I went to Amsterdam! This has been in the diary for so long. I was so excited when I originally signed up for the 24km Amsterdam Waterland kayak race. It was the perfect early season race; great preparation for international selection later in April. Plus somewhere new to visit!
I was going with two amazing paddlers and great friends I met kayaking at university. However after paying for the trip I became injured. This was the last straw after months of injury and a lack of motivation. I was no longer training for the right reasons and I decided to voluntarily take a break from kayaking for the first time.
I could have offered someone else my place to Amsterdam, but decided to go as a spectator. One of my biggest fears about leaving the sport is losing touch with friends in the kayaking community. By going on this trip it will hopefully take them a little bit longer to forget about me!
How well you cope being around people competing in your sport is a good indicator of if you’re ready to take a break. It might be that you are overwhelmed with jealousy watching your friends racing and hearing them discuss the sport. In this case maybe a prolonged break isn’t right for you (injury permitting of course).
I got pretty good at fielding questions about when I was retuning to training and whether I was doing the international selection events. There was an automatic assumption that I would be returning to kayaking, it was just a matter of when. However I didn’t actually tell anyone that I had already made the decision not to kayak this year.
I think this was the right decision because I didn’t want the trip to become about me and my choices. I felt happy talking kayaking with the others, and most importantly I wasn’t jealous of them racing. This may have had something to do with the conditions, although to be honest cycling in the freezing cold into a headwind probably wasn’t much easier!
I’m so glad that I didn’t let my worries about being an outsider because I wasn’t racing stop me from going on this trip. I loved supporting my friends, helping distract them before the race and taking pictures for them during it.
I also loved visiting Amsterdam on the Saturday evening. We didn’t have the most amazing food experience (tip – when the waiter practically drags you through the door take it as a sign), but it was still a lot of fun. We also got given a cultural tour by the race organisers. Translate ‘cultural tour’ as tour of the red light district and visit to the pub.
For me this trip helped support my decision to take a break from kayaking. I didn’t feel jealous that I wasn’t racing, I felt glad. I loved supporting my friends and remaining part of the kayaking community, but I was able to enjoy the trip so much more without any of the usual pressure or stress of competing.
Taking a break from something you have organised your life around for so long is a scary thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re only an amateur athlete, competing at a high level means dedicating a lot to your sport. If you do decide you need time off training don’t think you have to completely isolate yourself from the sporting community.
Find other ways to involve yourself and to keep in touch with friends in the sport. If they truly are your friends they will respect your decision to take a break. You know what’s best for you, don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty for putting your happiness before winning medals!
If your interested in what a marathon kayaking race involves, here is the video of this year’s event in Amsterdam: