Comment

These quads

Kettle Crest Range 2017, cr. David Moskowitz

Kettle Crest Range 2017, cr. David Moskowitz

these quads are boss bitches, for real.

these quads are also sometimes difficult for me to accept; though most of the time I’ve learned to love them. as a young ballerina, I was told they were too big to create the aesthetically lean, long lines expected of a serious dancer. when I switched from high-altitude load humping to ultra distance running my body shaved off every extra piece of bulky muscle it could - my quads remained stubbornly stout. I’ve carried hatred for their thickness and only recently, and through a serious process of learning to tolerate, accept, then love, have begun to celebrate them.

these are the thighs between which Rumi sticks her head when she’s scared. these are the same fleshy ribbons my lovers crave wrapped around their bodies; the ones every one of them has fetishized, coasting gnarled hands over their deceptively-smooth and scarred surface. my massage therapist calls these gleaming pistons my marble columns for they are certainly strong enough to hold up the roof of the Pantheon.

these are the quads that shook as they fired my legs straight in the top step of my etrier on my first aid lead. these are the legs I trusted to carry me through twenty-six solo, unsupported mountain ultras. these are the quads that helped me squat steadily for four and a half hours while I pushed my perfect Rumi into the world on my bedroom floor; the legs that were so resilient that after that final push at the end of twenty-seven hours of active labor they still allowed me to catch my emerging babe and stand with her in my arms at ten seconds old slippery, bloody, and perfect. 

this right leg in particular endured sixteen stitches to remove a cancerous lesion when I was twenty-one. these are the knees that forced themselves into the balls of my first would-be rapist, a varsity football player at my high school, when I was a flat-chested fourteen year old then again into the balls of my second would-be rapist, a celebrated Himalayan guide, at the age of twenty-two.

tattooed, stretch-marked, bulbous, unevenly-tanned, blessedly hairy: thank you, beautiful thighs.

who said thin women have no use for body positivity?

Comment

Comment

Placental processing, supplements, productive pain, oh my

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 17.05.21.png
I had no expectations that were limiting and I had no expectations that were striving so I was able to just do what was healthy for my body.

Universe curse Methow Valley cell phone service! Nonetheless if you're interested in placenta smoothie recipes, my postpartum recovery curve, the connection between the nervous system and birth, how to productively relate to your pain, and setting expectations for your postpartum recovery take a listen to my latest podcast feature with the lovely Colleen of Prokreate Radio.

Comment

Comment

Reporting out on my summer of heat training

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

On April 20th I took my first shirtless run of the season. On May 2nd I told my IG followers that I was going to undertake purposeful heat training for the summer. On September 18th I next wore a shirt on a training run. 

This was a hot summer. I clocked over thirty runs at temperatures exceeding 95F - ten in a row over 100F. Adding to the heat was the impenetrable smoke which forced me to wear a ventilator on runs through all of August and part of September. The ventilator, much as it did an excellent job of filtering the smoke, also acted as a hypoxia-inducing mechanism by limiting the in-flow of oxygen as I went.

I'll back up and also confess: I have historically loathed the heat often telling friends and clients I'd rather be hypothermic than even a little warm. However, after choosing the Methow Valley as home, I had to befriend the heat if I intended to keep running - and I intend to keep running. 

So back in May I suspended my loathing of the heat long enough to devise a loose program of heat acclimation intended to increase my tolerance. As I researched how to acclimate to heat, I found a litany of other benefits of heat training: increased tolerance of cold, increased VO2Max in hot and cold conditions, and training adaptations similar to those I have experienced at altitude. The mechanism for all these useful changes? Increased plasma volume (a la pregnant blood doping!). 

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

For the month of May, I purposefully waited until the hottest part of the day (which was around mid-eighties) to do my runs two days a week. On those days, I took it easy but made myself keep running in what felt like sweltering heat for at least ninety minutes. On those runs I was sure not only to refuel but to rehydrate and to pay attention to my micronutrient intake as well. As May's temps ratcheted up in June, I felt more comfortable running in the heat already. During the month of June I tacked on to the end of every hot run an ice bath in whatever creek or river was nearby. I also began to do a hot epsom bath after one run-ice bath combo per week.

Beginning in the end of June and early July, my body started performing really well in the heat. I still took my hardest and longest runs at higher elevations and at cooler times of the day but by that point in the summer I was running four or five days a week in temperatures exceeding 90F. After every run beginning in mid-July I did a full-body ice bath in the Chewuch River or Deer Lake.

At the end of July the Diamond Creek Fire flared up a few miles from home dumping an obscene amount of smoke into my little river valley so I began to wear a ventilator (read more on running in wildfire country). Not one to complain about challenging conditions I chose to view my ventilator as yet another cardiac challenge to my strengthening system. Through all of August I ran at least four of my runs per week in the ventilator in temperatures over 95F - and damn did some of those runs feel tough.

As the heat persisted through the first weeks of September I began to feel markedly more at ease in the triple-digits. I found myself looking forward to runs on hot days and even found myself not feeling overheated on my last hot hot run on September 14th.

