but if I didn’t see a change in a few days I’d write it off and continue back to my regular eating. In March of this year, the Naturopath I’d consulted for the GI issues (which seemed to come and go unpredictably, confusing doctors all over the place), suggested I try cutting out gluten, yeast, dairy, and sugars. I actually decided to seriously try it this time (I do sometimes listen to doctor’s suggestions). While I had a lot of people in my life ask a lot of questions, I had just as many show so much support and give great advice while making this a habit. The first few weeks were rough, my body had to go through withdrawal, I had to learn how to grocery shop (not sure I ever knew how in the first place) and I had to make a bigger effort when it came to meal prep and cooking.

What are some of the differences I’ve noticed?

  • Clearer skin
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • More energy
  • Better focus, clarity, and general enthusiasm about everything
  • Less anxiety and worry about little things
  • Better performance (riding, working out, general life)
  • Decreased mystery GI symptoms
  • Weight loss, and a leaner look

Can all those things only be attributed to diet? No, probably not. It’s a combination of things. Health is just that. It’s everything in your life put together to make a whole concept. It’s multidimensional, drawing from physical, mental/emotional, economical, and social aspects, and it is a dynamic process. It has to be, our bodies and minds need different things as our lives change. Doing one thing like changing your diet is a step towards a healthier lifestyle, but it can’t be the only step along the way. What I eat has had a huge impact on pretty much every aspect of my life, and it has worked along side all the other things I do to improve my health.

I’m very much a believer that our bodies tell us what we need, and that variety is important to overall health. A friend told me when I started to make changes to my eating habits to “eat as many (natural) colours as you can, and always mix it up”. How fun does that sound?! But she was right, the foods that are naturally colourful are usually the tastiest, and also usually pretty good for you. That being said, if you’re eating all of one colour/thing all the time– you probably won’t feel very good.

So, saying that, do I still eat “unhealthy” things sometimes? Um, yeah. But sometimes is the key phrase there. Do I stick to a strict diet plan (ie, no gluten, no dairy, etc etc)? Not really, I follow a paleo based idea but sometimes I have dairy, and sometimes I have gluten. I eat what makes me feel good. Majority of the time that is a array of fresh, organic foods- little starches, lean proteins, fresh vegetables, small amounts of fruits. Nothing processed, nothing high in sugar, no gluten, small amounts of dairy. One day last week, when I was in a particularly negative mood, an entire box of KD was eaten. Did I die? No. Did I regret it? No. Did my face break out? Yes. Did I feel bloated and tired? A little. Did I feel better anyway? Yep.

Dieting is a word that I don’t associate with this post. Dieting would imply I’m doing all this to lose weight. I’m not. The weight I have lost wasn’t the goal. Fad diets are well known for drawing people in, working briefly, but never lasting. Why? They aren’t adherent to real life. They come along with unrealistic ideas of body composition changes, and reaching a certain goal in a specific time frame. They’re almost impossible to stick to, and when people “cheat”, they cheat big because they feel deprived of all the “tasty” food- kind of a all-or-none thing (“I haven’t had this in so long, so I’m going to eat ALL the calories this weekend”).

Diet has to be a lifestyle choice, not a 4-6-week quick fix to get that body you’ve always been dreaming of. There is no quick way to achieve a healthy lifestyle, and there’s no magic wand to wave to make your body look like the body you idealize. It’s a life-long process, and everybody will react different to changes made throughout that process.

So, there’s some of my experience along my pathway to healthy living, and a little opinion thrown in there too. I hope something in there has given you something to think about. What have you tried to change about your lifestyle? Was it worth it? How do you view health and nutrition? How does food impact other parts of your life?

 

 

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Looped Conversations

Do you ever find yourself having the same conversation, over and over again? Whether it’s with others- or inside your own head. It could be about your goals, the latest thing to happen to you, where you plan to go next, what so and so did last weekend and how hilarious that thing was. Or maybe it’s that you have to work harder, things are happening and you can’t slow down otherwise they’ll stop. Anyone been there? How about  the classic “nobody will respect me if I don’t do this, or achieve this”. Along with this conversations, inwards and outwards, might be arguments. Differences of opinion, causing a ongoing discussion- many times within our own minds.

I’m not the only one to do this.. right?

It’s a good thing most of the time. Allowing us to push past the barriers we set for ourselves, break our own standards, and get closer to our goals. It’s what keeps determined people determined. It’s what helps us break bad habits. Whether it is people in our lives telling us that we can do something, even when our head is saying “no, I can’t”. It’s the opposite of that, the “yes, you can” voice when everyone else is saying “that’s impossible, you’re crazy”. I believe it’s important to have a balance between those two. They generally keep things in a good perspective, when utilized properly. Often it’s that inner voice that helps us to do what’s right for us, when that is the most important thing.

