Now that I got the more “editorial” piece about being an ASICS challenge team member out of the way, I can just give you a straight up recap of the event.
As I think back about it, had I not received the call last minute to replace a challenge team member who couldn’t make it, I would have never known what I was missing, but now that I went through it, I would have been very sad to have missed the experience. Just the people I met that I can further build relationships with is priceless.
I drove to the Queen Mary in Long Beach and met the ASICS crew, and some of the other challenge team members (from Volleyball Magazine, Volleywood, POPSUGARFitness, and ESPN, to name a few). The first thing they did was hand me a gigantic swag bag, along with an awesome ASICS backpack stuffed with gear, shoes, and a volleyball. Since we were headed out to dinner, I couldn’t look through everything right then, but I knew later it was going to be like Christmas morning…actually better, since I don’t open any gifts on Christmas anymore (cue the sad violin).
We went to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant, and the best part was our sweet ride that would serve as our shuttle the rest of the weekend. It was a HUGE stretch, pimped-out limo. I don’t even think the ASICS team was prepared to see that thing, and everyone got a great laugh about our ride every time it pulled up (since half the time we were a sweaty, sandy mess).
Dinner was fun, but I couldn’t help feeling a little intimidated by the credentials of some of the people there. Not only were some from pretty big media, but so many had some great fitness and career accomplishments! Intimidating…but inspiring as well. Another fun thing I noticed was how much all of these hardcore fitness people loved to eat as much as I did. I joked with them later that I thought people were only going to be ordering salad and fruit, but I was happy to see that the food and wine was flowing nicely.
We got back around 10:30 and tired as I was, I HAD to open all the bags and take pictures of the stuff they gave us, plus I’d be wearing it soon enough and would get it very dirty and sandy. All I can say is, “holy crap!!!” Seriously, I’ll let the pictures do the talking…
We headed over to the tournament in our pimp-mobile wearing our ASICS gear. I had on their workout shorts, tank top, and bikini. Of all the gear they gave me, the bikini was the only thing I could not get to fit me right. It looked great on the younger girls, but even the most modest bottoms left me feeling a bit exposed. But I think bikinis are the toughest things to try and fit individuals.
Our first task upon arrival was meeting the PEAR team to go over our devices (I’ll have a full review later), then go through a warmup with strength and conditioning specialist Michelle Lovitt (read my article on people who love what they do to learn more about Michelle).
Following that, we met with Kerri Pottharst (two-time Olympic medalist in beach volleyball for Australia), and retired US beach volleyball pro, Angie Akers. They ran us through some drills, then later after watching some volleyball matches, split us into two teams and jumped in with us to play some six on six volleyball.
The rest of the day we spent watching more volleyball, trying out the Kerri Cannon, which was pretty scary, doing a little more shopping at the ASICS apparel store, and watching some of the live music that was on a huge stage at one end of the main volleyball court.
At dinner that night we were joined by ASICS President and CEO Kevin Wulff, who is very down to earth, and passionate about the sport of beach volleyball.
The first thing we did that morning, was challenge a group of girls from Long Beach (one of which I’d known from my days competing in CBVA tournaments) in a six on six match. It’s pretty tough to beat a solid team of six, even though we had a couple ringers in our group (and I’m not even including myself), so we lost our match. But it was still really fun to play, and especially see the newbies on our team start to develop a love for the sport!
Between watching some more matches, we took a SUP lesson from Noelle Kozek (read my article on people who love what they do to learn more about Noelle). Although we didn’t get to spend as much time on the water as we would have liked, it was still so much fun, and I can’t wait to do it again.
After watching the semi-final matches, ASICS set up a cocktail /appetizer and pampering hour on the beach for us. While sipping some Deep Eddie vodka mixes, we got our (disgusting and dirty) feet rubbed and chair massages. Awe yeahhhh!
Later that evening we cleaned ourselves up and headed over to an upscale steakhouse, where we feasted on some seriously decadent chow. As many of you know who read my blogs, I rarely go out to eat because my budget is tight, so it was a fantastic treat.
We went around the room and everyone spoke about their experience, and it was clear that we had all formed a pretty tight bond from our weekend. I’m not kidding when I say it was like going to beach volleyball camp (except we didn’t have to sleep in smelly cabins)!
After I got back I was wired, so I went up the the promenade deck of the Queen Mary and played my ukulele. At one point a couple came by and threw money in my uke case. I thought I was pretty bad-ass that someone was giving me a tip, but then they told me they were paying me to stop playing. I’m kidding, but I did practice on the deck.
Sunday was all about the medal matches. First up was Germany against the Unites States team of Todd Rogers and Theo Brunner, with team USA taking the Bronze. Our group got to watch that match from court-side seats in the sand, which I loved. It’s more of a visceral experience! But we couldn’t stay there for the mens and women’s Gold medal matches, so Michelle hooked us up with VIP passes (in a shaded area above the rest of the stands), where I watched Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross of the US defeat a Brazilian team to win the Gold. Oh, and I got to eat the most delicious shrimp tacos for free since they feed you generously in VIP. Dope!
I left after the women’s match so I could get some stuff done at home before my busy week started, but the US’s Phil Dalhausser and Sean “Rosie” Rosenthal defeated Poland to take home the Gold as well.
All in all a fantastic weekend! I want to thank ASICS and all of the other sponsors for such an amazing opportunity. See you next year (wink).