AAR Team Assessment - Part 02: God's Country
After work on Tuesday, I drove from Georgia up to Shannon’s house outside of Charlotte to spend the night. It was funny that I’ve done events with both her sons and heard all about her family but had never actually met her husband in person...or her dog. They were both very welcoming.
Jennifer Lee joined us in the morning and we piled in the car. That was the fastest 7+ hour road trip I’ve ever had. We had all watched the Live Feeds from the Beta event last year so we had a lot to discuss. Jen and I had taken copious notes and Shannon’s memory is excellent, so we dissected each portion of the event. Even though this year’s event was different in a lot of ways, going through that process was an important part of team cohesion and understanding strategy. We were able to talk about our strengths, weaknesses, and preferences in different scenarios and carries.
The weather was gorgeous so we stopped along the way to have a nice Subway lunch in an outside amphitheater along the river in Charleston, WV. We found some Bellbrook signs to take selfies in front of and probably confused people driving by on the road. I don't think it's the type of destination that folks take pictures with the water tower in the background, but we embraced our weirdo status and went for it.
After checking in to the hotel, we picked up some dinner and headed out to scout the Start Point. Since we couldn’t have a proper Ruck Off at a restaurant (COVID and everything), we planned to rendezvous with some other Heavy Drop alumni and our North Carolina teams at the park. (Did I mention the weather was gorgeous?)
A quick 10 minute drive from the hotel and we were at the park. It was a lot of fun to get to meet people in person that I had only previously known through social media. Shannon and I had a proper little tailgate picnic while we all matched up the real life park to what we had watched on the live feeds. My fortune cookie was very apropos. Probably the two biggest discussion topics were whether or not to wear shorts to the start and if they would be allowing a separate food ruck. Oh, and how many teams would show up. We all counted off who we KNEW would be there, who we thought would be there, and who might be surprises. As the sun went down, we all packed it in and returned to the hotel.
Jen and Anna’s team joined us in our hotel room to weigh rucks and practice the ruck dump. Once again we followed along on the live feed through the gear inspection (what we referred to as Show and Tell). We helped each other refine our packing systems so that we did everything in the same order and knew where all our gear was. That gave us a lot of confidence as we called it a night. Settling down to sleep was hard but not as hard as if we’d had an early wake up. I haven’t felt that strange mix of excitement and nervousness in a long time but as my training partner said before I left “The hay’s in the barn.”
Day Of/Final Prep
Shannon and I took our time getting up and had a leisurely breakfast. This is where everyone’s preferences and event prep start to diverge. I didn’t want a lot of protein but wanted to hit the salt pretty good. Neither of us ended up having any lunch because start time was 3pm and we planned on being there at 1:30pm to hang out and shake some nerves loose. I don’t often eat close dinner before a Tough or Heavy and so this was no different. Everyone has to do what works for them and I once spent an entire Heavy regretting a meal I ate too close to start time. Lesson learned.
I have a weird metabolism. I don’t need or want a lot of food during an event. I will usually eat more for morale than energy. Shannon prefers a more consistent influx of calories. And bacon. Shannon runs on bacon. She had made some good observations about how many snacks and meals we could count on from the MREs so we based our choices off that. I packed some jerky, dried fruit, a candy bar, and some Sour Patch Kids. Shannon had an assortment of sandwiches and bars to go with her bacon.
Before we headed out we taped our backs and got our feet ready. We did a final check on our bags and put our Post-Event rucks and spare gear boxes in the car. I like to show up to the Start Point ready to hit the ground running just in case traffic or some other unforeseen circumstance holds us up. Having my box of spare gear in the car also gives me comfort so that I don’t have to worry that I forgot anything, plus I have extra stuff to loan out should anyone need it.
There is a lot of nervous energy at the Start Point at any event. This one was cranked up to 10. After meeting some more HDT folks in person, checking on friends that had just gotten in, and hugging a few surprise participants (Renee Aly flew even more under the radar than I did), we joined our NC teammates chilling in the shade.