What about those conversations, those stories we end up telling day after day, to different people (or sometimes the same people again and again)? Are those words, those events we keep retelling, what make up who we are? I read somewhere once that our memories are reconstructed every time we think of them. I know from personal experience that memories I have seem to become different over time. Usually becoming more positive as I realize how I’ve grown and learnt from the original events. Things that once seemed like it was the worst thing ever turn into a good story and something to laugh at. Life is always changing, and so are we- therefore it’s pretty hard to let something like words describing an event, or a continuing debate or conversation define us. Who we are today is not necessarily who we were yesterday (coming from someone who is recovering from  concussion, I can vouch for the truth in that statement #moodswings).

Where am I going with this? I’m not really sure, I lost that train of thought 400 words ago.

I was having trouble thinking of what to write about this week, because my life has drastically slowed down as I’ve been doing my best to recover from this concussion. I would usually write about how crazy my life was, and what I did in the past week to work towards goals, or what new goals I’d set, or what crazy obstacle the universe had thrown at me. I’ve already covered the concussion issue a few times, so I didn’t want to focus on that for yet another week. Truthfully, I’m tired of thinking about concussions, and symptoms. As much fun as they are.

I have lots of those “looped conversations” in my life (you’ve probably noticed a few in my posts.. I natter about the same things over and over sometimes (sorry)). Whether it’s about school (which courses am I taking, what order, with who, planning the final years of my degree, etc), riding, working (you’re doing how many jobs?!), time management, diet, and it goes on. I often refer to my life as being 3 separate lives, my time being split between studies, riding, and work- with some time left over for my own fitness and friends and family. All those things kind of tie into each other though, and more and more I am finding ways to integrate all those different parts of me into one big me. The things I study not only have drastically improved my riding and fitness, but also changed the way I think about things. Work not only pays for riding, but more than one of my jobs also lets me use skills I’ve developed through both sport, school, and past experience. My friends and family are a big part of the reason I can handle all those different things at once. With all these things going on and feeding into each other, how could I not have lots to talk about to those around me- but also within myself. Those conversations didn’t necessarily stop when all the other things got put on hold. You may have picked up from the earlier posts regarding this injury (and other for that matter), that I wasn’t in the best state of mind.. necessarily.. when it came to accepting the whole rest and recovery idea. I looked for every excuse I could find- going as far as asking many of the people in my life for advice, somewhat hoping they would say something that I could interpret towards not slowing down and just pushing through. Luckily for me, I was only met with the answer I needed to hear (over and over again). So while those ongoing conversations inside my head are something that keep me moving and determined so much of the time, this week I had to work towards using them to do the exact opposite.

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Nothing.

Surprisingly, I actually was able to also quiet all those conversations in the process. Which was actually really nice. I spent a couple days just laying in the sun, on a dock, on the river. Listening to the birds, instagraming the crap out of the scenery, sprouting more freckles, and just doing and thinking nothing. Absolutely nothing. How’s that for brain rest? To steal a quote from a friend, being a “human being, not a human doing”.

When I wasn’t doing nothing, I was doing passive activities like making paleo cheesecake, napping, instagraming pictures of my food, testing my concentration levels, and visiting my horse (while being watched like a hawk by M- I swear, he thinks I’m going to somehow spontaneously melt). Speaking of the horse- A HUGE thank you to everyone at the barn who as gotten him out of the stall for me every once in a while (looking at you Lauren, Laura, Megg, and Marilyn). So comforting to know that he is in good hands.

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So now we’re entering Week 3 of recovery. Here is where I attempt a slow progression back into my regular lifestyle (don’t worry I have permission this time). Slow being key. I started by a short, easy 3 mile ride on the stationary bike while at work. Exercise progression starts with aerobic, once I am back to a higher intensity on that front I can move back into resistance training and riding. I worked a full day yesterday, and felt great.

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The absolute mountain of paperwork I was greeted with Monday morning. Just screams “welcome back” doesn’t it?

After work I made the mistake of trying to work on my case study- and had to stop after 20 minutes because of dizziness. I was only able to work half a day at my full time job this morning, as the dizzy spells were aggravated by my tasks at work. Should have seen that coming as when I woke up in the morning and was getting my stuff ready, I tried to pack my phone charger which I was convinced was my water bottle. Can’t explain that one. Tomorrow I’ll try a full day again. The only on-going symptom left over is fatigue. I just can’t seem to get my energy back. The doctor said that was likely, and that with time it would return. It’s still very much one day at a time. Definitely hit my head a lot harder then I originally thought.

