This post was written by Anna Edwards, a current PATHFINDER Compete roster and Roster F-05 of Team Assessment 2020.
Congratulations on your brave step in signing up for Team Assessment. It’s a big commitment: a commitment of yourself, of physical and mental training, of time, of your nutrition discipline, and to your partner. Now that you’ve signed up, what can you expect when you show up in Ohio (aka God’s Country) at Team Assessment?
Expect it not to be in your favor! Cadre have the uncanny ability to call in freakishly weird weather extremes for any event with the precision of an airstrike. TA is no exception. Don’t be surprised, if, while on your way to the event the weather is clear and sunny, and at the event when you get out of the car, it’s raining & cold for the duration. Monitor the weather the days leading to the event and plan accordingly. Talk to locals if you arrive a day or two early so you can make a last-minute store run if needed. Whether it’s sunscreen for hot weather or a neck gaiter for cooler weather, be ready!
SANDBAGS AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
Yup, sandbags for days. But don’t let it get into your head! Don’t let the cadre selfies on social media days leading up to the event with sandbags, buckets, and any other pain they can dig up get to you. You’ve got this! But be aware, you and your partner will cross paths with those sandbags again. Over, and over, and over again!
During the PT test, everyone’s back will be turned to the rosters testing. While you test, the cadres will not tell you your count, or if your rep did not count. Even the click of the counter will be hard to hear over the noise.
EGO WILL REAR ITS UGLY HEAD
As rockstar as you and your partner are, you aren’t going to win every event. Team Assessment will expose every rosters’ strengths as well as exploit weaknesses. As a matter of fact, expect to come in last or as close to last during some evolutions and learn to be okay with it before TA so your emotions won’t get the best of you during the event. There will be rosters ahead of you. There will be rosters behind you. And they will all look like they are executing effortlessly while you feel like you are on the brink of cardiac arrest. You will be gasping for air, and your heart will be pounding in your eardrums. And that’s okay! Your job isn’t to leave this arena with your pride intact. Your mission is to be standing there as finisher patches are being handed out by the cadres. Does it suck to come in dead last, sure! But you’re still there, so you’re still in it. Losing the battle is okay if you win the war! Leave the ego at the hotel or the Air BNB. You can pick it up later. One of my favorite takeaways from a book I revisit often, Endure by Alex Hutchinson, forward by Malcolm Gladwell, is “Endure the rack, don’t submit to the guillotine.” In other words, stay in the fight! DFQ!
Speaking of not quitting, those that do quit have a front-row seat to the quitter’s fire. Expect it to take souls like a schoolyard bully with lunch money. Just because you’re invited to it doesn’t mean you have to go! Decline the cadre’s invitation to the fire, coffee, doughnuts, and whatever else they dangle in front of you to get you to that fire. Seek pain! Always choose the harder thing. Quitting is the easy way out.
Expecting pain seems to go without saying. But it’s still an important topic to visit. Your everything will hurt during TA. (And after TA!) During TA, don’t confuse pain with an injury. A lot of people think they are injured and quit during events, when in fact, they are just feeling a level of pain they may not have experienced during their normal training. The cadre and TA are going to take you to a level of performance and pain that is hard to mimic outside of an actual event, like in your garage or basement gym. Ask yourself “Am I feeling pain, or am I injured?” Five minutes after quitting most people will tell you they feel fine, and they should have kept going.
One check-in that I use with myself during an event is I visualize having taken my shower, had a good meal, and lying in bed staring at the ceiling after the event. If I think I will feel the regret of quitting at that moment lying in bed, I keep going. Temporary discomfort is just that, temporary. Regret is forever. You must be okay with whichever decision you make.
There will be such tangible energy at the start point and during the 48 hours of the event, it will rival Vegas on a payday weekend. There will be cadre yelling and rosters all over the place. Be excited, be present in the experience, but don’t get too caught up where you exhaust yourself. You and your partner are there to do work, so do work! Keep your focus and don’t let anything else mentally creep in and rob you of precious energy.
