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Friday, November 30, 2012

"Its all about the extra loop" Andy W.

Andy wrote this as a response to my response to Jane, a first time Death Racer, on the Spartan DR FB page.  Jane's post had shared that another DR veteran Jack C had talked her into going for another loop at a VT trail run to raise food for a local pantry...I responded to her that a life well lived is all about going that extra loop..I guess Andy agreed with me because his response had many exclamation points behind it...I mean DR is his and Joe's baby and isn't DR based on the idea of doing the extra loop..in a nutshell not quitting?

I have been thinking about that response "its all about the extra loop" a lot lately...

Quitting, giving up, throwing in the towel...it is an easy thing to do and there are times that it is an appropriate  response and there are other times where a feeling of regret is a justifiable response....but how do you distinguish between the two?  There are a lot of things I have quit in my life.

Relationships..ohh yep I have walked out on one or two of those when the going got tough or overwhelming I turned tail and ran for the hills leaving behind good men and worse little ones that I loved.
My Doctorate yep...quit after finishing all my courses with half of a thesis done..yessiree with the end in sight I  just walked away never looking back.  Races yep I have had quite a few DNF's in my life....finished quite a few 100k 100 milers ; ) a few were medical so those I had  no control over, but others I was too cold or too tired or just hungry and wanted to sit down to a hot meal and a glass of wine instead of a bar and warm water on the trails.

On the other hand there are many times I have not quit. I have fought when my body and heart were breaking down..hanging in there by a thin thread. Relationships.... I stuck in there for a few really giving my heart and soul .... putting my needs second, having faith when faith was not deserved... so I have fought the good fight in that arena.  Education I may have quit my doctorate but with three undergrad degrees and two masters degrees paid for by working full time, well that ain't nothing to sneeze at.

So why go the extra loop for some things but not others? One thing I think I have learned is that you go the extra loop for what you deem important, but priorities change. In  my past school and career came before relationships then training and racing came first and relationships a far second.

I always felt this lack of balance between career, training and relationships was based on something I was doing wrong it was at times both a character defect and at other times the very thing I grasped on to as a life jacket when all the other things threatened to take me under...
I think I have finally realized something though....for many people it takes a lifetime of living to finally find out who YOU REALLY ARE.  To peel away all the insecurities all the negative emotions, to strip naked and stand before yourself with nothing to hide behind...to have the courage to stand up to what you think, feel, or believe in...to pick a side, to take a stand, to choose a path, to trample down a trail....it is a job unto itself...to be self actualized to be aware of what you do for you and what you choose to do to fit in to society, what you do to gain something from someone, what you do out of fear, or pettiness, or jealousy or just plain weakness....we are all weak we are all insecure...but what makes a person courageous is to call themselves out on these negatives to own them and then say I will do my best to overcome these things that are stopping me form being the person I really am.....

...in a nutshell its all about choosing to go that extra loop....






Friday, November 16, 2012

teeter totter teeter totter...

I feel like I am on a seesaw up and down and up and down.  Not in terms of emotional highs and lows but more along the lines of today I want this and tomorrow well...I want that...back and forth and back and forth...can't I just settle down and be IN it?

So on one hand I want to conquer the world... break records... climb mountains... take off in a tricked out Westfalia for those unmarked trails and just run...bathe in cool clear streams with Dr. Bronners braid my wet hair and let the sun dry my skin...AND on the other hand I want to nest in this adorable mission style house on the little pond...sip coffee in bed and read on a Saturday morning... hit hot yoga or the gym and then run local trails...build a fire open a bottle of Pinot Noir and lounge on the couch with a book or the Travel Channel.

I used to spend most of my time alone.... training and racing, reading, writing and just living very simply ..
I still do those things but training and racing have fallen by the wayside as of late and there is TV now in my life; whereas I had no TV for over 15 years.. I have accumulated so much in the last 5 months...just "stuff" that makes it difficult to imagine picking up and taking off if you wanted to...stuff has and always will bring me a certain level of anxiety...

