Update on Kettles Map Project

a full room for the REI talk

a full room for the REI talk

Dear forest freaks,

When projects on which I’m working are successful, moving forward, and making serendipitous connections, I find it difficult to report out about them. In the afterglow of a beautiful twenty-four hours spent in Spokane mid-January, I’m finally forcing myself to sit down a pen a debrief for you.

REI invited me to present about the Kettles Map Project back in December and, as a result of that invitation, the events manager graciously introduced me to The Lands Council, a local non-profit with deep roots doing conservation work in the Kettle-Colville area. After learning more about the work Marc and I are doing with the map, TLC agreed to be our fiscal sponsor which will be a huge support as we seek grant funding to get our project off the ground.

The evening of the speaking event at REI went so smooth it felt like a dream. The room was already beginning to fill when I arrived to set up my presentation and get oriented to the room. We tacked draft maps to the walls and got the lighting just right as the final seat was taken. I decided, in integrity to my true nature, to share my full story of how I became interested in working in the Kettles. This tale included episodes of listening to the voice of the land, hallucinating that I was a raven, and how I feel about the wolf killings on the range. A few friends who attended said the audience was riveted; the room was silent until I called for questions. The questions I received in response to my presentation indicated a diverse audience: “where do I go to hunt bear on the Range?”, “are you working with the tribes to include indigenous place names and sacred sites?”, “when will the map be available?”

Through our initial fundraising process, Marc and I realized there is a deep need to first educate would-be recreators on what the Kettles are, why they’re important, and the basics on what to do when they visit. We’re also fortunate to have connected with Conservation Northwest, who co-presented with me that evening at REI, and TLC throughout our public outreach work.

Looking forward to providing another update soon on the project. There are exciting pieces falling into place that aren’t yet ready to be public.



Featured on Trail Sisters

Thanks again to Trail Sisters for hosting my words! Be sure to check out the article and the rest of their amazing resources for lady runners.

Brittany Raven

How to do the mental health workout right

There have been multiple times in my life when I needed a run or a climb not because my training plan said so but because my spirit demanded it. Most recently I spent the holidays in the noisy west side at a house with which I was unfamiliar caring for my father who was headed for hospice care - and neither Rumi nor I were sleeping well. A few mornings that week I woke, after six or so hours of fitful sleep, and knew I needed to contact the muddy, fern-populated forest in order to cope. It was on those runs that this post milled itself.

Oftentimes when a client on my roster violates her training plan it is because she had a hard day at work, a fight with her spouse, or some other stressful situation that caused her to run farther, climb harder, or generally practice poor self-care in motion. Since we all experience critical life stressors and since most endurance athletes use their practice in order to cope, I devised this quick how-to guide.

Next time you saddle up for a run, climb, or ski with a heavy heart, I hope you find these tips useful.

Brittany Raven

How much did you sleep? If you slept seven or more hours consecutively, you’re good to go for a workout. If you slept less than seven but more than five, you’ll need to curtail the duration and intensity of your workout even more than I suggest below. If your total sleep hours were less than five consecutively or added up to less than eight in chunks of fewer than four hours each, your best bet is to skip your workout entirely and opt for a walk and a meditation instead.

Mindset: Enter your mental health training session with a mindset of curiosity and self-compassion. Over-processing events as you move will only auger in negative or obsessive mental habits leading to anxiety or depression that will persist long after the stressor ceases. During the session, be sure to cultivate an associative relationship with sensation: pain, discomfort, heaviness, or ease. Welcome Mara to tea.

Intensity and duration: In order to soothe rather than activate your already-stressed ANS, avoid Zones 3 and higher during a mental health workout. Also since the body doesn’t replenish glycogen stores well when it is under stress or has not slept well, be sure to feed yourself high-carb snacks during your workout and keep the total duration under ninety minutes.

Objective hazard: In stark contrast to my post on going solo, the bedraggled, confused, depressed, or flustered athlete has no business engaging in any sort of risky activity. Despite the obvious distraction personal upheaval poses, the nervous system of a person functioning on little sleep and under stress is not the person who makes sound decisions in the alpine. Until the life stressor subsides, settle for workouts in places you know well that are well outside of harm’s way.

Recovery: Perhaps the most important part of the mental health workout is the mindset you continue after the session concludes. Practice good self-care by having fresh cotton clothes and a recovery snack available immediately after you cease motion. As soon as you’re alone, either sit in meditation (you could use the Headspace app or a simple timer on your phone) or queue up one of these effective somatic meditations. The goal of the mental health workout is not to self-flagellate as that will only make whatever problem you’re experiencing worse; the aim is to gain perspective and maintain presence.

Be sure to join my upcoming webinar on the topic of heart rate zones to really pin-point your individual zones.

Webinar: Your Zones

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 at noon Pacific

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Ditch your pace-based training plan

While pace is an apt tool for benchmarking progress and for measuring performance, it is not a useful metric for training. I implore you: ditch your pace-based training.

