I had never really watched Selection or Team Assessment in the past. It seemed way too extreme for me, and it wasn’t anything I ever intended on trying, so I never followed it. Then, in late 2019, there was a push to encourage women to try Team Assessment with a Women’s Division. I still didn’t really consider it until I saw how many people were signing up and how many were excited about it, and it seemed attainable for the first time.
I had put out some initial feelers for partners with no luck, but I didn’t mind, because it meant that I didn’t have to sign myself up for 48 hours of pain. I was also asked by someone else, so I began to think about it more seriously, but it ended up not working out. In January 2020, the new PT test standards were announced. The Women’s Division participants would need to complete a minimum of 25 hand-release push-ups, 40 butterfly sit-ups, and 7 squat cleans with an 80# sandbag, each within a minute time limit. Push-ups and sit-ups were movements that I was familiar with, but even without attempting a single squat clean, I signed up. The registration price was low to encourage sign-ups, so I decided to pull the trigger and figure out the partner situation later.
I first became aware of Anna Edwards when I saw a fellow North Carolinian post in various rucking-related Facebook groups. We met for the first time when she showed up at a coupon ruck that my ruck club was hosting. Our first event together was the 2020 Bragg Heavy, which was probably only her second GORUCK event, if you can believe that. She had been doing other types of endurance challenge events for a while, but she was new to GORUCK. I didn’t interact with her much during Bragg because we had such a large class and were split into different squads, but other members of the class said great things about her, so after the event, I asked her if she wanted to team up for TA. She said yes, and now, preparation was in full swing.
To train, I combined PATHFINDER Ruck Training with Heavy Drop Training. I’ve been doing PATHFINDER for a few years now, following their Endure intermediate program and their Horizon Star Course training program. I had recently started adding Heavy Drop Training’s Sandbag and Ruck program in the lead-up to big events, to help me build familiarity with sandbag movements and heavy weights. Those programs had successfully led me through 40 GORUCK events by the end of 2019, including 2 HTLs and 2x 50 Mile Star Courses. I felt comfortable that the rucking endurance, foundational strength, mobility, and experience that I gained from those programs and those events would be a good platform on which to build my preparation for Team Assessment.
Heavy Drop Training recently started offering a Sandbag and Ruck “Plus” program, where you’d finish the usual workouts, then do some kind of “plus” work that specifically prepared you for the skills and mental mindset you may need for events like Team Assessment. I jumped in, and blindly followed whatever form of torture Singelyn had planned for us because I trusted his expertise. It wasn’t until about a month before the event, when I finally started watching live feed coverage from the previous year’s Team Assessment, that I realized why he had made us do all of those things. It turns out that they were exactly what we needed.
In 2020, I began regularly rucking with a 30# plate, after finally working my way up to it after using 20# for years. It became my default weight, which helped me better handle the weight requirement for Team Assessment. In doing so, I completed the PATHFINDER Advanced program as well. During 2020, I averaged about 15 miles per week.
The PT test ended up being a big challenge for me. I was always about where I needed to be with push-ups, and I sufficiently improved my butterfly sit-ups through training, but the 80# squat cleans were killing me. I began with 60# and tried to work my way up just in weight, but it was an uphill battle. The weight alone doesn’t even account for the added difficulty that a standard 80# bag with 2x 40# fillers entails. With the loose handles fully extended, I was close to standing upright already. With the gap between the fillers and the excess bag, even if I could generate enough momentum to pull parts of the bag up high, the ends would be flopping towards the ground. I remember a few nights where I felt completely defeated, trying to make it work.
When Team Assessment was rescheduled from June to September, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, because I would have more time to work on the squat cleans. The situation was still looking dire after a while, though, so I told Anna that she could find a different partner if she wanted to, one who could squat clean 80#. She immediately responded that she was committed to us, though, and was ready to stick with me no matter what. She could’ve easily partnered with a much stronger teammate and gone on to win it, but her loyalty and faithfulness amazed me. As it happened, on July 31st, we received news that the sandbag squat clean standards were now 60#. For the first time, I felt like I was truly in it, and preparation went into another gear. Before, everything I was doing focused on physical preparation. Now, it was time to sharpen event-specific skills and teamwork.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION
During the early part of the pandemic, I was extremely careful about minimizing the risk of contracting or spreading the disease. I have no regrets about that, but the downside was that I didn’t get to train with others or with my partner for months. Anna and I stayed in touch by texting. We were both doing Heavy Drop Training, so we knew the basics of each others’ training. I trusted her to work on what she needed to, and she did the same for me.