How was that for writing about a week of nothing? I tell you I could make an essay out of just about anything. Mad talent.

Below you’ll find many snap shots of food, and random photography from the week. Just for fun.

Wish me luck with getting back to normal, or whatever you call my life!

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R&R

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Now this is brain-rest. Much more productive then trying to work on a case study, I’d say.

I’m not me

Okay, so last week was one thing. I described it as topsy turvy. This week was just hard to handle.

I’ll start off by reiterating that concussions suck. Also that I am the worst at taking time off. Like, officially the worst.

When I wrote last week it was pretty close to when I started noticing initial symptoms of a concussion. Loss of concentration, sleeping more than usual, fatigue, headaches, etc etc. I had been to a doctor, who gave me not much instruction or useful advice. He suggested I maybe take some time off and then re-assess. Standard procedure for a concussive event is to take at least 7 days off (no work, no school, no exercise, nothing. Off off.). I know this. So my brilliant self decided to sort of take the weekend off (I saw the doctor on Thursday night) and then try and do half-work days throughout the week, as well as classes and practical exams. I managed to keep myself away from the barn, though, so high five for me? No. No high fives. Throughout the week, I noticed many new symptoms. The most predominant being going from sleeping WAY more than usual to not sleeping at all. 18hrs down to 3hrs. Not okay. Mood swings. Oh my goodness mood swings. Losing my patience with everything much more quickly then regular me would. Feeling sad. Feeling anxious. Feeling great. Feeling awful- in a time frame of under an hour. My concentration and focus has yet to return.

Trying to work was the worst idea, as my job is all computer focused and requires a high-degree of concentration. I can’t read for more than 5 minutes without getting distracted, dizzy, or having to look away. Class is the other thing that was an awful idea this week. Tuesday was the worst, coming back after missing the previous lecture. I absorbed approximately nothing from Tuesday’s class. I sat there in a fog for the entire time, and skipped the lab because I just couldn’t handle being there any longer. Physically and emotionally. Thursday’s class was better. My focus still wasn’t good, but the class was a little more engaging and less reading focused. Thursday I was also required to do two practical exams (one make-up and one new), both which required me to understand, teach, and guide a “client” through two different types of workouts while being video-taped. Anyone want to wager a guess at how well those went? Understanding what I was teaching wasn’t there, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to really remember what I was doing through the tests. So not expecting good things on those reviews. Friday I saw another doctor. A much better doctor this time. One who has a concussion specialization, not one who was working a walk-in. I knew she was good, because she gave me news I didn’t want to hear- even if I knew it was coming. At least another 7 days off of my life. Serves me right, I guess, didn’t reeeeaaaaally take the first 7 days off.

I know, guys, it’ll end up being 14 days. Why am I getting all weird about it? Who wouldn’t want a break?

If you’ve had a concussion, or know someone who has- you know how important it is to rest. You’ll also know how hard that can be sometimes. With other injuries there is usually a physical, visible disability that comes a long with it. It’s quite obvious why you are taking time off. To you, and to those around you. This is a very invisible and mysterious injury. You can’t see it. You can’t predict it’s healing process. You can’t push it.

The perspective of taking time off now, so you don’t have lingering symptoms for months down the line that interfere with your life further, makes a lot of sense. So what is it that makes it so hard?

Part of it, I think, is that this sort of injury tricks you into viewing yourself as fine, and thinking others will view you as fine too- and by taking time off when you’re “fine” people might think you’re just being lazy. This isn’t true, of course, but it’s really hard not to see it that way. Concussions come with messed up self-perceptions. Those who know me know that I would never just take time off unless it was well-deserved. I like to be busy. I take on as much as I can because I love to. When time off is necessary, I try every trick in the book to convince myself that I don’t need time off. I know, ridiculous. I know other athletes to this too. That attitude towards life is what makes what we do possible. Never stop. But when it comes to flipping that determination around to successful recovery.. sometimes we get a little mixed up.

I’m blessed with being surrounded by people that constantly remind me to slow down when I’m doing too much. Rather then support my irrational decisions to push myself harder when I need to be taking pressure off the gas they constantly put things into perspective for me, or attempt to anyway. Do I listen all the time? No. Should I? Probably, yes. Do I try to? Yes. Always. There is no way that I would be as far and as successful in my endeavours if I hadn’t listened to the advice and wisdom coming from these people at least most of the time. When I have thoughts like “people will think less of me if I don’t do this…” or “my life is falling apart because I can’t do all this at once..” (that one was an exaggeration.. I don’t ever think that… do I??)- I am only met with acceptance of who I am, and reassurance that I am doing just fine. Usually I am given exactly what I need for that moment. What more could you as for in friends and family? 

