Viewing entries tagged
mountain running

Spacious-mind musings on the map

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For four consecutive summers, my attunement with and relationship to the Kettles has been the axis of my spirit’s turning. 

2016: A force that focused me and gave me hope when I was deep in a haze of postpartum anxiety. Choosing to listen to myself when it made no logical sense.

2017: Cosmic cairns the moment of the total eclipse that validated that listening to the tiny voice of wisdom in my head was the right decision. Creating art with alpenglow, Eagle, and feet; thin, tanned limbs flapping. Giardia.

2018: Alone/not-alone, feet weaving the broken land, heroic dose. Serendipitous connections making possible the seed of an improbable intuitive notion from back in 2016. Artistic fulfillment.

2019: Making my part-time home on a granite bluff overlooking the complicated landscape that holds every bit of my heart that doesn’t already belong to Rumi. Feet meeting dirt making map.

I welcome the uncertainty and hard work it will still take to birth the map. I recognize the map is still only the beginning: unfound bull trout lurk near northern banks in my dreams, springs well up and cascade down cliffs, unclimbed granite looms large under it all and I wonder: 

“Will I ever find the years to become intimate with this place, the sacred Sinixt H'a H'a Tumxulaux?”

read more:

Spokesman feature

Kettles Map Project update

Kavu feature

Giving up versus giving in

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In endurance sports there is often an unspoken but powerful aversion to vulnerability. Becoming vulnerable means feeling the pain to which you subject yourself; witnessing your own fallibility, lack of preparedness, or even (most terrifying of all) your own power. Athletes often bristle when I talk with them about beginning a dialogue with the parts of them that suffer on long runs or climbs.

And still: becoming soft is vital to realizing your strength. I'll give you an example.

In training for the Wonderland Trail in 2012 I ran a solo fifty miler on the Northside Loop starting at sundown to preview the work in store for me on the real run. It was hot: 85F all night even at 7000' and I sweated quickly through my shirt. Even though I was used to running alone in the dark five mornings a week, the immensity and gravitas of the committing route I'd chosen resonated inside me as fear and with each snap of a twig underfoot I tightened. An owl alighted from a fir bough nearly causing me to throw up in surprise at the dark unknown unpopulated with other humans and stretching into blackness for miles in each direction. At some point, though, I relaxed into the sensation of being followed and yet alone, hooting every minute or so and finding my feathered companion trailed me for a good hour. 

Then, around 3am, a porcupine launched out of an impossibly-small triangular space between cobbles in the trail and its stumpy legs propelled it along close on my heels and all I could think was: "WHAT THE FUCK: AGAIN?" <aside: I was first chased by a porcupine while lost in a swamp at the base of Mount Stuart in 2009.> After this brief sprint, which occurred around mile thirty-seven, I was pretty discouraged mentally and physically feeling spent. Mara assaulted me and I dropped to the dusty trail. Metabolic waste products ached in my legs making them feel like concrete piers dipped in acid, my stomach churned, my mind spoke nonsense to me that I just happened to be tired enough to believe: "You're not a runner or even an athlete, what the hell are you doing out here? You're not good enough to belly up to a goal like the Wonderland alone or at all for that matter. Who the hell do you think you are to be so audacious? You're an amateur, you're broken, you're too tired to finish. You might as well give up now and not even try to run the hundred since fifty was clearly too much for you."

This might sound like giving up but it wasn't because of one key aspect of the experience. I let the thoughts spool out, I let my legs ache to hell and back, I let myself lie there in mud created by my own piss on the dust for a long time then, because I'd given myself no escape hatch, I stood, dusted myself off, ate something, and started moving down the trail.