Now, as the cold rolls in and the ground I now run on is covered with snow, I feel more well-adapted to running in freezing, damp temperatures, too. My body feels like it is using much less energy than in past seasons keeping me warm despite being vastly leaner this autumn versus years past. And dammit if I'm not pining for those sultry runs in the smoke with Moose.

So after four months of shirt-free, sweat-heavy, hot AF runs I'm pleased to announce: I loved it! Truly. After a lifetime of not performing well in the heat I now miss my hot 4pm runs on sun-exposed dusty trail. I'm also performing better in the cold this autumn AND feel my overall cardiac capacity increased. Now let's see how that heat training translates to high altitude movement - I'll keep you posted.

 

read more:

how to run in wildfire country

heat training while pregnant

Comment

Comment

Dispelling myths event in Seattle - 6:30pm November 8

Hey preggos, partners, and birth professionals,

Come on out this Wednesday evening to Seattle Bouldering Project's West Wall Bar. Patagonia Seattle will be there raffling off some sweet gear, the kombucha will be flowing, and we will get nerdy about my dispelling myths content. Bring your questions and your kids!

Brittany Raven

Comment

Comment

RIP, Fred.

Fred regaling me with tales of his first ascent of the Angel Glacier, seen in the distance.

Fred regaling me with tales of his first ascent of the Angel Glacier, seen in the distance.

I’ll join the chorus and say: RIP, grand master of stone and ice.

in 2009 I had the privilege of traveling to the Canadian Rockies to climb with Fred and two other fine gents (to whom the credits for these photos go and whose last names I have totally forgotten, mea culpa). during those short weeks, Fred became one of my top five mentors as an alpinist and athlete.

we rolled slowly north and as we went Fred deployed his considerable network of friends to give the four of us a place to sleep and some delicious meals. his organization systems and deep concern for cultivating strong relationships were amazing: he had a card listing the names, birthdays, and favorite desserts of each of our hosts. we charmed families in Sandpoint and Spokane by showing up with the relevant pie and stories from the mountains. upon arriving in Jasper, near our climbing objective, as darkness fell, Fred let us know his plan was to sleep in the city park like he did in the 60s while he and Yvon climbed there. since it was likely we’d get kicked out of the park by the cops in 2009, we decided to head to the local bar and figure out what to do next.

we must have looked like a strange crew because the drunkest Canadian in the bar approached us within ten minutes of us sitting down by slurring: “you folksss look interethting. do you need a place to stay?” Fred, who had feigned deafness much of the trip, quickly answered for all of us: “yes! where’s your house?” his wife may have kicked us out at 4am when she discovered four stinky climbers sacked out on her living room floor but quickly invited us back after her climber nephew explained who Fred was. we ended up sleeping on this family’s floor sporadically through the next two weeks between forays into the mountains and our hosts became like our surrogate Canadian family after the trip was over.

setting up camp

setting up camp

these pictures are from our trip up Mount Edith Cavell. during the climb Fred constantly impressed me with his intellect and his mountain witchery. his most recent time in the area was during the aformentioned trip in the 60s but that didn’t cloud his memories of the appropriate streams to drink from, the exact mileage from trailhead to camp to summit and back, and even the weather patterns in this remote corner of the Canadian Rockies. during our trip he nuzzled ‘snafflehounds’ who regarded him as kin, called me ‘the girl’, and cooked a mean alpine curry during our nights at high camp. Fred demonstrated masterful ways to coil a rope so it laid flat over the lid of a pack as well as the optimal coil for keeping a rope from snagging while bushwhacking. he shared his theory on how rockfall works while climbing these chosspiles.

I will always treasure the time I got to spend in the mountains with Fred and I promise to never, ever call him a dirtbag.

Comment

Comment

Pregnant Athlete: "You're so small."

In learning how to connect with other athletes, I realize that telling more of my story is vital. I'm an introvert and tend to be careful with whom I share my journey, believing it to be rude to 'vulnerability spotlight' you dear readers with my internal process. I also rely heavily on evidence to validate the recommendations I make to my clients, rather than relying on my own lived experience as a mother/athlete and my experience as a coach.

Storytelling is how we connect, stories give flesh to the hard structure of good data. So here I'll share a short reflection I wrote back in April 2016 when I was thirty-six weeks pregnant. Look forward to more personal stories - and a continued dedication to the science of endurance.

Brittany Raven


I look 'small' (whatever that means) to most people. I'm thirty-six weeks and most people just started being able to tell I'm pregnant. the baby measures large on ultrasound, my fundal height is normal for my place in the pregnancy, and I attribute this to my elite athleticism, strong abs, and really long torso (I'm 5'10"). I'm one of those freakish moms you see on TV who has a six-pack at full term. this is not because I starve myself or even really care to have abs at this point, it is only because my life, my job, all of my time is spent as a mountain runner, backcountry skier, and climber.

yesterday something pretty awkward happened. another woman approached me in a coffee shop in my hometown - really small place - and said how neat it is that we're both pregnant and about the same due date. after chatting for a while I mentioned the upcoming birth and how excited I am. she looked shocked and told me she thought I was seventeen weeks pregnant like her. I reinforced that we all carry our babies differently but felt simultaneously judged for my appearance and as though my smallness had automatically judged her beautiful, round belly.

this sort of comparison feels terrible to women like her and terrible to women like me. anytime someone exclaims: "oh you're so SMALL!" I feel my effort building this baby over the last nine months is invalidated; somehow if I'm not bigger I'm not actually pregnant. it makes me feel judged and even if others may perceive this as a positive judgement it doesn't feel good to me. 