Later in the pandemic, I started going out again in socially distanced, outdoor settings. We both drove down to GRT Reunions in Jacksonville Beach. I planned out a list of questions that we could discuss during the event, to help us get to know each others’ mindsets better. During the event, I came to really appreciate how much of a beast she is, too, as fast as she rucks and as strong as she is. I learned that our styles were different but complementary. I’m more analytical and focused on pacing and the long-term game plan. Anna feeds off of competition and has a fierce drive that gets things done. If we could properly balance the two approaches and know when to use each one while leveraging our shared strength of will, we felt like we could be successful.
For most of the year, I thought of Team Assessment as a challenge that I had to undertake for myself. I knew it was going to be difficult and that it was going to test me. I didn’t think of it as something that was going to be fun. I was very glad to have this goal, because it gave me something to work towards and put my focus on, especially in the midst of the pandemic. However, it did feel like a looming giant test. After talking through some of these feelings with a friend, though, I came to the realization that my worth is based on who I am in Christ, not on how far I got in Team Assessment. That was a freeing concept, and I began to truly look forward to the event.
About a month before the event, once I knew that the PT test was nailed down, I began watching all of the coverage from last year’s Team Assessment, and took 21 pages of notes. I wanted to learn about the kinds of activities we might be doing, with the full understanding that each year may look completely different. I also made notes about what techniques worked and what didn’t. I also jotted down specific skills or techniques that I wanted to try out with Anna when we were able to meet again. She and I ended up meeting every weekend in the month leading up to the event. We’d put in hours of practice for different skills each time. We learned how to leverage each others’ strengths and adapt to overcome each others' weaknesses. Those were some hours well-spent, and they increased our confidence in our team.
Two weeks before Team Assessment, I decided to ruck on a nearby mountain to prepare for the notorious hill in Bellbrook, and I ended up rolling my ankle pretty badly, three times over the course of the ruck. I haven’t rolled it that severely in over 10 years, and it used to take me three months to recover. My shoulder had also been strained from practicing a mile of overhead holds. Between these two issues, I wondered if our chances at Team Assessment had come crashing down. It was hard, because I had spent the past 9 months training for this. Even worse, it would impact not only me but my partner, who had also been putting in all of that effort. Normally, I’d be a mess given the situation, but somehow, I kind of accepted what had happened, and focused my energy on what I could do to improve the situation.
I visited a GRT Chiropractor Justin Schutrumpf who helped me realign my body and gave me things to work on. I avoided rucking, which probably helped me in the end because it forced me to do a good taper. At the same time, I tried to keep my ankle mobile to promote recovery, and I searched for a combination of shoes and an ankle brace that would give me extra support. A couple of days before the event, things were finally looking better. I’m still amazed that I was even able to show up at the event, but I know that I had a lot of people praying for me.
A big unknown for this year’s event was whether or not we’d be allowed to bring an extra ruck for food. That would impact how much we had to try to stuff in our rucks. The goal is to use as small of a volume of ruck as you can, while still being able to complete the ruck dump. Minimizing weight is also a consideration. We were all practicing right up until the morning of the event. While the ruck dump is mostly meant to be a psychological challenge, I wanted to have one less source of stress to be worried about. I decided to live off of MREs for the event, since I couldn’t easily pack much more in my 25L Rucker.
THE DRIVE UP
For the drive up to Ohio, I carpooled with another team. Alicia, Shannon, and I have done many events together, and among the three of us, any combination of us would’ve been happy teaming up for TA. It was nice to be able to split up the drive from North Carolina, and it was helpful to talk through more event preparation and just enjoy each others’ company. We went up the day before the event, and we were sure to stop by a water tower and sign to snap a picture of famed Bellbrook, OH.