The rest of the run took on a softer quality. I found myself crying before sunrise (that darkest dark, you know?) in a meadow about which I'd dreamed (which consequently bore the name "Mystic") months prior. Though I was in the kind of immense pain that comes for me around mile forty of every long run, the kind that makes my skin feel too tight and inspires me to peel it off for relief, I perceived pleasure in a cool breeze issuing from the mouth of the base of Thermogenesis a few thousand feet up and to my right. A family of goats joined me as I crested the final hill into Sunrise at sunrise, kids skating shale shards off its crest which slashed my legs as I they ticked uphill like a metronome. In the final drop down to White River Campground where my car sat loaded with blueberries, kombucha, and the remainders of yesterday's burger my shoulders drooped and I felt the relief of having released my goal.

Immediately upon sitting with the spoils of my snacks, shirtless sweaty back leaned up against my truck tire, I looked at the time: it was only 6:45am, a rather short ten hours since I'd left my car the night before. Huh, I wasn't as slow as I thought I'd be. Then, scanning through my body that had been so focused on the importance of its own productive pain, I realized I wasn't injured or even particularly physically spent. What I had convinced myself was impossible overnight, my goal of running the Wonderland solo and unsupported, began to feel possible again as I realized that I'd completed what I set out to achieve on what was likely to be my hardest training run.

I was only able to transform into the mind-body tool capable of containing this mountain gnosis because of my willingness to engage self-doubt, pain, and fear as they arose. If I had maintained distance from my experience, ANS fired up all night in a false sense of protection and reactive control, I would have bonked for real, sending me into what would have been a dangerous situation alone on the trail at night a two day walk from wherever a ranger might depart to rescue me. Instead of resisting the negative emotions, the many Maras of my silly existence, I related with them - however ungracefully it happened. 

When giving up becomes an option, the only way to continue to commit to the growth contained in the experience is to give in. Making yourself vulnerable in the face of creation, universe, or god is necessary to go as far as you can go. To give yourself over fully to the depth of the experience is the only way to access your true power - and let me tell you it runs a lot deeper than bluster, bravado, and happiness.

read more:

Solo and unsupported

Andrea Laughery client interview - Becoming An Athlete

Deep play

Fear of the wild

Performance according to your element

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

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

Solo and unsupported: more than a matter of style

daily sessions on my private trails bring me peace and balance, Summer 2017

My relationship with being alone in the forest as a tool of self-discovery and intimacy with place goes back as far as I can remember. When family gatherings as a child or, heck, my own birthday parties would get too stressful for me I’d retire to the sturdy limbs of the nearest cedar with my journal until all the guests had departed. Often I’d invite friends over for play dates as a kid to appease my mom then spend the entire time they were at my house evading and spying on them or constructing makeshift tents out of the brown tall grass, whiling away the afternoon alone and daydreaming. At recess during elementary school I spent my time making concoctions of whatever plants grew on the playground or I stayed in the library and read, invariably alone and not at all miffed. This behavior continued into my teens as I made my first forays into the mountains solo.

The first time I remember conducting an endurance activity alone in the mountains I was sixteen and on snowshoes. There is a minor ridge to the north-northwest of Mount Rainier––the trail was near my home and where I’d worked as a volunteer with the Department of Fish and Wildlife so I felt comfortable there and I admired the mountain whose milk had nourished me all through childhood. Though the entire hike was less than eight miles long, I saw no one the entire way up. When I doubled back on my path of ascent, I began to note cougar tracks laid in to the square patterns made by my snowshoes. That was the first time I felt the now-familiar mix of fear, responsibility, and wonder that comes standard with each of my solo ventures into the wilderness. That snowy day I also realized that, by putting myself at the mercy of the more-than-human yet remaining aware and not dissociating by arming myself, I felt the natural order of things in the woods and my heart was tender, my ears were sharp, my attention diffused itself to perceive the slightest movements and sound in the silent understory.