At the start point, say hello to your friends, meet new ones, then find a comfortable place to stretch and revisit your “why.” Recite your mantra. Remind yourself what you’re going to say when you or your partner get into that dark place in your heads. Keep your heart rate down and remember to breathe. Do this between evolutions during the event as well. There will be a lot of white noise during the event. Keep your focus on yourself, your partner, and the work. Just focus on the task in front of you. Never what you’ve already gone through, and never, never on what you think lies ahead. You’ll mind f*ck yourself. That job is already taken by the cadre. That’s what they are there to do, so don’t do it to yourself too. Take it one task, one step, one deep breath, and one evolution at a time.
On the topic of energy, during the first 24 hours of 2020 TA, we were not allowed to eat. Plan for this! We weren’t allowed to skimp on performance because of a lack of nutrition either. The standard is the standard, and underperforming is the same as quitting. During 2019 TA, rosters were allowed a third food ruck. I had one cleverly packed, and guess what… we were not allowed the third food ruck privilege afforded to participants the year before. We did not find this out until our event started. I’m one that usually doesn’t eat much during events. My stomach just does this weird thing where I’m not in the mood for food and most everything turns my stomach. At 2020 TA, however, I was insatiable. I couldn’t get enough calories in fast enough. Absolutely hangry! I remember dropping part of an MRE cracker on the ground while rounding the soybean field and picking it right back up and eating it!
Speaking of white noise, we weren’t allowed to talk to other teams, at all. We weren’t allowed to talk to our partners unless it was about strategy. You will spend a lot of time in your own head, so be sure to leave the negative self-talk off-site with the ego. This isn’t just you anymore, you must stay in it for your partner who put just as much effort and energy leading up to this event as you did. Not to mention the financial obligation. You made a commitment to them. A promise. Come through!
RULES ARE RULES, and CADRE CAN CHANGE THEM
Just like the weather! At the 24-hour mark, we were shown a scoreboard. The cadre then changed the rules: evolutions were now worth double the points! But they weren’t specific on which evolutions were for points, time, or just completion/performance strikes. Sometimes hints were dropped, but that’s it. Talk to your partner about when to push hard for placement, and when to just complete an evolution within the allotted time. Energy is a precious commodity, so be sure the juice is worth the squeeze.
PRIORITIES OF WORK
The rules may change, but one of them that will not is the Priorities of Work. Hydration, feet, and food are the three things that can take you out of any event. The good news is, they are also things you can control. Prevention is everything! Drink before you are thirsty. I also drink to keep my heart rate down, because the very act of drinking forces me to control my breathing. Address your feet every chance that you get. At the midpoint when you have your first real break, put your feet up and set your socks out in the sun to dry. Nibble every chance you can to keep your energy level up by stashing food in easily reached pockets.
At the start point, expect port-a-potties and lines to them when the cadres do allow for a bio-break. The same rules apply as with other GORUCK events: Always with a buddy, always within arm’s length of each other. At Jason’s dad’s house, there was one indoor bathroom for both the open and female divisions. I tell you about plumbing so you can get keep a handle on yours!
THE HILL OF HELL- aka “Winner’s Hill”
This hill is so steep it seems concave! You can expect cadres to be standing at the top to greet you, and the way they say hello is with a water hose. Be sure your shoes have plenty of tread and drain well. You will be carrying sandbags, five-gallon buckets, and slosh pipes up and down this hill. Pictures do not do this hill justice!
GORUCK's food group of choice is BBQ. After TA you will have your choice of some of the best tasting BBQ at JHOP’s house (Jay’s House of Pain), and cold beverages. It’s good, and not because you’ve survived on MRE’s for 48 continuous hours. So be sure to hang out, eat, and celebrate the commitment you made to yourself and your partner.
If you have any other questions about these or any other topics relating to what to expect during Team Assessment, or just want to talk through some things, reach out to me on social media. I’m on Facebook and Instagram.
Rooting for you,
Roster F-05, Team Assessment 2020