For dinner, we decided to have a picnic at the park that was our start point for the event, and we ran into a few other teams there. We didn’t stay for too long, though, since we all wanted to do some final preparations and get a good night’s rest. In the morning, I stayed in so that I could focus on fueling and more final preparations.
We rolled up to the start about 90 minutes ahead of the start time, so that we’d have plenty of time to get ready. We said hello to other participants, hydrated, used the portapotty, stretched, and did a couple of warm-up squat cleans. People build energy in different ways. I like to stay focused. It was cool to finally get to meet one of my heroes, Jill Bates, the only female in the open division, who I knew from Heavy Drop Training. I was looking forward to seeing her go toe-to-toe with the men, something that everyone who knows her knows that she is fully capable of doing.
When it got close to game time, we moved our cars over to the pavilion where the cadres were. Jon Cichelli, the “team mom” for Team O-01 in the Open Division, led a group of us in prayer before the event. We lined up to get our rucks weighed, our roster patches applied, and our paperwork completed. Once we were checked in, the women lined up in two columns behind 60# sandbags. Jason gave a speech praising us for showing up under the challenging circumstances that 2020 had presented. We took pictures of the starting lineups. Then, it was time for admin to start.
For ruck dumps, they had us show everything on the packing list, including the MREs and ORS packets. We all had to completely empty our rucks, too, before we were told to re-pack everything within 45s. Thanks to some packing advice from Alicia and Shannon the previous night, we were able to get ours done on the first try, and we were able to re-organize things while the others continued through more iterations of dumping and repacking. We were past the first hurdle.
Next came the PT test. With the updated standard, I felt pretty good about the test. Anna and I were Team F-05 out of 8, so we were at the front of the second column. That meant that we’d be going first. Everyone cycled through on the hand-release push-ups, followed by butterfly sit-ups, followed by the squat cleans. There was a demo given prior to each test, though it wasn’t always demonstrated at the speed and level of violence that is needed to actually meet the minimum standard. We were all told to turn around and face the other way during the tests, so that we couldn’t see what other teams looked like. I ended up having PRs in each exercise by a few… that’s the magic of event-day adrenaline and the effects of the taper.
With Team Assessment, one team member’s deficiencies in an exercise can be made up for with extra reps by the other team member. Only one team had a strike drawn on their patch as a result of the PT test. It was another hurdle passed, and the PRs felt good. Now, Team Assessment would begin.
The first gateway began with a series of relay races. In Team Assessment for 2020, the objective was to rack up points for your team, while avoiding performance drops. At about 17:45 Thursday, we began by having one partner low crawl while dragging their ruck, while the other partner bear crawled while dragging a 40# SB for the women, or a 60# SB for the open division. Next, we did lunges with our rucks as well as a 60# sandbag. I’ve never lunged that kind of weight before. The open division used 80# sandbags on top of their 45# dry rucks. This really taxed everyone. Next, we did farmers’ carries with one 40# SB in each arm (60# for open). Then, we did slick bounding (the open division used rucks), and this might’ve been the only race that our team won. A 60# coupon carry for each team was next, where we made a loop around the park. Up until then, which was about 19:30, we were holding our own pretty well.
For the next set of relays, we did 400m of additional 60# SB lunges, while our partner did cleans and tosses with a 40# bag, and then we swapped places. After that, it was 400m of lunges again, but with squat clean and thrusts as the PT. We were given a choice between having the lunger or the clean and tosser use the 60# or the 40# bag, and I made a terrible choice of lunging the 60# bag. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of thrusting 60#, since I hadn’t remembered trying it before. It was a long and painful 400m x2 for us because of my decision.
During the night, we learned that while “priorities of work” last year meant that participants could take care of hydration, fueling, footcare, rest, and bathrooms as needed, we were not allowed to eat from our MRE packets at this time. That meant that our team would be going without food for a while, since the MREs were our only source of calories.
