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Kettle Crest Trail recovery

 The Kettle Range: Barnaby Buttes, Snow, Sherman, Columbia, Wapaloosie, Copper, and Profanity

The Kettle Range: Barnaby Buttes, Snow, Sherman, Columbia, Wapaloosie, Copper, and Profanity

Many of you have been asking how my physical recovery from the Kettle Crest Trail went this time around. My spirit experienced the running culmination of this event in epic hallucinations where I became Raven and even stranger things. While I've been wildly ruminating on the existential aspects of the experience, which are vast and still needing more time to process, my body quickly integrated the event.

The Kettle Crest Trail encompasses about forty-six miles (“about” because estimates range from forty-one to forty-eight and the trail sorely needs re-mapping) and about 8,000 feet gain between elevations of 4,800 feet and 7,200 feet. Unlike other epic mountain runs I’ve enjoyed like the Wonderland or any number of long routes in the Rockies, the KCT is a wily journey and often indistinct or unmaintained. Two old wildfire scars sling their black and silver remnants over the trail. In my seven runs on the Crest I’ve encountered five bears and three moose. The North Kettles are wolf country and are also challenging to navigate due to a recent fire there which has allowed brush to encroach on the faint path. Running this year, I saw a total of two people over the course of the better part of a day.

As with my last run on the Kettle Range in 2017, the latent effects of fetomaternal microchimerism rendered me unable to get sore. The female body is the ultimate endurance machine.

On last year’s run, I was forced by a great dearth of water on the trail to drink from a cattle trough. Consequently, I got giardia (my fourth bout with those little fuckers since 2009) and so my internal recovery from the run took until my course of antibiotics was over a few weeks later. This year, though, I armed myself with iodine tablets and thankfully my gut has felt solid since completing the run.

The day after the run I took a recovery hike. The day after that I took an easy run. The day after that my legs made me run like I was possessed––bottomless energy once again even after the FKT rolled out of me. Though I have attempted to turn my energy to climbing once again, my fire for running continues to burn and so I’ve spent six days a week hammering dust with joyful feet.

Most remarkably, my period has maintained its thirty day cycles. I strategically programmed this run to happen on the summer solstice in the first days of my luteal phase, knowing that I’d have ample light, lots of energy, and given that I’d have already ovulated it was unlikely that the big effort would disrupt my cycle.

Finally, last year I ran about five pounds lighter and my autonomic nervous system was a good deal more sensitive. In advance of my 2017 run, I found it difficult to fall or stay asleep and I functioned in a slight sleep deficit for most of the summer. Through winter 2017/2018 I packed on about ten pounds, downed an indica edible every night, and built more consistent bedtime habits. As a result, this year I slept well all but the night before the event (because I was just so damned excited to run). In the taper leading up to the event, I clocked about eleven and a half hours of sleep a night plus naps three days a week.

 

read more:

Perfecting the Taper

Psychedelia

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Deep play and regenerative work

 

romancing myself somewhere in the forgotten Okanogan, 2018

 

In June I had someone tell me I am not working hard enough and another person say I need to learn how to play. Paradoxically, they are both simultaneously completely true and deeply false.

My play is deep: expanding my known spectrum of pleasure and pain while hucking Rattlesnake in the tall grass and soaring with Eagle over the nude alpine. My work with the pen and in partnership with clients is a creative exhale that lights up my spirit.

In this way, there is no need for 'compromise' in the arc of creation and recharge; the things I don't have or can no longer afford I don't miss. This whole jubilant mass of my daily work carries me to its culmination, to Source, in a way the opposite of the motion of a river.

 

read more:

The Writing Practice

MN Turns Five!