Balance is what I searched for, but once I have finally achieved this balance...I  feel like I may have lost something ....why is it that I always feel like I have lost my sense of self when I start to live what is considered a "normal" life?  I have in the past called myself a "hot mess" but I always kind of wore this like a badge of honor because it was and I think still will always be who I am deep down under this calm facade...
Is it such a bad thing to be a little off center?  I am beginning to feel that I have moved too far in the opposite direction and I have lost my edge.  This edge is what keeps me fighting keeps me moving forward...relentless forward motion...I seem to be spinning in slow circles as of late.  To be happy I am thinking I need to be off balance a bit...a bit dizzy a bit distracted a bit silly a bit impulsive a bit wacky....a bit more...well me : )

Less nesting and more adventures : )

So first off in this search for  me I have to  find my way back to strength training...I have been avoiding the gym and just choosing to work out at home...and only like 2x a week...not good...I need to get back there as the gym has been and always will be a place that motivates me..this is not a weight issue...my weight is pretty much the same fluctuating between 108 and 112 every month due to hormonal changes, races, and the occasional overindulgence in chips and salsa ; ) This is an issue of strength...I like the way my body looks in fact i actually have a better bum now then I ever have because I am not "running" it off...but I am weaker...waayyy weaker...push ups and pull ups I am back to girly girl status...my final reps are now  so difficult where as this time last year I was at 60 lb for 3 sets of 12 in my bench press....now I am at 40 lbs 3 sets of 10 with the last few reps all noodle arms...I have lost my strength...the last month I barely get outside anymore with tree to do hill repeats or just hike around...I barely train legs..in fact I don't train legs at all...I feel like I am starting over..ugh...heart can only get ya so far...

Thing is  I have another person in my life now and sometimes that means cheering him on at his race instead of training or going on trips to see his friends...who have kids...and giving up gym and racing...to play puzzles....this is what you do when you are in a relationship..you compromise...

Still to be honest there are times I feel it is easier  to be alone and have no one to answer to...it is sad and I would agree slightly pathetic of me to admit to this....but it is true....when it was just me life was sooooo simple...I did what I wanted to when I wanted to and had no one to answer to...but with this freedom came a cost..I was soooo untethered and like a boat without an anchor in a storm I was often times pulled out to sea and had a pretty difficult time making my way back to shore....

This anchor well I am lucky to have it...still maybe I have come to depend on it too much and have become complacent and lazy....I need a kick in the bum...a jump start...an attitude adjustment...I need to find that flame that is inside me and feed it....


Monday, November 5, 2012

Taking Log for a run or Stone cat 2012 Part 1


I won’t lie…getting up at 3:30 Saturday morning hurt and hurt bad….I snuggled up next to Doc and did not want to get out from under those covers.  Doc as usual jumped right out of bed and Kev was already up and dressed and putting stuff in his car…bleary eyed and grouchy I stumbled down stairs to make myself some coffee and complain about my feet still hurting from last week.  I was ignored by both Doc and Kev as they prepared their own stuff for the day.  I had yet to even pick out what I was going to wear .  I went upstairs with coffee brushed teeth braided hair stuck on PEAK beanie and grabbed clothes out of the baskets in the closet…downstairs to make my yogurt banana chia flax hemp almond butter breakfast bowl and last minute grabbed log and packed log in bin and bin in car and we were off.  Kev followed Doc and I to Topsfield/Ipswich as Doc was running the marathon and heading home right after and I was in for the 50 miler.  Kev would pace me for the last two loops and then we would drive home together.  The plan was for Stas  to come over Saturday night and we would chill with food and fire and wine and beer. We arrived at the school and got an excellent parking spot close to the gym entrance.  Grabbing our bin and bag we three entered into a bustling school gymnasium filled with runners in various stages of dress and or undress.  Doc and I checked in and got our numbers and headed over to the back wall where Julie was gabbing with Kev…big hugs and immediate silliness ensued…I love me my Julie O…her plan was to head out with 50 as a goal but to do as many loops as she felt like doing for the day. 
Me Jules Doc and Kev
We saw Michael St Hilaire whose wife did her first ultra distance last week at Ghost Rail…it was his
turn to run this week and he had the 50 miler as his goal as well. I saw John  Peabody, Thomas Parker (an old Stone Head friend from my WMAC running days) and Josh K (who blazed the 50 with a second place finish)..Brenda Morris was there with her gorgeous smile and positive vibes that are contagious…you just can’t help but smile when you see her.  At the finish it was great to see Bob N and Paul Funch...Stone Cat is like old home days lol!
Brenda heading out on a loop

We took are Tugger pics and headed out to the start/finish in the dark…log was feeling a bit heavy but I knew I needed to run with it because Dan was fresh in my mind with it being this week three years ago I found out he had died.