At 22:00, Cadre Cleve broke out the Deck of Cards. Each team was given a fresh deck, and we had to do Hearts = 8-count Body Builders with Ruck, Diamonds = Ruck Swings, Spades = 60# Sandbag Squat Clean and Press [with Ruck], Clubs = 60# Sandbag 2-ct Lunges [with Ruck]. We were given 1 minute to arrange the deck as we wished. I spent that time shuffling the deck so that we didn’t have a million of one exercise in a row, and I placed the Jokers (800m ruck) at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks to give us some breaks from the PT. Aces were 20, Faces were 15, and the numbers were as-is. This was a difficult deck of cards. Some of the transitions were exercises in and of themselves when they involved getting sandbags in place. Plus, our quads were already toast from all of the lunges. Our team only got through about 1/3 of the deck when the 85 min time cap was called. Only one of the female teams completed the deck in time, and the rest of us received strikes on our patches.
After we put all of the sandbags back on the trailer at around midnight, it was time for a Timed 5 miler. We completed almost a mile within the park before heading towards Jason’s dad’s house (Jay’s House of Pain, aka JHOP). We kept up the first mile, but I was really starting to feel it in my legs after that. I was so happy when we finally arrived at Jay’s house. It was a milestone to be able to make it at least that far in the event. When we got to the house, we weren’t done yet, because we had to complete one loop around the field to familiarize ourselves with the area. Since we were so far behind, our team and a couple of other teams didn’t know which path to take to exit the field, so a cadre came to get us and put up some glow sticks to mark the path.
DAY 1 AT JHOP
Our first event at JHOP was a mile of human wheelbarrow racing, which started at 02:00 on Friday. One partner would be the wheel for half a mile, and then at the turnaround point, the partners would switch. The partner holding the legs preferred to carry both rucks, to lighten the load of the person in front. We perfected our technique on the way back, allowing us to make up some ground.
Next, we had to make a lap to the river and back, doing sandbag-over-the-shoulder tosses. I was glad for the practice that Heavy Drop had provided. At some point, we did bear crawls to the river and back. There was lots of work to grind through. I was starting to gain an appreciation for “it pays to be a winner” in the form of rest, as someone who was often near the back of the pack. Rest is certainly helpful, so coming in towards the end can be pretty brutal, since you’re sent right back out even though you’ve just come in feeling pretty spent.
There may have been other activities, but it’s hard to remember everything. I do remember Cadre JC mentioning at one point that we had gotten through the time equivalent of a Tough. It’s hard to imagine that after all that, we were only about 12 hours or ¼ of the way in. He jokingly offered to give us a Tough patch, if we wanted to quit right there.
What I do remember is that in the morning, we did 30 hydroburpees, in unison. Since it was in the 40s, we all took off as many layers as we could beforehand, to avoid having to live in or else carry cold, wet clothes for a while.
We warmed up quickly when we started our next task at 07:30, which was to carry 2x 40# SBs per team (60# for open) as farmers carries for 3 loops (~3 miles), with a 90 minute time hack. After the first loop, the Cadres allowed us to use shoulder carries. I actually wouldn’t have remembered this evolution, had it not been for a picture that someone took, haha.
At around 10:15, it was time to lay down more work, in a series of exercises and loops. We did 50 reps of Sandbag Volleyball per team (SB clean and toss with 40#F/60#O), a loop, reverse bear crawl SB drag (40#F/60#O) down the hill and then forward bear crawl SB drag up the hill, a loop, low crawl down hill and low crawl uphill, a loop, ruck getups with a thruster at the top, a loop, then repeat as many times as you can. I think we made it to our second bear crawl before time was up.
We were graciously given about 90 minutes to rest at 14:30 on Friday. We had made it to the 24 hour mark, which was a significant achievement. We took off our shoes to let our feet and socks dry out. Our socks were still damp from the hydroburpees. Everyone’s feet were in surprisingly good shape, though. I guess people who do these kinds of events know how to take care of their feet, or have feet that can withstand the mileage, weight, and elements pretty well. After drinking and eating (we were allowed to, now) and making sure that our rucks were repacked and ready to go, we tried to get some sleep or at least rest our eyes and elevate our feet to reduce swelling. I debated whether to switch into fresh dry socks that were thinner and potentially not as comfortable, or to stick with the damp thicker socks that I had been using. Since I was wearing an ankle brace, I decided that the thicker and more tested socks would be a safer choice.