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Rest

When rest goes from being something that perches in the leftover hours between work and sleep (and houscleaning and child-rearing and volunteering and commuting, and so on, ad infinitum) to being something that you claim for yourself, it becomes more valuable and tangible. The very act of making specific plans helps make a goal feel more realistic and accessible, and gives you a clearer sense of its value. Deliberate rest is not a negative space defined by the absence of work or something that we hope to get up to sometime. It is something positive, something worth cultivating in its own right.
— Alex Soojung-Kim Pang "Rest"

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Perfecting the taper

golden hour on the Kettle Crest, cr. David Moskowitz

As I transition into the quiet time before a storm of movement on yet another multi-year project, I have been revisiting my own advice on the art of the taper.

Tapering involves a relaxation and turning inward of the mind, body, and habit; it may last from a few days to six weeks depending on the event. During my various tapers for rock projects, expeditions, alpine climbs, and long runs I've developed a few transferrable strategies to make sure I'm well-rested and prepared for the big event.

 

Timing: Training too hard too early before your intended event can be just as detrimental to event-day (or month) performance as not training enough in advance. Finding the right balance of loading on the volume and backing off, track your various tapers and performance during events religiously. Reflect critically after the dust has settled following each event. You will, in time, learn the proper amount of time your body needs to rest before each event. A note: the time and type of taper necessary will vary within the athlete based on the kind of event undertaken. For example, I taper differently for an ultra than I do for a climbing objective.

Rest: Allow your body to cycle into as deep a state of rest as the event requires. For an endurance event, allow yourself to go to the state of rest where you're peeing a lot, sleeping more than normal, and don't feel motivation to train. Ideally, the body cycles through this state and back into an impatience for movement and more normal sleep patterns prior to the event. In addition to what one might normally think of as rest such as less training and more sleeping, try to eliminate excess items from your calendar or take a couple preparatory days off from work. Time away from stress, even productive or good stress, is necessary to allow your mind to prepare.

Insulation: Perhaps the least-practiced and most important part of tapering. To allow the most regenerative pre-event experience, this introvert avoids excess social contact, introductions to new people, new experiences, and most media during the taper period. Take a social media vacation in advance of your event - and delete the dang apps off your phone so you don't cheat. According to the event, it may also be nice to insulate oneself from the cold in order to prepare for some extended time out in the elements - this provides a time of coziness to harken back to when chilled to the bone and moving. This period is a safe island isolated from the intensity of training and event.

Reduce inflammation: Remove all alcohol, drugs, and food allergens from your diet - for real. The one exception to this tip is cannabis. If your body relaxes under the influence of CBD or canna, indulge at this time. It is preferable to ingest it in tincture or edible format. A couple supplements that can smooth the path to anti-inflammatory state are this one and a regular ol dose of turmeric

Self-care: Good self-care is always a key to high athletic achievement, but becomes acutely so in this final period. Through your final massage and acupuncture visits, note your body's energetic tank filling, perhaps even track it in your training journal. Depending on the seriousness of the event, consider updated blood work and a visit with your primary care doctor to be sure everything is in prime order. Continue your meditation practice, even deepen it at this time. Use delicious, whole foods to nourish the body and mind. For my clients who are in the know, the Owl Eyes exercise is indicated at this time.

Reaffirmation: In your meditations and lucidity sessions, visualize the exact sequence of your project, fly over the mountain you're about to climb, or let your feet touch the bends in the trail you'll travel. Feel yourself strong and vital as you complete your event and imagine the states of mind you'll need to cultivate for each stage of performance. You've committed to preparation for this event now review the goal and your path. This practice helps me see how far I've come and instills in me greater confidence in my ability to achieve the impossible.

Logistics: Practice packing for your event well in advance. In the process, you'll likely note a few items that could use repair or that you still need to purchase. This is cruicial for expeditions and self-supported events. Review your map or itinerary - the physical one and the topo in your head. As you conduct these final preparations, take a few shakedown runs, climbs, or rides just to keep the qi moving.

Recovery: Recovery begins with pre-event preparation. Clean your space to prepare for your return home. Collect your favorite recovery foods - even consider preparing them so they are ready to eat at the end of the event. Bring your most comfortable post-event clothing. On expeditions for the time between getting off the mountain and returning to the US, I find it nourishing to have a few touches of home like nice street clothes or my favorite chocolate. For endurance events, I have a favorite pair of lush sweatpants that I only wear post-run and find myself looking forward to during the event. 