Efficiency: When an athlete chooses to use pace as a training metric, she will generally function in a heart rate zone referred to by coaches as the ‘black hole of endurance training’. None of us, even the most masochistic, can function much above lactate threshold for extended periods of time on consecutive days. Most of us are also too impatient to put in the work that feels like it wasn’t work in the lower heart rate zones. This leaves uncoached athletes defaulting to a ‘fun-hard’ pace - and that’s the black hole. This pace, what most pace-based athletes slot themselves into thinking it will make them stronger over time, is too hard to serve as recovery and too easy to support an increase in your lactate threshold.

Your ANS: When you consistently work at too high a heart rate zone during endurance training, your autonomic nervous system becomes activated. This isn’t a good thing. When you perform in your sympathetic nervous system, you lose your capacity for empathy and critical decision-making; your body consumes the limited stores of glycogen in your organs and other easily-accessible sources before beginning to burn muscle; and extended activation of the nervous system can lead to thyroid dysfunction, mental health disturbances, and illness or injury. I host single-topic webinars on this and other nervous system phenomena. Sign up for the waitlist to learn more.

Alternatives: Athletes might measure their training using climbing grade, elevation gain/loss, distance, duration, watts, or time in zone. While pace is nearly always the poorest measurement of training impact, time in zone is the best way to meter your endurance production. Nested within this strategy is the need for the athlete to train alone much of the time. Given that your level of recovery, heart rate variability, and, ultimately, the appropriate level of output during each training session fluctuates from session to session, a training buddy is more likely to cause you to over- or under-train than to support your training. Over time, time-in-zone training will result in you getting faster - there’s simply no need to check in all that frequently to validate that this is the case.

When is pace useful in endurance training? Pace-based training only has its place in the repertoire of the most elite mountain runners and even for those athletes only in metered doses during narrow periods of their training. Personally, the only time I’ve ever employed pace-based training was during my training for a fifty mile FKT and I’ve only suggested pace-based training for one client in my six years of business. Nuff said.

Quit with the competitive thinking already; learn your individual zones; and watch your performance rise while incidences of overtraining, insomnia, and injury decrease. Releasing the ego's attachment to pace and measuring the success of your session only by time in zone is of vital importance, not only to your fitness but to your health.

I’ll be hosting a special session entitled Your Zones later in the month. Be sure to sign up and learn all about the alternative to pace-based training.

Brittany Raven

Webinar: Your Zones

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 at noon Pacific

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Presenting about the Kettles Map Project at Spokane REI

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REI Spokane has invited me to present about the Kettles Map Project on Wednesday, January 16th at 6pm.

Come join to learn about the Kettle Range, the project, and ask questions after my presentation. At the event, REI staff will have on hand relevant texts by project collaborators David Moskowitz and Craig Romano.

Brittany Raven

Beware the one-size-fits-all training plan

Why don’t I sell one-size-fits-all training plans?

Bottom line: they're irresponsible.

Many endurance or running coaches out there make a pretty penny on the passive income source they call 'training plans'. Though passive income sources are enticing, my top priority is to support my clients and community on their path to a more sustainable, nourishing endurance practice.

When I do create training plans, they are tailor-made to an individual client and not derived from some algorithm. I don’t simply hand the plan over to the athlete to implement, we check in multiple times per month to be sure you’re on track and to adjust as circumstances dictate. Sure, this is far more time-consuming and expensive but who wants to half-ass an investment in their health and performance?

A few reasons to shun pre-made, mass-marketed training plans:

  • It is much easier to over train than to under train an ultra-endurance athlete - and overtraining is costly. Without knowing your specific fitness level (to a scientific degree of specificity) your online 'coach' runs the risk of colluding in your overtraining. Train smart, not rigid, by hiring a coach rather than buying a plan.

  • All athletes begin training for each event at a different starting place. Consider these two athletes training for their first 50k: Jill is an experienced alpine climber having had many successful climbs lasting longer than twenty-four hours. She doesn't particularly enjoy running, but believes running an ultra will be great cross-training for alpine climbing season. On the other hand, Mark is a regular 5k runner. Though he's never moved longer than ninety at a time he's confident his good form and recovery practices will carry him through training. These two athletes need, and deserve, coaching tailored to the factors they will struggle with throughout their training.

  • Ultra-endurance training often requires course-correction. As the athlete settles in to her training plan, whether for a climb, run, or ski event, she is bound to notice places where she could push harder and places where more active recovery will suit her. This is why, at Magnetic North, we check in at regular intervals throughout our relationship. During check ins we can up your strength training, dial back your mileage, and shuffle the schedule around to accomodate a vacation or illness.

I offer single-hour consults on the topic of your choice, gait analysis on trail, and multi-month coaching packages.

Kettles Map Project featured by KAVU

light drunk in the Kettles, cr. David Moskowitz

As the Kettles Map Project marches forward, my friends over at KAVU generously asked to feature the story of how I fell in love with the Range.

Give it a read and share it on your Facebook or Instagram. The wolves and lynx will thank you.