I wish we could embrace each woman's unique way of incubating her baby. whether she is huge or tiny, has visible abs or cellulite; as long as she is healthy, feels good, and is caring for her baby we should all just celebrate. or mind our own business.

 

read more:

Dispelling Myths Series

postpartum climbing

Seattle Times feature

Comment

Comment

Why I don't create one-size-fits-all training plans

Bottom line: they're irresponsible.

Many endurance and 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.

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 goal pursuit coaching packages.

Comment

Comment

Natural performance enhancements for female athletes don't stop with pregnancy

As with pregnancy, the pre-menstrual time is the other most maligned time to be in a female body. The pre-menstrual time is also one of the two most opportune times to reap the rewards of our legal, natural ability to blood dope as female-bodied athletes.

Let me explain a bit about the physiology involved here: The only two adaptations I work with my clients to achieve as an endurance coach are increased VO2 max and increased neuromuscular connection with slow-twitch muscle fibers - that's it. All the mindfulness, nutrition strategies, cyclic training, laboratory testing, and lifetimes of training boil down to this. 

Let me fast forward a bit to the pre-menstrual body. Low levels of hormones in this phase of our cycles increase total plasma volume, the amount of fluid available for the body to use as the basis of blood and bone marrow. When we increase total plasma volume, it can feel like we're sluggish or we perceive as the athlete that we're slower, lethargic, or less strong. As with any performance enhancement, natural or artificial, being in a state of optimal performance often doesn't feel good and we must get over the perception of decreased performance because that perception couldn't be farther from the truth.

During the pre-menstrual phase of an unmitigated menstrual cycle (one not inhibited or altered by hormonal birth control) the body is actually capable of higher resistance to stressors (better temperature moderation because of increased plasma) and higher VO2 Max (because the increased plasma is able to transport oxygen and nutrients in the blood). Pretty cool!

The way I transform this science into strategies for my athletes is by employing a strategic training theory that harnesses the menstrual cycle's inherent strengths in movement and cues for rest. Learn all about that by signing up for individual coaching with me

Whew! All boiled down to say: pregnancy AND an unmitigated pre-menstrual time are the only periods during which an athlete can legally, naturally blood dope. Performance enhancement doesn't necessary feel good but it works. Read more on the evidence behind this here.

Comment

Comment

Buddhism, parenting, and hunting.

my first child and my first bird, Autumn 2016

I am a Buddhist, a parent, and a hunter; I harvest food from the streams, the trees, the highlands, and I like to do it with Rumi Wren by my side. taking first fish and now birds allows me to learn about the pure sustenance that fills my belly and graces my cells.

after moving waaaay up the Chewuch, I’ve come into close contact with my cycles of use, reuse, and refuse. all things I consume I must hand-carry onto my property, all things I wish to dispose of I must remove from my property. I drink and bathe with water from a well - this makes me understand the limited nature and pure miracle of drawing the stuff up from deep in the belly of the earth. I make medicine from the few plants whose wisdom I’ve learned in my short time on this land. I gather the wood that will keep Rumi and me warm in the winter then begin the two-year cycle of curing it, cutting it, splitting it, and stacking it. I eat the berries, I drink from the springs, and even my house is built from beetle-killed pine logs felled to clear make way for my cabin. I’ve always wanted to live closer to the earth with my ear hearing kin’s pulsations at night while I sleep and now I’m here. the learning has only just begun and I am nowhere near my lifetime goal of total animal product self-sufficiency.

it is important to me to understand the full cycle of life, conception to death, of all things. hunting, fishing, and gathering my food and medicine is a part of that. I do this because I believe in compassionate understanding of all living beings, much in the same way a city-dwelling vegan might abstain from purchasing hunks of disembodied flesh from the supermarket. I take Rumi to the hills and on our land so that she might never forget she is an inalienable part of our shared body, this beautiful earth, and that we are mutually entrusted with the care of the other.

Comment

Comment

Attention Seattle peeps! In-person coaching spots available in November.

Hey Seattle peeps,

I'm making a business-related trip to the Wet Side 7-9 November - and I'm offering up a limited number of in-person gait analysis sessions while I'm there.

Gait work is square one for a runner of any level who seeks to become more efficient, injury-proof, and look more graceful to boot. Think running far (or near) has to be painful? Think again.

Expect an hour-long run and a short debrief for our first session. I'll follow that up with some 'homework' reminders and exercises on a private webpage created for you. Then, in ideally another month or two, we'll do another run and debrief. Put on your propeller hat for this run: I'll be sure to thoroughly equip you with all the scientific knowledge of your gait.

It doesn't have to hurt. Apply to join me on the trails below.

Comment