 

I hope you've found this useful. If you'd like to learn more, visit my Coaching page and sign up for a consult on the topic of recovery. Resting is a vital element of athletic progression and I'm happy to lead you through these steps.

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The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jalal ud in Rumi

via this beautiful piece

IMG_0670 2.jpg

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Fear of the wild

The mass hysteria we feed as part of our fear of the wild within only disables our relationships with the more-than-human. Allow me to explain.

It might not be apparent to the casual Instagram follower, but every single time I run, climb, ski, 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). This thriving wilderness that we call home is full of cougars, bobcats, moose, deer, eagles, bears, and we interact with these neighbors one-on-one many times per week.

Every single run I take I tread where Moose passed mere minutes before, I’ve been followed by Cougar more times than I can count (three times that I know of this last winter alone), and this 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 as fuck bull, and one when I was twenty 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.

Every encounter with a furry friend in the woods inspires in me a deeper awareness, an understanding of the truth that I am very small and very insignificant, and that ‘wild’ animals are, in our cultural consciousness, the veritable monster under the bed. Never once has a ‘wild’ animal so much as looked at me askance in the tens of thousands of hours I've spent alone in the woods but do you know what animal is aggressive to me on the reg? Dogs, peoples’ shitty, misbehaving, off-leash dogs. I like to stay away from peopled trails.

As the frequency of my encounters with the wild increases, they become a still-remarkable but entirely normal part of our daily movements in the woods at home. I prefer the kind company of cougar to the unpredictable nature of humans or their dogs any day of the week.

All this to say one thing: If the more-than-human scares you, go walk in a mall - leave the wilderness to those of us who appreciate it and can handle feeling small. 

via Instagram

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Heat training

 my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

Hey forest freaks,

As the temps climb up near the 90s here - holy cow! - I've been feeling the heat in my afternoon runs. Thought it would be useful to re-post my article from last autumn reporting out on heat conditioning! There are a lot of myths out there about women being unable to acclimate appropriately to heat - and that is simply not true. 

Lotsa links to scholarly articles in here so go down that rabbit hole.

Brittany Raven


On April 20th, 2017 I took my first shirtless run of the season. On May 2nd, 2017 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

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Pregnant Athlete Ecourse (cohort six) now open for registration

◻️REGISTRATION NOW OPEN◻️

It isn’t about pushing harder, it is about learning to listen to your body. Your innate power and wisdom might surprise you.

This e-course will provide you with the most current peer-reviewed evidence to empower you to make educated choices about your pregnant and postpartum movement, training, and self-care.

Past participants rave about how the course allowed them to build community with like-minded athletes and advance their mountain practices while gestating their babes.

Pregnancy is the greatest performance enhancement known to (wo)man <pass it on>

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My tenkara story

My grampa first took me fishing on an alpine lake in Montana when I was about seven, I was enthralled watching trout rise from untold depths in perfectly clear water. My mom tried to get me into fly fishing on the Green River Gorge in Washington as a teenager, it didn't stick. It wasn't until I moved to the Methow Valley that I found tenkara and really got fishing. I self-studied allowing my interactions with water, wind, bugs, and fish to shape my technique on the tight side streams and turquoise high lakes.

Within that first season I found myself presenting flies to trout at some of the most remote gems in the Pasayten Wilderness and the Okanogan Highlands. In order to squeeze a quick fishing session in on these remote lakes, I began strapping my tenkara rod to my running backpack stashing the rare kept fish in a ziplock bag flopping in my pack on the way back home to add to my breakfast. When it came time to make a permanent home in the valley we chose a sweet cabin within a three minute walk of two stellar trout holes, allowing me to fish twice a day all summer long. No matter how many times I witness it, the rise still captivates me.

In partnership with the Okanogan National Forest and with the support of Tenkara USA, I now offer the first and only guided run-fish-run trips.

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