Another difficult side to this, that I’m noticing, is that I don’t feel like myself. Partially because I’m not able to do many of the things that make up who I am. My normal motivation for everything is feeling a little tired (that is probably a good thing- a little easier to take a break with this mentality) and my frustration levels are much higher then they normally are (probably not a good thing). Also because the symptoms of this concussion like to play around with my emotions, making it hard to handle things I would normally not even blink at. It’s comforting to know that these are just symptoms, and they will pass. However, it’s also scary to not have control over my own head- and not knowing what is coming next a lot of the time. This feeds into the challenge of being able to perceive how those around me are viewing me. It’s a little confidence shaking.

On the plus side, I have a fantastic excuse for pretty much any stupid thing I say– Nobody can argue “concussion” as reason for not knowing something or those everyday face-palm moments!

What are your concussion experiences (personal, or someone you know)? How did you handle them?

I am hoping that next time I write I’ll be a little more “me” and a little less “concussion”! Until then, wish me luck at not concentrating (hopefully the only time I’ll be asking for luck in this) and “staying zen”.

 

 

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This Crazy Life

It has been a topsy turvy week.

I’m becoming very aware of the fact that I have some sort of guardian angel watching over me.

Where do I start? Monday was a pretty chill day- Willard had the day off and I used the extra time to go out to “Dad’s Country Resort” where there is a laundromat, kitchen, and a quiet deck overlooking the river for which I used to study for my Advanced Resistance Training midterm. It was a nice, peaceful evening. Much needed after a competition weekend. Tuesday I wrote said AdvRT midterm- and pretty sure I destroyed it. Wednesday was where things got little bit cray (sigh… I just used “cray” in a sentence).

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I’ve been looking forward to this particular Wednesday for a while. This Wednesday was the day I got to go to a cadaver lab. Yes, I am one of those weird kids who gets excited about cadavers. To be completely honest I was LOVING it. The human body is a fantastic thing- and being able to see how it is put together is even cooler. So that’s great, right? Whats so crazy about a nerd loving bodies in a lab? Well- lets get to the fun part. I’d been in the lab for about an hour-hour and a half, when I noticed that my vision was little on the spotty side. So I decided to go outside to get some air. Lucky for me I was on the opposite side of the room from the door. I got about half way where I paused, hoping to regain some blood pressure. The last thing I remember was putting my hands on a lab table for balance.

I pick the best places to pass out. In grade 2 it was in the middle of morning assembly half way through verse one of “God Save the Queen” (I still hold a grudge against the principle for continuing to sing while I lost consciousness). Last year, in NZ, it was with family in a small town where the local doctor is on speed dial (if it had happened just a couple days earlier I would have been alone in a hostel full of partying travellers…not ideal).  This week, it was in a room full of highly knowledgable athletic therapists, first responders, and AT students.. in the basement of a hospital. Props to whoever assigned this girl’s guardian angel. Not so thankful for the formaldehyde and other chemicals that cut my cadaver experience short. Also, the fact that I was about to go examine the glutes on one model, means I fainted thinking about a dead man’s ass. Class act. Realizing that there was a 50/50 chance I could have fainted face first into a cadaver is also not a happy recollection. New most embarrassing moment.

Where were we, still on Wednesday? This day was nuts. So. After regaining consciousness and spending the next hour coming out of shock. Cold sweats, nausea, dizziness, a massive head ache. The works. I decided to head off to work (don’t ask me why). Believe it or not, this day has a weirdly optimistic ending. My loving prof had her lab instructor drive me to the office, on strict instructions (I just completed prevention and care of injuries with her) that if I even start to have any concussion signs or symptoms that I was to get to a doctor asap. Said lab instructor is a graduated AT student, who is currently preparing to write her CATA certification exams. We chatted about this and that (main topic was concussions, suitably), discovering that we had heard about each other through a mutual friend (an AT who she worked under and who I am hoping to work under) and as she dropped me off in the exchange she gave me her card with her email and told me to email her if I was interested in a PAID internship with her in the fall working with a football team. Seriously. Whoever is looking out for me. Keep it up. Although, if I could make one humble request… maybe scope out some series of events that have less impact next time?

