So if you haven’t heard yet, the top four U.S. beach volleyball teams are competing this week in the USA vs. Brazil Challenge in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s always a really fun tournament, the AVP hosted one a few years ago in Arizona and Brazil has hosted them pretty regularly, but this one is especially cool since it’s going to take place at the projected 2016 Olympic beach volleyball venue. It’s still really early in preseason for us Americans — we usually start training at the end of January and don’t have events until the end of April. The Brazilians, on the other hand, have been training and competing for their entire summer (our winter), which is one of the reasons why Kerri and I, along with our coaches, Marcio and Jon, decided to get here a few days early for a short, but intensive training camp.
We flew down yesterday and will do double days for the next few days leading up to the competition. It’s extremely helpful that Marcio grew up in Rio. He has been able to set up courts, transportation, training partners and equipment for our sessions. We had our first training this morning in 100-degree heat, with about the same degree of humidity, no breeze and no clouds. To say my body was slightly shocked after training in the mild California weather and flying for 15 hours yesterday is an understatement, but it felt great and by the end I was definitely better acclimated. Where we get to train in the mornings is on a bay under the gaze of the Christ the Redeemer statue, which is pretty cool to see in the background while siding out.
After practice we ran back to the hotel, had lunch — always a form of rice, beans and meat — overlooking Copacabana Beach, rested a little, hung out at the pool, which has the most amazing view of the beach and Sugar Loaf, and got ready for practice, round two.
But first, acai. Acai bowls are big in California, but if you don’t know, acai is a berry and they blend it with ice and guarana syrup (I go no syrup) and add granola. They originated here, so you have to get them, and it helps that they’re kind of a perfect pick me up right before practice. I can’t get enough!
Our second training was smack dab in the middle of Copacabana Beach. It’s such a crazy experience to train there, it’s normal M.O. is chaos, so it was an equally good exercise in focus. We had about 25 people lining the wall watching our practice at any given time, and the wall is just about five feet from the side line, plus four extra coaches and players helping with our training. At one point there was a police car with sirens going off about 25 feet away for a good five minutes. But it was GORGEOUS! We trained until about sunset and then went in the water and played some foot volley. I could have stayed out there for another couple of hours, but an athlete’s gotta eat. So Kerri and I are going to go grab some more rice, beans and meat, and get ready to do it all again tomorrow!