Following that first time in the mountains alone, I began hiking to my favorite alpine lakes alone that summer; this was less because I preferred being alone and more because I found my friends were less reliably available to join me than I’d have liked. When I was twenty I took up mountaineering; that same summer I rode the train then hitched in to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park on a ten-day backpacking trip alone. On that trip I interacted with my first moose in the wild and I coped with fear so profound that at night it felt like a hand pressing on my chest as I tried in vain to sleep. 

This quickly devolved into runs from Camp Muir to the top of the Cleaver solo as a twenty-two-year-old climbing ranger on Mount Rainier. Once the slowest and most cautious person on the mountain (literally, not hyperbolically) I surprised myself by striding out alone, unroped across the Cowlitz and Ingraham Glaciers in my lightest crampons. I liked the feeling of efficiency, traveling without so much as a pack to slow me down, and the way that my lack of safety devices demanded that I use my mind to discern subtle bumps in the snow that might be collapsable snow bridges and to take note of the speed at which I traveled downhill in different consistencies of snow. In 2010 I set the first female speed record on the mountain, simul-soloing next to my late partner, Chad Kellogg, and ultimately deciding to tell no one about the day’s activities. The feeling of total awareness combined with complete relaxation, the giddy action of leaping over gaping crevasses next to my soul mate, is one I only replicated with the homebirth of my child five years later.

Together, we also climbed solo on alpine rock and waterfall ice. The most indelible of these experiences came one day just before solstice on our yearly trips to Canmore to ice climb. We climbed a multipitch waterfall unroped and in perfect synch next to one another. This took a lot of trust, not only in my own technical abilities, in the ice and in him. Climbing together that day, feeling the ringing of my solid sticks in plastic ice and the vibration of his tools landing in unison, goes down for me as one of my favorite moments in the mountains. We found safety in moving fast together but still solo.

Chad’s boldness in his solo endeavors and the elegant simplicity of his alpine aesthetic poured fuel on the loneliness-seeking fire inside me and solidified my own stylistic leanings as a spirit-athlete. When we parted ways, I began to run ultras solo and unsupported as a way to feel less confused by other people and more in the company with the beings with whom I knew I belonged: the trees and the animals. Over the next couple years I ran distances from 50k to 100 miles, some that I had never run before, solo and unsupported adding up to twenty-seven ultras alone at the time of writing.

I taught myself to rope solo the summer of 2014 but didn’t begin to rely on that tool as one for regular training until the summer of 2015 when I moved to the Methow. I realized that, alone, I could knock out a ten-pitch session in less than a quarter of the time it would have taken with a partner. Sure, I didn’t get the opportunity to lead given that I was top-rope soloing at the time, but if fitness and simple movement on the rock were my intended outcomes for the day then rope soloing was the vastly more efficient way to get it done. I continued rope soloing through the first two trimesters of my pregnancy with Rumi and, as a parent, rope soloing has often been the only way to get in a few quick pitches as parenting compresses my schedule.

These days, in the summer and autumn I rope solo and run alone six days a week; in the winters I run and ski alone six days a week - many of these days include two solo sessions in a day (climb/run, or run/ski, or on the best days run/climb/ski). I have never been late to check in with my safety people and have self-evacuated after my two injuries alone in the mountains - one evacuation had me run/walking twenty miles alone and hypothermic, the other bleeding from four orofices with bursa in my knee deployed and a shattered pinkie knuckle.

These days, solo and unsupported is my happy default - rock, snow, and trail. I’m no Honnold, nor do I ever want to be, but here’s this introvert’s guide to the ethic of the solo, unsupported athlete.

Brittany Raven

 

on a speed climb on Rainier conducted simul-solo, Summer 2011, cr. Chad Kellogg

 

What is soloing for runners? For running this can encompass a broad spectrum of what is considered “solo”. This begins, in its mildest form, as a fully-supported run completed alone. The runner’s crew might maintain aid stations, refill the runner’s water, provide bodywork on the fly, and do course marking or navigation for the runner. But why deal with the annoyance and distraction of other people clogging your spirit work and complicating your plans? In its most extreme, solo running takes the form of solo, unsupported, onsight runs in the mountains. This is the same for skiing except in ski mountaineering where a pair of skiers can solo by simply choosing not to rope up or a single skier can go out alone.