I’m pretty sure I was running off adrenaline for the rest of the work day on Wednesday. By the time Wednesday evening hit I was starting to feel it wear off. By the time Thursday morning hit, I was able to deduce how I felt. Thankfully I fell backwards. Discovered by awaking to a very sore tailbone and stiff back. From there it was definitely my head next as my neck was just a tad sore and there is a nice sore spot on the back of my skull. However, other than sore, I didn’t feel too bad. So I went to work (again, don’t ask me why). I started to notice a decline when, because of the great weather we’ve had here in MB, we decided to cancel majority of our games Thursday night. Which means my job becomes calling team reps to ensure they know of the changes. Easy task. Look up their number on the computer, dial, speak. Well, easy in theory. I dialled approximately 10 wrong numbers. Reading numbers off the computer screen is easy. Dialling numbers is easy. Putting those two tasks together and dialling numbers in order? Not easy when you are mildly concussed. Apparently.

The great thing about concussions is that the symptoms can come, go, and randomly appear even days after the event. Symptoms are as unique as the individual experiencing them. A lot of times just noticing that you are not yourself is a sign that you may have a concussion. I’m usually a fairly focused person. For me to not be able to concentrate long enough to dial 10 digits- that’s not me. I saw a doctor that night, who agreed that I had a very mild concussion, and suggested taking some time off could be beneficial.

Friday was my first ever sick day. I believe I slept 18 hours.

Saturday was a fun day. Really, no sarcasm! We spent most of the day helping Grandpa and Grandma move into their new condo in Carman. Well, I can’t say I helped that much. I took a lot of pictures, but when I tried to actually be productive and carry things, my brain reminded me with bouts of dizziness that I was taking time off. Sigh. Either way, it was great to spend time with the family. A nice way to say good-bye to the house in Sperling, where so many memories and experiences were shared, and hello to making new memories in a new place- with the same amazing people. My grandparents are those kind of people who have been all over the world, met all sorts of people, had all the experiences. As much as this is a change for them, for all of us, I could write a book on all the memories I have in that house (Uncle Jerry giving us kids a water balloon slingshot and setting us loose on Sperling with the result of  shattered living room picture window comes to mind as one of the great chapters)- the memories were built around the people, not just the structure that housed them. The character that surrounds my grandparents will fill whatever space they inhabit, just as much as it spills over to those who spend any amount of time with them.

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After a much needed nap on Saturday afternoon, and supper with G&G, I headed out to Homewood where me and some of my closest friends braved the chilly June (????) temperatures and built ourselves  teepee and a bonfire. You should not be able to see your breath in June. However, that didn’t stop us. Bundled up, in our hick level teepee, it turned into a great night.

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So, did you get the impression of a kind of up-down-all-around week? Certainly had a slower pace than my usual. I think this slower pace is around to stay for a few more days. I went to work at the gym this afternoon, headache and all, to see how being out and about affected this head of mine. So far it looks like I’ll be taking my second ever sick-day tomorrow. Today has been full of headaches-which is new. Not really wanting to push that back into full-time Katmah style scheduling just yet. Especially since I have a competition in 3 weeks. That I fully plan on still going to. Heal brain, heal.

Willard, poor Willard. He was scarcely mentioned in this post. Mostly because I couldn’t do much with him this week as I just did not feel up to it. On Friday I did stop in and spend some time with him. I didn’t ride, I didn’t even lunge. I just played with him in the ring while the rain came down outside. Something I’ve really come to do more of in my training program, just being silly with my horse. When I came home from NZ, I wasn’t able to jump right back into the saddle- I spent a lot of time in the round pen. Your horse is your teammate, your partner. He does things for you that he might not for another. Take some time to have fun with him. Be his friend as much as he is yours. The trust you can build by just fooling around is irreplaceable (here I go on trust again). I used to not think of ground work as A) fun or B) important. The past couple years has shown me it’s very much both of those things. After working with horses overseas who were never worked with outside of being ridden for 15 minutes and then put back in the their stalls- they weren’t happy. Unhappy horses = unhappy riders/grooms = not reaching full potential. Being able to be silly with my horse reminds me to not take myself too seriously. Being injured sucks. I hate having to take time off. It is my least favourite thing, and it can get me down real quick. But, it’s part of being an athlete, or even just being human. Why let it bring you down? Accept what you cannot change, and be silly every once in a while.

As much as I would love to fully commit to that accepting attitude, it’s easier said than done. Part of me is fully committed to taking the time I need to get better so I can go back without any risk. Another part of me is saying suck it up and go to work in the morning. Carry on. The educated part of me is reminding that voice that that is an awful idea and not to mess with a concussion. As much as I know the importance of taking it easy the next few days- I don’t want to. Please tell me I’m not the only one out there that has these conversations with myself? Life is forcing me to slow down, and it’s cramping my style.

On a more cheerful note, here is a video from last weekend of my other hunter round!

Click here for the video!

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