Dan and me at Wapack

I was definitely going into this 50 compromised.  My wrist hurt like heck but I got a wrist guard to keep it stable..Doc did not mince words and let me know he thought I should not run with log, but he did not brow beat me about it and when he knew I had made up my mind he supported me.  Kev was planning on coming out with me for the last 2 loops.  Stone cat is a 4 loop course of 12.5 miles.  It is a rolling course with both single track and some larger pine needle covered trails wide enough to run two abreast. 

me and Kev
I was looking forward to running with Kev who had flown from Utah just for the weekend to see old friends and pace his cabbage (me) in a race he loved doing when he was a New England Tugger…once a Tugger always a Tugger…









The original Tuggers on the cover of Steve L's book
I really missed seeing Dan, Rob, Streph and Em….we Tuggers for a while were pretty much inseparable on those trails…I think back fondly to that time and Stone Cat is a race that always brings me back to 2008 and 2009…










many friends now live out west (Garry, Steve and Deb and Bogie) and some of us no longer run due to serious injuries…
Me Garry and Kev after Boston
Trail animals including the Peros


Bill Howard and Em "kitten"


but we had Julie, me, and Kev on the trails and Bill Howard and Steve Latour showed up to volunteer and if need be Steve would pace Julie.  Julie’s friend Adam Monty from the Wachusetts Mtn running club was coming to pace her as well.  It is what I love about Stone cat…all the old friends and new friends you see on these consecutive loops…everyone cheering everyone else on..the fastest runner taking time to yell encouragement to back of packers….you can’t beat the feel good vibes of SC!

The start for the 50 milers was 15 minutes before the marathoners would head out.  That was due to the overwhelming popularity of this race!  We all walked out together into the darkness our headlamps lighting our way.  I gave both Doc and Kev a kiss goodbye wishing Doc luck and telling Kev I would see him later.  I started out dead last with Julie gabbing and laughing like loons...quickly she headed off at a faster pace while I needed to keep myself between a 10 and 12 minute mile when running with log.  I am pretty comfortable running with the added weight now and can offset it without stumbling around like an idiot...every five minutes or so I will need to change shoulders though as it starts to rub the skin raw and bruise the collar bone....log likes to leave behind nice scabs...what I call "Log Hickeys".  I was really loving the temperature and the darkness, but not so much the pain in my right foot.  I tried to just keep it out of my mind and think of how lucky I was to be on those trails and to think about Dan.  About mile 2 the marathoners started to fly by and I felt a big hug from behind and it was Stas who stopped to give me a kiss on the cheek and he was off...Stas will be Stone Head 2012 I believe and he so deserves it...and lo and behold right after Stas came Doc!! He is amazing having finished the marathon in 3:47..20th out of 210 runners!!!!!! This was his first trail marathon : )

All the runners made sure to yell encouragement...made me smile...a few runners offered to carry log for me if I got tired which was amazing since it would compromise their race time and they would be doing it to honor someone they never met...I told them thanks but it was my burden to bear today...
After one loop was done I was making great time, but knew that given the 3:30 cutoff for the fourth loop I would not be able to make the 50 miles...I knew 37.5 miles was doable in the cutoff time so when I came in I asked Kev to join me for the next two loops.  The last time we spent time on the trails was Speed Goat in July.  So off we went my original and foreva pacer Kev.  We talked and talked and talked and then at times we were quiet and just enjoying the gorgeous weather and positive vibes from all the runners...
Every time we went into an aid station I was assaulted (in a good way) by the smell of bacon or maple syrup or pumpkin...I could not believe the incredible food the aid stations at Stone Cat and Ghost Rail had...seriously I have gained 2 lbs even though I banged out close to 150 miles in back to back ultras these past two weeks...my fav snack was to take a piece of pumpkin pie between two potato chips...yummy...