What is soloing for climbers? Climbers can rope solo, either top-rope or lead, on a variety of terrains from sport crags to alpine multipitch climbs, to glaciers, to big walls, and on aid pitches. There is a lot of complexity between and among these varied types of roped solo climbing. A climber can also simul-solo, solo alongside a partner on rock, ice, or glacier, which is a common practice for a team of experienced climbers wishing to travel swiftly through easy terrain between harder pitches or steeper, more broken terrain. Sometimes unroping in this environment is the safest decision for the team. The most risky soloing a climber can do is to free solo (climb without ropes though sometimes still in a harness) on a bigwall or mulitpitch route - especially one she or he has never climbed before. The levels of risk, experience, and judgement involved in decisions about soloing while climbing range widely from top-rope soloing to free solo bigwall climbs.

 

I go alone because I want to be free, Autumn 2018

 

Why? For athletes for whom comparative, patriarchal, capitalist models of alpinism originating in whiteness ring hollow, there exists an alternate path: going alone and sharing your journey only out of joy, not conquest or personal gain. This path is little-discussed, stigmatized, and old as time. Every spiritual tradition has, in its structure, a wisdom-seeker who goes into the wilderness alone to seek or construct situations that alter their ordinary perceptive reality into one of non-dual awareness and psychedelia. It is my personal belief that this is where most mythology springs from. Some athletes choose to solo simply because their need for movement outstrips the availability of partners. Some go because they like to be quiet, as a break from their lives of constant social obligation.

Internal risk factors: Reserves, physical and emotional, are the first consideration in choosing whether or not to go solo. If it has been a stressful week at work, if you’ve not been sleeping well, or if you’re in emotional distress, either choose to not solo or choose a solo activity with less objective hazard or one in familiar terrain. Risk assessment capacities are vital to develop and maintain as a solo athlete and they can be compromised if you are observed, if you’re tired, or when you’re stressed. Medical training for solo athletes is a must. Attain and keep current at least a Wilderness First Responder and become familiar with the types of self-rescue systems you might need to employ if you are rope soloing in any sort of terrain. There are creative ways a soloist on a glacier can protect herself when crossing a crevasse and important knots, hitches, and pieces of equipment a climber must learn to use to release the load on a rope or to lower themselves safely back to the ground. Be sure you have solid navigation skills before venturing into the mountains alone. Pregnancy is not necessarily a risk factor in the solo endeavor rather the person’s individual health and skill level should be the determining factors.

External risk factors: Objective hazard comes in many different flavors depending on your mode of travel: avalanche, crevasse falls, wildfire, rockfall, tree wells, adverse weather events, falling off a wall or trail, and deadfall in historic burns all make the list. Other people in high-traffic areas are a particular concern for female mountain movers. Animals rank lowest for me on my list of external risk factors.

Mental training: Part of being solo and unsupported that refines me is the component of total commitment. If shit hits the fan, I am the only one out there to resolve things––I have to let go of any sense of being the victim of my circumstances and take responsibility for what is in every moment. The athlete should have a sober and realistic assessment of her own abilities including technical skill, planning, and fitness before venturing out alone. Fortitude, the quality of persisting either stoically or softly under pressure, is vital for the solo athlete and going alone will cultivate this in you. Rather than allowing yourself to bonk hard at mile twenty or thirty-six or sixty or at hour twenty-four when you’re out alone, transform those lulls in the event by implementing grace windows instead, walking and feeding your way into them so they hit in a less-acute way. Cultivating any sort of mindfulness practice - sitting, visualization, lucid dreaming, or astral projection - is an invaluable tool for the soloist. You stop being a hero or a martyr the moment you eschew outdated dualistic thinking and instead move in a gnostic paradigm.

