The creator of the Peanuts cartoons once said of his character Charlie Brown, that “he must be the one who suffers, because he is a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning." - I could not think of a better way to describe my 2016.
Like Charlie Brown, despite having high hopes I was hit with a lot of bad luck this year, resulting in me becoming self-critical and doubtful, and overall pretty pessimistic.
Life set up the football, I went for the kick, life took the ball way.
I started the year hopeful and determined to achieve great things with my last year of university, a season of downhill racing ahead and moving out into the big bad adult world. Due to my studies I didn’t get out riding as often as I would have hoped, but managed the odd ride every few weeks to keep me ticking over.
My Downhill season began and ended on the same day; practice of the SDA at Ae Forest. On my second practice run I rode confidently (maybe over-confidently) and had a bad crash, winding myself, smashing my chest off the handlebars and coming down hard on my hip. Although there was no severe damage, my confidence was knocked and my season suffered from there.
Shortly after this photo was taken, Zara was en route to Hospital
Nerves and self-doubt knocked me at every event I took part in following that crash. I could barely keep my bike in a straight line at Peaty’s Steel City and knocked myself out on a pump track at the Scottish Enduro Series in Glenlivet. The few races I felt confident at ended with mechanicals or silly crashes, but such is the way with racing: someone has to lose, this year it just happened to be my turn.
Outside of the cycling world, my family suffered two terrible and unexpected losses. My Grandma Louise Pearson, who had been bravely battling cancer, passed away early in the year and my Papa Iain Slaven left us suddenly this summer. My parents were my rock and helped me cope with the biggest heartbreaks of my life. This resulted in two unexpected and bittersweet visits from my brother who lives in Las Vegas. Although he was home for such sad occasions, it was so good to have my partner in crime back.
The amazing Grandparents who Zara's family lost this year.
The disappointing year I had and the knock it had on my confidence led me to feeling like backing out of all support for 2017. I felt like I didn’t deserve support after performing so badly and was doubtful about the year ahead. However after talking with Hannah at Flare I realized that Flare don’t support me for race results (they’d be screwed if they did), but for so many other reasons. I couldn’t leave my Flare family, not only because they have supported me from day one but because Hannah is the Snoopy to my Charlie Brown. Looks like she’s stuck with me riding for Flare for my third year ;).
The Flarey Godmother, Hannah Myers
In most Peanuts cartoons, everything turns out alright in the end for Charlie Brown, and for me this year is ending the same way. I am healthy, happy and couldn’t have a better support network around me. The sacrifice and hard work I put in during my studies paid off and I graduated top of my class with a 2:1 Honours Degree in Outdoor Pursuits Management, and was lucky enough to be hired by Hotline Europe.
I know I am not the only person who has suffered from a terrible 2016, so I plan to enjoy what is left of it, celebrate the hell out of it ending and welcome 2017 with open arms, a beer and some good memories.
Photo by Trevor Worsey
I’d like to think that Christopher Caldwell would describe me the same way he described Charlie Brown: “He may be a loser, but he's, strangely, a leader at the same time”.