Courtesy of Riley and Maddison McKibbin Riley and Maddison McKibbin
Enduring lengthy plane rides, navigating foreign cities, competing on little sleep, and working together as teammates were all part of Riley and Maddison McKibbin's lives long before beginning season 32 of The Amazing Race.
For the Hawaii natives — quickly dubbed the "Beard Bros" by fellow racers for their signature look — it was just a matter of trading beach volleyball matches for solving puzzles, repelling down buildings, and whatever else the CBS reality show (which is airing a special two hour-episode on Wednesday, Nov. 25, previewed exclusively below) threw their way.
"You don't know what to expect on the Race, but by the nature of our sport, we're conditioned to ride out the roller coaster of emotions," Riley, 32, tells PEOPLE. "There's going to be a difficult match, or a really tight one, or you lose and you have to regroup. That cycle of emotions can weigh on a lot of people — by chance, we find ourselves on the Race, and it's a very similar cycle of emotions."
"You compose yourself for one thing at a time, one match at a time," Maddison, 30, adds. "I think that helped us — not looking past that."
While The Amazing Race's 32nd season saw several pairs of athletes — including NFL players DeAngelo Williams and Gary Barnidge, as well as Olympic hurdlers Kellie Wells-Brinkley and LaVonne Idlette — and multiple teams of siblings, Riley and Maddison were the only duo to be both. The brothers have been competing on the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) circuit as a two-man team since 2015 after playing the sport together growing up, through college, and professionally overseas.
On The Amazing Race, the pair tells PEOPLE they had one goal: "Our mantra was: 'Just don't get last,' " Riley says.
AVP Riley and Maddison McKibbin
In addition to volleyball preparing them for the mental aspect of the reality show, their regular trips around the world for sports gave them a leg up on their opponents. In fact, Riley estimates that they traveled the globe three times in just 2018 — not including The Amazing Race journey — helping them adjust to spending time in airports and planes, navigating foreign countries and jet lag.
"You belong to no time zone at all. You basically create your own time zone," Maddison says of the amount of traveling during the show.
Riley, who played professional indoor volleyball in Italy, even used his ability to speak different languages to complete tasks, and while other teams struggled to master stick shift, the brothers excelled at self-driving stretches in France and Germany. (The brothers say the protein bars and collapsable foam roller they crammed into their backpacks also helped along the way.)
That's not to say there weren't obstacles to overcome on The Amazing Race. The siblings, who also run a YouTube channel together, quickly learned that watching the show from the comfort of a couch is nothing like actually being a part of the competition.
"It was something we had never experienced before, and it was so hard to keep a clear mind," Maddison explains. "I couldn't even read the clues coherently. Reading comprehension goes out the door, critical thinking is out. Now I know why so many people make mistakes on the Race."
AVP Riley and Maddison McKibbin
As much as Riley and Maddison's volleyball experience helped them on The Amazing Race, they've also brought things they learned on the show back to the sport. The pair recognized the need to identify their own strengths — Maddison handled any heights or musical challenges, while Riley took the puzzle tasks — and when to let their partner take the lead.
"I think The Amazing Race gave us an opportunity to break down certain walls and really get to a vulnerable spot to like, 'Hey, we either figure these differences out, or we lose this race.' We brought that over to the beach," Riley says, adding that their 2019 volleyball season — which took place after the show wrapped shooting — was one of their most successful.
RELATED VIDEO: Watch an Exclusive Clip of the Beard Bros in an Upcoming Episode of The Amazing Race
The Amazing Race Season 32: Beard Bros Exclusive Clip
An exclusive clip from the 32nd season of The Amazing Race
"It's cool to take what we learned on the Race and bring it to the sport we've been playing for 20 years," Riley continues. "You can always learn something. It was really cool to actually bring something back."
Maddison says their reality show appearance also made them grateful for their unique opportunity to work together.
"It made us take a step back and realize where we are, what we're doing — but what we're doing as brothers," he shares.