The second loop was still pretty fast and I was able to keep a solid 12 minute mile pace with log so the first two loops were under 3 hours with aid stops and social time...the third loop took close to 3:30 as I was really feeling the ache in my shoulder and my right foot..I incorporated a sprint/speed walk for the last 12.5 miles.  I finished the third loop in 9:37 : ) I think I only become more efficient with running with log as time goes by.  I think if I was not compromised by the 100 the week before I would have easily finished 50 miles in under 12 hours with log.
me Kev Steve and Jules at the finish


I can't even begin to explain how much the New England Ultra running community means to me...the Tuggers and Trail Animals and GACers and Striders....all thees people who run these races for so many different reasons and at so many different paces all coming together and sharing the trails...you can't help but feel blessed...and to feel like it is an extended family...I feel doubly blessed that I have ultra friends and DR friends and many times they cross pollinate lol and we have these crazy DR people interested in running ultras...I don't find that many of my true ultra running friends really are interested in DR but they don't call me crazy (at least to my face ; ) that I like to do both..it is the best of both worlds....I am not an elite...far from it...in either sport but I keep chugging along with my fair share of DNF's and back of the pack finishes...I am at a point in my life where I no longer feel the need to slay dragons...I like that I am now moving towards a more balanced state of mind...ohhh and it was a looong time coming...my health being in a state of equilibrium right now plays a big part, but it is so much more than that....it is that bliss I used to feel out on the trails...I found it at PEAK and it builds with each new race with each new trail...

People asked my why I run with the log...it is to honor Dan... but there is more to it than that...you see Dan was a glass half full kind of guy...a crazy modern day pirate...gorgeous and swashbuckling and up for anything...we just fit he and I and I loved him very much...not like the love I feel for Doc who makes me feel safe and beautiful...who calms my obsessive compulsive crazy self...I loved Dan because I saw in him the opportunity to become a great man to overcome mistakes in his past and to do and be the man his children could respect and admire....he had faults, don't we all, but I loved him for trying to break free of the chains he carried.... for having the courage to try. Running with log makes me DNF...it makes me slower than everyone and it just plain hurts....race results does not show that I ran with a log it just shows that i am close to last if not in last place...when I get to big for my britches when I start to think I am worth something more than I am...when I act selfish or close minded or witchy...running with log humbles me...it is Dan's way of calling me out and saying "hey girl who the hell do you think you are : ) get down off that soap box...put away that attitude...you ain't all that" or "stop complaining be thankful for what you have...your life is filled with blessings...bring something into the world that is positive and stop sucking the life out of the situation with your negativity".

Dan reminds me to be humble and thankful and to give blessings for Doc, my health, friends, family, students...for the joys I get to experience every day...he reminds me  to step off the beaten path and make my own trail...thanks Dan...I will keep fighting the good fight my friend..until we see one another again....


Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 Ghost Rail Trail 100 or Redemption

Harken back my friends to 201l where my first try at this new(and only) New Hampshire 100 ended for me at 60 miles. At 10 pm I was freezing with the temperatures dipping below 30 degrees and me in my hot pants and tank top so I decided  to go into my car and warm up for a bit.. I stripped, covered myself with a blanket and proceeded to fall asleep for three hours.  When I woke up I could not motivate myself to head back out so we left.  I did not put clothes on but remained wrapped in my blanket and 15 minutes into the drive we saw swirling lights and were pulled over for speeding....so ended my first Ghost Rail 100 naked and trying to explain my lack of clothing to a Brookline NH police officer.

Fast forward to this past weekend when Doc and I made our way to Brookline for my second attempt at Steve Latour's Ghost Rail Trail 100.  This year I was better prepared with layers of warm clothing and a week of rest.  Doc and I made it there early, around 7 am for a 9 am start time.  We proceeded to set up the truck with the new truck camping mattress (Doc bought specifically for our races) and sleeping bags as Doc would be sleeping between  pacing duties.  Chairs were set up and my gear bin was placed near by...now we took time to look around and found it very strange that we were the only ones there.  Time ticked by and we were now close to 8 am and no one was to be seen.  There were over 100 runners trying for the ultra distance and yet the parking lot was a ghost town.  I checked the website for the start time thinking I somehow mixed it up and then I saw it..the start was at the turn around point in Milford NH this year! Ugh! not a good way to start the race off...at the wrong end of the course.  We quickly packed everything back into the truck and made our way to the Milford DPW 7.5 miles down RT 13.