 
alone in the Bob, Summer 2007

alone in the Bob, Summer 2007

 

Physical training: When first embarking on solo endeavors, I advise athletes to choose their local training grounds and routine places for alone training sessions. The solo sessions can increase in complexity as the consistent fitness and boldness of the athlete increases. If you want to go alone on new terrain, at a new distance, or under any unfamiliar circumstances, you must first attain an ample endurance base, be in perfect mental and physical health, and accept that additional degree of risk. For some, this level of risk is motivating and exhilarating; for others it is distracting and debilitating. Also choose your solo activity in each discipline in alignment with your skill level at each. For example, I might be comfortable running a solo, unsupported ultra in unfamiliar terrain while I’m only comfortable soloing on alpine rock in places with which I am intimately familiar and whose rock is quite stable.

Safety (or “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”): Leave a plan for your outing with a local safety person. This plan should include a map, where you’re parking, when you anticipate being back in contact with said safety person, and instructions for that person to get in contact with the relevant Search and Rescue professionals in the area if you’re not out on schedule. Carry a satellite GPS tracking device, preferably one with the capability to send and receive messages. These are two important safety concerns and I’ll note here that I’m a hypocrite: I do neither. Though I usually leave a plan with a trusted safety person when I ski or climb alone, many of the trails I run are secret, unmapped trails whose location I won’t disclose to even my best friend. I simply don’t have the $500 to buy a sat phone or pay for the annual subscription. The latter I hope to remedy in the coming year; the former will likely remain the risk it currently is because solitude is solace.

Contraindications: Solo wilderness travel is contraindicated for those people without adequate training, those who lack a clear plan, and those who have experienced the need to be rescued in the past as a result of poor decision-making. Soloing for an audience, whether your friends or a camera crew, is additionally reckless and negates the ego-transcendent properties of true aloneness. Additionally, people in dissociative relationship to their pain and fear are not qualified to travel peacefully and uneventfully alone in the wilderness. People with poor mental health might think of a rash solo trip as the only balm for their pain, this is incorrect. Whether alone or in a group, your most effective safety tool is the mushy, grey one between your ears.

Communion: Alone, I am vulnerable and unguarded - in stark contrast to my daily life among unpredictable two-leggeds. Alone, I am creative and ferocious, forgiving and alive, attuned and magnificent, grotesque and tired. Alone, I realize the emptiness of all things. Above all, going it alone is about connecting with the people with whom I most identify: the trees, rocks, snow, and animals. In this sense, solo and unsupported is less a romantic notion of accessing the unsullied, the undisturbed, the placid and more the practice of plugging in to a subtler frequency without the fetters of ropes, partners, or coordinating plans with someone other than the moon, the snow, and the weather.

Andrea Laughery client interview - Becoming An Athlete

It is all about breaking down our predetermined stereotypes of what an ‘athlete’ can be. Of course I can be a 34 year old mom of two kids and an athlete at the same time.
— Andrea Laughery

Readers, this is a special one. Andrea and I had a rich conversation about beginning (over and over), healing in the hills, and how she went from not being able to run five miles to completing a half-marathon and contemplating the ultra distance.

So often, I hear from people who are interested in working with me as a coach who tell me they aren’t a ‘good’ enough athlete - or not an athlete at all. Honestly, working with Andrea was just as rich and challenging an experience for me as working with elite athletes and guides on my roster in the past. She found examples of her own successes and built on them with more diligent hard work in typical Virgo fashion.

Enjoy a listen over coffee on your autumn porch!

Brittany Raven

The mountains have become a physical place that I tether myself to that helps me heal greatly.
— Andrea Laughery

1:32 Athletic background

3:00 Bringing her kids into the outdoors

5:00 “You can learn how to run properly”

6:45 Someone to believe in you

8:30 Redefining herself

9:55 The turning point

11:25 Running her first half

13:00 What’s next?