Brittany Raven

Predator fears overblown

I wrote a piece for the Ferry County View and, since it was an old-school paper article, I’m reposting the text here for your enjoyment.

Brittany Raven

Stewardship of and our relationships with the more-than-human have divided us for far too long and, since I see that the dualistic arguments that dominate discourse about wolves have failed to provide new ways of looking at the situation especially in the Kettles, allow me to present an alternate perspective. The mass hysteria we feed as part of our fear of the wild within us only disables our relationships with the more-than-human and with each other. What are people so afraid of?

I grew up on a steer farm in rural Washington and now work as a professional mountain athlete. Every single time I run, climb, fish or spend time outside with my daughter I do so alone, unarmed and in wilderness (not a state park or some other peri-urban forest). The thriving wilderness that we call home is full of cougars, bobcats, wolves, moose, deer, eagles, bears, snakes and we interact with these neighbors one-on-one many times a week. Every single run I take I tread where moose passed mere minutes before, I’ve been followed by cougars more times than I can count (three times that I know of this last winter alone), and last winter I had the privilege of being followed by a bobcat. I’ve run WITH four moose individuals including one with a calf, one big bull in the Colville, and one when I was nineteen alone in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The first time a cougar followed me I was alone on snowshoes near Grand Park on Mount Rainier at the age of sixteen. I’ve encountered five bear individuals on the Kettle Crest Trail alone in the last two years––one at about twenty feet away, so close I could smell her fur.

Every encounter with a furry friend in the woods inspires in me a deeper awareness of how I move, an understanding of the truth that I am very small and very insignificant, and that “wild” animals are, in our cultural consciousness, the monster under the bed. Never once has a “wild” animal so much as looked at me askance; but do you know what animal is aggressive to me regularly? Dogs. People’s misbehaving, off-leash dogs. I like to stay away from peopled trails, which is one reason why I love the Kettle Range.

As the frequency of my encounters with the wild increases, they become a still-remarkable but entirely normal part of my daily movements in the woods. I prefer the kind company of a large carnivore to the unpredictable nature of humans and their dogs any day of the week. Encounters with the wild are unavoidable if you spend time outside in Ferry County; learning to listen is a process of enrichment for us all.

Expanding my offerings


Dear reader,

As my individual coaching practice fills up, I am trying to find ways to engage with more of you. I want the work I do to be accessible and appropriately-scaled for many different levels and types of mountain endurance athletes.

Enter: COURSES. As I’ve found with my Pregnant Athlete Ecourse over the last eighteen months and as I’m learning after hosting the first instance of my ANS For Athletes Webinar, there is a lot of interest out there in bite-sized coaching offerings - and I enjoy working with groups.

I just added new dates for both courses and I plan to add more courses to the webinar series soon. Look forward to topics like mindfulness, lucid dreaming, nutrition, and self-care for athletes. Be sure to sign up to save your spot.

Thank you for being here.

Brittany Raven

Who I don't coach

When I niched down authentically in this here small business, there were a lot of potential clients I either started saying “no” to or who were turned off by how I communicated my brand. And that’s a good thing.

Of all the varied athletes I DO coach from ultra-runners to alpinists to mountain guides to wingsuit BASE jumpers to US Military Special Forces to your regular ol mom/athlete getting her grind on at her local trail system and at the climbing gym, there are a few groups I don’t coach. Here’s that list and a brief reason why.

  • Cyclists: Y’all have your own brand of crazy and a lot more specifically-trained and -qualified coaches (uh: Zones 5a, 5b, and 5c? Who comes up with this kind of torture?). I’m just not right for you unless you want to talk mindfulness, the nervous system, and visualization. In that case, I’ll totally coach a cyclist.

  • Nordic skiers: Similar to the above and I’ll add to that that I’ve tried to get into Nordic skiing and I just can’t. Like sold-my-skate-setup “just can’t”. Also, I find Nordic skiing (especially skate skiing) to be not a true mountain sport as you must have a human-maintained trail on which to move in order to conduct these sports. Simply not a great alignment with my values, skills, or interests.

  • Triathletes: Similar to cyclists, triathlon has a whole host of highly-specific coaches, trainers, and very deep peer-reviewed evidence base behind it. Of the very few triathletes I coached prior to screening them out in my client selection process, all of them had an active eating disorder, strayed from my well-crafted training plans built specifically for them, and thus we’re not a good match. My coaching doesn’t work unless my clients heed my advice and, while I’m happy to coach those in recovery from an eating disorder, I’m not qualified to coach athletes through their eating disorders.

  • Competition addicts: You know who you are, Strava user who thinks corporations and comparative models of achievement define what an ‘elite’ athlete is. Though I coach many athletes for competitive events (Emily! Jeff!) these athletes are process-oriented and actively seeking to quiet their minds and turn down the volume on their egos. These athletes understand that the event for which they’re training is only a finger pointing to the moon - and they don’t mind when I ask them to ditch pace-based training. If you want your coach to only help you go faster or harder, I’m not the coach for you.

Authentically yours,

Brittany Raven