DAY 2 AT JHOP
My decision to continue using the damp socks ended up working out for me, because at 16:00, we started a 5 mile evolution where I ended up right back in the river. The women started with a bucket that we had to fill to a line and carry for a lap without spilling below the line, then we rucked 40# SBs, then carried the bucket, then the 40#s, then the bucket. It was actually a pretty nice workout when you think about it, since you alternate between grip work and shoulder carries. It required a lot of focus and a special gait to prevent the water from sloshing around, though. Each partner grabbed half of the handle, and we’d swap hands periodically. It was my job to watch the bucket and steady us when needed. Through our Heavy Drop Training, we were familiar with how quickly water can start sloshing, so we were glad to have experienced this before. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish the last third of a mile on our last lap before time was called, and we were picked up by the Cadre.
Next up at 19:00 was the Timed 12 Miler, with a 3:30 time hack. We were told that it was a "slick" 12 miler, before we were reminded that in GORUCKLANDIA, “slick” means “with ruck only”. Under normal circumstances, 3:30 is pretty generous, but 26 hours into Team Assessment, with a trip up and down the infamous hill each mile, it’s quite a challenge. Our team tried to hold down the required pace for the first couple of miles as the nighttime set in. After the first couple of miles, I could feel that my legs were bonking. Each step was covering less distance, and each mile was getting drastically slower. I’m normally an even-effort / negative split person, but I had tried to hold an unsustainable pace in the early miles, and now, we were paying for it. It wouldn’t surprise me if a couple of the miles were at 40 min/mile pace or worse. We were getting lapped by teams, who were still remarkably kind to us, despite our condition.
I knew what this could mean for our team if we didn’t meet the standard. My partner was still going strong, so I hated what I was doing to her by dragging her down. I was resolved to keep moving forward as best as I could, though. It’s always hard to tell how long a rough patch will last… if your muscles are irreversibly smoked, or if they’ll be able to bounce back. This is the first time that I had thought about quitting. It’s natural to think about quitting… it’s evidence of how hard the event is. You know you’re sucking, and you kind of what to drop yourself. But I had made a commitment to my partner that I wouldn’t quit, so we were going to press on as hard as we could, and leave our fates to the Cadres. Fortunately, my legs started to recover a little bit towards the end, though we had failed to meet the standard when time was up. Our team, along with a few others, received a second strike when we got back.
With 2 strikes and the shape that I had been in, I wasn’t sure how long we’d survive in the event, but I was going to try as hard as I could, and I was going to treat every completed evolution as another milestone to be celebrated. The next activity was the 9/11 Tribute WOD at 23:30 on Friday, in which we’d run 2,001 meters, and complete 11 reps each of Tire Step-ups, Thrusters, Bent Over Rows, Power Cleans, HRPU, Ruck Swings, V-Ups, Sumo Deadlift High Pulls, and Ruck Presses, followed by another 2,001 meter run. It was actually a nice way to get mobile again after what happened in the Timed 12, and I was thankful for it. After we finished the first round, we were told to repeat it. Our team got in 2 sessions of PT and 3 runs before time was called on the 2-hour evolution.
One milestone that I was looking forward to was the start of the apparatus portion of the event. I’m not a strong ranger, so I hope to leverage smart ranger skills when I can. I had studied knots for different applications in preparation for the event. We finally got to meet our first one, and it was litter carries. The equipment was from Rogue this year, which made assembly more straightforward. There was a cargo net with carabiners that we could clip into two poles. The thing is that the poles defy your imagination for how heavy a pole could possibly be. We were at the top of the hill, and we were told to take our empty litters to the bottom of the hill before we made another trip to carry sandbags down. The thing is that I could barely lift my half of the empty litter. This was the second time that I thought about quitting. It seemed nearly impossible to do 3 miles of a litter carry with a sandbag casualty, if the poles alone were this heavy. I turned off that voice, though, and decided to just try as best as I could. We got the poles down, and then went back up the hill to retrieve a 40# sandbag (60# for open).