16:00 Building confidence in her practice

17:15 Healing in the mountains

GUEST POST: Prenatal mental health

Dear readers,

As I prepare to work with another cohort of the Pregnant Athlete E-course, I’ve been wrestling with how to approach the topic of prenatal mental health. Most of us, by now, understand that many new parents struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety but we often don’t talk about mental health during pregnancy.

I had a significant bout with prenatal anxiety and, while I’m not yet ready to write about it, I wanted to share something on the topic. When Leia posted on her social media about her own work through prenatal anxiety I asked if she would pen her story for you, reader.

She DID and it is raw, beautiful, relatable, hopeful, and honest. Some of us use medicine, therapy, coping mechanisms, or other ways to manage our mental health; here’s to de-stigmatizing the decision to employ medicine as a means of supporting a healthy pregnancy.

Brittany Raven

PS: I care about your wellbeing. If you are having suicidal thoughts or are engaging in self-harm, please click the button below to find emergency support.


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Prenatal Mental Health, by Leia Anderson

There are lots of ways that we can self-identify. I identify as a mom - with a three year old son and another boy on the way. I am a runner, which is a huge part of my identity as it branches into running coach, race director, and instructor. I am a wife, who has a spouse that supports me on my running and momming adventures. These are the identities that I latch onto.  They’re positive and offer fulfilment. Unfortunately there’s also a large piece of me that struggles with anxiety. I do not enjoy identifying as a person with anxiety, but if I don’t own that piece, it risks the other positive identifiers that I claim.

Anxiety and depression are often hand holders. For me, anxiety is the largest struggle and it manifests in different ways. When I am at my worst, all of those positives, the things that I love, don’t make me feel good. I become what feels like a bad mom, a bad wife, and I stop enjoying running in the same way. I worry about everything. I over-analyze conversations and things that most people would never read into. I physically manifest symptoms like tightness in my chest. When I decided to seek out some help, it did not come naturally to me. Partially because I didn’t understand that the way I felt wasn't it normal. I’d always felt like that. I also listened to a lot of voices telling me that “nothing was actually wrong, and just stop worrying so much.”

About ten years ago I decided to start seeing a psychologist as a first step.Though even though it helped, it wasn’t quite enough. I had started running, and it became a great help, but also still not enough. After some time I was referred to a psychiatrist to discuss medicine.   This is one of the hardest things for me to accept. I do not want this kind of help. I want to be ok on my own. I want to find coping mechanisms that I can hold on to and that will fix everything for me and make me feel better. However, I am a much better, mom, wife, and runner on medication and I have had to come to terms with that. I still incorporate talk therapy as I need to. It’s not a constant, but it’s helpful to have when I need a little extra.  

A major struggle with medicine is determining whether or not to take it while you are pregnant and nursing. We talk a fair amount about postpartum depression, but we often don’t acknowledge how hard it is to actually just be pregnant.  There are the hormonal changes that can cause moods to alter or stress to rise. Then you may have coping mechanisms in place that no longer work to ease your stress, depression, or anxiety. For my first pregnancy I chose to get off of the medicine that I was taking at the time (Citalopram). I had a comfortable pregnancy, was thrilled to be able to run and work out as much as I was able to, and managed fairly well. I even thought that I might be able to stay off of the medicine once I had the baby.

I was so in love with our little boy and managed for several months. Then I started to struggle again. I stopped enjoying things like running, particularly group runs, which are a big part of my life. I was worried about keeping up or taking time away from family in ways that were completely disproportionate to the concerns. I talked to my doctor and started taking Citalopram again. I felt better, like myself.

Fast forward three years and we are expecting again. One of the problems is that there really isn't a lot of research out there that clearly outlines SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and their impacts on pregnancy. Google becomes a tool for stirring up emotions. I was struggling with the balance of how I felt being off medicine with how worried I was about being on it. Again I decided to get off of medicine.