When we arrived it was jam packed with cars and trucks and people milling about.  Luckily the people going for 100+ miles have the best parking and so Doc and I made our way into the actual DPW area where all the sand is kept and got ourselves a nice little corner spot.  I went to get my number and I saw the woman who ran the aid station last year and she asked me if I brought enough warm clothes this year and I assured her I did : )  We only had a few minutes to get prepared I gave Norm a quick hug and said hi to Jeff, Justin, Jesse, and Nathan.  I talked a bit with Ryan B a DR peep and then started to mosey towards the start.  I had yet to see Steve and needed my good luck hug so as he was just starting the pre race speech  I ran up to him and stole a great big hug...which made  a few people laugh when he made one of his witty comments over the megaphone...after the speech was done Doc took a pic of Steve and I and we were off.


I ran with Ryan B and Jeff L for most of the first 2 miles and then just Ryan and I and some real sweet girl(never got her name but this was her first real long distance race) ran together and gabbed until the turn around where Ryan (he was running 30 miles) took off and I slowed my pace.  I always go out a bit fast, but I can pretty quickly reign myself in.  I knew that this course was going to be a fast course as it is relatively flat.  The night time running would be more difficult as it is covered with leaves and there are rocks and roots so I planned to set myself  up to run the first 60-70 miles and hopefully have only 35 miles or so left by midnight so I could speed walk/ultra shuffle from midnight to 6 am and then run the last 2 hours to finish under 24 hours.  I have been having some real serious issues with my  vision and today I am heading to the eye doctor to have some tests done.  I knew that I would have trouble seeing at night and I did not want to hurt myself as I have Stone Cat 50 miler this Saturday... that will be back to back ultras and I am just starting back into my training now..I knew I needed to push myself at Ghost Rail, but not do anything stupid and destroy myself for Stone Cat.

The first few out and backs were an absolute blast.  Saturday was gorgeous allowing me to run in shorts and a tank top.  I had the opportunity to see a few friends like Clint and Craig and gab a bit.  The aid stations were amazing and all the volunteers were so on it.  I ate like a queen...4 hamburgers two different types of hot soup, turkey sandwiches, loads of pretzels, yummy bars...nutrition was never an issue for me during this race which was sooo nice : ).  When I saw Doc again I told him that I would like him to pace me between 45 and 60 miles as I needed to get at least to 60 miles before midnight (preferably 70 miles).  I started to feel an issue with my right metatarsal specifically my seismoid bone that I had fractured in the past. When I finished 30 miles Doc decided to join me for an out and back and that really helped motivate me when I started to feel the foot pain. we did a pretty fast 15 mile out and back and hit 45 without major issues.

At 45 miles I decided  to change into three quarter length pants and a sweatshirt it was around 5 pm and getting darker.  Doc stayed with me and for the next 7.5 miles I was warm and ran pretty consistently.  I started to take up a speed walk sprint thing for this 7.5 miles to mix it up...it was a suggestion of Clint's and he had been doing it for the last out and back so i thought what the heck i will try it as well.  It seemed to work well and honestly I was able to make up some time that way and felt a resurgence in energy and focus. But the last 7.5 miles, around mile 53 or so, It was really dark and I needed my headlamp and I started to get really cold. Doc was rubbing my back and I was shivering even in the sweatshirt.  As we were finishing this last stretch i made plans for Doc to drive the truck to the other end 7.5 miles away and meet me there just in case I wanted to add on some layers. I said goodbye to Doc and headed back out.   I did a combination run/speed walk for the next 7.5 miles and at 67.5 miles I knew I wanted warmer clothes.  I saw Bill Howard at the turn around end table and he gave me a big hug and said "boy you are cold" ..he took down my time and told me I was in second place for women and  sent me off to the truck where I got inside and stripped out of my three quarter pants and put on my winter running tights.  Doc had the truck warm so I enjoyed about a 10 minute rest before heading back out.  It was during this time I lost my second place position but I honestly didn't care knowing if I was cold during the next 6 hours I would be in deep trouble.  The plan was for Doc to drive back to the start and take a nap....I had 67.5 miles done in about 14 hours so by 11 pm I felt pretty good with starting to just walk. I said goodbye to Doc and started back the 7.5 miles to the start finish.    It was now really dark out.  I was starting to feel some serious pain in my right foot. I knew that I needed to keep a fast walk going and make sure I kept up at a 15 minute mile pace (I ended with about a 15.30 mile pace so I was pretty much on target).