The best that “smart ranger” could do was attach nylon runners and drag the litter like a skedco. It was slow going, but at least we were making forward progress. We’d go 20 paces and then switch sides to switch arms. I’d get a little dizzy from the effort and need to take breaks after each pull, but I soon learned to just keep going anyways, since some of that was just mental and I could physically force myself to go again. Anna was very patient with me in all of this. I remember through the darkness of the night that at times, I’d talk just to try to keep up energy and morale, although it all came out as just mumbling, haha. We got lapped by a few teams again. Eventually, we finished a lap. It wasn’t the 3 miles that we were supposed to do, but it still felt like an achievement.
Next, the females got 40# sandbags and the males got 60# sandbags. We had to bear hug it for three miles. Again, this is much harder this far into an event than it is when you’re fresh. God bless Anna for helping me get the sandbag up every time when we made each push for distance. It was miserable, and I was grunting loudly enough for half of the field to hear, so a Cadre reminded me to suffer in silence next time. We made it through two laps before time was called.
We had made it to the final morning. At 07:30 on Saturday, our next task was to take empty slosh pipes and buckets down to the river, fill them both up, and carry them to the base of the hill, where they’d be inspected and emptied, and we’d repeat that for an undisclosed amount of time. We were told to keep to one side of the path, since Cloverleaf participants would also be using the area. The first Cloverleaf was being hosted that same day, and we had wondered whether we’d be jumping into the event with them as part of Team Assessment, but it wasn’t in the plan. As always, you’re competing for points, so you want to complete as many laps as possible. Since I’m more tolerant of cold, I volunteered to go into the water again, and Anna would pull up the items that I filled up. We decided to leapfrog the slosh pipe and the bucket, since single-arm carrying the bucket without spilling (and even squatting down to pick up the bucket) would’ve been extremely difficult for us while also having the slosh pipe on our shoulders. We got in about 4 laps as the Cloverleaf Participants went back and forth. They were really encouraging, and it was nice to see some new faces and to see their energy.
Once we completed that challenge, we got a little bit of a break and warmed up in the sun. Even though the sunlight brightened everyones’ outlooks, I was very tired, and had a hard time staying awake. The sleep pressure was strong, since I don’t think I had fallen asleep at all yet, but I wanted to stay alert for what was to come.
We were shown pre-culex point rankings at this time. It was kind of hard to believe that Culex was already here. For Culex, every evolution was worth double the number of points, so a lot in the rankings could still change. Now was not the time to let off of the gas pedal. For the first phase of culex at 11:15 on Saturday, there were piles of 40#, 60#, 80#, and 120# sandbags, and after a 15 x 8-count buy-in, each team wanted to bring as much weight back to their stash as possible. We weren’t allowed to have any sandbags touch the ground during the movement. The distance was short, so efficiency was key. Each team had different strategies, and it’s difficult to tell whether any one strategy had a big advantage over another. The most important thing for this was probably making quick decisions and moving with violence of action because the distance that we were covering was so short. While the Cadres counted the piles, Cadre JC had us do burpees, HRPU, and squats in unison.
For the next phase of Culex at 11:30, we took 2 empty buckets down to the river, and brought full buckets back up to the top of the hill, where we’d empty them. We had an hour to complete as many laps as possible. We used the leapfrog strategy again. After our first lap, Jason decided that it would be fun to hose us as we neared the top of the hill. Cadre Cleve took over on the hose after a while, and the hose actually helped some teams who could use a little more water in their buckets.
Once we got to the top of our last lap, it was time to switch right into 80#F/120#O sandbag movements (1PP) to the river and back up the hill. We decided to drag it and used nylon runners to change the angle of the drag and the amount of lift. Anna and I would swap sandbags frequently, so that she could pull each one as far as she could while staying within close proximity, and I’d get mine as far as I could make it, etc. We did this all the way down and back. Jason was watching us and asked if the two sandbags were different, haha. Maybe carrying it would’ve been faster, but I wasn’t in the mood to lift the 80#.