It did not go well.  Right before I got pregnant I ran a forty-eight hour race; it was one of the most successful races I have run and it was also the longest. So even though I was still running and strength training throughout this pregnancy, it was a huge let down from what I had been been doing right before this. I had a couple of stressful events happen and I was not handling things well.  I was pregnant and not eating or sleeping enough, which was causing another layer of anxiety because I was worried about that too. I was sucking it up to teach classes and work with my clients, and was a mess at home. I started seeing my psychologist again, and though it helped, nothing was really making me feel truly better. At around five months pregnant I talked to my doctor about getting back on medicine. She was kind and empathetic (I could also go on and on about why it’s important to find a doctor who you truly trust and connect with during your pregnancy) and recommended Zoloft during pregnancy.  

After a couple of weeks I started to feel better, and after about a month of being back on I was like my old self. I initially felt guilty for needing this. I know so many women who feel so broken asking for medicine. I totally understand. It’s the feeling that you are out of control or can’t manage on your own. For some people talk therapy and coping mechanisms are enough, but not everyone. When I am on my medicine, I feel like myself, or how I really identify.

I’m always amazed by how many people thank me for being open about this. I choose not to be ashamed, not to feel broken, but to feel stronger because I’ve asked for and gotten the help that I need. I’m far more excited about this pregnancy now that I’m in the third trimester because I feel better; I’m enjoying my family more and am okay with what I can manage on my runs. I’m glad that I didn’t try to wait until after I delivered to ask for the help that I needed. I believe I’m having a happier healthier pregnancy because of it.  


read more:

Expectful meditation app

Pregnant doctor/alpinist/skiier

Pregnant Athlete E-course

 
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Leia Anderson is a running coach and co-owner of Team Sparkle Productions in Kansas City. Team Sparkle coaches individual runners, has group training programs, workshops, and races. She’s passionate about helping people find their love of running and safely grow in the sport.  

Find out more about her work here and follow her on Instagram here.

<— that is Leia during her forty-eight hour event!

Emily Carlson client interview - Slowing Down To Speed Up

My goal this year for myself was to pursue quietness of mind.
— Emily Carlson

Happy Monday, readers,

Emily and I began working together early spring 2018 on her project of running her first fifty miler. Her reputation as a total speedgoat preceded her and I knew what my task would be: getting this talented runner to slow down.

I LOVED talking with Emily this morning about the contrast between her training before we began working together and when we were working together, how she dignified her athletic practice with committed time to herself, and learning a bit more about her fifty miler experiences.

Anyone who balances family and training, anyone who has ever doubted themselves as an athlete, anyone preparing to run a new distance, and anyone who doesn’t see the value in being slow, give this a listen.

Thank you, Emily!

Brittany Raven


Topics discussed in this episode:

2:00 Emily’s training before our coaching

5:30 Benefits of being slow

6:45 Balancing family and training

11:30 Listening to your body

13:00 Resting instead of peak weeks

16:00 Being with what is

23:00 “I never saw myself as an athlete until this summer”

I felt completely ready and prepared. My curiosity was less on performance and more on: “How is this going to feel?”
— Emily Carlson

Episode resources:

Emily’s Instagram

 

Related posts:

Client interview series

Mindfulness

Photo credit: Andrea Laughery (instagram.com/laughclan)

My clients do incredible/brave/laudable shit

Though they are many, I'm admittedly not great about highlighting my clients' accomplishments. In truth this is because I regard each of their journeys as spirit-athletes to be so sacred, so individual, that I have a strict non-disclosure agreement between me and them. Their stories are theirs to tell—and theirs alone.

However, I felt a quick roundup of their work was long overdue. This list is not comprehensive but I thought it useful to share a few successes emblematic of the athletes I coach.

So, some cool stories from 2018 so far:

  • Recovered from septic knee injury to run longest run ever while six months pregnant.