I was tired so it seemed on every single rock or root I would trip myself on or stub my toe... along with my headlamp light dimming noticeably I was getting slightly frustrated.  Every time a runner passed by I could  not see who it was in the glare of their headlamp but just shared a good job or keep it up.  Julie had started to pace Steve around dusk and when I saw her it was so awesome...a real emotional pick me up.  I stopped and gave her a big hug.  Steve looked strong.  Last year we both quit at 60 miles so this year we were back to finish what we had started...I knew when I saw Julie and Steve gabbing that he was in a good place and would crush this race....The next 7.5 miles went better than I had hoped.  I love having Doc pace me but I know there are times when a pacer is just not good for me.  When I am having trouble with my feet if I have a pacer I tend to complain or slow down for some reason..especially when it is Doc as he is the person who comforts me when I am sick and or in pain...it is hard to not reach out to him and be a baby when things get tough...I knew I needed to get some major miles in alone.   My problem is that I can get into a black place at times where I just need to be alone.  This can result in me being cold or curt as i am focused on just moving forward.  This can result in me hurting Doc's feelings because he is not really there as my pacer he is there as my partner.  When I finished 75 miles I had some really yummy soup and headed back out.  I started to talk to myself saying things like just run your own race Michelle and move forward Michelle..one step at a time.  I often find myself talking to no one in particular on these long runs but the sound of my voice in the dark is calming to me.  The next 15 miles were kinda tough on my foot. When I hit 90 miles my foot was throbbing and I knew it was serious.I saw Doc and he said he was going to go out with me for the last 10.   Half a mile into it the final 10 miles I asked him to go back to the start/finish and let me do it alone.  I asked him for this because I knew it was going to be tough and I may act bitchy or complain if he was with me...but if I was alone I could just be alone with my pain.  I found out after I kind of pissed him off in the way that I asked him...

It is not easy for me to communicate when I am in the midst of these kind of things.  I push myself to a point where I am exhausted and in pain, and I can't really focus on anything but the task at hand.  I have at times failed to let Doc know how much it means to me that he is there by my side.  Doc's races are half and full road marathons and he is fast so it takes up such a small amount of our day when I go to support him at his races.  In fact I basically am there just to cheer him at the start and finish as he does not need anything from me.  Now it is different when Doc supports me at my races.  He was up all night with me during both the Summer DR and the Team DR in the rain and cold.  At the summer DR he hooked up with a group of military guys all night as they used GPS to find their guys Doc was able to find me and give me moral support.  He did not sleep a wink, and when I got lost that second night of the race Joe let him go out to find me...Doc had been up for 36 hours just like me and in that time frame he basically saved some dudes life!! At TDR  Andy asked him to walk with us to keep us safe on the main highway from Amee farm to Killington..Doc had on jeans in the pouring rain!!!  He paced me in my 500 mile endeavor running the Ragnar Relay and coming straight after to Pittsfield pacing me for two days on no sleep.  I was not thinking of any of these things when I asked Doc to return to the truck.  At the time I was just thinking how badly my foot hurt.  I really had not run long since Pisgah and I considered Ghost Rail the start of my serious training for PEAK.  I went into the 100 with my longest run being 36 miles in VT in July and a 50k in September.  I am a Tugger and we Tuggers have a problem with training...just ask Steve...we run these races with no traditional training plans...often times the race itself is considered training for the next race : ) Doc has been pretty adamant that if I just took my running more seriously and planned out my training and focused I could be good...I am starting to think there is something there to this training thing ; )

So I left Doc and headed out for the last 10.  I speed walked the entire ten miles and ended up with what I was told was third place...it turns out I was actually in fourth place with this cute women Mary who was so friendly beating me by a mile or two.  I finished in 25:37 and could not go back out for any additional miles as my foot was a complete wreck.  I knew with the 50 this coming Saturday and I would only have 5 days rest to rest my foot before I had to run.  I told Doc I was going to leave it at 100 miles. He thought it was a smart move on my part...this from a women not known for making smart decisions : )  It was my fastest 100 so far and I was pretty pleased.
In terms of this Saturday...I think it is a perfect day to bring log for a run...as I will have to take it slow due to my foot might as well challenge myself with the extra weight...now that log is dried out it weighs only 20 lbs so that is a bonus ; )