Once we were done with that, we transitioned into the apparatus build. We had been shown a model prior to the start of Culex, and now, we had to replicate it. The top teams carried the apparatus with heavier sandbags and took it around the loop, while the back of the pack carried the apparatus with a 40# sandbag and went to the river and back. The apparatus consisted of the same poles and cargo net as the litter, but also included an axel and two wheels that were connected with washers and clamps. To move this, Anna and I each took one of the poles, with me preferring to shoulder carry it and Anna preferring to hold hers at her waist. We pushed most of the time. We only pulled when it was time to go up the hill. Pulling it up the hill was a challenge because it was heavy, and the wheel made the whole thing want to slide back down. We made it, though, and were told to quickly disassemble the apparatus so that we could join everyone else who had finished so far as they went through a shark attack of PT. The group that was doing PT had already been doing it for a while, for 35 minutes in some cases.
I don’t remember all of the PT that we did, but it included raising feet 6 inches, low crawls, crab walks, and finally, a bear crawl train to a spot where we fell into two ranks. We were told to squat and stand a few times, and then close our eyes while raising and lowering our arms. We were warned to keep our eyes closed under grave threats. When we could finally open them, it was Endex, and past Selection finishers Doug and Patrick held a giant flag behind us. The Cadres made speeches, showed the final points rankings, and awarded the Champions for each Division. There were many emotions in the group as we finished. It had been a long 48 hours, with many hard battles fought and many highs and lows, but we were done.
I liked that we had finished as one giant team, too, rather than having each team get patched individually as they finished, like last year. We had gone through this experience together and had bonded, even though we hadn’t been allowed to speak to each other during the event. Each team had a different experience, especially depending on whether that team was in the top three vs the bottom four. I didn’t know what I’d feel at the end of this event. I do remember getting emotional at the end of my first Heavy, but I wasn't really emotional here. I think I was mostly exhausted and glad to have made it to the end. I took off my shoes, got some BBQ, my favorite food, and sat down with a few other teams. I was only able to pick at my food, though, and mostly just wanted to rest my eyes at last. It was fun to get to talk to different teams and people who had come out to watch and support us. I wish that I had had more energy to stick around and soak in the atmosphere. JHOP is an incredibly beautiful place, and I was surrounded by “my people”.
Some supporters helped us find a ride back to our car at the start point, and Singelyn even made sure that we got back to our hotel safely. Back at the hotel, I was curious to see how my body held up. I lost some skin on my pointer finger knuckles, and I got a little chafing on my lower back when my pants started getting too loose and were sagging all the time, but otherwise, everything looked surprisingly normal. I still didn’t have much of an appetite because the MREs seemed stuck in my gut, but I knew that I should be trying to rehydrate and refuel. About 24 hours after the event, I was still about 6# down, but my digestive tract and weight got back to normal about 5 days later.
My carpool crew drove back home the next day. We had gotten some sleep, and it was good to have the car ride to talk and begin to process everything that had happened. At the time, I had mixed feelings about the patch. I felt like it had been half-earned because I had been sucking so badly at times. Then, I saw a post from my buddy Bridget Lesnick, who reminded me what this event was about, from a variety of perspectives. I may not have been in contention for the top this time, but everyone who finished came into it with different circumstances and objectives, and everyone gave it all that they had with what they had. It surprised me how many people posted about being inspired as they watched the event. Different teams may have provided inspiration in different ways, because while F-05 wasn’t crushing the competition, we were going to keep pressing on through adversity. Those posts all meant a lot to me. It was also helpful to see that other teams in the back half of the pack had some of the same feelings that I did, and they had come to the realization that we had indeed performed to a level that met the Cadres’ standards, otherwise they would’ve dropped us.
So, here I am, about a week later. I’m sure I’m still going to be processing the experience and learning more things from it as time goes on. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of going back for some redemption, to try to do better. I’m proud to stand alongside each one of the finishers, and alongside everyone who showed up to take on this challenge. I’m in awe of how strong those top teams were, and love how they’re showing the world what women are capable of doing. I’m indebted to my partner for her patience and for getting me through most of the event. I’m still amazed that I was even able to show up at the start, based on how my body had been looking in the weeks leading up to the event. I’m grateful for the training and support from HDT, PATHFINDER, the NC TA crew, my local ruck clubs, and my friends. My parents and my sister still don’t understand all of this and why I’m so into it, haha, so I didn’t really tell them about it. Lastly, I’m thankful for GORUCK and the Cadres for giving us Badass Babes the opportunity to test ourselves in the arena, and experience the full spectrum of what it means to be a GRT.