  • Completed the X-Pyr event, flying a paraglider and running the span of the Pyrenees.

  • Ran first ultra—while four months pregnant.

  • Climbed first outdoor lead successfully at eight months postpartum.

  • Ran ten miles in the mountains, joyfully.

  • Completed first fifty miler—and fast.

  • Used mindfulness practice and personalized training plans to recover from guiding-induced hyperthyroidism.

It is also meaningful to me that none of my athletes sustain overuse injuries or become overtrained while under my coaching. They all report that lessons on mindful movement are their most treasured takeaways. This work brings me great joy—I am honored to work with every single one of these humans and the ones I didn't mention, too.




How to run in a ventilator

Over on Da Gram, folks I follow from Montana to California have been asking all sorts of questions about me running in a ventilator when it is smoky outside. During summer 2017, I was deeply focused on an ultra running project when the Diamond Creek Fire broke out ten miles from my home in the Methow Valley. Instead of running indoors at the pinner gym in the valley or giving up my gnostic mileage altogether, I decided to innovate.

SOLUTIONS > excuses

Enter: Darth Vader Bitch in no shirt and a power braid. I hope this brief guide keeps you moving on the trails when clouds turn to ash. Enjoy your sore-throat-free run in the smoke!

Brittany Raven


Ventilator model: I am more prone to finding solutions than to allowing adverse running conditions keep me indoors. Last summer I spent most of August and September running and lifting in this ventilator. If it is your first time training in a ventilator, expect a ventilator that is effective in protecting against smoke inhalation to obscure your breathing - it felt like running at about 9000' elevation to me. Be aware of hypoxia due to the restriction of breathing and moderate your pace and the steepness of the terrain you choose to run accordingly.

When to don it: When the air smells like wildfire smoke, when I can't see Mount Gardner from Winthrop, or when I get a slight headache from the smoke I put on my ventilator. This happens around 75 AQI. With the high volume of training I do, I can't chance a case of bronchitis or the presence of a splitting headache anymore than I want to axe a planned run. If a large amount of visible particulate falls from the sky I do a different form of training as I don't want the particulate in my eyes. 

Achieving a seal: Allow the sweat to build up around the ventilator (in the space between skin and plastic) and don't wipe it away. That sweat creates an excellent seal of the mask to your face. Be sure to move the mask aside every fifteen minutes for a bite and a sip. People with facial hair might struggle to get the thing to stick completely to their faces.

The stimulus: Given that the mask will function as yet another stimulus in your training and, paired with the likely heat that will accompany it, you may perceive a dip in performance as your body acclimates. When you restrict oxygen input, your body works furiously to produce more red blood cells. When you add heat, your body increases plasma volume. With these things happening simultaneously your bod is indeed increasing its performance but it will feel discouragingly slow. 

Measuring the stimulus: Pace is nearly always the poorest measurement of training impact; time in zone is nearly always the best way to meter out your endurance production. Quit with the competitive thinking already, learn your CUSTOM/INDIVIDUAL zones, and watch your performance rise while incidences of overtraining, insomnia, and injury decrease. Especially in the mask, releasing the ego's attachment to pace and measuring the success of your run only by time in zone is of vital importance. 

The ANS: Hypoxia leads to the activation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and that is a bad thing for an ultra endurance machine like you. With an activated nervous system during persistent endurance training you risk poor proliferation of oxygen, inappropriate metabolism of your precious calories, poor decision-making, lack of connection with the divine, and even adrenal fatigue. 

Minor logistics: In this model of ventilator I've found a hat to be more compatible sun protection than sunglasses, a high ponytail (power braid suggested) helps hold the dang thing up better than a low pony, and wearing it with headphone cords is a hassle. Be warned that this ventilator obscures your peripheral vision - about as much as if you were wearing ski goggles. Choose your trail surface accordingly.

 

read more:

running in wildfire country

heat training

training in the heat while pregnant